When a prominent Leftie supports a Tory idea, my first instinct is to see what’s wrong with the idea.
That impulse was activated by the news that the next Archbishop of York, the Right Rev Stephen Cottrell, has declared his backing for Boris Johnson’s One Nation rhetoric.
That such a man should be nominated for the second-highest post in the Anglican Church is par for the course.
After all, the top post, that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, is held by a left-wing oil trader with an uncertain grasp of doctrine, while the third-highest position, that of the Bishop of London, is occupied by a woman who champions LGBT causes.
Now, I’m aware of the theological arguments in favour of female ordination. I disagree with them, but I do know they exist. Yet that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
For it’s not for theological or, God forbid, revealed reasons that the C of E began to ordain and consecrate women. It did so because it consistently strives to cling to the coattails of any secular trend, no matter how perverse, that makes a big splash in the high-rent parts of London.
Hence His Grace fills the bill perfectly. He became a Christian after watching a TV mini-series about Jesus, and we have the director Franco Zeffirelli to thank for that epiphany. Looking at his biography, no one could have guessed he was an evangelist at heart.
That Damascene experience, along with his education at a secondary modern, establishes the Rt Rev Stephen’s credentials as a man of the people. None of those elitist seminaries and Oxbridge doctorates of divinity for him.
His Grace is in favour of giving church land to travellers, thereby turning consecrated ground into stinking, crime-infested cloacae. He also thinks Britain’s nuclear deterrent is “an affront to God”, which theo-strategic insight he must have gained at the Polytechnic of Central London where he completed his education.
And of course he’s in favour of diversity in the Church. Because he isn’t happy with the proportion of minority and female priests, His Grace regards the Church as “borderline racist” and presumably misogynist.
Hence he must have sleepless nights at the thought that the archbishop he replaces is actually black. But perhaps a vociferous commitment to diversity can propitiate that particular sin.
If the Church hasn’t enough diversity, His Grace feels that the country at large has too much. Not racial, cultural or sex diversity, mind you – can’t have too much of that. No, the nation is too unequal economically, and, as far as His Grace is concerned, the poor shouldn’t always be with us.
Hence he pledges to “help to address the discrepancies of wealth and opportunity that too often favour the south”. On that basis he supports Mr Johnson’s One Nation plank.
One wonders how His Grace plans to “address” such iniquities (and also “meet the challenge of climate change”) within his remit. It seems more natural for a senior clergyman to devote himself to unifying the nation in Christ, not in regional incomes or the number of wind farms.
However, as a non-Anglican subject of Her Majesty, I’m more concerned with Mr Johnson’s take on One Nation – especially since it attracts support from the likes of His Grace.
Traditionally, a One Nation Tory has meant a Tory wet, a dweller in a political domain where 90 per cent of the Tories overlap with perhaps 20 per cent of Labour (more under Blair, less under Corbyn). One Nation conservatism is one way to describe this domain, but it could be more accurately called paternalistic socialism.
Taking one part of the concept, erasing the income divide between the north and the south, how is it possible to do that, considering, for example, that the City of London alone accounts for about 25 per cent of our GDP?
More specifically, how can a government do that? One possible remedy would be offering lucrative tax breaks and other incentives for businesses, especially manufacturing concerns, either to open in the north or relocate there.
Could, for example, Ford be seduced into making Mondeos not in Belgium but in Liverpool? Would an offer of no corporate tax for, say, 10 years swing it? Perhaps.
But such an offer is unlikely to be made – a modern state flinches at the thought of extorting much less tax. A cosmetic reduction here or there for PR purposes is fine, but not forgoing corporate tax altogether in an expanding area.
In any case, the only specific idea Mr Johnson has mooted so far is starting infrastructure projects in the north, financed by the Exchequer. Now that idea is pure socialism, and it even lacks novelty appeal.
Two other socialists, Roosevelt and Hitler, did exactly that to pull their economies out of the doldrums in the ‘30s. All those autobahns, TVAs and Hoover Dams did have a positive short-term effect, but it was indeed short-term.
Already by the mid-thirties the American economy began to slide down back towards a depression, while Nazi projects put such an unbearable strain on finances that Hjalmar Schacht, head of the Reichsbank, threw fits in front of Hitler.
The American economy was saved by the war, while the Nazi economy was destroyed by it. But the Germans learned their lesson.
They rebuilt their devastated country and produced the ‘economic miracle’ (Wirtschaftswunder for short) not by initiating giant infrastructure projects, nor by pouring public money on the populace, but by pursuing conservative economic, and tight fiscal, policies.
It’s also by such expedients that the ‘Asian Tigers’ pulled themselves out of penury and into prosperity. Their public sector accounts for about 20 per cent of GDP, not twice as high, as it is in Britain, which proportion will grow if the Tories start building their Hoover Dams up north.
Every purposeful attempt to truncate the peaks on income graphs has everywhere succeeded in making people more equally poor, rather than more equally rich. A nation can only be unified not by egalitarian economics but by its shared values, religious and cultural above all.
That, however, isn’t on the cards. The Church of England is haemorrhaging parishioners, which, considering its hierarchy, is no wonder.
And our schools are churning out illiterate fire-eating socialists, which isn’t surprising either. After all, some 75 per cent of the teachers (and one suspects 100 per cent of humanities teachers) voted Labour – and not any old Labour, but the hard-core Trotskyist variety.
That’s where the disunity starts, that’s where the nation divides into two – eventually to become one amorphous, uniform mass. Mr Johnson has his work cut out for him, and the early indications are that he plans to start at the wrong end.