Labour told not to count on Catholic vote

By staff writers
March 12, 2007

A Catholic bishop in Scotland yesterday made a political intervention ahead of elections in May, by denouncing the Labour establishment in Holyrood and Westminster for creating "morality devoid of any Christian principle".

The Bishop of Motherwell, the Rt Rev Joseph Devine, warned it would be "ill-founded" of the Labour Party to assume it could count on the traditional working-class vote.

Elections take place on 3rd May to the Scottish Parliament, all Scottish Councils, the Welsh Assembly and 312 English Local Authorities.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Sunday Programme the Bishop of Motherwell said: "For generations, including myself, Catholics in their droves tended to vote consistently for the Labour Party. But over the past few months it has been very noticeable, in conversations I've had with all manner of people, that that allegiance has been severely tested to the point, I think, of being broken."

It has been previously suggested by Bob Worcester of MORI that Catholics helped to secure Labour's third term in the 2005 general election.

Early on in the 2005 election campaign, Catholic Labour MPs voiced concern that an intervention by a more seniour figure - Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor - might cost them votes. The cardinal was caught up in controversy after he spoke out approving a pledge by the Conservative leader, Michael Howard, to make parliamentary time for a bill to reduce abortion time limits, should he have been elected Prime Minister. Then, speaking later, the cardinal observed that Catholic support could not be taken for granted, and that some Catholic voters might switch to the Conservatives.

Bob Worcester from MORI said however that the indications are that such intervention did not have a noticeable influence on Catholic voting intentions in 2005.

In September last year, the Bishop of Motherwell condemned legislation allowing gay and unmarried couples to adopt children as a "violation of family life".

In January last year, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of Scotland's 860,000 Catholics, accused the government of undermining marriage by legalising same-sex civil partnerships.

He also criticised the Scottish Executive for cutting the minimum separation period for divorce.

There has also been vocal criticism and protest from the Catholic church, and other Christian denominations over Labour's moves to replace Trident with a new generation of nuclear weapons.

The Bishop of Motherwell said yesterday: "The state seems to have developed a new kind of morality devoid of any Christian principle or background."

The veteran clergyman did not suggest who Catholics should vote for, adding it was for churchgoers to "exercise their votes responsibly, according to their conscience".

The Catholic Church in Scotland would not comment officially on the bishop's remarks last night, reported the Scotsman newspaper.

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