On a (Leftish) Wing and a Prayer? Religion Is a Dirty Word in British Politics. but a Faith System That Emphasised Social Good Might Be Better Than Today's Uncritical Worship of the Market

By Reeves, Richard | New Statesman (1996), December 15, 2003 | Go to article overview

On a (Leftish) Wing and a Prayer? Religion Is a Dirty Word in British Politics. but a Faith System That Emphasised Social Good Might Be Better Than Today's Uncritical Worship of the Market


Reeves, Richard, New Statesman (1996)


The Prime Minister is not short of things to pray for Christmas. The continuing morass of Iraq, rebellion over top-up fees and the looming publication of the Hutton report--not to mention his health--all add up to a strong case for divine assistance. But Blair takes his religion more seriously than most, and shopping lists are not likely to be his style. Not since Gladstone has Britain had such a religious premier. Far from seeing prayer as a short cut to getting what he wants politically, Tony Blair sees politics as the means for working towards goals inspired by his faith. In a foreword to a book about Labour Christians, he wrote: "Neither faith nor politics can be simply about believing it must be about action. Religious beliefs and political beliefs will achieve nothing until people are prepared to act on those beliefs."

This year, the Prime Minister appointed a "faith tsar" John Battle MP, to act as a bridgehead into the religious communities;said that he will answer to "my Maker" for his actions in Iraq; was evasive about whether he had prayed with George Bush; and established a faith community steering group to look at closer links between government and religious groups.

He is reported to have wanted to end a broadcast on Iraq with the words "God bless you", until the secular views of his advisers--godless lot, by his lights--prevailed. All of which worries some of Blair's friends (who fear comparisons with Bush) and provides ammunition to his left-wing enemies, who see his Christianity as a further indication of his essential conservatism.

But just as religion is making modest inroads into politics, organised religion is host to momentous political struggles and factionalism, especially in the Anglican communion, which is riven by the issue of homosexuality. Ironically, Blair took great interest in the process of the Archbishop of Canterbury's appointment and great delight in Rowan Williams's elevation. As the Prime Minister apparently becomes increasingly religious, the primate is becoming a battle-hardened politician. The line between politics and religion is blurring on both sides.

It is clear that Blair's politics are a long way from those of the French revolutionaries who set out, in Diderot's phrase, to "strangle the last king with the guts of the last priest". But he is not alone in his faith. Gordon Brown is a preacher's son, which helps to explain not only his passion for social justice, but also his strong belief in the work ethic and individual responsibility. As his biographer Paul Routledge puts it: "He honestly believes that work is good for the soul, which should mean that his own is in no danger." David Blunkett, Paul Boateng and Tessa Jowell share some of their leader's faith--and there are plenty of junior ministers, such as Stephen Timms, Ruth Kelly and Stephen Twigg, with strong religious convictions. Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, has become worried enough to make the somewhat absurd claim that the "non-religious feel alienated and excluded from the political processes that 11elp shape our society".

While Wood protests too much, a glance across the Atlantic suggests that Labour should be careful not to wear its religious robes too heavily. Bush, who has described Jesus as his favourite political philosopher, seems to personify the capture of American politics by the religious right. And figures such as John Ashcroft, the right-wing Christian attorney-general who tried to ban his staff taking part in a gay pride march, are truly scary. (Th at Bush had to play the liberal and overrule him on this issue says it all.)

It is fun to imagine to which biblical texts Bush refers before making his decisions. Perhaps something about camels and eyes of needles before the cut in capital gains tax? A parable on ploughshares and swords before Iraq ? There is, however, one area in which his faith has probably been instrumental and against which few can argue: the $15bn for Aids victims in Africa. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

On a (Leftish) Wing and a Prayer? Religion Is a Dirty Word in British Politics. but a Faith System That Emphasised Social Good Might Be Better Than Today's Uncritical Worship of the Market
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.