Christianity and the Labour leadership

. . . And what the biblical Sermon on the Mount tells us about modern politics.

There is an interesting write-up here of the Labour leadership hustings hosted by the Christian Socialist movement, at which each of the candidates had the opportunity to air their values.

It was an important debate, given that -- despite leftist Christians from Keir Hardy to William Beveridge to Stafford Cripps and so many more -- the right likes to claim ownership of this faith. Harold Wilson may have said that the Labour movement owes more to Methodism than Marx, but it is often said that the Church of England is the Tory party at prayer.

So, from the report:

David Miliband explained, "I'm not a religious person but actually I'm a person of faith. I have faith in people." He said the Labour Party can learn from Jesus's Sermon on the Mount and stressed the importance of the "notion of right relationship".

His brother Ed Miliband likewise said he had learned "not a religious faith but a simple faith", that "if you saw an injustice then you had to do something about it". Criticising the language of the Blair-Brown era, he said, "We need to reclaim those words -- love, compassion, caring."

Andy Burnham, a Roman Catholic, emphasised the Christian origins of his politics, insisting several times that "the basic tenets of the Labour Party and socialism are one and the same [as] those of Christianity". He said that Labour had recently "lost its way" in relations with the churches, but that both sides shared the blame for this and needed to rebuild their relationship.

Ed Balls spoke of his positive early memories of his parents' Anglican church and said his father's commitment to Labour had grown out of Christianity. He added that Labour needs to "talk more about values".

Diane Abbott emphasised the values with which she had been brought up, saying, "We could do worse, as we go forward as a Labour movement, than return to those values of faith, community and family."

All interesting answers. Perhaps the one that needs expanding on is David Miliband's, for the Sermon on the Mount is indeed an amazing guide to what Jesus Christ's values might have been in politics: values that would be difficult to describe as "right wing".

Here are the Beatitudes from it, from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5.

1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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If there’s no booze or naked women, what’s the point of being a footballer?

Peter Crouch came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

At a professional league ground near you, the following conversation will be taking place. After an excellent morning training session, in which the players all worked hard, and didn’t wind up the assistant coach they all hate, or cut the crotch out of the new trousers belonging to the reserve goalie, the captain or some senior player will go into the manager’s office.

“Hi, gaffer. Just thought I’d let you know that we’ve booked the Salvation Hall. They’ll leave the table-tennis tables in place, so we’ll probably have a few games, as it’s the players’ Christmas party, OK?”

“FECKING CHRISTMAS PARTY!? I TOLD YOU NO CHRISTMAS PARTIES THIS YEAR. NOT AFTER LAST YEAR. GERROUT . . .”

So the captain has to cancel the booking – which was actually at the Salvation Go Go Gentlemen’s Club on the high street, plus the Saucy Sporty Strippers, who specialise in naked table tennis.

One of the attractions for youths, when they dream of being a footballer or a pop star, is not just imagining themselves number one in the Prem or number one in the hit parade, but all the girls who’ll be clambering for them. Young, thrusting politicians have similar fantasies. Alas, it doesn’t always work out.

Today, we have all these foreign managers and foreign players coming here, not pinching our women (they’re too busy for that), but bringing foreign customs about diet and drink and no sex at half-time. Rotters, ruining the simple pleasures of our brave British lads which they’ve enjoyed for over a century.

The tabloids recently went all pious when poor old Wayne Rooney was seen standing around drinking till the early hours at the England team hotel after their win over Scotland. He’d apparently been invited to a wedding that happened to be going on there. What I can’t understand is: why join a wedding party for total strangers? Nothing more boring than someone else’s wedding. Why didn’t he stay in the bar and get smashed?

Even odder was the behaviour of two other England stars, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. They made a 220-mile round trip from their hotel in Hertfordshire to visit a strip club, For Your Eyes Only, in Bournemouth. Bournemouth! Don’t they have naked women in Herts? I thought one of the points of having all these millions – and a vast office staff employed by your agent – is that anything you want gets fixed for you. Why couldn’t dancing girls have been shuttled into another hotel down the road? Or even to the lads’ own hotel, dressed as French maids?

In the years when I travelled with the Spurs team, it was quite common in provincial towns, after a Saturday game, for players to pick up girls at a local club and share them out.

Like top pop stars, top clubs have fixers who can sort out most problems, and pleasures, as well as smart solicitors and willing police superintendents to clear up the mess afterwards.

The England players had a night off, so they weren’t breaking any rules, even though they were going to play Spain 48 hours later. It sounds like off-the-cuff, spontaneous, home-made fun. In Wayne’s case, he probably thought he was doing good, being approachable, as England captain.

Quite why the other two went to Bournemouth was eventually revealed by one of the tabloids. It is Lallana’s home town. He obviously said to Jordan Henderson, “Hey Hendo, I know a cool club. They always look after me. Quick, jump into my Bentley . . .”

They spent only two hours at the club. Henderson drank water. Lallana had a beer. Don’t call that much of a night out.

In the days of Jimmy Greaves, Tony Adams, Roy Keane, or Gazza in his pomp, they’d have been paralytic. It was common for players to arrive for training still drunk, not having been to bed.

Peter Crouch, the former England player, 6ft 7in, now on the fringes at Stoke, came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage