One of the drawbacks of belonging to a smaller political party as a Christian is that there is rarely a specifically Christian group within the party, and because your time as a party activist is limited, it’s difficult to find the capacity to set one up. As a result, I was somewhat interested to read that the Christian group within the Labour Party Party was rebranding itself from the “Christian Socialist Movement” to “Christians on the Left”. The name change clearly sends the message that the organisation wants to expand itself to cover those of us in other left-wing parties (and yes, Ed Miliband does seem to have moved Labour from centre-right Blairism to a genuine centre-left position).
So, I contacted them to find out whether the impression they had given was actually the case. Their response was the following:
Christians on the Left has always been open to members of any party and, indeed, we have individuals who are Greens, LibDems, Communists and Christian Party members. As an organisation, however, we are and will remain affiliated to the Labour Party.
Which seems to be a definite “no” to the question of whether the new name actually reflects the reality. Because, as an active member of the Green Party I cannot in good conscience join an organisation where part of my membership subscription goes directly to a party which I will be standing and campaigning against in an election (which means that I have opted out of my trade union’s political fund). So, I e-mailed them back, asking
But if I were to join, part of my membership fee would go to the Labour Party? Thus implying that I support them.
Their response was the following:
It works out at 83p per member goes on the affiliation fee to the Labour Party. You could perhaps counter that with a donation of 83p to the cause of your choice?
Which completely misses the point. If Christians on the Left offered a non-affiliate membership, Christians like me within smaller left-wing parties would be able to have the same kind of support as those within the big three parties do. As it is, they are sending the clear message that left-wing Christians are honour-bound to support the Labour Party. A message which, in my opinion, is incredibly harmful to Christian involvement in politics.