Who would voters be electing in Sutton and Cheam - Philippa Stroud or her husband?

By Jonathan Bartley
May 2, 2010

The crucial question about Philippa Stroud, the prospective Tory MP featured on the front page of today’s Observer, has not yet been asked.

The paper has focused on her views about homosexuality. But there is a far more important issue, and that is who would have influence and ‘authority’ over Mrs Stroud if she were elected?

The New Frontiers Church that she attends, and of which her husband is one of the main leaders, teaches that a husband has ‘authority’ over his wife, and that a wife should submit to a husband's will in all things. The husband is seen as the 'servant leader'. I know this from close personal experience of the church, and that it runs incredibly deep in the church. Indeed, it is fundamental to their religious approach. See this excerpt from the church’s 17 values which suggests that there must be “joyful female submission” in a marriage (value no. 7):

“A church where Biblical family life is highly valued, where husband and wife embrace male servant leadership and joyful female submission, where godly parenting is taught and practised and where the special value of singleness and its unique opportunities are affirmed”.

This is a church which does not allow women to have "governmental leadership" (in the church structures). When married women are in leadership they are still considered to be under the authority of their husbands.

The question must be asked of Philippa Stroud whether, in the event she was elected to Parliament, she would on any occasion ‘submit’ to her husband's will and vote in a way that he thought was right, even if it contradicted her own position, the promises she had made to voters, or the manifesto on which she was elected?

On many issues, she probably has identical perspectives to her husband. But all marriages of course have their differences. Add to this the fact that the church leaders (including her husband), have some very definite and clear views on a whole ranges of issues from abortion to homosexuality, relationships between men and women, religious 'liberty' and the role of the family, and there could clearly be some circumstances in which the church, and her husband, feel that they need to make clear to her what they think. (The church seeks to take a 'biblical' approach to all matters be they spiritual, social or political).

If this happens, will she feel an obligation to take their line, even if it conflicts with her own? Her own religious beliefs, and that of her church, might suggest that she would. In political terms, we might call this a significant conflict of interest which needs to be declared.

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