picture via http://www.guardian.co.uk
A tweet from Tom Harris MP:
The only way Fred Goodwin could be any more unpopular is if his alleged affair had been with Nick Clegg.
It is just over 12 months ago that one man was touring the UK to address crowds of well-wishers, fans and even a few voters in the final stages of the General Election campaign. Buoyed by a strong performance in the leaders’ debates, Nick Clegg appeared to have been elevated to that much envied status of political pop star. How things have changed. After forming the coalition with the Conservatives, embracing deficit reduction plans and U-turning on tuition fees, he is now the object of opposition scorn where MPs compete to see who can be nastiest to prove their tribal credentials. And even those on the government’s side don’t seem to hold a high opinion:
Mr Clegg was mocked by both Tory and Labour MPs as he gave a statement in the Commons on the proposals, which will now be scrutinised by a committee of 13 peers and 13 MPs, with a report due early next year. (Discussing the launch of Lord’s reforms- The Daily Telegraph)
He seems to have gone from Palm Sunday adulation to Good Friday mockery in the course of 12 roller coaster months. But this post isn’t about feeling sorry for the Deputy Prime Minister, rather to learn the salutory lesson of human identity. If we base our identity, our value in the opinions of others, then we will be all over the place in our sense of worth. We will think we can change the world one minute, unable to change the sheets the next. We all make mistakes, we all break promises- it’s just that most of us don’t have them beamed up in the full glare of public opinion. Of course, it’s public opinion that got Nick Clegg where he was 12 months ago and if you can’t stand the heat… But our identity is rooted in the image of God implanted in each one of us and that, for all our foolishness, deceit and self-centredness the man who is God was stuck on a tree. This is our worth. This reclaims our identity if we respond to his act of self-sacrifice. It gives us the strength to cope with the fluctuations of praise and criticism, of respect and contempt.We may not have dog mess posted through our letterboxes but we have sharp-tongued exchanges designed to destroy rather than build-up. And it would be wise to know who we are when we face it.
It was a missed opportunity. After all the furore of ‘Gordon Brown meets a voter’ last Wednesday, Nick Clegg knew he’d be quizzed on immigration on Thursday night. Here is part of the speech I wanted to hear:
‘You, the British people, have demonstrated over the years how generous and hospitable you have been in welcoming people into this country. And that generosity has been rewarded by a culture of richness and diversity. For example, just think of the doctors from South Asia who have filled gaps in our national health service with commitment, dedication and skill- many departments would have been on their knees without them. And yet, there is a problem. There are people here who are unregistered, working in the black economy, often the victims of human trafficking who are unable to make their proper contribution to UK society as they fall prey to criminal gangs. It is time we allowed those who want to step up to the plate and pay their way to do just that: if they have been here for ten years and speak English, surely it is better for them and better for everyone that they are recognised and pay for the services we all depend upon. This is no open-ended amnesty, we agree that there must be criteria for future immigration to limit the numbers arriving but simply burying our heads in the sand about those already here is no solution at all.’
Instead, under pressure, he went all defensive rather than seizing the initiative. And in criticising Mr Clegg, I’m implicitly criticising them all. I’ve received a few questions around the country summarised by: ‘What is the Christian policy on immigration?’ Of course, there are a variety of views. But I always emphasise the Old Testament injunctions to provide a haven for the alien and the foreigner. The generosity of God’s grace means we cannot ignore the well-being of others. Naturally there are implications on our natural resources (especially given the rate of youth unemployment) that mean we cannot allow everybody to come and go as they please. But we do not have the option to ignore the suffering and misery of our neighbours. Mr Clegg: if this is your policy, believe it and communicate it with all the passion and conviction at your disposal. Mr Brown and Mr Cameron: don’t appeal to people’s worst instincts dictated by worry and fear. A healthy debate is what we need. Come on church, where’s your voice?