We may lose some important Christian voices in the General Election

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Two Conservative MPs (now parliamentary candidates) who have been vocal in defending the role of orthodox Christian faith in public life would lose their seats in the General Election on July 4 if current opinion polls prove right.

Nick Fletcher won the South Yorkshire constituency of the Don Valley (now renamed Doncaster East and the Isle of Axholme) for the Conservatives from Labour in the 2019 General Election.

Fletcher spoke with alarm out about the "attack on Christianity" in response to a report published this week by Voice for Justice UK (VfJ) on how LGBT ideology is marginalising orthodox Christians. 

He said: "Christianity is the cornerstone for so many of the values we take for granted. If it were not for Christianity our tolerance, our diversity, freedom of conscience and love for our neighbour would become a thing of the past.

"This report needs to be circulated widely among those working in human resources, those responsible for education, as well as employers, Church leaders, civil servants and those responsible for policy making.

"We all need to wake up to the attack on Christianity in our society, before it turns into something even more sinister. This report is a vital step in sounding the alarm."

The VfJ survey of 1,562 UK Christians about their experiences of intolerance or discrimination pointed out: "While there should be no hierarchy in the list of protected characteristics (under the Equality Act 2010), this appears to be contradicted by the reality. It appears that there is a hierarchy of protected characteristics, with all things LGBT+ at the top and ethnicity slightly below that."

Unfortunately, Fletcher's orthodox Christian voice would be lost to the House of Commons if the 'Red Wall' seats in the North of England, won by the Conservatives in 2019, revert to Labour on July 4.

The Reform UK website says the party is fielding a candidate in Doncaster East. Reform may claim it will take votes from Labour but the reality is that in Fletcher's constituency it would attract disillusioned 2019 Conservative voters.

The other Christian 'Red Wall' MP looking vulnerable is Miriam Cates, who won the South Yorkshire seat of Stocksbridge and Penistone for the Conservatives from Labour in 2019. The Reform website says the candidate in her constituency is to be arranged.

In May 2023 the Guardian newspaper ran a profile of Cates which highlighted her Christian faith: "Cates met her husband at their church in Sheffield and sits on parliament's ecclesiastical committee, which scrutinises the Church of England...She has been likened to Kate Forbes - the SNP politician who ran for the party leadership but whose fervent religious views were viewed as out of date by most of her party."

The paper said: "When Forbes came under fire, Cates called her 'incredibly brave'. The Tory MP also cited Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader who was criticised for suggesting gay sex was a sin, in an interview with the Christian Institute."

It quoted her telling the CI: "I get so many emails from Christians and many others thanking me for taking a stand on these things and that does really keep you going."

Reform leader Nigel Farage has on many occasions expressed his respect for the way in which Christianity has shaped our country. On the BBC's 'Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg' political programme on June 9 he invoked "Christian forgiveness" when asked about the criminal past of a Reform candidate. "There is a thing called Christian forgiveness. If people get convicted of something or do something wrong, well, they have another chance in life to go on and prove themselves," he said.

Cates is defending a majority from 2019 of 7,210 and Fletcher 3,630. Though their seats would fall to Labour without any help from Reform if the polls prove true, the countercultural Christian voices of these two MPs would arguably stand a better chance of continuing to be heard in Parliament if their party had had the sense to form an electoral pact with Farage.

Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Lancashire.