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The State of the nation

I don’t mean to be a misery but from where I stand the nation is in a sorry state. 

Coming to work in London, every day I see people sleeping rough around the tube station and on the streets. I read reports of High Street stores closing and local authorities cutting services because they are strapped for cash. Hospital waiting lists grow longer and I have been waiting a year for surgery on my knee. What’s gone wrong? Until 2016 our economy was one of the fastest growing amongst the developed nations, now it is in the slow lane and lots of households are struggling to make ends meet.

To make matters worse we have become a deeply divided nation as a result of the 2016 referendum. 51.8% voted to leave the EU and 48.11% voted to remain. The Remainers were more likely to be younger, live in London and other large cities, have degrees and hold down professional jobs whilst the Leavers were more likely to be older and less well qualified. A modest majority of women voted to leave whilst male voters were more likely to vote the other way.

Those are just facts and the only point I am making is that they reflect deeply held convictions that are dividing the nation and the political parties. Theresa May is struggling to negotiate a deal that will bring us out of the EU whilst minimising damage to our economy but even that has divided her party which is dependent on DUP support to survive in office. 60-80 Conservative MPs, 25% of her parliamentary party, want a ‘clean’ Brexit, by which they mean no deal at all. They are writing their alternative to Mrs May’s ‘Chequers plan’ and are expected to launch it at the party conference in September in the hope of blocking whatever is left of the Prime Minister’s plan.

There is no majority in Parliament for a ‘no deal’ Brexit but these machinations could well lead to a General Election in the autumn. On the face of it the Government is an even weaker position than it was in the 2017 election. Eight years of austerity and its effects on both households and public services, on top of the failure so far to deliver a Brexit that satisfies both Leavers and most Remainers, might suggest that Labour should form the next Government. That said Labour also has its own problems. They were ahead in the polls in July but have slipped back this month to 35% with the Conservatives on 39%.

Those figures suggest that neither party is popular and nor are their respective leaders.  Jeremy Corbyn has the support of his left wingers and Momentum who returned him to office when a majority of his MP’s sought to replace him. Labour are also divided on Brexit. Five of them and their suspended colleague voted with the Government on the EU Withdrawal Bill and a majority want us to remain in a customs union. A majority of MPs across the House of Commons also want that too and there is no certainty that whatever deal May negotiates will be backed by a majority in either the Commons or the Lords.

So what can be done to re-unite the nation? There is no obvious political solution so is there a spiritual answer? In times of crisis, like the Dunkirk situation in 1940, the King called the nation to prayer and the people responded. Sadly, today a majority of the people say they have no religion and amongst the 18-24’s it is 71% who say that. Even those who read my blogs are deeply divided on politics. What would it take for each of us to make prayer for the healing of the nation a priority?

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