A politics of purpose, courage and humility
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General Election campaigns by their nature are polarised but this campaign is bringing into sharp relief how radically out of touch the ‘political’ conversation has become and how this is undermining public trust. The lives of real communities are a long way from the jargon used by the media and the political class. This hollowed-out language barely resonates with reality, and is in danger of becoming a ‘tyranny of simplicity’.
It doesn’t have to be like this. After 8 May, life will continue and this artificial mutual demonisation will give way to negotiation. We must encourage the communality that does exist across the parties. What we want is purposeful, servant leadership that models mutual respect committed to applying the principles of the common good to policy across party lines. Such a practice must be transparent and open, acknowledging that ‘the other’ may also driven by good motives and a genuine desire to serve the community. Hard as this will be, it is the only way that trust in politics will be restored. It takes real courage to approach politics with humility.
Reports from our pre-election events
At St Martin-in-the-Fields on 13 April, we brought together four politicians from different parties and an audience of 400 under the banner Towards a Politics for the Common Good to explore what such a politics would look and sound like. As the Evening Standard reported, the Common Good provided a common language for Dominic Grieve, David Lammy, Stephen Timms and Alistair Burt to use across their differences. Sam Wells and Anna Rowlands gave theological input: listen to the podcast here.
Alongside working for a healthier politics we will need to be realistic about the limitations of government, and encourage a sense of greater responsibility for the common good among citizens, business, communities, local institutions. On 29 April, we partnered with St Paul’s and Theos to bring together an audience of over 600 for a major debate, Beyond Election Day: Power, Money, Government and Responsibility with speakers Professor Craig Calhoun, Shami Chakrabarti, Conor Kehoe and Loretta Minghella. Watch the video here.
If you are thinking of holding a common good debate or event, we'd be delighted to hear from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We don't have the capacity to organise but we can help with advice and promotion.
What's going on
Arguably the dominant forces and vested interests of both the Left and the Right are sidelining their best talent. However some key voices are talking to each other across parties and their influence may prevail beyond the election.
Danny Kruger, CEO of Only Connect and a former advisor to David Cameron, explains ‘What’s gone wrong with party politics’. And in Australia, keeping out of the pre-election fray, Maurice Glasman gave a lecture ‘The State, the Markets and Civil Society’. On his return he debated with Tim Montgomerie (the Good Right) at the Centre for Social Justice, on ‘Compassion in British politics: Who will stand for the poorest after May 2015?’ The spirit of Glasman's vision is captured brilliantly by James Mumford in this longform article ‘The Pope, The Jew and the Vision of Blue Labour’. Unlikely partners were evident again when the Community Investment Coalition held a roundtable discussion chaired by Lord (Brian) Griffiths, addressing the question: ‘Can innovation in financial services tackle financial exclusion?’
The C of E Bishops’ Letter continues to resonate, with Bishop Paul Bayes of Liverpool talking of voting for a fresh moral vision in political life. Much of the current inspiration comes from Catholic Social Thought as Anna Rowlands sets out in her recent lecture ‘The Politics of the Common Good: What does CST have to offer to electoral politics?’ CST has long roots but the great dock strike of 1889 and Cardinal Manning’s response is seen as a significant milestone. A day conference ‘From Wiseman to Manning’ is being held on 9 May, 10.30am-4pm, in central London.
There's lots more going on. Read on for details of other events ...
21-22 May: What's Wrong with Rights? The McDonald Conference at Christ Church, Oxford explores whether rights should always trump other moral considerations. Registration is now open, and among the speakers is theologian Professor Esther Reed, one of the contributors to the T4CG book.
28 May: Migration: Understanding London’s Changing Places and Faces The Hurtado Jesuit Centre, London. The latest in their series exploring economic, political and cultural issues in light of Catholic social teaching. Booking details here.
16 June: We're excited to announce that another public conversation inspired by the release of the book Together for the Common Good will be held at the University of Winchester. The subtitle of the book is 'Towards a National Conversation', and this will be a further opportunity to explore how a Common Good perspective can help us re-imagine our cultural, economic and political life. Arrivals and refreshments from 4.45 pm, with a panel discussion from 5.15 to 6.30 pm, chaired by the Bishop of Winchester, Rt Rev Tim Dakin, and the panel will comprise two contributors to the book - Lord (Brian) Griffiths of Fforestfach (VP of Goldman Sachs and former adviser to Margaret Thatcher) and Tehmina Kazi (Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy) - and two 'critical friends' - Dr Dave Landrum (Director of Advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance) and T4CG founder Jenny Sinclair. All are very welcome, so please plan to come and make the event known. Plenty of time will be allocated for discussion and questions from the floor, and the evening will conclude with a drinks reception to celebrate the publication of the book.
27 June: Together North East Festival from 2.00 pm to 10.00 pm. Held at the Custom House, South Shields, this is a festival designed by people with a learning disability and is free, and open to all. If people need help to take part in the day they are asked to bring support with them. For more information and to register interest, please visit Inclusion North.
29 June - 1 July: Making all things new? Evangelii Gaudium and Ecumenical Mission, St John’s College, Cambridge. This conference will examine EG an open and explicitly ecumenical perspective, using multidisciplinary methodologies derived from receptive ecumenism and ecclesiology, biblical studies, anthropology, the sociology of religion, and religious history. Confirmed speakers include Prof Tina Beattie; Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta, Prof Massimo Fagglioli, Prof Paul Murray, and the Rt Revd Rowan Williams. Click here for further details
14-16 July: Practical Theology and the Common Good The British & Irish Association for Practical Theology annual conference, Cardiff University. Keynote speakers: Prof Tim Gorringe, Prof Christopher Rowland, Jonathan Cox and Prof Elaine Graham. With reflections by Keith Hebden throughout. Click here for details
17-19 July: The Things that make for Peace The 37th annual conference organised by the National Justice and Peace Network at The Hayes, Swanwick. The weekend conference includes a number of workshops. Click here for details.
Together for the Common Good
For the past three years T4CG has been cultivating and promoting ‘common good thinking’ in a range of ways, across many different relationships. A broad non-partisan community is taking shape, of which we are just one part. Across our politics and beliefs, we are building trust with unlikely partners, breaking free from the constraints that stop us seeing the humanity in others, that prevent us from learning from each other. The future we envisage is built on encounters between real human beings and difficult conversations - a radically inclusive, truly democratic method that promotes human flourishing.
The T4CG book
“This is a remarkable book, and should be read by all those interested in human rights, justice and politics in a secular and multi-cultural society. To work towards the common good is to work for peace.” Jean Vanier
Contributors: Lord Maurice Glasman, Clifford Longley, Lord Brian Griffiths, Dr Jon Wilson, Tehmina Kazi, Dr Jonathan Chaplin, Professor Andrew Bradstock, Dr Anna Rowlands, Professor Esther Reed, Dr Patrick Riordan SJ, Phillip Booth, Sam Burgess and Revd Dr Malcolm Brown. Rather than claiming to have it all sewn up, this book aims to be a conversation opener to inform and inspire a deeper quality of discussion about the common good. More details here...
We hope you find this newsletter helpful. Feel free to harvest material from our previous newsletters and the resources at www.togetherforthecommongood.co.uk. We're always open to suggestions so don't hesitate to get in touch - after all, we're working Together for the Common Good.
Together for the Common Good