Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Clegg says no to English Parliament (and God)

BBC coverage of this morning's radio Q&A with Nick Clegg has thus far focused on the revelation that he doesn't believe in God. While that is certainly concerning for me as a Christian, equally so is the fact that the new Liberal Democrat leader used his first day in office to deliver a clear snub to those of us campaigning for symmetrical devolution across the UK - ie giving English voters the same democratic rights and representation as their Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts.

"Do you believe there should be a Parliament for England similar to what Scotland and Wales has?" was the clear question posed. Clegg replied: "No, but we should devolve power to regions and communities," apparently contradicting his own policy announcement of April this year in which he ended decades of Lib Dem support for elected regional government.

I don't think this is going to play at all well with English voters alienated by New Labour's half-finished devolution project and disillusioned by David Cameron's failure to properly address the issue. Maybe Clegg feels he doesn't need them, but the desire for proper representation for England is part of a much broader revolt against current political structures with which the Lib Dems should be aligning themselves.

English Parliament campaign guru Toque is somewhat pithier as you would expect. "The Clegg family motto is “Let him take what he is able to take”. In Nick Clegg’s case he feels able to take the piss, and so he does."

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Anonymous said...

Is someone cloning all these haters of England?it makes me despair.We have a hard fight ahead of us Mr. Linford,only if Scotland breaks away will England have any chance at all .
Surely there is an Englishman in Westminister somewhere who is a patriot!

Unknown said...

Why is it exactly we need a specific English Parliament? I can understand excluding constituencies unaffected by legislation from votes, but why the rigmarole and expense of further complicating a system some people obviously find it hard to engage with?

Praguetory said...

I am sure he'll come out with something at some point, but I have yet to hear anything interesting never mind appealing from Clegg. Seems like he's little more than a safe pair of hands.

Steve Jackson said...

"concerning for me as a Christian"

Why? As a non Christian I have had to suffer Christian leaders and for the most part put up with it with relatively decent grace.

What is there to be concerned about? You worried that without religion to guide him Clegg might...well the mind boggles.

Then again when Blair, with God as his co-pilot, uses religion as an excuse to bomb the third world - well, not sure I'd ever vote Lib Dem but I just got a whole lot closer.

Good on the guy. It's about time a politician had the guts to the truthful in this area. Good to see that politics can grow up and shed religion. Can't we leave that to the Americans?

In all honesty I don't know a single person who goes to church. It's about time that majority got represented.

I ask you, Clegg not being a Christian - how does that make him a lesser politician, or person for that matter.

Paul Linford said...

I think that last question deserves both an answer and its own post. At some point between now and Christmas Eve, I will try to answer it. But yes, I do believe it makes him a lesser politician, for two reasons I will seek to explain.

Davide Simonetti said...

I agree with Ourman. I think it's refreshing for a politician to declare he's not religious. We've had quite enough religious zealotry from our leaders, both here and across the pond. What they've managed to demonstrate is that devout Christians certainly don't have the monopoly on morality.

I do however look forward to reading your post on the topic when you get around to writing it.

While I'm here, I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and happy new year.

Steve Jackson said...

Looking forward to the post Paul, perhaps you can also include whether you consider other none Christians ie Muslims, Buddhists are lesser politicians too.

Are none Christians, lesser people too?

And if being a Christian really does makes you a better politician - what the hell happened with Bush and Blair? Or will you point at their longevity rather than their death tolls.

Perhaps we can talk about why Christian politicans tend to be such hypocrites. Thou shalt not kill. Remember that one? Then there's 9/11 - perhaps they could have turned the other cheek?

Perhaps you would have preferred Clegg to lie. But there's another commandment gone right there.

Okay, apologies, as a lifelong none believer I get steamed up about this but I await your post with interest.

Anonymous said...

Paul I only came back onto your blog today to read what your reaction was to Clegg's declared non belief in God. You seem to have done little more than say it is of concern to you 'as a Christian'.

I stopped visiting your hitherto excellent blog some weeks ago after your frankly embarrassing posted of your views about how you had a problem with anyone who did not believe in God. Indeed I think you said that you could never accept Neil Kinnock on the basis that he did not believe in God.

Your expoused views were a telling example of how otherwise rational, tolerant and sensible people can put that part of their brain that deals with religion in an entirely seperate silo - a self-justifying silo that breeds at best an elegant and well crafted dismissal of the worth of the ethics and morals of others, and at worse a rampant and evangelical intolerance.

I'm still missing your blog, but that nonsense about discounting people who do not believe in God would of course apply to me.

Gareth said...

Perhaps when you do your piece on religion you could say how you think Brown's Christianity has instructed his Socialism.

If this story from the Guardian is true I'd love to know how you think Brown will view Richard Desmond bank-rolling and supporting the SNP.

I imagine Brown will take a very dim view of the SNP being supported by a pornographer, but for him Labour under Blair have already taken his money.

Desmond said that if Brown ever took over he would switch to supporting the Tories. It would appear that he sees the SNP as a greater force for damaging Brown.

Anonymous said...

The pro eu politicians across the parties will still try to regionalize England even if scotland and wales declared independence today. Europe does not want England as a nation state under any circumstances.

Paul Linford said...


Sorry you feel that way, I've missed your comments too. But for the record I did not say, and it is not that case, that I "have a problem with anyone who doesn't believe in God." What I was saying (and I acknowledged in a later post that it had been rather clumsily phrased) was that all things being equal I would prefer to vote for someone who did. Clearly if the choice had been between Neil Kinnock, who doesn't believe in God, and Osama bin Laden, who does, I would have voted for Neil.

Joe Otten said...


Would you say that a muslim, or a jew, or a buddhist, or a wiccan, is a "lesser politician"?

Gareth said...

Even if Paul did think a muslim, or a jew, or a buddhist, or a wiccan, was a "lesser politician" then so what?

The reasoning that colours monotheist religions is the 'I'm right, you're wrong' philosophy. Remove that right to act like chosen people, righteous (and self-righteous) people, and organised religion wouldn't hold much attraction for a lot of people; they'd just stay at home and reflect on their creator and judgement day in private.

As an agnostic I think they're all highly implausible and I wouldn't vote for any fanatical believer - and I would include fanatical non-believers in that.

Davide Simonetti said...

The Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be taking a sensible stance on this:

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, told Five Live later: "It matters less to me than to know that they [politicians] are honest and reliable and that what beliefs they have they hold sincerely. "This isn't a country where Christianity is imposed by law ... obviously, I would prefer it if he were a Christian but you know, his integrity is what matters."

Anonymous said...

Doesn't all this come down to the nature of profession and denial?

We can usually rely on a denial of belief to be accurate: "I don't believe in that" leaves no room for argument.

But when someone declares a particular faith, all manner of questions can be asked, because the basic names of the world's religions mean different things to different people.

So I say let's have more examination of just what politicians mean when they identify themselves as believers. We expect to see them quizzed on their social ideals and their economic competence; shouldn't we get them to declare exactly what standards they require of themselves in accordance with their declared beliefs?

I trust that Paul's forthcoming blog piece will address such issues - for example, someone who sincerely believes that s/he should not bear false witness might well be a more trustworthy politician than another who merely claimed to be a Christian in the hope that this might lead voters to expect honest and decent conduct.

But, once again, it all comes down to whether we believe what we're told.

Which is, I think, where I came in.

Anonymous said...

Concerning Clegg's non-belief in God, I think the important issue is how this relates to and influences his liberalism, which is his declared credo. Just as openly Christian politicians should be expected to explain how their faith affects their personal lives and public decisions, so it would be reasonable to expect Clegg to outline at some point how his non-belief affects his ethics, and personal and political choices.

In particular, his non-belief - or, if it is of the more firmly held, definite and atheistic variety, unbelief - is likely to mean that his Liberalism (capital L) also equates to liberalism (small l). Such a social and moral liberalism seems to be implicit in Clegg's declaration, in his leadership acceptance speech the other day, that he wanted to transform Britain into a more liberal nation: more in keeping with the modern (secular-liberal) world, and people's actual values and aspirations. As a Christian myself, I would feel uneasy about a UK PM being, for instance, both an atheist and social-moral liberal, as this would be likely to result in things like even less legal protection for unborn human life, erosion of society's support for traditional marriage and families (although I've blogged in favour of gay marriage and families) and further undermining of the official and symbolic status of England as a Christian country - whether or not all English people consider themselves to be Christian, which they clearly do not.

Similarly, a Liberal who is also a liberal is much more likely to support closer integration with the EU, which is the main vehicle through which the liberal political and social project is being pursued in Europe. Clegg is, as we know, a dedicated Europhile. Is he also in favour of a federal European super-state, which would be built on his secular-liberal principles? Such a position would certainly be consistent with his apparent support for regional, rather than national, governance for England: the denial of England's aspirations to distinct nationhood being key to promoting the full integration of the UK into an ever more federal EU.

Charlie Marks said...

I don't believe that Clegg is an atheist. How can he prove it?

Joking aside, I don't think it important if you believe in God or not. I doubt God loses much sleep over it - If I was God, I'd be pleased that someone like Clegg had no faith in me...