So Lord Young and soon-to-be-Lord Flight have caused uproar with their comments dealing with the experiences of the current economic climate (‘Never had it so good…’) and the prospect of the removal of child benefit to higher rate taxpayers (‘Discouraged from breeding..’). In the letter’s case, he underlined his distaste for the coalition’s proposal by suggesting that benefit claimants have ‘every incentive to breed’. This kind of foot-in-mouth moment happens regularly- it’s largely up to the media how much exposure it gets and therefore what kind of pressure the party leader is under to take action. Personally, just because someone makes an objectionable comment doesn’t mean a resignation should automatically follow- and the Prime Minister is probably acutely aware that if he gives into the press pack in these instances, he’s storing up a baggage hold full of trouble for the future. Definitely views like these need challenging as they reveal a lack of ‘the common touch’ – something crucial to the modern politician. This all though raises the question: If those in power cannot connect what are the implications?
Reheboam inherited a wealthy, large, if slightly unstable kingdom from his dad, Solomon, and was presented with a choice: Should he take the wisdom of his father’s friends and acquaintances and lead with consensual, servant leadership or follow his contemporaries advice and bear down heavily on his people? He took the latter and the whole kingdom blew apart very quickly. Around 40 years later, Jehoshaphat became king of the (by now separated) Southern Kingdom and he got to work by visiting local communities and setting up a localised legal system. When trouble invaded from the South, these communities were his eyes and ears alerting him to trouble and then answering the call to prayer and fasting which plotted an unexpected path to deliverance.
When leadership is detached from the vast majority of the people, trouble brews. The current government has many ministers with privileged backgrounds. This need not be a problem but they will need to work extra hard at listening to the pain and concerns of everyday voters especially as we enter an era of very tight household budgets. Listen too much to your immediate friends and contemporaries and you will fail to connect, fail to provide fairness; in short you will fail to serve. For we all know that the best politics is relational.