You’re probably not like me. You probably didn’t get annoyed when someone interrupted your viewing of David Cameron’s recent conference speech. You’re probably weren’t watching.
I’ve had enough of politics. I listened to Ed Miliband’s too, and I’m sorry Nick, but I made do with a quick skim of your text. I heard their promises, their pledges, their soundbites and slogans. I watched them kiss their wives as the crowd stood in rapturous applause – each as spontaneous and unexpected as the other.
I heard some inspirational phrases, some laudable commitments, some impressive feats of oratory.
It all left me thoroughly depressed about the next eighteen months. Barring some spectacular government collapse the next general election will take place on 7 May 2015, and between now and then each of the leaders and their parties will try and appeal to enough voters to secure victory. Or perhaps in the case of the Liberal Democrats enough votes to help either Labour or the Conservatives secure victory.
Victory being the ultimate goal. Power. Just enough of each particular message to keep the various factions together for mutual electoral benefit, each compromising a bit of their passion and purity to secure power.
Politics is messy. It’s downright dirty. And that’s before you get onto the expenses scandals, the corporate lobbyists lunching with Lords, or the backroom tactics of each parties’ bully boys.
When someone comes to me and says they’ve had enough and that they can’t tell the difference between parties that can’t stop disagreeing, I nod my head. Gone are the days when I excuse the abuses, or marginalise the misappropriation of funds.
It’s enough to make you walk away from politics, rip up the purple electoral registration form and mute the TV when a political face pops up.
When we don’t like what’s on at the cinema we don’t go. If we’re fed up with our football club we let our season ticket expire. When a shop charges too much we go somewhere else. We walk away, our exit is a way of making our views known.
But in politics it doesn’t work like that. If we take the choice to exit the political process, the only effect we have is to leave it to other people. If we walk away we lose our voice. We leave it to those who have learnt the system, climbed their way up, made the right friends or trodden down those who offered themselves as a footstool to get on the ladder.
When we see women and children sold and trafficked, we see darkness. When there is slavery happening in our cities. Today. This is darkness. When we see darkness, we do not walk away.
We could see the horror of modern day slavery and think it is just too engrained, solutions too complex, side effects too compromising. And yet we do not.
Christians are committed to tackling the most intractable problems in our world, whether they are on the streets of our communities or in communities far away. Walking away is a dereliction of duty.
So why is politics different? Why is walking away and ignoring politics somehow an appropriate response?
Politics is a place where collective decisions are made, decisions that affect us all. And some will disappoint. We all come with our own agendas, priorities and principles but we have to find a common way forward.
You want to end slavery in Britain today? So do I. There is no magic button. Finding policy solutions is not easy, but when it keeps on happening something more than bandaging up the wounded is needed.
We like acting the Good Samaritan sometimes – it’s satisfying but someone has to ask what can be done to stop it. And that takes politics. Walking up the Jericho Road to find out why people are getting mugged, to fix the lighting or sort the security. It’s politics: it takes effort, it takes work and it takes time.
If we want to transform our society, if we want to see light break into darkness, then politics matters.
The CARE Leadership Programme provides a year long educational placement for graduates to gain experience through working placements in politics or third sector organisations alongside a programme of theological and practical training each Friday. Applications for the 2014-15 programme are now open – until 11 November. Danny was placed with an MP as part of the programme in 2005-6.
(Image via Cian Ginty on Flickr)