Can Lords Spiritual vote in general elections?

When Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, revealed in 1983 that he had voted in the recent general election (though not who for), he was unlikely to have imagined that it would give rise to newspaper headlines and questions in parliament. He had not broken the law, though the subsequent debate shone a light on an otherwise little-known feature of the House of Lords.

The Church of England in Parliament. 22 May 2014

3 thoughts on “Can Lords Spiritual vote in general elections?”

  1. This is a really difficult dilemma for the Spiritual Lords or if it is not then it ought to be! Whilst I am no lady though I have occasionally been called a little madam (of the stroppy kind) I might add. I think the most important issue about whether The Lords Spiritual vote or not, is does this give them a conflict of interest when ministering .Lord Runcie made the decision to use his vote and I assume found no conflict of interest, but now days with more administrative structure of Church is it still the case that there would be no conflict of interest. Clergy are now in the situation where the edges are much more blurred and whilst sitting in Parliament usually “enabled them to be in the world not of the world” is this still possible. There needs to be a voice for Spirituality in Parliament , because most of the population have a spirituality even if it is not one which follows Christ, being able to enable people to draw on their own internal spiritual resources in times of great need is vital to human development and survival. Some voting will facilitate that and some will be directly at odds with it, if a vote is due to be voted on which directly affects the spirit of the People then the right to vote has to be there, but if a vote has the potential to break peoples soul then of course it is right to abstain, especially if a vote is in direct contradiction with Christian teaching. Now the interpretation of Christian teaching needs clarification for that reason. This has always perplexed me that sometimes Parliament leads the way in Christian teaching and the Church/ Bishops occasionally reluctantly accepts that leading. But isn’t that part of the way that God works so that none can brag of what they have done? The Bishops are the called, the Politicians are those waiting to be called even if they do not know it (Jonathon Aitkin) is an example of that. So yes I think the Lords Spiritual can vote in General Elections with a clear conscience if they can still serve those they are called to serve, if they cannot then they should have the right to abstain. This issue though does nothing to protect the vulnerable.

  2. A vote for the lower house is a small price to pay for a seat in the upper one.

    Bishops should not be afraid of criticising policies particularly if they hurt people, violate human rights or are simply unfair. Most of them are poor judges of international threat levels or the prospects for economic growth. So the people must reach their own conclusion.

  3. Clearly, if one were to be stranded on a desert island with nothing to read but either Hansards or the Congressional Record, one would choose Hansards.

    Lord Mowbray and Stourton: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Elton suggested that if the 26 Bishops were to vote that would have little effect. But is it not the case that if 26 Lords Spiritual were all to announce in public before a general election their view on how they thought the vote should go this would have an enormous effect on any general election, with people taking the advice of such wise and holy men?

    Lord Elton: My Lords, if my noble friend belonged to my Church he might believe that it was even more effective if they were to pray about it.

    Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the noble Lord the Minister not agree that there is likely to be independent non-statutory machinery in a higher place for monitoring non-statutory undertakings by the right reverend Prelates?

    Lord Elton: My Lords, there is only one place higher than this; I do not know when the noble Lord intends to go there.

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