Government u-turns

In the UK this year we have seen a number of government u-turns. These u-turns include the government changing their policy in : the wearing of face masks in schools and shops, the grading of A levels and GCSE’s, the use of Huawei technology in our 5G network, the development of the NHS test and trace app and the provision of free school meals in the summer holidays.

Whenever a government makes a u-turn it normally generates headlines in the media. The opposition parties always highlight this, using it as an opportunity to put the government under pressure. Additionally, we have also been seeing Conservative back-benchers criticise the government for the number of u-turns that have been made this year.

However are government u-turns wrong? Do they undermine the confidence of the public in the government? Are they just of interest to those in the so called Westminster bubble? What should the Christian response be?

There can be various factors behind a government u-turn. New information and evidence may come to light after the original policy is made which needs to be considered as part of the decision making process. To ignore these would be foolish and therefore it is a sign of a responsible government to consider these facts in their decision making. Making a u-turn shows that the government is willingly to admit that they made a mistake and were wrong with their original decision.

If we are being honest none of us make right decisions 100% of the time. Everyone make mistakes and takes wrong decisions in life. We may not like to admit it but it is impossible to deny the fact. Human make mistakes. The public know people get decisions wrong and it is very unlikely that they would expect any government to always get things right.

When I consider government u-turns from a Christian prospective I am reminded of the act of repentance. One of the definitions of repentance is that we change the direction in which we are heading. Instead of walking away from God we make a u-turn and turn to God. Therefore I think it is fair to say that a Christian should be understanding of a government that makes a change in policy direction, if they believed that their original policy is now wrong.

However, in respect of government u-turns there is also another side of this that we need to consider too. What happens when the government makes a u-turn after making a decision that proves to be unpopular with the public?

For example: as a result of the lockdown and furlough scheme the country is currently facing a huge debt. There are two ways to address this, either reduce expenditure or increase taxation. The Prime Minister has promised that we will not be returning to the days of austerity. Therefore taxation must increase. Now if in the forthcoming budget the Chancellor increases the top rate of income tax from 40% to 45% then that would obviously help reduce the debt. But this would undoubtedly upset the Conservative Party and could led to a slump in their ratings in the opinion polls. The government would then come under pressure to reverse this decision. However reversing a decision because it is unpopular is not the same as making a u-turn because one is wrong. This would show that the government is scared of making decisions that do not sit well with the electorate.

I believe that the public would be less sympathetic with this as everyone has to make decisions in life which upsets people. Do parents refrain from disciplining their children because they do not wish to upset them? Does a school teacher always give top marks to all pupils to avoid upsetting any of their class? Tough and unpopular decisions need to be made in life.

Likewise, when examining this from a Christian prospective making u-turns because a decision is unpopular is not the right thing to do. Just as the church should not change their message when it is not popular with everyone, then we would not expect the government to do this either.

In closing I would like to suggest that we remember to pray for those in government as Paul instructed Timothy:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV

It’s not easy being in government. There are times when u-turns are right and times they are wrong. Our politicians need wisdom to know the difference!

Pray for those in authority

Last Thursday the Conservative Party won the General Election with a majority of eighty seats. Boris Johnson is still the UK prime minister. Whilst some people were delighted with this result, others were disappointed and upset. Whatever our political views the public have spoken.

Many will probably now switch off from politics until the next opportunity to vote comes along. However, what should we do as Christians?

The most obvious answer to that question is to pray. In his first letter to Timothy the apostle Paul wrote:

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour” (1 Tim 2:1-3)

It’s very interesting when you consider the context in which Paul wrote the above words. He was not living in a modern 21st century democracy with free and open elections. Instead he was living under Roman rule. However, despite of that he still believed people should pray for those in authority.

It’s very easy to criticise our leaders. The challenge for us Christians though is to be people who pray for those in authority. Therefore I would suggest, regardless of how we may have voted, that we pray for the following:

The Prime Minister
Boris Johnson is the prime minister of the UK and as such needs our prayers. Whatever our personal views of him, we should pray for him. It’s not an easy job being prime minister. The position carries huge responsibility. We can pray that he will lead wisely and make just decisions that will be for the benefit of everyone.

The Government
In addition to praying for the prime minister we also need to pray for the various cabinet members. There are some very challenging issues that the government need to tackle in their various departments, for example: Brexit, NHS, child poverty, homelessness to name but some. These are areas that need a great deal of wisdom in tackling and the various ministers responsible for them require our prayers.

Our local MP
We also need to pray for our local member of parliament. Whether you voted for them or not they are your representative in parliament and need your prayers. Although your MP may be on the back benches, they could be on various committees that look at prospective legislation. They have the potential to influence the direction our nation takes and therefore it’s important to remember them too in prayer.

MP’s who are Christians
One of the interesting things about politics is that Christians have differing view on this subject. Therefore, they do not all belong to the same political party. I think it’s important that we remember to pray for those MP’s who have a Christian faith. It’s not easy being a believer in Westminster. There may be occasions where supporting your parties position on a matter means compromising your faith and we need to pray that they would have the courage to make the right decisions. In this environment we pray they might shine for Christ.

General Election

Next week, on 12th December, the general election will be taking place and we will be voting to decide who forms the next government of our country. With that in mind I thought it might be interesting to look at the election from a Christian perspective.

One thing I observe is that Christians vote for a variety of political parties. I know Christians who vote for: Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and the Brexit Party. Therefore, I think it’s fair to state at the outset, Christians have a wide diverse range of political views!

Who should I vote for?
There is no political party that is completely right on all issues. I’m sure that if you delve into each party’s manifesto you will discover various policies that you either support or oppose. The following pointers might help you in deciding who will get your vote:

1. Do not just think about which party will benefit you, but think of the country as a whole. If a party promises tax cuts ask yourself who will end up paying for this. Will it be funded by a cut in public services that will disproportionately effect the poorer members of society? Conversely, if a party is promising huge public expenditure but is not providing much detail about how this will be financed, it’s right to question from where this money is coming?

2. Do not just simply believe all the promises that are made during the campaign but question them. One party says that they will increase the number of nurses or police but how are they are going to fund this? Did they have a similar promise at a previous election and not act upon it?

3. Check out the manifestos that are published. It may not be possible to read them all but at least try and get a rough idea of their content. Find the issues that are important to you and then see what each party is saying on them.

4. If you get an opportunity to attend a public meeting, where the prospective candidates are answering questions, go along and observe. You may even, if you are feeling brave, ask a question yourself.

5. This might sound very obvious but pray before you vote. Just because you have always voted Conservative / Labour / Liberal Democrat etc does not mean that you should necessarily vote for them this time.

6. Remember that our political leaders are humans like you and me. Perhaps you think that one of the party leaders has a charismatic personality. However we should remember that they are fallible. All of them make mistakes and get things wrong. Yes even the one that you are planning to support! Only God is fully trustworthy and reliable.

Should I vote?
There are many places in the world where it’s not possible to have a fair and open election. Whilst I can understand those who are reluctant to vote for various reasons, I do think it’s important we take the opportunity presented to cast our vote. People have sacrificed their lives and fought for the right to vote so we should remember that if we are feeling apathetic about voting.

It does concern me that many people do not vote in our country. If you look at the last two general elections the turnout was:

• 2015 – 66.1%
• 2017 – 68.7%

That’s over 1 in 3 people not voting in 2015 and only slightly more voting two years later.

I wonder what the result would have been if the turnout was 100%? Would we have got a different government? Would Brexit have been dealt with in a timely fashion? No one knows this obviously but it does make you think.

Even if you live in a constituency that has a five figure majority for the party you do not support you should still vote. If you don’t like the result of the election but you did not vote, how can you comment on the result?

Final Thoughts
Politics can be a very divisive subject and there are certainly times when I avoid discussing it with family and friends. I think certainly since the Brexit vote in 2016 things have got worse in our country. It’s important as Christians that we aim to be salt and light in this area. We need to think and pray before we open our mouths. Just because someone has a different political viewpoint to us does not necessarily mean we are right and they are wrong. There might even be the possibility that we are wrong!

In closing pray about the general election and after the result is announced pray that the newly elected government might have wisdom to govern wisely and fairly.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, (1 Timothy 2:1-3)