David Twiston Davies
The Conservative Party, in case you have not noticed, wants our votes. It can see the public exasperation with the Government's policies in relation to morality and education, and is keen to harness any disillusioned Christian support going. It has therefore recruited the aid of Martin Olasky, an American professor of journalism from Dallas, Texas, who had been working to bring the Christian Right into the George W Bush camp fur the American presidential election in November.
Mr Olasky arrived in London last week with a neat package of "compassionate conservatism" containing promises of strong family policies and lower social-security hills His philosophy is based on Biblical Christianity, and he dislikes homosexuality and extreme feminism. But even if Mr Olasky is not in the tradition of fiery Southern preachers, many natural Tory supporters have an ingrained suspicion of policies from Main Street, USA. They know that abortion is wrong, but they also know that the aggressive campaigning associated with its American opponents would do irreparable damage here, They can see that nothing will smooth the acceptability of homosexuality more certainly than evidence that its practitioners are being persecuted.
Mr Olasky's problem is that the very clarity of his approach is far removed from the British way of doing things. For more than four centuries the English have been uneasy about displaying their innermost beliefs, preferring to conceal them beneath the vague supervision of a national church; the Catholic community owes at least part of its survival to the general Anglican reluctance to pry into neighbours' business.
Although the Tory party's loyalty to the Church steadily declined throughout the last century, it retained an unquestioning commitment to Christian values until the churches demonstrated such fierce hostility to Thatcherism in the eighties, though the Lady herself remained a stalwart believer. The decay in the relationship was shownstarkly when John Major embarked on his disastrous "back to basics campaign with its romantic memories of spinsters cycling to Matins. After the resulting fiasco the party became nervous of any further commitment until William Hague started to show interest again.
Inevitably, suspicions will be entertained that Mr Hague is only showing interest in Christianity because his pollsters have told him to do so. He rose to the leadership without going to church, though he would not be the first to find that marriage and then the prospect of children changed his view. There is a risk that should Mr Hague be defeated at the next general election, which seems likely though no longer inevitable, his successor's advisers will be quick to distance him from anything that might be labelled an inherited encumbrance. Since Mr Hague's most likely successor is Michael Portillohe with the evasive smile whose admission of a homosexual past went with no recognition of the concept of sin which was part of his Catholic education — we can only he nervous.
It is also possible that an unsuccessful Tory campaign that included a noticeable Christian element might send Labour off in the opposite direction.
Tony Blair leads an exemplary family life, and his government is fighting a European directive to ban any discrimination on grounds of religion. But it is still committed to European legislative programme on equality that is at odds with a commitment to Christianity.
Lastly, it should be remembered that the British have historically tended to react passively to political aggression. It was possible, after all, to impose the Reformation on a people that still clung tenaciously to Catholic practices. We have good reason to he wary in the 21st century.