Local Christian Phil Anderson has decided to stand as a Conservative candidate in the next local elections. Transformation Thurrock interviewed him as he begins his journey towards local government.
TT: Why have you decided to stand as a candidate for Thurrock Council?
PA: Jesus calls us to be ‘salt and light’ in the world (Matt 5:13-16). We all have to work out what area of the world Christ is calling us to serve in; it could be the workplace, the home, the school, or the church. For me, it is the world of politics and government.
TT: What area of the borough will you be hoping to represent, and when will people be asked to vote for you?
PA: I am standing as a candidate in the Stanford East and Corringham Town ward, which is the middle part of Corringham and Stanford. The local elections will be held on 6th May 2010.
TT: Why have you chosen the Conservative Party to represent? Are you a Tory voter?
PA: In the past I have always tried to use my vote prayerfully and intelligently. I’m standing as a Conservative because I think our policies on areas like the family are vital to the future of this nation, and because politically I believe more in personal responsibility and strong local communities than in ‘big government’. But I would like to see an effective Christian presence in ALL of the main political parties.
TT: Thurrock Council has often been tarnished with in-fighting, with animosity between parties and even between councillors within the parties themselves. What do you hope to bring to the table?
PA: The Bible says that we are called to be ‘ambassadors of reconciliation’. It’s important to have an effective opposition, but personal rivalry and political point-scoring doesn’t help anyone. I hope to serve as a ‘peace maker’ by the example I set and through my relationships with Councillors on both sides.
TT: Should Christians vote for you just because you’re a Christian? What if I’m a Christian but have voted Labour all my life?
PA: Christians need to consider both the party and the person when choosing how to vote. Policies are set by parties, but there is lots of scope for individuals to make a difference by influencing these discussions and by serving practically in their local area. If you are keen to see a stronger Christian presence on Thurrock Council then I would love you to vote for me in May! But if you are committed to another party then of course I respect that. I hope that we can continue to pray together and share fellowship and unity even if we find ourselves as ‘political opponents’.
Left: Phil helps to drive into the ground a stake – claiming the east of the borough for Christ – during this year’s Global Day of Prayer celebrations on Pentecost Sunday at Hardie Park, Stanford-le-Hope.
TT: Is there room for a Christian politician to exercise a Christian conscience? Or does it depend upon which party they’re in?
PA: One of the decisions Christians have to make is whether to work from outside the system (by lobbying and campaigning) or inside the system (by joining a party). By choosing to get involved on the ‘inside’ of politics, you can have a much greater influence but you do have to support a party line which you will rarely 100% agree with on every detail! The Conservative party has a tradition of allowing a ‘free vote’ on issues of morality and conscience, which does make it easier to be openly Christian than in some other parties.
TT: Will be wearing your ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bracelet to the council chamber?
PA: I will be wearing my ring inscribed with the words ‘none of us live unto themselves’ (taken from Romans 14:7). This reminds me that I am there to serve God and to serve my local community, not to pursue my own personal interests.
TT: What are your thoughts on local issues, like the changing demographic of the borough and tensions arising from that?
PA: I meet a lot of BNP supporters on the doors, and most of them are ordinary people who are worried about the practical effects of immigration on things like jobs, housing, and public services. They fear for the future, and when we are fearful we often look for someone to blame. The insidious growth of ‘political correctness’ has meant that instead of listening to their concerns, the government has lazily branded them as ‘racists’ which is often not true. When the mainstream parties have the courage to tackle the issues in a fair and honest way, I believe that support for more extreme voices will fade. Sadly there is also a small of violent thugs out there, and they have to be tackled. We can do this by cutting off any ‘passive support’ they get from the wider community and supporting the work of the police and others.
TT: How do you see the up and coming General Election going? What will this mean for the UK, and for issues like the EU, foreign policy and climate change?
PA: There is a lot of cynicism about politics right now, which can tempt people to give up and disengage from the whole process. If we do this as Christians, we leave the field wide open for others to use and sometimes abuse political power. There are huge questions we have to face up to right now around the environment, the economy, poverty and justice, and international affairs. I want to see Christians right in there helping to develop a vision for society that is rooted in a biblical world-view, because ‘without vision, the people perish’. One good example of this is the influence that Christians have had in shaping Conservative social policies, and this will definitely be in factor in the general election.
TT: It’s an answer to prayer that the BNP won’t have a ‘big’ name standing in Thurrock at the General Election, but it was said recently at a BNP Press Conference at Grays Beach that ‘if you want to meet real British people, you should come to places like Thurrock’. What do you say about that, and how should Christians respond to such extremism?
PA: I’m proud to be British. I think that God has a purpose and calling for this nation (as He does for every nation), and we have a distinctive national character which in the past has been used powerfully to spread the ‘good news’ of Christ to the world. Jesus commands us to ‘do for others as you would have them do for you’. This is a great rule of thumb for politicians, and for anyone living in a community like Thurrock. It can help policy makers to steer a course between being hard-hearted (as some seem to want) and being a soft touch (as others say the UK is at the moment).
TT: How can the Christians in the area you’re wishing to represent help you in your candidacy? What can Transformation Thurrock do to help?
PA: There are 3 ways people can help: prayer, practical support, and voting. I’d welcome the prayers of the Christian community in Thurrock, and Transformation Thurrock does a great job in uniting us in prayer. There is a lot to be done to run a political campaign. Leaflets have to be delivered, voters canvassed, and it all climaxes with a big effort on polling day. You don’t have to ‘sell your soul’ to a political party to get involved; in fact you don’t even have to be a party member. Just sparing an hour or two to deliver some leaflets or agreeing to display a poster can make a difference. It certainly beats just sitting in front of the TV as a passive observer on election night! And of course if you live in Stanford East & Corringham Town, I’d love you to vote for me on May 6th…
TT: How can we follow your campaign and get in touch with you?
PA: People can email me via email@example.com. I’d love to hear your views and any encouragement you have for me. I can then keep you up to date with the latest news and information.
TT: Thank you, Phil. We pray for doors to open for you as the Lord directs, and are excited by the prospect of a Christian voice in Thurrock’s local government.
Phil Anderson attends Thurrock Christian Fellowship in Corringham and is part of the Stanford & Corringham Boiler Room Community. He works in consultancy and is the 24-7 Prayer rep in Parliament, working alongside Christians in Parliament and Christians in Government. In 2001, he flew around most of England in his light aircraft in a 14-hour prayer flight.
In 2005, Phil flew the entire length of the Thames (from Southend to Kemble in Gloucestershire) in another prayer flight as part of The Turn Of The Tide (precursor to the Thames Gateway Prayernet) (see left and right). He has a wife, Lisa, and two daughters, Holly and Bethany.
If you work at the Council offices in New Road, Grays, there is a network of Christians supporting and encouraging each other through prayer and seeking to serve the borough excellently.
The annual Thurrock Council Christmas Carol Service is being held at Grays Parish Church (top of the High Street over the railway) at 12.30pm on Wednesday 16 December.