From Mr Samuel Burke SIR – In making the case for the Liberal Democrats (Features, April 16), Sarah Teather said: “We believe that life issues such as abortion, embryology and euthanasia should always be free votes.” Sadly, this is simply not true. When the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was before the House of Lords the Liberal Democrats imposed an anti-life Whip on parts of the Bill. Furthermore, they have previously voted at their party conference to make issues such as abortion a party policy. Miss Teather should know that many Catholics felt unable to remain in her party or to join it as a result.
Her failure to mention faith schools may also stem from embarrassment that her party also recently imposed a Whip to require Church schools to provide sex education lessons to children as young as five and to remove the conscience right of parents to withdraw older children from such classes. Her party’s former education spokesman once said that “in an ideal world there would be no more faith schools”. Presumably that is why her party so aggressively seeks to impose quotas on Church schools and to change their character and ethos.
Yours faithfully, SAMUEL BURKE By email From Mr Alan Pavelin SIR – John Smeaton (Letters, April 16) rightly points out that a small reduction in the upper time-limit for abortion would be a distraction; there are very few such cases, and it would entrench the convention that the only criterion for what should constitute legal protection of human life is the arbitrary one of viability.
What is needed is a radical tightening up in the grounds for abortion. The highly uncertain general election, with the likelihood of some very unexpected results in many constituencies, makes it incumbent on all who feel strongly on this issue to ascertain their candidates’ views, which these days is very easy to do via email. In this connection I attended a hustings meeting organised by Churches Together in Orpington, in the next-door constituency to mine, at which the three main candidates were questioned on various issues. The abortion issue was not raised, despite my having submitted a question on the topic, and the sad thing was that there was no obvious evidence of any other Catholic presence, even though the local Catholic parish had publicised it.
It really is no good complaining about the abortion law if we make no effort to ascertain, and vote for, those candidates who share our views.
Yours faithfully, ALAN PAVELIN Chislehurst, Kent From Mr Edward Breen SIR – It was with interest that I, like many Catholics in Britain, welcomed the Conservative Party’s move into Northern Ireland politics to allegedly provide the opportunity to bypass and reject sectarian politics and give Northern Ireland voters the chance to vote for a political party with no sectarian strings attached.
But the Cameron pledge to contest all Northern Ireland seats has been abandoned in Fermanagh/South Tyrone where the party has given its backing to Roddie Connor, an “Independent” candidate. Mr Connor is the product of a pact between the Ulster Unionists and Conservatives, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Traditional Unionist Voice brokered by an openly sectarian group, the Orange Order, who still talk about the Catholic Church as the “whore of Babylon” and the Pope as “Antichrist”. The election in this constituency will clearly be fought on a sectarian head count.
One wonders what the reaction would be if Mr Cameron decided to enter an electoral pact with an openly racist party like the BNP to further his electoral position. I believe Mr Cameron has shown a total lack of leadership in allowing this to happen and I would be very concerned about his ability and integrity to lead this country in the future.
Let us hope that Catholic and Chris tians voters and people of other faiths in Britain recognise the dangers in voting for sectarian parties and refuse to vote for the Conservative Party in this election. Mr Cameron should be ashamed to have entered into this unholy pact and to have insulted a significant number of people in our community. One wonders what his claim – “ I will defend faith schools” (Interview, April 16) – is worth if this is his current position.
Yours faithfully, EDWARD BREEN Chelmsford, Essex From Dr Brian S Gray SIR – I greatly appreciated the balanced articles by Sarah Teather and Julian Brazier (Features, April 16). Jon Cruddas started well with his portrayal of Catholic social thought but then disappointingly could not resist a foray into attack-dog politics with statements somewhat distant from the facts. For example, he appears to refer to the Conservatives as having an “agenda that favours the bankers that they bailed out 18 months ago”.
Who but the Labour Government bailed out the bankers and who misregulated them after encouraging them to even greater excesses of the greed and self-interest of which he accuses the Conservatives? And would that “we have a record that bears comparison with any other country in health, education and redistribution to the poor”.
Yours faithfully, BRIAN GRAY Canterbury, Kent From Michael Smith SIR – So Gordon Brown thinks the Catholic Church is the conscience of the nation (Report, April 9). Why, then, has his Government enacted laws that have prevented her from acting in accordance with her conscience?
Yours faithfully, MICHAEL SMITH Taunton, Somerset