Bishops criticise parties in first UK election message

17th February 2015, Comments 0 comments

Church of England bishops on Tuesday urged "a new kind of politics" in Britain in their first ever pre-election message, calling for more attention to the country's poor and condemning income inequality.

The bishops said many people feel "detached from politics" and that political parties were focusing on debates about how to "manage the existing system best" rather than changing it.

In a bid to counter figures like comedian Russell Brand, who has called for people to show their frustration with the political system by abstaining, they stressed that people should vote on May 7.

The comments came in a pastoral letter from the Church of England's House of Bishops which will go out to parishes across the country.

The letter predicted that the general election campaign would "entrench the apathy and cynicism with which many people approach politics today."

"We are subjected to sterile arguments about who might manage the existing system best. There is no idealism in this prospectus."

The bishops insisted they were not steering churchgoers to vote for any particular party, with opinion polls suggesting a tight race between Prime Minister David Cameron's centre-right Conservatives and the centre-left Labour party.

The letter covers a wide range of often politically sensitive policy areas including banking, poverty and Britain's place in Europe.

It described free market economics as tending to "entrench inequality" and said poor and vulnerable people are often "unwanted, unvalued and unnoticed".

This is the first time that the Church of England, which last month admitted its first female bishop, has issued this kind of letter ahead of a general election.

But its leaders have not been shy of criticising the state of British society before.

In a bleak assessment of the reach of Britain's economic recovery, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote in a book of essays last month that some Britons were trapped in "apparently inescapable circles of despair".

And in 2011, his predecessor Rowan Williams accused Cameron's government of pushing through "radical policies for which no-one voted".

© 2015 AFP

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