Labour leadership election: the religious sympathies of the candidates

Andy Burnham is a practising Roman Catholic.Reuters

The fact that someone's a Christian doesn't make them a good MP, and the fact that someone isn't doesn't make them a bad one. But Christians have a legitimate interest in whether those elected to represent them can talk their language and understand their concerns. It's not the only thing that matters, but we're curious.

The Labour Party is facing a leadership contest following the resignation of Ed Miliband after its drubbing at the polls. So far four candidates have declared (it was five, but front-runner Chuka Umunna – a Christian – withdrew because of concerns about the contest's effect on his private life). What do we know about their faith, or lack of it?

Liverpool-born Andy Burnham has been the MP for Leigh since 2001 and shadow Health Secretary since 2011 (he served as Health Secretary under Gordon Brown). He's a practising Roman Catholic who believes the Church should be at the forefront of campaigning for social justice.

MP for Wakefield Mary Creagh is a surprise entrant to the leadership race. She served as Andy Burnham's parliamentary private secretary and on the Human Rights Select Committee. She is an active parliamentarian who has campaigned on animal rights, genocide and children's food among other issues. Like Burnham, she is a practising Roman Catholic.

Yvette Cooper is MP for Pontefract and Castleford. She served under Gordon Brown as chief secretary to the Treasury and as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Married to former Chancellor Ed Balls, who lost his seat at the election, she was previously a journalist. Cooper this week chose to affirm allegiance to the Crown rather than swearing an oath on a holy book, something that is usually done by non-believers.

Leicester West MP Liz Kendall was director of the Ambulance Services Network and the Maternity Alliance charity before entering Parliament. She has campaigned on poverty and health reform and is a notably independent thinker. She signed the 2010 Westminster Declaration of Christian Conscience and had a CARE intern before pulling out of the programme because of concerns about CARE's alleged homophobia. Her office has not yet responded to a question about her religious position.

There's still time for more candidates to declare, as nominations don't close until June 15, though another contender thought to be in with a chance, Tristram Hunt, announced today that he will not be standing. Ballots will be sent out on August 14 and votes will be counted on Thursday, September 10, with the result announced on Saturday.

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