Fury at Alastair Campbell over PM's 'God slot': but is he right?
Blair's spin-doctor accuses Cameron of insincerity: but was it an appeal to Ukip defectors?
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL has encountered a torrent of abuse for questioning David Cameron’s sincerity about Christianity after the Prime Minister’s Easter 'God slot'.
The former Downing Street spin-doctor, who famously said about Tony Blair's government “We don’t do God", accused Cameron of declaring that Britain was a “Christian country” only in order to help bury the Maria Miller expenses row.
Campbell blogged: "It’s Easter, there was clearly a hole in the ‘grid’, the need for a new talking point after the Maria Miller fiasco, so someone said, 'I know, let’s get Dave to do God'."
Cameron once said his Christianity was like the Magic FM reception in the Chilterns: "It comes and goes". But at a pre-Easter Downing Street reception he said he now finds his “moments of greatest peace” at Eucharist services at his children’s church.
He went further in an article for the Church Times, in which he said Britain should be unashamedly “evangelical” about its Christian faith and give churches a greater role in society.
He was immediately accused of causing divisions in Britain’s multi-cultural multi-faith society.
In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, 55 public figures who support a secular Britain - including Philip Pullman, Ken Follett, TV historian Dan Snow and Sir Terry Pratchett - said they "objected" to the Prime Minister's "repeated mischaracterising of our country as a 'Christian country' and the negative consequences for our politics and society that this view engenders".
Then came Campbell’s blog, headlined: “Cameron’s religious ramblings: if this is leadership God help us”. It became inexplicably unavailable at the weekend, but was back up this morning. And it has excited a furious response from Daily Telegraph readers who clearly see Campbell as the anti-Christ.
"It is disgusting the nauseating AC is given any credibility after his 'criminal' collusion with Bliar to sex up the intelligence dossier about Iraq," wrote one furious Telegraph blogger.
But when the dust settles, will it turn out that Campbell was right to accuse the PM of playing politics?
Cameron's allies have been advising him to go large on Christianity as a way of countering the appeal of Ukip's Old Testament messages to older Tory voters put off by the PM's public support for gay marriage. Sure enough, Ukip leader Nigel Farage told ITV's Daybreak this morning: "I've been saying for years Britain should be more muscular in its Christianity."
And does the Prime Minister’s foray into Britain’s religious beliefs also illustrate the dangers of allowing a hiatus in Westminster politics?
A number of MPs have told the Mole that they don’t have enough to do as they await the May 2015 general election. The final session of Parliament before the election will be opened in June, but there is very little for the Tories to put into the Queen’s Speech that can survive Nick Clegg’s red pencil.
Many MPs share the view of Cheryl Gillan, the former Cabinet minister, that Cameron made a big mistake when he introduced a five-year fixed-term Parliament.
With opinion polls showing a far narrower margin between Conservative and Labour than Ed Miliband would like, and voters responding generally positively to the better economic news, Cameron might have had a chance of winning a snap election this spring.
Polling by YouGov for the Sunday Times, for instance, shows that while 84 per cent agree with Miliband that there has been a cost of living crisis, only 21 per cent blame the coalition for it, while 22 per cent blame the last Labour administration.
Cameron cannot exploit this. Instead he must spend the next 12 months hoping that the economic recovery does not falter, and that his backbenchers behave themselves after the expected drubbing for the Conservatives in next month's European elections. He would be wise to heed the saying: the Devil makes work for idle hands.