With Election Day imminent, you and I will have to assess the promises that have been made, the manifestos published and the interviews given. The common thread has been of a much better future being dangled in front of us from a variety of perspectives.

I am NOT a cynic, and my Christian faith would not allow me to be, even if I wanted to indulge. Yet, a crucially important ethical background from the recent past has been set aside in the attempts being made for your vote – and mine.

In the recent sessions of the Covid inquiry in Belfast, alongside the evidence given in the Post Office scandal, and the damning indictment of so many in the infected blood scandal, we have seen a consistent pattern of cover up, shameless self-interest, spin doctoring and blame often being attributed to others. These have come in the wake of high profile scandals here in Northern Ireland in the past few years, and taken together the public service principles of transparency, honesty and integrity have been seen to be seriously and relegated to “the back benches”.

In conversation recently with some leading people in the public realm, a devastating question has been raised with me more than once. It is this. Is there any compelling reason to believe anything we are being told any more, whether it be by local or Westminster politicians, public servants or so called ‘expert’ witnesses? The answer is usually a despairing ‘no’, though some individuals have been singled out as honourable exceptions to the general pattern.

This is becoming a huge problem, for the public need to understand some very important messages from time to time which go beyond normal political debate – especially in policing, health, education, defence and the environment. The risk of them being ignored is increasing as disenchantment and disengagement increase, especially among younger voters.

Yet we still need to vote – for a key reason to do so at the forthcoming election is to try to ensure that we get decent government in Westminster. And even though the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, the changing political context in the Republic, the developing climate crisis, and the emerging scandal of illegal betting on the election itself may be well outside the immediate influence of our own MPs, nonetheless wise, long term discerning leadership is needed. This should affect our judgement at the ballot box, for they will either be supporting or opposing policies in the new parliament. Most of us can cope with the truth, no matter how unpalatable it may be, if mistakes in the past are openly acknowledged. Alongside that acknowledgment clear commitments to seek to do what is right and just; to use scarce resources compassionately and wisely; to value people properly both for who they are and for what they do – even though all of these will be open to robust debate and even legitimate disagreement.

In the past few weeks, I have actually read party manifestos, but I have also listened carefully to the tone as well as the content of statements made and answers given in interviews. I have looked for humility alongside conviction; for honesty about the past and present alongside realistic hope for the future; for respect for opponents alongside coherent disagreement with them. Taken together, these are the considerations that will determine where I put my mark on the ballot paper.

For myself, having confidence to believe any of those who may want my vote goes far beyond words and manifestos. It really is distressing that there is so much ground still to be made up over the coming months and years. I say again that I am not a cynic, but I am not yet at the point of confident belief in better. We all live as fallen people in a fallen world, yet I also hold on to the much neglected Christian doctrine of common grace. Therefore, I will turn up and vote on 4 July, but I will also continue to pray for the hand of God on what happens in Westminster and Stormont, and keep on doing so.


Very Rev Dr Norman Hamilton is a retired Presbyterian minister, former Moderator of the General Assembly, and Chair of Contemporary Christianity.

Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article of those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.