It’s general election time! It is our opportunity to change the way the our country is governed. But as individual voters, how do we decide who to vote for? If we know some of the candidates, we can vote for the person, but most of us have never met any of the candidates. We could vote for the party with the leader we like, but that is dangerous because a party can change its leader at any time. We will probably vote for the party which most closely aligns with our own personal ethos.
How can we find a party which represents our points of view exactly? The trouble is that most of the parties fight for the middle ground and in on some matters there is very little to choose between them. I did a survey on Facebook which claims to highlight which party I mostly agree with. In my case it came up with three different answers, suggesting that I vote for the Green party, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative party!
How should I vote as a pensioner?
I’m now 70 years old, and according to the statistics, most people of my age vote Conservative! This is despite the fact that all the major parties claim that they will protect pensions. There seems to be a trend that people start off radical and left-wing when they are young, and gradually drift to the right as they get older. I seem to be the exception: I started off more right-wing and have gradually moved to the left as I have got older!
If I voted purely on the basis of what is better for me, and my family, I probably ought to vote for the Conservative party. But if I voted on the basis of what is better for the country, including those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable, then I will certainly not vote for the Conservative party!
Which party is best for the economy? All parties seem to suggest that if the country followed their policies, the economy would improve. They cannot all be right, but the arguments will carry on, and it is hard for me, as an individual, to decide between them. If I make a decision according to what is best for the economy, it would have to be a head decision. But I do not want to support policies which only look after the economics and welfare of big business and those who are wealthy. I don’t believe in the theory of ‘trickle down ‘; it simply doesn’t work. The rich become richer and the poor become poorer.
It has become fashionable to blame all of our ills on ‘scroungers’ , immigrants, and the bankers. The solution has been to cut benefits from those who cannot, or will not work, whilst bailing out the banks which were largely responsible for the worldwide recession. Immigrants are blamed for queues at A&E departments, the housing shortage, etc, etc. Most parties say they want to ‘control immigration’. This is despite the proven benefit that immigrants are to the economy.
The disadvantaged and the vulnerable
If I vote with my heart, I cannot forgive the outgoing coalition for their attitude, and their actions, towards vulnerable members of our community. A friend of mine has written at length about how her daughter has been treated. It is totally impossible for her to get a job of any description, and yet she has been treated like a work-shy scrounger, and her benefits have been cut.
Many young people have left school, or even university, and cannot find employment which matches their skills. Many workers with zero-hour contracts, earning the minimum wage, (or even less), are still reliant on benefits to pay ever-increasing rents. (I was amazed to hear on the BBC News today that two-thirds of families in Britain received some benefits!) Ok, we should encourage people to work wherever possible, but we should not stigmatize those who find it difficult, or impossible, to find work.
Now that we are in the European Union, many people from former communist countries come to the United Kingdom to work. Who can blame them when the minimum wage in their own country is so much lower than our own (low) rate. We can conveniently forget the millions of British people who choose to live abroad to avoid tax, earn more money or simply enjoy a warmer climate. (According to The Foreign and Commonwealth Office there were 13.1 million British nationals living abroad in 2004–05!)
What sort of country do I want?
I want to live in a country which cares for the disadvantaged and the vulnerable here, and throughout the world.
- A country where child poverty is eliminated.
- A country which looks after the powerless.
- A country where there is employment for all who are capable.
- A country where the minimum wage is enough for the needs of the family without having to depend on state support.
- A country where food banks are only for a tiny minority who fall through cracks in the system.
- A country which welcomes strangers who travel here to avoid war, persecution and poverty and work, to provide for their families and improve the economy of this country.
- A country which shares its resources and prosperity with the rest of the world, and works to eliminate extreme poverty in all countries.
What does the Bible say?
If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.
Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.
You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. (Leviticus 25:35-38 NIV)
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. (Galatians 5:14 ESV)
The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. (Ezekiel 22:29 ESV)
So, who am I going to vote for?
That is between me and the ballot box! But I’ll give you a clue: it is not Conservative or UKIP. That is not just because of their policies, but because of their general attitude towards the poor, the disadvantaged and the powerless.
I will vote with my heart and I urge you to do the same. I will vote for the party which I think would best look after the needs and aspirations of every single citizen of this country.
But I certainly will vote! Remember, the only wasted vote is by somebody who doesn’t bother to vote at all.