Sunday, 10 May 2015
Swimming against the blue tide
I don't think I've ever woken up to a Britain that felt so changed as I did the morning after the results had come in for the 2015 General Election. I went to bed with thoughts of equal red/blue and a generous dollop of orange (and hopefully some refreshing swathes of green) and woke up to a country of two halves - blue and yellow. It was an even bigger shock because the opinion polls had the Tories and Labour running neck and neck, so I had been imagining how parties would have to come together in alliances - even speculating that this was going to be the way of UK politics from now on, and a good middle way it seemed, to me at least.
I suppose it shows how unpredictable politics can be. When party politics was just blue or red, things seemed a lot simpler. It seems ironic that an election campaign which saw more parties represented in front of live audience sessions than ever before, should have paved the way for a political landscape which is more one sided than ever - both south and north of the English/Scottish border. And more oppositional. One can only imagine how it will be for David Cameron, whose party wants to press ahead with more austerity measures, to face Scottish Nationalist MPs across the bench, since their main aim is to oppose austerity. One might almost feel a tiny shred of sympathy for him. Almost.
Waking up to a blue and yellow "United" Kingdom, I felt I was sinking into a pit of gloom all day, and am still struggling. This is to do with many things - the fact so many people now need food banks, the gap between rich and poor, the nagging feeling the NHS isn't safe, etc. etc.
More pressingly, however, I'm gloomy about the following nightmare scenario: David Cameron's 2017 referendum on Europe is fuelled by a UKIP surge (after Nigel's short holiday) and a majority are persuaded our best interests lie outside Europe. This further worsens our relationship with Scotland as they want to stay in Europe, leading to overwhelming pressure for another independence referendum. This time Scotland votes YES. The morning after, I wake up, not even to blue and yellow, but to a blue with an increasingly purple tinge. I am no longer an EU citizen, or even a citizen of the United Kingdom, but a little Englander instead. My passport will be doubly illegitimate.
Prof. Linda Woodhead has carried out research that suggests Anglican clergy consistently find themselves positioned to the left of their congregations politically:
She argues that England as a whole is now generally slightly right of centre, with Anglicans even more to the right politically. However, 'official church teaching is positioned much further to the left of both the population, and even more so, Anglicans.' I'm not sure what teaching she refers to, but she may have a point. Someone has quipped that Anglicans are 'Telegraph readers led by Guardian readers'. Why is this?
The calling to 'seek and to save the lost', is hard wired into clergy, so that any political party which appears to favour the wealthy over the poorest in society is going to be regarded with suspicion. Ideologically I find it much harder to map the Conservative vision onto a Christian vision, than I do a socialist vision. The liturgy of Ordination for new priests enjoins them to 'resist evil, support the weak and defend the poor'. After a while, it changes the way you see society. Of course, there are many ways of being lost, and lostness can equally apply to those with wealth who are spiritually poor and whose hearts are closed to those in genuine need, those who are unemployed through illness or disability; or who are working and still unable to live at any standard even remotely approaching comfortable. And you do see need when you're a minister. It sniffs you out.
As fortune, or the Lectionary, would have it, that gloomy Friday morning, 8 May, was the feast of Mother Julian of Norwich, whose most famous quotable quote was 'All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well'. So I tried to take consolation from that. It's just that, as one of our typically slightly less than right wing church leaders tweeted: 'all manner of things may not be quite as well as some of us had hoped'.