Faith, politics and business do mix says Norfolk cllr
Breckland district councillor and cabinet member Gordon Bambridge, who is a Christian and a businessman, believes there is no issue at all mixing faith, politics and business. He spoke to Kevin Gotts.
Q Why did you get involved in politics?
A I had been a practicing Christian for just over 30 years when I decided to enter into local politics as a district councillor. There were all sorts of reasons given to me not to do this. Almost everyone was advising against, and yet I felt a real calling to go into this strange world we call politics. I can honestly say it was one of the best things outside of faith I have ever done. My only regret is I left it a bit late.
Q Is there any conflict as a politician in also being a businessman?
A Would that all politicians had some real-life experience. I was in commerce, trading goods from all over the world into retail and wholesale outlets in the South East England. From a standing start I had built and lost a business and was acting for other larger concerns across the UK. Even in local politics it is useful to have had real world experience. I have passed retirement age but am still active in business helping others plus I am starting a small online e-commerce website trading in coins.
Q You are a regular lay preacher, so how does this fit in?
A Licensed in the Church of England, I regularly spoke in many denominations, plus my role in FGB Norwich. I found that the experiences gained in politics, not least the network of contacts made from the highest in the land to the most troubled and challenged people, helped in my work within the church.
It is also evident that the opposite is true. I am not the best evangelist in the world, but my role in church life has enabled me to witness in a small way across East Anglia, and in Westminster.
As others in any form of public life will confirm, talking about my faith openly is difficult. I counter this by a clear statement of my faith on all my social media – blog, Facebook, Twitter etc. This means that so often it is others who raise faith matters with me.
Q What time commitment does the role take?
A It does take a big time commitment. When I started out politically in 2003, I shared this with fellow Christians, and we all made a commitment. To be an effective back bench rural district councillor takes an average minimum of 10 hours per week, some daytime, some evenings, some actual work, some reading, some telephone and a lot, nowadays, of internet. If you cannot give that then do not do it. But the reward more than compensates for the commitment.
Now, 16 years on, I am a senior member with cabinet responsibility. I usually spend about 30 hours a week on council business. My portfolio is planning, which is one of the biggest on any council. It also includes infrastructure for the district, and strategic housing, but this fits well with my lifestyle and I believe I am doing a good job.
Q Which political party do you think is the most Christian?
A I believe there are Christians in most political parties. I am a Christian and believe that the Conservative Party and its principles most closely match my evangelical Christian stance. Over the years I have met Labour, Liberal and UKIP Christians. By that I mean those politicians who practice their faith. Conservatives are generally an extremely moral party and within my group, I always have the ability to act on conscience and what we call ward matters rather than follow a whip.
Q How does being a man of faith help with decisions about people?
A From day one of being a councillor you do start to make decisions which affect people's lives. It may be matters on planning, of housing, of benefits. So, we do have to assess situations sometimes with applicants from both sides of an argument.
As a church leader and a businessman, long before I became a politician, I was used to doing this. As you are promoted in politics you do tend to make more decisions which affect people lives directly. I find that to do this, being scrupulously honest is always the very best way.
Never say you can do what you cannot, and always follow up on every promise.
Mostly I feel that I can help to improve people’s lives.
Pictured above is Breckland district councillor Gordon Bambridge.