It is unsurprising that Alastair “we don’t do God” Campbell has been left feeling uncomfortable by Theresa May’s Easter message. The message, with its promotion of “vicarage values”, is much more explicitly Christian than those we have come to expect from contemporary British politicians. But May’s approach also shows how much more in touch she is with broad public feeling than Campbell, now editor-at-large of The New European — a paper that had to redraw its front page this week, after having implied that Skegness’s strong anti-EU vote meant its inhabitants were backward and unwelcoming.
Since becoming Prime Minister, May has proven the extent to which she is an insightful — even expedient — politician. From a party conference speech that ranged from “workers on boards” to “citizens of nowhere”, she has shown herself comfortable in appealing far outside the Cameronite centre of her potential voter base. A cynic would see a careerist aiming for a legacy election win; a more charitable, and probably accurate, Easter reading is that, above all, May feels strongly about unifying a restless country while making the most of Brexit’s opportunities. Her talk of “compassion”, “common values”, and “coming together”, is certainly not just for Easter — a conciliatory tone has been increasingly clear in her approach since January’s Lancaster House Brexit speech.
It was to be expected, therefore, that May would be aware that many more Britons “agree that Britain is a Christian country” (55 per cent), than class themselves as Christians (37 per cent). Yes, her message builds upon our awareness that, for May, Easter means Easter. But it also shows how serious she is about listening to and leading Britain.