Between July and October, Number 10 was a revolving door for government ministers and key legislative priorities. With three Conservative prime ministers in a single year, many are wondering if there will there be a general election in 2023 and if so, whether or not the public will ‘stick or twist’.

The honest answer is no-one knows” and anyone who is 100% convinced that there will or will not be an election have not learnt from the unpredictable year we have just had as a nation. 

In the conversations I have had with policy advisers and MPs there is now a settled thought that the political rollercoaster has eased, and a general election is most likely to take place in 2024. As parliament takes a break for recess and there is time to think, I want to reflect on the year that has been – littered with disappointments, wins and continued unknowns as we head into 2023.


A disappointing Freedom of Religion or Belief ministerial

In July, the UK government hosted its first Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) intergovernmental ministerial in London. The two-day conference was an opportunity for the government to demonstrate international leadership and take decisive action in addressing religious motivated persecution and human rights abuses of millions of Christians and other religious minority groups around the world.

Disappointingly, the moment to show leadership was quickly squandered when during day-one of the conference a flurry of government minister resignations triggered news alerts to ping on mobile phone devices across the conference floor. There was even a last-minute’ mad dash to find a replacement speaker, when Kemi Badenoch MP, the then government faith minister resigned just hours before.

Despite the kerfuffle, the conference programme continued. In hindsight, I cannot help but think the FoRB ministerial was a missed opportunity. The only take away were seven co-signed agreements by foreign government leaders and officials, which unfortunately lacked clarity on what or where they would lead to.

Please continue to pray for the World Evangelical Alliance as they continue to advocate for greater religious freedom, promote peace and reconciliation at the United Nations in New York and Geneva.

Inspiring parliamentarian
Panel event chaired by Jeremy Hunt MP for South West Surrey

Is introducing legislation banning conversion therapy still a government priority?

A leak by a journalist on Twitter revealed information of the government’s decision to drop plans to introduce new legislation to ban conversion therapy. 

Within 24 hours, the government had to pedal back several statements and the next day, the prime minister stated in a broadcast interview that the government would ban gay conversion therapy and take time to consider further its approach to banning transgender conversion therapy.

Eight months later, prime minister Rishi Sunak’s government have yet to introduce a gay conversion therapy Bill or make clear when they intend to. The current parliamentary session concludes in April 2023, when all current legislation needs to complete its process ahead of the next opening of parliament.

Amongst the confusion and back and forth, what is positive is that the government remain in listening mode and are considering our position to end abusive practices whilst enabling prayer and spiritual support for those who choose it.

… and the Bill of Rights Bills?

During the first round of Conservative party leader elections in the summer, we wrote about the importance of an incoming prime minister doing more to strengthen freedom of speech and freedom of religion or belief in any future Bill of Rights Bill in our article: The next Prime Minister must restore trust in public life.

Four months on and two justice secretaries later, the Bill has stalled at the first reading stage. In the conversations I am having with government officials the Bill remains a government priority and it is expected that the second reading of the Bill will take place in the early months of 2023. The clock is ticking so we will have to wait and see. In any case, we will be briefing MPs and submitting amendment proposals once the Bill returns to parliament.

Personal highlights from the year

2022 has been a turbulent year for policymaking. It has been frustrating to keep up with multiple changes to government policy priorities and increasingly impossible to predict how international affairs will impact the economy and decision-making.

I have been extremely proud of our advocacy team, our member organisations and churches for the way we have come together to respond so swiftly to the cost of living crisis. 

A special highlight was the launch of the Stories of Hope resource, in Westminster with over 60 parliamentarians, churches and Christian organisations in attendance. The event called on parliamentarians to work with churches to tackle the cost of living crisis and has been a positive engagement tool in establishing new relationships with MPs.

Panel Speakers
From left to right: Natalie Williams (Jubliee+), Andy Frost (Gather Movement), Alicia Edmund (Evangelical Alliance), Gareth McNab (Christians Against Poverty), Danny Webster (Evangelical Alliance), Ellie Gage (Christians Against Poverty)

Another positive from the year is our membership on Churchworks Commission and on the launch of the Warm Welcome campaign. In two months the campaign has encouraged 5,700+ churches and community groups across the UK to register warm spaces and support on the digital map. This campaign has captured both media and government attention and I hope will provide further opportunities to shape government policy on the cost of living crisis and to support the most vulnerable in society.

Churchworks November 2022 Summit
Our Head of public policy chairing panel at the Churchworks November summit

These collaborations have strengthened the Evangelical Alliance’s advocacy work this year. I particularly want to thank Christians Against Poverty, Gather Movement, Jubliee+, The Message Trust, Faithworks Wessex and the eight other contributors of the Stories of Hope booklet.

Together we have increased policymakers’ awareness on the breadth of issues evangelicals care passionately about and are engaged in, whilst demonstrating the transformative work of Jesus to individual lives and communities.

I look forward to connecting with you and so many of our members in 2023 with renewed vision and passion to make Jesus known in 2023.

Please join us in praying for our advocacy work in 2023, with the following prayer points:

  • The government’s faith minster, Baroness Scott of Bybrook OBE, and an opportunity for the team to meet and work more closely with her. 
  • The imminent government faith engagement strategy report. Our hope is that several of the Evangelical Alliance’s recommendations will be included.
  • Favour and increased opportunity to inform the ministry of justice, home office, cabinet office, and the department of levelling-up, housing and communities policy thinking.
  • Positive engagement with MPs from different political parties when the Bill of Rights Bill returns for second reading. It is vitally important that freedom to believe and express faith in public life is strengthened in law.
  • Guidance for the team as we build upon our engagement with Sarah Owen MP, shadow faith minister.

Why not read our 2022 reviews from the nations?

Political stalemate in Northern Ireland must end in 2023

Political stalemate in Northern Ireland must end in 2023

We take a look back on a difficult year in Northern Ireland and share the team’s priorities for 2023
Interview: Scotland public policy highlights, and what’s new in Holyrood for 2023

Interview: Scotland public policy highlights, and what’s new in Holyrood for 2023

An interview with our public policy officer for Scotland where he shares his personal highlights from the year and future policy engagement in 2023