The Rev’d Caroline Beckett is the vicar at All Saints Church & St James Church in Brightlingsea, Essex. She serves her flock diligently and is clearly dedicated to mission. “Everyone of any denomination or none is welcome” to her prayer meetings. “Everyone is welcome” to coffee time and breakfast. “You are welcome to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and a biscuit, and chat with others for a while” after Wednesday Eucharist. And at Janet Russell’s monthly Open House, “all are welcome to share in a ‘cuppa’, a very good chat and a prayer”.
Unless you’re a Tory.
Or voted to give Boris his stonking majority.
Because you just helped to make the world harder and colder, and so you’re not overly welcome for coffee, tea, toast or a chat. You can come and pray, of course, but make sure you repent of your hardness of heart and coldness of character first, because then you’re better equipped to make the world more fluffy and cuddly and warm, like a Christian Liberal Democrat duvet.
The Rev’d Caroline’s head and heart are with the LibDems (and the European Union), so perhaps she can be forgiven for thinking Tories are cold and callous. Her husband, Mike Beckett, was the LibDem candidate in Harwich and North Essex, where he managed to double the vote. He also manages the Colchester foodbank, so he, too, probably believes Tories to be cold and callous, and enjoy watching the homeless shiver in the streets and hearing about the premature deaths of pensioners in the underfunded NHS.
The Rev’d Caroline’s post-election exhortation to her flock is illuminating. They are encouraged to join “the party [their] heart votes for” because “they could use a boost right now”. Does she think there are no Conservative supporters in her congregation? Or are they simply not welcome? Does she think all her Twitter followers vote Labour and LibDem, for (surely) she can’t be urging any of them to join the Tories to give Boris another boost and condemn thousands more to homelessness and foodbank poverty, can she?
Anti-Conservative prejudice is nothing new in the CofE, of course. We have seen it time and time again (and again, and again, and again). Over 14 years (yes, that long) the Archbishop Cranmer blog seems to have become a chronicled archive of CofE bishops and vicars who preach the Good News on Sundays and spend the rest of the week sneering at those who take the Telegraph or Daily Mail and meditate upon the dark epistles of Edmund Burke. And now these liberal-left enlightened clergy all have to come to terms not only with the shock and horror of Brexit, but the trauma, desolation and apocalypse of a stonking Tory majority.
And an “amoral liar” as Prime Minister.
Charles Moore wrote in the Telegraph (sorry) about the “negative event” of the General Election:
Yesterday morning, parents of children at a school in London received an email which began: “Sometimes, things happen in the wider world, in the country … that can be difficult to understand.” It went on to explain that while it was good for children to talk to “trusted adults” about “things that worry us”, it was important that “we won’t talk about negative events to other children”. Although the email did not say so, the “negative event” here referred to was the result of Thursday’s general election.
As it is with most schools teachers (and university lecturers), so it is with most CofE bishops and vicars. There is no apprehension (or precious little desire to apprehend) that Boris Johnson’s leadership will be that of ‘One Nation’ (if they can be bothered to understand what this means). Charles Moore assists (if they can be bothered to read):
Until now, the phrase “One Nation” tended to be a codeword meaning the Left-wing, anti-Thatcherite wing of the Conservative Party. It meant high welfare spending and “caring” patter. Now it means what it says – an independent nation free to govern itself, as Margaret Thatcher herself fought for; and a patriotism which unites the classes.
But even a quarter of a century after leaving No.10, the very mention of Margaret Thatcher still sends shivers down the spines of many clergy. The fact that she helped to liberate the aspirational, patriotic and small-c conservative workers is no kind of virtue to those clergy who remember her for nothing but miners’ strikes and dementia: she made the world harder and colder while Boris Johnson was just a hard and cold Etonian. Thatcher was as callous as tungsten and as frigid as the Boomerang Nebula in the constellation Centaurusone (that’s one Kelvin, or –272°C). This is how the Rev’d Caroline Beckett prophesies the next five years shall be.
And nothing you can say to her will make her change her mind: Boris Johnson and the Tories are hard and cold, and so fundamentally anti-Christian. She won’t quite preach this from her pulpit, of course, but her Twitter feed speaks what her heart is full of. Perhaps after Brexit and sorting out the NHS and Education and liberating the aspirational, patriotic and small-c conservative workers up north, the Prime Minister might turn his attention to tweaking the Church of England’s mechanism for appointing Bishops; that is, restoring the status quo ante so that No.10 isn’t simply the Crown Nominations Commission’s postbox to the Supreme Governor. And then we might see a few more red-meat conservative clergy advanced to balance the preponderance of milk-and-water liberals. O, for a political-philosophical via media once again in the Church of England. Wouldn’t that aid the essential mission?
UPDATE, 20 December 2019
The Rev’d Caroline Beckett has declined an invitation to respond to this piece:
And also because:
She expanded on Facebook: