At the outset of this series, I do want to make a few points. Firstly, this whole set of posts represents merely my own point of view. I would not want you to assume that everyone in the local church I attend agrees with, or should agree with, what I am about to say. Nor would I want you to think that anything I say implies that all Christians should hold to these opinions. In the UK we have a long history of Christians supporting and being involved in all the major political parties, and I strongly believe that should continue.
Finally, these posts should not be interpreted as a wholesale endorsement of the Conservative party. I am not a member of the party, nor a lifelong Conservative voter. I have voted LibDem before as a protest vote, and it is very possible I voted Labour when Tony Blair entered Downing Street (believe it or not, I cannot remember!) Certainly, I was glad when Blair won and supported many of his policies, such as for example giving the Bank of England the responsibility to set interest rates, which was considered a brave and radical step at the time. If I follow through on my plans to write a little more about politics, I will be a critical friend of the Conservatives, not a fawning “right-wing blogger.”
It is very unlike me to make public my intention on how to vote. Somehow it is almost “unBritish.” So far in this campaign I have only spoken with two of my friends about how I or they will vote. I do not know how the other leaders at Jubilee will vote. In fact, I don’t think I know for sure how any of my social circle will vote. So it is at least possible that this public endorsement of one party, at least for this election, will cause me to become a pariah! Actually, that is not the case, as for most British people our political views are held very lightly and it is very easy to be friends with people who support other parties.
It should already be obvious to my US readers from this post that UK Christians are far from united in their political views. Not for us a reflex vote in favor of the most Conservative, right-wing party. There is a strong history in the UK of Christian support for the Labour movement, and Liberal Democrats. This is because of a desire for fairness, and a support of the rights of workers not to be exploited or treated almost like slaves. Much good was done through the early union movement. We believe as Christians that we should help the poor. Many would argue that historically that Labour offered the best policies to support the marginalized in our society.
Social justice is, however, the first major reason why I am voting Conservative this time round. Brown has repeatedly seemed to overlook the needs of the poorest in our society. There was the nonsense of abolishing the lowest rate of tax, leading to a tax rise for the poorest working people. That alone is enough to torpedo Brown’s right to say he is building a fairer society. But Brown has also presided over a system that has increased the perverse incentives on people not to marry, not to work, and to remain on sick leave.
The Conservative policy on social justice in this election has benefited from input given to it by a friend of mine, Philippa Stroud, who is standing as a Conservative candidate in Sutton and Cheam. Philippa is also the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice (http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk) and Director of the Conservative’s Social Justice policy group. New Conservative policies as a direct result focus on finding ways to lift people out of poverty and into productive lifestyles in society wherever possible. Just for one example, there is a renewed commitment to providing residential rehab for drug and alcohol addicts to help them beat their problems. This is such an important issue for our society as the last few years has seen a massive reduction in the availability of these facilities which can quite literally save a life, and can prevent the collapse of a whole family. We have to work towards building society and helping people take responsibility for the wellbeing of others. The Conservatives also seem to be committed to providing better opportunities for church and other community groups to get involved in service provision, and encouraging engagement in the community by individuals.
In addition, ending the post-code lottery and arbitrary national refusal to fund some important new medications is also a vital social justice in my opinion. The Conservatives promise to allow access to cancer medications for all patients when their doctor thinks they will be helped by them. They are also the only party to guarantee the NHS will be saved from the cuts to public expenditure that are inevitably coming whoever we vote in.
Thus social justice is one reason I am voting Conservative on this occasion, and it is perhaps one reason why some Christians would previously have struggled with such a decision. I will speak about more reasons later in the week.