I know of few serious politicians who believe that people voting on religious lines is a good part of this country's history or should make up any part of this country's democratic future. yet, it appears that religious politics is alive and well in the UK.
The mass defection of several Labour councillors in ealing to the Tories appears to an outside to me to be based on religion, not policy or electoral issues, and this is to be regretted in modern Britain.
As recently as the 1950's the Orange Order and it's political tentacles still controlled the way seatrs went on Merseyside, yet with the decline in the influence of religion in the UK amongst the Christian population of this country, the power of the Orange order has gone. Attempts in Scotland to form a Christian People's Alliance and across Britain the other religions groups based largely on the pro Life arguments have failed to make any impact, but in parts of the country dominated by immigrant populations, religion still seems to e the issue that defines votes.
I was shocked in my university days to hear from the Lib Dems how Labour and Tory activists attempted to court certain names in parts of Coventry because they had the right connections in the local Mosque or Temple. Perhaps I was naive, but I had hoped that political parties would try and cut across religions, not pander to them. And before anyone gets on their high horse, I am sure that in some parts of the country the Lib Dems do this too. it does not make it right.
So what of Ealing ? Well it appears that one of the defectors to the Tories had sought the Labour nomination. Are we really to believe that he has changed his political colours in such an amazing way in just two weeks ? Or is it down to the fact that with him being rejected, he chose to look at the candidates religions and "contacts" and change on that basis.
I don't like defections be elected councillors or MP's. I find it all rather distasteful. If they are un-elected I see no problem, but changing mid term is being dis-honest to your voters.
Whilst I don't blame the Tories for taking in these defectors, it is a sorry state of affairs that in 2007 religion seems to be having such an effect in a parliamentary by-election. It is something that all of us in all political parties should seek to reject and oppose as it is, in my opinion, degrading to us all and a very dirty type of politics.
In the old days it was "It's not what you know, it's who you know". Now it seems to be "It's not what you pray for, it's who you pray to " .