The choice was between “competence or chaos”, as David Cameron kept on saying. All the predictions talked about a knife-edge vote, and all the personalities sank into morass of pessimism and faffed around in a black hole of doubts and uncertainties.
It appears that England has voted for competence, and Scotland for chaos. The United Kingdom is in a state of schism which will overshadow politics and fiscal processes over the coming years.
In their Pastoral Letter of visions and dreams, the Bishops of the Church of England encouraged the electorate to vote for a “new moral vision”. The people listened intently, reflected, prayed and obeyed (in England, at least). The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev’d Paul Bayes, explained the Church’s primary vocation: to “speak of a society where the least and lost are supported, the poor looked after, the victims given a voice and the marginalised cared for”. And he urged people to ask three questions of candidates:
Will your candidate be putting the common good, and especially the interests of the poor and the marginal, at the heart of your policies?
Will your candidate work with churches, faith communities and all people of good will to shape a society where all can flourish and where the stronger will readily and gladly help the weaker
Will you be striving to fashion a healthcare and welfare system that treats each needy individual with respect and honour as a priceless, significant person (made as we would say in the image of God)?
These questions, he said, were “rooted in a biblical understanding of the world”. He explained:
Why these questions? Because I know, from my clergy here in the Diocese of Liverpool, that real human beings are hurting because of the way our society is shaped at present. I know these people’s names and I’ve met some of them. Decent people facing impossible choices between paying for food and paying the rent. Desperate people who feel they have had to turn to high-interest pay day loans to fund the essentials of life. Knowing these people, I want my vote to make life better – not just for me, but for them too.
And he called for a “genuinely big society” where our fiscal, social, educational and welfare policies coalesce around the common good. He wanted foreigners to be welcomed, the young given hope and wealth spread. He wanted an end to “the dehumanising effects of our welfare system”, and made a plea for a reformed NHS and care system. He urged that “we need to vote for a society organised to value every individual” because he is “sick of the partisan politics of self-interest”.
Again, the people listened intently, reflected, prayed and obeyed (in England, at least). The Liberal Democrats were routed: their parliamentary party could squeeze into a couple of black cabs. Labour has been crushed: some of the leading lights extinguished. George Galloway has been ousted (down but not out), and Katie Hopkins will not be leaving the country. David Cameron has triumphed, and so has Nicola Sturgeon. But only the former has power.
Quite a few bishops will be distraught. “Foodbanks are here to stay,” they mutter. Immigrants will continue to be demonised; the young deprived of hope; the NHS strangled and the poor dehumanised. They will not see that the people (of England, at least) have voted for an ordered moral field – Conservatism untainted by Liberalism and victorious over Socialism. Most bishops will not apprehend the social value of that political attitude or the integrity of that philosophy. But it is an illumination and an anticipation.
History still causes anxieties, and the future is unknown. But David Cameron is endowed with a vision of change which the ancients may once have called ‘wisdom’. It is stability, continuity, and incremental reform for the common good, consonant with national mores and traditions. The new moral vision is old wine. As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day, let us raise a glass and celebrate.