Monday, 2 April 2018

The Easter Story, Jeremy Corbyn, anti-Semitism and lessons in media management

The Easter Story, Jeremy Corbyn, anti-Semitism and lessons in media management

We shouldn't be surprised when apparently good people are subject to false attacks on their character by vested interests, especially when they challenge those interests. They are in good company. For this is exactly what happened to the greatest man who ever lived; Jesus Christ (eg Mark 14 v 56-58 Luke 7 v 34) and he warned his followers to expect the same libellous insults (e.g. Matthew 5 v 11 and 10 v 22) And of course it's not only his followers that can be victims of such campaigns of falsehoods.

This Easter we remembered the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His followers like me believe he was and is “God made flesh”; the perfect, sinless divine Son of God, who took our place in dying for our sins on the cross to free us from the punishment of death we deserved (Isaiah 53 v 3-7). And we believe he proved this by rising from the dead (Acts 2 v 24) and by belief in him anyone may share in his eternal life (John 3 v 16). These are the great truths of Easter. 

But there are other lesser truths that we can also learn from the Easter story that can help us come to terms with the world we live in, whilst we struggle in this world waiting for him to return and heal it. For Jesus gyarantees that "in this world you will have trouble... but take heart I have overcome the world." (John 16 v 33)
Our world in the UK in 2018 in some ways is very different to Palestine 2000 years ago. Yet in many ways it’s very similar. In our times words fly around the world to millions in a blink of eye through social media and internet sites and TV and radio channels; words of truth, words of love, words of healing, words of lies, words of hate, words of violence. Yet in Jesus's world similar words of truth and lies travelled pretty fast and widely too, not through the internet and TV of course, but through the social media of his day; word of mouth. That's how pretty soon after the start of Jesus's amazing ministry he was attracting crowds of thousands. They had heard from others about this remarkable teacher and “holy man" who preached a new message of “good news” of God's love and forgiveness, justice and peace, especially for the poor and outcast (Luke 4 v 18 & 19) and how he displayed that message through his miraculous healings. And so, they flocked to see and hear for themselves. (Luke 7 v 16 & 17).
Yet through the same social media of word of mouth vicious untruths about Jesus then also spread very quickly: that this so-called great prophet was a fake, that far from being a holy man he was a drunkard and a glutton eating and drinking with sordid prostitutes and those dishonest greedy collaborators, the tax collectors (Luke 7 v 34)? And how dare he break God's holy Sabbath and other laws as interpreted by the true holy men - the religious establishment of the Pharisees and lawyers (Matthew 12 v 1 & 2)? If he was doing any miracles then it must have been, not through God's power, but the devil's. (Luke 11 v 14 & 15). And the human source for this campaign of lies against him was that religious establishment, because his message threatened and challenged their vested interests as the respected leaders of the people. For Jesus dared speak out directly against what they stood for as a distortion of the truth- a legalistic religion which had forgotten God's central message of love and mercy. (Matthew 23- almost whole of, and Luke 6 v 11) 
And it was as Jesus entered the nation's capital city, Jerusalem, on “Palm Sunday" that the social media campaigns for and against him really went into overdrive. Word about this great prophet had spread ahead of him into the capital and crowds flocked to hail his entry into Jerusalem as their Messianic King (Matthew 21 v 8-11).

But even at this apogee of his popular appeal, the establishment interests were plotting to bring him down, spreading lies about him to try to trap him and turn his followers and the wider public against him and bring about his destruction (Luke 19 v 47, Matthew 26 v 4).

These lies eventually got to one of his inner circle, Judas, who turned against Jesus (Luke 22 v 4). This lead to his arrest and then trial by the religious establishment with more false accusations (Matthew 26 v 59-62). By the time Judas realised he had been deceived about Jesus it was too late. (Matthew 27 v 3-5) Then came the culmination of the establishment plotting against Jesus- their false messages stirred the popular crowd to demand the Roman Governor have Jesus crucified. (Matthew 27 v 15-23). One wonders how many of those calling for his crucifixion had been hailing him as Messiah only days earlier.

And so, in the greatest act of injustice this world has ever known, the one perfect sinless human suffered the ultimate punishment, shame and pain of death on a cross. As one of the criminals crucified with him said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:41) (Good for us all to remember this when we are treated unjustly- we are in good company). And even as Jesus hung there and died, and even after he was laid in his grave, his opponents were still determined to manage their social media campaign against him. On the cross they taunted him to reinforce their point that he was a fake: “... the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’” Luke 23:35.
Worried that his followers might then steal his body and claim he'd risen from dead, just as he said he would so, they got a big sealed stone and two Roman guards to block his tomb’s entrance (Matthew 27 v 62-66). But incredibly (and very annoyingly for his opponents!), Jesus rose from dead anyway, with an angel stunning the guards and rolling the stone away (Matthew 28 v1-10). And so, the religious establishment started another campaign of lies, bribing the soldiers to claim that his followers had indeed stolen the body as they'd feared all along (Matthew 28 v 12-15). Yet the reality of his resurrection was proven not just by the words of his followers to whom he appeared (recorded in the 4 gospels), but by their acts in giving their lives for him. But still many today believe this great divine man of miracles was a dangerous fake, or just sit on the fence not making up their minds, influenced (if only subconsciously) by the message of misinformation and lies about Jesus.

Over some months I believe we've seen a media campaign of untruths against another leader of men, who happens to share the same initials as Jesus. Though neither divine nor perfect, many regard this JC as a good man, also giving a message of love and peace and justice, and especially for the poorest. This man has also challenged vested establishment interests in his country - the rich and the influential within politics, the economy and the national
media. His message has sought to challenge the position, power and wealth of the rich and the establishment; to bring about fairness and justice, especially for the poorest, and to promote peace throughout this country and the world. The latest episode of this has seen him as accused of encouraging or at least tolerating vile messages of anti-Semitism by his followers.

It seems to me that the establishment interests decided they could not allow their power and wealth to be so threatened and were determined to stop this man from disrupting their world. And so they used the means at their disposal -their great power and wealth- to launch against this rebel a campaign of lies to persuade the people that this man was a dangerous impostor: far from being a man of peace and love he was a man who associated himself with the hateful and the violent; a friend of terrorists, a treacherous former spy, a sympathizer of Russian infiltrators and murderers,  a man who tolerated and even encouraged his followers to build factories of hate manufacturing anti-Semitism- like a man who rode in Hitler’s car. 
 To lend their message plausibility they’ve taken words that he or his followers have used and twisted them or take them out of context. Most especially they have used against him hateful words of violent men who claimed to be his followers, even though they said things that directly contradicted his message. And many good people are being deceived by their deceptive campaigns against him. They can see the hateful messages of those claiming to follow him and blame him for not stopping the vile sewage of their words that discharge into the ocean, even though that ocean is vast and beyond the control of anyone. And he is also blamed that he and others who walked with him had swam in that same ocean even though they hadn’t seen the sewage there. And those blaming him have failed to see in this the hidden hands of the vested interests who plot against him.

And so through spreading false rumours, distorted half-truths and lies, the establishment interests are seeking to bring this good man down; to get him nailed to his own cross and buried in a sealed tomb so there could be no chance that he or his followers could rise again and challenge their position in society. 

The issue of anti-Semitism within the Labour party is a serious one, which Jeremy Corbyn himself has sought to fight and where he acknowledges efforts need to be redoubled.

But it is also an issue being used as a tool by establishment interests to continue weaving their narrative of lies and half-truths against him to stop him gaining power and undermining their privileged positions. The extent of the genuine problem within his party has therefore been exaggerated, particularly by attributing to his party vile anti-Semitic comments posted on open public social media sites that have no link to the Labour party, but which some party members follow. Yet these are sites many thousands participate in and where hundreds of messages a day can be posted by anyone and no one sees all the many messages that go on them. Similarly, he is blamed for anti-Semitic private emails from people claiming to support him, despite their message directly contradicting the principles he has very publicly espoused. And then there are the genuinely innocent if careless mistakes - like his support for the infamous 2012 mural which in reality was not obviously anti-Semitic as opposed to anti-Capitalist and where the capitalists vilified were not exclusively Jewish. And the NEC member who carelessly supported a candidate without properly looking into his history and so was unaware that he’d shared an abhorrent anti-Semitic article denying the holocaust.

Constant insidious seeping of social media messages and the almost infinite risks of guilt by association truth present extremely difficult problems for our politicians today that did not exist in the same way even 10 years ago. We see this in the way some have tried to use social media to directly manipulate opinions and votes in major elections like the EU referendum and the US Presidential election. We see it in the daily inflammatory Twitter rants of the US President. We see it in the hundreds of abhorrent anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic posts that cling to many pro-Brexit Facebook groups which some Conservative party members and politicians follow. And yes, sadly we see it too in vile anti-Semitic posts that can cling to certain left-leaning Facebook groups that some Labour party members and politicians follow. Is it not strange that compared to the attention lavished on anti-Semitic comments and Jeremy Corbyn, the national media has given a fraction of the focus on similarly outrageous racist comments in Brexit supporting groups associated with many Conservatives? But once we recognise the interests and world views of those controlling most of the national media it's not so strange: we can see they are aligned with the very interests and world views that Jeremy Corbyn threatens. And just as we saw with the other greater JC, where establishment interests are threatened they will use all means at their disposal to manipulate the message about their opponent to make sure he is stopped.  So, when the establishment media interest in anti-Semitism has waned, you can be sure they will find another issue they can use to brief the pubic against their opponent. And if we are supporters of his cause then, just as the great JC encouraged his own followers to be, we need to be as “wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10 v 16). Now from what I've seen on anti-Semitism as on so much else Jeremy Corbyn in reality is as "innocent as a dove" and indeed puts many Christians like me to shame. Where he may not always be so good is being as "shrewd as snakes" in the way he handles the media. However see his very good answers to questions in his Jewish Chronicle which they still labelled "not good enough" or the ridiculous offence taken to his sharing passover with a local Jewish group on the grounds that they were the "wrong sort of Jews." You then realise that for many of Jeremy's opponent both within and beyond the party (just as with Jesus's opponents) they will find ways to take offence and will never be convinced by him. Certain Jewish leaders in Jesus's day were not even convinced when he rose from the dead! Any rather lesser political miracle that Jeremy might perform is not going to convince most of his detractors

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The UK's economic model is broken (And only Labour can fix it)

"The UK’s economic model is broken. Britain stands at a watershed moment where we need to make fundamental choices about the sort of economy we need. We are failing those who will grow up into a world where the gap between the richest and poorest parts of the country is significant and destabilising." As a country therefore we must now "reject the current patterns of economic growth that delivered most of the gains to corporations and the richest in society."   

You might be forgiven for thinking these words were spoken by Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell, those "dangerous, hard left, socialists" now leading the Labour Party. But no! They come from Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. And he's right. And he's not alone in that stark assessment. For he was speaking as a member of the Economic Justice commission of the the Institute of Public Policy Research ("IPPR").

Last week, the IPPR's Economic Justice commission released its interim report. Their conclusion was both alarming and unsurprising. They said things that were probably already pretty obvious to most people looking at this country with open eyes:
  • that over the past 10 years (and long before) the very rich in this country have got a lot richer. Between 2009 and 2015 the UK’s richest 1,000 families saw their assets double from £258bn to £547bn  and since the 1970s the share of national income going  to owners of businesses and property rather than wages has increased by over one third.
  • meanwhile most of us have continued to be worse off  over the last 10 years- the UK has suffered the longest period of stagnant/ falling wages in 150 years. Since 2010 average earnings per employee has fallen by 6% despite GDP rising by 12%. And this is against a background of the wealth & income gap between the richest and the rest steadily wideneing since the 1970s.
  • increasingly millions of lives are blighted by poor wages, unaffordable housing, low-quality jobs and rising unsecured debt
  • They concluded that to put things right the British economy is in need of radical, "deep, fundamental reform, comparable to Labour's Attlee government after the war. " 
And far from simply being a mouthpiece for the Labour party (whom they have also critcised in the past), the IPPR is one of the most well-respected independent policy think tanks in the UK. It was their report on Social Justice two decades ago that heavily influenced much of the better work of early New Labour governments to reduce poverty and improve our public services; through e.g. the introduction of a minimum wage, working tax credits and significant re-investment in our NHS and schools (funded partly by windfall taxes on privataised utilities).

Membership of the Economic Justice commission is in fact drawn from a very broad cross section of our society. As well as charitable, church and community groups it includes significant business leaders, such as Dominic Barton, the global managing partner of the consultancy McKinsey and Company; Helena Morrissey, Legal & General’s head of personal investment; Sir Charlie Mayfield, the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership. So  when they make such bold statements we really should sit up and take notice.

I'm afraid we are now reaping the bitter fruit  of Margaret Thatcher's failed economic philosophy, just as the USA is suffering from the legacy of Reaganomics. They were in truth just another branch of the false economic religion of neo liberalism. It was built on an idolatrous worship of the false blind gods of the freemarket to whom they sacrificed so much of the state's own assets. Of course, it was done with the best of intentions. They did not set out to make the rich richer and the rest of us poorer. They thought it would benefit all (or at least most of us).

Their economic model would supposedly allow the entrepreneurs a free hand so that they would generate the wealth that would just naturally trickle down to the rest of us and we would all be better off. It went hand in hand with the rejection of our previous social democratic model that planned for the country's future, to allow more balanced rights between business and property owners and workers and tenants and ensure a more even distribution of wealth. (Note that "old" model has by and large still been successfully pursued in many other North European countries such as in Scandinavia and even Germany).

This false economic religion of neo liberalism has not borne the sweet fruits it promised for anyone but the rich. This is just as we were warned by the country's last truly social democratic Prime Minister, James Callaghan. On the eve of Thatcherism in Labour's 1979 manifesto he warned:

"The Conservatives are ready to gamble the people's future on a return to the nineteenth century free market' - despite its pitiless social consequences. .... The new technologies hold out the prospect of faster growth and a better quality of life for all... The use of crude market forces advocated by the Tories will not and cannot achieve these changes in a way that is acceptable to the British people...This election comes at a time of change unparalleled since 1945. A generation has now grown up in a welfare state which remains the envy of the world in health care and education. We have demonstrated a capacity for skill and inventiveness which keeps us at the forefront of world technology. Those are no mean achievements. A Tory Government would put all this at risk."

How prophetic that warning proved to be!

Sadly, in 1979 the country ignored James Callaghan's warning and chose a dangerous socio-economic experiment under Margaret Thatcher that we have been living under for nearly 40 years now. Contrary to what the new model promised, under their free market approach  British businesses have largely hoarded cash or returned it to shareholders rather than investing in the future. Business investment has now been been declining for a quarter of a century; we have piled our money into housing speculation rather than wealth-creating assets. Not only has this meant lower productivity and fewer quality jobs, it has also resulted in too few homes (especially affordable ones) and a much higher cost of living that squeezes most households.

We have ended up with a country with a huge trade deficit, buying far more from the rest of the world than we sell to it. Our surplus in services is dwarfed by our deficit in goods. This has happened not because of the European Union's Single Market (which actually could have offered us the opportunity to increase what we sell as has happened in Germany). Certainly wider global competition played a part in the contraction of our manufacturing basis. However, it was also the result of "disastrous, destructive, deliberate deindustrialisation" (to quote the head of the IPPR) . But another underying reason was a political settlement where policy has been set in the City of Westminster in the interests of the City of London, not the country as a whole.

We have also seen a huge reduction in taxes for the richest at the same time as an increase in those taxes that most hit ordinary folk, especially the poorest, such as VAT.

And we have sold off so much of the state's "family silver" (as the former Tory Prime Minister Harold MacMillan bemoaned). We have dismembered so much of our state structure which has been sold off to rich private individuals and corporations and even foreign governments. These private interests have leached billions of pounds in private profits from our public services whilst usually providing a worse service. This has involved the loss of our council housing and tof he inherent monopolies of energy, water and rail and the ownership and running of our schools, hospitals and even prisons. What will be next? Our courts, our police force, the army? (If you want some further insight into this I recommend reading the excellent Dismembered by Polly Toynbee and David Walker).

And all of this inevitably has has led to an ever-widening gap between the rich few and the many and especially the poorest. 

Sadly, this was an economic model largely adopted by New Labour. Hence Maragaret Thatcher's boast that her proudest legacy was Tony Blair. This was illustrated by New Labour's continued love affair with the City of London (which contributed to the financial crash of 2008) and the disastrous expansion of PFI (which will have cost the state about six times the value of the assets built). However, at least the New Labour governments did significantly moderate the damaging effects  of neo liberalism, e.g. through our welfare system and the introduction of the minimum wage. Such policies did reduce poverty even as they allowed inequality to continue to grow. 

And now we have suffered seven years of Tory-led blind economic incompetence. Self-defeating austerity with the butchering of so much of our public services and the removal of much of the welfare state's safety net. This has almost finished this destruction job of our social democratic model. It has resulted in huge increases in poverty and private debt and a fall in real wages and wealth for most of us whilst the very rich have taken more and more and put back less and less. And the Tories' ritual incanctation (repeated e.g. by my own MP at the election) that the best way out of poverty is work not welfare has rung increasingly hollow. 60% of households in poverty are now working households. 

In consequence of all this we are now a poorer and more divided country than we have been at any time since the 1930s. And many economists believe we are also on the verge of another consumer debt led crash (resulting this time largely from the austerity driven fall in wages). 

It was this growing awareness among ordinary folk that they were getting a raw deal which led to the Brexit vote as an act of rebellion in so many working class/poorer communities. They rightly felt the last 40 years had left them and their communities behind. For some of those leave voters their vote was nothing more articulate than putting two fingers up to our rich privileged establishment, epitomised so well by our then Eton-educated Prime Minsister and Chancellor. 

However, many had been transfixed by the "Euro Monster"- the fictional demon created by  another part of the rich establishment. 
This "Euro-Monster", so the stiory goes, is an evil beast who has taken control of our lives by removing the power for our national governemnt to make decisions in our interests and by forcing on us the curse of uncontrollable immigration. This is supposedly the cause of the raw deal that most of the country has experienced - poor wages and unaffordable housing etc- and which our national government is sadly powerless to prevent. However, it's nonsense, a myth. 

The very large majority of laws that have left ordinary people with a raw deal have been made entirely in this country, eg the selling off of our public services to private and foreign interests or the resetting of our tax system to benefit the rich or slashing funding of our welfare state or restriction of access to justice. At the same time all serious independent research has found there is actually very little link between the economic problems most folk have endured and higher immigration. The disconnect between immigration and economic damage is most obvious when you realise that some of the most strongly leave voting constituencies actually had some of the lowest levels of immigration (eg North east England).

This mythical Euro monster was a self-serving invention of certain rich, establishment interests -like the foreign billionaire owners of the Mail & Telegraph. They invented it to try to blind ordinary folk to the real cause of the loss of control and their raw deal- them!- the rich individuals and corporations in whose interests this country has been run for nearly 40 years. It suits their fictional narrative very well that our membership of the EU (since 1972) happens to have coincided with the real sell off of country to the rich under the economic religion of neo liberalism (since 1979).
It is a sad irony that the the social & economic woes that lead to the Brexit vote are only likely to be worsened by Brexit itself, at least the hard form of it that the current government seem to be recklessly pursuing. If they continue down that route the likely failure to achieve a free trade deal will only make us all even poorer.

There is only one UK political party with a plan to reset our social and economic model to work for the good of all rather than just letting the very rich help themselves whilst so many suffer. That party is Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party and it's why there can and will be no return to New Labour.  Their goals are to achieve ends that should be endorsed by all biblical Christians (which I seek to be) and frankly by all right thinking people of other faiths or none:
  • reduce poverty and homelessness
  • set people free from debt
  • give everyone a fair stake in and a secure place in the resources this country has to offer
  •  protect God's planet that we all share and depend on
  •  increase social justice
  •  pursue peace in this country and the wider world
Their means of achieving these ends were sketched out in their recent election manifesto- For the Many, Not the Few- a title which would well fit the same hymn sung by The Economic Justice commission.  Although the manifesto was finalised at such short notice it proved increasingly popular the more people learned about it. It was also pretty well received by many of the world's  leading economists who in a joint letter endorsed their economic plans as just what the country needed to revitalize our post Brexit evonomy. Labour's radical transformative policies included:

  • a new National Investment Bank ready to lend £1/4 trillion for business and innovation over 10 years
  • a new £1/4 trillion fund to rejuvenate our crumbling infrastructure over the same period
  • increased income tax rates on the richest
  • a potential land value tax to act both as a wealth tax and a means of forcing property developers to build hosuing the country needs now rather than horde until the price is "right" (for them not the rest of us!)
  • a massive programme of affordable housebuilding especially through construction of councl housing
  • the reintroduction of rent controls and greater rights and security for tenants
  • a clamp down on tax evasion and tax avoidance
  • the start of the reversal of the governments' welfare benefit cuts which are plunging so many into poverty
  • new employment rights and protetcions including banning zero hours contracts and new rights to trade union representaion
  • an increase in the minimum wage to £10 per hour by 2020
  • the abolition of debt-burdening student tuition fees
  • renationalising our railways and water industry
  • establishing a new national energy provider focussed on green  renewable energy production
  • reversing the privatising of the running of many of our public services to bring them back under state/council control
  • caps on pay of those in charge of companies performing government contracts.
Since the election we have also seen the Labour party articulate a sensible soft Brexit: an approach that both respects the (albeit very misguided) leave vote whilst avoiding the Tories' hard Brexit cliff edge that threatens to plunge all of us into even more tubulent economic seas.

And over the coming months hopefully Labour will be able to develop further radical, transformative policies which like 20 years ago will no doubt be positively influenced by the IPPR's final report. Hopefully this will include other policies that Labour has seriously considered but not yet articulated such as enforced profit shares for all employees (which narrowly missed making it to their last two manifestos).

Even the Tory party are slowly recognising that things have to change. Hence Theresa May's already forgotten or watered down promises to cap energy prices, take action over excessive executive pay and now consideration of doing "something" about student loan debts. However what they have actually put forward so far has been very thin gruel which will not really nourish the many.

I confidently hope and pray that our current government will soon fall, perhaps on their own Brexit sword, and that after the following election we should see a radical Labour government elected. A government that will transform and reset our socio-economic model to work for the many not just the few, just as they did under Clement Attlee 72 years ago.

And the real test of that transformation (as it was for Thatcherism with New Labour) will be when the Conservative party adopts that same new social democratic model- just as they adopted the old social democratic model under the likes of Churchill and MacMillan in the 1950s.

This desire to provide an economy that works for the benefit of all and protects the poorest is a very biblical aim. It was with a similar end in mind that God founded his first earthly kingdom of Israel. In  Numbers and Deuteronomy God makes clear that every citizen is to have a stake in their promised land so that there should be no need for any poverty. However if there was poverty (which due to human sin God knew sadly there would be) the poor must be provided for and justice for the poor must take precedence over individual self interests. This included the radical jubilee system of cancelling debts and redistributing wealth, i.e. giving land back to the families who originally owned it. 

Similarly today I believe we need to take back control of our country to ensure we all get a fair share. It is not about taking back control or ownership from the mythical "Euro monster" (who actually controls relatively little). It is about taking back control and ownership from those who really have snatched it from us- the rich individuals and corporations in whose interests this country has been run for nearly 40 years. 

The perfect fair society that will truly benefit everyone can ultimately only be realised when Jesus returns to earth to establish his kingsom of heaven on earth. Until then due to human sin we will fall short, as will any future Labour government. But by God we can do so much better ! And the God that I and the Archbishop of Canterbury believe in challenges us to do so.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

General Election June 2017-What Lessons Did We Learn?

We are now two weeks on from the craziest election that most of us have lived through. An election invaded by two dreadful terrorist attacks and then followed by the tragic events of Grenfell Tower. It  was an election which most of us- myself included- thought could only end one way. A coronation for a triumphant Queen Theresa. Meanwhile poor Jeremy Corbyn would be consigned to the dustbin of history (as the Sun prophesied) and along with him the death of any hope of a future socialist government.

How differently it turned out! I have never been happier to be proved wrong on so many counts. Like many I prayed for a political miracle and we got one. OK it wasn't quite the miracle I'd prayed for-  a Labour government, but we got the next best thing- a Labour government in waiting. We saw a deflated, defeated Tory party, a Prime Minister who had arrogantly proclaimed herself as “strong and stable" with a plan for our post Brexit future, exposed as “weak and wobbly" and whose plan was no more than vacuous soundbites. Most of all we got a Labour party united behind an inspirational leader , with a genuine plan and vision offering the country real hope. As a lady once said, “Just rejoice at that news.”

Let's remember at the start of the election campaign Labour was polling at 18 to 25 points below the Tories and Theresa May's popularity was a staggering 40 points ahead of Jeremy Corbyn's. No opposition leader starting an election from such a low point had ever done anything but fail abysmally. Labour were heading for a car crash (or so we all thought). Yet in the space of no more of a few weeks the election was transformed. The only reliable pollster (yet again) was Survation and even by their measure on 12 May Labour was 18 points behind. But incredibly by 2 June only 3 weeks later and despite (or perhaps partly because of) two terrorist attacks they were in striking distance of the Tories. And that's where they stayed, finishing only 2 points behind them in the actual vote.

And since the election Jeremy and Labour’s popularity has only increased while Theresa and the Tories has continued to plummet. Two post-election polls by Survation (everyone else seems to have given up) showed Labour 3 to 6 points ahead of the Tories . And YouGov (who got the pollsters’ runner up prize) found that Jeremy now had a 34 point popularity  advantage over Theresa- a complete reversal of their positions at the start of the election.
So two weeks on what have we learnt from this extraordinary election?

Have a team of good advisers around you.
"Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in an abundance of counsellors there is victory.(Proverbs 11:14)

Theresa May seems to have prepared her much-criticised manifesto (“dementia tax” and all)  huddled  in a secret broom cupboard with just her two hired special advisers. There seems to have been little if any consultation with her cabinet. By contrast Jeremy Corbyn developed Labour's highly popular manifesto in consultation with his parliamentary colleagues and the wider Labour membership.

Have a vision that can inspire

"Where there is no vision the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18)

Whether you agreed with it or not, Labour offered a (fully costed) manifesto and vision of Britain that was transformative:  returning public services to public control and ownership, abolishing tuition fees, a new national investment bank and a huge reinvestment in the country's infrastructure to revitalise our flagging economy, giving our cash-starved schools and hospitals the funds they need to save them, 30 hours free child care for under 5s, a £10 minimum wage and much more besides.
 Meanwhile the Conservative manifesto promised little beyond vague concepts like a better Brexit and a stronger Britain. It frightened some of their core older voters with the proposal to remove the pension triple lock, means test their winter fuel allowance and the threat of the dreaded “dementia tax on their property to pay for social care in their homes. It offered nothing at all for young people.

Being nice beats being mean
“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” (1 Peter 2:15)

The right wing press (i.e. most of it) tried every trick in the book to trash Jeremy's character, pouring vicious lies and bile over him, besmirching him in headlines like “Jezza's Jihadi Comrades” and “Don't chuck Britain in the Cor-bin". And Jeremy's response? “I hear some people have said some nasty things about me. I forgive them all.” The more they tried to darken his image the more the light of his good character shone through. He doesn’t fight fire with fire but with water, never resorting to the sort of spiteful personal criticism directed at him but focusing instead on policies and actions. And his kinder, gentler way of doing politics has resonated with many people and drawn to him far more than have been put off by the gutter press headlines. And as a Christian I have to admit his Christ-like example has both shamed and challenged me when I myself have been rather less gracious with my own political comments.

People value authenticity and honesty
“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” (Proverbs 24:26)

One striking difference revealed between the two leaders was their sense of authenticity. Not everyone likes or agrees with Jeremy Corbyn but most can see that he's “the real deal.” His lines aren’t always the most polished but what he speaks he speaks with a genuine passion and conviction about things he really cares about. He did have certain favoured phrases like “for the many not the few" but he was able to articulate what he meant by them in terms of policy. Contrast that with Theresa May who too often just seemed to mouth safe soundbites and vague values which she would crow bar into her speeches and conversations where appropriate; “strong and stable leadership” “standing up for Britain”/ “for working families”, “no deal is better than a bad deal”, “getting on with the job”. You had no real sense of the substance behind these vague statements, either in terms of passion and conviction or policy detail. Strip away the costume and scrape off the grease paint and you had the suspicion it might all be a rather fake act. And that whiff of falsehood was only heightened when she appeared to directly lie to the watching world after she suddenly changed her “dementia tax” policy. She incredulously tried to deny that her sudden introduction of a cap so obviously missing from her manifesto just  hours before was not a change of policy. A look in her eyes told you she was lying.

People want a leader who connects with  them where they are
“And large crowds followed Him.” (Matthew 19:2)

Many (including myself) mocked Jeremy and his loyal supporters for the large crowds he attracted during his Labour leadership campaigns. We said he’s only preaching to the converted rather than reaching new people and that won’t win you votes in the wider country, not in 2017 anyway. How wrong we were. It was a key characteristic of Jeremy that shone through that he just loves to be out and about meeting and engaging with ordinary people where they are at. This was illustrated by the huge enthusiastic crowds he spoke to just as much as the more intimate one to one engagements. At the end of his BBC Question Time session you sensed he genuinely meant it when he said, “Is that it? But I had so much more to say!” By contrast Theresa May seems to be genuinely frightened of meeting ordinary people unless they happen to be carefully handpicked by her minders and wearing blue rosettes. This fear of engagement seemed to be what lay behind her refusal to take part in the leaders’ debates and in the few instances when we saw her engaging with ordinary members of the public she looked very awkward and ill at ease. At the end of the BBC Question Time you felt she couldn’t get off that stage soon enough. This stark contrast between Theresa and Jeremy has been seen even more graphically since the election following the Grenfell Tower disaster. Sometimes pictures speak so much more eloquently than words. None more so than the picture of Jeremy putting his arm round one of the distraught survivors and the picture of Theresa standing with the emergency services, aloof and apart from the victims. And in these days of instant social media and 24 hour news with their emphasis on the visual, pulling large enthusisastic crowds or pulling awakward faces matter- fairly or unfairly it communicates a message. Before the election campaign Jeremy had only been able to speak to the wider public through the prism of a national media  so very biased against him. However the strict impartiality required by election rules allowed him to freely communicate his message and his character. For the first time many saw him as he really is; a good, honest, thoughtful and compassionate man offering a message of real hope.

People don’t like being taken for granted
“... you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16 )

Most of the electorate rightly felt misled about the need for an election in the first place. We had been told seven times by Theresa May that there would be no election until 2020 as she just wanted to get on with the job of negotiating a “red white and blue” Brexit. In April she then suddenly announced an election on the pretext that she needed the electorate’s authority to negotiate Brexit. This is even though Parliament had just given her the article 50 authority she needed. The real truth was she saw a 25 point poll lead, worsening economic conditions and bruising Brexit negotiations. She realised conditions would never be so good to increase her majority and went for it.
These are totally understandable reasons for calling an election but very far from the reasons she gave . To many it looked like she was taking the public for mugs as she almost demanded them to give her a huge majority to strengthen her hand and negotiate the best possible Brexit deal for Britain.
She was seen to treat the electorate with further contempt by not turning up to a live TV debate with the other party leaders. (Instead sending a woman whose father had died that week).
She then offered up a manifesto promising virtually nothing of substance to anyone and her core older votes having various financial threats made against them.
No wonder many voters thought “stuff you Mrs May, you're not getting your landslslide and you’re not getting my vote.”

Pride comes before a fall
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

If you are going to rather arrogantly pitch a whole election campaign around yourself being a “strong and stable leader” you’d better actually be a “strong and stable” leader or are you likely to be found out. Arrogance is not a particularly attractive quality but if you can back it up people may put up with it. But what “strong and stable” leader runs from a live TV debate with her adversaries or u turns on key policies as soon as they meet strong resistance? As Jeremy Paxman put it that’s not a “strong and stable leader” but “a blow hard who runs at the first sound of gunfire.” For a leader to comes across as both arrogant and weak is a lethal combination.

Not all pollsters are equal
 “...the voice of one crying in the wilderness...” (John 1:23)

Survation must be doing something right! They were the only national pollster who forecast a small Tory victory in 2015 and one of very few who had consistently predicted Britain would vote to leave the EU in the referendum. Almost every other pollster had predicted a comfortable Tory victory this time . Once again Survation got the result right within a percentage point. Before election day the Tory pollster Lord Ashcroft had tweeted  (I assumed sarcastically) about Survation uniquely predicting a hung Parliament, “forget the rest.” Well whether he meant it or not he was right.

Young people will engage and vote if you give something worth engaging in and voting for
Let no one despise you for your youth...” (1 Timothy 4:12)

Only 44% of 18 to 24 year olds voted in 2015. This time 64% voted - an increase of nearly 50- and overwhelmingly they voted Labour as did all under 45s. And in a number of constituencies it was Labour's youth vote that made the difference. The shining example of that was Canterbury which had been held by the Tories since long before the Labour party even existed. However, in Canterbury there was a huge untapped pool of student voters who potentially outnumbered older voters. Labour student activists there like my daughter Josie (pictured on on the far left of the picture above) helped ensure that thousands of students registered to vote in the first place. Then when those students saw a party offering them things that so obviously benefited them- most notably abolition of student fees- for once most of them actually voted.  And this is why Survation were confident they were right to forecast such a close contest- because they could see Labour were offering young people something they would get out and vote for.

Jeremy is a far wiser man than most of us have given him credit for
“Let days speak and many years teach wisdom.” (Job 32: 8)

Even as a Labour supporter I have quite often disagreed with Jeremy Corbyn's positions, sometimes over policy but more so over political strategy. I’ve quite often thought his positions rather naive. However, looking back over the election and then at the many years before then I now have to admit that where I disagreed with him he was mostly right and I was mostly wrong. He is a man of conviction and principle who has very often been out of step with others even in his own party. This voted against his own party's whip 600 times. And yet it seems to me that on the large majority of those occasions when he took a stand against his fellow mps it was they and not he who were in the wrong. History increasingly suggests rather than being naive on most occasions his position was wise and right even if it put him in a minority at the time.
I would point to the following examples where I believe Jeremy has been proved right:
·         Supporting  disarmament of Britain’s expensive but pointless nuclear “deterrent”
·         Supporting sanctions against apartheid South Africa
·         Opposing Britain's military interventions in the Middle East
·         Opposing counter-productive and illiberal “anti-terror” laws
·         Opposing the extension of private interests to own and run our NHS and other public services
·         Supporting increased taxes on the rich tougher action on tax evasion and avoidance
    Greater state control of our banks
·         Renationalizing key public services like our railways
·         Opposing austerity and the starving of our public services and the slashing of welfare support
·         Accepting the result of the EU referendum and the triggering of Article 50
·         Recognising most people don’t want a hard Brexit and would prioritise the economy and free trade over immigration
·         But recognising also that most people don’t  want to re-run the referendum even if they disagreed with the result
·         Agreeing to the Prime Minister’s call for an early election
·         Prioritizing the complete abolition of student tuition fees.

You don't have to win from the centre ground -you can move the centre ground left
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

I believe this is now a time of change. What was considered extreme left I believe is becoming mainstream . A political earthquake is happening and the centre ground is shifting. Some of Labour’s supposedly most left-wing policies were among their most popular- supported by many who didn’t even vote for them. These include renationalizing our railways, building more council houses and increasing taxes on the rich and larger corporations to fund better public services.
After careful and prayerful examination of the issues and the evidence I am convinced that the Conservatives (and to an extent New Labour) have been taking this country in the wrong direction.  This has already caused much misery and suffering and the loss of opportunity for so many. A continuation of the same can only lead to things becoming even worse for nearly everyone.  I am convinced that the society they are building is one that is increasingly alien to the biblical Kingdom of God values that I and most of the country believe in (whether they share my Christian faith or not). 

But under Jeremy Corbyn Labour now offer a genuine alternative. A “transformative” agenda in which people throughout the country are increasingly believing (or at least hoping). It is not simply about putting more money into our failing public services, desperately though they need it. It's about a different way of running the country- “for the many, not the few.” This isn’t just another meaningless slogan.  This is at the heart of Labour's policy agenda. And it’s not only about building a more just and equal society. It’s also about using our national resources more sensibly and efficiently so that they go further and taking a longer view to invest for the future rather than making short term savings at a longer term cost.

This cause isn’t going away because it’s a cause whose time has come. During the election Labour already won over many people who could see that we need to turn this ship of state around. When things only get over the next few weeks or months or  years before the next election (as inevitably they will for most I fear) I believe many more will follow them. Labour I am sure will stand firm in its position, waiting for them– taking a stand for them, the many against the privileged few, for a redistribution of wealth, power and opportunity to build a fairer, more equal and efficient society and economy. We are now preparing for the next election whenever it may be when I am confident Labour will finish the job of winning the nation’s hearts and minds to this cause. I am confident that they will then secure a  majority and lay down their roots. And in time I am hopeful that this cause will no longer be considered left wing at all but sensible and moderate. It’s where we are now that I believe is foolish  and extreme. And as the centre ground moves, even the Conservative party in time I believe will move with it, just as it did in step with Clement Attlee’s earlier transformative Labour government over 70 years ago.