Atheist in memory lapse and slavery shock

A riposte to the "smear tactics" used against the evolutionary biologist

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Following Richard Dawkins's Today programme exchange with Giles Fraser over the New Testament and Darwin's On the Origin of Species, the evolutionary biologist and former New Statesman guest editor addresses the "smear tactics" used against him over the past week, first of which was the former canon chancellor's attempt on radio:

Far from being a real gotcha, Fraser's diversionary tactic can only be seen as a measure of desperation, designed to conceal the embarrassing ignorance of their holy book shown by 64 per cent of Census Christians [people who self-identified in the 2001 census as "Christian"]. In any case Darwin's Origin, I hope I don't have to add, is nobody's holy book.

In the cover story of this week's magazine, available in shops tomorrow, Dawkins also presents the results of a large-scale Ipsos MORI poll into Britain's relationship with Christianity. Among initial findings such as that the percentage of the population which describes itself as Christian has dropped from 72 to 54 per cent, Dawkins reports that:

"I try to be a good person" came top of the list of "what being a Christian means to you", but mark the sequel. When the Census Christians were asked explicitly, "When it comes to right and wrong, which of the following, if any, do you most look to for guidance?"only 10 per cent chose "Religious teachings and beliefs". Fifty-four per cent chose "My own inner moral sense" and a quarter chose "Parents, family or friends". Those would be my own top two and, I suspect, yours, too.

Dawkins states that these facts - not negotiable opinions - cannot be changed by smears and irrelevant digressions:

In modern Britain, not even Christians put Christianity anywhere near the heart of their lives, and they don't want it put at the heart of public life either. David Cameron and Baroness Warsi, please take note.

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Buy a copy of this week's New Statesman, The God Wars, here

Jeremy Corbyn applauds as he speaks at a rally for supporters at the Hilton at the Ageas Bowl on August 25, 2015 in Southampton. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Why publishing the Labour leadership result will help, not hurt, Corbyn

The Labour leadership candidate is expected to win among all three sections - his mandate will be even greater. 

When Ed Miliband was elected Labour leader in 2010, the party published a full breakdown of the result. Though admirably transparent, this act revealed that he owed his position to the support of affiliated trade unionists - party members and MPs had not voted for him (preferring his brother). This incomplete victory dogged Miliband throughout his leadership, being used against him by internal and external foes. 

To avoid its new leader incurring this fate, Labour ruled that the result would not this time be published. But last night, the party's procedures committee backtracked and agreed to release a breakdown of how party members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters voted. It was allies of Jeremy Corbyn who were originally most hostile to the result's publication, and his opponents who were most in favour. Some of the latter hoped that a result which showed that the left-winger had failed to win among all sections would weaken his legitimacy and make it easier to subsequently oust him. The irony is that far from weakening Corbyn's position, the breakdown will now likely strengthen it. The expectation of most in Labour is that he will win in all three sections - his mandate will be even clearer. 

One benefit of the result being published, as LabourList's Conor Pope notes, is that it will be possible to determine who would have won under the old leadership system, which saw MPs, party members and affiliated supporters each granted a third of the vote. The likely would-be victor is Andy Burnham, who enjoys the greatest support at Westminster. But when I asked Burnham whether he regretted the introduction of the new system, he insisted not. 

"This in the end should be a matter for the ordinary members, I think that is a positive change since the last leadership election. I remember feeling very aggrieved last time that Westminster could almost stitch-up the contest. This new set of rules, to Ed’s credit, puts power in the hands of the members and I’ve really sensed how it’s given the members a much stronger voice in the contest and I think that’s the right thing ...The role of Westminster in this contest has been diminished and I think that’s a good thing."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.