CofE bishop warns David Cameron not to lead UK into war, poverty and chaos

Bishop Steven Croft

A senior Church of England figure has used a lesson from the Bible to warn the Prime Minister against leading the UK into war, poverty and chaos.

The Bishop of Sheffield, Steven Croft, an "open" evangelical who is an expert on mission, urged David Cameron to "read and ponder" the lessons about accepting and weighing advice in the story of Reheboam in 1 Kings 12.

Reheboam, who succeeded his father King Solomon, rejected advice from the dead king's counsellors, to be a servant to the people of the north, reach out to the disaffected and ease their burdens.

Instead he listens to his his own contemporaries who give the opposite advice, that discontent should be met with harshness and burdens increased. They tell the new government that it should start as it means to go on.

Bishop Croft writes: "Reheboam makes his choice. It is a fateful one. He listens to the younger, harsher, more strident voices. A few years later, the kingdom is divided, at war, impoverished and in chaos."

He says he is confident that Cameron will be receiving both sorts of advice. "There will be those who counsel him to reach out to the whole nation, to connect with the disaffected, to listen to the people and to be their servant.

"But there will be those who see the Conservative majority as a mandate to fulfil and go beyond the manifesto commitments, blind to the risk of increasing the burdens of those who already bear the heavy load (of sickness, disability or the struggle to find sustainable employment)."

The bishop admits that the Prime Minister's speech on the steps of Downing Street on Thursday moved clearly in the first direction, speaking of one nation and trying to connect more deeply with Scotland and the regions. But days later, headlines in newspapers such as The Telegraph described the new government as at "war", for example, with the BBC.

Bishop Croft urges Cameron to commit to safeguarding the environment and to leadership in the key climate conferences this year, to abolish the bedroom tax, to make an early review of benefits sanctions and suspend all sanctions for families with children and people suffering from mental ill health.

He also calls on the Prime Minister to back the Living Wage, to take a long view of constitutional reform, to revisit the ideas of the Big Society and to accelerate the provision of affordable housing.

He writes: "The word Minister means servant. A Prime Minister is called to be one who serves the whole nation. If Reheboam had listened to different advice the whole story of Israel would have been different. I hope that David Cameron will take a moment to read and ponder his story: to listen to all the people, to lighten burdens, and to build one nation, for the benefit of all."