Sunday, March 11, 2007
To which Margaret Curran MSP quite sensibly replied
Bishop Devine said Catholics should vote according to their conscience
One of Scotland's most senior Catholics has declared he will not vote Labour in May's Holyrood elections.
The Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Devine, said he now feels many Labour policies, such as civil partnerships, fly in the face of Christian tradition.
He said his congregation's traditional allegiance to Labour had been tested to breaking point.
"I'll ask Catholics to exercise their vote responsibly according to their conscience.
"But I'll do something else for the very first time. I will indicate the party to which I'm going to vote for. I've never done that before.
"I'll not ask people to follow me. If they want to take that lead, that's fine enough."
"The legislation that has been passed, particularly on moral issues around equality and gay adoption, have been supported by many political parties, so it's not just an anti-Labour point."The backstory to this is that both the Catholic Church & the Labour Party have long believed that the church had the power to dispose of the votes of all good Catholics. They have, for generations, told their parishioners to vote Labour as being not historically unionist (union with Ireland not Scotland) & generally their tame party - his remark about "traditional loyalties" is code for this & why they feel they can pull Labour's lead but not he other parties'. The bishops have felt they had a perogative to tell Labour what to do. This didn't matter much before devolution because there was little they could do With devolution the bishops have been acting as if they were the Established Church of Scotland.
Clearly at some point there was going to be a clash. It is disingenuous of the bishop to say that he is merely personally going to say who he will vote for & not asking his followers to follow. The ability to deliver the "Catholic vote" has never really been tested - after all his followers are historically poor & who else would they vote for? Labour are expecting losses due to their abysmal record. Nonetheless there will be a lot of watching to see exactly what is the differential swing in McConnell's constituency, compared to Labour losses elsewhere, from Labour to whoever gets graced by his support. This is the "Catholic vote" that Bishop Devine controls (or rather twice the vote he controls since it both decreases Labour's vote & increases X).
My prediction is that it will be vanishingly small. That nobody takes Christianity seriously (Islam, I suspect, is also a tribal marker rather than a living belief system too) & that nobody but the bishop really cares about gay adoption compared to real issues like the economy. If I am right it will be a very good thing for us & a bigger blow against sectariansim (which in political terms usually means being anti-Protestant sectarianism) than anything else. It will also mean that our election is being fought on real issues like the economy rather than posing, as they have been previously.
UPDATEI heard the interview on the radio this morning & while he won't say who he is voting for immediately it will almost certainly be Christian action. I don't expect them to sweep Motherwell.