RELIGION AND POLITICS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

  • Michael P. Hornsby-Smith University of Surrey, United Kingdom

Abstract

This paper offers a review of religion and politics in the United Kingdom shortly after the Scottish Referendum in September 2014 and the UK General Election in May 2015. It first provides a brief historical outline of the emergence of the four separate parts of the current United Kingdom, their different experiences of Anglo-Saxon and Viking invasions and responses to the Reformation in the fifteenth century after a millennium of Roman Catholicism. It then briefly reviews data from recent censuses and social attitude surveys about religious identities, beliefs and commitment and political party preferences which generally indicate a preference for Conservative Party support by Anglicans and Labour by Roman Catholics. Recent Church of England leaders have suggested that religion is now a major player on the public stage. This is strongly rejected. Firstly, census and survey data point unambiguously to the declining salience of religion and the public’s strong belief that religion is a private and personal matter and that religious leaders should not meddle in politics. Secondly, three examples are given where it is argued that critical interventions by religious leaders in recent years have not led to any serious changes in government policies.

Keywords: religion, politics, four UK nations, power, influence

References

Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Urban Priority Areas, Faith in the City: A Call for Action by Church and Nation. Church House Publishing, London, 1985.
Bessant Chris (ed.) Faith in Affordable Housing: Using Church Land and Property for Affordable Housing. Housing Justice, London, 2009. See also www.culf.org.uk.
Keohane Nigel and Broughton Nida, The Politics of Housing, Social Market Foundation, London, 2013.
Bruce Steve, Politics and Religion in the United Kingdom, Routledge, London, 2014.
Bruce Steve, “ We Don’t do God”: The Long Divorce of Religion and National Identity in Britain 1832-2008’, J. For the Study of British Cultures, 2009: 16 (2).
Bruce Steve and Voas David, ‘The 2001 Census and Christian Identification in Britain’, J. Contemporary Religion, 19 (1) 2004.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW), The Common Good and the Catholic Church’s Social Teaching, Gabriel Communications, Manchester, 1996.
CBCEW, The General Election 2015: A Letter to Catholics in England and Wales from their Bishops, 2015.
Clements Ben and Spencer Nick, ‘Voting and Values in Britain: Does Religion Count?’ Executive Summary, Theos, nd. Church of England House of Bishops, Who is my Neighbour?, London, 2015.
Davie Grace, Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, 2015.
Davies Norman, The Isles: A History, Macmillan, London, 2000.
Field Clive, ‘No Popery’s Ghost: Does Popular Anti-Catholicism Survive in Contemporary Britain?’, Journal of Religion in Europe, 2014 (7).
Field Clive, ‘Scottish Independence’, in www.brin.ac.uk/news/2014/scottish-independence-and-other-news, 21 September, 2014.
Field Clive D., ‘Another Window on British Secularization: Public Attitudes to Church and Clergy Since the 1960s’, Contemporary British History, 2014, 28 (2)
Field Clive, ‘Measuring Religious Affiliation in Great Britain: the 2011 Census in Historical and Methodological Context’, Religion, 44 (3) 2014.
Field Clive, ‘Religious Voting Intentions’, http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2015/religiousvoting-intentions-and-other-news, 8 March 2015.
Filby Eliza, God and Mrs. Thatcher: Conviction Politics in Britain’s Secular Age, Biteback, 2015.
Harries Richard, House of Lords debate, London.
Hastings Adrian, A History of English Christianity 1920-2000, SCM Press, London, 2001.
Hornsby-Smith Michael Peter and Lee Raymond, Roman Catholic Opinion: A Study of Roman Catholics in England and Wales in the 1970s, University of Surrey, Guildford, 1979.
Hornsby-Smith, Michael Peter, Roman Catholics in England, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987.
Hornsby-Smith Michael Peter, Roman Catholic Beliefs in England, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991.
Hornsby-Smith Michael Peter (ed.), Catholics in England 1950-2000: Historical and Sociological Perspectives, Cassell, London, 1999.
Keen Richard, ‘Membership of UK Political Parties’, Commons Library Standard Note SN 05125, 30 January 2015Knight Barry, ‘From Big Society to Good Society’, New Statesman, 23 October 2012.
Knott Kim, ‘Faith and Unity Through Diversity’, The Tablet, 4 February, 2012.
Lawlor Eilis, Spratt Stephen, Shaheen Faizen and Beitler Daiana, Why the Rich are Getting Richer, New Economics Foundation, London, October 2011.
Piketty Thomas, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, 2014.
Rawnsley Andrew, ‘Cameron should enjoy his “sweet victory” – before it turns sour’, The Observer, 10 May 2015.
Sentanu John (ed.), On Rock or Sand? Firm Foundations for Britain’s Future, SPCK, London, 2015.
Smith Greg (ed.) 21st Century Evangelicals, Evangelical Alliance, 2015.
Spencer Nick, “Doing God”: A future for Faith in the Public Square, Theos, London, 2006.
Wilkinson Richard and Pickett Kate, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Allen Lane, London, 2009.
Woodhead Linda, ‘Religion à la Mode’, The Tablet, 28 April 2012.
Woodhead Linda, ‘Endangered Species’, The Tablet, 16 November 2013.
Published
2016-12-27
Section
TOPIC OF THIS ISSUE