This is the first of what I anticipate to be a number of blogs relating to the forthcoming British General Election and local elections. I was going to give it the title “the Power of the Cross” for reasons I will come to. With a title like that and tomorrow being the day when many Christians particularly reflect on Jesus dying on the cross, it would be easy to surmise this is a religious orientated posting. While there is an element that may appeal to Christians it is not what it might appear. The cross in this case is that which we write on an election ballot paper against the candidate we wish to vote for. I received in my post today a letter with the title “The Power of the Cross”. Check out the corresponding just launched website to find out more. This was an initiative by Christian Concern, an organization I have written about before, whose work I support and whose commentary on happenings in public life I value.
The thrust of the letter is that while it recognizes that “many Christians are disillusioned with politics in this country” they should still be politically engaged. They suggest three things each one of us can do: Ask our candidates what they think about the issues that concern us, Speak to them about what we feel is best for humanity and we Vote. The issues they identify as being important are Human Life, Family, Freedom and Christian Values, and it is these that should be given particular credence when deciding how to vote. Having had an early robust exchange of views earlier today with some Christian Facebook friends, I realized that while I believe that issues like freedom of conscience to be of particular importance, some of my friends, who are strong in faith and maturity and active in the community, see loving our neighbors as the value they would particularly want to promote.
Some of my friends would identify more with the “campaign for hope” by another Christian organization, Oasis, which asks of our politicians how they would give hope to those without hope. One thing I have noticed this time round, in the build up to the election, is how many Christian people are switching onto and engaging with issues that face this country where one would expect our candidates to have a view. They represent a wide range of political priorities, as I discovered earlier, which of course is a positive thing. But as for this series of blogs, I want to appeal to all sorts of folk, irrespective of their religious beliefs. I would like to think those who read this while holding a variety of opinions will want first and foremost what is best for the country, although realistically politicians are only able to do so much, which could be not very much, but at least we engage with the democratic process for the greater good.
Regarding the build up to the election, following the Prime Minister visiting the Queen on Monday, soon after the present Parliament finished its final session, one has become starkly aware that the battle for the hearts and minds of the British people, when it comes to polling on May 7, has stepped up a gear. For some months I have been engaging with “friends” on social media regarding things political and have made a number of blogs on related aspects myself, and I have no doubt all this will intensify as we approach the big day. I hope that more people will truly engage with the issues that matter and this will influence the election outcome.
As I write, the long awaited live televised debate between the main party leaders is about to begin, and I will end by adding my early reflections on that debate, after having just listened to it. Checking out some “friends” comments ahead of the debate, I detect a degree of pessimism as to whether much that is meaningful will come out. That may well be the case, but at least the candidates will have a chance to set out their stall and to be brought to account and made to justify their position. At the end, let us hope we will get some idea of what might be expected when whoever wins the election takes on the reigns of power, and that people will make informed choices.
There will be a number of happenings and twists and turns in the lead up to the elections and it is my intention to write about some of the more significant, starting from when we know the full line ups for the local and national elections next Thursday and then what will have come out of the Rochford and Southend East Hustings on April 22nd that I am involved in organizing. I have no preferences of who I would like to win the election, even though there are many issues I care about and have strong opinions on. I do not have predictions as to who will be the winner and whether that party will have an overall majority, but no doubt there will be opinion polls to follow that will give us an inkling of what is going on, but as the saying goes, it is about what happens on the day. My prayer is the Lord’s will be done.
While it looked at one point that the rise of the Greens and UKIP will have a significant bearing on results I am now less sure, although I believe both have made and will make their presence felt and influence outcome. When it comes to Scotland and Wales, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru respectively look like they will make gains and influence matters. I suspect though that the Liberal Democrats will not do anywhere nearly as well as they did last time. Again it looks like it will come down to a choice between Labour and Conservative, reverting back to the old battle lines I was familiar with in my younger days: Labour emphasizing the need to help the less well off and stand for social justice, and the Conservatives emphasizing the economy and claiming they would be the party best placed to aid Britains’s economic recovery.
Regarding the election debate that has just taken place, I suspect the jury is now out as to who has come off best. I look forward to seeing the discussions on the matter. Personally, I could not see a clear winner but I did feel some good questions were asked and the answers were better than I feared they would be. I also saw differences from the responses the different leaders gave and hopefully this is something to build on as (I hope) we take them to task over what they might offer the country if elected. I will follow with interest developments over the next five weeks and encourage others to find “the power of the cross” in more ways than one.
While not particularly deep, the following was my comment made on Facebook: ” It is a strange thing but looking at comments so far different people had different ideas as to who came off best and whether much was achieved (some will say very little). While I agree people may pick up on spurious things, and miss the significant, and this will influence their vote, I still found the exercise helpful. It reinforced to me that what politicians can do is limited but at least I have a better idea of what each might bring to the country, not just in terms of their policies but the all important one of leadership. My feeling is that the girls did well by their fresh approach although Nalalie did raise alarm bells over her socialist leanings e.g. controlling schools but then she made a good point re. asylum seekers, one of many. Nigel spoke some sense but did reveal some of the less savoury side of UKIP e.g. besotted by immigration and what seemed his callous disregard for foreigners suffering from HIV. David, Ed and Nick performed much to par and while I need to reflect further, my feeling is that none of them particularly shone. While Ed did have a good go at trying to convince us that he would be a better Prime Minister than David, and I would like to think he would, yet nevertheless he has his work cut out – can we have our cake (thriving economy) and eat it (programs that help the poor), and besides which will he do better than someone who has in my eyes failed when it comes to upholding the values I care about?”