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'.


  1. You are sharing the feelings of many about the election results. We are disappointed, but shouldn't really be surprised. The Conservatives fought a dirty, below the belt campaign, setting out to demonize the SNP and secondarily UKIP for their own advancement. And they've spectacularly succeeded. We need to ask ourselves how could the polls been so mistaken, but if we look at human character, perhaps we're fed up with being asked stupid questions by pollsters and are therefore less than honest in our answers.

    The next five years will be hard for all sorts of reasons, but the victimisation of the poor, vulnerable, migrants and foreigners in general will increase voluably. If Mr Cameron gets what he wants from Europe, the end of freedom of movement for employment and a reduction of what we pay, he'll probably cuts his cloth and dump the referendum, or, as in the past, skew the questions towards the answer that he wants. If he doesn't, which is highly probable, we'll have all out war with people taking sides, which might be different from their political allegiances. I actually believe that the 'little Englander' attitude which seems to pervade many people that I know, will win out and we will leave europ, whether scotland wants to stay or not.

    But as a signal to us all, Mr Gove has been appointed as Justice Secretary, replacying Chris Grayling, a moderate conservative, with one determined to get his (their) way and given the dirty job of doing away with the Human Rights Act, removing us from the European Convention of Human Rights and even leaving the European Judicial System if that is what it takes. Another way of leaving Europe by the back door - as I can't see the other European Countries standing idly by. Expulsion might be an option - and the Conservatives can hold up their hands and blame the foreigners trying to interfere with UK Soveriegnty.

    So, if the Church wants to use it's voice wisely over the next few years, it needs to witness through that voice and through it's actions and teachings that only a moderate pathway, with respect for the dignity of all, particularly the poor, vulnerable, foreigners and prisoners is Jesus' call to us all - love thy neighbour as Jesus loved us being the foundation for that. And prayer, prayer, prayer and more prayer for a change of heart and conscience for all who rule us for now and into the future.

  2. In my opinion....

    The Labour party managed to pull off the trick of being not dissimilar to the Tories in true intent (ie reducing the deficit very slightly more slowly) while appearing much more left wing (eg the 1970s-style approach of controlling gas prices). So they could never have won.

    Taking other people's money to give to the poor may or may not be as effective in helping them as producing real jobs, which is at least what the Tories were claiming to do (and zero-hours contracts are still real jobs). We had to take a judgement on which was most likely to work. Labour didn't inspire confidence. That's about it.

  3. Helpful - thank you. Good to have some wisdom on this; too much lament and one can become too negative.