THE election campaign is developing as we feared it would: without a hint or a nod to any sort of real idealism. The talk is all of modernising the economy, boosting our prosperity. giving our export drive a cutting edge, and so on. Where is the moral leadership we mourned so sadly at the time of the Profumo Ncan da I? The situation is all the more odd because there are, for example, many practising Christians in the upper ranks of all three main parties.
The Labour Party's manifesto is particularly disappointing. We mean nothing offensive when we say that we do not expect a spiritual call to arms from the Conservatives, because it is endemic to their position not to do battle on the basis of a philosophy. But the main reason why some Christians prefer Labour is precisely because they like to identify that Party with a public guarantee of personal dignity and social responsibility.
The fact is that morality and religion have become "private" to an alarming degree. A healthy society requires a public conscience as well as a public opinion. Some sort of a flag must he nailed to the nation's mast. If the only fag available is one that politely disregards spiritual aspiration, it can offer nothing to persons seeking to live by better laws than the survival of the fittest.
Press, radio, newspapers, reviews and most modern literature are characterised by a kind of spiritual neutralism today. This has its virtues, of course. At least it is less pharisaical than the kind of phoney preaching which, in the terrible words of the President in The Best Man, used to "sprinkle God over everything like ketchup". And it represents the honest purpose of many modern unbelievers who are searching beneath appearances for deeper truths, refusing to smother complex intellectual problems by glib formulas.
At the same time, Christians and humanists ought to be making common cause as far as they can, if only on the basis of our common view of man's essential dignity. It was precisely
to this dialogue that Pope John called us in Pacer,' irr Terris. Anything is worth trying if it will get us away from the daily tedium of reading papers whose only real appeal is to enlightened self-interest at best. Must we really despair, in abject cynicism, of anything else as an efficacious motive for political decision?
We have said before, and we say again, that the younger generation in this country. sickened to death by middle-aged capering% designed to convince the young that we are "with them'', are hungrily awaiting a real lead to fulfil their frustrated aspirations. Their contempt for the "mature" generation will deepen unless we meet this need quickly.
Clearly, the real challenge before the political parties is to devise a new concept of society for contemporary Britain and the world. Our Christian concentration on the errors of socialism has tended to sweep the errors of capitalism under the carpet. It continues to shock us that the co-operative system today has so little real following in the Labour Party whose fathers gave it birth.
Ideas like co-operation and industrial partnership are left to the Liberal Party which, for all its sincerity, is so unlikely to attain command of the national helm In the foreseeable future. And what is being said about the family? What of the industrial family allowance now a commonplace on the Continent? What of housing geared, not to the minimum, but to the sizeable family .unit? What about our role in Europe? And why is our service to the developing countries still a fringe issue instead of a central theme? What of race. immoral war, the aged?
In an attempt to focus the electorate's mind on . the spiritual implications of the vote we have to cast. the (Al HOLIC Hrit ALA will he publishing, during the election campaign, exclusive statements by prominent members of the three main parties in answer to the question: "What is there in your Party and its policies to attract the Christian conscience?" Their answers will be extensive and, we hope, provocative.