Lord Deben, the well-known Tory green, has said that Christians cannot support the UK Independence Party.
Responding to a piece by Rev. Sam Norton on why he supports UKIP, Lord Deben said that it was “impossible to understand a clergyman supporting party dedicated to cut [sic] British aid to poorest, hating immigrants & foreigners”.
Elaborating on his comments on Twitter, Lord Deben then said that UKIP’s policy on overseas aid violates the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In response to an accusation that foreign aid increases dependency, he remarked, “So said the priest and the Levi [sic] as they walked past on the other side”, referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan.
His comments were slammed by the Anglican blogger Archbishop Cranmer, who strongly criticised the Tory peer’s tone:
“It is apparent that Lord Deben has a rather narrow interpretation of Scripture, if not a fundamentally erroneous view of Ukip policy. No matter how much the Rev’d Sam Norton reasons his politics intelligently and moderately, Lord Deben repudiates with pious maxims and pompous incredulity. It is hardly serious political debate under the aegis of Christian fraternity.”
Lord Deben, formerly known as John Selwyn Gummer, served as Environment Secretary in John Major’s government and was chairman of the Conservative Party during the infamous Brighton Bombing of 1984.
He has become an established figure on the party’s left wing, pursuing Green causes and taking a pro-European stance. He currently chairs the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government on its “climate budget”, a projected limit on the amount of carbon emitted by the UK economy over a five year period.
In 1994, he converted to the Catholic Church in protest at the Church of England’s decision to ordain women, however he takes a liberal stance on most other issues. His views on Europe, immigration and foreign aid are increasingly at odds with many in his party as the Tories seek to reconnect with lost right wing voters.
He has also previously called for climate change sceptics to be denied airtime, protesting on Twitter about the BBC broadcasting an interview with climate change sceptic blogger Andrew Montford.