Cllr Leon Spence represents Whitwick on Leicestershire County Council and recently defected from the Labour Party to the Conservatives.
If you have ever been to a Labour Party meeting, an experience that I’m sure most of you reading this piece today have never enjoyed, you will know that many members on the far left of that party totally and utterly hate the Tories and everything that we stand for.
It’s a hatred that I really haven’t encountered since I joined Conservative Party. I’m sure that many Tories have no liking for Labour but the visceral contempt for our opposition is something I just haven’t encountered. But that really is a story for another day.
You see, from all of my years of going to Labour Party meetings, there is one other thing that jumps out as being despised as much, if not more, than the Tories amongst those same members. They hate religion. They ridicule believers and save their highest contempt for Christians.
You will often find atheists, agnostics and humanists amongst the ranks of the far left and their greatest vitriol is held over for faith-based education. Try mentioning faith schools at Labour Party meetings and wait for the howls that “there is no place for religion in education”, you will see what I mean. It’s for that reason as a practising Catholic and writer that I am more than a little worried about that remotest of possibilities, a Labour Government next Friday morning.
Nowhere in the Labour manifesto does is mention faith schools. What you will find however are causes for concern if you are a parent whose children attend one.
Their manifesto claims that “Labour will ensure that all schools are democratically accountable, including appropriate controls to see that they serve the public interest and their local communities.” What does that mean? How do diocese fit into that structure of democratic accountability? Or, maybe they don’t?
The Manifesto goes on:
“We will require joined-up admissions policies across local schools to enable councils to fulfil their responsibilities on child places, to simplify the admissions process for parents and to ensure that no child slips through the net.”
Will faith based criteria find its way into those “joined-up admissions policies”? Or, will that not be acceptable in a modern socialist Britain?
Of course I could be scare-mongering, but just think for a second. We know that the last moderate Labour government changed admissions procedures to prevent a majority of places being allocated on the basis of religion in new faith schools. We know how that prevented Christian denominations from seeking to build new schools.
If that was a moderate Labour government then what will an ideologically pure one do? You won’t find much about faith schools on Labour websites but cast your net a little wider into the hinterland of left wing politics and it becomes much more illuminating.
The Socialist Party, formerly Militant, is no fan of faith schools. In 2014 on its website the party questioned “whether faith schools should have any place in our school system at all”. Around the same time the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was posting on its website ‘End private, sectarian and religious schools. Quality education for all.’ Before going on to state ‘it is christian schools of all denominations, with catholic schools at the forefront, that are the largest players in the sectarian delivery of education. Following the advice of the Jesuit priest Gracian – “Give me a child of seven and I’ll give you the man” – they aim to indoctrinate in a manner that will dominate their pupils for life, ensuring the ongoing power of their anachronistic institutions.’
Is it mere chance that Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, described himself as a Marxist? Is it a coincidence that both fringe parties in this General Election are campaigning for a Corbyn victory?
The truth is that disagreeing with faith schools is a perfectly laudable position. I disagree profoundly but other reasonable people would support such a stance. The real worry is that with this Labour Party we simply don’t know what their intention is for the future of faith schools. Practicing Christians, parents, and grandparents have a right to know before they go to the polls on Thursday.