I respect Tim Farron, who resigned as Leader of the Liberal Democrats because he could not reconcile that position with his Christian faith, though I am not sure that I fully understand him. In the UK we are accustomed to having political leaders with a Christian faith. Those that are not Christians have been the exception rather than the rule. Furthermore, we Christians tend to disagree just as much as those with no belief. On all the great questions of conscience in my time in Parliament, the Christians have pretty well divided themselves evenly between both the ‘aye’ and ‘no’ lobbies.
The row with which Farron was confronted was driven by the belief, common among journalists, that for Christians, ‘sin’ is principally all about what people get up to in bed. (It really isn’t.)
Mercifully, Farron and the gay sex row was only a footnote in the election. During that long campaign however, it occurred to me that there were much bigger and much more important moral questions. Here is just one of them.
I am profoundly concerned about just how corrupting our ‘transactional’ politics has become. By transaction I mean “vote for me and I’ll give you ‘whatever’.
Before the great Reform Act the transaction was at least open and above board. For example, “vote for me and I’ll pay you a guinea”. The voter having declared his vote in public at the ballot, could then expect the candidate to pay up. Corrupt, depressing, but essentially an honest and transparent transaction. The arrival of the secret ballot however, removed any certainty that the voters have fulfilled their part of the bargain. So instead, politicians still offer all sorts of inducements to voters, but now they are to be paid for with other people’s money.
The voter however, is so often told that whatever is on offer, will be ‘free’ and that others will foot the bill: that the rich will pay for it; or the corporations will pay for it. It has a whiff of the French Revolution about it, but we have become so inured to it that we are blind to the corrupting belief that we deserve to have something for nothing, and for which others ought to pay: At this election some voters were even told that their debts would be written off at the public expense, others were told that breakfast would be free.
When did we lose the sense that we all have responsibilities, and that everyone must make a contribution?
My heart sinks every time when I am on the doorsteps and the voter asks “what are you going to do for us”. Elections should be about the future of our country, not just what you can get.