After three and a half years since the 2016 referendum it is...
I am struggling with a tension about voting in the 2019 General Election. I know that as a citizen of the UK I have a duty to vote because that is a foundational responsibility in a democracy. I also care about the nation’s future and the policies made both for domestic government and our international role. I want these to reflect Christian values and am well aware how seldom this is happening in the world today. My problem is that the choices on the ballot paper do not offer hope that the way I cast my vote will reflect Christian values and influence future Government policies.
Last week I heard all the candidates in my constituency speak at a local hustings. None of them indicated that they are people of faith. Worse still, both the leaders of the two parties who might be the Prime Minister on Friday morning are said to be untrustworthy.
In a newspaper article on Monday the journalist Matthew d’Ancona described the Conservative leader as “a politician whose record of lying and mendacity is unmatched in contemporary public life”. One example is his claim that in his deal with the EU there will no border down the Irish Sea. This has already been debunked by his civil servants and one of his own candidates told the Times “what we are saying on Brexit is just untrue”.
The respected Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has examined the parties’ spending plans and concluded that neither of the major parties is being honest with the voters. Their spending plans are not credible. Faisal Islam, the BBC’s Economic Editor says “Labour’s spending on investment is just so big it wouldn’t be able to deliver it”.
Brexit is obviously the hottest issue in the election but neither of these parties are being straight with us about their plans to resolve it. Whichever party is elected on Thursday, there is little likelihood that either of them could negotiate a trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020. It took Canada seven years to negotiate its trade deal.
MI5, MI6 and the Foreign Office have all expressed concerns about our national security if Jeremy Corbyn was to be our next Prime Minister because of his opposition to NATO and his pledge never to use our nuclear deterrent. Their concerns are shared by Admiral Lord West, a former First Sea Lord and now a Labour Peer, and by Jack Straw, a former Labour Foreign Secretary.
So if all this is true how can I vote with Christian conviction and integrity? My personal response is to vote tactically and to pray for no party to achieve a majority, to create a situation in which a coalition Government of national unity might be formed. I know committed Brexiteers will reject this but I see global warming and climate change as more important than Brexit and we have to work with our neighbours to deal with that and the inevitable movements of people from regions that global warming is already making uninhabitable.
This is admittedly a short term response. In a longer perspective there is a need to heal the divisions that the battles of Brexit have created. That will inevitably require serious rethinking about how we make democracy work in Britain. First, we citizens need to be better equipped to grasp the complexity of the issues our Government has to handle. That will require attitudinal changes that motivate us to take our citizenship seriously and adult education that helps us to understand important issues as they arise. Second, we need better means of communicating our views to our elected representatives than periodic elections.
From a Christian perspective we also need regular prayer for our elected representatives and more open discussion of the issues confronting the nation. Britain is now overwhelmingly a secular society and if we Christians do not engage with the issues, articulating Christian perspectives on them, we are complicit in that secularisation.