Is your politician moral? Dial 0898...

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The Independent Online
A Christian pressure group is planning to provide a special election telephone hotline service for voters to check up on the moral beliefs of would-be MPs.

The Movement for Christian Democracy, a 10,000-strong inter-denominational and non-aligned group, plans to survey the views of every candidate standing in the forthcoming general election.

Politicians' answers to its 25-point questionnaire will be used to create an information database, available to electors via a line manned by volunteers.

The campaign has been organised by the author Christopher Graffius, who helped start the MCD with the Liberal Democrat MP David Alton in 1990.

Last week, however, in a surprise move, Mr Graffius, the MCD's general secretary, announced that he was leaving to set up a new political pressure group funded by Mohammed Al-Fayed, the millionaire owner of Harrods.

Called The People's Trust, it will lobby politicians on morality issues, but the campaign masterminded by Mr Graffius at his old job will go ahead without him.

In his place, the MCD has appointed Jonathan Bartley, who is putting the finishing touches to the questionnaire.

Dr Alan Storkey, the MCD's chairman, said: "There is no question that the campaign will not go ahead. I trust Chris and feel sure that he believes what he is now doing is for the best.

"His new group would appear to be somewhat different from our organisation but I wish it well. To some degree we would both appear to be travelling in the same direction but the MCD is an explicity Christian organisation."

Mr Graffius's book, Election '97: A Christian View of the Major Issues, to be published on Wednesday, sets out the policies and values of the MCD. He denies that there is a Christian agenda behind the hotline campaign.

"There are clear principles which everyone, not only Christians, can follow," he said. "This will be an exercise in voter empowerment.

"The MCD take the traditional view that what an elected representative says in his own right and believes is what is important at election time. It is not healthy for democracy to have faceless representatives who simply toe a party line."

The MCD wants to test the views of prospective MPs on a wide range of sensitive ethical and moral questions, from arms sales to Third World countries through to euthanasia and violence on TV. Its questionnaire will be sent out next month and candidates will be asked how, if elected, they would vote on specific issues.