It’s time for Christians to speak out against the Conservative Party, not just Boris Johnson

In an article for the Guardian, the ‘recovering journalist’ and Church of England priest George Pitcher has rightly attacked Boris Johnson, pointing out his many character flaws.  Johnson, says Pitcher, is ‘a serial liar, philanderer and shirker’, ‘spendthrift, ‘incompetent beyond belief’, ‘a provocateur of racism and hate crime’.  Pitcher is quite obviously right, yet, the point of his column is less to highlight these obvious truths than to stir at least a little reaction from the Church.  Again, Pitcher is right: the silence from the Church of England’s hierarchy is somewhat deafening from where I’m standing, and Christians, especially high-profile figures like the Archbishop of Canterbury, must speak out against Johnson.

But Pitcher’s article also hints at the fact that the Church is, perhaps unwittingly, complicit in the perpetuation of the kind of rhetoric that has made Boris Johnson the frontrunner to be Prime Minister (there’s a phrase I hoped I’d never say).  Pitcher laments, with understanding, that ‘some of us in the Church of England aren’t standing up to be counted among those who might think Johnson’ isn’t fit to be the next Conservative Prime Minister.  The problem is this: nobody is.  Not Boris Johnson, not Jeremy Hunt, and not Theresa May.  And not because none could ever measure up to previous Conservative Prime Ministers.  Precisely the opposite, in fact. 

Being outwardly prejudiced is wrong and stokes all the worst kinds of belief and behaviour.  Johnson, Hunt, and May all know that very well.  What’s worse, though, is enacting policies based on prejudice which target the most vulnerable in society.  That kind of action does all the work of Johnson’s racism and more, it just does it under the radar.  By this measure, Theresa May is just as culpable as Boris Johnson, and just as culpable as every Tory Prime Minister before her.  Boris Johnson may be racist, but Theresa May has consistently enacted racist policies.  Boris Johnson may be homophobic, but Theresa May is quite willing to throw LGBTQ+ people under the bus for political gain.  Boris Johnson may have lied about NHS funding, but Theresa May has overseen cuts that destroyed the lives of countless disabled people.

Whilst it’s probably true that Theresa May doesn’t personally have anything against BAME, LGBTQ+, or disabled people, all the evidence suggests that she simply doesn’t care.  She, like many Conservative Prime Ministers before her, will attack the most vulnerable people in society if it wins her some votes.  Pitcher contrasts May with Johnson, saying that ‘even her critics wouldn’t deny that she had a sense of public duty’, yet, I and many like me, find that hard to believe.

The point, of course, is not that May is worse than Johnson – if and when he gets in, he will undoubtedly do much the same, if not worse – but there are fundamental tenets of Conservative ideology that do irreparable damage to real people no matter who gets the keys to Number Ten: paternalism, economic growth, and rampant individualism to name a few.  This is why it can hardly be argued that Jeremy Hunt, a man who co-authored a book claiming the NHS should be replaced with private insurance, would be a good prime minister.  As one of the richest MPs, it’s not hard to see where his allegiances lie, particularly when one looks at his record of NHS privatisation as health secretary.  No, whether it’s Theresa May, Boris Johnson, or Jeremy Hunt, a Conservative prime minister will always be ideologically committed to bringing devastation so that they and their rich friends can peck at the flesh of our communities like corpulent vultures.  Claiming, as Pitcher does, that the Church ‘surely ought to be apolitical’, is part of what has driven society to the point of such desperation that despots such as Trump and now, potentially, Johnson start to look like an option.  

This bears little resemblance to the gospels.  Jesus was undeniably, unwaveringly, unambiguously political.  So was the movement that followed him.  But liberal democracy has taught us that politics is only that which happens in Westminster and at the ballot box (Tory leadership contests notwithstanding), rather than something which pertains to all of our social relationships, institutions and organisation(s).  Liberalism trains us to see it as the default, the de facto, the only way, rather than what it is: just another ideology amongst many vying for supremacy.  If the Church wants to follow Jesus’ example, it needs to realise the importance of ideology, and it needs to realise that it is not, nor can it ever be, apolitical.  Perhaps then, more in the Church would be willing to speak out against liars like Boris Johnson, as well as the indefensible social damage inflicted upon our society by the Conservative Party.

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