Kate Forbes is, in my estimate, the best candidate to be leader of the Scottish National Party -and by a country mile. The difficulty for a member of a rival political party, like myself, is that you don’t necessarily want the best and most effective candidate to win. The interests of my own party and, I sincerely believe, of the nation too, are best served if they instead choose a complete dud.
Nevertheless, Kate Forbes has been treated most shamefully by the public media whose focus has been almost exclusively on her Christian beliefs which are, more often than not, at odds with current fashionable social mores. What she would actually do in the Edinburgh government, and the direction in which she would take her party, has been almost entirely crowded-out by discussion of her Christian beliefs -including that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman.
I remember when Tim Farron became leader of the Liberal Democrats and was treated in a similar fashion for exactly the same reason.
What is rather odd, even somewhat sinister, is that politicians who adherents of other religions which, nevertheless share the same traditional approach to marriage and sexuality, are never exposed to similar criticism. The treatment of Hamza Yusef, another rival for the SNP leadership, would be an obvious case in point.
It is as if our liberal intelligentsia has decided that Christianity, uniquely among religions, must be hounded from the public sphere and confined to ‘safe spaces’ out of sight in churches.
As the Government Whip who was responsible for shepherding the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 through all its Commons stages, I have some ‘skin in the game’.
I was clear in my own mind that the legislation properly distinguished between marriage as a legal status which the state has every right to define, and Holy Matrimony which is a religious matter instituted for quite different purposes.
Notwithstanding that distinction, Christian MPs divided almost equally in support and opposition to the measure (as indeed they have on almost every ‘conscience’ vote in my experience since I’ve been in the Commons). The implications of biblical accounts of what Jesus actually taught are not always straightforward -especially if you’ve read the New Testament in its original Greek.
Enoch Powell ( himself a former professor of Greek) in his discussion of John ch8: the woman taken in adultery, leaves me struggling with what Jesus could possibly have meant when he told her ‘neither do I condemn thee’ before issuing what he knew to be the impossible command ‘go and sin no more’.
As a Christian, I don’t share the positions taken by Kate Forbes or some of her beliefs, but she has every right to a hearing in the front line of our national politics.