chapter  3
20 Pages

More Methodism than Marxism? Christianity and the British party system

The emphasis of this chapter follows directly on from that of the last – after discussing the influence of Christianity on British voting behaviour, we now turn to look at how the parties react, in terms of formulating policy platforms and wider ideological stances. It was Morgan Phillips, the General Secretary of Labour between 1944 and 1961, who said that his party ‘owes more to Methodism than to Marxism’ – in other words, so sober and buttoned-up was the left in the UK that it took its inspiration not so much from twentieth-century Soviet Russia but from the non-conformist traditions of the English Victorian era. Socialism in Britain was more about ‘doing good’ than over-throwing the instruments of the State, it was implied. In one sense, this is actually more of a comment on the lack of radicalism in the history of the British left than on its religiosity but it contains, like all amusing lines, an element of truth, and one that can actually be applied to the other parties as well.