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How should I vote?

The General Election is under way. On Friday 15th the candidate lists will be closed. The party leaders are touring the country promising what they will do and rubbishing their opponents. In four weeks it will all be over and a new Government will be elected. But will they do what they said they would do? This is the fourth election in nine years and we might be forgiven for wondering whether the outcome will change anything in the ways we want.

What do we voters really want? Opinion polls confirm the predictable answer that we want an end to the Brexit saga. Of course it won’t be the end unless we leave on 31stJanuary without a deal. Only the Brexit party is campaigning for that and they are not campaigning in enough seats to win and form the next Government. If we want to leave with a deal so we can continue to trade with our neighbours we have to stay in the EU for the transition period, at least to the end of 2020 and even that might not be the end.

However, Brexit is not the only issue that concerns voters. The NHS is also a priority for most of us and it comes a close second in our wish list. Our health service has too much to do and not enough money to do it. People are living longer and the population is growing. There is a shortage of doctors and nurses and waiting times for operations are getting longer. Demand exceeds supply and this means the NHS is in a state of crisis.

Crime has grabbed third place in voters’ concerns.  Knife crime has risen to record levels with 235 knife murders in the last year.  Cuts in police budgets have led to reductions in the number of police on duty to catch criminals and prevent crime. Cuts to local authority youth service budgets have also not helped to keep young people out of trouble.

The economy is usually in the top three electoral issues but it remains crucial in relation to the economic consequences of leaving or remaining in the EU. The possible loss of trade to what is currently our biggest market if we leave the EU would mean job losses at least until new markets are found. The City of London and business interests oppose Brexit because they think it threatens our economy and their survival.

Fifth in the list of voter concerns is climate change, though Extinction Rebellion have been doing all they can to make it the top priority issue.  They argue that the Government aim of reducing carbon emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050 is too late and needs to be brought forward to 2025. None of the parties are committed to an earlier deadline because they recognise that the major changes in people’s lifestyles, including removing petrol and diesel driven cars, and scrapping gas-fired boilers will take longer than these campaigners recognise.

Underlying these policy issues is the more human question; can we trust what the politicians are telling us? Some will remember the campaign bus in the 2016 referendum that said we pay the EU £350 million per week, which was totally untrue. The parties spend lots of money on election slogans and advertisements, but what do they all really mean? They make commitments about what they will do if they win but how credible are they? For example, both the Conservatives and Labour are promising huge increases in public spending but how will we pay for them? The Blair/Brown Governments spent heavily in the 2000’s but they created such a huge national debt that from 2010 onwards Governments have had to cut public spending to reduce the debt.

Underlying everything that is said and done in the next four weeks, we the voters need to pray for wisdom and cast our votes for those whom we trust and for what we believe to be right for the country now.

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