Equipping Christians for the 2016 Elections

2016 Election results
James Mildred

As the dust settles on the elections that took place last week, we have summarised the results from across the country.

Scottish Parliament

The SNP remain in power with 63 out of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Conservatives overtook Scottish Labour as the second largest party. They gained an additional 16 MSPs to take their tally to 31. Scottish Labour finished with 24 MSPs and the Greens and the Liberal Democrats got 6 and 5 MSPs respectively.

SNP: 63

Scottish Conservatives: 31

Scottish Labour: 24

Green: 6

Lib Dem: 5

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Welsh Assembly

In Wales Labour have retained power, but have fallen just short of an overall majority. UKIP managed to win seats in Wales for the very first time.

Labour: 29

Plaid Cymru: 12

Conservative: 11

UKIP: 7

Lib Dems: 1

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Northern Ireland Assembly

The DUP managed to win the same number of seats as last time meaning Arlene Foster will remain as First Minister.

DUP: 38

Sinn Féin: 28

UUP: 16

SDLP: 12

Alliance: 8

People Before Profit: 2

Greens: 2

TUV: 1

Independent Unionist: 1

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London Mayor

Sadiq Khan has been elected as London’s new Mayor. He polled 1,310,143 votes while his nearest rival, Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith, received 994,614 votes.

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London Assembly

Labour: 12

Conservative: 8

Green Party: 2

UKIP: 2

Lib Dem: 1

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Police and Crime Commissioners – England and Wales

Elections were held in 40 police force areas.

Conservative: 20

Labour: 15

Independents: 3

Plaid Cymru: 2

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England – council elections

Council elections were held in 124 English councils and the following results were returned.

Labour: 58 councils; 1,326 seats

Conservative: 38 councils; 842 seats

Liberal Democrat: 4 councils; 378 seats

Independent: 77 seats

UKIP: 58 seats

Green Party: 45 seats

Residents: 39 seats

Liberal: 4 seats

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Another day, another election
Tim Houston

And so, another election has come and gone. As we await the results, whether eagerly or with Stormont small 2indifference, the Church faces a choice in deciding how to respond. On one level, our response should be the same regardless of which candidates get elected; that is, we respond with a season of prayer and intercession for our new Assembly as they begin a new term of governing Northern Ireland. Our prayers for government must not be dependent on an election result we favour. Our prayers must be unconditional and unceasing. ‘But what about those MLAs who are against what we believe in?’ some may say, I can already hear criticism and mistrust of those possibly elected who disagree with certain Christian values and principles. Let’s remember that whatever the outcome for our new Assembly, we are still in the presence of a sovereign God who’s rule and power cannot be tarnished. His love is unconditional and his grace is mighty.

We may disagree with some potential MLAs on certain issues, but let’s not fall into the pit of hostility, superiority and anger. We must be better than that. We are free to live in the light of God’s truth and love, and we are free to have our beliefs about how society should operate, so we will continue to be a voice for truth into Northern Ireland. It is our tone and approach in responding to the election result which will be crucial. How we interact with MLAs who we disagree with will be indicative of how we are to respond to those in society who are unaware of God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ – with love, wisdom and power.

Is it possible to vocalise disagreement with some in society whilst still being a constant witness to incredible grace? It most definitely is, and it is vital that we ensure we are doing both in Northern Ireland.

South Scotland regional hustings with Southside church, Ayr
Stuart Weir

South Scotland hustingsWatch our vlog from Monday night’s South Scotland regional hustings here:

You can check the questions and responses to the hustings on the #SouthsideHustings hashtag. Two or three responses don’t have the hashtag but can be seen @engage_16 or @carescot Twitter feeds.

It has been incredible to be in four different Scottish parliamentary regions working with four brilliant local churches to help local constituents figure out how to vote tomorrow on the big day. Please Lord, provide us with 129 honourable MSPs with servant hearts!

Northern Ireland Party Manifestos: where to find them
Tim Houston

We’re edging closer to our Assembly elections on 5th May. We thought you might like to have all of our party manifestos in one place!

Below you will find links to the manifestos of political parties standing for election in Northern Ireland for the 2016 Assembly election. The parties included are those who have manifestos available online.

Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

http://allianceparty.org/document/manifesto/2016-alliance-assembly-manifesto.pdf

Democratic Unionist Party

http://www.mydup.com/publications/view/dup-manifesto-2016

Green Party of Northern Ireland

http://www.greenpartyni.org/www/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/GreenParty_Manifesto_2016-for-email.pdf

NI Conservatives

http://www.niconservatives.com/sites/www.niconservatives.com/files/conservative-manifesto-2016-assembly-elections.pdf

Sinn Fein

https://www.sinnfein.ie/files/2016/MANIFESTO20116Assemblytogether.pdf

Social Democratic and Labour Party

http://www.sdlp.ie/site/assets/files/43032/sdlp_manifesto_web-1.pdf

Traditional Unionist Voice

http://tuv.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/TUV-A5-Manifesto-2016-final.pdf

United Kingdom Independence Party Northern Ireland

https://ukipnorthernireland.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/ukip2016manifestoweb-1.pdf

Ulster Unionist Party

http://uup.org/assets/images/assembly%20manifesto.pdf

Workers Party

https://workerspartyelection.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/workers-party-assembly-manifesto-2016.pdf

NI Assembly Elections: what about marriage?
Tim Houston

A number of Northern Irish political parties made manifesto commitments with regard to marriage. You can see these commitments below.

Alliance Party

“Our priorities for improving the rights of LGBT people include: introducing legislation to extend civil marriage provisions to same sex couples, provided that robust protections are provided through legislation to protect faith groups and religious celebrants who do not wish to marry same-sex couples.” (p24)

Democratic Unionist Party

“In addition, the DUP has: stood by its commitment to family values and marriage and will continue to do so.” (p20)

Green Party Northern Ireland

“The Green Party will bring forward legislation for equal marriage.” (p10)

Sinn Fein

“Sinn Fein’s priorities in Government: Marriage Equality for all citizens.” (p18)

Social Democratic and Labour Party

“We will bring forward legislation to extend the right to marry with full family status to same sex couples.” (p42)

Traditional Unionist Voice

“It is noteworthy that when the civil partnership legislation was being debated back in 2004, the Minister in charge, Jackie Smith, told the Commons: “The whole point, however, is that civil partnership is not civil marriage, for a variety of reasons, such as the traditions and history- religious and otherwise- that accompany marriage. It is not marriage. (Hansard, 9th November 2004)

Yet, as many predicted, civil partnership became a stepping stone to full “marriage”. TUV will oppose any redefinition of marriage and defend traditional family values as outlined in the founding principles of the party, believing that that is the bedrock for the success of society.” (p43)

Workers Party

“The Assembly must legislate for marriage equality in Northern Ireland and clearly signal that all citizens are treated equally.” (p22)

NI Assembly Elections: what about religious liberty?
Tim Houston

A number of Northern Irish political parties running in the 2016 Assembly election made manifesto commitments with regard to religious liberty. You can see these commitments below.

Alliance Party

“Alliance will promote equality of opportunity, equality of treatment, equality of access, and equality under the law for all people, irrespective of gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, race and ethnicity, and political opinion.” (p20)

“Our priorities for improving the rights of LGBT people include:

  • Continuing to oppose the proposed ‘Conscience Clause’ which is poorly defined and is a charter for discrimination.
  • Developing a comprehensive Strategy for Transgender People to ensure that the distinct needs of transgender people are reflected in public services and other areas of life. We will back this up with legislation if necessary.” (p24-25)

“Alliance is committed to the following actions:

  • Robustly condemning attacks on the homes of people from religious or ethnic backgrounds or on the basis of sexual orientation. There must also be support for victims and active engagement with communities in order to improve levels of integration and cohesion.” (p65)

“Alliance is a party which respects and promotes human rights, civil liberties and political freedom. We believe that these issues are universal and must be respected by governments across the world. We will always seek to promote our values abroad, promoting a world which is tolerant, respects human rights and supports political freedom. Alliance will:

  • Continue to promote our unwavering commitment to freedom of, and from, religion across the world and oppose discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.
  • Promote lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights across the world.
  • Use the UK’s role in the Commonwealth nations to make progress on protecting the rights of women, religious minorities and LGBT people.” (p83)

Green Party Northern Ireland

“The Green Party will update the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to provide transgender and non-binary people in Northern Ireland with gender recognition processes based on self-declaration.” (p10)

“The Green Party will ensure comprehensive relationship and sexuality education for all pupils.” (p10)

Sinn Fein

“Sinn Fein’s priorities in Government: Human rights compliant legislation in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and sexual crime.” (p18)

Social Democratic and Labour Party

“The SDLP is committed to defending and campaigning for equality and human rights across all sectors, regardless of: sexual orientation, religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, class, marital status, sex, disability and between persons with dependents and persons without. A genuinely shared future will champion the rights of everyone in our society.” (p20)

“The SDLP will… press for the introduction of the Sexual Orientation Strategy.” (p49)

Traditional Unionist Voice

“TUV will continue to lead the opposition to lead this [equality] agenda. Even a Christian bakery is being persecuted for refusing to promote same-sex marriage. We are opposed to YOUR money being used to persecute with genuinely held beliefs.” (p40)

“TUV proposed a vote on slashing the budget of the Equality Commission which has brought the case against Ashers Bakery. Shamefully all other parties in the Assembly- including the DUP- voted against the TUV proposal. The case against Ashers is being funded by the Equality Commission. Remember the Equality Commission is funded by your taxes through the Office of the First and deputy First Minister. It is irrational to say that you oppose the needless action of the Equality Commission and yet oppose reducing their budget.” (p41)

Ulster Unionist Party

“We would work to eradicate prejudice, racial and religious discrimination and racist and religious hate crime and hate speech, moving towards human rights protection and equality for all.” (p34)

“We would monitor funding of minority ethnic and religious groups to ensure government support is fair, transparent and proportionate.” (p34)

“We would bring forward the long awaited Sexual Orientation Strategy.” (p34)

“We would support age-appropriate sex and relationship education.” (p35)

NI Assembly Elections: what about abortion?
Tim Houston

A number of Northern Irish political parties running in the 2016 Assembly election made manifesto commitments with regard to abortion. You can see these commitments below.

Democratic Unionist Party

“However, we must continue to improve. For example, much needed guidance for our health professionals dealing with terminations has been provided. An expert panel on the issue of pregnancies with severe life limiting conditions has been established.” (p10)

“Public debate has focused on the needs of women who are pregnant with a child diagnosed with a severe life limiting condition. The DUP believes that women who find themselves in these most difficult of situations need the best medical and emotional support. The DUP is committed to establishing a perinatal hospice care service or facility in Northern Ireland.” (p12)

Green Party Northern Ireland

The Green Party will ensure equality of healthcare services for women including the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.” (p9)

Sinn Fein

“Sinn Fein’s priorities in Government: Human rights compliant legislation in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and sexual crime.” (p18)

Social Democratic and Labour Party

“The SDLP continues to oppose the extension of the 1967 Act, will engage in the cross party working group and support the implementation of the Ministerial guidelines.” (p27)

Traditional Unionist Voice

“TUV does not believe that the unborn child should be denied his or her fundamental rights.

Though there is a superficial plausibility within the promotion of abortion in cases of potentially fatal abnormalities, the experience of the 1967 Act in Great Britain is a salutary warning against such glib assurance. Although the 1967 Act appears to permit abortion only in restricted circumstances, in reality it swung open the door to abortion on demand. Who on reading the supposed restraints of Section 1 of the 1967 Act could imagine that under it over 8,000,000 babies would have been terminated!

It is also important to stress that the current law in Northern Ireland is not an absolute bar to abortion in, for example, a case of severe anencephaly. As the Bourne test makes clear, and as amplified by Girvan LJ in the 2009 Judicial Review, lawful termination is possible where there is a real and serious risk to a woman’s physical or mental health, which is either long term of permanent. Thus, the mother whose mental health is so damaged by carrying a child with fatal foetal abnormality can at present avail of lawful termination within Northern Ireland.

In our view this is sufficient. TUV will not be waiting for a “working party” to report after the election.

With TUV you know we will be a strong voice for the unborn before you vote. (p43)

Workers Party

“The Workers Party believes in a woman’s right to choose and supports the provision of free and safe abortion in her own country which will include practical facilities to support women seeking an abortion and quality post-abortion care.

No one should vote for a candidate or a Party that does not trust women.

The Assembly should recognise a woman’s right to choose and secure the extension of the Abortion Act 1967 to Northern.” (p21)

Palliative and End of Life Care – where the parties stand (Wales)
Public Affairs

Welsh Conservatives: “A Welsh Conservative Government will: Respect the individual wishes of patients about receiving palliative care.” Page Euthanasia15

 Ukip Wales: “UKIP pledges to:

 Ensure that everyone who needs palliative care has access to it.

Develop community services for those living with a terminal illness.

Conduct a bi-annual survey of bereaved people to give a fuller picture of end-of-life care in Wales. Improve Welsh language provision for dementia and end of life care, particularly in areas where Welsh is widely spoken, so that first language Welsh speakers with dementia or at end of life are able to communicate in maximum comfort.” Page 9

Welsh Liberal Democrats: “We will:

Ensure we respect the wishes of people at the end of life by ensuring proper palliative care and advanced care planning” page 32

Plaid Cymru: “We will ensure that everybody gets access to decent end of life care, taking the patient’s wishes into consideration.” Page 105

Human Trafficking – where the parties stand (Wales)
Public Affairs

Plaid Cymru: “We will also play a role in international campaigns to prevent modern slavery,” page 187 Human-Trafficking-New

Sex and Relationships Education – where the parties stand (Wales)
Public Affairs

Plaid Cymru: “Child welfare at schools and at home is crucial in achieving their potential. All schools will teach a healthy relationships agenda Sex Education Boxand maintain good counselling services.” Page 125

Welsh Liberal Democrats: “we will establish an Educational Standards Authority to set the curriculum content in Wales…we would set direction for the ESA to develop a ‘curriculum for life’ covering issues such as financial literacy; physical and mental first aid; political education and citizenship; coding and age-appropriate sex and relationship education, tackling issues of gender identity, sexuality, consent and healthy relationships.” Page 23

Ukip Wales: UKIP will:

Ensure all parents are made fully aware of sex education teaching materials before they are used.

Continue to respect their right to withdraw children.” Page 18