Bishop praises Tories to heavens

ONE of Scotland's Catholic bishops has given his support to the Conservative Party for the next general election.

Joe Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, has written a letter to David Cameron, praising the Tory leader for his stance on family values.

The controversial bishop asked Mr Cameron to confirm that he will support and promote the "sacred" institutions of the family and marriage.

In the last Holyrood election, Bishop Devine called on Roman Catholic voters to abandon Labour, undermining the Church's previous perceived position as the "Scottish Labour Party at prayer".

Then, he accused Labour of abandoning family values in its attitudes towards single parents, abortion and homosexuality.

His arguments were dismissed at the time as unrepresentative by Labour, with many of its West of Scotland MPs and MSPs practising Catholics.

But now the bishop – who in 2007 said he would vote for an official Christian party – is courting Labour's biggest political opponents for power in Westminster.

In his letter, the bishop made it clear that he was impressed by the work carried out by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith's think-tank on social breakdown.

"I have been full of admiration for a number of your pro-family policies (as well as your promise to support and promote faith schools) that include ending tax credit penalties paid by married couples with children," he wrote.

"Your pledge to help the estimated 1.8 million families who lose out by staying together is an exemplary policy initiative, certainly compared to the current situation where any state support for marriage and married couples is shamefully rejected.

"Families need all the help they can get – now more than ever! And families who stay together should not be financially penalised for their commitment and loyalty to each other."

The turning point appears to have been the Glasgow East by-election last summer when the Conservative campaign was launched with a presentation by Mr Duncan Smith accompanied by Mr Cameron. It followed work by Mr Duncan Smith's think-tank in the constituency on the "broken society".

However, the bishop's words have come as little surprise to one of Holyrood's leading Catholic Labour MSPs, Michael McMahon, who believes that he is now simply admitting to his true colours.

"We've known that Bishop Devine was really a Tory for 25 years," he said. "He's been trying to get the people of Lanarkshire to vote Tory all that time.

"However, he will not succeed because they know that it was the Tories under Margaret Thatcher, supported by David Cameron, who did more to break down families and communities than anyone else, with the closure of our coalmines and steelworks."

The support from the bishop was welcomed by the Conservatives. A spokesman for the Scottish party said: "The Conservatives believe the family should be a cornerstone of our society. Our policies are designed to help that process and aim to help to mend 'broken Britain'.

"Indeed, the Scottish Conservatives will be hosting a major conference on just this issue at the end of April. We value the family."

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