One of Labour’s best leaders, Harold Wilson, once stated that the Labour Party owed more to Methodism than Marx. Admittedly more recently Alastair Campbell said “We Don’t Do God”, but he was referring to interviews with Tony Blair rather than Labour Party policy.
The thing is, I sometimes wonder how much the work of those with faith within the Labour Party is valued. Certainly if one reads the comments, blog posts, and articles by various Labour activists and sympathisers one would be forgiven for thinking that Labour does not welcome or value the contributions of those who believe in God and who, in particular, come from one of the monotheistic religions.
So it was that I was heartened by an article in The Guardian recently (no, not the Coulson one, although that’s a morality tale of its own), which reported that the Pope has just published an encyclical calling for a new political and financial system. He isn’t alone, various religious leaders have also spoken along similar lines including Rowan Williams, John Sentamu, Sir Jonathan Sacks, and The Dalai Lama.
This is something that should be heartening to those of us who are Social Democrats or Socialists. For too long now, people have been enthralled by monetarism and worshipping the system to the point of tearing down the checks and balances which help protect the vulnerable, whatever the background. It has allowed those who are corrupt and selfish to prosper, and it has gone on for too long. Or has Pope Benedict put it:
“The conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from “influences” of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way. In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise…Financiers must rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity, so as not to abuse the sophisticated instruments which can serve to betray the interests of savers,”
Don’t misunderstand me, I am not a Catholic and disagree with them enough not to want to be one. But as a nonconformist Christian I recognise them as fellow travellers and feel that this is a classic example of what is best about what the Christian faith and other religions can offer the Labour Party, namely an addition to the moral dimension of politics.
I totally agree that one can hold moral viewpoints and be a stanuch athiest, but there are many out there who believe in God who will take note of the recent comments of various religious leaders and therefore may well be attracted to a political party which has prided itself for wanting to help the poor, needy, and vulnerable within our society. In the coming weeks and months we may well value their contribution.