We must do more than pray for those in authority

(Photo: Unsplash/Martin Foskett)

I am not a political activist, at least not in the way my grandmother would have understood that term. She did, after all, throw her local MP in the duck pond! Consequently, I didn't take to the streets following Boris Johnson's explosive announcement to prorogue Parliament.

But I do have a keen interest in politics, which is not surprising given my training as a historian. I found myself unusually stirred by it, so much so that I came to the conclusion that I needed to share my convictions with my local MP, someone I know quite well and count as a friend.

I am deeply troubled by the Government's current attitude which seems both confrontational and cavalier in its treatment of parliamentary sovereignty and constitutional convention. Before anyone suggests that I am a disappointed "Remainer" (or 'Remoaner' as one of my pastoral friends would prefer to call them) I hasten to add that I voted for Brexit, and have been a life long Conservative supporter.

This is remarkable really given the fact that I grew up in a mining community in South Wales where it was said even a donkey would be elected if it was selected as the Labour candidate! In fact my political instincts have been evident to all ever since I had the temerity (some would say the audacity) to stand for election as the Tory candidate in a mock school election. It was something my father found incomprehensible. But despite my admirable track record I have informed Simon Hart MP that I will not be able to support him or the party again while Boris Johnson is the leader.

So why have I reached this conclusion? Well, to begin with my historical training suggests that we have to consider the long term consequences of our actions, and the decision to use prorogation as a parliamentary tactic to avoid defeat carries all sorts of serious implications for the future. The implied threat to ignore any bill that was passed by both Houses is even worse. It is nothing short of breathtaking.

I do not think it is wise to draw the monarchy into this conflict and the Prime Minister's announcement could even complicate our future relations with the European Union, according to Peter Conradi of the Sunday Times. He quotes a senior German government official who has suggested that the Prime Minister's action "delegitimizes the British government in European eyes". I can understand why.

I am not qualified to comment on the likely economic implications of a 'No Deal' Brexit, but as a pastor I believe I should live up to my prophetic calling to act as salt and light at a crucial moment in our country's history. I believe I should be promoting Kingdom values and that must mean more than praying for those in authority; it should also include suggesting ways which are much more likely to allow us to "live peaceful and quiet lives".

Every one of us then, but politicians especially, need to reflect on the language we use. We need to put an end to promises that are little more than "verbal playdough". And we must stop insulting those who see things differently. My disagreement with this current administration's approach is not "manufactured" and deserves more respect than the description of "candy floss".

Any government that wants God's approval will do all it can to discover a way that makes for peace. That does not mean giving up on the democratic process or revisiting the referendum. But given the fact that it doesn't seem to command a majority in Parliament, the executive should look for a way that will allow it to command the moral high ground and to act in a way that does not smack of ruthlessness and divisiveness.

The answer is not to prorogue but to seek permission for a General Election, one in which everyone, especially MPs are challenged to speak openly and honestly about their views both to their constituency associations and the general public. We need to see a renewed emphasis on honesty and integrity, as well as the wisdom to sail the ship of state in the light of the prevailing winds.

The polls seem to suggest that the Prime Minister has a healthy lead. If he has the courage of his convictions. let him put his proposals for a 'No Deal' to the people. If he does that and wins the election he will command a majority in the House of Commons. That will speed his progress and restore something of our concern for constitutional convention.

And if he wants to drag the Queen into this political fiasco perhaps he could advise her to do what her father and grandfather did and call for a National Day of Prayer. It's worth remembering that Winston Churchill once said, "I sometimes have a feeling of interference. I want to stress that. I have a feeling that some Guiding Hand has interfered."

We could do with that sort of interference again and pretty soon, which is why I have promised my local MP that I will continue to encourage the church to pray for him and his government in the coming days.

Rob James is a Baptist minister, writer and church and media consultant to the Evangelical Alliance Wales. He is the author of Little Thoughts About a Big God.