I made the mistake recently of bringing up that thing, yes, THAT thing, that no-one really wants to talk about…the calamity of the General Election…
Like a fool, I brought it up with my window cleaning “gang” over tea and cake in the garden (a total conversation killer!), and then again in the barber shop last week. Luckily for me, I have the best barber in the world who can talk about anything and everything (shout out to Lewis at Lazarou if he’s reading this!).
As a proud socialist, and one time loyal Labour Party Member, I was hollowed out by the clean win by the Conservatives in an election, which I really thought would have a different outcome. How wrong was I?!
It goes to show just how little some of us truly know about the reality of the state of the nation. Weirdly though it may seem, I can stomach the fact that many people voted for the Tories and actually desire to see David Cameron lead Great Britain…the thing I can’t quite stomach is just how many people were willing to put their cross beside a party which I feel is quite frankly a diabolical reflection on our apparently eqaulity-proud and progressive society.
I live and serve as a Methodist Minister in Cardiff, in the Cardiff North constituency – I’d hoped, and voted for Mari Williams who was standing as a strong Labour candidate, unfortunately, she lost to Craig Williams. In my own constituency, the third largest party were UKIP, in the Cardiff South and Penarth constituency they were third, in the constituency of Caerphilly UKIP were second to Labour, and in Cardiff West and Cardiff Central UKIP were the fourth (more palatable!) most voted for party.
It’s been interesting to slowly see a party that was for many years one of the marginal contenders slowly creep to be a major player in the political circuit of our nation. I can’t personally give much time to the policies of such a maniacally bewildering party, but those of us who sit solidly and proudly on the left had better wake up!
Recently, as I was serving the elderly their lunches at a local outreach project prior to the election, I was horrified at some of the venomistic undertones with which the people spoke about immigration and overseas aid and assistance, people who saw UKIP as the only way to protect THEIR values, THEIR country, THEIR space – that was one small pocket of individuals in Cardiff, but if that reflects the feelings of many, then we have a problem.
Almost overnight, our nation seems to have transmogrified from the plural to the singular and that is where Labour suffers – the idea that we are all responsible in some small way for one another is no longer part and parcel of the thinking of everyday people, but it IS the very epicentre, the APEX of Christian belief, I would argue. That we are, all of us, interdependent, interconnected is precisely what the incarnation is about. That God came to us in the form of a man who WAS a refugee, WAS poor, WAS persecuted and oppressed and unjustly murdered like a common criminal…
I sat on the night of the election and watched the exit poll come in, I sat on the sofa, pretty glad actually – thinking that as per usual, the exit poll would predict the opposite of the outcome…then to wake up, and see just how successful the Conservative party and the SNP had been – an almost biblical expulsion of the Liberal Democrats, a gladiatorial failure of the Labour Party to the Tories in seats which up until then, looked like promising olympian victories! To round this off, we lose Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, and Nigel Farage as leaders all on one day…oh wait, sorry, the last one changed his mind again didn’t he?!
There is so much I want to say, but I wonder if any other Methodists watched the election of 2015 and felt a feeling of “This is familiar…”? Just me? I could draw one too many comparisons between the decline of the Labour Party and the decline of the British Methodist Church, but I think they are audible to the deaf and visible to the blind…you cannot be all things to all people, and like the Methodist Church of Great Britain, I fear the Labour Party has undergone a huge identity crisis and lack of self-esteem…for all my love for him, Ed just wasn’t as comfortable in his own skin as David Cameron, and people can spot a Chameleon a mile off! They have lost Ed as leader, they have lost Chuka Umunna as a possible leader…why are all the good ones walking away…?!
It was once said by a Secretary of the Labour Party, that “Labour owed more to Methodism than Marxism”.
If Methodism is anything, it is a movement of scriptural simplicity, founded on the coalition between rich and poor, black and white, male and female, straight and gay, old and young, citizen and refugee, under the eternal and everlasting coalition between God and God’s people – whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever they have done, whatever their abilities or disabilities…A coalition which has its genesis in the heart and mind of God, and which became tangible in that small, foul-smelling manger in Bethlehem.
Maybe it is time for scriptural simplicity…? Time for Labour to look to Methodism, for Methodism to look to John Wesley, and in looking to John Wesley see again that solidly simple image of Jesus Christ, who said in his own manifesto given in the face of rejection in Nazareth many years ago: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Luckily, for the Methodist people and the Labour Party – the good news is that we are NOT the good news, the Good News of the Gospel is the good news, and even when our systems, or instutions seems to fail – God is always up to something. Press on comrades – there is work to be done! Why not start a little fund for the poor – put all your loose change in it and help those who are in need?