John Smith was 'one of them'. Tony Blair is 'one of them'. And so are Chris Smith and Jack Straw and half the Shadow Cabinet and many more on the backbenches including Frank Field, that one-man think-tank of the Labour Right. 'They' are the Christian socialists, architects of New Labour, ready to provide the movement with the ethical foundations which seem sorely missing. Perhaps they hold a Bible in one hand and the revised version of Clause Four in the other, but the Bible is not readily discernible and the real purpose of the new clause was to do away with the old one. 'Blair,' as Chris Bryant, leader of the Christian Socialist Movement, disarmingly admits, 'has been keen not to be too explicit about his religious commitment ... Quite rightly, both he and Straw are hesitant to proclaim their Christian faith for fear of appearing self-righteous or exclusive and fanatical.' Is this a tacit admission that, in a secular society, too overt a religious commitment generates suspicion rather than approval? Does it follow therefore that Christians should disguise their Christianity, talk about responsibilities, duties, communities, families, morality, ethics, concern for others and so on, but not about the Bible, Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth?
LRB 31 October 1996 | PDF Download