Coffee House

Doing God works well for Cameron

24 April 2014

6:00 PM

24 April 2014

6:00 PM

David Cameron’s decision to hug-a-Christian seems to have worked pretty well, judging by the political response he’s provoked. For starters, his comments about Britain being ‘evangelical’ about its status as a Christian country managed to enrage the sort of people who also might annoy the churchgoing conservatives he needs to win back after the row over gay marriage.

Today, he – and the secularists – got a response from the Archbishop of Canterbury who wrote on his blog:

‘It’s all quite baffling and at the same time quite encouraging. Christian faith is much more vulnerable to comfortable indifference than to hatred and opposition. It’s also a variation on the normal “Sword and Grail discovered” stuff that seems to be a feature of Easter week news.

‘Yet the Prime Minister and other members of the Government have not said anything very controversial. It is a historical fact (perhaps unwelcome to some, but true) that our main systems of ethics, the way we do law and justice, the values of society, how we decide what is fair, the protection of the poor, and most of the way we look at society . . . All have been shaped by and founded on Christianity. Add to that the foundation of many hospitals, the system of universal schooling, the presence of chaplains in prisons, and one could go on a long time. Then there is the literature, visual art, music and culture that have formed our understandings of beauty and worth since Anglo Saxon days.

‘It is clear that, in the general sense of being founded in Christian faith, this is a Christian country. It is certainly not in terms of regular churchgoing, although altogether, across different denominations, some millions attend church services each week.’


Welby isn’t afraid to criticise government policies when he feels he should. But today he ended his post with ‘the PM is right on this’. So a good score there for the Prime Minister, who, like most politicians, is still pretty keen to get an endorsement from the Archbishop of Canterbury (and sensitive to his criticism). And it was wise of the ABC not to engage with some of the attempts by the PM’s critics to open windows into his soul and question the sincerity of his decision to do a bit more God.

But there was one more helpful response to Cameron’s Church Times piece, and it came from Nick Clegg. The Deputy Prime Minister told LBC:

‘As it happens, I’m not a man of faith, but I don’t actually find it particularly controversial to say just look at our history, our heritage, our architecture, our values, or something… of course, you know, of course it’s infused by Christianity. In many ways I was slightly nonplussed by people getting very worked up about because I thought, well, you know, I’m not a practising man of faith but I don’t find it an issue to say, you know, we have an important, sort of, Christian identity in terms of our history and heritage and so on.

‘That is not to say, Paul [the listener calling in], which I think is maybe what lies behind your question, that somehow we are exclusively Christian, that somehow everybody is a Christian, or indeed that we have got one Christian denomination, there are almost as many Catholics as Anglicans in this country, and of course we should remember that one of the greatest Christian values, if you want to put it that way, of tolerance is that we are open to people of other denominations, other faiths, of all faiths, and none and I think that is what makes our country, it’s this sense of fair play and tolerance which I think makes our country very, very special.

‘I mean, more generally speaking, er, about the separation of religion and politics, as it happens, my personal view, I’m not pretending this is something which is discussed in the pubs and kitchen tables of Britain but my personal view is in the long run, having the state and the church basically bound up with each other as we do in this country, I think, you know, I think in the long-run it would actually be better for the church and better for people of faith and better for Anglicans if the church and state were over time to sort of stand on their own two separate feet, so to speak.’

This, while being a polite defence of what Cameron said, also gave the Prime Minister a nice little point of difference with his Coalition colleague, which is always a good thing. He responded this afternoon to Clegg’s call for eventual disestablishment by saying:

‘No I don’t want to see that, I think our arrangements work well in this country. As I’ve said before, we’re a Christian country, we have an established church, and being a Christian country, I find other faith leaders and members of other faiths say that it makes us almost more understanding, more tolerant, more understanding of the role that faith and religion plays in our country.

‘And actually, faith organisations do an enormous amount in terms of supporting schools, supporting charities, helping to build what I call the bigger society. So I don’t want to see what the Deputy Prime Minister has set out, it’s a long-term liberal idea but not a Conservative one.’

So there we go. An endorsement from the Archbishop of Canterbury and a gentle division with Nick Clegg. Whether this will make much of a difference with those churchgoers that the Prime Minister might be making overtures to is another matter. But his article in the Church Times has been a communications success, at least.

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Show comments
  • Monkey_Bach

    No man as dishonest, disdainful and ungodly as David Cameron should ever do God.

  • Mike Purves

    I am an antidisestablishmentarianist, and have been waiting for a chance to use that word since I was a kid. Still waiting for someone to bring up flauccinauccinihiliphilipication.

  • GUBU

    Doing God appears to have worked well for Mr Cameron, but it does not appear that he does God particularly well.

    I’m not sure that I’m entirely convinced by someone whose analogy for his own ‘faith’ is radio reception in the Chilterns. After all, faith is supposed to be the evidence of things unseen, not things intermittently unheard due to uneven geographical features.

    Having said that, the British Humanist Association does not appear to do humanism that well, either, judging by the dreary tone of the letter to the Telegraph. Isn’t humanism meant to be all about seeking happiness and fulfilment in this life? Not to be found in the company of ‘Dr’ Evan Harris, I suspect.

  • Bruxellois

    I doubt if Cameron’s last minute ‘conversion’ will make much difference to those Conservatives who turned away after he and the rest of the Tory Cabinet members (including alleged Catholics like Ian Duncan Smith) foisted homosexual ‘marriage’ on the country in such an undemocratic way.

  • Retired Nurse

    In addition to bearing a resemblance to one of his (ahem) ancestors Catherine the Great , there is also a remarkable resemblance to the subject of this newly installed window in a church in Dorset… ….Judas has been fitted so that you can only see through him from inside the Church …..I think there’s a valuable lesson for David in that…

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Why cant we comment on Steerpike above?

  • Chingford Man

    Looks like “Comments are closed” has spread to the Speccie. Afraid of your readers?

  • London Calling

    There’s no harm in doing God. however protecting the poor means those also on welfare and not companies like Atos crucifying the vulnerable. Unfortunately the poor have been largely scrutinised by the press. which is not an act of Godliness……….
    I respect those who have no faith and those who feel uncomftable with Gay Marriage within the church. Our tolerant society must accept those who do not agree and no one should be without as voice no matter how distasteful our different ways may be…Cameron is setting a good example and isn’t to date about to lead us into war like Blair and Bush did, who also claimed to do Gods work…..blessed are the peacemakers ……………:)

  • you_kid

    “there are almost as many Catholics as Anglicans in this country,”
    Another reason why Blair is a revolutionary – the Thatcherites will of course only notice on the day Scottish secularism delivers its verdict.

    • HookesLaw

      I’m Shocked I’d never have thought that of you

  • Man in a Shed

    So do you think God was taken in my Dave’s cast iron faith ?

  • Kitty MLB

    Yes Cameron has been attacked by the Left and the BBC for speaking up for Christianity and yet other faiths are supportive of this and the Church of England.
    We tolerate other faiths but we remain a Christian Country. Whatever his motive,
    and some say he has one, it sends out a message to those who want other religions
    to have equal status in the United Kingdom.

    • Conway

      Trouble is, Dave should have discovered G*d before the last minute. He could have, perhaps, taken into account the Church’s teachings before, say, pushing through a redefinition of marriage. He could have supported traditional marriage and civil partnerships by delivering his promise on tax allowances for those in a formal union. He need not have misquoted the koran in the Lee Rigby aftermath. He might have forborne from trumpeting his newly discovered Jewish ancestry in Israel. Do I believe Britain is a Christian country? Definitely. Do I think Dave is sincere? I’m afraid not.

  • MichtyMe

    I’m not comfortable with a PM who believes that the omnipotent creator of the Universe, two millennia ago, decided to pad around in the Middle East in sandals, gave some lectures, performed a few conjuring tricks, then mysteriously vanished.

    • HookesLaw

      You aren’t?
      I’m shocked totally shocked.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      Wasn’t it his Dad who did all that?

      • allymax bruce

        Yes, and no; He is The Trinity.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    All a bit opportunistic for my liking.

    • anyfool

      Rather he was opportunistic, than for real like that turd, Blair.

  • realfish

    It was odd that the BBC who led the charge against Cameron when he declared that Britain is a Christian country, could find no time to report this response from a group of academics, this time in support of the PM.

    Of course, it isn’t odd at all that the left leaning BBC would give so much air time to one of their own, Al-Khalili – and others, belonging the shallow, sneering left, who would predictably attempt to undermine a Tory PMs call for the country to have confidence in its own identity.

    • telemachus

      The BBC gives more than a fair hearing to the Consevatives
      As you would expect with a political editor who chaired the Young Conservatives and appointment of a Tory Party Chair to lead the whole organisation

      • Colonel Mustard

        Once again you are misrepresenting the facts. Fat Pang is the Chairman of the BBC Trust which is a governing body supposed to act in the best interests of licence payers and is independent of BBC management. Not only is its role in dealing with BBC bias questionable to non-existent but Fat Pang himself has dubious conservative credentials being a notoriously complacent ‘wet’ in the Bercow mould.

        There is a significant difference between giving a “fair hearing” and promoting beliefs by exclusion. The BBC belief system is exclusively what is laughingly referred to as “Left Liberal” and has been admitted to be so by the BBC and its employees.

    • Tom Tom

      Al-Khalili born in Baghdad arrives in UK aged 17 and pontificates on English Cultural Heritage and History………idiocy never ceases to amaze

  • Brigadier Mustard

    I am pleased to report that Isabel has extended my temporary promotion, subject to satisfactory upvotes.
    Please take into account my continued support for the values of the Political Right and Middle England and my hatred of Labour and its fellow travellers.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I am still a Colonel and will die a Colonel.

      Accept no substitutes.

      • Brigadier Mustard

        I am sorry we are a bit at sixes and sevens with the excitement of promotion.
        I am even prepared to defend the rights of free speech of Andre Lampitt on this thread since I am prcluded on the next.

        • HookesLaw

          Correct lets hear more of what kippers really think.
          Farage should be deselected and then defenestrated for diluting the true purpose of the Party. Has ‘pax’ burnt his Membership card yet?

        • Colonel Mustard

          Then I suggest you do that under your own identity instead of trying to pass yourself of as me. The motivation for which would probably be indefensible in a court of law. Section 2A (3) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 which concerns stalking makes it a criminal offence under (c) “to publish any statement or other material relating or purporting to relate to a person, or purporting to originate from a person”.

          As you have been doing here . . . three times so far in what amounts to a “course of conduct” which it is hard to determine any legitimate motivation for.

          • Brigadier Mustard

            Dear Me!
            I really am so sorry. The strain of the fact of promotion is overwhelming.
            Forgive me. I will soon return to my usual prowess.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              Nobody cares where you go, lad. Just as long as you piss off.

      • HookesLaw

        I’m shocked I tell you.. I promise to root out all substitutes
        I cannot believe our blog has imposters like that. Never not ever.

    • The Laughing Cavalier

      Brigadier Bogus.