AFTER the loss of the Christian wing of the Liberal Democrat Party (David Alton), the rise of Christianity in the Labour leadership seems increasingly fascinating. John Smith, son of a kirk elder and a purveyor of phrases with the word 'moral' attached, has recently rejoined the Christian Socialist Movement; the shadow Home Secretary, Tony Blair, has also emerged from the closet as a convinced Christian. Now we learn that both are to contribute to a book due out next April titled Reclaiming the Ground: Socialism and Christianity. Blair will write the foreword, John Smith provides a lecture he will give that month in memory of the Labour historian (and Christian) R H Tawney. Other contributors include the MPs Chris Smith, Paul Boateng and Hilary Armstrong, Smith's PPS. Chris Bryant, an Anglican priest and agent to Frank ('Not a Christian') Dobson, is editing the book. He tells us that he disapproves of people who, 'Bush- style', 'abuse their faith to get people to vote for them'. But he says that Christianity in the Labour movement is growing. 'At times there has been very anti- religious feeling in the party, but in recent times - curiously, under Kinnock - those who are Christian have been able to speak.' Understandably, there's some dismay at all this, particularly in more cosmopolitan Labour circles. But John ('a rational socialist') Prescott thinks a 'Shadow Cabinet of the 12 disciples' is unlikely to come about. He tells us that while he has 'healthy respect' for Christians, religious belief should not make a difference in political life. 'I haven't been to church since my first election in Southport in 1966. All the candidates went along, and we sang that song about 'The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate'. I thought, what am I doing here? - and left.'
A MOTORIST ground to a halt on the M1 last weekend, and called the Automobile Association for assistance. On arrival, the patrolman had a poke around the car and pronounced: ' 'Fraid it's going to be a Duchess of York, mate.' A what? 'A tow-job.'
Son of poll tax SOME time next week the Government will drop a useful little booklet on to doormats across the country: Council tax - a guide to the new tax for local government. A kindly soul has let us see the penultimate draft of this document, which compares intriguingly with the final result. The tinkerings are not just cosmetic - for some reason 'monasteries and convents' have disappeared from the list of types of 'homes' where the 'owner', rather than the resident, will be liable to pay the tax. A pity - it would be fun to watch the nation's bailiffs, who did rather well out of the poll tax, being sent to call on God. Meanwhile, section 7 of the draft baldly announces: 'The dearer your home the more you will pay.' That's put more happily in the booklet: 'The less expensive your home the less you will pay.'
IN Sudan, meanwhile, God has come to the government's aid. In July, a government minister says, angels went along to pay their respects to soldiers who fell recapturing the town of Torit from the Sudanese People's Liberation Army. And the army paper, El Ghuwat el Musellaha, reports that General Omer el Beshir has requested 'a feasibility study on how the Jinns (spirits of a lower order than angels, in Muslim theology) could help in planning strategy'.
Court report DILIGENTLY watching George Carman QC open for the People in the Mona Bauwens libel case yesterday was a recent victim of the grand inquisitor, Eugene Terre-Blanche's former intimate, Jani Allan. She was sitting but a few feet from Carman - whom she has since memorably described as resembling a 'small bewigged ferret' - preparing an article for the London Evening Standard. The sight of Allan earning a penny impaling Carman on the flames of her blow-torch eyes can only have warmed the heart of Peter Carter-Ruck, lawyer to both Bauwens and Allan, who was forced to present the latter with a bill for about pounds 300,000 after she lost in the 'large white bottom' case.
A DAY LIKE THIS
15 September 1983 John Boorman, making The Emerald Forest, records in his diary: 'Antonioni, when he was visiting Ireland, came to dinner and we exchanged horror stories about producers. He was trying to make L'Avventura and Dino De Laurentiis heard about it. He called Antonioni and arranged a plane ticket for him to fly to Rome. He said, 'You tell me the story. If I like it, we'll make the picture.' Antonioni is a very shy, laconic man. He duly told how the girl, Anna, disappears on an island, and the rest of the film is a search to find her. At the end of the telling, Dino said, 'Well, what happened to Anna?' Antonioni replied that he did not know. 'Who wrote the story?' 'I did,' said Antonioni. 'You wrote it and you don't know what happened to her?' Dino held out his hand. 'Give me back the price of the air ticket'.'