Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Coming Referendum & PR Elections to the House of Lords

From the President of the
Christian Peoples Alliance

Dear Friends of the CPA,

Referendum and Council Elections 2011

What is the Christian Democratic response to the Coalition government? I welcome the principle of parties working together for the good of the country, but I also have some concerns.

I am concerned about the impact of the Budget on the poorest in society - cuts in Child Benefit, the disproportionate impact of the VAT rise on the bottom 10 per cent of earners and the cutting of housing benefit allowances. Then there are the risks to religious liberty, the Conservative abandonment of even a modest recognition of marriage in the tax system and Coalition talk of introducing gay 'marriage'.

Clearly, the deficit has to come down, but slashing spending when more could have been done on fairer taxes is taking Britain further from being a more equal society. Abandoning Christian teaching on the family is also taking Britain further away from being a God-fearing nation.

But there are opportunities as well, which I want to tell you about.

The Coalition Agreement pledged that: "Proposals will be brought forward for a reformed second House that is wholly or mainly elected on the basis of proportional representation." Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister has convened a cross-party committee to look into this and will publish a bill by December.

So what is on offer? One member of Nick Clegg's new Committee is former Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who outlined Labour's vision before the General Election to the Guardian. The paper reported that :

".... he envisaged a 300-seat second chamber, starting from the next election (assuming that will be in 2014 or 2015), with constituencies of a size similar to those in the European elections. An "open list" system of proportional representation would see voters choose who in a party they wished to support rather than allowing the party to rank its candidates.

He said the powers of the chamber, probably to be called the Senate, would be set out in statute. In his previous outline proposals, he anticipated members sitting for the length of three parliaments (with one-third of the house voted in at each general election), ... "

What does this mean for the Christian Peoples Alliance? If Jack Straw is even close to what will emerge in the coming Bill, then across Britain, we should anticipate that a Christian Democratic party stands a very good chance of being elected. He is proposing a system very close to what was used for the European Parliamentary elections in 2009.

Last year, without any of those voting knowing much about what was on offer, a quarter of a million people voted for the Christian option on the ballot paper. This was a tiny percentage of those who voted - except in London where a barebones campaign was run and around 3 per cent was polled. The Times assessment was the Christian option was among the "key winners" of the election among the newer parties.

The figures tell me that with a minimum of effort, it is possible to run a decent campaign that will see the first Christian Democrats elected to Westminster. With greater planning, prayer and simple Christian courage, so much more can be done. Never again will Christians be able to say "there was no-one worth voting for".

This means there are roughly 4 years to plan for these elections. So what do we have to do to get a voice for church social teaching in the Lords? First, we have to make ourselves known at local level by standing for election and running relevant campaigns that address the challenges of Recession Britain. In Scotland, Wales and London effort is needed to plan for the coming PR elections in 2011 and 2012.

It also means running in first-past-the-post elections TODAY so that you and the CPA become known and trusted TOMMORROW. Next year there are major local council elections to coincide with the planned referendum on electoral reform. These present a vital opportunity. Elections have been the best way of building the Christian Peoples Alliance. Please look and see if there are elections where you are and let me know if you are prepared to stand - it will cost nothing to do so.

So far, I have expressions of interest in the Senate Regional Lists from the North West, Eastern Region, South West, East Midlands, West Midlands and London. If you live in these regions and want to succeed for the planned Senate, you MUST be running candidates - even 'paper' candidates in the local elections next May 2011. Remember, it will not cost anything to do so. The rewards could be significant at a whole range of levels in finding activists, getting your messages across and building profile. You also have a reason to meet church leaders.

The full list of areas with Council elections is below. At national level the Christian Peoples Alliance continues to be a voluntary collective effort - without any significant financial or church support. But with deep trust in God's providence and leading! Do remember us in prayer.

Yours ever in Christ,

David Campanale
CPA President

PS If you want to sponsor specific developments in our growth, our priority is to build regional websites at £250.00 a page (we want 14 sub-pages). If you feel able to help us with this one-off need for each region, please send a gift to our national office marking which region you want this to go to. We will use the web as a cost-free means of bringing Christians together behind our vision and organising fledgling CPA branches.

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