By way of metaphor, two subjects of this blog have been entwined in a cry of desperation from Libby Purves this morning. Perhaps we’re all getting a little bored and worn down by the MPs expenses saga. The endless details are all becoming too salacious and there’s a growing sense that there really are more important stories being buried under a landslide of receipts: foreign affairs, anyone? But she’s right to raise the most important consequence of all this- the breakdown of relationship between elector and elected. This scandal has fed into our essentially postmodern view of the world to create the perfect firestorm. Like the betrayed spouse, our response may be understandable and in some ways justified but it may be that cutting-off-our-noses-to-spite-our-faces has become accepted practice. Sadly, this doesn’t often lead to good long-term decisions.
To misquote both Nye Bevan and the Manic Street Preachers, we’ve all too easily adopted an approach to life summed up by ‘This is my truth, I don’t much care about yours’. In other words, our ability to challenge each other has been sacrificed on the altar of self-determination. Which is just about sustainable when my values and yours coincide but what when they diverge? We then retreat into aiming our artillery at one another’s ‘truths’ and as the truth is personal, the attacks are personally devastating. This can be seen so painfully in the break up of marriages. And what we need there is a process of mediation that aims at something better. As the minister reminded us at a wedding on Saturday ‘By committing yourselves to marriage you are blessing society.’
It may be time for us to remove our tanks from the lawns of Westminster. Highlighting deliberate wrongdoing is important, breeding resentment is not the stuff of grace and reconciliation. I’m always inspired by the account of Jesus reinstating Peter after he’d denied his master three times. Very deliberately, Jesus asks Peter whether he loves him. Clearly, irritated Peter nonetheless reaffirms his love. Something very special happens there, even though it was distinctly uncomfortable at the time. Peter’s unbelief had to be brought into the light but he could only be restored because Jesus was unconditionally for him.
Maybe it’s time for some ‘honest brokers’ to get involved in healing the marital rift between MPs and the rest of us. As those who’ve known the greatest reconciliation of all, perhaps the onus is on us. I think MPs should be paid more, their expenses should be pared back to a limited list of essentials (not regulated by themselves) and there ought to be a review of the numbers required in the house. I want them to do a good job- I am on their side. Any other suggestions?