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Church News

Rev Martin Poole, vicar who challenged Govt at press briefing, says "people feel they're not being heard"

by Cara Bentley

The vicar who challenged the Government on treating the British people and its chief adviser equally has spoken to Premier about why he asked the question he did and how he prays for the Government. 

Rev Martin Poole is the vicar of St Luke's Prestonville in Brighton and was given the chance to ask Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, a question at the Government's Daily Press Briefing on national TV on Tuesday. 

He asked if the Government would review the penalties given to families who were travelling for childcare purposes during lockdown, clearly referencing the Prime Minister's chief adviser Dominic Cummings, who said he travelled to Durham for childcare reasons. 

Rev Martin told Premier: "I asked the specific question, just because it was one of the things that was playing on my mind. I've been thinking a lot about inequality and fairness and the different standards that sometimes it appears those in leadership have to the rest of us and it just felt like a way of interrogating that question a little bit.

"As is the case with many people, I'm feeling similar frustrations about the way things are being done and want to be heard. I think that's one of the most important things: that people feel they're not being - perhaps - heard by the Government all the time and that daily press briefing is an opportunity for the Government to really hear from the public. 

"Obviously they are hearing from the public because so many people are writing to their MPs at the moment but it's part of the purpose of the church to be able to speak, to give voice to the voiceless. So, I felt I was an element of me trying to do that, not just for myself but for everybody."

In response to his question, Matt Hancock said he would inquire with the Treasury about penalties during lockdown, something Mr Poole described as "admirably honest", but it was taken at the time to hint at a possible policy change for fines from breaking the rules. 

 

This however was cleared up later when the Government had to clarify their response to journalists, following Rev Martin's question, and state that fines were not being reviewed. 

The clergyman's question got a lot of support from the public though, who thought he raised a valid point about hypocrisy in general, with many praising his "to the point" question. 

 

He explained: "I've not had a direct response from anybody since then and I understand that if Government have been open on this that the answer might well be 'no' and that's fine - of course you can answer 'yes' or 'no' to any question and we'll accept that for what it is but I hope that overall it's made people think about the differences in values and about what it means to be fair in this current situation."

Despite not always agreeing with the Government, the vicar, who has been in his current post in East Sussex since 2010, does pray for it:

"We pray for our Government and our leaders. Pray that you will give them peace and wisdom in everything that they do. I ask for forgiveness for the times when we've been frustrated with them, or perhaps not quite as welcoming to them or as positive thinking as we should be. And we ask that the church might play its role in helping this nation to come back to wholeness. In the name of your Holy Spirit. Amen."

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