Reflections on the 2019 General Election

Boris Johnson in 2016 when he was Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Courtesy of Flickr / Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Boris Johnson in 2016 when he was Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Courtesy of Flickr / Foreign and Commonwealth Office

I have to admit to a feeling of elation — okay, Schadenfreude — at the Liberal Democrats’ electoral wipeout on Thursday, as well as at Jo Swinson’s losing her own seat in the Commons.

I first came across Jo Swinson before she was elected leader of the Lib Dems — before many people knew who she was, though she was at the time the party’s deputy leader — in an episode of the BBC’s Daily Politics broadcast on 22 May 2018 and presented by Jo Coburn.

The programme featured both Jacob Rees-Mogg and Ms. Swinson and included a lengthy discussion on the imminent Republic of Ireland referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment, effectively a mandate on whether to legalize abortion there.

“On the BBC’s Daily Politics in 2018, Jo Swinson described Jacob Rees-Mogg’s views on abortion as ‘extreme.’ Already you could see the ranting, ideological tone that would characterize her during this election campaign.”

Whatever you think of Rees-Mogg’s politics — and I certainly don’t agree with him on everything — throughout the programme he remained calm, polite and unflappable. Coming on towards the end of the programme, Ms. Swinson described Rees-Mogg’s views on abortion — the only logically consistent position in the room, by the way — as “extreme.” Already on that programme you could see the ranting, ideological tone that would characterize her during this election campaign.

It was therefore with considerable dismay that I watched her elected leader of the Lib Dems earlier this year.

For me this General Election was never about Brexit. I almost wish it could have been. But, as a Christian, there were far bigger issues at stake for our country in this Election than whether we left the European Union or not.

When I looked at the Liberal Democrat manifesto for this Election I had a distinct feeling of nausea. Its policies included:—

  • The complete decriminalization of abortion for any reason up to 24 weeks across the UK. In effect, a licence for sex-selective abortions.[1]
  • The removal of the existing medical safeguards from the Gender Recognition Act 2004, effectively allowing men to be treated as women by a simple declaration.[2]

“In November the Lib Dems deselected parliamentary candidate Rob Flello, who is a Catholic, for expressing traditional views on abortion and on same-sex marriage. The party told Flello that he was free to hold traditional views on these issues, but not to express them on social media — which is just vacuous doublespeak.”

In addition, in November the Lib Dems deselected parliamentary candidate Rob Flello, who is a Catholic, for expressing traditional views on abortion and on same-sex marriage. The party told Flello that he was free to hold traditional views on these issues, but not to express them on social media — which is just vacuous doublespeak.

Under Ms. Swinson’s leadership, the Liberal Democrats have been transformed overnight into the Illiberal Democrats. Perhaps given their policy on Brexit, we should even say the Illiberal Autocrats. There really hasn’t been very much democratic about them.

Speaking in defeat on Friday morning after her party’s and her own electoral wipeout, Ms. Swinson engaged in a fist-shaking denial of the reasons the electorate had decisively rejected her party’s approach. Insisting she had followed the right course in pursuing an unequivocal ‘Stop Brexit’ policy, she said, “I don’t regret trying… because the prize was to save our future, our children’s future.”

She even appeared to blame sexism for the result. “One of the realities of smashing glass ceilings is that a lot of broken glass comes down on your head,” she said.

Is this the same sexism which denied Theresa May three years in No. 10 as Britain’s second woman Prime Minister, following a leadership race which she contested — albeit briefly — with another woman, Andrea Leadsom? Is this the same glass ceiling which doesn’t seem to be causing the far more capable Nicola Sturgeon too many difficulties?

No, Jo; it’s not sexism to dislike someone because they’re dislikeable.

Labour

“When you have respected voices such as Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis denouncing the ‘poison’ of antisemitism in the Labour party, you know it has a serious problem.”

If the Illiberal Democrat manifesto was a serious turn-off for me, as a Christian, then Labour’s manifesto hardly made more promising reading. It proposed:—

  • A complete decriminalization of abortion right up to birth.[3]

For me, equally bad was the manifest and rampant antisemitism pervading the party. The accusations of antisemitism within the party became a loud chorus in August 2018 and wouldn’t go away thereafter. When you have respected voices such as Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis denouncing the “poison” of antisemitism in the party, you know it has a serious problem.

Conservatives

The Conservative majority which emerged on Friday morning was won apparently in spite of its leader, who, it was reported yesterday, currently has a negative approval rating of -11 points. (Compare this with Tony Blair’s +51 rating when he entered Downing Street in 1997.)

BoJo has deservedly acquired the epithet ‘Bonking Boris’ for his multiple relationships and affairs, and, allegedly, illegitimate children.

“The fact that I can regard a decisive electoral victory for a leader who bends our constitution almost to breaking-point for his own ends, and whom I wouldn’t trust to tell the truth if he were reading the classified football results, as a positive outcome just demonstrates what a poor choice the UK populace faced in 2019.”

I must admit that, for me, Boris’ dubious personal life is a secondary consideration. I have always viewed policy and statesmanship as more important qualifications for public office (other than ecclesiastical office) than a candidate’s personal life. Certainly when it comes to statesmanship, Boris has shown himself far more adept than either Corbyn or Swinson.

Much more serious in my view is Boris’ willingness to dispense with the conventions of our Parliamentary system. His attempted five-week prorogation of Parliament was a cynical attempt to misuse the centuries-old conventions of our system for his own political purposes. It earned Boris a description as “the father of lies” (= the devil!) by Aidan O’Neill QC during the trial in the UK Supreme Court which eventually overturned the prorogation.

There is, of course, also Boris’ well-documented casual relationship with the truth.

The astute reader will already have observed that in this blog post I have discussed the three main England-based parties[4] in descending order of the odium in which I held them during this Election campaign. The fact that I can regard a decisive electoral victory for a leader who bends our constitution almost to breaking-point for his own ends, and whom I wouldn’t trust to tell the truth if he were reading the classified football results, as a positive outcome just demonstrates what a poor choice the UK populace faced in 2019.

The bigger picture

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ…”

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 3:20

Some final thoughts.

During a General Election — and especially one as passionately contested and with so much at stake as this one — it is easy even for Christians to get wrapped up in the events of here-and-now, and to forget that there are always bigger things going on than whether this or that political party sweeps to power.

For whomever we voted during this General Election, as Christians we can always look beyond the contemporary situation to the eternal hope of things to come. We believe that one day all of this, our politics and our partisanship, will be swept away and there will be ushered in the reign of righteousness.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ…”
Philippians 3:20[5]

Therefore, as Christians, we can

“lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
Luke 21:28 (KJV)[6]

 

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Scripture quotations (unless otherwise stated) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 


[1] https://www.christian.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/election-briefing-2019_updated-2.pdf, p.22; https://christianconcern.com/resource/responding-to-the-liberal-democrat-election-manifesto/

[2] https://www.christian.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/election-briefing-2019_updated-2.pdf, p.22

[3] https://christianconcern.com/resource/responding-to-labours-election-manifesto/

[4] Being in the south of England, I have not felt qualified to offer any considered view on provincial parties such as the SNP, Plaid Cymru or the NI parties.

[5] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians+3%3A20&version=ESVUK

[6] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+21%3A28&version=KJV

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