This morning at 07.00 residents of Newark, a Parliamentary constituency near Nottingham in the English midlands will have breathed a sigh of relief and so to will thousands of people who have been under immense pressure to cover every single inch of the constituency with leaflets and handshakes and ensure that every feasible phone number is phoned. At 7am the polling stations opened and that is the end of the influencing, indoctrinating and browbeating. Never again will the residents of Newark receive so much attention and in all probability it will return to being a safe Conservative seat, even though it was a Conservative MP who let down his constituents so badly.
Watching twitter for the number of Conservative paid officials (including MPs who are supposed to be representing people all over the UK) along with volunteers (including Peers) who have visited Newark in the past few weeks shows just how much propping up is going on to get the outcome that the party knows is needed if the General Election plans are not to be damaged. On the Radio the prospective MP admitted that all Conservative MPs and Ministers had been instructed to visit the constituency 3 times during the campaign. All of the other parties have adopted a similar approach.
In the work I have been involved in over the last 20 years, the phrase Community Development is used to describe an approach which starts with local residents and their needs and abilities and introduces resources (financial, human and training in skills) in a manner that allows the residents to increase their confidence and competence at a pace which they can achieve sustainably. Over time the local residents are able to take over the running of the relevant organisations on their own behalf. Arguably this is the model built on the way in which Jesus engaged with people. He did not impose his ideas on people or overwhelm them, but rather drew out from them the created strength in the heart of each of them. This is the very opposite of the approach adopted by many large businesses and political organisations. They respond in the same way in which all of the major parties have responded to Newark, flooding the ‘problem’ with disproportionate levels of resources, irrespective of the true impact on the residents, because they can! It is how some of the worlds natural disasters have been addressed with donors flooding the area with people and goods, assuming that they know best. Yet in democracies elections are supposed to be fought on terms that are free and fair. It is supposed to be the ideas and the principles of the candidates that determine who people vote for, not the number of balloons that his supporters can hand out.
Today Jesus will not be voting and neither will I. However it is my contention that if we were to adopt the approach modelled by Jesus, that our Political Parties would not behave as they have for the last few weeks.