It couldn't have happened in America. Other there, Republican and Democrat presidential hopefuls alike are falling over each other in the rush to boast about how many impossible beliefs they manage to hold, from Mike Huckabee's openly espoused creationism to Mormon Mitt Romney's proclamation, in his speech at George Bush Senior's Presidential Library, that he believed every one of his religion's preposterous doctrines. One of which, I believe, states that Jesus came originally from the planet Kolob. Romney also made the frankly terrifying statement that "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom".
In Britain, by contrast, we now find ourselves in possession of an avowedly atheistical party leader. Asked on Radio Five "Live" whether he believed in God, he paused for a moment, and let it slip out.
Such clarity, bravery even in the current faith-obsessed climate, almost made up for his stumbling performance on the radio yesterday, when he feigned ignorance of Shane Macgowan's masterpiece Fairytale of New York.
Sadly, he went and spoiled it all a few moments later, once the spin doctors had got to him, with the following statement:
I have enormous respect for people who have religious faith. I’m married to a Catholic and am committed to bringing my children up as Catholics.
However, I myself am not an active believer, but the last thing I would do when talking or thinking about religion is approach it with a closed heart or a closed mind.
In other words, I may think it's all a load of baloney, but I don't mind teaching it to my children. Presumably he's been warned there aren't many votes in atheism.
According to Paul Woolley of think tank Theos (they of the Christmas general ignorance survey),
“If he is saying that is he agnostic, obviously that is probably not quite so serious politically as saying you are an atheist.”
Indeed. Except that he was asked if he believed in God, and he said "No".
What part of No aren't we meant to understand?
Don't listen to the advisers, Nick. People in this country couldn't care less what their leaders believe. If anything, given the disastrous foreign wars and pseudo-moralism of God-guided Blair, an injection of full-blooded atheism into the body politic might go down very well.