9 May 2015

Post Election Reflection

Our fictional Bishop seeking appointments to the Albion group had something of a surprise when the updated Electoral Roll figures came in on Thursday Night! So it is time to drop that fa├žade and look at the results.

Firstly disclosure. I happen to a member of the Labour party. I happen to be a Christian. There is a link between my politics and my faith but it is not an exclusive link. In my last parish I worked with Victoria Prentis, I congratulate her on her election to parliament in Banbury. Another old friend Michael Beckett stood for the Liberal Democrats in Scarborough & Whitby, although with the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote he came in fifth. I started my interest in politics as a member of the Conservative Party and of John Redwood's Conservative 2000 group - I idealistically believed that a freer market would lead to prosperity for all. I have been a member of Compass and more recently interested in the thinking of Philip Blonde (Red Tory) and Maurice Glasman (Blue Labour). I believe that it is right and proper that lay and ordained Christians are members of political parties and are open and honest about their membership and views. I can also see how a slight shift in my thinking would push me towards One Nation Conservatism.

So to the results:

Now a comparison with 2010:

The Conservatives increased their share of the vote by 0.4%, and the Labour Party by 1.4%. The Labour vote increased despite the SNP increasing their share by 3% , and the Green Party increasing theirs by 2.9%. The Liberal Democrat vote collapsed and UKIP's share of the popular vote quadrupled - taking votes from all the major parties.

Right of centre parties (excluding the Liberal Democrats) received just over 50% of the national vote. Left of centre parties (excluding the Liberal Democrats) received just over 40% of the national vote. In terms of seats right of centre parties (excluding the Liberal Democrats) have just over 50%  and left of centre parties (excluding the Liberal Democrats) have done rather better than their share of the vote - 45%.

Although our first past the post system benefits regional parties and penalises smaller national parties, it has delivered a government that is in line with the political views of the British people, which balance on a knife edge of our national (and probably flawed) understanding of left and right.

So what of the Liberal Democrats. Where did their voters go?

The Liberal Democrats have a right of centre tendency to which many members of the coalition subscribed. Many Liberal Democrat voters voted so as a soft alternative to the Conservatives. This election they may have decided to vote Conservative instead. In this case the smaller Liberal Democrat vote represents the left wing of their base.

Alternatively it was the left of the Liberal Democrats that voted Labour or Green and it is the right wing of their base that stuck with them.

Where the Liberal Democrat vote went is crucial in discerning the balance between left and right wing visions of society and the economy across the nation. If the Liberal Democrat vote is a vote for the centre right then the British left has a huge amount of work to do in winning the popular vote. If the Liberal Democrat vote is a vote for the centre left then popular support between left and right is much closer, and a swing to the right by the Conservative government could be sowing seeds of a defeat in five years time.

The reality is probably more complex, but my gut feeling is that the latter holds (the remaining Lib Dem vote is centre right) and that almost 60% of the electorate at present tend towards the right wing of our our political spectrum. However my gut feeling is also that the majority of the electorate expect a level of public services that right wing economic policy will struggle to deliver over the next 5 years. If the Conservative government can deliver a strong NHS, outstanding education for all, working benefits, and a good safety net, whilst reducing borrowing and taxation and building a growing economy I am prepared to eat a range of clothing. If I believed they could I would join the Conservative party. But for the sake of the nation I want them to succeed.

The Labour party meanwhile needs a leader committed to the same goals and able to communicate to the electorate that this is what they would achieve in government,whilst showing that sometimes borrowing for growth is akin to investing in our home through increasing a mortgage and that paying taxes is an essential part of our citizenship. Hard work also needs to be done on the effect that growing inequality is having on global capitalism whilst working in partnership with business and ensuring that our common wealth is distributed to those who will make the best use of it.

In the meantime the Church must continue to support members in all mainstream political parties and be prepared to support and speak for the most vulnerable members of society. It may be that we have to take roles that we believe that state should do in the coming years if David Cameron's plan falters, whilst continuing to speak clearly about our shared responsibility as a society.

5 May 2015

Candidates for the Albion Group

Confidential Memo from the Bishop to Senior Staff

Following on from the request for candidates we have a number of possible options.

The Rev'd Georgic has his roots in the Prayer Book tradition and would be warmly received by St. Edward's, however it is unknown how much wider support he could achieve. Although an obvious choice, with good experience he would not work well with St. Blake's or Trews Community Church and their ministry teams. Although St Edward's is the largest congregation in the group they would be unable to lead the group PCC alone.

The Lay Reader, Mr Digniora at St. Salad's has been interviewed and would work with the Rev'd Georgic as they have some history together. However overall charge of the PCC would be difficult to maintain.

Fr. Havistock has been suggested by members of St. Blake's, an eccentric figure with an interest in stone carving and kitchens. His leadership would be resisted by representatives of St. Edwards's but Mr Digniora has stated that he might be willing to work with him as well.

The key to the appointment may well be the success of of Trews Community Church. The lay leader Cpt. Greenwood (CA) is unable to be co-opted onto the PCC but TCC will be represented by Mr. W. E. S. T. Lothian. Combined with the influence of St. Blake's and St. Salad's this would provide some stability. However TCC's desire for full independence and their hostility towards the local sub-mariners group could cause significant problems on the PCC unless representatives of St. Blakes were willing to support Fr. Havistock on those issues.

Indeed overall control of the PCC seems difficult to envisage without the smaller number of representatives from Norn Iron (some of whom never attend PCC meetings) and other fellowship groups, including the claimed autocephalous group led by Mr Dulwich, the Forest Church Community and the Community Choir 'Play, Come You!'.

It must be said that these staffing difficulties have brought into focus the sustainability of the team and the system under which it operates, with PCC membership based on Electoral Roll rather than the regular worshipping community. Initial investigations based on recent attendance figures would see Mr Dulwich's and the Forest Church group having far more influence if they were proportionally represented.

Of course we have historically rejected such calls for change for fear that they would produce a weak and divided PCC.

3 May 2015

The Albion Group

Confidential Memo from the Bishop to members of the Talent Pool.

Applications are invited for the post of Rector of the Albion Group (with Norn Iron).

The team consists of four different churches and a number of smaller fellowship groups who are seeking a dynamic and exciting direction for the future after a number of difficult years.

St Charles' (K&M) is an established congregation which values its traditional matins service. It
has substantial reserves and strong links with local business and farming families. However concern has been expressed in recent years over its commitment to the needs of the wider community. Pew rents are still in force. With a falling ER of 137 the congregation is no longer able to have the same influence it enjoyed in the past and lead the group.

St. Blake's is a lively liberal catholic congregation in the new estate (built 1945). There is a strong emphasis on social action. Relations with the congregation of St. Charles' have been strained over the years although a number of innovations from the parish such as the Parish Nursing Scheme have been more widely accepted. Over the years St. Blake's congregation have moved from instant to real coffee and changed the seating arrangements several times.  The ER of St. Blake's has recently dropped to 135 with the growth of Trews Community Church.

St. Salad's history is complex, but most recently has been working closely with St. Charles' on the united PCC - although the parishes form of worship shares much with St. Blake's. In the past St. Salad's has attracted worshippers from both St. Blake's and St. Charles' congregations. However since introducing increased fees for it's young adults group, and with its closer association with St. Charles' its ER has dropped to 14.

Trews Community Church is a Fresh Expression of Church which is seeing significant growth to the North of the benefice. A number of regular worshippers at St. Blake's have been attracted to TCC in recent years, and the two churches share much in common. However it has been noted by senior staff that TCC does not see itself as part of the Albion Team Ministry and would prefer to be an independent entity . The ER of Trews Community Church is 28.

Information about smaller home groups and the community of Norn Iron are included in an appendix.

The new Rector will need to be able to win support of members of the electoral roll and form a group PCC which is able to make majority decisions on growth, financial management and community engagement, whilst maintaining the unity of the group and protecting the local sub-mariners association.

This is a half time post combined with the role of Diocesan Sound Bite Officer.