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23 February 2015

The party leaders respond...

We asked the leaders of the political parties to respond to our Faith in Politics? report. Here's what they said:

The Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP, leader of the Labour Party 

"This report from the Evangelical Alliance is a welcome reminder of the important contribution that Christians make to life and society in the United Kingdom. It is heartening to see from this evidence that evangelical Christians are so committed to engaging in our democratic life and so determined to speak up for those who might otherwise be forgotten. 

"Over recent months it has been my privilege to meet with many Christian leaders. Time and again I have been inspired by their work and challenged by their example. I pay tribute to the countless Christians fighting poverty through foodbanks, the 100,000 volunteers serving our nation's children on a weekly basis and the churches and charities working tirelessly to alleviate suffering overseas. Thanks to these and other initiatives too numerous to mention, our country is made better, stronger, more united and just as a result of the work and witness of the Christian community. 

"As the leader of the Labour Party, I am proud of our movement's roots in the Christian tradition. That tradition underpins our conviction about the importance of social action and our belief in the power of community transformation. One of my hopes for the years ahead is that we can find new ways to work in partnership in pursuit of our shared goals without compromising the independence and identity of church-based initiatives. 

"I would like to thank all those who completed the survey and the many more whose views it represents. By highlighting issues of poverty, slavery and religious liberty, respondents have demonstrated the continuing commitment of Christians to love their neighbour. The Labour Party shares your determination to combat poverty, increase equality and promote religious freedom across the world. We look forward to working together to achieve these goals.

"As this year's Christians in Politics campaign declares, the big decisions in our democracy are made by those who 'show up'. In this election year I rest assured that Christians all over our country will not only show up in the voting booth but will also continue to show up and daily build a better Britain."

The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP, deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats 

"This is a fascinating survey, and I am struck by a number of things. First the high level of engagement of evangelical Christians with public and political life, and your hugely encouraging commitment to our democratic processes. Having a thriving democracy and fair governance is fundamental to the DNA of the Liberal Democrats, and something I personally hold dear. 

"Second, tackling poverty and inequality shines through as a priority, echoing the commitment and work of churches and Christian organisations across the UK, working tirelessly to serve the most disadvantaged in their communities. Tackling inequality and deprivation by giving everyone the opportunity to get on in life is a central theme for my party. We believe greater investment in childcare, the work of our pupil premium, more job creation through developing the 'green economy,' and the continuing expansion of apprenticeships are all vital steps to addressing this. 

"The issue of poverty is understandably rivalled by that of religious freedom. 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. Religious freedoms as outlined in Article 18 of the UN Convention of Human Rights are fundamental, and must be upheld;one of many reasons it is essential the UK keeps our commitment to the Convention.

"And we must not lose sight of the fact that religious freedom abroad is an issue of far greater magnitude. In too many countries Christians face very real and life-threatening persecution, simply because of their faith. This is of profound concern to my party and I. That is why I whole heartedly support the work of the new cross-party group on international freedom of religion or belief, which includes my excellent colleague and friend, Liberal Democrat president, Baroness Sal Brinton."

Nigel Farage MEP, leader of UKIP 

"UKIP is the only major political party in Britain that cherishes the involvement of Christians in politics and believes Judeo- Christians values still have an important role to play in society. 

"I share the concern raised in this survey for the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, and a need to assist them. I believe the best way to do this is by rewarding hard work and effort and by providing a solid safety net for those who fall on hard times. This is why UKIP is making manifesto commitments to take everyone on minimum wage out of income tax altogether;end the abuse of zero-hours contracts;combat fuel poverty;and scrap the bedroom tax. 

"UKIP believes charity should begin at home, so we will re-allocate much of the foreign aid budget to help the desperate in our own society first. However, we will not abdicate our responsibilities to funding vital overseas programmes run by reputable organisations - including Christian charities – that focus on providing emergency aid, fresh drinking water, sanitation, healthcare and vaccinations. 

"I am determined though to stop hardearned taxpayers' money going into pockets of despots and tyrants, some of whom may be imprisoning, torturing or slaughtering Christians in their own countries, which this survey shows is a concern to evangelicals.

"Finally, it is evident to me that UKIP is the only major political party still committed to family life and family values. We opposed same-sex marriage legislation because we felt it impinged upon the beliefs of millions of people of faith, and we will be the only party at the general election promising to extend the legal concept of 'reasonable accommodation' to give protection in law to those expressing a religious conscience in the workplace."

David Cameron declined to comment on the survey. The Conservative Party sent a response from Grant Shapps MP, the party chairman, instead. 

"The Evangelical Alliance politics survey provides a useful insight into the voting intentions of its members in the May 2015 general election. With this election the most important in a generation, it matters greatly that everyone who is able to goes out and casts his or her vote. 

"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. 

"Our Christian Conservative Fellowship (CCF) has been active for 25 years, and runs a ground breaking scheme that introduces hundreds of Christians to the realm of public policy each year. Its activities are welcomed by all those who would like to see Christians playing a more active role in political life, which according to your survey is a large majority. 

"I noted when reading the report that your members listed poverty and the levelling of inequality as their issue of highest priority. Following the worst recession in living memory, we have worked hard to tackle poverty by: cutting income tax for 25 million people, saving the typical taxpayer £705 a year and taking over three million people on the lowest incomes out of income tax altogether, helping pensioners with the biggest ever cash rise in the basic state pension, and helping young people gain the skills they need to earn a living with two million apprenticeships and an equal number of new private sector jobs. At the same time, it is good news that income inequality has fallen in the UK since 2010. 

"I was heartened to read that 94 per cent of respondents intend to vote in the election, and I will be working hard between now and then to persuade them to support the Conservatives, and our long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain."

The Green Party were unable to provide a response.

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