At PMQs, Theresa May's comments about 'Christianity under attack' were nothing more than dog-whistle tactics

Most political commentary this week focused on whether Corbyn was packing his bags for Castro's funeral, a hysterical non-story that overshadowed the disaster that is Theresa May's Brexit. And today May's comments about Christians being unable to discuss Christmas at work was telling 

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The Independent Online

If you watched Prime Minister’s Questions today you would be forgiven for wondering what planet Theresa May is on. Since last week her economic platform has been lambasted as a failure, her Brexit plans have been exposed as pathetic and the Chancellor looks set to abandon the typically Tory-friendly older generation. Despite all of this, May suggested to public and politicians this afternoon that people have never had it so good.

The Prime Minister got away with it this week because most political commentators have been more concerned about the death of Fidel Castro than the dismal lack of planning surrounding our exit from the European Union. Coverage of the backlash to the Autumn Statement slipped away as discussion turned to the guest list for Castro’s wake. Publications jumped to accuse Jeremy Corbyn of having his bags pre-packed for the flight to Cuba without even attempting to check whether this was true or not.

It is a serious indictment of the British media that such great energy was used debating this non-story at a time that the country slips into ruin.

Corbyn was at his strongest in PMQs when pushing on the NHS and social care. Given that the statement last week didn’t make a single reference to either, this was fertile ground for the Labour leader. In identifying the area as a weakness for the Prime Minister, Corbyn has demonstrated a new ability to follow up on areas of strength from previous weeks. The NHS continues to be an area of main concern for the wider public and it is encouraging to see Labour leading strongly on the Tory neglect of the health service. In questioning the Prime Minister’s priorities, Corbyn clearly touched a nerve.

As Theresa May brushed off the economic criticism, however, she moved to an apparently more important issue: the suffering of Christian believers during the Christmas period. Conservative MP Fiona Bruce noted that many are “fearful” when it comes to talking about Christmas at work – and anyone who’s experienced an office in London will surely know the terror that strikes in their hearts when they consider making an offhand remark about tinsel or when to put up the tree, only to be slapped down by – who exactly? Who was this aside supposed to subtly imply was responsible for overturning Britain as a “Christian country” and making Christians feel like they’re in the minority? Muslims, perhaps? This felt like dog-whistle politics if ever we’ve seen them.

After telling the media that it was God who was guiding her plans for Brexit during the weekend, it was perhaps unsurprising that the Prime Minister spoke passionately on the issue of religious – or, to put it more specifically, Christian – freedoms. But rather than paying lip service to her dedication  to Jesus, perhaps she should step out into the country and consult the people being hurt by her Government’s economic incompetence and tragic mismanagement of the NHS. Perhaps, after all, that’s the more Christian thing to do.

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