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Page last updated at 14:32 GMT, Friday, 26 November 2010
One politician who does 'do God'
Helen Goodman MP
Helen Goodman sees no conflict between her faith and her politics

When the media began asking too many questions about Tony Blair's faith, Alistair Campbell famously said, "We don't do God".

It may have been a one-off remark by the PM's special adviser, but the fact it stuck, speaks about the relationship between politics and faith.

While US politics almost demands a candidate talks about faith, most British politicians steer well clear.

One who doesn't is Bishop Auckland MP, Helen Goodman.

"Obviously there's a strong social Gospel in the Christian faith and that influenced me in joining the Labour Party and being on the left.

"I think one of the really important things about having a faith is that it reminds you that there is always a person at the end of every decision and that it isn't just about systems and structures."

So is it really such a tactical error for a politician to talk about their faith?

While religious tensions are still present in many of Britain's communities, the days when the wrong religion can get you burned at the stake are long gone.

One last question...

Even the man who uttered the words, 'We don't do God' has tried to give them a more qualified context, the phrase has followed Alastair Campbell around to the extent he recently wrote on his blog:

"For the umpteenth time... 'we don't do God' was not a major strategic statement, but an attempt to bring to an end an interview in which an American journalist was asking 'one final question' after 'one final question' and 'finally, finally' asked TB about his faith."

There is certainly some irony to the fact that America, which separates Church and State at a constitutional level, mixes the two so strongly in practise.

At the same time in Britain, where the head of state is also head of the Church of England and where senior Bishops get seats in Parliament, many believe talking about religion is political suicide.

Presently, the Anglican archbishops of Canterbury and York, the bishops of Durham, London and Winchester and the 21 senior diocesan bishops of the Church of England have seats in the House of Lords.


Helen Goodman MP is a proud member of the Christian Socialist Movement, but still believes that Britain has a better balance between faith and politics:

"I think it stems from the fact that we have an established church, so it's like the backdrop to a lot of what we do and it's an assumption and you don't need to express it.

"Of course, in my community a lot of people are Methodists and that is a sort of assumption, so it motivates what people do, it brings them together in groups that can be quite active on political issues, such as overseas aid and climate change and things like that.

"But I don't think people in this country particularly want to feel they're being preached at, and particularly not by politicians."

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