The ability of Christian voters to influence the upcoming General Election has been explored by the BBC.
In an article, published on the broadcaster’s website, Justin Parkinson questions whether politicians’ traditionally hands-off approach to religion could be changing.
In the run up to the election a number of Christian organisations have been urging believers to find out what the parties stand for, and last week The Christian Institute launched its Election Briefing exploring the policies of the main parties.
And while some observers may be sceptical about the wider impact of the Christian vote, they have no doubts about their importance in key seats where even a few hundred Christian votes could decide the matter.
James Panton, a politics lecturer at Oxford University, said: “Across society as a whole my view is that it’s not a statistically relevant phenomenon at elections. There aren’t enough people like that, whose Christian views are going to be vital to how they choose their MP.
“But it’s possible that it may be more important in a marginal seat which has a big support base for a highly politicised Christian organisation.”
The main political parties are also aware of the importance of the votes.
Zoe Dixon, chair of the Liberal Democrats Christian Forum, said: “The difference it could make would be in a marginal seat. Everyone should elect the person they think would make the best MP for their area, almost regardless of party.
“We shouldn’t get side-tracked by the national agenda. Certainly we try to mobilise the Christian vote in our favour in constituencies.”
Her comments were echoed by Elizabeth Berridge, chairman of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, who said: “It could have a big impact. In some seats the church meeting is the only one candidates are asked to attend.
“At this juncture, following the expenses scandal, Christians are going to be concerned with how someone comes across, whether they are genuine, what their character is like.”
In the run up to the General Election a number of Christian campaigners have urged Christians to consider the policies of the parties and the candidates.
Canon J John, a well known evangelist, uses his website to urge readers to consider the moral qualities of their parliamentary candidates.
He says: “We might want to ask whether they are genuinely committed to moral values or do they simply adopt whatever is the current fashionable view? Does the candidate place their party’s ideology above everything else? Would they be prepared to vote against the party line on moral grounds?
He adds: “Perhaps, above all, we should ask whether potential candidates seek to be elected in order to serve their self-interest or the interest of others.”
Earlier this week it was revealed that one in three constituencies are now set to hold church hustings organised by the campaign group Christian Action Research and Education.
Attendees are likely to question the candidates on topics such as marriage, abortion, assisted suicide and faith schools.
25 further hustings are also being organised by the campaign group Christian Concern for Our Nation.