Why Catholics like Corbyn

by Kevin Meagher

Support among Britain’s Jews for Jeremy Corbyn may be flat-lining – with just 13 per cent planning to vote Labour according to a poll in the Jewish Chronicle – but Britain’s Catholics are set to ride to Labour’s rescue.

In all probability, Labour’s most important demographic, many of Britain’s five million Catholics are habitually loyal to the party, supporting it through thick in thin for generations. This peaked with a 60-19 per cent gap over the Conservatives back in 2001.

Even in 2015, 41 per cent of Catholics voted Labour – 11 per cent higher than the population at large, according to figures from the British Religion in Numbers project at Manchester University. While Muslims also vote Labour is very large numbers, I suspect the wider distribution of Catholic voters across the country has more strategic impact on Labour’s fortunes.

Indeed, much of the party’s meltdown in Scotland at the last general election (where it lost forty seats) was down to Catholics abandoning Labour in droves. Between 2010 and 2015, Labour’s share of the Catholic vote fell from 63 per cent to just 36 per cent. Any way back for Labour in Scotland means retrieving Catholic support that went to the SNP.

Catholic support for Labour is perhaps most pronounced in general political attitudes. After the 2005 election, IpsosMori found that while fewer than a quarter (22 per cent) of the public generally described themselves as ‘Old Labour’, over a third (34 per cent) of Catholics said that description best suited their political outlook.

On questions of distributional justice, many Catholics are reliably left-wing. Perhaps Corbyn’s genuine moral outrage about poverty connects deeply with the Faithful? As does his commitment to peace and dialogue. Even his embroilment in Northern Ireland is potentially a positive here.

Quite apart from his support for Irish republicanism, Corbyn was also involved in campaigns to overturn the miscarriages of justice concerning the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four and has been active on Irish community concerns, from fighting racism to supporting Travellers’ rights throughout his career.

Neither is Corbyn casually antagonistic to Catholics, (something many of his younger colleagues on the liberal-left cannot seem to avoid). It’s probably something to do with his age. He will have shared many platforms with Catholic social justice campaigners down the years. At 69, he is also of a generation that is not instinctively political correct. He probably thought ‘non-binary’ just meant an even number.

None of which is to over claim that Corbyn is sympathetic to Catholics in policy terms. The Public Whip website reports that he has previously voted ‘strongly against’ faith schools, while Labour’s manifesto contains a pledge to extend abortion laws to Northern Ireland (a strangely integrative move given Corbyn has been pilloried for his support for Irish reunification).

But there is a convergence around values and worldview. With the look of an Old Testament prophet, albeit with a trendy clipped beard these days, Corbyn is a beacon of consistency in our professionalised politics, where firm ‘principles’ gave way to flexible ‘values’ long ago. There’s a moral absolutism about him. He says what he means and sticks to his beliefs, however hard the path ahead. British Catholics will recognise the dilemma.

It may prove an anomaly next week, but expect to see Labour perform better in Scotland and parts of the north of England, in particular, thanks to many Catholic voters being genuinely enthused by Corbyn.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut


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8 Responses to “Why Catholics like Corbyn”

  1. John P Reid says:

    I think the question is old labour- the party of Attlee ,Gaitskell, Dennis Healey, socially conservative. Ans if it wasn’t for Roy Jenkins the social r forms of the 60’s wouldn’t have got through, that seized to be the majority view after 1974

    Or is old
    Labour the positive desrimination, GLC of the late 70’s- Early 90’a that saw a blind eye to the atrocities committed in the name of communism,and without getting into, pub talk, yes,saw Liberty, organization take a donation from the peadophile information exchange

    Yes CRholics are socially conservative, but so wanted labour to win in 1997 mp, that the equality act, promoting positive discrimination, or gay rights saw them say,they wpcould accept that if they saw labour win again

    Look at the catholic opposition to heterosexual civil partnerships
    And no for he record, just acts Jeremy co ban allied himself with Sinn Fein IRA doesn’t mean he’d have the catholic vote,livingstone didn’t in London, and many catholic more admired John Hume, in fact all the Catholics I know who are voting labour is due to the Tory cuts, and the fact th Brexit debate is over

    Find the Jewish comparison, distasteful, as labour lost the Jewish vote due to anti semetism, would imply we would be favorable to Catholics,as opposed to those (some) of them dislikes their life styles, being gay, feminists etc

  2. uglyfatbloke says:

    A lot of the reduction in the Catholic vote in Scotland is connected to Scottish Labour’s relationship with the Orange Order (mostly a Glasgow/Lanarkshire thing)…hard to say what the implications are with the Orange/Unionist dimension arguably coalescing around the Tories and also Scottish Labour supporting the Tories in several constituencies.
    Not convinced that polling really tells us very much in this situation.

  3. Well Kevin, a far better article than the two which proceeded it from Rob and George. With those you could feel the panic as the polls begin to change and show this election may not go the way they have been predicting.

    But back to the Catholic vote. I suspect I had a rather similar upbringing to you Kevin. One of my teachers at a RC school was an old Glaswegian Catholic and perhaps I got some taste of that community. The Scottish urban Catholic vote wasn’t an easy vote for the SNP to get. The Scottish nationalists had a reputation of being mainly an east coast Protestant movement and the Catholic vote was weighed in by Labour every election.

    Why our party in both Scotland and Westminster didn’t understand that even if they didn’t vote SNP there was no reason to rub their noses in unionism. Why, for instance, did Margaret Curran who came from that community support the party approach to the independence referendum of standing on joint unionist platforms. The Labour vote was already becoming soft and this just about killed it. It’s the Conservative and Unionist Party not the Labour and Unionist Party.

  4. @Danny Speight
    You mistake my real emotion. Rather, it is angry and outrage.

    I see you haven’t disputed where my article states that, under Corbyn’s manifesto, the vast proposed majority of the Tory benefits cuts to the poor would stand.

    It’s understandable why you haven’t, because it’s true. The figures are in black and white, in a costed manifesto. What I hope is that you are privately ashamed.

    And Corbynites have the hypocrisy to call me a yellow Tory.
    https://twitter.com/georgetsk/status/870058243376259073

  5. @George Kendall

    Don’t be silly George. I don’t really care what emotion you are now feeling. The Liberal election tactics are not working and they are going to have trouble holding the little they have. It seems the only way you will increase your MP numbers is for some Labour ones to come and join you. Mind you if it’s a hung parliament you can always join the Tories again.

  6. Peter Kenny says:

    I don’t think we’ll be taking any lectures on Welfare cuts from the party that supported all the terrible things the Tories wanted to do when in coalition. The results are all around us.

    I think we can be pretty sure that people relying on benefits will get a better deal from us than the Tories, the only real choices for government.

    What did they get from the LibDems in government?

  7. @Peter Kenny @Danny Speight
    I see that neither of you contradict any of the statistics I give in my article.

    Anyone reading this thread would be right to conclude that this means that the shocking facts I outline in my article are correct. However, if they are in any doubt, there are extensive links above so they can check for themselves.

    My hope is that Peter and Danny are privately ashamed of themselves for having called others Red Tories, when on the issue of benefits cuts that’s exactly what they are.

  8. @Peter Kenny said “I think we can be pretty sure that people relying on benefits will get a better deal from us than the Tories, the only real choices for government.”

    TRANSLATION: “the Corbynite manifesto is slightly less bad than the Tory manifesto, but it will still implement most of the same cuts to the benefits of low earners.”

    For Universal Credit, they’ll only implement £1 billion of the £3 billion cuts that the Tories are planning. That’s most of the “less bad” bit.

    In terms of a benefit freeze, their plans are identical to the Tories. This means taking £3.3bn/yr from those on benefits to fund policies which will predominantly help the middle classes, as John Rentoul says: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/jeremy-corbyn-is-a-right-wing-blairite-sellout-who-offers-no-alternative-to-the-tories-a7770831.html.

    The same with cuts to child tax credits. This means taking £4.8bn from low earners.

    Don’t take my word for it. For a table of those Tory cuts Corbyn is not planning to implement, and those he is, see: https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/Table%20for%20income%20tax%20obs%2017%20May.JPG

    There were many benefits cuts that the Lib Dems vetoed during the Coalition, that the Tories started to implement as soon as they got a majority. The Lib Dems provide a manifesto that will not implement these cuts, Corbyn plans to implement most of them.

    There were, of course, many benefit cuts during the time of the Coalition. But this was during a Coalition with the Tories, when the structural deficit was 7.6% of GDP. Now the deficit is about 1% of GDP, the Lib Dems are proposing to remove some of them, and not implement almost all the planned future cuts.

    Corbyn’s manifesto has no such excuse. It is for a time when the structural deficit is only about 1% of GDP. It is not a manifesto for a coalition, but a manifesto for a majority government where no compromise is necessary.

    @Danny Speight is right about one thing. Benefits are very hard to sell politically. To allocate large sums in your manifesto to protecting them is bound to come at a political price, and it has come at a political price for the Lib Dems. Corbyn has shown no such courage.

    I can understand a lack of political courage. Corbyn is planning to raise huge sums by taxing business and the rich, and by extra borrowing. To avoid attacks from the Tories, his team have decided to focus that spending on the middle classes, rather than protect those on low incomes. As they’re desperate to do well in this election, that’s somewhat understandable.

    What I find shocking is the hypocrisy.

    Moderates in the Labour party were afraid to defend benefits in 2015, and the election of Corbyn was a reaction against that political timidity. At the time, Corbyn supporters hurled endless abuse at Labour moderates.

    It is utterly shocking that his supporters have the gall to describe Lib Dems as Yellow Tories, and to describe the Blair government that raised these benefits as Red Tories. If that’s true, then what does that make Corbyn’s supporters?

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