“We don’t do God,” Tony Blair’s director of strategy and communications Alastair Campbell famously said in 1996, an effort to prevent the then-prime minister discussing his faith in public. It was good advice.
Britain was and remains not only a secular country, but a rightly cynical place, scarred by religion’s divisive blade throughout history, most recently by the violence of Christian sectarianism in Northern Ireland and the radicalised British Islamists swayed by a Wahhabi cult preached online.
In the U.S., religion and politics have long been in lock step, prevailing opinion suggesting candidates for office must prostrate themselves before the Almighty’s earthly representatives to get ahead.
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 chipped away at that presumption, the billionaire businessman proving that when it came to the support of white Christians, appealing to their whiteness could circumvent having to appeal to their faith. Race before religion, as it were.
Yet the disastrous election of British Conservative leader Theresa May this week has brought American-style faith infused politics to the centre of British power. The use of the Democratic Unionist Party as a buttress for a minority government currently balancing on three legs means May will be in debt to a group of radical protestants with links to terrorism, whose views wouldn’t look out of place on the 700 Club.
Same-sex marriage is illegal in Northern Ireland thanks mainly to the efforts of the DUP whose faith demands they intervene in the prospective happiness of people they don’t know and have never met.
Likewise, abortion rights have been deliberately hobbled, forcing countless numbers of young, scared and vulnerable women to leave the country to receive medical help.
Moreover, the DUP counts legions of creationists amongst its cohort, with some 40% of the membership believing children’s education should be deliberately stultified by the teaching of superstition in science class.
And like the U.S. Republican Party, the DUP embraces climate change denial, appointing a sceptic to the role of environment minister in 2008. After all, melting ice caps and the likely future starvation of millions of people is all part of God’s celestial blueprint.
This is who May is now in bed with. She has signed up to a short-term toxic deal that will not only further ostracize the young, liberal generation which the Tories are already hemorrhaging, but also progressive members of her own party, not least the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, a woman who single-handedly revived the Tories north of the border and whose reward for that feat is to find herself now sharing power with people who think her partnership with another woman is an abomination.
And this says nothing of the politically disastrous ramifications of giving succour to just one of the parties in Northern Ireland, with the potential to disrupt the sensitive balance between the DUP unionists and the nationalists of Sinn Féin.
The British parliamentary system gives May an absolute right to try and form a government with whichever party she can. And politicians holding personal ambition over the good of the country is commonplace. Yet surely May knows that engaging with the DUP is too high a price to pay?
Fortunately, she is surrounded by equally ruthless vessels of personal advancement, who are already circling the prime minister with the stench of blood. Likely she’ll be taken down soon by a member of her own cabinet.
After two general elections, a referendum and an independence campaign in recent years, no one in the UK wants another national vote. Yet a rerun in Autumn will be welcome if it means people such as the DUP are quickly dispatched back to the dark, unthinking fringes where they rightly belong.