- Conscience and the Commons
Following his election as Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron was grilled by the media about his beliefs as an evangelical Christian. Has the focus on faith, which began with Tony Blair, reached the point where it is harder than ever to hold religious beliefs and play an active role in political life?
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The former coalition minister Sarah Teather has said that she resigned because she could no longer support her party’s policies on immigration and welfare, and revealed that she came to the decision during a month-long Jesuit retreat.
The Catholic MP for Brent Central told The Guardian that she first considered leaving while still children’s minister in April, when Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg backed a £26,000-a-year benefit cap that she called “immoral and divisive”.
She revealed that she finally decided to resign during a month-long retreat at the Jesuit-run Loyola Hall, near Liverpool, in the autumn. She will leave office at the General Election in May 2015.
“It was quite a strange experience but sometimes the only way you can make a decision,” she said. “Otherwise you’re being buffeted by everyone else’s wishes and desires.”
A committed Catholic and leading voice on the left of the party, Ms Teather said that her decision to vote against gay marriage last year was also “extremely difficult”.
She said that she wanted to use her final year and a half in Parliament to speak out on issues around immigration.
In December she coordinated an event to highlight International Migrants Day in which she, fellow MPs and clergy sailed past the Houses of Parliament in a boat once used for human trafficking between North Africa and Europe.
“It gives you a real sense of what it would have been like if you were on the ocean,” she told The Tablet afterwards. “But imagine if that boat had 60 people on it, travelling for a few days. It’s a tiny little boat, it can’t handle rough water and that’s what it would have been like.”
Above: Sarah Teather speaks at the CSAN Parliamentary Reception in 2012 Photo: CBCEW