Thursday, April 29, 2010

Clegg "I'm not a man of faith, sometimes I very much wish I was"

Despite the effective banning of politicians from the main BBC news bulletins, to give the pundits more time to stare meaningfully into the camera, there are some excellent bits of interviewing and journalism going on in the bowels of the Beeb.

One was last nights Eddie Mair interview with Nick Clegg on PM (starts 16:20 in). After leading on Gordon Browns gaffe yesterday, Mair asks (17:10 in) "Why don't you believe?" a question right out of the blue, and Clegg is first taken aback, and his eventual response is unusually revealing. He talks about spirituality as something 'which makes us human', that religion isn't something he's closed off to, and it sounds like several members of his family are committed Christians.

He also talks about wanting the disestablishment of the CofE, and Mair quizzes him about how his Liberal principles play out in allowing religious expression - e.g. burkas, wearing crosses in the workplace, Bed and Breakfast admissions policies etc. Clegg talks about allowing the 'personal expression' of faith, but there are clearly places where liberal tolerance runs up against intolerance of what's percieved to be (sorry) 'bigotry'.


  1. I heard the interview 'live' as I was driving home last night. At first I thought the question a bit unfair, however, as the conversation developed I got a sense of genuine reflection and engagement with the subject. Clearly this was an unrehearsed response, hence the awkwardness at the beginning, which revealed far more about the man than all the scripted soundbites. I only wish there was more of this type of interview.

    The Gay Times interview with Cameron ( interesting because it took him off script and he began to flounder because he did not seem to have a worked out position.

    As you rightly comment, most of the three leaders' comments are being filtered by political commentators who specialise in hyperbole (Nick Robinson is shameless in this regard) and focus on process over content. Apart from the leaders' debates we seem to be hearing less directly from the politicians than in any election I can remember.

  2. I couldn't help thinking he was awkward because he was desperate not to put off religious voters, the answer to the question "why don't you believe" seems like something any Atheist or Agnostic would know?

    Also, I feel it takes courage (albeit less here than say in the USA) to make such a public declaration of your personal views on a subject such as the existence of God, especially when those views run counter to the majority, I applaud him for his honesty on that.

    My question would be, would a religious person (such as yourself) prefer a PM who was an Atheist but honest about it (like Clegg) or a PM who claimed to be religious but whose actions and words didn't quite tally with the values of that religion (like Brown)?

  3. Steve - I think having made no secret of his lack of faith, Clegg has already got that one out of the way. I would imagine there are atheists and agnostics who haven't got there by any clear sitting down and working out the arguments, but that's just what they believe. A lot of Christians would probably answer 'why do you believe' in personal narrative form (as Clegg sort of did) rather than in the form of a propositional argument.

    For me the issue of whether someone is religious or not (and more specifically Christian or not) isn't a trump card. I wouldn't want George Bush within 10,000 miles of 10 Downing Street. Without giving away my voting intention, lets just say Cleggs position on faith hasn't put me off considering a Libdem vote.