*** DEBUG END ***

Press: UK has come a long way since Enoch Powell

28 October 2022


I START with a throwaway line in a Religion Media Centre Zoom meeting. Sir Philip Rutnam, the new head of the National Churches Trust (Interview, 21 October), remarked that the Church needs a billion pounds for repairs to its stock of buildings. It’s a sum that puts “resource churches” into perspective.

Meanwhile, the former FT feature writer John-Paul Flintoff, whose byline I had missed for a few years, resurfaced in the Telegraph with a piece about recovering from a breakdown with the help of silent churches.

He started to walk around London with a sketchpad and chalks, in search of beauty. “A lot of that beauty was in the churches where I stopped to sit down — particularly Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, decorated by the Pre-Raphaelites William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. I drew that. I drew myself kneeling in prayer. I drew myself bathed in the fragmented, colourful light cast by the stained-glass windows.

“The churches were mostly empty, but occasionally I met people who were friendly, without being all over me (I hadn’t been brought up religious). I picked up leaflets containing prayers, and found that by reciting them again and again I could silence the self-critical thoughts. I flicked through the Bibles on lecterns and enjoyed reading the Psalms, in which King David addresses to God his various, shifting moods of ecstasy and gnashing of teeth.”

So now he has published an illustrated book of his own psalms.

THE financial situation means that it is more likely to be Rishi Sunak’s economic policies than his Hinduism that hastens the decline of the Church of England. None the less, there have been some people on Twitter — there are always some people on Twitter — complaining that he is not British. The margin by which Liz Truss beat him among Conservative Party members suggest this view is influential on the fringe. So do the lengths that the party in Parliament went to this time to disenfranchise the membership.

The country has come a very long way in the 54 years since Enoch Powell said: “The West Indian or Asian does not, by being born in England, become an Englishman. In law he becomes a United Kingdom citizen by birth; in fact he is a West Indian or an Asian still. . . He will by the very nature of things have lost one country without gaining another, lost one nationality without acquiring a new one.”

The mutual adjustments required by mass immigration have not been altogether smooth and successful, but they have gone very much better than Powell predicted, and much better than they might have done.

Sathnam Sanghera, in The Times, wrote: “Let’s face it, the only interaction that some Asian families had with white Brits in the 1970s and 1980s was when racist yobs put shit through their letterbox. And now the residents of the house with the most famous letterbox in Britain are brown.

“Like my family, they probably speak a mix of Indian languages and English at home. Like my family, they probably mark Christmas with a twist: their grandmother, perhaps, putting chillies into the stuffing. Admittedly, in the case of the Sunaks a private chef is probably doing the stuffing, but I hope you get what I mean.”

None the less, Sangera went on to quote the former chair of the Conservative Party, Sayeeda Warsi, who said that the problem for ethnic-minority candidates in the Conservative Party was that, to be accepted, they had to be more right wing than the most extreme right wing, and that she regarded this as “internalised racism”. This perhaps has some relevance to the pose of Suella Braverman.

The Times of India did not tie itself into any of these knots. The splash said simply “UK rings in Rishi Raj on Diwali”.

I WENT last week to a talk at the Pushkin Club in London on the transition in Russian state propaganda from atheism to equally fervent Christianity. This has accelerated under the former KGB officer Vladimir Putin.

The Times had a piece on the subject, pointing out that, since the start of the invasion, the Russians have increasingly portrayed their enemies as literal Satanists.

It can be quite unnerving to compare Russian state propaganda with that of the Trumpist wing of the US Republican Party. The overlap is almost complete. “Ukrainians are Russians who have been possessed by demons,” said Pavel Gubarev, a prominent Kremlin-backed separatist. “They serve the devil,” said Sergei Mikheyev, a Russian political analyst.

Just don’t look too closely at the supposed Christians in this struggle. As The Times goes on to note: “Putin’s attempt to portray Russia as a bastion of traditional, conservative values is not backed up by the facts. Around a third of Russian families have been abandoned by their fathers, according to official statistics. Half of all marriages end in divorce, with infidelity, poverty, and alcohol cited as the leading causes in a survey by the state pollster.”

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)