What’s with the British Labour Party?

I like looking at British news sources like the Guardian and the BBC. Their contents seem much better than the appalling crap put out by the mass media here in the United States.

One benefit is the Guardian also regularly runs explicitly secularist and skeptical columns by the likes of Polly Toynbee, AC Grayling, and Susan Blackmore. (They even ran a column of mine once.)

Polly Toynbee’s latest is a good example, but it leaves me with a question. She points out that it is the Labour Party that is behind much of the recent push toward more public religiosity in very secular Britain:

The unctuous claim there is a special religious ethos that can be poured like a sauce over schools and public services to improve them morally has been bought, to a depressing extent, by Labour, and over a third of all state schools are now religious institutions – despite overwhelming evidence that their only unique quality is selection of better pupils, storing up trouble with ever more cultural segregation.

But why? That is, why Labour in particular?

Historically, you expect conservatives to be more religion-friendly, and liberal and left parties to be more wary of religion in public life. So, is this yet another way in which New Labour has really been a center-right party? Or is it more of an artifact of Tony Blair’s nauseating religiosity?

I don’t follow UK politics closely enough to know what’s happening. With any luck, someone will comment.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07521391745343783288 Geoff

    Why Labour? Because with “new Labour” it decided to supplement the traditional modus operandi of a political party by working to co-opt community groups of various kinds, particularly in immigrant communities. Pandering is presumed to be cheaper and more “inclusive” and “multicultural” than actually working to get people to join a political party. They also waned to outflank the Conservatives and neutralize any “natural” affiliation between Tries and the religious.

    None of this should be particularly surprising to an American audience. Why is it that Democrats bend over backwards to reach out to the religious, while Republicans never bother to do the same to the irreligious? Partly it’s because religious voters (in both countries) are more likely to be swayed by appeals to nebulous “values” while the secular are more likely to vote based on specific issues and policies.

    And politicians are no less cynical in the UK than they are in the US. Whatever works…..

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    Labour has traditionally been associated with left-leaning Christian Methodists, and other left-leaning Christians.

    Methodism and the Labour Party

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10778996187937943820 Taner Edis

    Thanks for the comments! Very interesting…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    Churches in the UK are almost always left-leaning.

    It is one reason why Britons who have never been to America struggle to understand ‘The Religious Right’ – it sounds like an oxymoron to us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06394155516712665665 CyberKitten

    What’s wrong with the British Labour Party?

    Probably the fact that they haven’t been a *Labour* Party for a very long time…….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00313901167560150641 snafu

    From a native himself…

    All comments above have some truth in them. Personally I reckon it’s because New Labour has an internalised belief that it’s (literally) all things to all men. It’s a short step from there to supporting some fuzzy faith-based moralising that encompasses all liberal religions, and the friendly side of conservative ones too.

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