Theresa May’s surprise announcement has set in motion the endless news cycle that only an election brings; new announcements and policies each hour, journalists trying to get a politician to contradict themselves or promise the impossible, another poll telling us who is winning or losing. The shorter lead up time caused by a snap general election will only heighten the continual stream of words from politicians, journalists and pollsters alike making it harder to hear, let alone think about, the issues.
Most of the column inches in the first few days have been devoted to the U-turn of Theresa May in calling the election itself. She had publicly declared she would not hold an election at least five times in the past year with many YouTube videos collating these statements. This comes hot on the heels of her campaigning to remain in the EU, but then wanting to be the leader who takes us out of the EU. This is unfortunately not a new phenomenon for our politicians.
Every manifesto is taken with a pinch of salt as experience has made us wary; scrapping tuition fees and not raising NI contributions are two examples from the recent past. Ed Miliband took the extreme step of putting his policies onto a large stone monument before the last election that turned into his epitaph. However taking someone’s word at face value seems to be turning into a weakness rather than a strength. You are called naive and told to be more streetwise when you trust in the strength of a word that is then taken back. A lot of the reporting around the election announcement centred on what Theresa May really meant, insinuating that the words she spoke should not be taken at face value.
The post-Easter story of ‘Doubting Thomas’ highlights this issue. Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene and she had told the disciples He is risen, but they were dubious and the disciples carried on hiding in a locked room out of fear. Then Jesus miraculously appeared in their midst, but Thomas was not there.
Thomas was now faced with at least two accounts of Jesus being risen from the dead. Two stories from two different sources; enough to be published in any newspaper today. Yet his response is to say I will never believe unless I see Him for myself. He does not take their word for it; he cannot hear the words they say, he cannot accept the message they bring. Maybe it is a human condition to continually question what we hear. Maybe we have been let down too much to trust in the integrity of those we meet or of those in power?
You are only as good as your word is a saying that would condemn a lot of us as we all have incidents of failing to keep our word or tell the truth. Our integrity is damaged and it becomes harder for others to trust us again. Isaiah speaks of having integrity and faithfulness as a belt around our waist and St Paul talks of a belt of truth and a breast plate of integrity. Integrity and truth hold our relationships together and protect us when faced with adversity. They are essential for our relationships and well-being, particularly in leadership and as a parent. We should strive to have these always on our lips.
As the election road show speeds past, I hope we can see our politicians wearing this belt. Although, meaning what we say and saying what we mean is sound advice for all of us.