U.K. red and blue all over

Here's an item from the long-dormant GetReligion assignment desk: Working title: The use of religion in American politics vs. its counterpart in the U.K.

Format: In-depth multipart series. (Think of the recent Julia Duin series in The Washington Times, plus a few more parts.)

Difficulties: Would have to decipher thick English accents and eat British food.

Upside: You might win a Pulitzer.

Some notes: Don't look only at what the politicians are saying, but step back and take in the whole media fishbowl. The American form of Christianity is strong, loud, and highly individualistic. The British religion is largely lapsed, quiet, more corporate.

Both George W. Bush and Tony Blair are practicing Christians, but Bush is more outspoken about his religious faith (though not as outspoken as one would expect) while Blair has taken to warning against "an American style of politics, with us all going out there beating our chest about our faith."

The general religious currents in England are also more liberal than in the U.S., so Conservative Party leader Michael Howard managed to cause a huge row by promising to pull the latest legal date for an abortion from the 24th week to the 20th, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, gave a speech last Tuesday in which he attacked the "scandal" of globalization.

In fact, in this election season (polls to be held Thursday) classical liberal ideas have been tossed right out the window.

The Tories (the red team) promise some small tax cuts, but the real focus is more on social and moral order: law and order, abortion, restricting immigration. They haven't even really attempted to lie about future cuts in spending, and have attacked Labour from the left for introducing fees to state-run British universities.

Labour and its fellow travelers are pitching government as a bulwark against the ravages of market forces. Blair, worried that the frankly populist Howard campaign will manage to make real inroads into his probably unbeatable majority, has decided to go all Harry Truman on the Tories. At a speech today he warned that if the Conservatives win, there go your mortgages.

Remember, this election presents British voters with two kinds of unabashed populism -- what we in the U.S. might call red state and blue state populism, for lack of a better term. It will be entertaining to see how the local press deals with the fallout.

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