Labour 'must win religious vote' in election
Labour must take on board the concerns of religious voters if the party is to win a fourth term in power, the Scottish Secretary will admit in a keynote speech.
By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor
First Published: 6:00AM GMT 23 Feb 2010 on Telegraph.co.uk, click here for original article
Jim Murphy will point out more than five million people have visited a place of worship in the last month, making them one of the largest demographic groups in the general election battle.
Labour won a nine-point lead over the Tories among religious Britons in the 2005 election, he will say, and this lead will have to be repeated if his party is to prevail again this time.
This means reflecting their concerns in the party’s policy agenda, Mr Murphy, a prominent Catholic, will argue.
His speech was designed to woo Christians disillusioned with Labour following the Pope’s attack earlier this month on Labour’s controversial equality drive.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of Scotland’s 750,000 Roman Catholics, has also threatened a “vocal and public campaign” against the UK Equality Bill.
The Catholic Church fears the legislation, which largely applies in Scotland as well as England, could force it to employ homosexuals or transsexuals.
In a speech at the Commons to Progress, a Labour think tank, Mr Murphy will point at that faith has played a central part in US politics for a long time.
“But it’s wrong to think that it plays no role in British politics … given that over five million people have been to church mosque or gurdwara in the last month,” he will say.
“That’s a hugely significant figure. Faith voters massively outweigh ‘Motorway Men’ or ‘Worcester Woman’ or any other trendy demographic group identified by marketeers.
“Our lead amongst them in 2005 needs to be replicated in the coming election and it will be if we reflect and respect their values and aspirations in our policies, as I believe we should.”
Mr Murphy will cite research conducted at the time of the 2005 general election suggesting Labour won 31 per cent of the religious vote, nine points more than the Tories.
Labour was founded on the principles of Christian socialism, he will continue, and led the trade union struggle for working class rights “against a privileged Establishment”.
But he will claim Scots have recently adopted a "tougher” attitude to fairness over issues such as immigration, the welfare state and anti-social behaviour.
“We cannot pander to the darker sides of these sentiments, but we have to meet any sense of unfairness halfway and either debate, discuss or deal with it. ?,” he will conclude.
?Echoing David Cameron, the Tory leader, he will argue families are another bedrock of Scottish society but he attacked Conservative plans to give married couples tax breaks.
“I celebrate marriage and family life, and while it’s wrong for government to financially incentivise one family type over another,” he will say.