The religious make-up of the House of Commons
When did you last hear of a ‘reactionary humanist’? Or a ‘reactionary secularist’? Or, pace Professor Dawkins, a ‘reactionary atheist’?
Was Dr Evan Harris a reactionary in Parliament?
Or was he simply an apologist for his deeply and sincerely-held beliefs, desirous of making the world a better secular place?
The National Secular Society have studied a few statistics and gleefully established that ‘Reactionary Catholics are finding it harder to get elected’.
Well, so are reactionary Anglicans, but that’s by-the-by.
They note, however, a slight disparity between the two leading Roman Catholic journals The Catholic Herald and The Tablet (a slight disparity?) in the figures provided for the number of MPs who describe themselves as Roman Catholic:
According to the Catholic Herald, the number of Catholics elected to the House of Commons has risen from 64 to 68. According to the Tablet the number has fallen from 85 to 70. The Herald says 17 of the 68 are newly elected, while the Tablet says that 20 of the newcomers are Catholic. But, significantly, both agree that religious hardliners have found it more difficult to gain selection as candidates.You would think, with today’s obsessive, anti-meriticratic, box-ticking bureaucracy, that establishing the professed religious adherence of MPs ought to be a fairly straightforward task. After all, they are supposed to be proportionally representative of the British population as a whole: there are quotas for women, Asian, black, gay and disabled parliamentary candidates, so you might think it quite logical that candidates are similarly sifted to ensure a representative religious plurality.
Not least because religion is likely to inform one’s political worldview considerably more than skin colour or sexuality.
Or perhaps that is only in Northern Ireland.
Can you imagine Harriet Harman ensuring all-Catholic shortlists to redress the outrageous of dominance of Protestants in Parliament?
And how would she ensure that the ‘right sort’ of Roman Catholic was selected?
Or perhaps she did for her husband…
Yet with 70 MPs out of 650, it would appear that Parliament does indeed contain a number of Roman Catholic MPs roughly in proportion to the national demographic.
It is the Jedi who are appallingly let down by the present selection gender-sexuality-ethnicity-disability emphasis in candidate selection.
If one were to constitute the House of Commons in proportion to the religious make-up of the nation (excluding the agnostics, atheists and undeclared) it ought to contain 17 Muslims, 6 Hindus, 4 Sikhs, 3 Jews, 2 Buddhists, 465 Christians and 6 Jedi Knights.
But unless you are a one-legged lesbian Muslim in a hoodie, you have little hope of expounding reactionary Jedi philosophy at the dispatch box.
Curiously, one Roman Catholic Labour MP who lost her seat, Geraldine Smith, said that her co-religionist candidates ‘have come under pressure for their views on issues such as assisted suicide, abortion and gay adoption’.
Dr Evan Harris was defeated by an Evangelical Christian in Oxford West and Abingdon, whose views on assisted suicide, abortion and gay adoption appear to be more in tune with the electorate than the ‘reactionary’ views of Dr Harris.
It is also posited that Roman Catholics with ambitions to be Labour MPs are less likely to be supportive of the Church’s position than Conservative Roman Catholics.
It comes as no surprise that there are more Tory readers of The Catholic Herald than there are Labour.
It perhaps explains why so many Roman Catholics still vote Labour, despite Labour’s 13-year-long assault on the Christian faith.
According to The Catholic Herald, there are 40 Labour Roman Catholic MPs, only 19 Conservative, five Lib Dems, 3 SDLP and one Scottish Nationalist.
It is curious that they omit members of Sinn Fein. While they may not take their seats, they are most certainly MPs and ought to be included for statistical purposes.
Unless they are dismissed for not being ‘proper’ Catholics.
The known religious make-up of the present House of Commons is roughly:
70 Roman Catholic (10.8 per cent)
8 Muslim (1.2 per cent)
24 Jewish (3.7 per cent)
As far as Cranmer knows, no-one has yet pigeon-holed the others, though you would think the number of Sikhs and Hindus ought to be quite easy to discover. Surprisingly, there are no figures for the number of Anglicans in Parliament, perhaps because they cannot agree on what one is.
In an era where the buzz-word is proportionality, it is worth observing that while the Roman Catholic contingent is proportionate (11 per cent), Jews are vastly over-represented (with 280,000 adherents, they constitute 0.46 per cent of the population).
In fact, if Muslims (who number 2.4 million or 3.9 per cent of the population) were to be similarly over-represented, there would be 200 of them in Parliament.
And then, perhaps, questions might be asked.
Of course, referring to someone as a Christian or Catholic MP, a Jewish MP, a Muslim MP or a Sikh or Hindu MP is really quite meaningless: by their voting fruits you shall know them.
David Miliband, for example, describes himself as an atheist, and yet the Jewish Chronicle includes him in their list of Jews.
Not all Zionists are Jews.
And not all Roman Catholics read The Catholic Herald.
For the avoidance of doubt, His Grace is Anglican, which means he is Catholic.
He may not be in Parliament, but he is ‘reactionary’.
If he were not so, he would be neither Anglican nor Catholic.
Or particularly Christian.