Faith Minister: why it's right to scrap

by - 13th August 2015


And so with very little notice being taken, a Constitutional experiment unprecedented in Britain’s history, has been quietly laid to rest.  Or has it?

The post of Faith Minister, always unlikely especially when taken over by  Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles at the resignation of Baroness Warsi, has not been renewed by Pickles’ replacement, Greg Clarke.

Instead, a vague brief that includes ‘faith and integration’ has been passed to Baroness Williams, an under-secretary at the same department, no longer carrying Cabinet responsibility.

Premier Radio did well to nail government obfuscation about this in an ‘exclusive’ for its website.  We should not let constitutional innovations go unnoticed for they affect, some would say corrupt, the vital checks and balances of church and state.

From 2012 Lady Warsi tackled the post – for some an anomalous nod under the coalition government to multicultural well-meaning and to others a chance to harness or exploit religion’s unpredictable power – with creativity and gusto.

Indeed, she threatened to make it something of a fiefdom.

She spoke up loudly about the persecution of Christians, here and in Washington, hosting a summit to end it.

She was not afraid to use religious language.  ‘More often than not, people who do God do good’ she said.

And she made some brave speeches, defining, as a Muslim, the historic contribution of Christianity in British history, with generosity. 

Yet she also drew around her people, like the controversial Mudasser Ahmed, (see the Telegraph on him here and Lapido on him here) not all of the highest moral or spiritual probity, who were nonetheless mightily ambitious for their own take on religion.

And she used Britain’s handling of the Gaza crisis which she described as ‘morally indefensible’ as a point to make a resignation splash, having nonetheless sat happily through Britain’s equally indefensible role in destabilising Libya.

And that’s precisely the point.  Politicisation and cronyism have always been the risk that the doctrine of the separation of church and state ought to avert.

The government is right to be wary of a ‘Faith Minister’ even if it appears to be finding that the temptation to retain some government leverage, albeit reduced, is proving too hard to resist altogether.