A Political Calling?

Are politics and the church strange bedfellows?
We have a strange tradition called the House of Lords.
In the Upper House the ‘Lords Spiritual’ have no party affiliation. Their seats are on the Government side of the Lords Chamber and, as such, their seats are on the right-hand side of the throne, representing the fact that they, of all the members of the House of Lords, are the most loyal to the Crown.

Now, even as a Christian myself, this does seem somewhat archaic but much of what we cherish in Britain is built on old traditions. And perhaps that is part of what some people worry about when they talk ‘our traditions’, ‘our history’, ‘being British’ getting eroded.

Sadly all that leads to a jingoism that undermines the positive benefits of the multi-cultural society that is also now ours. I am not neccessarily proposing any reform and my agnostic or athiest friends may feel I should. But I do value tradition and feel that change must be carefully thought through where its status is not bad or dangerous.

Perhaps what I feel in this case is that it would picking on a part of this House that is a bit like scratching a sore that really needs surgery.

My bigger gripe in relation to the upper house is the periodic honours list and granting of peerages for political benefit. I really dislike hearing that someone has been honoured for doing what they do every day, usually in their work, whether being an actor or head of a large corporate entity, no matter how well they do it. And many of them are also making a very lucrative living at the same time.

Thousands, millions, of people work to their best capability every day earning less and never getting that 15 minutes that says ‘well done’.

And there are many who really are doing that extra bit in charity, public service and care of others. For these to receive recognition is what actually makes the OBE or knighthood justifiable.

Sitting in the Cathedral last Sunday whilst three men and women were made deacons in the church I was struck, as I always am, by phrases like – “They are to serve the community” and “To work with their fellow members in searching out the poor and the weak, the sick and lonely, and those who are oppressed and powerless …”

Whilst I sat listening to the vows being taken – and the wonderful choir – my thoughts reflected upon politics. Over recent years we have become far too cynical about politicians in our country. I accept that, throughout my life, there have been corrupt representatives and, especially when I was young, politicians in managed and secure seats that used their place for personal gain and power.

But over time with public scrutiny, improvements in the law, press ctiticism and greater openness and transparency politics has become increasingly a commitment to others. And that phrase I mention from last Sunday “to serve the community” sits in the heart of most of today’s politicians – of all parties.

And so, I often find myself chastising when I hear people making comment about politics being corrupt and the MPs untrustworthy. I hear comments like ‘I don’t vote – politicians are all the same so what’s the point?’

I have been a member of the LibDems and the Liberal Party before since 1972; 45 year of pure faith – faith in the expectation of politics with Liberal values.

I have seen people make such commitment and work so hard with the ultimate aim to “serve the community (constituents)”. So, when a few politicians in power, under threat from UKIP, took our nation through an event that has poisoned the goodness we all wanted to grow and cherish I am truly saddened.

Even following on from the expenses scandal and other issues that dismayed the public, fuelled by the flames of the UK popular press, exit from the EU feels shabby. Some politicians, either through greed or self preservation, want to drive this without consultation, transparency or with any sense of doing what is really best for the country.

Division across our country; abuse, especially on social media; and a sense of hoplessness by the population at large are distressing. People are turning to poularism, such as offered by the Labour party, or desperation as shown by the tactical voting to diminish the Tory power.

The one glimmer of real hope in the short term is that the governing Tories are in a corner and starting to concede on policies to placate voters. It is cheap but in their best interests and even feels like a bit of sanity.

Brexit may also get something of a make over with the Government involving others in the process. The Tories know that if they make a mess of this then the next election could have them out of power for a very, very long time.

NOW is the time for the LibDems; to keep Britain open, tolerant and united. I don’t expect the Tories to call an election for a long time for the fear that they are far too vulnerable.They have just spent a fortune to keep the DUP alongside them for the next two years.

And they may not wish for an early leadership election either as they need to appear ‘strong and stable!’. Provided that Theresa May does an OK job with no more gaffs that makes sense.

That means we now have time to develop our local resources, recruit, campaign and build an image of the special political machine that sits right in the centre offering all that is good and fair with hope and aspiration. But it is now, not sometime soon, because changing perceptions, building trust and engaging firmly in the communities is not a quick fix.

Liberalism is a Political Calling, one that we seek to make an accepted British institution for the future.