As the crucifixion of Damian McBride over Easter in 2009 proves, the four-day news void can be gruesome for Downing Street, yet it seems congratulations are in order this year. No.10 managed to throw the chattering classes such a juicy bone of distraction that they all spent Easter trying to convince themselves that the UK is not a Christian country.
The row was stoked by an assorted group of lefties with impeccable Labour, Liberal and Green credentials writing to the Telegraph, questioning why a PM may possibly wish to talk about religion. The irony that it was Easter, top and tailed by two bank holidays where their entire ‘non-Christian country’ shuts down for 96 hours in celebration of the resurrection of Christ was lost on these modern day Doubting Thomases. No doubt they will resurrect their arguments when Christmas arrives.
Leaving aside the fact that 59% of the UK population self-defines as Christians, we need only look at our institutions and state structure to see how bizarre this row has been. England has an established church. English bishops sit in our Parliament. A glance around the rim of our £1 coin will show you that our Head of State has another far more interesting title – Defender of the Faith. The Left weren’t so snooty about the Archbishop of Canterbury, our state-declared spiritual leader, when he was defending foodbanks.
We have a constitutional framework, legal system and legislature that is built around Judeo-Christian values. Almost every single bank holiday we have in this country is to mark some sort of Christian festival. Tens of thousands of children are educated every day in church-supported schools, and what is the first word of the national anthem again?
Some of Cameron’s fiercest critics over the weekend have also been amongst the loudest supporters for the NHS. They might not want to self-declare as Christians any more, but the ethos at the heart of the system is one of Christian compassion. Perhaps they should remind themselves of Andy Burnham’s favourite Nye Bevan quote: ‘the NHS is a little piece of Christianity’.
I say all this as a lapsed agnostic, open to the idea of a disestablished church and booting the bishops out of the Lords. But to deny that we are a Christian country is progressive revisionism of the highest order. Some people do not like the fact that we are a Christian country – but they should say so, rather than pretend otherwise. Attempting to rewrite history and ignore our heritage, as well as our current governing structure, is at best delusional. At worst it shows metropolitan liberal society attempting to cleanse the parts of Britain it finds distasteful.