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Why Christians in the Labour Party are backing Sir Keir Starmer as next leader

by Cara Bentley

Christians on the Left, an affiliate group of the Labour party, have nominated Keir Starmer as their selection for the leadership and Angela Rayner for deputy leader. 

Premier's Cara Bentley spoke to Stephen Beer, political communications officer for Christians on the Left. 


PCN: Christians on the Left has chosen Sir Keir Starmer as their leadership candidate. Why?

SB: Well, we had our own ballot of all our members to decide who we should nominate to be Labour leader. Now, individual members will get a chance to vote when that stage of the contest comes round. But we wanted to give our members a chance to decide who we, as a body, should nominate and Keir is the person that they've chosen.

PCN: Angela Rayner was chosen as deputy - can you tell us a bit about why you think Christians on the Left chose both of those candidates?

SB: Well they both had very strong candidate statements that the members looked at. So, I think that's partly behind it. I also think in the party generally, and in Christians on the Left, we're looking for renewal in the Labour Party and we're looking for people who can take that forward, and also people who can build relationships across the party and I think that's why those two was selected.



PCN: Different groups who are affiliated with Labour make their different decisions (and your decision won't dictate the ultimate leader directly). But what as a Christian were you looking for, because different affiliations will choose - and look out for - different things?

SB: You're absolutely right. Some affiliates basically try to choose their nominations centrally. So, they have a small committee of people and they don't consult their members and we said from the very beginning, as Christians on the Left that we would consult our members to decide who we're going to nominate. We see that as part of the renewal the party needs, it needs to involve everybody. We had a very bad general election result in December and actually just changing the leader and Deputy Leader is a good start, but it's not everything. We need to be thinking much more deeply as a party about how we connect with the world outside the party, where obviously some relationships broke down, and how we connect within the party too. And for myself as a Christian, I'm looking for a leader who will do those things and will lead the party in building up relationships to the party, but also will see the role for different groups and traditions within the party, of which Christians and Christian socialism is a very important part.

PCN: Can you explain what happens now with your nominations for these positions?

SB: The candidates that we have for Labour leader at the moment got past the first round, they were chosen by Labour MPs and then the second round is: they need to pick up nominations from groups affiliated to the party and from local Labour parties. They're pretty much through that round now and we're one of the last two to nominate. The next round is; the voting is opened up to all Labour members individually and to registered Labour supporters and that ballot goes on until April and then when we get the result then. The ballot is a transferable vote, just like it was for nominations process, so people choose 1, 2, 3 in terms of their order of preference for candidates. So there's a lot more debate to be had in the party at the moment, there's a lot more hustings to take place. We hope to join together in a faith groups hustings next month - we'll have details out about that soon. There's a lot more debate to be had. But it moves very quickly now to the Labour members deciding individually.



PCN: And presumably a lot of your members will get another vote in that round?

SB: That's right. So they've had one vote to choose how Christians on the Left should choose its nomination and that's happened now that nomination goes through. Then the second vote they have is in the actual leadership election themselves, as long as they're Labour members or they're registered supporters. So, that's the next step. It's a long drawn out process but I personally I think that the Labour party will take a really good look at itself. It's not just, as I said, who leads the party. It's the overall way we run the party, in terms of how we campaign, and it's also about what messaging we've got. Why did those communities desert the Labour Party in December and why didn't other people decide to vote for us rather than vote for the Conservative Party? These are really big questions and there is a Christian voice to be had in this - about Christian values, which are about community, but valuing the individuals in community, about solidarity in a bias to the poor and we need that to shine through

PCN: How are you preparing your Christian members their decision? 

SB: There's a lot of prayer going on, we have regular prayer meetings in Christians on the Left and we're in very close contact with the MPs and other activists in the party as well. We're doing our best and with this nomination process we wanted to give the candidates a chance to speak directly to members. So they had a chance to give us a statement to members that was tailored for Christians on the Left. As we get to choose that leader and as that announcement is made, then we'll work with whoever is elected and we're going to work very closely both to ensure there is a voice for Christian values in the party as there has always been, but also just working with others to get ourselves in a position where can have a Labour party that has policies that people want and a Labour government that can deliver those policies.



PCN: So your nomination is Keir Starmer. What would you say to our Christian audience who may not be Labour members, in terms of your confidence that he'd stick up for Christians and their freedom of speech?

SB: I think all the candidates have said that to some extent and for us, each time we have a new leader, we do our best to ensure that we build the relationships with the leader's office and leader's team, as well as the leader themselves, so that we can get that messaging across. I think there's more we can do actually in the Labour Party in terms how we communicate policies to faith groups and tailor policies for faith groups. I think there's a big lesson to be learned there. Christians in Labour will have different views about who should be leader - it's still ongoing debate. What we've chosen today is who Christians on the Left is going to nominate but there are other good candidates there too. So, that's still an open discussion from some people. But I'm confident that if it's going in this direction, or one or two of the other leading candidates, then we will be well placed.

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