“Principles compatible with the gospel are found in the platforms of all major political parties. While the Church does not endorse political candidates, platforms, or parties, members are urged to be full participants in political, governmental, and community affairs.” (mormon.org)
During one Institute discussion group back in my student days the Institute director told us that an Elders’ Quorum President was a parliamentary candidate for the upcoming general election in another part of the country. Accordingly we discussed whether or not we would vote for a candidate simply because they were a member of the church in good standing, rather than because they belonged to a particular political party. I recall that my view was that I had known quite a few strange Elders’ Quorum Presidents in my time, with whom I did not agree, and that it wasn’t something that would sway my vote. This even though I didn’t then, and don’t now, align myself with a particular party, and prefer if at all possible to select candidates on their individual merits, views, and ability to deviate from the party line.
On Thursday 7 May a General Election is being held in Britain*. There are (to my knowledge) currently two members of the church standing, both for re-election. They are:
First, David Rutley, Member of Parliament from 2010 – 2015, and current parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party. Him I remember from my singles ward days as a student. He was a nice enough guy back then. Not the alarming type I had in mind during the Institute discussion group anyway. Back when he was elected five years ago, the belief seemed to be that he was the only member of the church in the House of Commons. Perhaps Wikipedia should be updated.
Because there’s also more colourful Craig Whittaker, Member of Parliament from 2010 – 2015, and current parliamentary candidate also for the Conservative Party. Him I know nothing about, other than the information readily available on the internet; born in Britain and raised in Australia before returning to Britain sounds interesting, as do the school rooftop protest and an arrest.
Neither are standing in my local constituency. One or both have participated in the presentation of, or hosted lunches at the Houses of Parliament for the LDS church Family Values Award, and earlier this year were present when David Cameron was presented with his family history by Elders Patrick Kieron and Clifford Herbertson**.
I don’t know how either of them feel about participating in these events as both church members and Members of Parliament. I think I might find it rather awkward. But I did enjoy this blog post dating back to the year following the election of David Rutley in 2010:
“David Rutley, MP for Macclesfield, seemed quite at home in the Thatcher Room among 40+ LDS lawyers, students, and missionaries. Almost. Both during his formal remarks and the Q&A period, he seemed eager to point out that while he was LDS and proud to be so, his job was to represent the people of Macclesfield. When asked what he would say to encourage other Latter-day Saints in the audience considering public life, he professed not necessarily to want to encourage Latter-day Saints to run for office, but all people of “values,” regardless of their faith or creed, or, in fact, any religion at all.
When pressed to help various Church members with events and concerns after the meeting, he again expressed on a personal level that his job, first and foremost, was to his constituency in Macclesfield.
I was impressed. One would expect that among friends and like-minded church members, an LDS MP would relax and demonstrate colors favorable to that crowd. But Mr. Rutley (I suppose I could call him Brother Rutley, as we do in the Church) was dogmatic about his primary concern as a member of Parliament.
Yet I would be lying if I said Mr. Rutley did not play to his very sympathetic crowd. He delighted us with stories of being a fresh, naive MP who did not know that the daily prayers in the House of Commons (not televised) are said by members while facing the wall, rather than each other (so that their swords would not clank on the benches when they knelt, clearly); how his door-knocking as a missionary prepared him for door-knocking as an MP candidate; and how his colleagues thoughtfully arranged (without being asked) for him to be able to take his oath of office while placing his hand on both the Book of Mormon and the Bible.” (All-American Mum)
They weren’t the first to participate in national politics in this country, and nor have there been only members of the Conservative Party. I’d also like to mention:
Terry Rooney, Member of Parliament from 1990 – 2010, for the Labour Party. It occurs to me he may well have been the subject of our Institute discussion. His 20 years of service would indicate he was doing something right for his constituents. Sadly, during a boundary realignment his constituency was abolished, and he failed to win a seat in a new constituency in 2010. He also participated in the presentation of the Family Values Award, and was himself a recipient of the award in 2013.
“First Minister Alex Salmond said Mr Adam had been an “exceptional” MSP.
The SNP leader said that as chief whip, Mr Adam had been one of the “crucial people” who sustained the minority SNP government between 2007 and 2011.
“Of course his greatest service was to the people of Aberdeen for a quarter of a century – first as a councillor and then as an MSP,” Mr Salmond said.
“I’m proud to say I’ve known and admired him over that entire period as an outstanding politician, a fine human being and a dear friend…”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie described Mr Adam as a “compassionate and decent man” who would be “dearly missed” at the Scottish parliament. “We are all deeply saddened at the passing of Brian Adam, who served the parliament, his party and his community well,” he said. “With a career in science before politics, he was passionate about advancing the cause of science in parliament. Brian was a hard-working and conscientious MSP who had friends across the chamber at Holyrood.”
The Labour MP for Aberdeen South, Dame Anne Begg, also paid tribute to the “hard working” MSP. She said: “If you were to have a political opponent, Brian was the ideal one. He was always polite and charming. Although we were from different political parties, we got on well. Brian always worked hard for his constituents and continued to do so despite his obvious illness.”” (BBC News)
See also: The Life and Legacy of Brian Adam MSP. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all church members involved in politics left such a legacy?
In local government, Julian Bell is the current leader of the local council in the London Borough of Ealing, and a longstanding member of the Labour Party. He gets a brief mention in this Ensign article from 1998:
“[Hermia Bell’s] husband, Julian, first counselor in the stake presidency, is a political campaign organizer for Britain’s Labour Party. He often rubs shoulders with the famous and influential. That can be exciting, he says, but it’s not nearly so important as what the gospel brings into his life and into his relationships with his wife and children.”
There are no local elections being held in London at the moment.
- Do you know of any other LDS candidates standing for election this time, or serving in local government?
- Are there church members involved in politics in your country or state?
- How well do they juggle church membership and their role as a politican?
- Are you involved in politics at a local or national level? What motivates you?
* There are local elections as well.
** Both of whom I also remember from my singles ward student days, and nice enough guys.
NB. Edited to correct years of service for Terry Rooney.