Is there any point in voting in the election?

My social media feeds are full of contradictory views on the election, with different friends and acquaintances spelling out with vigour and passion why it is simply impossible to vote for Labour, the Conservatives and the LibDems in turn. I cannot vote for the SNP or DUP, and a vote for one of the smaller parties will have no effect in our crazy ‘first past the post’ system. (My only consolation is that all this proves I do not live in a social media bubble of confirming views.)

So why bother?

I repost here as a guest article a piece by my friend John Stevens. It caught my eye because he perfectly expressed the dilemma that I and many others feel—and yet at the end of it he calls us both to transcendent hope and prophetic engagement, which is surely the place that we ought to be.

As the General Election approaches, I feel increasingly depressed by the state of British politics. It seems to me we have an invidious choice to make between deeply flawed candidates advocating deeply flawed manifestos. In a starker way than in other recent elections it feels as if wisdom means choosing the least worst option from everything that is on the ballot. “None of the above” is never a real alternative, so it comes down to who will do least damage to the nation and the cause of the gospel within it. I begin to have much more empathy for the evangelicals in the US who voted for Trump. I might not have agreed with their calculation that he was better than Hillary, but I have much more understanding of the dilemma they faced.

I can’t see how an evangelical Christian could be an enthusiastic supporter of any of the mainland parties or candidates. They are all equally committed to the liberal progressive agenda, with only marginal differences on key social policy issues. Social conservatism is unrepresented. There is no party actively courting and seeking the “evangelical vote” because we are so small that we don’t matter, and to do so would be regarded as toxic.

The Labour Party seems to be led by a man who is deeply sincere in his convictions, but his Marxist convictions are, in my view, sincerely dangerous. To be weighed against this, more moderate Labour MPs and the safeguards of the British Constitution would probably constrain him in practice, as would any coalition partners. He may even be forced to stand aside to allow a workable coalition to form.

Boris Johnson is a man who seems to have no discernible deep convictions, save the pursuit of his own dream to be Prime Minister. He is a shape-shifter who adopts whatever opinion he calculates will be to his advantage. The fact that he wrote two articles ahead of the EU referendum, both equally passionately argued, one advocating Remain and one advocating Leave before joining the Vote Leave campaign tells you all you need to know. I have no idea whether he thinks he believes what he says or if he is more cynically calculating.

He is a proven liar whose word cannot be trusted, who avoids the most challenging scrutiny. Any other politician would have been destroyed by the Jenny Arcuri allegations, which are far worse than the expenses scandals that landed other MPs in prison. No charity trustee or leader of a public institution would get away with giving public money to someone without disclosing a patent personal conflict of interest.

The Liberal Democrats have behaved with hubris, and Jo Swinson seems to have over-reached herself and her lack of experience has been cruelty exposed. Their liberal progressivism verges on becoming illiberal and intolerant. There are MPs in all three parties who would make far better leaders than the present incumbents.

Living in England there are other parties you can’t vote for. The SNP will probably romp home is Scotland, but Nicola Sturgeon seems deeply intolerant of those who disagree with her. I feel sorry for voters in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein wins seats but won’t take them. The DUP wants Brexit but has never been able to suggest a practicable solution for the issues of identity and cross-border trade that leaving the EU will inevitably cause. I suspect that, whatever the outcome, the Union will not remain intact for much longer.

The question that most interests me most is, how has it come to this? It was not that long ago that the electorate was filled with hope and optimism belting out “things can only get better.” Today there is little enthusiasm, and many are simply hoping that things won’t get much worse.

The root cause is obviously the desperate spiritual state of our nation, and that people have turned away from trusting the Lord Jesus and living by his word. This ought to make us weep and pray for revival. From a more secular perspective a number of factors have contributed to the current political context, all of which are interrelated.

1. The swing voters are no longer the centrists

Austerity and Brexit have reshaped the political landscape, and the parties have had to respond to the rise of populism. Elections are always contested on the basis of the concerns of the likely swing voters who will determine the outcome, with the main parties competing to gain their support. For much of the last 30 years that has been a contest to win the vote of centrists, but now it is a battle to win the vote of the disaffected extremes.

Populism, especially the existential threat of UKIP and The Brexit Party to the two main parties, has meant that neither can realistically gain an overall majority without attracting their supporters. This has led Boris Johnson to turn the Tories into a committed Leave party with no room for dissent, and Jeremy Corbyn to try to maintain an “all things to all people” ambiguity on Brexit. Both are driven by fear of losing a core component of their vote and letting the other side in by default, rather than by a positive vision. Boris Johnson has sought to clothe himself in statist tax and spend policies, which are the very antithesis of the free trade economic liberalism that has animated the Tory Brexitiers. Are they using him or is he using them?

2. Centrist voters no longer join political parties   

Centrists might bewail the choice they face but, in the end,  this is the consequence of their own failure to participate in the political process. The main political parties used to be mass movements with large memberships. Over the last fifty years membership and participation has declined dramatically, so that the active members of the parties are drawn from the rank of activists and lobbyists.

The membership changes introduced by Ed Miliband allowed Momentum to orchestrate a de facto take-over of the party, by galvanising their devotees to join solely for the purpose of electing a Marxist leader. Those moderate MPs who nominated Corbyn just to allow a wider choice on the ballot must have spent the last 4 years ruing their foolishness. The composition of the Tory membership has changed simply because new members have not joined. The constituency association memberships have become older and more right-wing as a result.

Both parties have now moved to the direct election of their leaders by the membership, rather than by the body of MPs, with the result that the electorate is wildly unrepresentative of most of the people who lend their support to the party in public elections.

Centrists have behaved as if the end of history had arrived and there was no longer any need to bother about the messy and time-consuming business of politics, and that this could be safely left to others. They have miscalculated. I have never belonged to a political part and admit that I am as guilty as anyone. Healthy civic institutions, including political parties, require the participation of the body politic.

3. The main parties are no longer functioning as moderating entities

Politics parties have historically had the effect of mustering broad coalitions of the left or of the right, and therefore of moderating more extreme positions. The Labour Party has always had a racially socialist wing, but leaders such as Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have ploughed a less radical furrow, often attracting great hostility and accusations of treachery for their pains. When a radical leader has been appointed by one party, the other has generally responded by offering a comparatively moderate alternative. It is hard to remember that between 1979-1983 Margaret Thatcher had followed relatively centrist policies. The radical reforms only came later when she no longer felt the need to placate the “wets”.

The radicalisation of the party memberships, together with the direct election of leaders, has inevitably radicalised the parties as a whole. What is perhaps unique is that this has happened to both parties at the same time.

This radicalisation is seen in the half-hearted attempts of both parties to deal with racist attitudes amongst a minority of their hardcore supporters. The Labour Party has failed to deal with anti-Semitism, which is the form of racism that most afflicts those who hate global capitalism and imperialism. The Tory Party has failed to tackle Islamophobia, which is the form of racism that most afflicts those who have a nostalgia for a past white national identity.

In both cases I fear that the parties have a vested interest in not tackling the problem thoroughly because this would alienate some of the very people they need to attract and hold to give them a chance of victory. Sadly, some voters are racist, whether anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic or both. Populism has seduced parties into courting these voters as a matter of necessity.

Those who ally themselves with racists in order to scrape the majority they need to win are in danger of selling their souls. There can be no going back once the genie is out of the bottle. Moderate politics relies on both parties refusing to play that game for their own advantage. I fear that pragmatism and desperation to win have meant they have both succumbed. The ends can never justify the means.

4. Character is no longer seen as essential for leadership

A further factor that has ensured we have such an insidious choice is that our culture has rejected the importance of character as a pre-requisite for public office and service. The quality of a person’s private life is no longer seen as significant.

Boris Johnson has a well-documented chaotic private life, including failed marriages and multiple affairs. We still do not know how many children he acknowledges. Some of his lovers have had abortions. He has been proven to lie and has lost his job because of his lack of trustworthiness and integrity on several occasions. Many of his colleagues don’t trust him, but they cross their fingers because they hope he will be a winner. Yet these failings are dismissed as mere peccadillos, and to some are even attractive marks of his humanity. Jeremy Corbyn has a similar chequered personal history, as does Nigel Farage.

In the past there was institutionalised hypocrisy and cover-up of personal failings and infidelities (eg The Profumo Affair and John Major’s “Back to Basics” sleaze fiasco). But the uncritical acceptance of key character flaws, and in some instances their celebration as a qualification for popular support, means that we get the politicians we deserve.

We elect liars, and so they lie to us. We elect those who have shown they are untrustworthy in their words and promises, and so they break their promises to us. We give them the permission to be who they are because we put them into office regardless. We can hardly complain.

5. The electorate doesn’t want to face reality

Politics has become the ultimate consumer activity. We, the voters, are the market, and so the politicians have to offer us what we say we want—preferably for free because it will be paid for by someone else. Parties have become adept at marketing and advertising strategies, appealing to different segments of the electorate with different messages, stoking their personal fears and promising to indulge their personal agendas. It is the political equivalent of the targeted marketing made possible by supermarket loyalty cards. In many cases what we want is not even possible. There are limited resources and hard choices must be made. Cultural change and economic transformation are long term not short term.

The main parties are all offering massive increases in spending and acting as if the financial crash did not happen. They pretend that austerity was not forced upon us by economic circumstances and the pressure of global financial markets. The most respected independent bodies say that none of their figures add up.

The changed battleground for this election is said to be a result of disillusionment with the old politics. I fear that, whoever wins, there will be far greater disillusionment to come. Buyer’s regret is almost inevitable, as when the payment holiday on a credit purchase ends and you have to start paying back.

Many of the promises being made are unaffordable, unachievable or unlikely to deliver the claimed benefits (rail re-nationalisation for example). The main parties are playing the populist game, but the anger that will follow their failure to deliver may cause something far worse to emerge.

It is equally possible that a cold dose of reality will return politics to the previous norm, as is happening in other countries that have experimented with populism, as radical politicians are forced to moderate in office by the harsh facts of life and international money markets. We may all wake up with a populist hangover and wish we had never tried it.

The root problem is that we do not like to hear too much reality, nor to have to make hard choices. Boris Johnson once promised that on Europe he was in favour of having cake and eating it, which is what most of us want in every area of life. Yet good leadership must speak the truth and explain the real options. If either side chooses to break this convention with fantasy promises, the other side if forced to reply in kind. It precipitates an arms race of false hope, which will ultimately bankrupt everyone.

Churches beware!

The dynamics that have produced this choice at the election have the potential to affect any community organisation, including the church. If we fail participate, ally ourselves with those with unacceptable views for pragmatic reasons, forget that character rather than just charisma or competence is essential for leadership, and prefer to be told what we want to hear rather than to be told be told the truth, we have only ourselves to blame if our institutional culture is compromised and undermined.

I have no idea who will win this election. I will endeavour to choose how to exercise my vote based on the common goods of civic peace and the protection of religious liberty and gospel freedom—as these seem to me to be Biblical priorities. Whomever I vote for, I will do so with a measure of reservation and regret that there was not a choice that is more fully aligned with my convictions. I will have relatively low expectations and be thankful if they exceed them.

There are many good resources to help Christians make their choice. I would recommend the assessments produced by Christian Concern,  The Christian Institute, CARE, and the Evangelical Alliance . No matter what choice you make, have the humility to realise that other brothers and sisters will exercise their wisdom in a different way.

It would be easy to be discouraged, but despite all the above I don’t want to be. This election is hyped as crucial to determine the future of the nation, but that is nonsense. Christians, of all people, know that our hope is not to be placed in politicians. Jesus is risen, ascended and ruling at God’s right hand. He holds the nations, including our own, in his hand, and to him they are a drop in a bucket (Is 40.15).

Whatever happens, the Bible assures us that God is working out his good purpose to bring about the reconciliation of all things under Christ. In this age that might mean our nation experiencing costly suffering, painful refining or even being handed over to ever escalating wickedness—or it might not.

This perspective ought to liberate us to pray, decide and cast our vote without angst. The future does not rest on our choice. If we prayerfully apply wisdom and make a choice with good conscience, we can leave the result to God. He is sovereign and I am not—which is good news.

I might want “none of the above”—but I can rest confident in the rule of the one who bears the name that is above all names, and whose ultimate victory is, despite all the current opinion polls to the contrary, a forgone conclusion.

John Stevens studied law at Cambridge and lecturer at the University of Birmingham before becoming pastor of City Evangelical Church, Birmingham. Since 2010 he has been National Director of the Federation of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC).

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42 thoughts on “Is there any point in voting in the election?”

  1. Well worth reading this.. though I don’t agree with everything it offers a serious Christian analysis of where and how we have got to the current political chaos which the election will not solve. What’s missing I think as in much Christian comment is the need and mechanism for Christians and churches to be involved in politics locally, nationally and globally in ordinary time between elections. We put too much faith in government and need to be involved more in civil society, in social movements like XR, in local community organising with groups like Citizens UK, as well as in political parties.

  2. An excellent analysis, thank you.

    There are however a few minor points, and the conclusion, that I disagree with:

    ‘Elections are always contested on the basis of the concerns of the likely swing voters’

    This in part true. But perhaps related is that they are contested based on the concerns of the people who vote. As the elderly are more likely to vote than the young, there has been for many years a swing in policies towards pensioners and away from youth. This has perhaps led to increased disaffection amongst the young and reduced still further how many vote, leading to a vicious cycle of short term thinking among politicians.

    ‘The composition of the Tory membership has changed simply because new members have not joined’

    This is not true. There has been a well-documented massive influx of new members in the last year encouraged by pro-leave groups, which has moved the position of the membership away from the centre and led to deselection campaigns for MPs considered not Brexity enough.

    ‘Jeremy Corbyn has a similar chequered personal history’

    I don’t think you can describe the two personal histories are ‘similarly chequered’. He also has made mistakes, but I think they are mostly in the past. Johnson’s are on a whole different scale, and I am especially concerned in how he deals with, even celebrates, them.

    ‘exercise my vote based on the common goods of civic peace and the protection of religious liberty and gospel freedom—as these seem to me to be Biblical priorities’

    I don’t think there is not much in the Bible on electing political leaders, and I don’t actually see any of these as being what to look for in leaders and parties (much as they are good things in themselves). It also seems to go against your point 4.

    What I see in the Bible are calls for character, for integrity, to be faithful, blameless, self-controlled, honest, upright, to love what is good and be worthy of respect. These are the prime factors in choosing which party and which candidate I will vote for.

    • I think you are right about Conservative party membership. The current system for both major parties is deeply flawed, with no protection against entryism, and this has led to each of them shifting dramatically to the extreme positions.

    • I don’t think you can describe the two personal histories are ‘similarly chequered’.

      That’s true. Johnson is a sexually incontinent libertine, but that’s hardly in the same league, evil-wise, as being an active supporter of the IRA.

      • Another thing for which you have no evidence of course S – apart from the Daily Mail.
        It’s well known that Corbyn met with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams regularly at the height of the Troubles in the 1980s. This was considered controversial at the time, although there was nothing illegal in the meetings and Mr Corbyn consistently said he maintained links with Sinn Fein to work for a resolution to the armed conflict.

        It is also known, however, that the British government maintained contact to the IRA leadership through a secret back channel for much of this period too. So please be careful about double standards.

        • Another thing for which you have no evidence of course

          He invited IRA murderers to the Palace of Westminster just after they tried to asassinate the Prime Minister in Brighton.

          The magazine he edited published article praising the bombing and saying that ‘Britain never listens until it’s bombed into it’.

          He was arrested at a demonstration in support of one of the bombers.

          He attended and spoke at ‘Brits Out’ rallies.

          And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He supported the IRA. He supported their goals and he approved of their methods.

          There can be no doubt; the evidence is there for all to see.

          It’s not like he ever made a secret of his support for the IRA.

  3. “I suspect that, whatever the outcome, the Union will not remain intact for much longer.”

    I doubt it. When the Scots were given their referendum, they voted to remain part of the UK knowing full well there was likely to be an in/out EU referendum within a couple of years – Cameron promised as such long before the Scottish referendum. So the SNP etc need to respect the vote of the Scottish people which was viewed as a ‘once in a lifetime’ vote. They cant demand another vote within 4 or 5 years just because the EU ref didnt go the way they wanted, and Westminster shouldnt give it to them.

    As for NI, I see little evidence there is an appetite for NI to join Ireland, even if it would make Brexit easier.

    “Many of the promises being made are unaffordable, unachievable or unlikely to deliver the claimed benefits (rail re-nationalisation for example).”

    In reality you just dont know that. There is nothing wrong with borrowing money when interest rates are low. We do that all the time with our mortgages. When I see how much profit the likes of BT now makes (£10 billion in a single year) and the shambles of some of the railway companies, it does make me think that re-nationalisation of some industries would be good for the country, with no share-holders to pay.

    Final point, sadly none of the parties have spelled out a policy on social care, despite Boris’ promises. I cannot help believe this is yet another failed private enterprise which used to be done by the public sector. From personal experience, perhaps it is time to revert back so that families are not having to pay exorbitant weekly fees of £1000 or more, paid for mostly by a general tax increase. If this issue was rectified, the problem of hospital beds would largely disappear. But I wont hold my breath.


    • “They cant demand another vote within 4 or 5 years just because the EU ref didnt go the way they wanted, and Westminster shouldnt give it to them.”

      Of course they can: the SNP put this exact scenario in their 2016 manifesto, producing a new mandate; in 2014, even Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the Tories were unlikely to get a majority; and the once in a generation line isn’t politically, let alone legally, binding. Even if it were, Scottish voters were also promised that they’d keep their E.U. citizenship if they voted No. Either both are binding, or neither are.

      No only would Westminster attempting to veto a new referendum be an affront to the Scottish sovereignty recognized in the Claim of Right (which Westminster itself affirmed in 2018), it’d lead in short order to alternative means of declaring independence, such as dozens of by-elections followed by a constitutional convention.

      If another referendum’s held, it’ll put the question to bed for another decade or so. Realistically, it’s the best that can be hoped for.

      • If another referendum’s held, it’ll put the question to bed for another decade or so

        That’s what they said about the last one, but the day afterwards the SNP started working for a second.

        The day after losing a second, they’ll start working for a third. And a third, and a fourth, and a fifth.

        • But the moment people vote the ‘right’ way, that will be the end of the process. It is the same with euthanasia. On things like abortion the plea goes out that all dominions ought to be equal which of course ”means” equal to the most permissive. They obviously think we are stupid and will not notice all this.

        • 2014 to early 2020s is either gonna be a decade, or just under. For comparison, the Good Friday Agreement puts the gap between border polls at seven years.

          Of course the SNP will continue to campaign, they support independence. And if it gets over the line, supporters of reunification with England will be free to campaign for that.

          If there’s truly no call for it in Scotland, the unionist parties will gain a majority. What matters most is that it’s in Scotland’s hands.

          • 2014 to early 2020s is either gonna be a decade, or just under

            Yes, but you said the question would be ‘put to bed’. The question hasn’t been ‘put to bed’ since 2015, it’s been the single biggest issue in Scottish politics.

            The first referendum put the issue to bed not for a ‘decade or so’ but for less than twenty-four hours, because that’s how long it took for the SNP to start banging on about how they were going to have a second as soon as they could have a chance of winning it, and everything they have done since has been towards that end (and as a result Scotland’s health, education, and policing are a total mess).

            The same thing would obviously happen after a second referendum, and a third, and so on.

            The only solution is for the population of Scotland to realise this and stop voting for the SNP.

          • Sorry, 2014. I can’t keep all these votes straight in my head.

            Imagine going two years without a major consitutional-defining vote in the UK. Wouldn’t it be lovely?

  4. The “Marxist/dangerous” epithet is a bit silly, picked up from newspapers run by people in tax havens. Nationalisation is a normal policy in advanced democratic socialist economies and the Conservatives have sugared their budgets for decades selling off public assets. The evangelical problem is that we have depoliticized the Gospel when Jesus takes on the leaders of his age on nearly every page of the Gospels. The King of Kings, Messiah, Lamb on the Throne, King of the Jews, Son of God cannot but be also political, but we have been frightened out of recognizing this. Time to change.

    • I think I’d agree with you; and someone made the same comment on John’s original post. I left it in, because that was (and is?) John’s view, so he would need to defend it himself.

      It is striking that Labour’s policy on economics, derided as ‘Marxist’, would take us pretty close to Germany’s position…

      • I’m relying on other people’s expertise here, but my understanding is that while the comparison with likes of Germany is valid for the amount of state expenditure as % of GDP, there is a significant difference when it comes to the sources of tax take. Labour’s plans assume they can achieve a much higher take from the wealthiest and corporations than I understand is the case in the comparator European countries. I am not clear what, if any, real world evidence there is to support this proposition.

  5. Please add, from a more secular perspective ….
    6. The First-past-the-Post voting system is not fit for purpose. In 2011 we had a referendum on using the Alternative Vote system, which was lost heavily. But the proposed system, where each elector is allowed to rank (for example), Green, Plaid Cymru, LibDem, Conservative, Labour, Brexit Party, UKIP, in a 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 sequence, would be infinitely fairer: tactical voting is all but eliminated, and voters are assured that their preferences count. Further, it would encourage moderate politicians of all hues to stand and fight for what they believe in.

    The arguments of Bishop Colin Buchanan on this point, published twenty years ago in “Is the Church of England biblical?” are of timeless value.

    • Wrong Colin Buchanan book. Please read above as: … published .. in “Taking the Long View” (Church House Publishing, 2006.)

    • The single transferable vote system used in Ireland, Malta and the Australian Senate would be fairer still, reflecting the national vote share while maintaining a constituency link with multiple-member districts. The 2011 referendum was probably used as a proxy to punish the Liberal Democrats for their coalition with the Conservatives, and in any case, reflects only the British people’s view of that particular system, at that particular time.

      Around the world (most recently in Canada) FPTP is manifestly failing in its claim to deliver strong majority government, a claim that’s in any case undemocratic on its face, and adduced after-the-fact (it originated long before anyone had heard of political parties). Only in the USA and a handful of island states does it serve its original purpose of delivering independent representatives of geographical districts. Everywhere else, it’s become the tool of parties, and its time has come.

  6. This article seems to imply that Jeremy Corbyn feels the need to court anti-Semitic elements for him to win. It seems more accurate to me to say that Corbyn is ananti-Semitic element. This article: is very good on the ‘Labour Anti-Semitisms v Tory Islamaphobia issue’

    Johnson and Corbyn are both unfit to lead this country. And neither will lead this country. However, Corbyn could lead to anti-Semites being emboldened and see a marked increase in anti-Zionist’ or ‘Israel’ violence. In contrast, Johnson will lead to people thinking he did a decent job, or a bad job depending. Neither of them are the next Churchill, Thatcher or Attlee. Children won’t grow up wanting to be Johnson.

    If the cheating Major or the dodgy Blair weren’t considered the big beasts to whom will all supposed to bow down to, then maybe the poor example of Johnson would matter to me more. But, frankly, I would rather people associate cheating with the buffoon Boris than the ‘moderate’ Major; and since Corbyn does have a rotten personal history himself it isn’t endorsing a sinner over a saint.

    I don’t think we can vote on moral uprightness. May was as morally upright as any politician can be, but she simply wasn’t very good. The country got angrier, frustrations rose and tensions were high. Johnson hasn’t been PM long but the improved palpable.

    In terms of policies, in some ways he’ll make things better in most ways he’s simply not as bad as his opponents (including Swinson). In terms of the Union for all the claims of Johnson being ‘little England’, in fact the Tories look to do better in Wales than they’ve done in a century and their performance in Scotland is not half bad. Boris’ Brexit deals looks like it’d be v.good for the NI economy and help keep the peace (but not being blackmailed by nationalist threats) which, in the long run, can only be good for the continuation of the status quo.

    Ultimately, I think it is very good that the British people can be listened to for once. Why be a democracy if its simply two Oxford-London-Politics that differ simply in the hue of their rosette? This country has been an anti-EU country for decades, hence every party taking it in turns to offer some sort of referendum at every election until 2017 and the point of democracy is that instead of getting angry one votes, but those votes have to mean something. It seems crazy to me that Johnson (who is Oxford-London-Politics (although Classics not PPE)) and a constant liberal is considered extreme simply because he is willing to acknowledge that the niqab does look odd (although he respects their right to wear it, which is more than you can say for the countries of the EU) and that he wants to just-about deliver on the 2017 referendum.

    • Hi Kyle,

      you said “this country has been an anti-EU country for decades”. I think to most observers, the result of the referendum was a surprise and, or course, the margin was narrow. Then one needs to take account of the anti-EU propoganda put forward by media outlets. At least a part of anti-EU sentiment was generated by false claims about the EU. To me the most significant demographic divide shown in the voting patterns was that young people voted to remain by a significant majority. It was old people who voted leave (although those who actually fought in WW2 seem to have been remainers). Those old people have set the country on a course which the young will have to live with for decades. The old have eaten sour grapes and young people’s teeth have been set on edge.

      (Minor point to Ian: it is not clear at the top that this is a guest post.)

      • I’m a young person myself – or at least I was three years ago – and I disagree with you.

        Regardless, its silly to say that since you disagree with the decision of the wise then that counts as your false psalm. Should the Union be destroyed, Corbyn be made Prime Minister, and our churches turned to organic hemp farms (exaggerating a little on third one) since that is the desire of the young people and anything else would be stealing their futures?

        Young people did not vote to remain by a significantly majority. Had that happened, Remain would have won. What they did by a significant majority was to trust the wiser and to leave it in their hands. Yes, to most young people the EU means no roaming fees for their mobile phones, but most young people knew that there was something more to it than that. So they didn’t vote. So they put their trust in those that did vote.

        The idea that we ought to trust the young people, but pensioners and the generally over 50 vote (who do remember were voting out of love for their children and grandchildren) were manipulated by the media into false consciousness (as the radicals say) is again rather silly. There are exaggerations and not-quite-truths believed by the leave side, but that is true for any movement. It isn’t a sufficient reason to dismiss it. Indeed everything is more complicated than a slogan, so the fact that the EU issues are more complicated than a slogan tells us nothing. That which you call a false claim will generally simply be a more complicated claim (although sometimes, the rebuttal simply seems to be ‘Tony Blair agreed to it, ha ha’).

        For example here: deals with the claim that the European Parliament is much more expensive than the Houses of Parliament is ‘rebutted’ by the fact that they’re incomparable since the EU Parliament has 23 different languages. But, if one is willing to listen and empathise, one realises that that is no rebuttal at all since most people would be happy for our laws to be made by a body without twenty three official languages.

        In general, it is the people who have lived who would be least vulnerable to propaganda (from The Guardian, or just journalist from a general self-serving bubble) than young people. When we see that there is a disparity between young and old then we cannot rule out propaganda as an answer (although I think the answer is simply that the sort of person more likely to vote when young, and the person who celebrates the EU are the same people) but it isn’t the old who are the ones vulnerable to it.

        Older people who have lived life, seen reality and were voting for the future outvoted people looking to showoff to the opposite (or same) sex about how good they were. That, it seems to me, was a very good thing.

      • The issue about whether old people are ipso facto wiser is an interesting one.

        (1) One would hope that they are.

        (2) They are certainly more experienced.

        (3) If they are not wiser or more to be listened to, then it’s downhill all the way from now on for the much-vaunted young, who will soon themselves be the old.

        (4) There are times when people say that the young are the ones who ought really to be consulted, whose vote especially matters, without explaining why. They will have more years to live with the consequences – is one reason.

        (5) Plus there could be a sense that our country is in its lawmaking post-1967 rather immature and adolescent, and is unusual historically in not trusting the elders (in terms of age) also to be the main decision makers. Maybe it is not a coincidence that this is the same country that packs its old off to old people’s homes with greater readiness than some cultures that do value their elders as an integral part of the family.

        • It is arguable, however, that in this election and at this time in the history of the world, young people have a lot more at stake than in previous times. This is owing to the climate crisis, and the fact that (older) leaders are simply not doing what is necessary to secure a future for their children & grandchildren.

  7. Interesting that on visiting my local timber merchant yesterday the “lad” cutting my wood actually brought the election up. He didn’t like any party leader but would vote Labour to try and balance things out a bit. (my summary).

    In church on Sunday one of the congregation said that he was voting Labour (still not liking any party leader) because moving between the two parties results in moderating what either of them would achieve. It surprised me a tad aside have put him more in the Conservative camp.

  8. The article seems to assume that centrist policies are preferable – presumably because they are seen as more ‘biblical’ (although I may be putting words into the author’s mouth here).

    It does, however, raise the question (for me, at least) of whether or not that is true? I’m not sure that Jesus would have been described as centrist by the politicians of his day.

      • If Jesus did believe in immanent eschatology, he’d have been amazed that the Earth was still here. If he didn’t, he’d have likely found a modern representative democracy from which faith has been largely baished to be alien, and our insistence on universal suffrage bewildering (surely patriarchs speak for their families, and priests must be represented separately, and so on). That being so, guessing how he’d have interfaced with modern politics is of … limited usefulness.

  9. I’ve lived an adult life both out of the EEC/Ec and in it, through thick and thin, as an atheist, through Conservatives, Labour, Conservatives and Thatcherism, rampant Trades Unionism, (was a Union member) Collective Bargaining, 3 day working week, miners strike, 15% interest rates, viscerally and economically Labour, but no more.
    I’ve not encountered anything like the present, extremism all around, with fantasy and grievance politics at the centre.
    And Ian, your tweets and retweets are largely lopsided on this. Perhaps some may see it as extreme.
    I’ve worked in management in the NHS and the bane of much of it is Party politics and professional internal politics and while Conservatives may have introduced the market policies, they were progressed by New Labour adopting a policy of free at point of need: providers could be outsourced from the NHS.
    Labour brought in a new management structure and birthed new organisations (Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), Strategic Health Authorities). Conservatives closed down PCT’s replaced by a new organisations- Clinical Commissioning Groups). All of this reorganisation in the face of evidence that reorganisations don’t the objectives and all in the space of a decade or more, with every new Secretary of State for health seeking to make changes, to put their own stamp of things.
    A systemic casualty in all of this is medium and long term planning, particularly in workforce planning. It is noteworthy that although GP’s are trained in the NHS, they are independent contractors, not employees, strictly speaking are outwith the NHS, paid from public monies. The public isn’t really ready for a grown up debate and the politicians peddle the same old same old as they are not willing to take it on.
    And then there is the separation between social services and the NHS and movement between the two and differing governance and susceptibility to “planning by decibels”, whoever shouts (tweets of today) the loudest gets the most. And the ever relevant adage that we want a Rolls Royce service for the price of a Mini constantly vies for attention.
    The whole Brexit debacle has undermined my view of Parliamentary Sovereignty within the representative parliamentary party system in the UK. Only if there is clear majority Government is there any possibility of it being restored.
    But we do indeed get the government we, as a culture, deserve, as a sign of the times.

  10. Broadly in agreement with this analysis.

    Not sure that islamophobia is a form of racism though. Some muslims are white. The fear of Islam for many is rooted in the observable phenomenon that people around the world keep blowing themselves up in crowds or running amok with knives, shouting ‘allahu akbar’ as they do so.

  11. I agree with Robert that to describe Jeremy Corbyn’s personal life as “similarly chequered” to Boris Johnson’s is unfair.
    There is a lot that is good in this article, but I always find it rather annoying when Christians think the only way to approach an election is to agonise each time. There are those of us who are already committed (not irrevocably, not uncritically) to one or other party, and indeed are happy to campaign for them, knowing that no party is perfect, just as no church is. As the OP says, Christians need to get involved. And yes, also pray for repentance and forgiveness on behalf of ourselves and our nation.

    • Mainly because they don’t have the chance either to form a Government or to hold the balance of power. Under our FPTP, a vote for them outside of Brighton counts for nothing, sadly.

    • I just wish the Green Party would be the Green Party. I would vote for them like a shot.

      Why do they have to add on all the unthought-through ideological progressive (so called ) nonsense, which has no connection to Green?

        • The issue about whether old people are ipso facto wiser is an interesting one.

          (1) One would hope that they are.

          (2) They are certainly more experienced.

          (3) If they are not wiser or more to be listened to, then it’s downhill all the way from now on for the much-vaunted young, who will soon themselves be the old.

          (4) There are times when people say that the young are the ones who ought really to be consulted, whose vote especially matters, without explaining why. They will have more years to live with the consequences – is one reason.

          (5) Plus there could be a sense that our country is in its lawmaking post-1967 rather immature and adolescent, and is unusual historically in not trusting the elders (in terms of age) also to be the main decision makers. Maybe it is not a coincidence that this is the same country that packs its old off to old people’s homes with greater readiness than some cultures that do value their elders as an integral part of the family.

  12. Thanks this Ian. It’s a good article although not without its weaknesses as others have pointed out. I must confess, I have been most disappointed with the Lib Dems, whose relationship to truth feels a bit like Tory-lite. Perhaps, as you say, this indicates Jo Swinson’s lack of experience. I expected the assault on truth that we have suffered from the Conservatives as that is in keeping with the party they seem to have become. I’m not surprised by Labour’s approach either although they continue to be hampered by their leader. Interestingly though, independent analysis of spending plans seem to suggest that if we factor in the likely economic effect of Johnson’s Brexit plan, the spending gap is the Conservative manifesto is larger than in Labour’s! On this measure, the Lib Dems come across as the most prudent fiscally.

    When he resigned, Nick Boles spoke about how both major parties are in thrall to different extremist ideologies and I think he is correct. I hadn’t noticed until now how that may be reflected in the swing vote moving away from the centre.

    Although it may well be out of the scope of the article, any discussion on ‘the state we are in’ politically should (in my opinion) consider the role of the press. I concluded over a decade ago that the press was one of the greatest threats to the health of the nation and I feel that more than ever. It increasingly feels like the written press (and the headline writers in particular) are more concerned with the interests of their owners. Even the BBC is not above criticism, especially in their tendency to uncritically pass on whatever the Conservatives tell them; their supposed need for balance means any attempt to rigorously challenge politicians to defend their words and actions has long gone. Andrew Neill is one of few exceptions, and we all know what happened there. The result is that truth is replaced by bluster.

    When the media and politicians seem to speak with a single voice I become very worried. Of course, now that is compounded by the role of social media and by the fact that we simply do not know who funds a large chunk of the propaganda that hits our screens [the figures I have seen courtesy of the FT suggest that over a third of the spend on political advertising on Facebook over the past couple of months comes from unknown sources. Russian interference anyone? There are forces out there whose interests are served by making the British political system as chaotic as possible.

    Anyway, I fully expect to wake up tomorrow in a post-truth nation.


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