Now I have your attention, let me first to point out that I have chosen my punctuation carefully and the “Vote UKIP” title is not a statement on how I think we should vote, but rather it is a question asking whether or not we should vote in this way when we do vote on May 7th. For those who have followed my political leaning blogs, the UKIP factor is something that particularly interests me and it is something I have referred to in a number of my other political blogs and have particularly considered it from a local perspective in my Kipperwatch blogs. Regarding the latter, I have said I will not be voting UKIP because my local UKIP candidate has not allayed my integrity concerns, even though I voted UKIP at the last General Election, as much by way of a protest against what the main parties appeared to be offering (still an issue) as anything else.
I began to get more fully embroiled in social media a little over a year ago and around that time we were looking forward to the European and local elections, when UKIP surprised most by doing exceptionally well in the polls. I found then, as I do now, Christians (my own natural constituency) who think about what is best for the country and how they are to a vote are split, often quite markedly, as to whether or not voting UKIP is a good thing. I also note that many of my non-Christian community minded friends were and still are decidedly anti UKIP and sometimes to such an extent that if I were to say anything too outrageous I fear I might be defriended. Like them or not, UKIP will play an important part as national and local elections unravel, and it is my intention to shoot from the hip (why change the habit of a life time) and say what it is I think.
What prompted me to write now, was UKIP’s recent publication “Where UKIP stands on Christian issues”, publicized and broadly welcomed (without them endorsing UKIP) by both the Christian Institute and Christian Concern. From what I can make out, Christians are mixed in their responses to UKIP in general and this document in particular. I suspect when it comes to voting on May 7th, there will be Christians who see their duty to vote for anyone BUT UKIP and Christians who will vote for UKIP because they believe they alone among the main political parties will take their side on some of the main issues they care about. I have to say that this document articulates my concerns on a number of issues, particularly to do with safeguarding Christian conscience, and to a greater extent than their main rivals: Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour and Green. That is not to say everything in that document is “Christian” – charity begins at home sounds nice but also begs the question of our responsibility to our neighbour, and the same goes for when UKIP decides to cut the foreign aid budget to spend more on projects closer to home. I also think there is an element of opportunism in publishing this at such a late stage, given UKIP recognize the significance of winning round Christians. But it is no less cynical a ploy in my view than the Conservative post manifesto pledge not to raise taxes and enshrine this in law, in order to win round the “what is in it for me, I am doing nicely” brigade .
Having been stirred into blogging somewhat prolifically on related matters in the run up to the elections, it is not my intention to tell people how to vote. It is my intention, however, to comment on what is going on and the issues being raised, in the hope people will vote intelligently as well as with good intentions. UKIP is a strange recent phenomena and much as the liberal elite might wish them away, they won’t be going away soon because they raise issues people care about that are not being taken anywhere seriously enough by the main parties. I am a euroskeptic; I believe in more immigration control. While UKIP may be closer to my own beliefs on these matters, I don’t see them as one and a bit trick ponies, even though that is what, regrettably, attracts a good deal of their support. When it comes to immigration, for example, I believe we should be doing more for asylum seekers and Commonwealth citizens, and don’t see UKIP saying differently. On a number of other important issues e.g. housing and homelessness, what UKIP has to say makes at least as much sense as the other parties. But it is on some these core issues, like freedom of conscience, I find UKIP get it and the other parties don’t. I could go on about these and related issues and suggest reading my “Protecting religious liberties” post and the like.
But the crunch question is should people vote UKIP? Like all parties UKIP attract all sorts, but with UKIP the range may be greater, ranging from neo-Nazis and racists to Christians of good standing. My fear, borne out by observation, is the former group may swamp the latter. I often find their populist appeal too simplistic and their nationalist appeal too jingoistic. I’m all for Britishness and like my late mum I am proud to be British and, while not everything in the past was good, I would like to see a return to some of the old-fashioned “British values” like duty, respect, fairness, hard work, patriotism, sense of humour, self reliance and deferred gratification. But I am also all for welcoming foreigners, albeit limiting the numbers of immigrants, and to do so on the basis of traditional Christian hospitality. Providing such folk obey the law and respect the customs of the host culture, their contribution should be welcomed and they should be free to live according to their cultural preferences, even allowing for these to be assimilated into British life. I do fear what is replacing the once to some extent evident Judaeo-Christian consensus is much worse and, while political correctness does not quite encapsulate this, it will do for a start.
Unapologetically, my Christian faith informs my political thinking and, while mindful not to take pet verses from the Bible out of context, I particularly like “righteousness exalts a nation and sin is a reproach to the people”. No party is signed up to this, not even UKIP with its “Christian” manifesto, and no-one can claim the moral high ground. Righteousness is often linked to justice and peace. Labour with social justice and alleviating poverty concerns and Conservative pre-occupied with the economy and balancing the books both have something to say. As an electorate, and especially if we are Christian, we should be taking all these matters into consideration, including pressing those who wish to represent us on the matters raised in this manifesto, before coming to a view who to vote for on May 7th.