Don’t be presumptuous about the future

Do you know what today is the anniversary of? It’s probably not a biggy in most people’s calendars but today marks the anniversary of John Major’s return to Downing Street having narrowly won the 1992 General Election contested on the 9th April.  It was an election he was expected to lose and even up until the last minute pretty much everyone was predicting a hung Parliament.  Yet on the 10th April 29 years ago, the narrative had changed. Labour had failed to win in the middle of a deepening recession, the Tories had won a historic 4th term and, in reality, it was 26 years since Labour had managed to get a stable working majority, sizeable enough to see them through a full Parliament.  Many people declared that socialism was well and truly defeated, Labour would never win a majority again.

How quickly things changed.  Major lost to Blair by a crushing landslide in 1997 and were out of power for 13 years. It was to be 23 years from 1992 before the Conservatives would get a majority on their own and indeed given the wafer-thin majorities of both Major and Cameron it was in effect 32 years between the Conservatives winning stable, Parliament long majorities (Thatcher in 1997 and then Johnson in 2019).  There were times when it was considered impossible for the Tories to win on their own again.

Since the 2019 election, the assumption seems to have moved back the other way. Someone pointed out recently that it is now 45 years since a Labour Prime Minister other than Tony Blair has been able to secure a stable, sizeable majority.  The argument is that Blair was just an interruption to Tory rule and that he only achieved this by presenting himself as centrist, by abandoning socialism. At the same time, the third party, The Liberal Democrats look finished as a political force broken by their experience in coalition. If the Tories look unassailable at Westminster, the SNP appear to have achieved hegemony in Edinburgh.

But, if we should have learnt anything from our political history it is that making such confident predictions about the long term, and even the short term is unwise. Things can change quickly. As Harold Wilson said, a week is a long time in politics.  AS someone else once said, the only two certainties in life are death and taxes.

We forget this too easily and make our decisions, planning our lives on the assumption that there is certainty ahead. Then we are surprised by the upheaval and storms of life.  Surely we have been reminded in another way this past year with the way the pandemic hit that we are unable to control or even predict the future. 

Jesus tells the story of a man who was doing well. He went to bed one night thinking “I need to build bigger barns for all the grain I’m producing.”  God said to him that night “You fool, tonight your life is forfeit.”  I cannot even presume upon the next few hours or days.

The person who said that only death and taxes are certain was almost correct but not quite.  There are two other certainties. The first is that Christ will come to judge the living and the dead. The certainty is that if my life is hid in Christ that I can face that day with assurance knowing that I am his and he will never lose me from his hand. Instead of making predictions and betting on an uncertain future, put your trust in this sure and solid certainty.

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