Professor Kevin Theakston's article published on Political Studies Association blog
Professor Kevin Theakston has had his article 'Doing God’ in Number 10: British prime ministers and religion’ published on the Political Studies Association (PSA) Blog.
Professor Theakston begins his article discussing the recent media storm triggered by David Cameron’s description of Britain as a ‘Christian country’. As a result his motives and timing have been questioned with some suggesting that ‘he was trying to distract attention from the damaging Maria Miller resignation’ or perhaps ‘hoping to win back religiously-inclined UKIP voters ahead of the European elections’. Whatever the reason, what commentators failed to realise was that having a religious believer serving as prime minister is not that surprising.
Theakston continues on to comment upon previous prime ministers such as Margret Thatcher whose ‘strong and life-long religious faith was a massively important aspect of her personality, thinking and politics’. However it is observed that Thatcher often clashed with liberal bishops ‘insisting that the churches should stay out of politics’.
Moving on to discuss Labour leader Tony Blair, who was ‘more open about his religious convictions and how they informed his political views’. Although the extent to which his beliefs influenced his time in office were limited. Blair himself confessed that ‘if you talk about religion in our system, people think you’re a nutter’.
Lastly, Theakston talks about the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who ‘seemed keen to keep his faith a relatively private matter’, instead choosing to talk about his ‘moral compass’ delivering speeches about child poverty and the developing world. Theakston highlights how Brown ‘went out of his way to emphasise the shared moral sense and ethical principles shared by Christianity and other faiths’.
To conclude Professor Theakston states ‘it is likely that few votes will be swung either way by Cameron’s public profession of his Christianity’. However he suggests that Brown was perhaps right when he said ‘that prime ministers should not be asked to leave their religious beliefs at the door’, and that this portrays a ‘a diminished version of themselves into the public square’.