hutch0 (hutch0) wrote,

god and nick clegg

I forgot to tell you, didn't I. The new leader of the Lib-Dems is Nick Clegg. The election was a close-run thing - Clegg won by about 500 votes - and I suspect what really swung it is that, at 40 compared with Chris Huhne's 53, he was the younger man, it being fashionable these days to have young leaders. Presumably in the not-too-distant future we'll have a situation like in Black Adder The Third, where the Prime Minister has to ask his housemaster at Eton for permission to appear in the House.
Clegg announced his new frontbench team a couple of days ago, and he left Vince Cable in the job he was doing before Ming resigned - ie Treasury spokesman and deputy leader. This is good news, because when Clegg's away we'll still be able to enjoy the sight of Vince standing in at PMQs and sticking it to Gordon.
Clegg has also said that he doesn't believe in God.
Now, as far as I'm concerned Nick Clegg's belief in God, or lack of it, is really none of my business, but what has surprised me is that it's provoked so much comment. Unlike the United States, not having a religious belief usually isn't much of an issue in politics here. If Hillary or Rudy suddenly announced they were faithless, that would pretty much mortally wound their campaigns, but here it doesn't seem to matter so much. I believe Neil Kinnock was an atheist, and it was never an issue, and according to Edwina Currie's diaries John Major once confessed to an agnosticism, although he kept it quiet.
Things do seem to be changing, though. I remember all the fuss a few years ago about Ruth Kelly's membership of Opus Dei, Gordon seems to have embraced the values of his clergyman father, and of course there was the long-running will-he-or-won't-he debate over Blair's intention to convert to Catholicism - which he has just done.
There's an episode in the last season of The West Wing which revolves around the religious beliefs of the Presidential candidates and how it's a real issue. Towards the end Alan Alda, who plays one of the candidates, goes to see Martin Sheen's President Bartlett and tells him that after the death of his wife he lost his faith. I can't understand how that episode ended, but it highlighted just how important religion is in American politics, in spite of the separation of Church and State, and I personally would feel rather uncomfortable if the same situation became the norm here.
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