Our important democracy
28 October 2019 IN: Bishop
I loved Bonfire Night as a child. Its origins meant nothing to me, but it was wonderful to see the flames of the fire reaching to the sky, to watch the colours of Roman candles and rockets shooting streams of bright light, and to trace patterns in the air with a sparkler. I loved the food too - treacle toffee and thick lumps of parkin.
The Gunpowder Plot, as I learned later, was a literal attempt to undermine the work of Parliament. Celebrating its failure mattered hugely in the fragile and limited democracy of Jacobean Britain. And there was poetic satisfaction that the intended means of mass destruction - explosives - are now used to create the fireworks we let off in celebration of our nation’s deliverance. The tools of darkness refashioned as agents of light.
Yet parliamentary democracy remains fragile across the globe today. Even in Britain, when we dislike the actions of our representatives, or the governments they form, we can be tempted into sentiments that could put it at risk. This year we have remembered that the right to elect representatives to the House of Commons lay at the heart of the demands of the people who gathered for what turned into Peterloo 200 years ago.
So, whether or not the UK is facing an imminent General Election by the time you read this, enjoy your firework displays this November. And then thank God for the democracy in which we live, and for the work of all our parliamentarians.