Tories line up to sign Church's petition

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The Independent Online
GOD'S campaign against pit closures won zealous converts among the Anglican Tories of Dore yesterday, an unequivocal message to the besieged local Conservative MP that in Arthur Scargill's house there are many mansions (John 14:2).

Dore, a silvan-and-Saab village beneath the moors, forms part of Sheffield Hallam, one of the three most middle-class constituencies in Britain and the only Tory seat in the South Yorkshire coalfield. Worshippers at Christ Church yesterday had their chance to sign the petition drawn up by the Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev David Lunn, expressing 'concern and distress' following the decision to make 10,000 local miners redundant.

The early shift, 8am Holy Communion, voted 80 per cent in favour of the petition and, throughout the morning, congregations had no hesitation in adding their names.

The Rev David Williams urged support for the miners. 'Socially, politically and economically there seem enormous grounds for keeping the pits open,' Mr Williams said. 'It seems an unjust decision not made objectively.'

The MP, Irvine Patnick, who may have taken comfort from South Yorkshire's sabbatarianism - the lowest in Europe - has been shaken by the fury of local Conservative business opinion.

Mr Patnick said he was aware of the depth of feeling but constituents should suspend judgement until the Government announced its package of measures to help the coalfields.

The Rev Jo Honour, a visiting preacher from the depressed east end of Sheffield, said: 'The loss of status and income is so detrimental to unemployed people's self-esteem that being slotted on to a scheme is not going to be enough.' John Gummer, the Minister of Agriculture, hit back at church leaders who accused the Government of 'lack of moral vision' over the pit closures. Mr Gummer, a member of the General Synod of the Church of England, said on BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme that failure to shut the pits would mean higher electricity prices and even more redundancies.

On the same programme the Bishop of Sheffield called on the Church Commissioners to use their position as large shareholders in the electricity generators to oppose the policy, and the Most Rev John Habgood, Archbishop of York, called on the Government to 'think again'.

Dr Habgood also told a congregation at Sheffield Cathedral yesterday: 'The removal of jobs within a day or two of the decision being made, without consultation, without adequate explanation, without any real evidence that the long-term implications have been thought through, strips those affected by it of their dignity and takes away the possibility of meaningful response.'