The UK election – a new start and new sense of hope?

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One of the great things about Christianity is that it offers hope in a hopeless world, and the ultimate new start – the new birth. Nothing else comes near to that. Indeed, every other idol offering these ends up being false. Which is why I have been really surprised at the almost evangelical language being used by some Christian leaders concerning the election of the new Labour government.

One wrote of change, a new start and a new sense of hope. Others encouraged Christians to vote for justice, compassion and peace – which is 'Newspeak' for vote Labour or Liberal. But will all of this be delivered by the new government? On the other hand, there are those like Peter Hitchens, who having spent years telling us not to vote for the Tories, did an about face just before the election and urged us all to vote for the Tories because otherwise we would end up with a radical Left government.

I'm not a big fan of either the utopian or apocalyptic language.Indeed, I suspect that the 40 per cent of the electorate who couldn't be bothered to vote, because they see it as making little difference, may well be right. Nonetheless elections are important, and it is a privilege to be able to vote. Let's try to avoid the hyperbole of 'the kingdom is coming', or 'we are all doomed', and reflect on what this result means for the UK, and the Church. 

1. The result does not bode well for the future of British democracy.

On the one hand, our first past the post system has given us a strong government – perhaps too strong – with a majority of over 250. On the other hand, this government has been elected by only 20% of the electorate. It took 22,000 votes per Labour MP, and 1 million per Reform MP. Labour with 34% of the vote (the lowest for a governing party) got 64% of the seats; the Tories with 24% got 19%; Reform (14%) and the Greens (7%) got 1% each.

For me, the most interesting statistic of the night was that whereas Jeremy Corbyn got 12,877,918 votes in 2017 and 10,269,051 votes in 2019, (he lost and was considered a massive failure), in 2024 Keir Starmer got 9,643,399 and got a massive parliamentary majority!

The FPTP system works well in a two-party system; it becomes manifestly unjust in a multiparty system. It is unlikely that the Tories or Labour will seek to change this – as it keeps them both in business. But if things stay the same it will create further disillusionment and unrest.

2. The United Kingdom is safe for the next decade.

One of the most significant results of the election was the devastation of the SNP – down from 48 seats to 9. The SNP spin doctors were trying to portray this as some of their supporters lending their votes to Labour to get the Tories out – but that doesn't make sense. The Tories were never going to get more than the six seats they already held. The reality is that just as the result in England was caused by dissatisfaction with the Conservative government, so the result in Scotland was primarily caused by dissatisfaction with the Scottish government. As a result, the cause of independence has been set back for at least ten years.

3. The rise of the Reform Party, with over 4 million votes and 5 MPs is significant.

It causes a real dilemma for the Conservatives. On the one hand, all the pundits tell them not to veer to the Right (they could then lose even more of their seats in the leafy suburbs of Southern England to the Lib Dems). But on the other, there are vast numbers of people all over the country who have concerns about immigration, the effects of Net Zero, and the various manifestations of the woke ideology that has captured most of our elites. Ultimately the Conservatives were not elected because they ran the country badly and because they were not conservative enough. If none of the main political parties offer social conservatism, who will the social conservatives vote for?

4. The emergence of sectarian politics is deeply troubling.

The election of four independents, plus that of Jeremy Corbyn, was in effect because they adopted Muslim opposition to Israel's actions in Gaza. The appearance in the UK of sectarian politics based on religion is not something to be welcomed. I find it completely bizarre that left-wing commentators are describing these MPs as 'radical left wing'! I guess gay rights and women's rights don't really matter in Iran or Pakistan! As an indication of what is to come, consider the treatment meted out to Jess Phillips, newly elected Labour MP in Birmingham. She was heckled and abused by her Islamist opponents who had almost succeeded in ousting her. I suspect that in order to appease this mob the new Labour government will do what it has promised and introduce new laws regarding 'Islamophobia'. In other words what will in effect be a new blasphemy law forbidding any critique of Islam.

5. The new Labour government has many issues to deal with.

The economy (especially the burgeoning national debt), failing public institutions, education, the mental health crisis, housing, the NHS, the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, and immigration. We can only pray that they will prove to be a more competent and capable government than the government they are replacing. One area of particular concern is that the changes the government is promising will often be ideological. Having a new education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, who seems to be a proponent of trans ideology, does not bode well. Or the commitment to ban conversion therapy – including any counselling related to transgenderism.

In this regard it was sad to see two of the foremost defenders of women's rights, Miriam Cates (Conservative) and Jo Cherry (SNP), losing their seats. In the case of the former, the BBC ran a particularly nasty hit piece days before the election, questioning her church affiliation. Little wonder that Pink News rejoiced at her being replaced by an 'inclusive' candidate.

Let's return to this idea of change, new hope and a new start. I suspect that not much will substantively change – in the words of the Who's magnificent 'Won't Get Fooled Again', 'meet the new boss, same as the old boss.' Sir Keir Starmer talked about the country having put their trust in Labour and that they wouldn't let us down as they lead us into a new beginning and a changed society. I find it hard to believe that anyone still falls for that.

My own view is that the UK is currently under the judgement of God, in a Romans 1 sense. As we have given up on God and our Christian roots, the Lord is basically giving us what we asked for, and left us to our own devices. We have, and will continue to mess it up badly. We need repentance, renewal and reformation; not false political idols who promise us paradise but can't protect us from the things that will destroy us.

For the Christian there are seven scriptural principles we need to remember.

  • Don't put your trust in politicians (Psalm 146:3)
  • Pray for politicians (1 Timothy 2:1)
  • Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18)
  • We are to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8)
  • We are to preach the word, in season or out of season (2 Timothy 4:2)
  • We are to proclaim the word to politicians (Ps 119:46)
  • Jesus is King. Before him all nations, individuals and leaders will bow (Philippians 2:10)

That's a manifesto that gives me real hope! What about you?

David Robertson is the minister of Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church in Newcastle, New South Wales. He blogs at The Wee Flea.