Andrea Leadsom - Politics & Faith
In a first for the Warwick Christian Union, Andrea Leadsom MP agreed to speak regarding her Faith in the environment of Politics. Titled keeping Faith in the public eye, the Christian Union booked a large lecture theatre and the event was shared and flyers handed out across campus and at the other fresher’s week events. The room itself was packed, often Christian Unions can struggle to appeal to the many sceptics on campus, but it seems that many were intrigued about what Andrea had to say, perhaps just to see a relatively famous politician, but I believe many came to see how one squares being a Christian and frontline politics. To set off the meeting the Christian Union Vice President and President, Dougal Burrowes and Nathan Veal welcomed everyone in the room with a small introductory message about who they were, what the Christian Union did, and that this was strictly a nonpartisan and non-political event about Faith in Politics and the Warwick Christian Union did not endorse the Conservative party nor anything political that was shared that evening. Pete Harris who is the UCCF Politics network staff worker who conducted the interview with Andrea then gave a small message explaining who he was and the interview began.
Andrea, a gifted politician, spoke very well starting off talking about her background and childhood. She explained that her parents divorced early, none of her family were Christians and her childhood ambition was to stop nuclear war and that she still wants to make the world a better place. Being herself an ex student at Warwick she spoke about her time here; giving a bizarre example where Margaret Thatcher was asked to open the then new Warwick Arts Centre which then ensued a pitched battle of student activism to prevent it going ahead, and that student Politics may seem chaotic and loud but in reality has been so for a very long time. Whilst describing her journey to becoming a Conservative, she listed William Wilberforce as a major political influence, that as a profound Christian with both a complete singlemindedness and lack of personal ambition ended the abhorrent slave trade despite the fact there were many times it was not in his interest to do so.
Pete asked how many students in the room were interested in a political career, which revealed over the half the room were considering a future in politics. Andrea, upon seeing the majority of hand go up, gave some very helpful, practical advice about how the political system worked. She described how to apply for a seat, the need to enter a career before Politics, as well as sharing her own personal journey in Politics and how there were many moments where she had the opportunity to work with other parties to advocate real change and really help others. For example, Andrea has worked to advocate for a charity which helps mothers from post-natal depression, having suffered personally from it. Because of this, the prime minister Theresa May has now opened a cross Parliamentary committee to investigate her proposed changes in policy. With Pete asking helpful and respectful questions, Andrea spoke about the effect of the Me Too movement, the drinking and bar culture in Parliament, and the difficulties of being a Mother and an MP as well as her work as leader of the House of Commons, always being helpful and respectful in her answers.
Pete then transitioned to asking about her personal faith. Explaining that as none of her family were Christians, she wasn’t raised much in a religious environment at all. However, she had been to Church quite regularly in her teenage years and anxious about her marriage and wanting to do the right thing, as her Parents’ marriage ended so early, she got confirmed just before getting married, having being christened as a child. However, it was after she was married, that her children being born opened her up more to faith. Having and seeing the miraculous nature of her children convinced her that this world was not all there was, and so got stuck in to church when she could, and joined a cross party Parliamentary Bible study group. Often people see Politics and Faith as at loggerheads but, Andrea explained, Politics and Faith are a mutual struggle, and that Christianity gives you a freedom from moral relativism; from having to determine by yourself what is right and wrong and having the truth from scripture is decisive to being able to help everyone, which is what Politics is about. Whilst many think that Faith is becoming less relevant, Christianity across the world is actually undergoing a tremendous rise, and the Christian faith is spreading all around the globe.
Then it was time for Questions from the audience, unfortunately due to specific time constraints where Andrea Leadsom had another event later that evening the Q and A had to be relatively short. However, she dutifully answered questions ranging from Bishops in the House of Lords, to ever having to compromise her faith, to her thoughts on Tim Farron’s treatment in Politics and resignation. After warning that those wishing to enter Politics must be willing to square the country’s liberal values with their own personal faith and political views, the Vice President and President gave closing remarks, thanking everyone for coming, reminding everyone that they did not endorse any political view that was made during the event and endorsed no particular political party. They invited everyone to stay for the drinks reception afterwards, to take an uncover john if they’d like to learn more about the Christian faith and that they were very welcome to future CU events.
Despite the natural restrictions of hosting an event in this format, Andrea was always helpful, graceful and respectful and never overbearing with her political views. Andrea came across as authentic and sincere, and a world away from a politician just keeping to the script and ‘on message’. The event was well publicised and drew a different crowd engaging many who would most likely never attend a Warwick CU event. It was such an encouragement to see a small number of uncovers taken from the drinks reception. The event ran smoothly and was professionally hosted; providing a great example of how the Christian Union can host events to a particular segment of the student population, in this case, politically-minded students. I want to thank Andrea Leadsom for being so gracious as to come and speak at Warwick Christian Union about such a controversial topic, and for Pete Harris for conducting the event so well and his faithful effort to see the event a success.
Lucas Davies-Jones is a student at Warwick University and a member of the CU.