A hung parliament reflects the diverse nature of our population, and the complexity of our interactions. We should neither expect nor demand that a would-be Prime Minister should command a majority. The best hope for the common good is to be found not in persuading a majority of the electorate to share a common ideology; or in securing enough opposition to curb ideological excess; but, rather, in the hard work of recognising those whose hopes, fears, and working-solutions differ from our own, and seeking to create room for one another.
The theological term for this deep recognition of the other is ‘communion’. The term for its absence is ‘impaired communion’. While the Church acknowledges the reality of impaired communion, we see it as a grievous scandal. We are, it seems, unable to recognise every other; but our failure to do so also inflicts violence on our own selves.
‘Strong and stable’ government is not good for democracies, and especially in uncertain times.
Instead, we need governments who will listen;
who will reach out to the other;
who will give-and-take [not simple asking, what part of my agenda am I prepared to surrender, but, what resources can I offer in support of someone else’s priorities?];
who will cooperate rather than compete—
in short, who have the skills to negotiate, nationally and internationally.
However imperfectly, and despite some arguing for a more ‘worldly’ political model, the Church has considerable experience of the joy and sorrow of communion/impaired communion. So, to, do the people of Northern Ireland, where a constructive peace was painstakingly brokered between former enemies, enabling and enabled-by ‘power sharing’ (communion was embodied in Ian Paisley of the DUP and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein). However, communion tends to break down into impaired communion, and continually needs to be renewed. This is the case in Northern Ireland at present; and to best facilitate communion, the government in Westminster has always remained impartial—until now.
Much of the political chatter and gossip—and posturing—in the aftermath of the General Election—including the Prime Minister’s willingness to sacrifice peace in Northern Ireland in order to prop up oppositional power—shows just how addicted we are to dominance over others. There is a better way.
In the context of 2017, I commit myself to seek communion.