British Elections 2015 (7)

This is my seventh and final post, ahead of Thursday’s big (voting) day, that is to do specifically with British Elections 2015 (local and national). For the story so far, check out one, two, three, four, five and six of my posts on the subject, as well as other related posts that have been added in the past couple of months onto my blog.

Much of what I wanted to say has already been said and it is not my intention to go over old ground and, besides which, most of the hopes and concerns raised still apply, although my quest to come to a better understanding continues, knowing there are, as one might expect, new developments every day. While I take comfort, and without wanting to sound cocky, that few have done more than me in trying to get to the bottom of who to vote for and why, I am less depressed than I thought I would be regarding the issues getting a proper airing but feel enough is enough and the people now need to decide. My challenge is I am no more decided now than I was when I embarked on this odyssey into political blogging, where the big question as far as I am concerned is voting according to who I think will contribute most to the common good. It is a tough challenge and the idea of marking candidates according to how they deal with important issues etc., like I did when I interviewed job candidates, and seeing who scores the highest, is far from an exact science.

While politicians are notorious for failing to deliver on manifesto promises, which needs taking into account when deciding who to vote for, this is further compounded by the likelihood (depending on which opinion poll one studies) that Labour or Conservative (and only those two parties) will win but not win enough seats for a majority in the House of Commons, and must make accommodation for alternative manifestos if they are to get sufficient support to form a government. Interesting, for me at least, it is not so different from when I began to follow politics in my youth, when it was by and large a straight contest between Conservatives espousing the importance of the economy and law and order and Labour espousing social justice issues and doing more for the less well off in society, with those wanting to hedge their bets and seeking a middle way voting Liberal. Besides the emergence of “nationalist” parties in Wales and especially Scotland, there is the emergence of UKIP and the Greens. Not only does this mean that whoever wins will almost certainly have a lower share of the popular vote but the call for changes to the “first past the post” system of deciding who wins and who loses elections will continue to gain momentum, and the prospect of coalitions of some sort will become more likely.

Before I move on to the more juicy bit – who I am going to cast my vote for and why (having ummed and arred whether to do so and my choices with reasons, and still do) I thought I would recap on how I view the different parties, and this on top of a realization (whether in Europe of not) we have limited control over our destiny and the old adage the people get the government they deserve (which may not be that much) applies, whoever happens to be in power. The other imponderable is whatever the outcome of the elections, which permutation of the left or right will run the country and what about locally? The big question for me is what is best for the country? The answer (and I speak reverently) – God only knows!

Conservatives: Something in me will invariably resonate with their message – give people the freedom to control their own destinies and keep government out of things as far as possible and empower people so they can be / do what they want to be / do (if prepared to work for it), and they are the party most likely to deliver on such matters as the economy, balancing the budget and law and order. I am now less sure. They have let too many down on social justice issues I care about, and have lied. They have undermined recognition of Christian values and when it comes to important matters like health, education and housing, or standing up to Europe, they have failed to deliver or show the necessary leadership. As for caring Conservatives, I wonder if such exists these days.

Labour: (bear in mind this was where I began my activist career and, who knows, where it may even end up). While I have many reservations e.g. them capitulating to Europe, allowing unrestricted EU immigration with untoward consequences, operating a nanny state, talking about democracy but giving more power to an unelected elite, putting political correctness before individual freedoms, spending unnecessarily etc., and are less convincing on those areas where the Conservatives are strongest, they are best placed to deliver on those issues where the Conservatives have failed, especially housing and the NHS, and dealing more justly with the worst aspects of welfare reform but, despite trying to do so, not convincing me they outdo the Conservatives on their strengths.

Lib Dems: Indelibly etched on my mind is the image of Nero fiddling while Rome is burning. I recall at their conference around the last General Election them spending an inordinate amount of time on petty (at least compared to the economic crisis) issues and coming to the wrong conclusions. I know they will be attractive to many who like me regard themselves politically as middle of the road and they would want to be seen as a moderating influence as a coalition partner with either the Conservatives or Labour, but I remain unconvinced by their neither here nor there approach, despite rating both Lib Dem Southend parliamentary candidates.

UKIP: I have spent more time on UKIP than on any other party and refer people to a number of my blogs where they are discussed. Many of the harsh criticisms that some of my more liberal minded friends have come up with have at least a degree of validity but there are other issues (not just Europe and immigration, which sadly attract many for the wrong reasons) worth considering, which put the lie to the notion they are one trick ponies, e.g. as demonstrated in manifesto pledges like housing, thoughtful responses on several other key issues and their recent Christian manifesto, which especially resonate. But charity begins at home and no to foreign aid are not two of them. I also feel their approach to immigration is not altogether Christian and may have helped to fuel prejudice and led to racial tension. In any case, they have ruled themselves out in Southend, as far as this blogger is concerned, and are as yet unproven in terms of governing, not helped by what appears to be a negative approach when UKIP MEPs deal with the EU.

Green: The good thing about the Greens in the past year is they have surprised me in a good way, not least their fresh approach. While I have doubts over their ability to deliver on the economy, their priorities led by the environment, how to raise money for their more ambitious than Labour social programs, and their more extreme form of socialism that historically more often than not has led to the oppression of the people. Their buy in to a more liberal agenda (e.g. three way marriage) maybe more than other parties I find worrying. But I have been more than a little impressed regarding their fresh and robust approach to dealing with some of the big social issues in our society, which they seem to understand more than the other parties, their ideas on issues like energy, transport and the environment, and their anti-corruption stance.

SNP: I was going to ignore SNP as they only operate in Scotland. But they cannot be discounted because, if the pundits are to be believed, they will gain most Scottish seats and be expected to hold the balance of power in the UK Parliament. Labour, if they are to form a government, would need to do a deal with them if they are to govern. While I have not come to a full view, the SNP’s raison d’etre, Scottish Independence, is not one this believer in a united United Kingdom can support and neither is giving a bigger slice of the fiscal and governance cakes to Scotland other than if entirely equitable.

When I last wrote on the matter of who I expected to come out on top in the national and local elections for the areas in which I live, I predicted that James (Conservative) would be re-elected as MP and Paul (Independent) would be re-elected as my councilor. While I am less enthusiastic about James for reasons stated in my “Dear Mr. Duddridge” letter, I would like to think he will try to do his best and do what he said he would do in his “contract” letter he sent to all his constituents. I won’t add anything more regarding Paul other than of all the candidates he seems to want it more than his opponents and has tried hardest to convince the St. Lukes voters; and while there are weaknesses I would like him to attend to, I will continue to respect and work with him as my councilor and expect him to put the good of St. Lukes residents high on his agenda, as he has said.

For the national elections, it was a tossup between Ian (Labour) and Simon (Green). This despite the fact I am neither a convinced socialist nor a tree hugging, looney lefty, airy fairy, middle class Green – no way sir! The issue of tactical or spoiling my vote does not rise since I cannot see either overturning the huge majority James had at the last election. I have no doubt that both would serve with credit if elected and, while both have worked hard and engaged intelligently when issues have been raised, I feel Simon has the greater desire to be elected and would be the sharper shock that the system needs – but I hope it won’t go to his head or be the kiss of death or he will fall over with shock when I give my local councilor choice. So then – Simon has it, and I wish him and his opponents all the best and thank them for their preparedness to raise their heads over the parapet as it were and offer themselves to serve in this way.

When I considered the local scene last time, I left it that if any of the four front runners were to get in I would feel fairly okish about it. In the back of my mind, I wanted to vote for Jes (Labour) despite having reservations, which in various guises was true for all of the candidates. I had rather hoped that like some of her Labour colleagues standing in other wards she would up her campaign. Sadly, all I can hear is silence. Another mixed bag was Roger (UKIP) but when I got his second leaflet the other day I was impressed to the extent that I awarded it the highest wow factor mark of all the local leaflets. What impressed me was though there are issues I would take issue with, there are many more that goes some way to hitting the nail on the head. Roger, of all people, would go most way to shaking up the council to get these addressed – I hope he will do so with grace and wisdom because I suspect the anti Roger contingent in the Council may be high and there is bridge building to do if it really is his intention to get things done in Southend.

So there you have it and, but for the fact I don’t want to over rate my own ability to influence others on these matters, there is a headline that I guess approaches unique for any who wish to comment: “John Barber endorses the Green candidate in the General election and the UKIP candidate in the Local election”, with the sub-title – “the man is clearly a crackpot”. As for whether I make my decision with the mindset of a protest voter I can (will) not say. But I can say I have thought and prayed about it and will be exercising my democratic right / duty, and I hope all who read this will do too.

The reason I write as I do is that having listened intently and read widely my goal remains how best to achieve the common good. Moreover, I have less faith in politicians than many have in themselves. They can make a difference, it is true, but they are limited. Rather, my faith is in God, for it is man that proposes and God that disposes, and is why this Wednesday at 7pm I will be joining with some Christian friends, at Southend Civic Centre, to pray over this town and this country and this election, from a purely non-partisan perspective and then to do the same at my church.

Finally, there is the question of what happens next? I don’t intend to support any of the candidates in their canvassing and, unlike in the past, neither can I be a teller for any of them on polling day since there is no party that I can in all conscience tell for both locally and nationally. But I do have a ticket for the hottest show in town taking place Thursday night onwards. Thanks to a kind council official, I found out about how to become an accredited observer at the count and have gone through a relatively simple on-line process with the Electoral Commission, and I look forward, unless I have irritated any, to engaging with several of my “friends” from all parties, commiserating with the losers and congratulating the winners. I intend to blog on my experience and on the election outcomes.

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