Gordon's swan song

REGARDLESS of what you might think of Gordon Brown you have to admit that his appearance outside No 10 last Tuesday evening was a poignant affair.

I happen to like the man, my oldest son had some contact with the Brown family some years ago when the old patriarch, Rev John Ebenezer Brown was in hospital in Elgin in the north of Scotland, and they seemed to be a nice family. But I guess that doesn’t count for much when you’re looking for somebody to blame for messing up the affairs of State.

Gordon Brown ended his swan song by saying that he was giving up his second most important job; leader of the country, to concentrate on his first most important job; being a husband and a father.

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Whether he was sincere or not is for others to judge, either way he was on to something, for is anything more important to the next generation than a father who cares for, and invests time in his children? Is anything more vital to the creation of a good, stable home than a mother who is secure in the knowledge that she’s loved and respected by her husband? But few there are who see that, and so domestic duties are often relegated to a spare time activity.

Criminality in all its forms is a major problem facing the new government in the UK; we live in a broken society, and since the family is the unit of society, it could be argued that the root of the problem is the brokenness of families.

Therefore, to fix society, you have to fix the family. Maybe one of the wisest things Gordon ever said on the topic went almost completely unnoticed.

However, in spite of his passing comment that flagged up the value of the family to society, there’s already evidence that the impending cuts in public spending will fall first on the most needy. For example, the north Belfast region of Homestart, a charity that ‘helps parents build better lives for their children’ has had its funding slashed by 25 per cent.

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That attitude reflects a major fault line in modern society. Maggie Thatcher got it wrong too with her notion of ‘trickle down’ – help the wealthy get wealthier and some will trickle down to the less well off. It didn’t happen then and it won’t happen now, and Jesus, way ahead of his time as always, put his finger on the underlying flaw in his Sermon on the Mount. He said, ‘Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, live righteously, and you will have everything you need.’

He wasn’t saying that we need to be regular church attenders, nor does he expect us to be religious freaks. No, he was saying that we must value the things God values. He was saying that the same principles that underpin a strong and secure family are the same principles that form the foundation of a stable and peaceful society; care for the poor, the weak, the old and the children.

Put simply, it means loving people and using things, not loving things and using people.