To many peoples’ surprise, after he had previously suggested his Christianity was akin to a radio signal that gets a bit fuzzy out in the Chilterns, Young Dave has now declared “I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people's lives”. Jolly good show, eh?
Or perhaps Cameron is trying to shift a little more responsibility away from the state and on to churches, as well as charities, as he also said: “In being confident about our Christianity, we should also be ambitious in supporting faith-based organisations to do even more”. Yes, that sounds familiar.
In any case, this apparent volte-face has not been universally cheered, unless of course you read the part of the press that goes in to bat for those who are, in the words of the odious Quentin Letts (let’s not), “middle stump Anglicans”. So the Maily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Murdoch Times were rather pleased by Dave’s damascene conversion. Others were not so persuaded.
And so it came to pass that a group of public figures wrote to the Tel to signal a dissenting tone: “The group, which includes writers such as Philip Pullman and Sir Terry Pratchett, Nobel Prize winning scientists, prominent broadcasters and even some comedians argue that members of the elected Government have no right to ‘actively prioritise’ religion or any particular faith”.
A little well-merited cynicism ((c) Steve Bell 2014)
The letter went on “We are a plural society with citizens with a range of perspectives and a largely non-religious society. To constantly claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society. Although it is right to recognise the contribution made by many Christians to social action, it is wrong to try to exceptionalise their contribution when it is equalled by British people of different beliefs”.
So far, so interesting, but over at Northcliffe House, the smear machine was being fired up: “The Prime Minister's assertion that Britain is a Christian country risks dividing society, claim 50 liberals including Sir Terry Pratchett and Dan Snow” thundered the headline over the by-line of the eponymous Daily Mail Reporter. That’s “liberals”, as in right-wing abuse, by the way.
What the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre have failed to pick up on is that, yes, there is an element of getting churches to intervene more in social issues, but the major part of Cameron’s rediscovery of God is to reach out to more conservative Christians upset over same-sex marriage, as Sunny Hundal has pointed out. And, in any case, it’s not going to move the Tories’ vote share forward.
Winging it is never a good way to do electoral strategy.