But politics is about how our society works, how we value and care for one another, how we incarnate what we believe constitutes and encourages the common good and frame it into law. And that's as much a concern to clergy as it is to anyone else.
So I make no apology for reflecting today on the result of the Eastleigh by-election.
The real talking-point is the success of UKIP, coming second in the poll with almost 27% of the vote (a minority share, but the winning candidate had only 32%). Second place doesn't mean a seat in Parliament, of course - but it indicates a dissatisfaction with the way things are, a threat to the status quo. I have no problem in principle with pressure for reform so long as it's constructive, well founded and properly argued. I'm not sure that this is.
One of the worrying trends in recent history is the rise of the Far Right across and beyond Europe. Whilst UKIP isn't an extremist party, its agenda pulls away from the centre ground and, more importantly, plays on fear in order to encourage support.
Fear is a dangerous emotion. It undermines trust and creates uncertainty. It panders to those who, finding life harder than they would like, seek someone else to blame: immigrants, Europe, Government, criminals, or whoever it may be. And the instinctive reaction to fear is to close the shutters, to lash out, to run to a place of security. Making someone else the enemy releases us from taking proper responsibility for ourselves and others.
Consider what UKIP stands for. It's an alarmist perspective with all the balance and breadth of view of a tabloid paper: 'These are anxious and troubled times. As crisis has followed crisis our politicians are seen to be impotent in the face of the dangers rearing up all around us. Violent crime erupts in our cities. Jobs are lost and services failing under a tide of immigration, pensions have been crippled and cash savings yield almost nothing. Millions are now without adequate means of existence. Fear of old age darkens the future. Parliament is held in contempt. Our currency has collapsed by 30%. Chaos engulfs Europe’s very financial existence and, here at home, taxation now bears down on those least able to pay whilst Britain goes ever deeper into deficit.' (UKIP website)
It's close enough to the truth for many people to swallow. But focusing on the negative, using emotive language (crisis... erupts... tide... crippled etc) and ignoring the positive aspects of life set the ground for an agenda which should be a matter of concern. It encourages blame to fall in any direction other than our own. Do we really think it's a good idea to double the number of places in prison, writing off the lives of those who could be reformed along with those of hardened criminals? Do we really want to repeal the Human Rights Act, or is the drive here to deny true and impartial justice to those whom society considers misfits? How much of the anti-immigration rhetoric is genuine concern, and how much is xenophobia? What about asylum seekers who cannot speak English - would they still be welcome? It doesn't sound as though they would. Whilst no political party will ever get the balance entirely right on complex matters in a complex world, the discourse has a worrying flavour, stirring up discontent. Worrying too is the statement by UKIP that 'each of the establishment main parties are now Social Democrats and offer voters no real choice' - that's not actually true.
And truth is a key issue here. Government by knee-jerk reaction and prejudice results in populist policies and nationalist machismo. It's bad government and potentially dangerous government. Is that what we risk moving towards? I hope not - but the signs are not encouraging. Government based on proper research of the issues, government which embodies the values to which we aspire, government which protects, affirms and encourages the good across the whole of society is good government.
Perhaps it's time for us to scratch beneath the surface and ask what's really happening in our society; where the truth lies, and what our deepest values are. Lent is as good a time as any to ask these questions. And how about making a resolution to act according to what we discover? To pray for our MP, whatever party he or she may belong to? To become active in political life ourselves? To become better informed, so that as we converse with others, we can offer a broader perspective, a deeper insight, and a more balanced view of the issues of our day? We have voices too - and the responsibility to use those voices to uphold and further the common good.