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21 May 2015

Election reflections

Election reflections

The results of the election surprised many of us. The polls had us assuming we would wake on Friday morning to a hung parliament and days, if not weeks, of negotiations to form another coalition.

Instead the Conservatives won a narrow yet decisive majority of 331.

Such was the failure of the polls that an independent inquiry will look into their failure to accurately predict the election outcomeThe British Polling Council will also examine "apparent bias" and make recommendations for future polling.

Labour's poor result was shocking and saw the party lose many of their most notable and experienced MPs, including Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander, who was unseated by 20-year-old SNP candidate Mhairi Black. The Lib Dems also suffered a massive blow losing 51 MPs, including Danny Alexander and Simon Hughes. While the SNP was expected to do well, no one predicted their level of success. Their presence in Westminster will no doubt shape the political landscape of this parliamentary term.

The Lib Dems paid a massive electoral price by being in coalition with the Conservatives. They received much criticism during their time in government for broken promises and selling out to the Tories. However, it must be acknowledged that coalitions are an incredibly complex and challenging space in which to operate.

During the 2010 election Nick Clegg could not have predicted they would be a coalition partner and therefore bandied about promises in the usual way a minority does – with no expectation of having to be held to account for these promises. In particular Clegg has been taken to task time and again for the increase in university tuition fees.

Interestingly the Tories have received hardly any criticism for the increase in fees, despite the fact it was their decision. While the Lib Dems couldn't stop the increase they did ensure, they didn't increase as much as the Tories wanted.

While there is certainty in terms of the election result, uncertainty remains about the leadership of Labour and the Liberal Democrats as well as the future of UKIP and the influence of SNP.

Whether we are happy with the outcome or not, it's time for us to look beyond the party differences that divided us when we voted and work together for the future. Let's put aside cynicism and any distrust, and pray for our newly elected politicians that they might be honest, hardworking, fair and accountable MPs.

Last week Speaker John Bercow was re-elected unopposed to his post and MPs, new and old, were sworn into parliament with an oath of allegiance to the Crown. Next week parliament will officially begin with the Queen's Speech on Wednesday. This speech will outline what policies and programmes the government plans to pursue.

Last year the Alliance conducted an extensive politics survey of more than 2,000 evangelical Christians, which found protecting religious freedom and helping the poorest in society were the two issues that had the greatest impact on evangelical voters at this election. The Alliance will continue to work with MPs and the government to press for a concerted effort to protect religious freedom and help those in greatest poverty.  

Our recent surveys showed that more than 90 per cent of evangelical Christians planned to vote in the election. This engagement is greatly encouraging and is just the start of our political engagement.

Churches already do a huge amount in their local communities and Christians have so much to offer the public square so we hope Christians across the UK will look to how they can take the next step into leadership in public life.

Our Show Up campaign ahead of the election saw more than 40 organisations push for increased engagement. Now the vote is over we need to continue to show up.

Engaging in politics and public life is for all year-round and not just for elections, and it is a vital part of our mission. The biblical narrative reflects the importance of engaging relationally with politics. By committing to building authentic relationships with politicians, supporting them in their work and developing a culture of public leadership, it is our hope we will see a more confident, effective and trust-filled political system in the years to come. 

So in the coming weeks we would encourage you to prayerfully consider how you might do this and let's commit to honouring, serving, supporting, praying for and above all getting to truly know our political representatives.

Find out more about engaging in public life through our website www.thepublicleader.com.