KEN LEE reports on an unheralded intervention from on high on the eve of the local elections
A Conservative candidate standing for election in today’s local elections has been reproached for not telling the truth over religious matters in the borough.
The ticking off for Ola Kolade, a Tory activist standing in Norbury Park ward, came from three bishops, including the Bishop of Croydon, Jonathan Clark, and other church leaders in the Croydon Churches Forum.
The prelates had taken exception to the wannabe councillor trying to use their organisation to score political points over the Labour-run council. The claims made by Kolade in a widely circulated leaflet, the church leaders said, were not accurate.
A statement was posted on social media yesterday afternoon signed by Bishop Clark, the Bishop Paul Hendricks (from the Roman Catholic church), Bishop Paul Reid (Grace Tabernacle), Rev Reuben Martin (West Croydon Baptist Church) and the Forum chair, Damian Luke (Praise House).
It said, “We refer to a recent document (Conservatives – Working in Partnership with Croydon Churches) produced by the Conservative Party and sent to CCF by Mr. Ola Kolade with the following statement: ‘When the Conservatives last controlled the Council the Leader held quarterly meetings with Church Leaders in Croydon. Since Labour took control these meetings have not happened’.
“We need to state that neither of these statements are accurate.
“Meetings between Church Leaders, Councillors and Council Officers have continued with varying frequency and at different levels, under both Labour and Conservative administrations.
“Please note that our statement is not to be read as us endorsing any Political Party – rather, we are merely stating the facts to inform everyone concerned and to encourage all Christian people to exercise their right to vote, thinking prayerfully about the future of our borough.”
That final sentence from the church leaders was undoubtedly added, mindful of the requirements of the Representation of the People’s Act.
Though it seems that Kolade and his God-fearing Tory chums who produced the leaflet perhaps haven’t paid close enough attention to the law on “undue spiritual influence”, one of 13 corrupt election practices identified in the 2015 Tower Hamlets election court case, and which makes it illegal for religious leaders to direct their followers how to vote.
The Church of England was often known as the Conservative Party at prayer. In Croydon, local Tories have long endeavoured to get on the right side of the Almighty by selecting candidates from some of the borough’s well-attended evangelical churches.
Perhaps they need to go back and check that bit of scripture that tells them they are not allowed to bear false witness..?
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