IDS and Evangelical Toxicity

The spin machine is in overdrive claiming that Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation from the cabinet is part of a political plot to benefit the Brexit campaign. I’m more inclined to believe Baroness Stroud, head of the Centre for Social Justice think tank, who told the BBC: "He always used to say to me, 'I'm here in order to deliver reform and to protect the poorest'. Yesterday he felt that he could no longer protect the poorest... This is a step too far."

Politics is a murky game, with friendships that are very contingent and knives always ready to come out. But with the Lib-Dems essentially eradicated, Labour deeply preoccupied with its own internecine politics, and the SNP a parochial rather than national party, it is perhaps not so bad for democracy if the Tories operate their own internal opposition – otherwise they might go essentially unchallenged.

Conservative MP Stephen McPartland, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability, told the BBC that under IDS there was an “evangelical point of view” at the Department for Work and Pensions, that has “consistently failed disabled people”. Whatever the rights and wrongs of government policy, it is interesting that it should be the evangelical view at the DWP that troubles Mr McPartland – and interesting that neither he nor the BBC report qualifies what is meant by that term. As a matter of ecclesiastical fact, Duncan Smith is a Roman Catholic, so ‘evangelical’ could not really be an accurate label for his belief system.

Stephen Crabb, who has replaced IDS, is not only the first bearded member of the cabinet in living memory, but perhaps the most evangelical. He even entered politics by an evangelical route, having been a CARE intern before entering parliament: a fact that clearly does him no favours in the eyes of whoever has edited his Wikipedia entry.

It has been obvious for some years that George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith were engaged in a terrific turf-war. When it came to the vote on Same-Sex Marriage it looked very much as though IDS voted in favour in order to safeguard his position in the cabinet, as surely it cannot have been something he did with great conviction. Stephen Crabb, perhaps more committed, and less politically exposed, voted against. Crabb is already being touted as a future Tory leader, but that vote might well cost him.

Whether IDS has fatally holed George Osborne’s leadership ambitions, the impact of this on the EU referendum, and the stability or otherwise of the Conservative party will be interesting to watch unfold over the next few months. Also interesting to observe will be how Christians engage in the political process, and the extent to which ‘evangelical’ continues to a be a toxic label for anyone wanting to hold office.

Interesting days indeed. But, on the bright side, at least this isn’t the USA. Trump or Clinton? What a choice - one that my evangelical American friends certainly regard as toxic.

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