UK General Election: What does the victorious Labour party’s promise for 'change' mean for evangelicals?

By Chris Eyte |
What does Labour's election victory mean for UK evangelicals?
New British Prime Minister Keir Starmer (pictured with supporters) has called for "change" but how will that affect evangelicals in the UK? | Labour Party

King Charles III and leaders around the world will be extending their congratulations to new British Prime Minister Keir Starmer after the Labour Party’s thumping victory in the U.K. General Election yesterday, July 4.

The party won 412 seats at the time of publication, impressively dominating the previous Conservative Government, which slumped into second place with only 121 seats. 

Labour, in its prior electioneering for a “mission-driven” administration, claimed that governments worked best “when working in partnership” with business, trade unions, communities - and faith groups. So what does that mean for evangelical Christians, of whatever political persuasion who, according to Talking Jesus research, make up six cent of the 68 million adults living in the country?

The unraveling of policies and promises into actions remains, of course, a “wait and see” as the first Labour Government in 14 years finds its feet. But there are some snippets of what’s to come for evangelicals from the political party’s published election manifesto in the areas of sexuality rights, asylum seekers and poverty. 

A practicing homosexual seeking help from a church minister, for example, would likely not be allowed to receive prayer and support in accordance with biblical teaching to change their stated sexuality. Labour plans to ban what it calls “conversion therapy.” 

“So-called conversion therapy is abuse – there is no other word for it – so Labour will finally deliver a full trans-inclusive ban on conversion practices, while protecting the freedom for people to explore their sexual orientation and gender identity,” stated the manifesto.

All existing strands of so-called “hate crime” will also become an aggravated offense under Labour plans to protect people’s rights to live out proclaimed LGBT+ identities.

The new government also intends to implement recommendations made by the Cass Review about young people with gender dysphoria to receive better care. 

“We will also modernize, simplify, and reform the intrusive and outdated gender recognition law to a new process. We will remove indignities for trans people who deserve recognition and acceptance; whilst retaining the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a specialist doctor, enabling access to the healthcare pathway.”

Pro-life campaigner Christian Hacking told Christian Daily International in May that “it is undeniable that more Christians will be arrested in the U.K. if Labour comes to power.”

After recounting his own arrest for praying outside an abortion clinic, Hacking, who works for the Centre for Bio Ethical Reform UK, but spoke in a private capacity, said his hope lay “not in politics but in Christians being salt and light.” Even so, he warned “Christians will find themselves increasingly in the firing line in all sorts of matters, not only abortion but conversion therapy, and sexuality, and we should welcome persecution as a means to help us shed some [spiritual] pounds.”

There is no specific mention of abortion in the Labour Manifesto but the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children opines that the new government’s pledge to “strengthen international development work” could include further funding of organizations that support or provide abortions in other countries. 

Meanwhile, Christians from abroad seeking asylum in the U.K., often fleeing persecution in their home country, are promised that Labour will “go after the criminal gangs” and drop the flagship Rwanda policy of the Tories, which planned to fly refugees back or to Africa, depending on where they came from. This could also have an effect on Christian organizations supporting immigrants.

Labour pledged a new Border Security Command to crack down on criminals abusing the asylum system “so that it operates swiftly, firmly, fairly, and the rules are properly enforced.” This allegedly includes scrapping asylum hotels.

“Labour will set up a new returns and enforcement unit, with an additional 1,000 staff, to fast-track removals to safe countries for people who do not have the right to stay here,” the political party says on its website.

“We will negotiate additional return arrangements to speed up returns and increase the number of safe countries that failed asylum seekers can swiftly be sent back to. And we will also act upstream, working with international partners to address the humanitarian crises which lead people to flee their homes, and to strengthen support for refugees in their home region.”

Emily Shepherd who serves as the chief executive officer of Welcome Churches, a church-based charity supporting refugees and asylum seekers through 1,400 U.K. churches in its network, felt unsure about the new government’s plans to help refugees.

“The churches in our Welcome Network celebrate the refugees we have met in our communities in recent years,” Shepherd told Christian Daily International. “Whilst many of the people seeking asylum that our churches meet will be feeling some relief at not facing immediate removal to Rwanda, the future for these people still feels very uncertain.”

Shepherd hoped that the new government would put “compassion and welcome” at the heart of their asylum policies, “rather than fear and hostility.” 

“The experience of many refugees is that it is local churches and Christians that have welcomed and supported them on their journeys across the globe. Welcome Churches' vision is for every refugee to be welcomed by the local church and we pray the global Church will grasp hold of this vision as well.”

Labour also purports to prioritize family finances with lower tax rates and reducing food prices. The party also mentioned free breakfast clubs in every primary school but otherwise envisioned an “ambitious strategy” to reduce child poverty without providing particular details in the manifesto.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) issued a press release this morning asking all MPs, of whatever political persuasion, to visit one of their 250 debt centers to see for themselves the financial woes suffered by many people, as reported recently by Christian Daily International. 

Gareth McNab, CAP Director of External Affairs, referred to a YouGov poll last year showing nearly 90 percent of people in the U.K. want to see poverty tackled. Another poll by YouGov last month showed 21 per cent of adults have skipped meals and 48 percent limit energy use at home, at least once per month, because of burgeoning costs. 

“There is clearly a great public urgency around addressing poverty, and this now needs to be a greater political priority,” McNab said. “There are important steps that the new Labour Government can take quickly to address this.

“These include reviewing social security payments against the Minimum Income Standard and making the legal minimum wage the same level as the Real Living Wage. This will help ensure everyone has access to an income that covers their essential needs.”

The British and Foreign Bible Society published a review of the relationship between the Christian faith and the Labour party in 2010, striking a positive note – written at a time when Labour lost a general election, placing the Conservatives in power for the next 14 years, until now. 

Called ‘Building Jerusalem? Christianity and the Labour Party’, and written by Paul Bickley, researcher at Theos, the public theology think tank, the study claimed that “if the idea that the Labour Party owes more to Methodism than it does to Marx contains any truth, it is the truth that faith communities can provide personnel.”

Bickey opined that being part of a faith body, like a church, trained people in “the virtues of citizenship, service and common endeavor - virtues without which no political party can long survive.”

“If the Labour Party continues to aspire to be the Party of ‘a just society, which judges its strength by the condition of the weak as much as the strong, provides security against fear, and justice at work, which nurtures families, promotes equality of opportunity and delivers people from the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and the abuse of power’, then, inasmuch as it makes a critique which is consonant with the Christian Socialist tradition, it will command high levels of support and involvement from amongst the Christian community,” predicted Bickley, giving his own view. 

Gavin Calver, chief executive officer for the U.K. Evangelical Alliance, believes the new Labour Government carried a “significant burden of responsibility.” He referred to Psalm 72, praying that God would give the new Prime Minister “wisdom and a heart for justice, that he will stand up for the  poor and for children in need.”

“The Evangelical Alliance is committed to working with the government on restoring hope in our society, strengthening social cohesion and honouring the dignity and value of every human being. Our faith is a vital component of what makes a difference and helps transform lives across the UK.

“We look forward to working closely with the new minister responsible for faith groups and encourage the prime minister to appoint a special envoy for international freedom of religion or belief as soon as possible.

“There will be points in the years ahead where we will disagree with the government's direction and will challenge policies and decisions. Any moves that disempower and harm the most vulnerable in society will be met with a robust response from the evangelical Christians across the UK. Our heart is always to serve and advocate for those most in need and we urge the government to do the same,” he said. 

“We encourage the government to meet with evangelical churches and national organisations to understand the vast contribution we are already making every day for those in greatest need.”