Easter, time for sober reflection and chocolate eggs. This year Prime Minister David Cameron, writing in the Church Times , followed by a radio interview about his children’s faith, and a speech at an Easter reception for Christian leaders in Downing Street, treated the British public to his views on Britian’s Christian roots. After stating “Jesus invented the big society 2,000 years ago” he went on to say, “Some people feel that in this ever more secular age we shouldn’t talk about these things. I completely disagree. I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country”. Immediately there was a reaction. Those on the right heaped praise on the pm’s moral compass. Whilst those on the left speculated over his road to Damascus moment. The Daily Mail loved it, decrying ‘PM told to stand up against non-believers who want faith out of politics’ whilst the left leaning Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee suggested it contradicted the PM’s position as a leader of a multi-cultural society. Ex-Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell who famously said ‘we don’t do God’ when Labour was in power, condemned it as a cynical ploy to distract from the Maria Miller fiasco.
In 2008 Cameron declared his faith was “like reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes”, so whats changed? When looking at Cameron’s statements and in fact statements of all politicians in this coming year one must always keep in mind the backdrop of the 2015 general election as well as the upcoming EU parliamentary elections. Cameron like the other party leaders is playing to the ‘core vote’. He knows after acrimony over gay marriage legislation and worries about the EU, many of his core voters feel a sense of disillusionment. Religion is a good way to rally this vote and rebalance the social liberal image with a more social conservatism (in line with both One Nation and Thatcherite traditions). This is no conversion, but rather a tactical electoral ploy and we will see more of it in in the year ahead.