Why as a Christian I am voting for Labour

This is the third in a series of guest posts, in which regular readers of this blog explain why, from a Christian perspective, they intend to vote for a particular political party—or, in one case, why they intend to spoil their ballot paper. In this one, Ali Campbell, who is Youth and Children’s Ministry Consultant at The Resource and lives in Haywards Heath, explains why he intends to vote Labour.

(You can find the case for the Liberal Democrats here, and the case for the Conservatives here.)

It was the spring of 1979 and I was Jim Callaghan. There was an election. I lost to Margaret Thatcher. I don’t think I have ever recovered.

I was only 10 at the time, but in my stump speech I thought I was convincing and spoke with passion (I was encouraged to thump my lectern when hammering home a point).  I might have warned too much of the danger of a Conservative Government and not spoken enough about Labour’s own policies . . . or, it could simply have been that when it came to the vote the boys in my school mostly voted for me and the girls mostly voted for Thatcher (I don’t remember the girl’s name). There were more girls in my school and I couldn’t do anything about that.

Flash forward to the mid 90s.  Since that piece of theatre at school (which I just saw as a bit of fun and a chance to ham it up in front of my whole school) I had gone through my teens and most of my twenties with just one flavour of Government—led, for most of that time, by my nemesis.

As I look back now, I’ve got to say I am staggered at the still widely held belief that a Conservative Government is a safe pair of hands when managing our hard earned taxes.  Give me a break (no, not a tax break). I’m not a corporation doing very nicely, nor am I among the wealthy elite – and yes, I’m sorry to say that you are deluded if you believe that £80,000 is a modest middle class income – if earning over twice what I earn means paying a bit more in tax . . . well, I’d gladly take your £80K and pay that tax for you (AND then some).

Nope – not a safe pair of hands.  To my mid 90s self,  the Conservatives were a disaster with public money.  I worked for a decade for the Ministry of Defence – oh, the stories I could tell you.  Well, I’m not Donald Trump, so I won’t reveal state secrets, but disastrous decisions led to various “support services” being sold off to incompetent household names.

By now it was 1996 and the nation was on the cusp of change.  Black Wednesday remained fresh in the minds of many when, er, under a Conservative Government (you know, that safe pair of hands with our money?) we crashed out of the ERM, sleaze surrounded a host of Tories and – irony of ironies – arguments and disagreements on Europe led to a Labour landslide!  Worth noting that the Tories – had their worst defeat since 1906, returning just 165 MPs (I don’t think, even in my worst nightmares, I envision that kind of loss being inflicted on Labour this time round).

Oh happy day!  Things could only get better – and, I think they did for a while – until bombast, spin and unpopular wars took the shine off.

The best thing though, about a new Government, is each one (regardless of their stripes) might come up with something genuinely excellent for the common good.  As a children’s and youth ministry worker that was, “Every Child Matters”, although it didn’t come in until 2003, its foundations were laid early on and during its lifetime it brought a fresh multi-disciplinary approach to working with children and young people that lasts to this day.  EVERY child matters, at least for me, is echoed in the Labour strap line for this election, “For the many, not the few.”

However, when leadership changes nationally (again, regardless of the stripes) incoming Government’s can behave like jealous children.  Here was something excellent, worth keeping, worth treasuring that was working and had brought cohesiveness across the disparate services for children, young people and families.  The coalition Government banned the use of the term “ECM” or “Every Child Matters”.  What petty nonsense.  They had a list of words and phrases that were used on May 10th and earlier and what those words and phrases should be from May 11th 2010.

The coalition, under the Tory ideology of “we must reduce the State and sell things” (although, using as cover the need for “austerity”) has – despite the early promises of George Osborn – done nothing LIKE balance the books!  Somehow, unbelievably, many remain convinced that a Conservative Government manages money well.  Yes, I’ll admit, Labour did continue to borrow in a brief time of plenty, but – they were not a disaster with the economy simply because Conservatives say so.

Since 2010 public sector debt has risen by just over 50% and, as a proportion of GDP, UK debt has risen from 62% in 2010 to 81%  in April 2015.  This is against a backdrop of a massive £18bn being cut from local authorities across England (something close to 20%).

I am a simple guy, but this makes no sense to me – the debt is not dropping it is growing, cuts under this Government are happening all over the place in an unsustainable way and yet, tax receipts are up to £168bn (2015/16) from £144bn in 2009/10 – that is a rise of 15%.  Yet, “cut”, “cut” “cut”, “public sector pay freezes and caps”.

As a youth worker, I see this most acutely in a decimated youth sector.  It’s all but gone.  Everything left is “targeted”.  Youth centres are being sold or hired out to bring in money for cash strapped councils.  Never mind, it only impacts young people.

As a Christian, I can’t countenance pouring this kind of scorn on the next generation.  “Strong and stable” does seem to me focused on the wealthy elite.  I’m not impressed by the Theresa May party, this is not a presidential election . . . as parliament was being closed in preparation for the election she actually said these words, “a vote for me makes me stronger”.  I had to play it back several times to check I’d heard it right!  I believe we have a fantastic parliamentary democracy – I don’t want to vote for an individual who doesn’t appear to have an ounce of humility – which holding great office requires – and doesn’t respect her own constituency MPs, never mind the country!

In the Church of England there is a fantastic little phrase that links nicely with “For the many, not the few”.  It is “The Common Good”.  This is about adding value for all in society.  I believe that this is what Labour is seeking to do.  Conservative ideology remains convinced of the rightness of Margaret Thatcher’s statement, “There is no such thing as society.”  If you read the transcript of the interview for Woman’s Own magazine (see it here) the individual takes preference over any idea of valuing those around us – we seek our own good, the good of those closest to us and then – if we have anything left over – we seek the good of others.  I don’t want a Government that tells me my personal ambition and aspiration trumps the needs of those around me.  In fact, this individualistic approach has led to the increasing gap between the rich and poor.  In a General Synod paper for the Church of England on the Common Good we find this quote,

Important Enlightenment virtues of autonomy, individuality and property rights have unleashed a monster that threatens to carry all before it … sweeping away not only democracy but also our values. (Jurgen Habermas)

A vote for me, makes me stronger, “I am strong and stable” . . . Theresa May has swallowed this whole.  Whereas I feel “For the many, not the few” resonates in my soul.

Again, from the synod paper on Common Good,

By seeking the welfare of all, the church expresses its conviction that God wants his creation to flourish (Jer. 29: 7). By living out Christ’s sacrifice for us – liturgically, in prayer and in selfless service to others – the church’s commitment to living as Christ lived is demonstrated in its pursuit of the common good of all.

I don’t have a chance of my vote making a difference in this election – but I will vote anyway.  Although I live in a sea of blue, with the grandson of Winston Churchill as my local MP – holding a 24,000 majority – my vote is for Labour, my vote is for something greater than me and mine, my vote is about the kind of country I want to live in, my vote is to set an example for my own children who can’t vote for themselves yet, my vote is for refugee children – many more of whom we should be receiving in to this country, my vote is for re-nationalisation of key services, my vote is for education, my vote is for the national health service.

My vote, as a Christian, is Labour.

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21 thoughts on “Why as a Christian I am voting for Labour”

  1. My vote as a Christian leader is Labour ! Why for all the above reasons, and in solidarity with the victims of Thatcherism, of blairisim (thinly veiled thatcherisim) and of the austerity governments (Thatcherism writ large)

    In scripture we are told to test the prophets I may change it to politicians and then I can clearly say we have tested the governments since 1979 and found them lacking. They have been radical but to my mind a radical evil. Let me explain Mrs May has said she believes in society and seeks to move her party away from undiluted Thatcherism to something that seems a little more central, that was until the manifesto came out and then we see that having fleeced the young with an extra tax (student loans) paid the well off more than they had before, striped the disabled of statutory help. Now we find the triple lock is to be sacrificed, the assists of the old stripped. Whilst the rich still get richer.

    Christ may have said the rich and the poor you will always have but he didn’t tell us to exploit the poor not the rich, it does however make sense to apply the old socialist (Marx) expression ” From each according to his (their) ability to each according to their need”

    In 1948 the radical Labour govt built on the Liberal reforms of 1904 (I think that’s the date but give or take) and produced the welfare state and the NHS with the promise of ” cradle to the grave care free at the point of need”. We live in a time of low interest rates it makes economic sense to borrow now for capital and infrastructure projects, I may also include in this for the rebuilding of our conventional forces which are now to small to meet our needs and hollowed out. The rest of the money can be raised and if you look at he proposed Labour budget there is in fact a surplus built in to deal with the unexpected.

    One last point people worry about Corby negotiating Brexit, he has won awards for his skill in negotiating and more to the point it would another person doing the negotiating.

  2. People seem to think strongly held and loudly expressed inflexible opinions make good negotiating tactics. They don’t of course.

  3. “I might have warned too much of the danger of a Conservative Government and not spoken enough about Labour’s own policies.”

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with this in your second paragraph. If nowhere else, here is the truth of why we’re in the situation we are. This is the reason we have had a Tory government for the last 7 years! It’s not that people trust the Tories, or necessarily believe that that the Conservatives serve the ‘common good’ (especially as it’s increasingly true that isn’t the case, see my lengthy comments on the previous article), it’s that the choice until now has been between a government that offers a largely painful and unwanted solution and an opposition that offers exactly nothing, nada, no alternative at all! I would have gladly voted Labour at either of the last two elections if I felt they had put forward a credible economic and social alternative to what the Conservatives offered, but they didn’t. Pragmatically, I was probably better off not voting at all.

    Under Corbyn things are very different, I’ll willingly concede he’s galvanized something resembling an opposition, and I respect him for that, even if I profoundly disagree with him on certain issues, but I remain unconvinced that Labour’s manifesto is going to solve them either. We need spending yes, but the more fundamental questions around things like Welfare and the NHS are not questions of money, but questions of purpose and responsibility.

    I would also like to repeat the accusation I leveled at the conservatives in the previous post, but simply swap the word Conservative for Labour:

    “which party, which candidate, has a general policy platform of supporting the institutions of family (marriage, household, personal stability)” .

    Well, not the Labour party! They have said nothing about the disaster of divorce rates in this country and nothing on abortion.. They have demonised fatherhood, deified working-motherhood (to the detriment of both) and put the power of the family and responsibility for children in the hands of the state at least as concretely as any other government before them. They are about as progressive as you can find on issues of sexuality, sexuality ethics and gender, especially promotion of such things in schools. There is no distinct policy difference on this vital issue between either them or Conservatives; they both represent the progressive left and while there are dissenters, they are the easily-silenced minority, not the main.”

    I will vote for the party that supports these things. Neither do.

  4. As a Father I haven’t felt demonised by ANY political party . . . As a parent I see the education system being crushed and returning to a two tier system where “aspiration for all” means “the few stand on the shoulders of the rest”. I see in “For the many” something that resonates . . . I hear what you are saying re: sexuality and gender, on some of those issues we would disagree . . . what I also see is Jesus, in the Gospels, spending more time condemning attitudes towards the poor and the outsider than he did on sexual ethics.

    • 1. Perhaps you’re not feeling demonised as a father personally, but I thought my point was broad enough. Masculinity is being increasingly threatened and put under pressure, consequently men have as many, if not more social pressures on them than women do. Men are more likely to commit suicide, more likely to overwork themselves, more likely to be stressed/depressed, more likely to die at work/do dangerous work, less likely to have custody, more likely to lose their homes, more likely to be assaulted, more likely to commit crime and more likely to do time in prison for said crimes; and all these at higher rates than they would have historically. All the while we are told society is getting fairer..

      I guess I’m not blaming a specific party for this, but rather in a society where this is a significant and growing problem I see no one addressing it. Is that fairer?

      Regardless, my point was not meant to be explicitly about men, but about how homogenising the genders has devalued the role of both and created unrealistic standards. The male-female relationship (as is often highlighted at length on this blog) is foundational not just to society, but humanity. It is good that the wider church, through ministries like CVM, seems to be addressing this need, but it is clear from all the statistical data than men are feeling increasingly isolated in society and it simply isn’t being addressed in government. It is true for women too, but at least this problem tends to be acknowledged.

      2. The education system has always been selective, it’s just that where before there was at least some selection by merit (under the grammar school system) it’s now selection by postcode! Your money (and house) are a far greater determinate for the quality of schooling you get than your academic ability, greater than it ever was a few decades ago, and this is largely a result of Labor education policy under Blair. Don’t overlook the impact of immigration on school provision either, that’s been a major influence and strain on our schools and is again largely the influence of Labour policy on the issue.

      The current crisis cannot be blamed on labor entirely though, this useless Conservative government has largely pretended the problem doesn’t exist and so doesn’t do anything about it either. I have grave misgivings about the current proposals for grammar schooling, but I am not against the idea in principle. If I could afford to send my children to a private school, I would.

      3. “what I also see is Jesus, in the Gospels, spending more time condemning attitudes towards the poor and the outsider than he did on sexual ethics.” You are right of course, and I don’t disagree, but the sexual ethics question is largely a symptom/reponse of/to the family/relationships question. A decline in the latter over many years has led to a surge in the former. The increased sexualisation of children and young people (a problem that, as a youth work professional like myself, you no doubt understand well) has been caused in large part by the instability of effective family and relational role-models for children in the home.

      What I didn’t say though, and should have, is thank you for the article Ali, it’s good, and I affirm your criticism of the Tory party, even if I do not share your solution.


      • Ian, can you please fix my italics? The word ‘some’ in point 2 was mean to be italics, as was the quotation at the start of point 3. I am not sure which tag I mis-labelled…

        Appreciated, mat

      • Thanks for your thoughtful reflections Mat – I think the place of men in society and the church is an interesting one, I know CVM is having an impact but, I struggle with their stereotypical portrayal of “what men need” as another example of the very thing you challenge “homogenisation” all men are not the same . . . maybe a discussion for another time.

        I think though, the individualisation has encouraged fragmentation – and yes, that has had an impact on family and our sense (or lack of) of community.

        • “I know CVM is having an impact but, I struggle with their stereotypical portrayal of “what men need” as another example of the very thing you challenge “homogenisation” all men are not the same . . . maybe a discussion for another time.”

          Indeed, I agree on all counts. They were just an easy and well-known example.

          I still find the argument made in the conservative article more compelling though, in terms of diagnosing the problem (not as a reason to vote for them). It’s not that people are being selfish -in the sense of having an ‘individualistic’ outlook- but precisely the opposite; that people are not taking individual responsibility seriously enough. I may not have understood what you meant though…

          It’s subjective, but I put it to you that people are intrinsically supportive of welfare because it absolves them of guilt, more than out of a genuine compassion for the poor. I think it’s a point worth unpacking, as it forms the subtext of a lot of this conversation.

          • It doesn’t absolve me from guilt – I’m paying for it with my taxes, and happy to. Does paying a tithe absolve people from living out their faith in society, “I’ve given my bit – job done.”?

  5. I’m not an economist but I remember a radio program in 2010 when someone who was said that the UK debt was so great (as a result of the banking crisis) that we would in effect be re-mortgaging the country for the next 5 years before we could even start to repay the interest hence why “UK debt has risen from 62% in 2010 to 81% in April 2015”. Is this true?

    • Broadly true. Because of the deficit (the gap between income and expenditure) in 2010 the debt (how much we have borrowed in total) was going to increase over the next five years whichever party was in power. There is a debate about whether cutting more slowly might have enabled the economy to grow faster, and so reduce the percentage deficit that way rather than by cutting spending. But to accuse the Conservative party of financial mismanagement because they inherited a large deficit, and so debt increased while they were in power, drastically decreases the credibility of the one making the claim.

  6. “the debt is not dropping it is growing”

    Ali, if you can’t tell the difference between the deficit and the debt, why should we trust you to understand anything else?

    The Conservatives inherited a deficit in 2010 that was accelerating. The economic recession led to a public sector income and expenditure position that was deeply unbalanced and the net borrowing requirement was running at a staggering 10% of GDP. 10%!!!! This meant that 1 in 4 pounds the Government spent was borrowed – imagine doing that with your household year after year.

    Since then it has come back down to under 2% of GDP (http://www.economicshelp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/net-borrowing-percent-gdp-600×471.png). Of course, if the deficit is still in existence then debt will increase, but we have finally reached a point where the debt burden as a % of GDP is beginning to fall.

    So actually, debt (as measured as % of GDP) *is* falling whereas under 13 years of Labour it rose year on year on year from the year 2000 (see http://www.economicshelp.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/uk-debt-since-95.png), reversing the best efforts of the Major Government to pay off the amounts owed.

    By all means criticise the May Government for its social spending plans, for its ill-conceived manifesto and for its un-costed programme. But the party that isn’t to be trusted to sort out the Government finances (which is the one key issue that affects us all moving into the future)? Not guilty.

  7. What a strange case for Labour – majoring on the deficit and debt! Oh yes, restrained public spending, that famous virtue of Labour governments through the years. I agree that the Tories have been pretty shocking, and increasingly so under May, at actually balancing the books, let alone paying off the debt. But are you seriously suggesting that Labour would be doing better? The reason it’s taking so long to eliminate the deficit (and thus stop the debt going up) is because Labour jacked it up so high – at least under the Tories it’s being travelling in the right downward direction. Labour have spent most of the last seven years moaning about austerity and demanding the government reduce the deficit even slower. If you’re going to attack the opposition for something, you really should follow that up with how your party will do better. But you can’t of course, because it won’t. What’s more, you don’t really want it to, because Labour opposes austerity.

    Having said this, I agree with your criticisms of Thatcherite Toryism as often destructively individualistic. This is the problem of the Conservative party being an awkward alliance of classical liberals/libertarians and actual conservatives.

    • Um, right . . . my point re : deficit (and it is hard in a short article to pack everything in one might want to) is repeated promises to balance the books by “such and such a date” have proved to be woefully inaccurate from the Tories who profess to be safe with the economy – having £20billion more in tax receipts + at least £20billion cuts (just from councils, never mind national departments) hasn’t stopped the Tories borrowing MORE (in cash terms) since 2010 than ALL Labour Governments combined – that is £670 Billion since 2010 compared with £500 Billion in their 33 years.

      Yes, I home in towards the end of my article on the “common good” and, in terms of policies and values I think I could have made more of that – what I didn’t mention, because I had the benefit of seeing manifestos which the previous writers didn’t, was that whether you believe it is doable or not, at least Labour have costed their plans – the Conservatives don’t need to bother us with things like their actual plans for how they will pay for it . . . they believe they are the party of Government and carry “entitlement” around in their DNA – they’ll cost it our later once they are voted back in . . .

      • You’re not presenting the deficit situation fairly. The Coalition/Tories have reduced the deficit every year they’ve been in office, fending off Labour protests against austerity. You can’t just get rid of a massive deficit like they inherited from Labour just like that. You have to reduce it slowly, and it is always painful – that money is people’s salaries. I agree with your criticism of them not doing it quick enough. But that criticism is totally at odds with endorsing the Labour party, which has opposed, and continues to oppose, austerity.

    • I think if you care to look the Labour Party has borrowed less in government over the last century than the last Tory administration

  8. The myth of “disappearing masculinity” is not the same as the reality of male suicide rates. Except for a brief period in the 20th century working class women always worked for money, usually outside the home. Male suicide rates are strongly linked to boys not being facilitated or taught to have the words to express their feelings, and to adult men feeling lonely and isolated, often because they weren’t allowed (by their male peers as much as by anyone else) to have a full emotional life and a vocabulary to match.

    None of this has anything to do with voting Labour.

    • Well, it was only a tangential reference, so fair enough. It was relevant to the point though; that governments who want a stable society should support the family, recognising it’s foundational importance, but neither party seems to want to do so.

  9. I still think 80000 is too low a figure to hit with tax rises. Hit the really “big earners” – footballers, celebrities, bankers, etc who have so much that higher taxes really will hardly be noticed if at all. And close all the tax evasion loopholes

    • I’m not sure… (Maybe Peter Ould can clarify?) that there are enough of those you describe as ‘big earners’.

      On the other hand £80k is twice and more the national average. I’m thinking it is a much larger group and guessing (depending what the tax increase was) it would raise far more. The issue of fairness would come in around the suddenness if changes.


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