December 8, 2020 - 11:43am

Quiz time. For 5 points each, who said the following?

  1.   “It is currently legal to terminate a pregnancy up to full term on the grounds of disability while the upper limit is 24 weeks if there is no disability. I personally do not agree with this position … I am Catholic and I have no doubt that my Catholic education instilled the moral values in me to care and look after the people around me.”
  2.   “Why do so many believe it is permissible for a foetus to be aborted due to having a disability? … Maybe we should ask if our wonder at the ‘Creator of life’ has been lost. The Father’s love in creating a completely unique individual out of just two cells is mind-blowing.”
  3.   “I prayed and said, come and direct me … Help me to be everything you made me to be. And that was really when I first gave my life to Jesus.”

The answers are: three Labour MPs, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Rachael Maskell, and Janet Daby. All three have entered Parliament in the last six years, and all three have served in the shadow cabinet, which might suggest that Labour is a welcoming place for Christians. So might Sir Keir Starmer’s recent message of thanks to the group Christians on the Left: “Within our party, you’ve set a great example of the culture we need.”  

Labour and Christianity go way back. A 1906 poll of the party’s MPs found that the Bible was the second most popular reading; in a 1994 repeat, Scripture came third, ahead of Marx. Christians play a major role at the party’s grassroots, too.

But there are limits, as we were reminded yesterday. Daby, the shadow minister for women, faith and equalities, was reported as saying that religious people should have conscience protections in law. Speaking of registrars who might lose their jobs if they decline to register same-sex marriages, Daby commented:

There needs to be something in place that protects people of faith as well as those who think the other way. It is an issue of conscience. It is like people having a choice who for reasons of conscience cannot participate in conducting an abortion.
- Janet Daby MP

How controversial is this? Well, it doesn’t seem a million miles from what the sometime president of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale, argued in 2014: “employers might have to make reasonable accommodation for the right of their employees to manifest their religious beliefs.”

But it was too much for the Labour leadership: within hours of Daby’s remarks being reported, she had resigned. In other words, if you think that traditional Christians, Muslims and Jews should not be fired for their beliefs, then for Starmer’s party you are beyond the pale. 

It’s not just a cheap shot to ask why the party of labour is now all for making it easier to sack workers. Because what has happened to religious believers is an especially good example of that grim phenomenon so well described by Paul Embery: Labour’s determined abandonment of its natural supporters.

Dan Hitchens writes the newsletter ‘The Pineapple’ and is former editor of the Catholic Herald