In this week’s New Statesman: The new Power Christians

How God is taking over the city of London PLUS: After Woolwich – Mehdi Hasan and Daniel Trilling on how to tackle extremism on Britain’s streets

Cover Story: “God is the new CEO”

Our cover story this week is by the journalist and Anglican priest George Pitcher, who traces the rise of Justin Welby and sees a new kind of “Power Christian” attempting to reshape the City in ways conservative evangelicals now reaching retirement never would have dared. “Welby is about to shake up the management of the Church of England,” Pitcher writes. “[He] is part of a rich and powerful network that has the money and confidence to get things done.”

During the testosterone-fuelled boom years, Christian faith was about surviving in the City, but since 2008 and the revelation that it was all built on sand, Christians have been saying unequivocally that the gospel is non-negotiable, that working in commerce isn’t about surviving as a Christian but about transforming the way we do business, that Christianity is disruptive of systematic greed and corruption: that, in short, their work serves their faith and not the other way round. They are converting markets, not just people. These are the new Power Christians.

The Victorian model, in which philanthropic entrepreneurs made great sums of wealth and then gave chunks away to good causes, has passed. Nat Wei, the Conservative peer and member of the team that founded Teach First, and who, as a charismatic evangelical, is one of parliament’s more high-profile Christians, says:

We have to ask whether the redemptive work of Christ is just for people, or for organisations, too. The British model used to be that you came to church on Sunday, rather than equipped yourself to be a Christian wherever you were. Now people spend 60 to 80 hours a week in a workplace and they’re not always equipped for dealing with it through their faith. Sunday churches can be great, but sometimes they’re just cash cows to fund a ministry, or to fund the building. So the question being asked now is: ‘What is your business for?’

ELSEWHERE IN THE MAGAZINE

 

Mehdi Hasan: Extremists point to western foreign policy to explain their acts. Why do we ignore them?

Writing after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, Mehdi Hasan tackles “the inconvenient truth” our leaders are reluctant to address – that radicalised Muslim extremists usually site western foreign policy, not theology, as justification for committing horrendous crimes: “In the vexed discussion about extremism and radicalisation, foreign policy is the issue that dare not speak its name . . .”

Some in power have tentatively accepted the link – Hasan notes that Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former director of MI5, has said publicly that “our involvement in Iraq, for want of a better word, radicalised a whole generation of young people” and even Barack Obama has called the policy of keeping Guantanamo Bay open “a recruitment tool for extremists”.

Though Hasan asserts that “Nothing – no cause, no war, no grievance – justifies the murder of innocents” and concedes “it would be disingenuous of me to claim that foreign policy is the only factor driving radicalisation and extremism”, he argues the link cannot be ignored:

. . . establishment figures continue to denounce those of us who cite the radicalising role of foreign policy as (to quote the former US state department spokesman James Rubin) “excuse-makers” for al-Qaeda. To explain is not to excuse.

 

Daniel Trilling: EDL backlash comes to Downing Street

Daniel Trilling reports from a rally near Whitehall by the English Defence League, a movement whose “ideology sits on that fault line in our culture where Islamophobia has flourished”.

The murder in Woolwich has “breathed life” into a remobilised EDL, with thousands turning out at its demonstrations across the country. Despite a lingering distaste for the movement (Trilling cites a YouGov which found that 84 per cent would “never join” the group), it cannot be denied that growing anti-Islamic feelings are “shared by the public”. We should be wary of the consequences, Trilling writes:

But the EDL’s heavy symbolism – the St George’s flags, the militarism, the often-repeated claim that “there’s one law for us and another for them” – and their use of violence and intimidation to elbow their way into the national media, find a resonance well beyond [the movement’s] size. How long before a demagogue like Nigel Farage – whose own party is experienced at playing on Islamophobia when it suits – tells us to vote for him, to do something about Muslims who “won’t integrate”, in order to keep the EDL at bay? Farage has already made similar claims with regard to immigration and the BNP. How will mainstream politicians react if the disillusionment echoed by supporters of right-wing populist movements, whether they’re street-based or election-focused, continues to deepen?

Philip Hammond: The rise of the quiet man

Andrew Gimson profiles the Conservative Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, who has risen quietly and with “self-effacing efficiency” through the Tory ranks. Publicising his stance on the EU, gay marriage and welfare cuts, Hammond has positioned himself as “a genuine Tory” in opposition to the “Lib Dem-friendly” David Cameron. And, Gimson adds, quoting the Spectator, he may even “set himself up as leader of the Tory right”.

Undemonstrative but an unquestionably efficient manager and administrator, “He might be described as a Tory version of Alistair Darling, the magnificently competent, unexcitable and uninspiring Labour Party loyalist,” writes Gimson. “Except that No 10 thinks that Hammond has become less loyal.”

Read this piece in full on our website now.

PLUS

Rafael Behr: With a bit of Chutzpah, Miliband could rip the Tories in half over the EU. Does he dare?

The NS Essay: Our ash trees are dying but we should not despair: catastrophes are natural events in the life of trees, writes Richard Mabey

Laurie Penny: Bradley Manning’s case is about more than freedom of speech

Daniel Dennett: How language transforms our lives

Felix Martin: The economic lessons of Japan are the way forward

 

In The Critics this week:

Bryan Appleyard reviews two books about the dire state of our finances – When the Money Runs Out: the End of Western Affluence by Stephen D King and Broke: Who Killed the Middle Classes? by David Boyle. Both books, in very different ways, suggest that this bleak economic era is only just beginning. “The awful possibility is that the west as a whole has gone ex-growth and, as a result, we may have to change our entire way of life,” Appleyard writes. Money, he says, is a belief system, but the west as yet has no narrative to steer us back to recovery. “The hard truth may be that the crash marked the beginning of the end of the story of western success.”

PLUS

  • A (very) short story by Lydia Davis, winner of the 2013 Man Booker International Prize.
  • Julia Copus writes an essay in praise of Charlotte Mew, a poet much loved by Thomas Hardy but now mostly forgotten.
  • David Cesarani reviews FDR and the Jews by Richard Breitman and Allan J Lichtman.
  • Laurie Penny reviews David Graeber’s The Democracy Project: a History, a Crisis, a Movement. “The swagger and tendency to self-cite that might have made Graeber’s book unbearable are extremely useful, because a great deal of Occupy’s initial inarticulacy came from the unwillingness of any writer or temporary leader to ‘speak for the movement’.”
  • Leo Robson interviews Greg Bellow, son of Saul Bellow and the author of Saul Bellow’s Heart: a Son’s Memoir.
  • Patrick Diamond reviews The Socialist Way, edited by Roy Hattersley and Kevin Hickson.
  • Ryan Gilbey reviews Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra and The Comedian, directed by Tom Shkolnik.
  • Rachel Cooke reviews BBC4’s Up the Women.
  • Matt Trueman does the rounds of fringe theatre
  • A new poem, “Sisters”, by Grey Gowrie.

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Brexit is teaching the UK that it needs immigrants

Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past.

Why did the UK vote to leave the EU? For conservatives, Brexit was about regaining parliamentary sovereignty. For socialists it was about escaping the single market. For still more it was a chance to punish David Cameron and George Osborne. But supreme among the causes was the desire to reduce immigration.

For years, as the government repeatedly missed its target to limit net migration to "tens of thousands", the EU provided a convenient scapegoat. The free movement of people allegedly made this ambition unachievable (even as non-European migration oustripped that from the continent). When Cameron, the author of the target, was later forced to argue that the price of leaving the EU was nevertheless too great, voters were unsurprisingly unconvinced.

But though the Leave campaign vowed to gain "control" of immigration, it was careful never to set a formal target. As many of its senior figures knew, reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year would come at an economic price (immigrants make a net fiscal contribution of £7bn a year). An OBR study found that with zero net migration, public sector debt would rise to 145 per cent of GDP by 2062-63, while with high net migration it would fall to 73 per cent. For the UK, with its poor productivity and sub-par infrastructure, immigration has long been an economic boon. 

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, some cabinet members hoped that she would abolish the net migration target in a "Nixon goes to China" moment. But rather than retreating, the former Home Secretary doubled down. She regards the target as essential on both political and policy grounds (and has rejected pleas to exempt foreign students). But though the same goal endures, Brexit is forcing ministers to reveal a rarely spoken truth: Britain needs immigrants.

Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. On last night's Question Time, Brexit secretary David Davis conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall following Brexit. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants."

Though Davis insisted that the government would eventually meet its "tens of thousands" target (while sounding rather unconvinced), he added: "The simple truth is that we have to manage this problem. You’ve got industry dependent on migrants. You’ve got social welfare, the national health service. You have to make sure they continue to work."

As my colleague Julia Rampen has charted, Davis's colleagues have inserted similar caveats. Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary, who warned during the referendum that EU immigration could “overwhelm” Britain, has told farmers that she recognises “how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses”. Others, such as the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, have issued similar guarantees to employers. Brexit is fuelling immigration nimbyism: “Fewer migrants, please, but not in my sector.”

The UK’s vote to leave the EU – and May’s decision to pursue a "hard Brexit" – has deprived the government of a convenient alibi for high immigration. Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past. Brexit may have been caused by the supposed costs of immigration but it is becoming an education in its benefits.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.