A recent Guardian article highlighted what were the personal reasons why the former deputy premier of NSW Andrew Stoner stood down. This article is not about the gritty details of his wife's depression, rather to speak to their Christian commitment.
No one with any understanding of Federal / State politics will be under any illusion as to the traumatic and all too often heartbreaking life styles that politicians juggle with their family responsibilities as opposed to their public duty.
It is not just that they are away from home a great deal – consider, just as one example, those in the Navy and the Merchant Navy who from seafarer's time immemorial this has been their lot and their wives and families lot.
What adds to the pressures is the politics itself. Pre-selection is no easy deal, nor is being elected in any 'even near' marginal seat, and there are deals behind closed doors to see policy motions get to the floor of the house, both internally and externally with the smaller parties who sit on the cross benches.
But consider the pressure of not only public opinion but that of history. Everything gets recorded. Bad policy has a habit of biting you on the you-know-where and there is little forgiveness in the political game. A comment that comes to light, a relationship gone sour years ago, a bad deal done back whenever, an unfortunate drink driving offence - whatever it is, today such things go viral and it's all over red rover. You become a liability.
Moreover you as a Government politician have in your hands the public purse. Alas, as in Yes Minister, you actually don't control it all, rather your public service personnel determine whether a policy will even be given a chance to work. Where does the money for the extended military comes from? How might the superannuation trillions be best guaranteed. There are thousands of such questions which our humble politicians for which they are responsible.
Then there is social policy. On the far (right/left) you have political party representatives who can't even spell the word compromise, let alone negotiate. The colour of the politician today is almost irrelevant as it is the numbers that count.
The politician comes up for air and their (wife / husband / partner) is on the phone. Young Jimmy or Betty has drama again at this or that .... The emotional drama of being away from home for the children's sport carnival or the cultural event or the parent teacher night – whatever – these molehills grow into mountains when it occurs over and over again.
And if you think politicians get paid a lot, think again. Most of their business peers are doing much better and without the hassles of being at everyone's mercy (as it were).
Part of the television series Upstairs Downstairs illustrates this, where Sir Hallam - the mid to late 1930's British Principal Head of the Foreign Affairs Department - is in direct conflict over policy with Germany, first with Anthony Eden then Lord Halifax. The politicians had other considerations of greater importance such a public opinion. The mood of the people at that time was appeasement as the blood bath of WWI was only a very short memory back.
Add to this mix conservative evangelicalism
Committed conservative evangelicals have an additional burden to carry and it's one of such moment that it truly over-archers all other considerations, as it's a particular way of thinking of how God's providence is upon you – "for such a time as this" (Book of Ruth).
Stories such as that of William Wilberforce come to the fore. The evangelical politician has a prior consideration, something along the lines: What would Jesus do? What compromise on some issue associated with child welfare or wards of the State can be relaxed or relinquished. How much of the public purse is available. What of a personal conviction as opposed to policy for the wider society most of whom to not hold to such convictions.
Cathy Stoner a committed Christian, for example, launched on her Twitter account what the Sunday Telegraph referred to as anti-Muslims statements after city riots. She was forced in effect, http:/northcoastvoices.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/cathy-stoner-gets-caught-out-and-shut.html' target="_blank">to close it down for political considerations over and above her personal Christian convictions.
This is an example of the inherent heartache conservative evangelical politicians are dealing with - day in and day out. This is not an easy row to hoe. To stand and be counted as a Christian in this light has all the hallmarks of heart break, and the biblical notion of weeping and gnashing of teeth as personal conviction is swallowed up by political necessity so as to even attempt to make a difference.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html