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Donald Sassoon

Donald Sassoon who teaches history at Queen Mary and Westfield College, is the author of One Hundred Years of Socialism.

John Smith was ‘one of them’. Tony Blair is ‘one of them’. And so are Chris Smith and Jack Straw and half the Shadow Cabinet and many more on the backbenches including Frank Field, that one-man think-tank of the Labour Right. ‘They’ are the Christian socialists, architects of New Labour, ready to provide the movement with the ethical foundations which seem sorely missing. Perhaps they hold a Bible in one hand and the revised version of Clause Four in the other, but the Bible is not readily discernible and the real purpose of the new clause was to do away with the old one. ‘Blair,’ as Chris Bryant, leader of the Christian Socialist Movement, disarmingly admits, ‘has been keen not to be too explicit about his religious commitment … Quite rightly, both he and Straw are hesitant to proclaim their Christian faith for fear of appearing self-righteous or exclusive and fanatical.’ Is this a tacit admission that, in a secular society, too overt a religious commitment generates suspicion rather than approval? Does it follow therefore that Christians should disguise their Christianity, talk about responsibilities, duties, communities, families, morality, ethics, concern for others and so on, but not about the Bible, Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth?

Letter

The Pope wears Prada

5 January 2012

‘Does Benedict XVI go about in red slippers?’ Marina Warner asks (LRB, 5 January). She can rest reassured. He goes about in red handmade calfskin shoes. Anti-clerical rumours spread by the usual clique of godless Darwinians suggest they are made by Prada. In fact they are made by a specialist shoemaker based in Piedmont who also supplied his predecessor.

The Mona Lisa

Charles Nicholl, 4 April 2002

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa may be ‘the world’s most famous painting’ but almost everything about it is obscure. We don’t know precisely when it was painted, we...

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So far, so-so

Peter Clarke, 6 June 1996

There is no time like the present for looking at the history of socialism. In Britain, the Labour Party stands poised to win office, maybe this year rather than next, and with a credible prospect...

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