Today someone posted a link to what I thought was an interesting article, titled: “Alan Titchmarsh: UKIP are saying what other politicians are afraid to and voters like it“, which I commented on and shared on my own Facebook page. This sparked of a number of interesting exchanges, one of the first of which to come my way was: “Oh my my my ukip are saying nothing except get foreigners to leave. It’s a travesty when good folk who do good work in our communities start siding with this nasty party“.
As a community activist trying to do good work in my community, I saw the comment as a challenge, as I did around the whole question of how I should be involved politically. But I do not wish to unduly offend those who see things differently to me; after all constructive debate on such matters of importance has to be a good thing and serving our community is something we all ought to agree on. While it is right to keep political and community activism separate, especially given that regarding the latter there is often a lot of common ground, even among those politically opposed, I believe the many and various issues that face us as a community are complex yet crucial and these need to be fully aired in the public square and to some extent at least political solutions need to be found.
Another challenge arises from being a regular blogger and trying to resist the temptation when yet again I look to reply to comments that have been made before and already covered in my blog, by writing “see xxx” (xxx being the hyperlink to a blog posting that more or less says what I want). I write now partly in the spirit of summing up, getting my head round and making my point regarding the various discussion that has happened up to now on this and related themes, and it will no doubt continue well into the future.
Regular readers of my blog will realise that amidst all the other stuff I blog about, in particular to do with social justice matters and some of my responses, e.g. to do with homelessness, and on religion, that from time to time I delve into the somewhat mirky area of politics. Perhaps the posting that is particular pertinent here is “General Election 2015” which I wrote back in August and looked forward to the General Election, now just six months away.
While quite a bit of water has gone under the bridge since then, including two UKIP by-election victories, a local civil war among leading UKIP activists, the perhaps rising star of the Green Party and more debate on subjects like Europe, immigration, the economy, the suffering of the poor when favouring the rich, welfare reform, education and the NHS, most of which I have written about, I thought, in the light of such comments and developments, I would take stock politically. Here I will focus more on the next general election concerning own constituency, Rochford and Southend East, although there is much that could be said about its neighbour, Southend West, some of the parliamentary candidates I will know, the picture nationally, and of course locally, at ward level.
In some ways things haven’t changed that much other than my becoming more aware of what the various parties are up to and where they stand on the issues. I have still discounted the Liberals. I am still disillusioned with the Conservatives. I would still like to consider Labour but see no more reason to vote them, just as I did not vote for them under Blair and Brown, except locally when I considered Labour had the best candidate. Greens continue to intrigue me, as my recent posting shows, but they are more socialist than Labour and I am historically averse to the state taking on more power and not convinced that doing away with expensive items like Trident and high speed rail links in order to release money to lift up the poor is necessarily the right way to go. As for UKIP, they are jingoistic, simplistic, sleazy, disengaging, right wing and nasty of course; at least if I go by the postings on the subject by some of my Facebook friends, but UKIP have done little more to convince me since I wrote back in August and also when I posted more recently.
However, I won’t be shamed into turning my attentions away from UKIP out of fear of being called a one-tracked racist europhobe whose priority is to keep foreigners out of the country, which in any case is far from the case. When asked about the good UKIP might do if in power, I mentioned three things I care about, encapsulated in the Westminster declaration I signed just before the last general election: traditional (mixed sex) marriage, the right to life (no abortion, embryo research, euthanasia), freedom of conscience. I didn’t anticipate the backward steps under the current administration, which in any case would likely have happened under Labour too, taking place, but do believe these would be protected best under UKIP (as I argued previously). However, when I see Tories turning to UKIP because they see them restoring the so called golden years of Margaret Thatcher, compared to today’s wishy washy Tories, I recoil because of the deep hurt I sense among the socially disadvantaged that likely won’t get better and I ask if this is also one of the legacies of the Thatcher years. My dream is for a sovereign democratic self governing nation called Great Britain upholding true British values. While doubtful UKIP can deliver on this, their rhetoric often matches my own.
Let me turn to two issues that cropped up in today’s exchanges. The first is about criticising a broken system and doing nothing about it or, worse still, causing further breakages by supporting the wrong party. I agree, people who just criticise are not usually helpful. Firstly, I criticise but try to work with the system because that is how to get some things done and, besides which, I try to obey the law. Secondly, I try to help victims of the system and the poor, socially disadvantaged and marginalised (which may or may not be the same) and, because I do, I want to improve the system. But the big question is who do I support? I write and agonise over these things because I am seeking answers. I am old and skeptical enough not to pin great hopes on politicians but I do hope in God Almighty.
As for religion, it does inform my politics, as with everything I am interested in, but my conclusion is because no main political party and few leaders of those parties see honouring the Almighty as a key objective, then none qualify as being on “God’s side”. Those who claim Jesus would have supported their particular party are at best theologically naive and at worst blasphemous, for our business is to make sure we are on God’s side. Jesus was more interested in advancing God’s kingdom than that of men. He told people to render under Caesar the things that are Caesars, where Caesar was as undemocratic as you can get. Some, maybe a lot of, what any particular party says or does may well be in accordance with God’s will, and in varying degrees, but I am dumb enough not to have come to a decision as to who comes out on top overall. I remain more comfortable with an atheist that does good for the people than a Christian that doesn’t, and I try to weigh issues and personalities (they do matter) before deciding who to vote for.
So the big question I have yet to decide on is who to vote for when I come to cast my vote in six months time? It won’t be the Lib Dems, that’s for sure, whoever the candidate is. It won’t be Conservative either because of what I have recently witnessed among the lowly in our society, whose lot if anything seems to be getting worse and for a whole host of other reasons discussed in previous blogs. If dear Teddy Taylor were standing, he might have swung it back but, frankly, James Duddridge has been a disappointment over issues ranging from MP expenses, gay marriage and not getting it regarding the poor, who sadly seems to just follow what his leader says and fobs me off when he is challenged. I like Ian Gilbert (Labour) who I see to be a decent, honourable type, who would act creditably if he were to be an MP, but he still has a lot of work to do to convince me he is the person I should support.
If James Moyies were the UKIP candidate, I might have considered voting for him, not just as a matter of protest but because so far he has impressed, but he wasn’t selected. Sadly, I know little about the guy who, much to the surprise of many, was announced as the UKIP candidate, Floyd Waterworth, other than all the negative stuff I read about him in various media, like him hardly ever turning up at Council meetings, having a pop at constituents (and colleagues) who criticise him, bringing up trivial matters when he does attend Council meetings while saying little on those things that really matter and possible dodgy dealings (refer to my unanswered comment below), and not responding to my overtures to engage whilst taking umbrage at these and other criticisms.
So that leaves me with Simon Cross (Green). I never envisaged the day I might even consider voting Green (who I have tended to view as looney, lefty, liberal, middle class tree huggers), or rather a Green candidate, but at least in Simon I see something of an idealist who is in politics for the right reason and a person who thinks through and argues clearly regarding the issues and has ideas. But that is today – a lot can and will happen in six months, and a word of advice – if ever I endorse a candidate, more often than not they go onto lose!