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Labour’s ex-spin doctor has slammed Theresa May for talking about her own faith and childhood memories during her Easter message.
May, the daughter of a vicar, said that Christian values could ‘bring us together’ amid intense debate over Brexit that has divided and continues to divide the nation.
But Alistair Campbell, now the editor of the pro-EU New European newspaper, claimed she was hinting that God would have voted to leave the European Union.
‘I think even vicars’ daughters should be a little wary of allying their politics to their faith,’ he told The Guardian after seeing the three-minute video on YouTube today.
Posting on the most important day of the Christian calendar, May – who believes her faith offers her ‘a moral backing’ – tries to project a positive message in the video.
She says: ‘Easter is a moment to reflect, and an important time for Christians and others to gather together with families and friends.
‘This year, after a period of intense debate over the right future for our country, there is a sense that people are coming together and uniting behind the opportunities that lie ahead.
‘For at heart, this country is one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future. And as we face the opportunities ahead – the opportunities that stem from our decision to leave the EU, and embrace the world – our shared interests, our shared ambitions and, above all, our shared values can and must bring us together.’
But Campbell, the spin doctor for Tony Blair, suggests today that she has gone too far and suggests she ‘gets out more’.
The spin doctor, who famously said that Labour ‘don’t do God’, added: ‘I think even vicars’ daughters should be a little wary of allying their politics to their faith.
‘She does not exactly say if God had a vote he would have voted Leave, but she gets closer to it than she should. If she really thinks she is leading a united country full of hope … I suggest she gets out more.’
He added: ‘I don’t think I have ever known Britain more divided. As for her talk of compassion, community, citizenship and obligations to one another, she has taken an axe to those with regard to Britain’s relations to the rest of the world, and plenty of her domestic agenda points in the opposite direction.’
Born into a religious family where her father was an Anglican vicar, Mrs May has spoken publicly about her faith, notably on Desert Island Discs, where she said she was a ‘regular communicant’ of the church.
She has previously said how religion is ‘a moral backing to what I do and I would hope that the decisions I take are taken on the basis of my faith.’
She said it is wrong to ‘flaunt’ religion in British politics but once told the Commons: ‘Our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of.’
That message was reflected today, when she said: ‘Values of compassion, community, citizenship. The sense of obligation we have to one another.
‘These are values we all hold in common – and values that are visibly lived out every day by Christians – as well as by people of other faiths or none.
‘We should be confident about the role that Christianity has to play in the lives of people in our country. And we should treasure the strong tradition that we have in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech.
‘We must continue to ensure that people feel able to speak about their faith, and that absolutely includes their faith in Christ.
‘We must be mindful of Christians and religious minorities around the world who do not enjoy these same freedoms, but who practise their religion in secret and often in fear.
‘And we must do more to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to practice their beliefs openly and in peace and safety.’
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron highlighted Mrs May’s intervention in the row over the National Trust and Cadbury Easter egg hunt in his message, while hitting out at nostalgia and nationalism.
He said: ‘I fear that what the Prime Minster and others were actually getting wound up about was the thought that the National Trust might have been airbrushing out something comfortable and traditional.
‘And given that we are turning the clock back to the early 1970s with Brexit (or indeed the 1580s if we do end up declaring war on Spain), then nostalgia is most definitely the mood of the moment.’
Today’s debate over Christianity’s place in politics comes days after a leading author claimed world politics is shaped by Christianity, with many world leader’s inspired by their faith.
Nick Spencer says most of the prominent leaders around the world are shaped by their religion, including all but one of Britain’s six most recent Prime Ministers.
May’s predecessor David Cameron, in 2008, famously described his faith as a bit like the patchy reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns where he lives, adding: ‘It sort of comes and goes’.
He added: ‘That sums up a lot of people in the Church of England.
‘We are racked with doubts, but sort of fundamentally believe, but don’t sort of wear it on our sleeves or make too much of it. I think that is sort of where I am.’
Brown, whose father was a minister of the Church of Scotland, spoke of his ‘moral compass’ but for the most part kept religion private.
Blair generally avoided talking about religion during his decade in Downing Street, fearing he would be viewed as a religious fanatic. His spin doctor believed the British public was instinctively distrustful of religiously-minded politicians.
But Blair converted to Roman Catholicism after his term as PM ended and later spoke of the difficulties of talking about ‘religious faith in our political system’.
He described how he had wanted to give a speech during a time of crisis and wanted to end my words with ‘God bless the British people’.
He said: ‘This caused complete consternation. Emergency meetings were convened. The system was aghast. Finally, a senior civil servant said, with utter disdain: ‘Really, Prime Minister, this is not America you know’.’
John Major was not a man of faith, but Margaret Thatcher was, according to author Eliza Filby, the ‘most religious prime minister since William Gladstone’ – a description which was later conferred on Blair.
The book also at five US presidents: Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. It also addresses five European leaders, three Australian prime ministers and Vladimir Putin of Russia.
Putin has increasingly presented himself as a man of serious personal faith, reportedly prays daily in a small Orthodox chapel next to the presidential office.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is a strong Christian but keeps her faith private. She described religion in 2012 as a ‘constant companion.’
– Daily Mail