Rediscovering humility in politics?

If humility is a virtue, then how much can you “blow your own trumpet?” This is a relevant question for those who seek run or advertise a business, as I do.

So an article in last week's Church Times interested me. It proposed that one of Margaret Thatcher's achievements a Prime Minister – through both describing herself as a Christian and advocating entrepreneurship – was to delete humility from the common understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

Rolling the clock forward from the “Iron Lady” to the present General Election battle, I have been waiting for some humility from Gordon Brown (present Prime Minister and, significantly, former Chancellor). It seems to me that humility requires that when things go wrong we spend a little time looking for what we might have done better, rather than trying to give the impression that we are infallible and just blaming others, and then to share this reflection with other people involved – which often takes the form or an apology.

So I'm pleased that this week Mr Brown has chosen to admit at least one mistake: that he should have imposed more regulation on the banks. This may or may not be a complete confession. I don't mind; at least it is an important step in the right direction. Along with his statement that he is willing to learn from his mistakes, this shows some emotional and spiritual intelligence. On the whole he seems to believe that he and his government have been doing the right things and that the electorate need to continue to let them do the right things. This seemed to me to be his main message when I listenend to the first debate between the leaders of the three main parties on television onThursday night.

On the other hand, the present govenment does seem to want to solve rather a lot of problems with legislation (is that all that MP's are there for?), regulation, and “rights.” It seems to me that as they head down this road they may solve a few problems but the growing culture of control and checking reduces individual responsibility, reduces trust, and encourages citizens to behave like recalcitrant children, which will create more problems for the government to “solve.” People flourish when they are encouraged to develop and see a vision of what they can become, rather than being only told what they cannot do. Several of the political parties are talking about encouraging more local community action. I'm intrigued as to how they will attempt to do that withot resorting to central control.

Returning to the banks as a specific example, this would mean that we need a renewed understanding of the role of banks as supporters of the creation of wealth, and not just to tell them not to do.

Would we be better off with a penitent government that has learned from its mistakes, or a fresh government? This is an interesting question, but not the only important one. I also wonder why it is that, as well as such apologies, promises to do things that have somehow not been attended to during the previous thirteen years are suddenly made just as an election approaches!

Related articles from this blog here and here and here.

After “credit crunch” there has