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We will hold you to your pledge to heal the nation, bishops tell PM

20 December 2019

PA

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, with some of the newly elected Conservative MPs, on Monday

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, with some of the newly elected Conservative MPs, on Monday

THE Prime Minister should seek to unify the country and govern for all people, bishops have said, after the Conservative Party won a majority at last week’s General Election.

The Conservatives now dominate across England, after Labour gained its lowest number of seats since 1935. The Conservatives hold 364 seats, a gain of 67, while Labour have 203, having lost 42. The Scottish National Party won 13 additional seats, leaving it on 48, with almost full control of Scotland. The Liberal Democrats, despite increasing their share of the popular vote, were reduced to 11 MPs.

Last Friday, Mr Johnson spoke in Downing Street. He said: “To all those who voted for us for the first time, all those whose pencils may have wavered over the ballot and who heard the voices of their parents and their grandparents whispering anxiously in their ears, I say thank you for the trust you have placed in us and in me.”

He said that it was now the time to “let the healing begin”.

The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, said that people needed to “re-imagine the relationship between government and people”.

In a series of posts on Twitter aimed at Mr Johnson, Bishop North said: “Christians are soon keeping Christmas, celebrating how in Jesus, God humbled himself to take our human form and thereby set us free. God willingly gave away his power in order to empower us.

“That strikes me as a very good principle for government. Might I invite you to ask not, ‘How can I use all this power?’ but, ‘How can I give power away in order to empower others?’”

He urged the new Government to work with Churches and other voluntary organisations, to empower local government, and to improve transport across the country.

He argued: “The battered state of national politics shows we need to re-imagine the relationship between government and people. Give away power, empower others and the gifts of countless people can be unlocked.”

Last Friday morning, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said: “This is democracy at work. We now need to see which Boris is going to govern, after a campaign that has been appalling with its lies and manipulations, and he has promised things he can’t deliver.

“The result gives clarity that the withdrawal deal will be passed by Parliament; but that will not get Brexit done, and then the hard work of negotiations will begin, and that is where we’ll see whether we have the right Boris. For people who are poor, homeless, or ill, this result could be very challenging.”

In a statement on social media last Friday, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that he would be praying “that every effort is made to ensure every person and community in our wonderful country is able to flourish”.

He said that he was “Praying for everyone who has been elected to serve in government and opposition — you bear a great weight of responsibility and I pray for strength, wisdom and hope for each of you. May you know the love and presence of God as you prepare for the challenges ahead.

“Please join me in praying for everyone involved in politics to disagree well — for kindness, respect and hope to lead the way towards a vision for our country that truly serves the common good.

“Prayers too for those who put themselves forward as candidates — and everyone who works so hard behind the scenes to make our democratic processes work so well.

“Throughout this new parliament, I pray that the voices of those on the margins are placed at the centre, and that every effort is made to ensure every person and community in our wonderful country is able to flourish.”

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said last Friday morning: “I was pleased to hear Boris Johnson say that he was determined to use his majority to ‘change this country for the better’. I am sure we will all work and pray for this, watching closely what is offered.

“In particular, I will continue to raise the pressing issues of homelessness and rough sleeping, which are causing misery in many parts of our country. In-work poverty is also likely to be high on the agenda of many people in the poorer parts of our country.”

The Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, said: “The new Government faces big issues around economic and social justice, and national cohesion, that Brexit has revealed over the past three-and-a-half years.

“I pray that the new UK Government and Parliament will address these formidable challenges in ways that will unify, not divide, and which will seek to find common ground for the common good.”

One other issue for the new Government is to appoint a new Second Church Estates Commissioner, after Dame Caroline Spelman retired at this General Election (News, 6 September).

The Labour Party has begun its introspection after suffering a bruising defeat. The party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, will step down once a new leader has been chosen.

At the time of going to press, Emily Thornberry had announced that she would be standing for the leadership. Other contenders are expected to include Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Jess Phillips.

Another potential contender, David Lammy, said: “I have faith, I go to church on a Sunday, but can I make a plea that we keep the faith there and end this faith-based cult once and for all.”

A spokesman for Christians on the Left said last Friday: “The result has clearly come as a shock to those of us who support the Labour Party, even those who were opposed to the party’s direction of travel.

“We will have plenty of time to reflect on why Labour was defeated so resoundingly. We will need to look at everything and do so in a spirit of fellowship. At the same time, we will need to be firm in our resolve to make the changes necessary for the party to be able to make the country a better place, especially for those on low incomes.”

Read more on the election in our comment section

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