Stay away from the shops on Boxing Day

This post on Sunday Trading caught my eye. It is often debated in conjunction with the debate  on whether we are still a Christian nation. Very topical when one ex-Prime Minister has just publicly converted to Catholicism and our own leader has come out of the closet as an atheist! But I actually think the two questions are quite separate.

I’m an Anglican, but I believe in a secular state which protects religious freedom. I am also comfortable with Liberal Democrat proposals to disestablish my church. Experience shows that religion and politics do not mix well. Applying religious beliefs to political views is always open to interpretation. My moral code stems from my beliefs – such as ‘all men are created equal’ (a big one for me) – but I know atheists who still accept the same moral code because their conscience informs them too. And yet there are bible bashing Christians in the United States who support the death penalty – something which as a Christian I find abhorrent. So I believe that the state and politics should be secular – and that politicians and political leader can be of any faith or none – provided that they respect my right to my faith. Being secular is not the same as being atheist. I would always resist attempts to secularise the Christian festival of Christmas. Shame on those who promote ‘Winterval’ and ban religious Christmas cards. It is our faith and our festival – take part if you wish. But if you don’t believe, respect those of us who do.

On Sunday trading – there is another issue (other than the religious one). For most Britons, whether you are a churchgoer or not, Sunday is the quieter day when people get to rest and spend time with family. Or at least it is unless you work for a retail giant. I have no problem with anyone who wants to work on Sunday. But I have a big problem with the huge numbers of retail staff who are made to work on Sunday by their greedy employers. Let’s face it, retailing is not the best paid profession – and many employees working on a Sunday are working their normal rostered hours – they are not all getting double time. The current Sunday trading laws at least try to limit the hours that people have to work – but I would like to see a situation where no retail employee worked on a Sunday unless it was because they genuinely wanted to. Too many are cajoled and press-ganged by an environment in which if you didn’t work on Sunday you would be seen as ‘not a team player’ and likely to be passed over for promotion.

And so to Boxing Day. For so many of us, we can at least look forward to a well earned two day break at Christmas. Take pity on the shop worker who, at the busiest time of year, is now pressured into taking only one day – so that the sales can start in earnest on Boxing Day. I urge you to think before shopping on Boxing Day. If we don’t shop on Boxing Day, the stores won’t open – and the staff will get a well earned break next year.

The Future’s Bright

Tuesday the 18th of December 2007 will be remembered as the start of an exciting new era for the Liberal Democrats. We have had the Ashdown years and the Kennedy years, both of which represented significant leaps forward in our electoral success. I believe that the Clegg years have the potential to be our finest yet. I am excited by his pledges to engage with people in public meetings, to try to reconnect with the people. We really do have a distinctive and different message for the British people – and I look forward to the future with relish!