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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Expressions of sympathy for terror's victims may seem banal, but it's better than the alternative

Angry calls for "something to be done" play into terrorists' hands.

No sooner had we heard of the dreadful Manchester Arena bombing and before either the identity of the bomber or the number of dead were known, cries of “something must be done” echoed across social media and the airwaves. Katie Hopkins, the Mail Online columnist, called for “a final solution”, a tweet that was rapidly deleted, presumably after she remembered (or somebody explained to her) its connotations. The Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson wanted “a State of Emergency as France has” and “internment of thousands of terror suspects”, apparently unaware that the Nice attack, killing 86, happened after that emergency was declared and that nobody has been interned anyway.

It cannot be said too often that such responses play into terrorists’ hands, particularly if Isis was behind the Manchester bombing. The group’s aim is to convince Muslims in the West that they and their families cannot live in peace with the in-fidel and will be safe only if they join the group in establishing a caliphate. Journalists, striving for effect, often want to go beyond ­banal expressions of sympathy for ­victims. (It’s a mistake I, too, have sometimes made.) But occasionally the banal is the appropriate response.

Pity begins at home

Mark Twain, writing about the “terror” that followed the French Revolution and brought “the horror of swift death”, observed that there was another, older and more widespread, terror that brought “lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty and heartbreak”. The first, he wrote, we had been “diligently taught to shiver and mourn over”; the other we had never learned to see “in its vastness or pity as it deserves”.

That is true: more children across the world die each day from hunger or disease than could ever be killed in a terror attack. We should not forget them. Nor should we forget that the numbers killed in terrorist attacks in, for example, Baghdad far outnumber those killed in all European attacks of our times combined. In an age of globalisation, we should be more cosmopolitan in our sympathies but the immediacy of 24-hour news make us less so.

When all is said and done, however, pity, like charity, begins at home. We naturally grieve most over those with whom we share a country and a way of life. Most of us have been to concerts and some readers will have been to one at the Manchester Arena. We or our children could have been present.

Cheers from Highgate Cemetery

What a shame that Theresa May modified the Tory manifesto’s proposals on social care. For a few giddy days, she was proposing the most steeply progressive (or confiscatory, as the Tories would normally say) tax in history. True, it was only for those unfortunate enough to suffer conditions such as dementia, but the principle is what counts. It would have started at zero for those with assets of less than £100,000, 20 per cent for those with £120,000, 50 per cent for those worth £200,000, 99 per cent with those with £10m and so on, ad infinitum. Karl Marx would have been cheering from Highgate Cemetery.

Given that most people’s main asset – the value of their home – did not have to be sold to meet their care costs until death, this was in effect an inheritance tax. It had tantalising implications: to secure their inheritance, children of the rich would have had to care for their parents, possibly sacrificing careers and risking downward mobility, while the children of the poor could have dedicated themselves to seeking upward mobility.

The Tories historically favour, in John Major’s words, wealth cascading down the generations. In recent years they have all but abolished inheritance tax. Now they have unwittingly (or perhaps wittingly, who knows?) conceded that what they previously branded a “death tax” has some legitimacy. Labour, which proposes a National Care Service but optimistically expects “cross-party consensus” on how to finance it, should now offer the clarity about old age that many voters crave. Inheritance tax should be earmarked for the care service, which would be free at the point of use, and it should be levied on all estates worth (say) £100,000 at progressive rates (not rising above even 50 per cent, never mind 99 per cent) that yield sufficient money to fund it adequately.

Paul Dacre’s new darling

Paul Dacre, the Daily Mail editor, is in love again. “At last, a PM not afraid to be honest with you,” proclaimed the paper’s front page on Theresa May’s manifesto. Though the Mail has previously argued that to make old people use housing wealth to fund care is comparable to the slaughter of the first-born, an editorial said that her honesty was exemplified by the social care proposals.

On the morning of the very day that May U-turned, the Mail columnist Dominic Lawson offered a convoluted defence of the failure to cap what people might pay. Next day, with a cap announced, the Mail hailed “a PM who’s listening”.

Dacre was previously in love with Gordon Brown, though not to the extent of recommending a vote for him. What do Brown and May have in common? Patriotism, moral values, awkward social manners, lack of metropolitan glitz and, perhaps above all, no evident sense of humour. Those are the qualities that win Paul Dacre’s heart.

Sobering up

Much excitement in the Wilby household about opinion polls that show Labour reducing the Tories’ enormous lead to, according to YouGov, “only” 9 percentage points. I find myself babbling about ­“Labour’s lead”. “What are you talking about?” my wife asks. When I come to my senses, I realise that my pleasure at the prospect, after seven years of Tory austerity, of limiting the Tories’ majority to 46 – more than Margaret Thatcher got in 1979 – is a measure of my sadly diminished expectations. l

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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