The Church has a right to speak

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In a dismal year, the return of familiar favourites is welcome. The new season of Strictly Come Dancing is a joy, helping to take our minds off our evermore familiar surroundings. My family’s votes will — we hope — keep both Bill Bailey and Jacqui Smith going for many weeks.

For politicos, an even older favourite has made a return — the Bishops against the Tories. In Margaret Thatcher’s time, that rivalry was stoked by the publication of Faith in the City, a report written in 1985 by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission. It examined the condition of urban Britain at a time when the pain caused by the UK’s change in economic direction was evident, but the recognition of that change, and subsequent economic growth, was yet to be felt. The report’s comments on Government policy were negative, and a rumpus ensued. A Cabinet Minister — allegedly Norman Tebbit, though this was never confirmed — denounced it as “pure Marxist theology”, and various dogs were let loose to decry the Church’s “intervention into politics”.