Thursday, June 12, 2008


Is Labour becoming the anti-Catholic party? Young Labour's vice chairman, Conor McGinn, thinks so. He has resigned his position, offended by what he saw as the anti-Catholic attitude surrounding the recent Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. This was most stridently articulated by the Labour MEP Mary Honeyball, who asked: "Should devout Catholics such as Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Paul Murphy be allowed on the government front bench in the light of their predilection to favour the Pope's word above the government's?"

McGinn describes Honeyball's language as harking back to the days of Guy Fawkes. "Imagine substituting the words Jew or Muslim for Catholic in Mary Honeyball's comments - there would have been a furious reaction," says McGinn, whose stance resonates with several Catholic Labour MPs.

The words have "a strong whiff of the 17th century about them," agrees Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing. He suggests that if there is no place for Catholics in political parties, then that points towards the creation of a separate party. "This leads to exclusively Muslim, Hindu, Anglican and even atheist parties."

Jim Dobbin, MP for Rochdale and chairman of the all-party pro-life group, has sent a letter to Gordon Brown expressing similar concerns. "There was the attempt by Alan Johnson, when education secretary, to force faith schools to take 25 per cent of non-believers. Then there was the adoption agency legislation to stop discrimination against gays and lesbians which finished up discriminating against the Catholic Church. Catholic adoption agencies are now closing."

He adds: "There are five million Catholics in the country. If the government think they can disregard even a small number of these voters then they are living in cloud cuckoo land."

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