After Boris Johnson’s resignation as Tory leader, we need a return to integrity in politics

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(Picture: ITV News)

It was a privilege to lead nearly 700 people in worship and prayer at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast in Westminster on Tuesday morning. There were 190 parliamentarians present – more than we had ever had before at the National Prayer Breakfast.

There was real meaning as this room full of people with such important roles sang the lyrics to “We Seek Your Kingdom”:

“Peace, truth and justice reigning everywhere

“with us be present in our public square

“fill all who rule with your integrity

“transforming, reviving and healing society.”

The lyrics to another song, “Praise My Soul the King of Heaven,” also seemed to have real significance at the time as we sang how “angels in the heights worship him.” Before singing the song, I told those present that it was very important to sing these words in a room with carved wooden angels in the ceiling watching us. They were an important reminder by the architects of where ultimate authority lies.

There were so many profound and holy moments like this during the prayer breakfast, when the sense of God’s presence was overwhelming and we came together to remember where the ultimate authority lies. In fact, many of the parliamentarians I spoke to that morning told me that it was the first time in some time that they had been able to think things through and sit still because they had been so busy.

The rally clearly had an impact on Sajid Javid, someone of Muslim background, as he referenced the prayer breakfast at the start of his resignation speech and quoted the black Pentecostal pastor, Les Isaac, who spoke in the morning about the responsibility that comes with leadership and serving the interests of others before your own. Javid recalled those words and the impact of the prayer breakfast knowing his words would be the most reported words in the news that day.

It would be so easy to focus only on one person’s failures, but the events of this week reflect the collapse of integrity in leadership more broadly. The Covid season in particular has awakened us to the importance of integrity and the importance of having a track record of telling the truth. The importance of integrity in leadership is something that Christians in Politics has been talking about for many years now, but we are seeing its collapse on both sides of the Atlantic.

In some ways it made my job easier because people now really appreciate the importance of who leads us. It’s not that the Church has a monopoly on ethics in leadership – we’ve had a pretty bad record at times. But with humility, we aspire to good leadership and the ethics that go with it. We must challenge the violation of ethics that we have seen in the political leaders of this country – and also those who have accompanied it for many years.

It would be easy to cast Boris Johnson as the villain of the pantomime, but the sad fact is that we are talking about a culture. At a time when we are desperate to see more ethics in our leadership, it is unfortunately an entire culture that has let us down rather than just one person.

Regardless of what happened, we must pray for Boris Johson because on a human level it is undoubtedly an unpleasant experience. But more importantly, the words we prayed Tuesday morning for good leadership are the words we need to keep praying. We live in incredible times, but now is not the time to grieve or cry. It is a moment of prayer more than ever now, and to continue in our prayers.

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