It has, of course been a long time coming. No, I’m not talking about Peter Mandelson’s recall from Brussels nor Ken Clarke’s re-emergence from the political wilderness. Rather the return to prominence of two qualities buried under the weight of middle class aspiration and the sad refusal to face up to the unsustainable consequences. Step forward honesty and integrity.
In a recent Times poll the most trusted politician in the country has been named as Vince Cable. The so-called sage of the credit crunch is said to be the most trusted political voice in the nation because he tells it as he sees it. Spin? He may be a ballroom dancer but there’s no sign of fancy footwork in his interviews. From the luxury of the third party’s treasury brief, Dr. Cable diagnoses the nation’s economic woes and prescribes its unpalatable medicine. And we seem to like it like that. VC is, of course, no saint (nor would he claim to be) but perhaps this survey tells us more about us than it does about Vince.
In the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal it may be that the electorate is looking for integrity above over-inflated promises. Tired of spin, perhaps we’re beginning to value those who tell us the things we would rather not have heard in the past. Jesus said ‘let your yes be yes and your no be no’ but often we’ve been content to let our ‘yes’ be akin to something that equates to ‘whatever your itching ears want to hear’. And we have thereby actively encouraged our politicians to go and do likewise.
So maybe, church, this is a watershed moment for taking the lead in increasing political accountability. Not in some sneery, cynical fashion that the shrill voices of the blogosphere promote. Instead, we encourage the good wherever we find it and challenge those values that belittle human dignity. And that way all of us become winners. Prospective parliamentary candidates take note: the church will be holding you to account in the coming months. And that is an encouragement, not a threat.