When I took AP Comparative Politics my Junior year of high school, Tony Blair was Prime Minister in the United Kingdom. It was 2007, and as we watched "Prime Minister's Questions" each week, I was extremely impressed by the clear and nimble way that Mr. Blair defended his positions and those of his party. He is a charismatic man, and I liked him because he was quick on his feet, and his reasoning was, well, reasonable. I remember wishing that we had "The President's Questions" in the United States, where Presidents would have to defend their policies in front of the onslaught of members of Congress. (However, Bush was president at the time, and that, of course, would not have gone over well)
Moving back to the study of England that year, I remember watching the "Shadow Government" led by David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, argue with the policies of Tony Blair's government. Biased by my liking of Tony Blair, I didn't like Cameron. He may have been more to the political right than Blair's government, but somehow he came off as a sort of intellectual brat, with quipped words and angry, calculated arguments that made him seem like the angry mother hummingbird that used to live in my backyard, furiously driving away any bluejay or robin that came to rest anywhere on the tree where the hummingbird lived. Cameron had no right to be so critical of a government that was obviously doing such a good job running the country, I thought to myself.
Well, four years pass, and I discover that Blair's successor Brown had been quite the failure, and David Cameron was now in charge of a Conservative coalition in Parliament. I wasn't impressed. When I heard of a wiretapping scandal, and then rumors that people higher in government knew about it, I blamed it all on PM Cameron. I imagined that if he wasn't bad enough as an irritating shadow prime minister, it's only right that he would be corrupt too. Oh, if only they would call another election so Labour could win back it's majority, everything would be so much better!
Well...that was a long story that should have been shorter, but to sum up, I seriously misjudged David Cameron. Recently I've had the opportunity to get to know his positions better, and I've been very pleasantly surprised by a couple of the speeches I've read by him lately. I like British politics because it's so different from American politics. It's more hats off, hands on, versatile, and smaller scale. They're ruling an island closer to California in population (a bit more actually) with actually a lot less land and even more diversity. With the way Parliament is run, and especially with "Question Time" every week, it feels government leaders are more directly responsible to the people. Washington, D.C. is a long ways away when you live in Utah. But in England your PM just lives over in London, and every week he has to stand up and defend his positions to the people. That's a cool way to run the country.
Anyway, so Mr. Cameron gave a speech about the King James' Bible, and I thought it was brilliant. Actually, I accidentally read a speech of his about families thinking, at first, that it was his Christian values speech. It was equally brilliant and very pragmatic. Both articles made me very interested in the man, so I read more than half of the wikipedia page on him. He seems to me to be a solid individual - young (the youngest PM since the Earl of Liverpool, 200 years ago), and very passionate. But he's also a man of decent character. I may be wrong about that when some scandal happens, but the fact is that his speeches are very convincing of this fact, and his words calling for a "responsibility revolution" in England are very stirring to me. In his speech on the King James Bible, he states multiple times that the UK is a nation formed on Christian values, and that there should be no shame in making that clear. His reasoning for the great value of religious principles to the country, including charity, kindness, respect, and virtue, are convincing, and it seems he really did his homework, even quoting his favorite passages of the Bible. His arguments are completely contrary to what the men over at www.thehumanist.org are doing, a site that I found to be very falsely professional. They're anti-religion so they might as well just come out and say it. They want God and all mention of HIm out of their lives and out of the country.
My project in England is going to be more to inform than to evaluate. But I am exercising my "reflexivity" (a term I'm supposed to memorize) by noting that I have a very big point of view about religion. I wish the UK was more religious because I believe the people would be happier if they were. I believe religious beliefs inform moral decisions and support the structure of strong families. I see increasing secularism in the country as a negative change, although I don't believe everyone who is involved in it is an evil person. On the contrary, I believe England is made up of mostly very decent people, and that is why losing religion is so harmful. Even very decent people are highly influenced by their circumstances, and the world today teaches little more than immorality and self service, two principles which only serve to break down society further.
So that's my bias, and I thought I would get it out there. Still, after reading David Cameron's comments on the matter, it's nice to know there are influential leaders in the country that don't feel much differently about religiosity than I do.