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British Pastor: “Challenge Consensus on Economy”

Employment is a moral issue which involves issues of justice and fairness, according to a Baptist pastor and chaplain to the Christian Socialist Movement.

The Rev. Ian Tutton, pastor of Hampstead Garden Suburb Free Church, was speaking to The Baptist Times about the series of strikes which originated at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in Lincolnshire and have spread throughout the country.

The strikes began as a protest against the use of overseas instead of British workers in a refinery owned by Total. But, said Tutton, they reflect a climate in which many jobs have already been lost, and those still in work are fearful for the jobs they have.

There’s a climate of fear, which is born out of a basic uncertainty, and a feeling that ˜no-one speaks for me,’ he said.

The historic links between the Labour Party and the trade union movement had been broken, he added. Given the way that politics has gone, people don’t feel that there is a voice for them any more.

While he warned against the possibility that right-wing organizations like the British National Party could exploit the dispute by stoking resentment against foreign workers, he also took the Government to task for failing to protect UK workers.

Less stringent rules in Britain meant that it was easier for multi-national companies to make workers redundant in this country, he said. It’s ironic that the present dispute is based on EU rules about freedom of movement for workers, but the Government is not prepared to take on board the full raft of EU employment protection.

He also attacked the prevailing anti-interventionist consensus on economics.

The economy takes precedence over individuals, he said. The priority ought to be work for everyone, and building the economy around that.

There is a case for saying that the Churches without knowing it have become part of a cosy middle class, middle England consensus, said Tutton. A denomination like ours grew up in working class areas. We should be promoting work as a priority.

We should hold the consensus to account, he continued. It’s assumed to be right, because everyone says it is.

Used by permission of The Baptist Times.