Jeremy Corbyn needs to take the mantle of Abraham Lincoln

Arguably the best book on leadership I have read is Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns; the Abraham Lincoln political biography.  It masterfully depicts the challenge, heartache and passion that goes into leadership in the face of cruelly fierce opposition. Lincoln’s steady strength and fortitude became an inspiration for me and I can’t help but think of him as I observe Jeremy Corbyn approach his new task of leader of the Labour party.

I care nothing for political parties but care deeply about the outworking of politics.  And so in Corbyn I see a man who’s policies resonate with me and who also appears to have been thrust into a position of power he never previously had ambition for.  At this he already differs from Abraham Lincoln – who had longed for the office of president, in order to achieve the abolition of the slave trade, his entire political career.

The most intriguing part of Team of Rivals is where Lincoln is having to bring together the huge bruised egos of flawed characters to form a cabinet that can see his nation through civil war.  The stakes are not quite as high for Corbyn – he is only leader of the opposition, the talent at his disposal is generally unproven, and the critical situation of the United Kingdom in 2015 cannot be compared to that of the United States in 1860.  Nevertheless, Corbyn will need to employ all the guile, stubbornness, wisdom and resilience of Lincoln if he is to pull together an effective shadow cabinet that he can lead through to achieve some of the political goals that he has fought for his entire life.

I really wish Jeremy Corbyn every success.  Certainly because I desire to see in this nation and world many of the same things he is working for, but also because he deserves it.  He has brought a real honesty, vulnerability and humility to the messy and brutal world of 21st century politics.  These are characteristics of a true leader and if he is able to persevere can only be a good thing for this nation and beyond.

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2015 General Election: You can still make a difference!

With the majority of constituency results announced it is clear that we will be seeing a Conservative formed government.  The polls leading up to yesterday’s election had the Tories and Labour neck and neck but I was expecting that many of our population would put an X by their Conservative candidate within the privacy of the voting booth.  We’re a rich country which means those in work will always be fairly comfortable and it’s difficult for people to vote against that and to stick up for the vulnerable.

I’m disappointed.  However, political involvement is not limited to voting in a General Election.  We all have a new or a newly re-elected MP who is accountable to us, the same goes for our local Councillors.  Engage with your MP and with your Councillors, get to know them and ensure they make your voice heard.  Even if they don’t represent your political views they are still your public servant.

There are also opportunities for those who feel powerless in an election to come together and make a collected voice heard through marches, letter writing and other peaceful protests.  If you feel helpless now then resolve to continue to campaign for the issues that are important to you.

Personally, I am most gutted for those who are more vulnerable for various reasons – the young, the elderly, the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, the disenfranchised, the asylum seeker, the looked after children, the disabled, those with mental illness, the addicts…..  These categories don’t generally vote Conservative, if they vote at all, and will undoubtedly be further down trodden.  If this bothers you then get ready to serve these people in your local community.  They may not be able to rely on their government for support and empowerment but they must be able to rely on their neighbours.

We spend a lot of time talking about our politicians but even once elected they do not have to be the ones who direct and shape our country.  Stand up and make a difference!

May 7th…..Remember the poor

Where will you put your X on May 7th?  How are you going to decide?

If you have a secure job and want what is best economically for you then without doubt you should be voting Conservative.  You won’t go wrong with Labour or Lib Dem either.  If you are comfortable now then stick with the political establishment and nothing is going to change much – the colour flying over Downing Street might be different but our social landscape will remain the same.

However, if your desire is to see the poorest and most vulnerable in our society protected and empowered then maybe think of an alternative to the political establishment – and I’m not talking about the purple migrant bashers.  I would suggest that if you have a care and hope for those excluded from society then consideration should be given to a Green or Independent vote or maybe a spoiled ballot.

As a follower of Jesus I cannot bring myself to vote for my own needs and comforts.  “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)  If you love Jesus, if you love your fellow human – then don’t waste your vote selfishly.  Maybe you will come to a different political conclusion to me but do vote with your conscience.

West Bromwich vicar, Neil Robbie, has written a great and succinct post commenting on political thought processes with a different twist on who the poor could be.  Definitely worth a read for just 1 minute of your time.

If you have an hour then do invest it in listening to the late Simon Pettit’s biblical mandate for the poor.  This was recorded in 1998 and was a real watershed moment for the Newfrontiers famly of churches that I belong to – it provides a great introductory foundation on Christian teaching regarding the poor.

Election and Poor

Spoil your vote

Tomorrow in the West Midlands we have the ‘wonderful privilege’ of voting once again for the Police and Crime Commissioner.

I am not happy about this. I was speaking with a local councilor yesterday and he told me this election is costing approximately £3,000,000. On top of the cost of the actual election the Commissioner is to paid £100,000 a year and those selected by the Commissioner to represent the different boroughs in the West Midlands are each paid about £12,000 per year to attend a few meetings.

Because of that I am going to spoil my vote. I expect the turnout tomorrow will be minuscule and every spoiled vote must be counted I understand so, who knows, maybe the spoiled votes could win!

I think it is an important principle that we should make use of our right to vote. And not matter how apathetic you feel about a specific election or bunch of candidates I believe you should still make time to head down to the polling station tomorrow.

Anybody not going to vote?

YES (well, NO really) to AV

So is it just like the general election last year when EVERYBODY was going on about voting Lib Dems and then bottled it and went for the usual left or right?  Or is just that everyone I spoke to, or read on facebook, did vote YES but in reality just make up a tiny part of the voting public and the older non facebook using demograph are more likely to make the journey down to the polling station?

It’s not that I mind too much.  I did vote YES but only because I want more fun on voting day.  And it’d be nice to have a vote for some minor party but still feel like your vote could count in deciding between the big two or three.  But I thought with all the ‘anti-Tory-no-to-AV-dirty-tactics’ stuff going round people would vote YES but I guess they didn’t and probably bottled it again.

It’s always an anti-climax getting in those little quarter booths things they have where anyone can see what you’re doing and just putting a little X in ONE box.  Ah well too late now anyway.

“You’re a miserable pipsqueak!”

Finally, an elected Member of Parliament showing some passion!  This is Tom Watson, the MP for West Bromwich East where I work at the YMCA.

It’s with reference to the Government withdrawing funding for nine schools in Sandwell to have new builds.  I understand that there need to be stacks of cuts if we’re to stabilise the country but to take this away from young people in Sandwell is utterly heartbreaking.  I have never experienced a community where so many people are working so hard together in such messy situations and if anybody deserves a break it is the people of Sandwell.

I am disappointed that Michael Gove has not fulfilled his promise to visit Sandwell.  I think this is cowardly behaviour.

Also, how funny that ‘miserable pipsqueak’ is such an offensive term…no wonder Gove is nervous of coming to West Brom, he’ll get a bit worse than that there!

Make sure you vote

I called in the polling station on my way to work this morning. I don’t need to remind you it is so important to vote. If you don’t then you have no right to grumble about what politicians are doing.  There were 12 choices on my ballot paper so there is so much choice.  If you’re totally fed up with the main parties then have a look at one of the others.

I think it is particularly important to vote today because this could be a dangerous opportunity for the BNP to get a bit of a stronger foothold in democracy.  Please don’t waste your vote because you can’t be bothered to get down the polling station.  I believe they are open till about 10pm so you have plenty of time.

For those who would like to vote with a bit of a social conscience there are some options out there for you.  The Green Party, The Christian People’s Alliance, Libertas and Jury Team seem to be alright and don’t seem to be focusing on money as their main agenda.  I personally am vary wary of those parties who predominantly push for a better economy and ignore the environment and social justice.  Whilst a good economy is very beneficial to improving these areas of society I think there are a lot of greedy people in politics and there are several parties who seem to believe that British people are better than everybody else.

Anyway, if you haven’t voted yet, please do!