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Columnists

Forces of Conservatism

Agnostics anonymous

AA.jpgIn the last few days of the election campaign, it emerged that the Tory candidate Philippa Stroud (left) had founded a church where she attempted to cure drug addicts, alcoholics and homosexuals by (literally) exorcising their demons.

Abi, a 'teenage girl with transsexual issues' said: 'She really believed things like homosexuality, transsexualism and addiction could be fixed just by prayer.'
Strangely, this is not one of the '10 things you didn't know about Philippa' listed on Mrs Stroud's own website. (You can, however, learn that she likes jazz, Morrison's bread, and helping ex-Triads.)

In keeping with the papers' pro-Cameron leanings, it was barely reported in the mainstream media. As the New Statesman commented, 'It's difficult to see why this story hasn't created a huge storm… particularly as the Conservatives' questionable position on gay rights has been a talking point of this election.'
This might make one rightly suspicious about the Conservatives' apparent reinvention as a party which, in contrast to its 1980s incarnation, is just fine with gays, unmarried parents, ethnic minorities, drug addicts and other undesirables outside the wholesome world of top-hatted fagging that is the Eton-Bullingdon Club.

But The Tale of Philippa Stroud is also the tale of another institution which claims to have cast off its long history of persecuting minorities and condemning homosexuals and other sinners. The Christian church, whether in its Roman Catholic, Anglican, or 'charismatic' guise, is anciently entwined with the seats of power in this country.

Its ministers address the Royal Family directly. Its beliefs inform the government. And just like the Tories, Christians are not to be believed when they tell you that the church is a different animal these days, even if they believe it themselves. The old prejudices are still there, even if they wear more Twitter-friendly faces.

The Jews are no longer portrayed as Christ-killers thirsty for gentile blood; it's pure coincidence that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict occupies more Christian consciences than other political issues. Fallen women are no longer condemned, yet you'd be hard pushed to find a liberal Christian couple who choose not to get married, taking advantage of an institution at the heart of economic, social, religious and sexual conservatism.

Dressing Christianity or conservatism up as a superficial imitation of the counterculture - rock festivals without drugs, hoodies who want to be hugged - does not transform centuries of ingrained power and prejudice. The demons are still lurking, and you'd be foolish indeed to trust the smiling exorcist who promises that the job is done. n