American-style culture wars in British politics?
Leaflets produced by the Conservative Party candidate for Leeds North West attacked Greg Mulholland, the standing MP for the constituency, for his pro-life record and his voting record on amendments to schedule nine of the Equality Act which left existing legislation protecting the rights of religious groups in place. Mr Mulholland consistently voted for pro-life amendments when the HFE Bill was being discussed and has abstained from voting on questions of gay rights.
The Conservative election leaflets said:
“Before you vote, check his voting record on LGBT rights and women’s right to choose. It may surprise you.
1) Never voted on Equal Gay Rights. Sometimes MPs can be too busy to vote, but Greg Mulholland has never found the time to vote on equal gay rights. He has also evaded invitations to debate this important subject.
2) Voted to weaken gay hate law. On 9 January 2008, Greg Mulholland voted for an amendment that would have watered down laws to protect LGBT people from incitement to hatred on the basis of their sexuality.”
Mr Mulholland said that these topics have always been matters of conscience for Catholic or Christian MPs. He said: “Such issues are [a] matter of conscience and something that are not part of party politics and not to be used in party political campaigning. To use them in an election breaks a convention and is a deeply regrettable development. The Conservative candidate is effectively saying that it is not acceptable for many Christians to be Members of Parliament and follow their principles and if they do, she thinks it is acceptable to attack them for doing so.”
He has written a letter to the leader of the Opposition, David Cameron asking him for assurance that “anti Christian campaigning will never be repeated in Leeds North West or anywhere else”.
In the letter he wrote:
“It also claims I ‘voted to weaken gay hate law’ when the amendment I voted for, as you will remember, was tabled by a cross party group of MPs, including Conservative MPs, who were concerned that the legislation as drafted could lead to the prosecution of Christian preachers.
“It is simply unacceptable to attack me for voting on moral issues in accordance with my Christian principles. As you know, such issues are [a] matter of conscience and something that are not part of party politics and not to be used in party political campaigning. The Conservative candidate is effectively saying that it is not acceptable for many Christians, including Catholics, to be Members of Parliament and follow their principles. This would appal many Conservative MPs and I hope it appals you. “
Mr Mulholland has the support of the local Anglican Bishop John Parker and has also written to Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds asking for his support.
But as voting time is ticking with the election happening tomorrow, the question to ask is: Have American-style culture wars hit British politics?