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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 November 2007, 19:15 GMT
Blair 'nutter' fear angers bishop
Tony Blair
Mr Blair said politicians who talk about religion "get into trouble"
A bishop has criticised Tony Blair after he said he avoided talking about his religious views while premier because he feared the "nutter" label.

The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, said he was "sorry" the former prime minister felt unable to talk about his faith.

It would have led to more constructive social policy at home and principled policies abroad, the bishop said.

Mr Blair's admission comes in the final episode of BBC One's The Blair Years.

During the interview, Mr Blair said faith was a crucial component for him in having the character to take on the prime minister's job and had been "hugely important" to his premiership.

Bishop Nazir-Ali
A Christian vision underlies all that is important about Britain: its laws, institutions and values
Bishop of Rochester

But while it was commonplace in the US and elsewhere for politicians to talk about their religious convictions, he added: "you talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you're a nutter".

British voters imagined that leaders who were informed by religion would "commune with the man upstairs and then come back and say 'Right, I've been told the answer and that's it'".

Bishop Nazir-Ali said: "I am sorry that Tony Blair feels he could not talk about his faith in case people thought he was a nutter.

"A Christian vision underlies all that is important about Britain: its laws, institutions and values.

"If Blair had been able to relate this vision to his policies, we would have had more constructive social policy at home and principled policies abroad."

Mr Blair's ex-spokesman Alastair Campbell famously warned reporters: "We don't do God."

He acknowledged to the programme that his former boss "does do God in quite a big way", but that both men feared the public would be wary.

Mr Campbell added that the former PM always asked his aides to find him a church to attend each Sunday, wherever he happened to be.

  • The Blair Years will be screened on BBC One at 2215 GMT on 25 November. The episode in which Mr Blair discusses his faith will be broadcast on Sunday 2 December.

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