Westminster 3rd September
The noisy protestors cannot be heard behind the scaffolded walls of the Parliament building. Inside on the green benches a Prime Minister is defeated and his Party diminished. In the House of Lords there is scrutiny of three urgent statements from the Other Place on a recent G7 summit, No Deal Brexit arrangements and Further Education spending, a short debate on Banking Standards and the closing stages of the Bill to refurbish the whole Palace of Westminster.
Meanwhile back home many of us wonder will the Commonwealth Games 2022 Bill be passed in time and what is the status of the threat to HS2? We are anxious about personal economic and social uncertainty. We are puzzled about the flows between rowdy rallies and formal debate, prorougement and recess, lies and truth, bullying and fair play.
There are two themes that can guide our behaviour in the next turbulent months of our national and local politics.
The first is a mature way of holding difficult discussions.
In Birmingham we have experienced Interfaith Conversations, Faithful Friends Journeys and a Poverty Truth Commission that have each taken us across social, political and economic boundaries, deepened our sympathies and changed our understanding of one another and our own behaviour in society. For these methods to be replicated as electors we will need to examine our commitments to political parties. Has the appalling bitter narrowness of many constituency associations been possible because the ordinary voter does not participate? We will have to test the usefulness of a formal and properly constituted Citizens Forum as a way of breathing new life into our democratic structures. Even our opinionated meal table and cafe and pub chats can be upbuilding and friendly if we choose.
The second is a vision of reconciliation for the greater good.
Observing the broadcast-filtered headline opinions of our current discourse and aggressive, threatening, unaccountable attacks through social media, it is natural to want to withdraw from the fray. In contrast I believe the UK’s long history of facing adversity and making courageous, painful transitions shows us that it is possible to work together across our differences. As Adrian Pabst and John Millbank remind us, people value family, friendships, locality, community, country and ‘a reasonable hope for a better future - anchored in a way of life that involves a sense of sacrifice and contribution to the Common Good’ (The Politics of Virtue).
We now need a breakthrough of that hope. Hope that raises our sights to a settled creative relationship with our international neighbours around the world. Hope that appreciates neighbours at home going about their local and global purpose amongst all sorts and conditions of people.
The Palace of Westminster will take at least 10 years to restore. Many of the current public servants will be gone. Let us have a democracy that is worthy of occupying the rebuilt Houses. Let us have a society that has homes and streets and workplaces where all can flourish.
Let us pray in the hope that
“Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in”. (Isaiah 58:12)