POLITICS, LEADERSHIP AND AUTHORITY – WHAT A RESPONSIBILITY!

Tony Blair

They say ‘a week is a long time in politics’, but it’s taken seven long years for the Chilcot Report to be published. The Inquiry into the Iraq war may have been announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on 15th June 2009 but the final report published on the 6th July 2016 with its ‘damming conclusions’ about the ‘decision to go to war’ and upon what basis the nation did so, immediately shone a light, once again, upon his predecessor, Tony Blair. The media were waiting with eager anticipation as to what he would say – and whether he would apologise for the deaths of 179 British Servicemen and many others killed during the conflict.

The pros and cons of such a debate are far too long and complex for me to consider here, but they do raise some interesting questions about power, leadership and authority, and raise the conundrum of what do we do when the people that we vote into government (often with large popular majorities), do things that we rather wish they didn’t? Frequently the cry is for firm leadership – but what happens when our leaders firmly direct us in the wrong direction? Understandably many people will have a view on Tony Blair, and hindsight as they say is a wonderful (and occasionally cruel) thing, but perhaps it should be noted that despite his many failings Chilcot does not say that Tony Blair wilfully deceived Parliament, rather that he honestly believed the flawed intelligence that had been given to him, and despite many people marching in protest against the war, polls showed that at the time, public opinion was overwhelmingly in support of military action. All of which goes to show how easy it is for us a nation to be led up the garden path, unless we ensure that all the appropriate checks and balances are in place. This is all salient, because once again we find ourselves as a nation at a crossroads, and once again ‘firm leadership’ is called for as the Conservative Party elects a new leader and Prime Minister. In homage to Margaret Thatcher, Teresa May and Andrea Leadsom are already being touted as the new ‘iron maidens’ for our generation but they will need to be careful that in their desire to provide firm and positive leadership in the light of the nation’s decision to leave the EU, that they do so collegiately and with the full support of their cabinet, colleagues and party members or else they too in future years could find the swathe of public opinion against them. Firm leadership is not always about getting one’s own way, but taking sound advice and acting in the best interest of others.

It’s interesting that there is a sober lesson to be the learnt from the pages of the Bible, because at one point the people of Israel were so unhappy with their current system of leadership, that instead of the historic train of prophets ruling over them, they demanded a king so that they might be like all the “other nations” having a king to govern them and go out before them and fight their battles (1 Samuel 8). The prophet Samuel saw this as a rejection of God’s voice and authority administered via the prophets and warned them about all the disadvantages of having a king and the possible corruption that came with it, but the people wouldn’t listen. So Samuel prayed to God about it who graciously let the people have their way. The lesson is that sometimes God grants us the very thing that we wish for, but then not only do we have to take responsibility for our actions but we sometimes also have to live with the consequences.


And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6.8


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EU REFERENDUM – SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

eu referendum shutterstock_392967421

In the light of the EU referendum on the 23rd June, “The Clash’s” 1982 song Should I Stay or Should I Go (complete with backing vocals in Spanish) seems to sum up the mood of the moment as people struggle to decide which way they will vote ( ‘this indecision’s bugging me’ – esta indecision me molesta ). How do we decide? The problem is, of course, that a good case can be made either way. Most people would consider the ‘Common Market’ to be a good thing and initially thought that this was what they were joining, but over the years the EU has changed beyond recognition, becoming a vast bureaucratic machine (some would say empire) that has power and influence over most aspects of common life, from weights and measures, to rights of employees, to the environment. Over time, the size of the EU has also changed from the original six nations in 1957, to nine in 1973 when the United Kingdom joined, to the current twenty-eight, with other nations such as Turkey wanting to join at some point in the future. Many of the benefits have been considerable; cheaper products; greater choice and opportunity; stronger ties with European partners leading to a greater sense of mutual understanding, co-operation, stability, security and peace. The economic, corporate and personal opportunities have also been immense with the free movement of individuals across the continent seeking work and a better way of life.

Equally, as ‘the club’ grows bigger the disadvantages have become more apparent (and some would say irritating). Britain’s influence isn’t what it once was as it tries to negotiate with 27 other partners. The ‘one size fits all’ approach of Brussels doesn’t always seem to make allowance for exceptional or national circumstances, resulting in a perceived lack of sovereignty and a reduced ability to determine one’s own future (or even manage one’s own borders).

So, what IS the answer? Well, in some ways it’s hard to see ‘the wood for the trees’ as nobody really knows what life would be like if Brexit occurred. There are naturally a lot of fear stories and some things said which simply don’t appear to be logical. Why, for instance should our security arrangements be changed, because we decide to make the political and commercial decision to withdraw from EU? Collaborative working in this area seems only natural and no one is seriously suggesting otherwise.

David Cameron and Boris Johnson might be clashing with one another but in reality it seems to me that we have two choices! We either stick with the tried and trusted with all its imperfections and try to reform things for the better from within the EU, recognising the value of international co-operation – or we say that the EU is impossible to reform and has become simply too big for its own good, weighed down with its own bureaucracy hindering the creative talent, and well-being of individual nations such as ours. It’s a big decision and a difficult choice but it’s still our choice, and so I would like to urge you to do your best and think around the issues, be bold, courageous and use your democratic freedom to the best effect and vote. Vote not just for yourself or for what will benefit you in the short term, but vote for your children, grandchildren and their children, vote for future generations – what will give them the best chance of living in peace and prosperity? Vote for the nation!


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29.11