David Couchman
David Couchman is the Director of Focus and the producer of the 'God: new evidence,' 'God and the Big Bang,' 'After Life?' and 'Jesus Myths' video series. More...

Digital Evangelism blog

Spin doctor Alistair Campbell silences Tony Blair: 'We don't do God'

In a recent interview for Vanity Fair magazine, reporter David Margolick asked Prime Minister Tony Blair about his Christian faith. In a remarkable demonstration of the power of unelected media manipulators, chief spin-doctor Alistair Campbell interrupted the Prime Minister's reply to say 'I'm sorry, we don't do God.'

An editorial in the London Daily Telegraph on Monday 5th May 2003 wryly comments:

One could write a book about everything that this little intervention has to tell us about Mr Blair and his style of government, and about Britain in 2003.

It goes on to ask

What does it tell us about modern Britain, that Mr Blair's chief adviser on his 'image' should think that it would look bad for him to mention God?

A news report in the same issue comments that this (and another incident to which it refers) shows

the extent of the secular grip that Mr Campbell - an avowed atheist - exercises on his boss. He fears that religion is too sensitive an issue for the Prime Minister to speak about.

Of course, viewed at a purely political, tactical level, Campbell may well have been right: if the Prime Minister were to start talking about God or faith, almost anything he said would offend someone. However we cannot help wondering whether many people might prefer our politicians to have the courage of their convictions, even when those convictions may be unpopular. After all why should the Prime Minister not have religious beliefs? And why should the public not know about these beliefs? Presumably they have some effect on his political decisions, and this makes them a matter of public interest.

However, this event is more than a commentary on the triumph of politically correct style over substance. It is also an illustration of one of the key themes picked up in 'Facing the Challenge' - the privatisation of Christian faith, by which your faith is seen as privately engaging, but publicly irrelevant. It is nice that you have found something that will help you get through the day, but you should not expect it to have any influence in the wider public world of business, or education, or law, or politics.

The fact is, of course, that all of us without exception (not least the most rabid atheists and anti-Christians) do expect our private beliefs to influence public discourse. Secularists like Campbell make no bones about the fact that they expect their non-religious agenda to carry the day.

The Telegraph editorial concludes:

How very strange that Mr Campbell is happy to tell the world about his own past struggles against alcoholism and mental breakdown, but shudders to hear his employer mentioning his religion. Mr Blair should trust more in the Almighty, and less in Alistair Campbell.

News report from May 5th 2003 Daily Telegraph

Editorial from May 5th 2003 Daily Telegraph