Sir Keir Starmer met with Labour’s Network of Parliamentary Faith Champions on Wednesday, to hear the challenges faced by their communities.
The network of religious leaders is designed to help strengthen Labour’s relationships with faith communities. It includes MPs and Peers from different religions, who either have a personal faith or who are serving large faith communities.
Sir Keir heard about foodbanks and warm spaces being provided to families who are struggling, and also listened to concerns about the challenges some faith communities in the UK are facing, with regard to the conflict in Israel and Gaza.
Speaking after meeting Labour’s Parliamentary Faith Champions, Starmer said: “It’s clear that faith groups are a lifeblood of our local communities… contributing to picking up the pieces for those who need it most, whether that’s provision of food, warmth, shelter or advice. Those groups have the full support of my Labour Party.”
Sir Keir has faced criticism from members of his party, at both national and local levels, over his refusal to back calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Hours after the meeting, the divisions in his party were laid bare, when 8 of his top team resigned their positions on the frontbench, in order to support a vote brought by the SNP, calling for one.
56 Labour MPs voted the same way, rebelling against their leader Sir Keir Starmer, who’s calling for “humanitarian pauses” instead.
Both the Labour and the SNP votes failed to pass. Israel’s embassy in London says votes in parliament rejecting a ceasefire in Gaza “shows a strong moral clarity”.
Keir Starmer launched Labour’s‘Faith Champions Network’ last September to promote faith groups and faith-based organisations in supporting their communities.
Speaking at the annual faiths reception at the Labour’s 2022 conference, the leader said: “MPs and peers will be message carriers and engage with specific communities. So this is, I think and I hope, a demonstration of how we want to engage.”
‘Faith champions’ report directly to Starmer, and work with local authorities and faith-based organisations, with the aim to replicate the volunteering and community action that took place during the height of the covid pandemic.
“We’ve been hit harder because of 12 years of lack of preparedness, 12 years of a weak economy, 12 years of broken puppet services and 12 years of broken promises,” Starmer said.
“It’s always faith groups, it’s you, it’s others, it’s your communities that stepped in to that breach, to help our communities. You show the really the very best of us because.”
The network is led by shadow faith minister Sarah Owen, who said “working with faith groups can make a vital contribution to developing an effective programme, and to building support for it, between now and the next election”.
She has criticised the government’s position on faith groups, calling them “too dismissive of those whose starting point for politics is faith” and highlighting that “at one point they quietly abolished the role if minister for faith entirely”.
Story by William Kelly of The Catholic Network