Sam Hailes considers the place of moral character when choosing political leaders
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: the definitive overview of responses from the Christian community
With Boris Johnson moving into Number 10 on Wednesday, Christians from across the political spectrum have been telling Premier their hopes and fears for his leadership.
Theresa May is moving her cookery books out of Downing Street as Larry the cat stays behind, with the new Prime Minister set to officially take over after meeting the Queen on Wednesday afternoon.
Boris Johnson beat Jeremy Hunt by a significant margin, with 92,000 votes among the Conservative membership to Mr Hunt's 46,000.
With such a definitive result for a somewhat divisive figure outside of the Conservative party, we have been gathering the opinions from his Christian supporters, detractors, charities and commentators.
The Christian and Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire, Alistair Burt, has not been Mr Johnson's biggest fan.
Mr Burt would much prefer to have a deal before we leave the EU, having voted for Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement. He resigned as a minister for the Department for International Development when he voted for Oliver Letwin's amendment over giving the House control of the parliamentary process in regards to Brexit.
As a Jeremy Hunt supporter, Mr Burt told Premier he still wishes for Johnson to succeed as Conservative leader: "There's lots of colleagues of whom I'm aware both of their strengths and weaknesses, as they're of mine - and I preferred Jeremy - but Boris Johnson is now the Prime Minister and do I want him to succeed? Absolutely."
"I know the sorts of things I want him and his government to avoid and I hope to provide advice in relation to that but I want to see a Boris Johnson who will succeed."
Speaking about his desire to avoid a no deal, which is currently our default option unless the law changes, he said: "It's going to take some movement all round...bearing in mind time is short, the European position will not change markedly, the new Prime Minister is going to have to use that as a base and look at what might be possible to achieve."
Someone who has supported Boris Johnson since the second round (after his favoured Mark Harper failed to achieve enough support) is Steve Double, Christian and Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay.
Mr Double told Premier: "I was pleased that he won and I was pleased with the margin of victory 'cos I think it gives him a very clear mandate from the grassroots Conservative party that he is the choice of a very substantial majority of the party.
"He brings a clear, positive leadership to the role, I think he has a very optimistic and energetic view of our country and I think right now that's what our country needs."
When asked about some people's doubts that Mr Johnson is lacklustre on detail and makes mistakes, Mr Double replied: "What Boris is very good at is building a team and he will be the figure and spokesperson for a very effective team of people around him - no one is Prime Minister on their own, there's always team around you and behind you and what's important now is that he appoints the right people."
Last month, journalist and Church of England vicar Rev George Pitcher wrote in the Guardian that the church should be bolder at calling out Mr Johnson's behaviour, calling him a "serial liar, philanderer and shirker."
Speaking of how he felt now, Mr Pitcher explained what concerns him about Mr Johnson’s character: "His willingness to say what anybody wants to hear in order for him to fulfil his own wild ambitions, I mean, the only important thing for him is for him to walk through the front door of Number 10, not what happens next in any sense.
"He simply wants to say 'Daddy, can you see me? I've made Prime Minister'. There is not of substance in the man with regard to political policy. The idea that Brexit can be delivered and the withdrawal agreement can be reopened and the Northern Ireland backstop can be solved, just by somebody who is best suited to making people laugh on Have I Got News For You, is utterly absurd."
Disagreeing with this was Adrian Hilton, lecturer in theology and politics, who told Premier: "There’s a feeling of the curtain being lifted. It's almost as if we've been through at interminable purgatory…and Boris is coming in with a broom and a hoover and a duster and that's the feeling that many people will have - that a new age has dawned.”
Mr Hilton agreed with Mr Double MP, that Boris Johnson will form a talented team around his premiership: "What Boris does is he sets out a vision, he is a good viewer of the a bigger picture and leaves the detail to others and, I might add, he delegates almost by accident. He leaves things undone that then people have to pick them up because Boris is by nature messy but he has a handle on what needs to be done in order to bring remedy to a number of long-standing errors that his predecessors have made."
On behalf of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Moderator, Right Reverend Dr William Henry, has offered his congratulations to Boris Johnson.
In a letter to him, Dr Henry wrote: "The call to leadership, especially political and national leadership, comes with heavy responsibilities and significant expectation - not least at this particular time. While your primary focus will be, of course, the ongoing process of leaving the European Union, I hope that you will also take a keen and personal interest in the talks to restore devolution to Northern Ireland - actively encouraging those involved to go the extra mile."
The Christian foodbank charity, The Trussell Trust's chief executive Emma Revie said:
“During the leadership campaign Boris Johnson told us 'the poorest come first'. As our Prime Minister, he now has an opportunity to put those words into action and create a new vision for our country – one that unlocks people from poverty and protects us all from needing a food bank.”
The religious freedom charity Open Doors said they hoped the new PM would stick by the support he gave earlier this month on Twitter to persecuted Christians.
Open Doors UK and Ireland CEO Henrietta Blyth said: “I am delighted that Boris Johnson said that he would ‘prioritise protecting religious freedoms’ as Prime Minister and that he ‘would stand up for those facing persecution’. I look forward to seeing quick action to deliver greater protection for religious minorities.”
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