St Paul was really a pinko-liberal

Are we wrong to think that St Paul was a misogynist?

Reverend Mark Oden, the Church of England curate who called for women to be "submissive" to their husbands, may find he has a challenge from an unlikely quarter.

The injunction he quoted is from St Paul, in his Letter to the Colossians. It is one of the reasons why the apostle is widely considered to be the originator of all that is repressive and misogynistic in Christian teaching (not to say an MCP, as the old feminist terminology would put it).

But in a forthcoming episode of Channel 4's excellent series The Bible: a History, the historian and regular New Statesman contributor Tom Holland will argue precisely the opposite. Tom, who will be taking part in a talk at the British Library on 3 March with other presenters from the series, tells me that we have it all wrong on St Paul.

Apparently we should consider him to be the father of liberalism and equal rights.

I can't say any more for the moment, but I do think that Tom's programme will be one of the more compelling -- and provocative -- in the series. Certainly something for Oden, who made those decidedly odd remarks in a St Valentine's Day sermon, to consider . . .

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Sholto Byrnes is a Contributing Editor to the New Statesman
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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.