A week is a long time in politics. A couple of weeks, an eternity!
I had the privilege of being invited to fringe events at both the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool and the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. The first stop was the Labour Party Conference and an insightful roundtable discussion with faith leaders over lunch. This was followed by an event to launch Labour’s Faith Champions initiative hosted by Stephen Timms MP. Both Sir Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition and Marvin Reeves, the Mayor of Bristol, were speaking and I had the opportunity to meet both of them in person.
What was missing at his launch was a complete lack of faith leaders from the black community. There were no Black church leaders present apart from myself. I’m sure this is a reflection of how detached the Labour Party has become from the Black Majority Churches, where so many of their voters worship each Sunday. I left Liverpool with a sense that it was critically important that the Black Church once again attempt to engage with the Labour Party, particularly as they may well be forming a government at the next election. Attempts may have been made during the pandemic to re-engage by church leaders but to no avail. It is critically important this happens in the near future as the winds of political change batter the nation.
‘time to engage directly’
The following Monday week, I had the privilege to attend the Conservative Christian Fellowship Prayer Breakfast, hosted in partnership with the Trussell Trust. It was valuable to hear the first-hand testimony of someone who was relying on Universal Credit and trying to cope with the cost of living crisis. It was also good to see John Glen MP and Danny Kruger MP taking part. But I couldn’t help feeling they were the usual suspects. They have been committed to ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ for many years.
There is a need for church leaders and activists up and down the country to engage government and opposition MPs with the reality of the cost of living crisis for so many. I’m not sure we can rely solely on pressure groups to get the message out. I think it’s time to engage directly.
And as I write, Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget has been torn up and the country plunged back into austerity measures to apparently “calm the markets” However, if you’re an individual facing the choice between putting food on the table or heating your home, it’s difficult to see how you can stay remotely calm!