[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 4 March 2006, 11:54 GMT
Bringing God into politics
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News Website

Tony Blair's spin chief Alastair Campbell famously declared "we don't do God".

And the prime minister got very cross with Jeremy Paxman when he asked if he prayed with George Bush.

Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair
Alastair Campbell had urged Blair to keep God out of politics

Meanwhile the US President attracted serious criticism when he suggested God told him to "end the tyranny" in Iraq.

So it must come as no surprise to Tony Blair that his remarks - made on ITV1's Parkinson programme - about being judged by God for his actions in Iraq have sparked a storm of protest.

It raises the prospect of inflaming Arab opinion which often links Christian western leaders with suggestions of a "crusade" - a charge already levelled at President Bush.

Others have asked how a Christian can defend war and sending soldiers and civilians to their death.

It has already seen some pointing out that, for elected politicians, the British people have a role in delivering judgements.

Personal belief

And it has raised a very old and very thorny question over the role of religion in politics.

Supporters, such as MP Steven Pound, have pointed out the prime minister is no longer facing election and was simply telling the truth about his personal beliefs.

The other side of that coin is the suggestion from others that the prime minister did not "do God" previously because he feared it might damage him in the polls.

Mr Blair's faith has never been a secret, indeed there have long been suggestions that he may have pursued a career in the church as easily as in politics.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair's comments came on ITV1's Parkinson chat show

And his passion for ending poverty in Africa is regularly seen as an example of his faith at work.

But the British people have long appeared cautious, if not downright suspicious, of politicians who claim to be motivated by faith.

Clearly many will insist this is nobody's business but the prime minister's and that there are many positives for a leader who has a moral code.

But it is surprising that Mr Blair has chosen to raise the issue at this point in his prime ministerial career.

These are now questions that it will be difficult for the prime minister to avoid answering in future.

Having volunteered the information during his Parkinson interview, it will be extremely difficult for him ever again to declare: "We don't do God".

PM attacked on Iraq 'God' remarks
04 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
Alastair Campbell in quotes
29 Aug 03 |  UK Politics

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific