It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good

Our country is in a mess. The nation is in the midst of a major constitutional crisis. The people voted by a narrow margin to leave the European Union but three years later there is still no agreement about the terms for our separation that will ensure we have good relations with our neighbours for trade and matters of shared concern. The Government has no majority in Parliament and has been found guilty of lying and acting unconstitutionally by the Supreme Court.

The new deal proposed by the Government is highly likely to be rejected by the EU and the P.M. has indicated that would mean leaving the EU without a deal. Parliament has rejected that twice and Opposition parties are talking about a vote of no confidence in the Government. If a majority of MPs back an alternative Government of national unity there could be a further request for the Brexit deadline to be put back to 31st December in order to hold an election and give voters an opportunity to express our will.

As if that were not trouble enough, Brexit could also lead to the breakup of the UK. The voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the UK. Now the Scottish Government is demanding another independence referendum and the polls suggest there could now be majority support for leaving the UK. Northern Ireland is not yet at that stage but if Brexit causes the economic hardship that some expect the voters could well see reunion with the Irish Republic as in their best interests.

So where in all this are there signs of something more positive that might heal the nation and restore some hope in British politics? I tentatively suggest there might be two such signs.

The first is the 30,000 Extinction Rebellion activists who reject Brexit as a distraction from what really matters for all of us and are demonstrating to make their point. Whether or not we support them, the fact that so many mostly young people are prepared to campaign for a different priority in public policy to save the planet cannot be ignored. It would be foolish to dismiss them as an irrelevant distraction. Christians have a duty to care for God’s Earth (Genesis 1; 2:15; Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1; Colossians 1:15-16). We do not seem to have been good caretakers and now this movement is giving us all a wake-up call.

Some will also see Rory Stewart’s resignation from the Conservative Party and his intention to seek election as the next London Mayor, as another sign of hope. He is rejecting the present way politics is done in this country by standing as an Independent and going to the people, literally walking through each London Borough to meet and make himself accessible to the voters. He will be competing with candidates who have the backing and the finances of the party organisations but should not be written off lightly.

Stewart is no ordinary politician. He was previously a diplomat, serving as deputy-governor of two provinces in Iraq. He was also a Professor at Harvard University. He won respect as a competent Minister in Theresa May’s Government. As Prisons Minister, he promised to resign if in twelve months he failed to sort out the chaos in our prisons. He served in the Foreign Office and was International Development Secretary of State. He is also a best-selling author for a book about his 21 months walk across Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal. He was a popular MP for Penrith and the Border constituency. In short, he is no ordinary politician.

This is not to advocate either of these signs. It is only to suggest that they might be signs of hope and anything that might bring hope in our broken politics is worth noting and even praying about.

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