The Conservative Party needs a leader. Since Thatcher, long-lived and falsely successful leadership (North Sea Oil and selling off the State’s family silver) we have had John Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard, David Cameron and Teresa May in 27 years. May now faces a challenge, though she won the last election, because she might not win the next one. Note the central credo. A Conservative leader must win elections. Says who? Why MPs with seats to defend, who also largely select leaders in the Conservative Party.
Of course, Labour has proved no different. Corbyn had to go, and was rubbished by most of his party’s MPs until, at the 2017 election is became clear that Corbyn nearly won, was on the right side of history, supported by the young, and suddenly from deepest venom they all marched up the hill again and became Corbynistas. Fortunately, the leader had been schooled in several decades of insignificant unpopularity and may survive adulation, but the MPs clearly have few political principles and want to keep their seats warm. They change with the wind of Public Opinion Polls, or POP for short.
So, what is a democratic party? It is, in truth, (not used lightly) a shared body of convictions and principles which people believe should by conscience, preferably before God, shape the policies of government through elections. It is conscience (that great word), not power. It is the sifting of truth and error in public life, so that we might do what is right and good, and here’s the rub. Democratic parties are often wrong. Selling council houses in the 80s and 90s and not putting the money into new housebuilding was wrong. Deregulating banks was wrong. Invading Iraq was wrong. Allowing off-shore tax evasion was wrong. Cutting public services is wrong. Privatising rail was wrong. In fact, a high proportion of what parties advocate is wrong, aside the logic that given three or four parties disagree, being wrong must be a big part of politics.
But it is worse than this. The electorate is also (usually) wrong. A Republican Party which can choose Reagan, George W. Bush and now Trump is in a stage of terminal mindlessness, a world danger given its military dominance. We vote for Thatcher because she wins a war against Argentina or perhaps against a figure who coughs at a party conference. We vote for climate change deniers, or ignorers, in Gadarene droves. This is not said triumphally. Finding we are wrong, and learning from it, is one of the best routes to understanding on the planet. If ordinary Jews can be persuaded to vote for Barabbas and against Jesus, the human race has problems, as of course it has – now – in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Las Vegas, Kensington or wherever the wounded doctor puts his figure on the pulse. Learning what is wrong is a prophetically deep task, and the real precursors of democratic parties are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Socrates and John the Baptist, but especially Jesus in Matthew 23.
For we are all hypocrites:- taxation, but not for me, British self-interest, but not that of other nations, my pay high and others low, my house price rise and pseudo-concern for others, peace with nukes, Great Britain but not great France, cheap goods and slave labour, our boys courageous, but theirs do outrageous killing, my car pollution but cut greenhouse gases. We are in a deep hypocritical crisis.
What is this guy on about? May will have to go/stay. Trump will come and go. Putin will stay or go. It is all about power, democratic power, now media-centric power, the tweet of the President. So, the poor and jobless of middle America choose the born rich, mindless master of media exposure. It is all about power, even power prostituted by fake news, and leaders have to win. It is all about power. But it is not all about power. Jesus of Nazareth chose to rule from another place. His power was humble truth, hungering and thirsting for the right and just, loving enemies, knowing economic contentment and having no-where to lay his head. It was Pilate (Roman power) or Jesus (witnessing to the truth), and Jesus won, not with a knock-out blow, but by the long humble search for truth before the Spirit of God.
So today we face a crisis in party politics. The empty process of winning, of rubbishing the opposition, as though the truth does not matter, of seeking popularity as though the voter is always right, of choosing the vote winning leader irrespective of content, or forging the strap line for the election and using the people yet again.
Corbyn broke the mould, but is now rubbishing according to the culture. We need political repentance of an unprecedented kind to really rescue democratic party politics. We need to look to Christ, and see the crown of thorns truly.