We'll consider some recent examples later; but first let's briefly consider the reign of Good Queen Bess. Unlike her sister, who set out to exterminate Protestantism by burning 'heretics' in their hundreds, Elizabeth sought no window into mens' souls and only had Catholics pursued to their deaths if they were actively out to kill her, that is, on account of treason and not religion - a very important distinction. The Catholic question concerned the obvious civil criminality of seeking the Queen's assassination under a mandate from Rome. Doctrinally the Church of England was more troubled by puritanism.
In the 19th century, Catholics were re-admitted to the body politic with no particularly baleful consequences that that can be identified today. Perhaps even more remarkably, one hundred years later the would-be Marxists - including some out-and-out revolutionaries - of the first Parliamentary Labour Party were house-trained (indeed, House-trained) to the point when in 1929 Margaret Bondfield (a relative of mine and one-time firebrand union militant) was mostly concerned about whether or not she should wear a hat when she went to accept her office as Britain's first woman Cabinet minister from the King. (Her instinct was that she should: but in discussion with the Cabinet Secretary they decided it might get in the way when she knelt to kiss His Majesty's hands ...)
Which brings us to the challenges of the hour, notably militant Islam, and revolutionary Corbyn/McDonnellism. Defusing the obvious nightmare scenarios in the British Way is a work in progress, and the outcome(s) may fairly be in doubt. But, not for the first time, I offer you Sadiq Khan as a significant phenomenon - possibly on both counts.
What's he been up to lately? Here are two interesting straws in the wind. Firstly, and in the headlines just now, he has responded to the London New Year knifings by announcing a "significant increase" in stop-and-search. In so doing he is trampling on a lot of left-Labour sensibilities, not to mention going back (again) on a campaign promise. David Lammy doesn't like this at all, and he won't be alone. It all confirms Khan as a kneejerk politician in the (in)glorious British tradition.
But there's more, albeit not headlining in quite the same way.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Pubs across the capital are often at the heart of our communities or of historic value and should be protected by local authorities in order to protect the capital’s unique character. From historic watering holes to new pop-up breweries, nothing defines the diverse and historic character of the capital better than the Great British Pub. That’s why I’ve set out measures in my draft London Plan to protect pubs against redevelopment, ensure they can co-exist peacefully with nearby residential properties and ensure that councils across the capital recognise their importance to the city’s cultural fabric” ... Sadiq Khan committed to working together with the Campaign for Real Ale ... (City Hall Press Release)I put it to you that he didn't need to say all this. Not every London announcement carries a direct Mayoral quote: he has plenty of deputy mayors to front for initiatives if he doesn't wish to put his personal fingerprints on them. Nope: he's making a point here, and not one that will go down well in every religious quarter.
The great British genius for sweeping everyone along is still at work. There is of course, a lot of Momentum moving in a nasty direction. But who knows: maybe that tide will be turned as well by the time Corbyn kneels to kiss hands. Continuity Rules ...