Just when politicians seem to need divine intervention more than ever, a small group want a vote to exclude God from their fraught proceedings.

A cross-party group of MPs led by Conservative Crispin Blunt want to ban the practice, begun in 1558, of reading prayers at the start of each parliamentary sitting.

Mr Blunt’s motion, which is also sponsored by Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish National MPs, claims that “religious worship should not play any part in the formal business of the House of Commons.”

They add, “Parliamentary prayers are not compatible with a society which respects the principle of freedom of and from religion.”

In the Commons the prayers are read by Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Speaker’s chaplain, and in the Lords by a Lord Spiritual.

The head of parliamentary affairs for the Church of England commented, “You’d have thought MPs would welcome all the help parliament can get right now.”

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