Labour is 'lukewarm' to Christians, admits party's faith envoy

Labour has a 'lukewarm' attitude to Christians, one of the party's senior figures has admitted.

Stephen Timms, MP for the East Ham area since 1994 and the party's faith envoy, told Christian Today that people of faith don't feel as welcome in the Labour party as they should and called on leaders to tackle the issue.

ReutersStephen Timms was a former cabinet minister and is now Labour's faith envoy.

In an interview at Labour's annual conference in Brighton he said the party 'desperately needs' more religious people.

'There is this sense of "please leave your faith at the door when you join us. You're very welcome to join us but please we're not interested in your faith",' he told Christian Today.

'I don't think that is good. I think we need to be much more welcoming of people who are absolutely clear that their whole identity and certainly the starting point for their politics is their faith.'

He said Christians and people of other faiths bring something unique to politics and 'the reality is you won't find it anywhere else'.

'I think there are really indispensable and vitally important qualities that believers bring to political debate and political practice and we just can't manage without them.

'We need to make sure they welcomed in a wholehearted way, not in a rather lukewarm way which is what seems to be the case at the moment.'

It comes as Labour battles accusations of antisemitism as it struggles with its welcome of different faith groups.

A fringe meeting at the conference in Brighton described as a 'thinly veiled call to purge Jews' where speakers called for Jewish groups to be 'kicked out' of the party. Research released on Tuesday revealed the party was eight times more likely than others to have politicians with antisemitic views.

Analysis of more than four million social media posts tracking anti-Jewish rhetoric from two thousand political candidates found Labour figures made up 61 per cent of total incidents.

Timms is the party's faith envoy under leader Jeremy Corbyn and was formerly chief secretary to the Treasury under Tony Blair and under work and pensions minister under Ed Miliband.

As one of the more prominent faith voices within the Labour party, Timms said it was 'an appalling cheek' for the Conservatives to claim they are the party committed to family and values.

'We are the party of values,' he said.

ReutersLabour will hold a vote on changing its party rules on antisemitism as Jeremy Corbyn faces accusations of being soft on the issue.

Asked whether he was depressed seeing the tide of evangelical support for Donald Trump in the US, Timms said it was 'incomprehensible' that any Christian would vote for Trump.

But he added he was excited and not depressed at the state of the Church in the UK.

'If you look around you find more and more people seeing that the Christian faith has got some answers to questions that are really quite pressing and that no one else seems to have answers to. I find that very encouraging. I think that augurs well for the future.

'I'm not saying tomorrow, or next week, will be any different but I do see the tide turning.

'Church attendance in London is going up. My hunch is that will be the case across the country more widely in due course.

'I certainly think the impact of the churches today is probably greater than it has ever been in my lifetime. If you see the growing number of situations where the churches are making a really positive impact - I don't think we've seen anything like this in my lifetime.

'So I certainly don't feel depressed I feel encouraged.'

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