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Press: Braverman reveals Right’s hostility to C of E  

09 February 2024


READING the Telegraph over the weekend, I felt a twinge of sympathy for the Archbishop of Canterbury, surely a man who was brought up on Belloc’s Cautionary Tales and knows the one about the missionary’s breakfast: “And oft in some far Coptic town, The Missionary sits him down To breakfast by the Nile. . . Why does he start and leap amain, And scour the sandy Libyan plain Like one that wants to catch a train, Or wrestles with internal pain? Because he finds his egg contain — Green, hungry, horrible and plain — An Infant Crocodile.”

It’s not, of course, true that the former Home Secretary Suella Braverman resembles a crocodile, at least unless she smiles. I doubt that she wastes tears on anything, either. But her comment piece denouncing the clergy did show — green, hungry, horrible, and plain — the attitude that the Right of the Conservative Party has taken to the Church of England.

“While at the Home Office, I became aware of churches around the country facilitating industrial-scale [bogus asylum claims],” Ms Braverman wrote. “They are well-known within the migrant communities and, upon arrival in the UK, migrants are directed to these churches as a one-stop shop to bolster their asylum case. Attend Mass once a week for a few months, befriend the vicar, get your baptism date in the diary and, bingo, you’ll be signed off by a member of the clergy that you’re now a God-fearing Christian who will face certain persecution if removed to your Islamic country of origin.”

The money quote, I think, is this: “I set up a dedicated taskforce focused on rooting out the grifters enabling this sordid business. Through more reporting, increased investigations and tougher enforcement, it has succeeded in identifying some of the bad actors. This work must continue in earnest.”

The Telegraph added to this a news story with comments from another former Home Secretary, Dame Priti Patel: “It’s no coincidence that religious leaders are constantly speaking out against any reforms and work introduced by us as Conservatives in this area. We are seeing it actively with the Rwanda Bill. Political activism is coming in from these quarters. It is important that the public question their motivations.”

Neither Ms Braverman nor Dame Priti is a Christian, but the rage and contempt that they are whipping up is pitched to the only electorate that offers any hope to a Conservative politician today: the ageing and resentful membership of the party who will choose its next leader.

These are the Anglicans who, in Professor Linda Woodhead’s surveys, don’t go to church. They are the people who brought us Brexit and saw immigration soar as a result. They need a scapegoat, and Ms Braverman stands ready to offer one: “This is a national-security and public-safety emergency. Gang warfare, terrorism, drugs, rape, murder, acid attacks — those capable of such heinous crimes will keep coming until we get serious, put the British people first, and pass the hard-headed laws required to properly secure our border.”

You might think that this is pretty much a straight echo of Donald Trump’s 2016 pitch about the rapists and murderers pouring over the border. It is sad, though, that she has to talk Britain down in this way — surely we were capable of gang warfare, terrorism, drugs, rape, murders, and even acid attacks without importing foreigners to teach us these things. Has she not read Graham Greene?

Grandstanding about policy, as she does, is also a distraction from the central fact about the Home Office, and most of the rest of the British State after 13 years of Conservative rule: none of these policies will ever be put into action. It doesn’t matter what laws are passed. The hollowed out and demoralised State can no longer enforce them. The prisons and courts are collapsing, the police are grotesquely undermanned, and the public has largely lost faith in the ability of the Attlee Welfare State to deliver what we need. To blame all this on illegal immigration (for she pretends to be in favour of the legal sort) and the European Court of Human Rights is truly grotesque. No wonder she feels the need to blame the Church of England as well.

THERE is a horrible likeness between the Government that, she pretends, can solve the problem and the Church that, she pretends, is responsible for it. Both the Rwanda scheme and the Prayers of Love and Faith remind me of those Bulgarian conceptual artists who spent years and millions of dollars to wrap public buildings in orange cloth, to conceal the ugly but functional lumps of reality behind something quite differently ugly.

The flouncing out of the Living in Love and Faith process by the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, because it is to be advised by a man who thinks that she is wrong and should change her mind — the gall of it! — makes me realise that the problem lies with the Bible. If only St Paul had got his anathemata modernised. If, instead of talking about wolves and false shepherds, he had warned his followers against the inappropriate and the problematic, no one then would have thought him aggressive. If only, instead of asking people to reason together, the Prophet Isaiah had invited them on to the relevant committees!

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