Monday, April 04, 2011

Travel Through Parliament by Andrew Atherstone

The latest edition to Day One's excellent Travel Guide series is Travel Trough The Houses of Parliament: Cradle of democracy, 2011, 128pp, by Andrew Atherstone. The author tells the fascinating story of the origins and development of the UK's parliamentary system of government.

The early years, Gunpowder Plot, Commonwealth period, Glorious Revolution and the great reform bills of  the 19th century are introduced with an  admirable  brevity that does not leave the reader feeling short changed.

Here you will meet kings and statesmen, Charles I and Oliver Cromwell, William Pitt and Charles James Fox, Gladstone and Disraeli, Lloyd-George and Winston Churchill.

One thread that runs throughout the book is the impact of the Christian faith upon the political life of Great Britain. The close proximity of Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster is testimony to that. Although, from a Nonconformist's point of view, perhaps the link between Church and State has been, and still is a little too close.  Top Anglican ecclesiastics continue to take their seats in the House of Lords. The Prime Minister selects Church of England Bishops, up to and including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Be that as it may, the Christian faith has been a force for good in UK politics, influencing William Wilberforce's campaign to abolish the slave trade and providing an inspiration to political reformers as diverse as Nonconformist agitant, Edward Mial, early Labour leader, Keir Hardie and the suffragette, Christabel Pankhurst.

At a time when the the place of faith-based values in public life is being questioned, this is a helpful reminder that Christianity has had a positive effect upon our country. We dismantle the Christian heritage of this nation in favour of intolerant secularism at our peril. However, as Christabel Pankhurst  wisely realised, political and social reforms have their limits, "what mankind needs is not a change of conditions but a change of heart." Only the gospel can do that.

The guide is replete with maps for inquisitive tourists and many fine illustrations of parliament's art, architecture and key personalities.

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