Tomorrow we have our General Election. The past few months have seen a long, often unpleasant campaign from all parties: brutal and farcical in equal measure, increasingly dominated by gimmicks, vitriol and TV interviews by politicians, and by the media, much of it controlled by right-wing owners. We have seen the rise of UKIP, and its manipulation of those inseparable twins, Fear and Ignorance, and the rise, too, in the demonisation of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. Sadly, whatever the outcome of the election, these ingrained attitudes, along with the poor themselves, foodbanks and over-stretched charities, are likely to remain, as long-term casualties of merciless cuts and policies.
Even without all the uncertainties about the outcome, it is hard to face this election with much in the way of hope. The last time I felt this despairing about an election was in the 1980s, when Thatcherism held the country in a steely grip. Now, even with the slim possibility of a hung parliament in favour of Labour, I know things will continue to be tough, extremely tough.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about hope, and the need to hold on to hope and belief in the enduring power of goodness and renewal,
in the face of all the evidence for despair. Today I also find myself recalling some words spoken by Pope Francis a couple of months ago, when he visited Naples, a city where many are mired in hopelessness:
To hope is to see the world through the eyes and heart of God...
So, as we prepare to go to the polls, I pray for many things for our country; but I also pray for the gift of hope, and of God's eyes and heart, now and in the time ahead. And I pray that we can all believe, as the Pope declared to the Neapolitans, that God, the source of our joy and the reason for our hope, lives in our cities... (and, of course, in our towns, villages and countryside...)
Whether you're reading this in the UK or elsewhere in the world, please do pray for us, that tomorrow those voting may be guided by the common good, and the needs of the most vulnerable will not be forgotten.