The Labour leader has promised a decade of national renewal. But in this exclusive interview with Premier Christianity, he admits he can’t do it without the Church


Source: REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska

Why should Christians vote Labour on 4 July?

It’s sometimes said that the Labour Party owes more to Methodism than it does to Marx. It’s certainly true that the history of the Labour Party owes a huge debt to the Christian tradition. My namesake Keir Hardie, the founder of the Labour Party, used his skills as a lay preacher to talk powerfully about the injustices people faced. 

Today, Christians and the Labour Party share key values that make up the heart of who we are. We share the abiding sense of the dignity and worth of every human being, the desire to tackle injustice, and the determination to care for those who are vulnerable and find themselves on the margins of our society. 

The Labour Party is a broad church - if you’ll excuse the pun. Anyone who wants to transform our country for the better and wants to bring hope and unity to our communities can be part of this movement for change. 

With Christians everywhere we share the belief that hope is more than wishful thinking. We have a really clear plan for the change we want to make. Whether we’re creating economic stability, saving the NHS, caring for our environment through Great British Energy, making our streets safer or stopping trafficking gangs smuggling human beings across the sea. We are determined to make the changes we need to rebuild our country.

You’ve openly spoken of not being a person of faith yourself, but as Labour leader you have looked to promote the role of faith groups and you’ve introduced faith champions within the party – why is that?

When I was young, my mother was very sick. I remember that the people in our community who really cared for her and looked after her right up until the day she died were the people from her church. That wasn’t just because they were nice people, it was a deep expression of their faith. They made a huge difference to her, and to our family during a really tough time. I’ll always be grateful for that. 

So much more is possible if the church and government work together 

You don’t have to be a person of faith to recognise the real difference that faith can make in our communities. So often it’s faith groups that have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on in their local communities. Because they’re part of it. They reach into the cracks that people fall through in our society and help to pull them out. Churches and Christian charities do fantastic work across the nation - whether through food banks, debt advice, toddler groups, education, youth work, social care, housing support, wellbeing programmes and other services too many to mention. Churches provide people with the help they need  

That’s why a Labour government will support them and work with them. I see for myself in my local constituency the differences our churches make to the community. I want to lead a mission driven government that works in partnership with churches and faith communities to deliver for every person across the country.

The current government has seemingly been at war with the Church of England in recent months over immigration policies, most notably the Rwanda deportation scheme. How do you foresee a working relationship with the Church if you do get into government?

If we’re going to move forward as a country, we need to work together constructively. I’m absolutely clear, that there will be no decade of national renewal without the active participation of the church.

So, I hope churches and Christian charities will be key partners with us in our mission to transform this country. We’ll engage churches across the delivery of all our missions because we know that their community connections and experience, makes us stronger. 

I will appoint a government minister who will have responsibility for leading our engagement with faith communities and we’ll have our network of parliamentary faith champions engaging with faith communities. 

We also recognise the deep expertise that churches have in a wide range of public and community services, from health to education, from immigration to welfare. Look what we saw was possible during the pandemic, when churches and other places of worships worked together in partnership with government to deliver food, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, friendship, and support for those who were isolated. So much more is possible if the church and government work together in the long term.

How open are you to criticism from the Church?

It’s the job of the church, of Christian leaders, and of individual Christians to call for justice, to speak out on inequality and advocate for those who don’t have a voice. I’ll always recognise that, respect that, and listen to those voices. 

With a Labour government, you won’t see politicians sent out to attack Christians for speaking out on their deeply held views. 

Even when we disagree, we can disagree well and respectfully. Good relationships aren’t always easy. We will take constructive criticism in the spirit that it’s intended and welcome the challenge of our churches and charities as they call us to account. 

The Conservatives brought in a new role of special envoy for religious freedom to ensure the UK was doing what it can to protect the rights of people of faith around the world. That role is yet to be enshrined in law so your government could just drop it. Will you commit to keeping the role and the continued championing of religious freedom?

Labour will be a champion of religious freedom at home and abroad. 

I know we sometimes take religious freedom for granted in this country but around the world so many people don’t enjoy that right. No one should be living in fear for what they believe. When I worked as a lawyer, I worked on cases around the world defending the human rights of some of the most vulnerable people – including people on death row. I know how important this is. 

I know David Lammy, who is himself a committed Christian has been having many conversations about International Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB). With a Labour government, the Foreign Office will be proactive in promoting FoRB around the world. We will build on past success and work with groups like the UK FoRB Forum and Christian charities, and advocacy organisations to reduce persecution and oppression.

Premier had a further opportunity to talk all things faith and Labour with shadow foreign secretary David Lammy. Listen now on

Premier Christianity has requested interviews with all of the major party leaders, and will be publishing an interview with Rishi Sunak tomorrow. See here for more election coverage