Slogans that can mislead

26 July 1991 | Catholic Herald (Heading by Catholic Herald)

Fr Michael Campbell-Johnson is reported as saying (Charterhouse Chronicle, July 19) “I will vote for any government that reduces the gap between the poor and the wealthy in this country”. He was cheered loudly.

Of course, politics needs emotions and slogans, and perhaps its not fair to nit-pick a phrase like that. However, the Jesuits are getting a name for being radical politicians and in my lifetime – I’m 65 – radical politicians have caused a good deal of trouble throughout the world, particularly to the poor, so perhaps we should stop and think about radical statements. I hope it’s not too unfair.

About the gap. If the wealthy have an income of, say £1,000 a week and the poor £100 a week, then, if I was poor, I would vote for a party which gave a hope of increasing these figures to £1,200 and £120 respectively rather than a party which I thought might reduce these figures to £800 and £80.

(I certainly wouldn’t vote for a radical political party which might reduce the gap dramatically, say to the difference between £500 and £50. But, of course, with radical political parties you don’t know what catastrophe will strike until afterwards. That’s the catch, and that’s why they will always have enthusiastic followers.)

The point being that, as a poor man, I would vote for a party which increased the gap between rich and poor. At least I would if I had my head screwed on, but these radical politicians are persuasive speakers and perhaps I might get carried away.

By the way, the joke (noted in another part of the Chronicle) about the social security money and the inspector on the cathedral roof – “don’t jump, the giro’s in the post” – could just as easily have been made whatever government was in power and even – with minor alterations as to method of payment – before the giro was invented.

(John Major will, perhaps, know personally more about the initial difficulties of getting into the system than most politicians.)

It’s a bureaucratic rather than a political problem and the difficulties of bureaucracy will always be with us. I hope many good Christians will take on this thankless job so as to moderate these frustrations as much as possible. It’s also a worldwide problem.

I see in last Sunday’s Observer that five Chinese veterans of the long march are reported to have publicly burnt their party cards and then thrown themselves off a cliff because their pension payments were lost in the system. Perhaps they were more generally disillusioned as well.

Dr Gerald Danaher