17 Apr 2014

Will Christianity win it for Cameron?

Writing in the Church Times, David Cameron insists we should be ‘evangelical about Christianity’ and ‘pull together to change the world’. Will voters heed his message?

David Cameron is still doing God.

After declaring last week that the Big Society was “invented by Jesus”, the prime minister now insists we should be “evangelical” about Christianity.

He writes in the Church Times: “I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to make a difference to people’s lives.”

In words that carry echoes of Tony Blair’s call to “reorder this world” in the wake of 9/11, Cameron later writes: “if we pull together, we can change the world and make it a better place.”

But why push Christianity now? And do potential rewards make it worth the political risk?

Offering an olive branch

There are two things to remember. Firstly, the prime minister has wounds to heal in Christian heartlands up and down Britain, where gay marriage and frequent clashes between the coalition and the church on issues such as food poverty has soured relations. Ukip, whose leader says British politics needs a “more muscular defence of our Judeo-Christian heritage”, now offers a credible alternative.

This is clever targeting designed to reassert clear Conservative values that will resonate in the heartlands Sir Robert Worcester, founder of Mori

Second, how does a party whose welfare reforms have hit the poorest in society expect to lay a claim to changing people’s lives?

That, pollsters argue, misses his point.

“David Cameron is a Tory who believes people who have done well in life have an obligation to those who haven’t,” Professor John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde told Channel 4 News. “Cameron is linking the Christian message of social justice to the Conservatives. He is not asking for the party to be judged against Christian principles.”

Praying for reflection

Will wooing Christians win votes? Possibly, analysts believe, though more by accident than design.

Unlike the USA, there is no simple Christian block vote in the UK because different denominations vote along different lines. Anglicans are more likely to vote Conservative than Methodists and Catholics, but Britain is still largely secular with a declining Christian population.

The 2011 Census showed that the number of people who described themselves as Christian dropped by 13 per cent to 59 per cent of the population.

Sir Robert Worcester, the founder of Mori, told Channel 4 News: “As the lines between Ukip and the Conservatives narrow, there is a four per cent swing across the country that could decide the next election. Cameron cannot afford to lose traditional Christian voters.

“This is clever targeting designed to reassert clear Conservative values that will resonate in the heartlands. Expect it to be a major theme in the months ahead.”

In three terms of government Tony Blair was adamant, as his spokesman is reported to have said, not to “do God”.

David Cameron appears the opposite. Nearing the end of his first term, doing God it seems, could offer a path to securing a second.