Voices

Brits worth watching

Four Christian Conservatives and where they've come; four worth watching

Issue: "Minority report," Aug. 11, 2007

Seven years ago (July 22, 2000), WORLD profiled four Conservative Party leaders who were embracing compassionate conservatism. We do the same in this issue with four current Christian leaders -but first, here's what has happened to our initial set:

William Hague resigned as Conservative Party leader in 2001 after a dismal election showing. Since then he has written acclaimed biographies of 18th-century Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and William Wilberforce. Now, hoping for a Conservative comeback, he serves as shadow Foreign Secretary.

Gary Streeter is still a member of Parliament and still openly proclaims his Christian faith. He chairs the Conservative Party International Office, which attempts to build and support democracy in emerging countries, and also emphasizes help to disabled children.

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Robert Halfon is gradually building support for his goal of becoming a Conservative MP from a predominantly Labour district: He won 35 percent of the vote in 2001 and 41 percent in 2005, both tough elections for conservatives. He is likely to win next time if the Conservative tide continues high.

Tim Montgomerie (see below) now runs one of the most-read political blogs in Britain, ConservativeHome.com, and is active with another blog that promotes Anglo-American friendship, 18DoughtyStreet.com. He is probably Britain's leading networker and encourager of Christian Conservatives.

Here are four key Conservatives to watch now:

Cameron Watt, 31, works in an old building near Parliament that houses offices of his Centre for Social Justice and portraits of Abraham Lincoln and William Wilberforce. A Billy Graham crusade in 1991, when Watt was 14, led to his conversion. Later, the works of Francis Schaeffer and the teachings of English L'Abri influenced him. Now he attends The Bible Talks, a conservative Anglican church that attracts about 200 young men and women on Sunday evenings.

Watt hopes to help small volunteer organizations to do more. "The big charities have the same mentality as government. They get all the money. Our goal is to help smaller groups," he said. "We hope to develop the financial stream that will allow church groups to carry on apart from government." On July 11 the CSJ (centreforsocialjustice.org.uk) offered awards to some of Britain's most innovative small charities and volunteer groups. He likes some of what Conservative Party leader David Cameron is saying, but "whether Cameron has the guts to follow through remains to be seen."

Greg Clark, 39, the shadow minister for Charities, Voluntary Bodies and Social Enterprise, sees his role in the Conservative Party as "detoxifying the party that didn't care." He hopes to "promulgate a social norm for charitable giving" so that it will become somewhat like tipping. (U.S. compassionate conservatives had a similar goal in 1995.) The faith-based initiative in the first Bush term ground to a legislative halt over the issue of whether religious nonprofits would be required to hire homosexuals, but Clark says that in Britain "the issue is resolved in favor of gay rights."

Sitting at a table by the Thames, Clark spoke about charitable giving and his own background. He grew up in a poor community-"very few of my classmates stayed on in school after 16"-but scrambled to a good education and then a good job working for the Boston Consulting Group. He identifies himself as a Christian but is "slightly uncomfortable with the explicitness" of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

The third individual is one of the four we looked at last time, Tim Montgomerie, because he has added a new role to his former position as compassion advocate: Now he's advocating toughness against terrorists at a time when many in Britain are becoming squishy.

Whether writing in Starbucks shops around the world or speaking in television studios, some of his main points are that "Britain is at war and Western civilization is in danger. The threat posed by Islamic fascists could hardly be more serious. . . . Retreat from Afghanistan and Iraq is inconceivable. Whatever the rights and wrongs of both wars, we cannot abandon the people of these emerging democracies to the terrorists."

The fourth is Iain Duncan Smith, who is trying to lead Brits to a new (yet old) definition of social justice. Our cover story has more about him and his thinking.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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