Brown beats Cameron with Bible during Labour conference speech

By staff writers
September 24, 2007

In what is believed to be the first time a Labour leader has quoted the Bible in a conference speech in decades, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has used the words of Jesus to attack Conservative leader David Cameron.

In an apparent signal that unlike his predecessor he will 'do God', Brown, well known as the 'son of the manse', quoted the words of Mark's gospel to challenge Cameron's policy on marriage and the family.

Some religious groups have argued against Labour's abolition of the Married Couples Allowance saying that married couples should receive special treatment through the tax and benefit system, on the grounds that marriage is the best place to bring up children.

Conservative leader David Cameron has agreed with them and insisted the Conservatives must be 'the party of the family' and support marriage.

Brown however, is known to support an approach which focuses on children before specific family structures.

In his speech today, he said: "And I say to the children of two parent families, one parent families, foster parent families; to the widow bringing up children: I stand for a Britain that supports as first class citizens not just some children and some families but supports all children and all families".

"We all remember that biblical saying: 'suffer the little children to come unto me.' No Bible I have ever read says: 'bring just some of the children.'"

Some observers suggest that Brown is taking the advice of Jim Wallis, who on a visit from the US last year was dubbed "Brown's Guru".

Wallis has advocated taking on the Religious Right in the US by 'out-bibling' them, and showing them that their arguments are unChristian.

His book: "God's Politics: Why the Right gets it wrong and the Left doesn't get it" made the New York Times bestseller list.

In his diaries Tony Blair's spin doctor, Alistair Cambell, explained why he advised Blair not to "do God". He said it was a vote loser.

Jonathan Bartley, co-director of the religious thinktank Ekklesia who met Wallis during his visit said: "Brown seems to be following the advice of his friend Jim Wallis, and seeking to out-Bible the religious groups. He is showing both that, unlike Tony Blair, he will do God."

"Brown is also revealing where his values come from. They were clearly shaped by his religious background and upbringing - something that Brown has often himself talked about. But he is also showing that the religious right don't have a monopoly on religion."

As Chancellor, Brown worked very closely with churches and Christian aid agencies to push forward Jubilee 2000, and then the MakePovertyHistory campaign.

During the speech Brown described himself as a "conviction politician".

See Simon Barrow's Guardian article on Brown's religious rhetoric.

Read Jonathan Bartley's review of Jim Wallis' book in the Guardian here

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