Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Godless British politics: two out of three ain't bad

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Prescient: political theorist M. Loaf predicted
the Godless state of British politics as early as 1977
Two years ago, AC Grayling suggested that the rise of David Miliband within the Labour Party had raised the chances of Britain acquiring an atheist Prime Minister. While it turns out Grayling picked the wrong brother, it would seem he more or less called it correctly, as the new Labour leader Ed Miliband revealed on Radio 5 Live this morning that he doesn't believe in God. Of course, he made sure he threw in what we might call the "Clegg compromise", pointing out that he respects those that do:
“I don’t believe in God personally but I have great respect for those people who do and different people have different religious views in this country. The great thing is that whether we have faith or not, we are by and large very tolerant of people, whatever their particular view.”
So, of the three main party leaders, two are self-confessed atheists. And, as the great political theorist M. Loaf posited in 1977, "two out of three ain't bad".

On a more serious note, of course, a party leader's personal view on religion isn't really the issue. The main concern for secularists is how they view the role of religion in public life. Where, for instance, do they stand on faith schools? We're yet to find out where Ed Miliband will position his party on these issues – writing for Comment is Free, Labour MP Stephen Timms thinks Labour must "do God", and it's interesting to note, as Timms points out, that one of Miliband's first acts as leader was to speak at the Christian Socialist Movement's 50th anniversary reception.
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