Post Brexit, your country needs you!

ReutersCommentators have suggested even Boris Johnson, the front-runner to succeed David Cameron, was taken unawares by the Leave campaign's victory.

After the UK's historic vote to leave the EU, there have been many calls for us to unite, to be respectful, to listen to and learn from those with whom we disagreed. This will be hard. The vote has revealed a nation divided. I voted in one direction, but many of my friend passionately disagreed.

What was even more politically discombobulating was the fact that these divisions were not the ones we had been used to. Party members were implacably opposed to one another. Christians in the same church debated the issues from opposite sides, members of the same family disagreed.

In my role as the executive director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship I feel very much at the heart of this debate and this vote. I work alongside the other Party Christian groups in Christians in Politics.

Together we issued a statement before the vote calling for inspiration in a kinder, deeper politics.

We continue to pray that in our conversations we will not shy away from passionate debate but that in all our discussions it will be seasoned with grace.

We pray for respect for those whom we opposed and for empathy for the concerns of our opponents.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said: "As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world." 

Despite feelings of regrexit, the British people have spoken. Regardless of speculation over the chance to rerun the vote, or the anger at the outcome, there was in the end an undeniable majority in favour of leaving. That democratic choice must be honoured.

When we dig a little deeper the underlying division is perhaps amplified rather than settled, revealed rather than solved. Technically Britain (England and Wales) voted for Brexit. Scotland and Northern Ireland, which when all combined make up the UK, didn't want to leave. Will an unintended consequence of the Brexit vote be another independence referendum in Scotland?

I grew up on the edge of the UK in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, which is surrounded by the Republic of Ireland. I remember vividly British soldiers checking my dad's driving licence as we passed the border checkpoint to get to the beach just nine miles away on the Atlantic coast.

While it is doubtful that the new special relationship between London and Dublin will be significantly harmed, huge unanswerable questions now arise about where the future boundary of the UK will be and what it will look like.

Even the most ardent Brexiteers would have admitted that pooling sovereignty, for example with NATO or the UN, can be a good thing. Amid all the disbelief and anger in the short term, it would be wise to see what options a future UK relationship with our neighbours could look like.

We have many potential models in front of us about our future EU relationship. It is up to us to make that future work for the good of all.

What must be clear is that the people have spoken. This result spoke from the heart of many who feel excluded from the political process and ignored by the so-called elites in business and statecraft.

Only a humble, grassroots politics rooted in our local communities, which refuses to judge or patronise on the grounds of age, wealth or education, will be acceptable.

Like many who have worked at the heart of the Westminster political village, even rising to work for a previous Conservative Party leader, I know that politics starts at home. However, perhaps we have lost this truth and need to relearn afresh political humility.

No institution, party, or government is forever. Change is the only certainty. Our political generation needs to reconnect with voters like never before.

Perhaps that disconnect with ordinary people is at the heart of the EU's current political crisis. Only by addressing the concerns of those who feel that subsidiarity has not been taken seriously will the wider EU family feel more at ease with itself politically.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trips on the Eurostar to Brussels. By working internationally, doing things together, it can be immensely positive for international politics peace and prosperity.

If the supporters of the EU feel frustration it is because they too are passionate about the positives of their case.

Rarely in politics do we have to make a binary choice. With political parties we can select from a range, we have edges of grey. With a referendum nuance is lost and the decision is absolute. So may we be gracious with those with whom we differ and may we learn to disagree well.

My own foray into elective politics by standing as a local council candidate was inspired by residents' concerns on the council estate on which I live on in south London.

It seems that for many, real politics is what they can feel on the pavement, not what is gossiped in the bars of parliament.

Most MPs do get this. Across the political party divide there are those who practise what they preach when it comes to helping constituents who are at their wits' end while also making time to debate matters of state in Westminster.

Now my own party, the Conservatives, face a leadership election over the summer after back-to-back campaigning in local, national, mayoral and referendum elections over the past few years.

I believe that Prime Minster David Cameron has been tireless in serving our nation and the Conservative Party.

I would challenge anyone to place their own or loved ones' names in the headlines we sometimes see written about our leaders. It is correct that our politicians are held to account, but they must daily count the cost of opening up their lives to the pressures and demands of public service.

Our next Conservative Party leader faces a daunting challenge of uniting the party while as prime minister uniting the nation. The government faces the historic task of negotiating a positive and practical exit from the European Union institutions over the coming years.

Meanwhile the Labour Party also faces an internal debate over its future direction, while each of the other parties will have to reassess how best to listen to the electorate in a post EU UK where we will have to decide all of our laws for ourselves.

In this new political reality we need to be encouraged to be the change we want to see. If we want to take control and see a better future we must be prepared to get politically engaged ourselves and build a positive future together.

This must start at home with our commitment to voting, to engaging in community social action, but it must also go national with a call to join in party politics.

We must also reach out internationally. Leaving the EU is a massive step, but it is not the only show in town. There are big social and political issues that Europe and the global community are facing and we must remain a nation with a global outlook and vision.

If we are going to respond to the legacy of murdered MP Jo Cox, while also listening and acting on the political pain felt by those who don't simply feel excluded by the EU but by politics in general, a new, more generous, more active citizen will be needed.

The Conservative Christian Fellowship stands ready as the bridge between the Church and the Conservative Party, as well as continuing to be a place of pastoral support and fellowship as we enter an unprecedented period of political change for our Country and a change of leadership for our Party and Nation. 

Now more than ever your country needs you. I pray that many more Christians will once again consider a political career and get involved in the CCF or one of the other groups affiliated to Christians in Politics.

Gareth Wallace is executive director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

Lifestyle