Search

Newham councillor calls PM’s Christian country claim ‘dog whistle politics’

13:12 19 May 2014

Newham councillor for Canning Town North Clive Furness

Newham councillor for Canning Town North Clive Furness

submitted

A Newham councillor and Christian activist has accused the Prime Minister of “dog whistle politics” in his claim that Britain is a Christian country.

Prime Minister David CameronPrime Minister David Cameron

Cllr Clive Furness, who represents Canning Town North for Labour, said Britain has a 2,000-year Christian heritage but that our society as it is now was shaped largely by the Enlightenment.

He said: “At one level Mr Cameron is engaging in dog whistle politics. The problem with his assertion is that it is only partial in its truth and it is coded in its desire to assert a religious hegemony.

“Many, I would go so far as to suggest most, of the freedoms we enjoy in Europe and North America owe more to the major cultural and intellectual changes of the 18th century than to the religious beliefs that they displaced.

“One might also, with a fair degree of accuracy, assert that when ‘Christians’ or rather particular ‘Christians’ were in power, freedom was diminished and persecution increased.

“This was true whether the ‘Christians’ concerned were Catholic or Protestant and it was true across the European continent.”

Cllr Furness, who is chair of Christians on the Left in Newham, and secretary of a Baptist church in Plaistow, continued: “The other problem with Mr Cameron’s assertion is that it is less and less true that as a population we are ‘Christians’.

“Between 2001 and 2011, those defining themselves as Christian in the census fell from the low 70s to just over 50 per cent.

“If one looks at those who attend a service of Christian worship once a month or more, the number of people who participate in this act central to their belief might be as low as 15 per cent.”

He added: “If asked I suspect that both Mr Cameron and myself would say that we wished Britain to be more Christian.

“The trouble is that he and I might interpret what that means in entirely different ways.”

Debate has raged since Mr Cameron’s call for Christians to be “evangelical” in their faith and receive more support from the government.

Last week, the Rev Julian Meek, of Stratford Unitarian and Free Church in West Ham Lane, said Britain was technically Christian but that truth and wisdom come in many forms.

What do you think? Email adam.barnett@archant.co.uk.

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 08:00
Bollywood Brass Band

Head East to enjoy a weekend filled with music, dance, theatre, and various circus performances at an upcoming festival.

Elizabeth Olympic Park
Fri, 16:30
Reporter Mark Shales in Beijing

Reporter Mark Shales is in China on a tour of facilities operated by ABP, the company that are developing a business district in Newham’s Royal Albert Dock. Here he blogs for the first time about his experience overseas...

China
Fri, 15:23
Police at the scene in Eversleigh road

Neighbours have expressed their “shock” and “sadness” following the death of a woman in East Ham.

London police
Fri, 14:39
Salisbury summer school team (l-r) Mohammad Moulvi, Yvonne Ackuaku and Aneesa Raja

Summer holidays are upon us and school staff and students are looking forward to a well deserved break.

Most read news

Competitions

Get your hands on some fresh trainers!

Need some new shoes to head to work or some new heels for a night on the cobbles? London24 has teamed up with online retailer Sole Trader to offer £100 worth of shoes to one lucky reader.

Read more
Take in the stunning sites of London from the summit of the O2!

Up at The O2 has teamed up with London24 to give one lucky reader the chance to experience urban mountaineering this summer with an exhilarating 90-minute climb across the roof of one of London’s most iconic landmarks.

Read more

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Newham Recorder e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder