03 March 2015
Party leaders court the evangelical vote
Following a landmark survey of evangelical Christians, political leaders make a play for why their party should be backed. In the latest issue of the Evangelical Alliance's idea magazine Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage respond to the findings of the Alliance's recent Faith in Politics? report. David Cameron declined to comment on the findings with a response given from Conservative Party chairman, Grant Shapps, instead.
Labour leader Ed Miliband praised the work of Christians and churches, saying: "Our country is made better, stronger, more united and just as a result of the work and witness of the Christian community."
He went on to add: "By highlighting issues of poverty, slavery and religious liberty, respondents have demonstrated the continuing commitment of Christians to love their neighbour."
Deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg picked up on the importance of inequality and poverty to evangelical voters. He said: "Tackling inequality and deprivation by giving everyone the opportunity to get on in life is a central theme for my party."
The report found that policies ensuring religious liberty were the most important vote changer, with seven out of 10 saying it would affect their vote. Clegg said in his response: "As a liberal, I am deeply committed to the belief that nobody should suffer from persecution based on any criteria –whether religion, gender, ethnicity, disability, or anything else."
Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, claimed that: "UKIP is the only major political party in Britain that cherishes the involvement of Christians in politics and believes Judeo-Christian values still have an important role to play in society."
However, with nearly four out of five evangelicals saying keeping overseas aid at 0.7 per cent is important, they may not support his stance on that issue: "UKIP believes charity begins at home so we will re-allocate much of the foreign aid budget to help the desperate in our own society first."
Amelia Abplanalp, public policy officer at the Evangelical Alliance, commented: "It's clear all the parties want evangelical Christians to vote for them. We see this in their comments in idea magazine where they emphasise those policies they believe will be most appealing to the evangelical vote. Despite his claim that UKIP is the only party that cherishes Christians, Nigel Farage risks alienating evangelicals by wanting to cut back on overseas aid."
The Evangelical Alliance also invited responses from Conservative leader David Cameron and Natalie Bennett from the Green Party, however they did not take up the opportunity.
The Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps responded saying: "Conservatives and evangelicals share many common values, from the importance of family life and community to the principle of fairness and opportunity for all in the workplace."
Commenting on the 94 per cent of evangelicals likely to vote he did not hide his intent to go after them ahead of the vote on 7 May: "I will be working hard between now and then to persuade them to support the Conservatives."
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Notes to Editors
- The party leaders' comments are available in full on the idea web page.
- Faith in politics? reports on a survey of 2,020 evangelical Christians and was published on 19 February 2015. It is available to view and download from www.eauk.org/surveys
- Amelia Abplanalp is available for interview
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.