by Dan Hitchens
Tuesday, 8
December 2020

Has Labour forgotten its Christian roots?

Janet Daby's resignation highlights the party's secular drift
by Dan Hitchens
Janet Daby announced her resignation as shadow faiths minister yesterday

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.

Join the discussion

  • What about people who want to stay true to their Fundamentalist Islamic roots? Are we going to protect them too? If so, who is going to protect the rest of us? Your ethical principles are not automatically superior to mine simply because you claim a supernatural origin for them. Still less so when you claim they tell you to kill me.

  • Has Labour forgotten its Christian roots?

    Well, it would be odd if it hadn’t as the rest of society has forgotten its Christian roots. It may embarrass us to acknowledge this but our entire moral code is rooted in Christian precepts. As someone observed, we live in the afterglow of Christian belief.
    I don’t believe (in anything much) but perhaps we should all pretend that we do.

  • I wondered who would take the bait. Are you expecting me to cite extending marriage to same s e x couples. I cannot see why same s e x couples wanted to extend an institution that had been the cornerstone of the society that oppressed them centuries save as a pollical F U act. For the record, I think it was a further devaluation of the institution but that is not my answer to your point.

    When I was growing illegitimate births were exceptional and divorce was rare. Both were a cause for shame. At the time there were the siren voices saying that it was wrong to force couples to stay together or that children should not be stigmatised by divorce or illegitimacy. Simple minded self serving sentiments that largely derived from the selfishness and self-indulgence of the 60s. Nevertheless, these sentiments won the day to the extent that illegitimacy and divorce first became commonplace and then the norm.

    I would not have particularly strong views on this issue save for witnessing first hand the impact of illegitimacy and divorce on children. There will always be some exceptions who prosper but from what I have seen illegitimacy and divorce have have serious a adverse and long term impact on the lives and life chances of substantially all children affected,

    In any event, the institution was systematically and comprehensively debased through the the 60’s,70s 80’s and 90’s so that we are now treated to the spectacle of TV game shows such as Married at First Sight. I have never seen the programme but I have not been able to avoid the trailers. We have now reduced an institution that was within living memory the solid cornerstone of our society into a prime time pantomime. If peoples emotional lives, or the wreckage of them, is primetime entertainment you wonder what was so wrong with the Colosseum.

    How has marriage not been devalued

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