Letter: Christian socialists

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Paul Vallely ("In the name of the Father and the Holy Vote", 17 November) may be right that Tony Blair is influenced by Roman Catholic social teaching. He is also influenced by the Chief Rabbi and American communitarians. It is not surprising if Blair as an Anglican praised the fine Roman Catholic document The Common Good - so did Archbishop Carey.

But Vallely neglects the influence of the Christian Socialist tradition on Blair. Blair has paid frequent tributes to this. He called Archbishop William Temple "perhaps Britain's greatest Christian Socialist". In 1942 in Christianity and Social Order Temple advocated many of the policies which Vallely thinks are so distinctively Roman Catholic - such as the minimum wage, devolution, the state as a community of communities, co- partnership in industry. These had been a feature of Christian Socialist teaching in England since the 1890s, as I have documented in my new book on Christian Socialism.

Yet when the Anglican bishops at the 1888 Lambeth Conference were giving a blessing to socialism as close to the precepts of Christ, the papacy was denouncing it. Until the 1960s much of the British Roman Catholic leadership actively opposed the welfare state. The fact is that the social teaching and practice of all the churches is a good deal more varied and ambiguous than Vallely seems to admit.