Bishop: "UKIP are vacuous. An annoying prejudiced blot on the political landscape"
As Bishop of the Blogosphere, His Grace endeavours to be balanced, reasonable and respectful in his daily homilies. He tries to be mature in reflection and grown-up in debate. Sometimes he gets it wrong, and, when he does, a swarm of correctors and rebukers duly descend upon the comment threads to lovingly inform him of his error. Perhaps terrestrial bishops are not so well served, for Bishop Pete's tone is more than a little patronising, and his reasoning is.. well.. there isn't any. His opinion is stark: "Ukip are vacuous. An annoying blot on the political landscape."
He didn't use the words 'loonies' or 'fruitcakes', but he did refer in an earlier tweet to "Nutty Nigel", which amounts to the same thing. And he is in no doubt at all that Ukip are racist. He is eager to insist that he refers only to Ukip, not to those four million and more who voted for them. But who is Ukip, if it is not those who support the party?
Is it its leadership - that is, "Nutty Nigel" and his cohorts? Is it all of its appointed and elected representatives? That is, 24 MEPs and (now) around 400 councillors? Is it its membership, which is fast approaching 40,000? Is Bishop Pete Broadbent calling 40,000 people racist, vacuous, annoying and prejudiced?
And aren't those who vote for them at least in sympathy with their objectives?
Surely Bishop Pete would agree that those who vote Labour tend to incline toward social justice, equality and fairness; and those who vote Conservative tend to be greedy, selfish, monetarist and materialistic? Surely if you voted for Thatcher you had sympathies for her -ism?
Bishop Pete of Willesden is an intelligent and discerning cleric. He may vote Labour, support Spurs and favour ditching the Queen as Head of State, but theologically and missiologically he is one of the good guys - a loyal servant of the Lord (if not of Her Majesty).
The error he makes with his crass Ukip assessment is typical of the CofE leadership. It comes straight from the pages of The Guardian via the BBC. There is a postmodern cultural political shift to which they appear oblivious. And, without any reasoning, or any particular Christian presuppositions at all, they write off Ukip with epithets of contempt.
By doing so, of course, they insult and offend all those who support and vote for them.
If the Church is concerned with love of neighbour, that might include the odd Ukip member, just as it might the odd Tory. You don't have to agree with their politics to love them, but it certainly helps to try to understand why they think and vote the way they do.
The United Kingdom Independence Party has only one objective - to effect the secession of the UK from the political construct known as the EU. There is not one bishop in the Church of England (or the Roman Catholic Church) who seems to agree with this. So, they aver, Ukip is vacuous, xenophobic, racist and, in the last analysis, anti-Christian.
Which is interesting, because many Christians support Ukip precisely because it coheres with their theological worldview more than any of the 'mainstream' parties, who seem to have abandoned the old paths. Bishop Pete may find Ukip an annoying and prejudiced blot on the landscape, but he probably thinks the same about the DUP, the Protestant Truth Society - and even of His Grace.
These things are all blots on the liberal landscape. They are unintelligent, vacuous, and their utterances invariably inappropriate if not unnatural. Bishop Pete has probably never bothered to discuss anything with a Kipper; he is steeped in his mission: "busy being prayerfully involved in the life of (his) wonderful multicultural community". If he were to spy Nigel Farage, he would probably cross by on the other side of the road.
Which is what the entire CofE leadership do when they smell a Kipper.
And quite a few do when they see a Tory.
Ukip represent a threat to the liberal order: they are 'right-wing' and 'extremist'. Bishop Pete views Ukip not as a valid political player, but as an intruder, a meddler, a spoiler, a blot on the political playing field. Ukip are not engaged in legitimate politics; they are a sickness to be treated, and, should there be no cure, they must be euthanised.
Consider this tweet, juxtaposing the rise of Le Pen in France with Ukip in the UK. To Bishop Pete, both are xenophobic and racist, if not anti-Semitic and islamophobic. He has no grasp that the rise of both hinges more on the people's legitimate concerns with uncontrolled and uncontrollable immigration, an aloof European Union and an out-of-touch political elite.
Ukip have arisen because of a conspiracy of political uniformity among the 'main' parties on so many issues of policy. They were once outsiders and outliers; now they have become integral and mainstream. They are not a blot on the political landscape; they are part of that landscape because the insurrection and rebellion are deemed by millions of voters to be wholly necessary. The cry is for revolution and reformation. The sooner the aloof heads in the CofE recognise that, instead of hurling puerile insults and denigrating the mutineers, the better.