Thursday, May 13, 2010

So we finally have a government ...

I love the tradition of the speech on the steps of Downing street. Even coming at the end of probably the most exciting week of politics I've ever seen, Tuesday's two examples were no anticlimax. I found both Gordon Brown's and David Cameron's speeches quite moving.

Of course the best speech of this sort ever delivered came from Jesus (Luke 4:16-21):

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

This is the vision against which I measure every government, and every time I see a new prime minister speak outside that shiny black door I am looking to see to what extent their policies and values match with what Jesus said at the start of his ministry. Of course, none of them ever meet the mark. But sometimes, as this week, I find echoes of Jesus' words, they never meet the mark; but sometimes, as this week, there are echoes every time I am disappointed, but sometimes there are the odd parallels, and this week was no exception.

What was particularly interesting this time, though, was that the speech was more than just David Cameron's agenda for the country; it contained references to things that until a week ago were anathema to most of his party and clearly came from his Lib Dem coalition partners.

And that's the great thing about coalition government. After days of negotiations - and oh, how I'd have loved to have been able to watch those 24/7 on the TV - the two parties have put together a package that cuts out the extremes of both sides in the aim of being more broadly palatable. Out go the inheritance tax cut (hoorah!) and the scrapping of Trident (shame). For once we can see how two groups of people with apparently radically different views can put aside their differences and come up with a common agenda. Are you watching, Israel and Palestine?

Like most people, I suspect, I find this isn't the government I really wanted; but neither is it the government I most feared. And perhaps that is more important.


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