While we were there we had meetings with MP’s, local Councilors and a Policy Advisor.
We came away in no doubt about the difficulty of governing a country where the economy is at best flat-lining and more probably dipping further into recession and where Local Authorities are having to make difficult and unpopular decisions as a result of greatly reduced budgets. As churches, our concerns are of course about how decisions on cuts and spending affect the most vulnerable in our society and we were able to raise these concerns particularly as they related to Housing Benefit, the Universal Credit and unemployment. Other matters which we discussed during the day included Trident, Pensions and International Affairs. We were encouraged throughout to make our views known as issues are discussed, plans are made and policy is being formed.
It was interesting to hear from these MP’s, for whom being in government was still a relatively new experience. Most, if not all admitted to having learnt a huge amount about the parliamentary processes and how to make a difference as part of a coalition government.
We arrive at each conference on Monday afternoon and use the evening to explore the issues which we might raise on our full day on Tuesday. Tuesday begins with a Prayer Breakfast organized by the Free Churches Group. This time we heard
Martin Turner (Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidates’ Association and Past Chair of the Lib Dem Christian Forum) speak on “Media Ethics in the light of the phone hacking scandal”
I led a short reflection and prayers at the end of the session reminding all of those present that God challenges each of us in our different ministries but recognizing too the particular challenges which our politicians face. The prayers ended with the words ……We know it is so easy to give glib answers to difficult questions and our prayers today are especially for all politicians as they strive to serve with integrity those who have elected them, the economic and social fabric of these islands and all within a global context.