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Decision time

Parliament will be dissolved on Monday (30th March) and the election campaigns will then go full ahead. The party manifestos will be launched soon after. This Thursday (26th March) Cameron and Miliband will be interviewed separately in a 90 minute programme on Channel 4 and Sky. All seven party leaders will appear together on ITV on 2nd April and the five opposition party leaders will participate in a BBC programme. Party leaders will compete daily for news headlines whilst candidates will be knocking our doors and speaking in local hustings.

The temptation to moan about all this should be resisted. This is how democracy works and it is infinitely better than what happens in North Korea and other dictatorships. Our ancestors campaigned through the 19th and 20th centuries for universal adult suffrage and must be turning in their graves now at the 30% who don’t vote. The outcome of the election will affect us all in the taxes we pay, the services provided and the provisions to protect us from numerous threats. Opting out implies tacit acceptance of things as they are.

It is highly unlikely that any party manifesto will meet all one’s expectations. Parties are all coalitions bringing together people of differing views and priorities so compromise is inevitable. No party is going to offer a programme that consistently reflects Christian values because many of their members and supporters are not Christians. Even a party that labels itself Christian will have to address issues for which there is no clear biblical guidance as to how those issues should be handled by government. A sensible approach would be to decide the issues that matter most and vote for the party that best reflects what you think should be done.

What does matter most? A poll this week for ITV News revealed that managing the NHS was considered the most important issue followed by controlling immigration and then economic competence and making the welfare system fairer. Interestingly, redefining Britain’s relationship with the EU received only moderate support in the poll. Preserving the UK from break up did not feature at all but it could well be the big issue in the new Parliament. The SNP is expected to have up to 40 MPs at Westminster and Alec Salmon says his party will use what power this gives them to secure Scottish independence. He also says SNP will oppose any tax cuts and support increased public spending, potentially increasing the budget deficit rather than reducing it.

Some Christians might also argue for priorities not featured in this poll. These could include policies to care effectively for the planet, restore the freedom to practice and proclaim religious faith both here and globally or to abolish legislation that is contrary to their beliefs. Opting out will not advance these objectives. They will only be achieved in the long term by reasonable persuasion and support for Christians in politics. Prayer about how we vote and the outcome of the election are obviously crucial.

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