Saturday, 18 April 2015

What becomes of the disenfranchised?

On May 7th  2015, our country will go to the polls to elect our next government. As I have related in a previous post [1], thanks to my Grandfather, I have always considered it important to exercise my democratic right to vote. The Catechism of the Catholic Church impresses upon the faithful the importance of making informed decisions with regards to politics where it suggests "by reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will... It pertains to them in a special way so to illuminate and order all temporal things with which they are closely associated that these may always be effected and grow according to Christ and maybe to the glory of the Creator and Redeemer." [2]

As with most major elections, the Bishops Conference of England and Wales have released a letter [3] which it believes highlights the most pressing issues for Catholics. Though I  have found some previous letters poorly veiled attempts to support a particular party (Tony Blair's New Labour for example) or lacking in a fully Catholic vision, this year I think it's balanced, helpful and prescient. The headings alone match most of my concerns for this election: Respecting life, Supporting marriage and family life; alleviating poverty, Educating for the good of all, Building communities, Caring for the world.

Despite my best intentions to vote in a positive manner I still feel disenfranchised by the British political system. If anything, the feelings of alienation from and ambivalence towards the prevailing culture have worsened since the European elections as the political classes continue to enact policies and make decisions which undermine the moral fabric of society, run contrary to social justice and threaten religious freedom. The rejection of the Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill, derailed because abortion is a seemingly untouchable bastion of the existing liberal consensus, revealed to me the truly duplicitous nature of British politics. The Bill would not have altered the law but clarified that the sex of a child could not be a contributing factor to any of the criteria required for a an abortion. Among the spurious reasons given for voting against the Bill, MPs suggested that it would risk criminalising women who were being pressured to seek a sex selective abortion and that the terminology conferred "personhood on the foetus" even though the term "baby" is already present in the existing legislation. So called feminists should be particularly ashamed of their failure to vote for the Bill as female children are disproportionately affected by the issue. Is abortion really the lynch pin for all that "feminists" hope to achieve? 

I believe that the primary responsibilities of government are to promote virtue and enact policies which promote the cohesion and stability of society. Virtue is most effectively encouraged in the family and for this reason, society should be built upon family and families should be placed at the center of governmental strategy. This does not mean that individuals have no place in society, that their voices should remain unheard or that they should not be cared for - on the contrary, they will be better served by a society in which respecting individuals is part of the moral and social fabric. Society has a duty of care to to all it's members but this is particularly true for the poorest and most vulnerable. 

In the lead up to the previous General Election, I agreed that in order to tackle the government deficit which had steadily been accrued by the irresponsible spending of the previous Labour government, some form of austerity would be required. In addition, recognising that some of this debt was necessary to protect the country from the impact of the financial crisis precipitated by the selfish and greedy actions of businesses and banks, I hoped that the new government would seek to promote more ethical practices throughout the sector which would ensure greater fiscal and social responsibility. Additionally, with personal UK debt standing at over one trillion pounds, I wanted the government to do more to dissuade people from going into debt and to ensure that those that did were not held to ransom by banks and lenders. Five years on, the promises of the Conservative and Liberal Coalition on debt management have not been entirely met and I believe that the austerity measures disproportionately affected many of the most vulnerable in society.

Given the issues which matter to me the most, I cannot in good conscience vote for any particularly party. The Conservatives appear to be under the sway of vested economic interests and the Labour party appears to be fiscally irresponsible, forever keeping us in a spiral of boom and bust as it spends money we don't have, waiting for the next government to take the unpopular decisions required to redeem the country's finances. All the major parties have long supported the progressive liberal social agenda which is so antithetical to the Christian understanding of the dignity of the human person whilst the Green party manifesto reads like something from a distopian novel. Despite their protestations, UKIP are a rather one dimensional party which attracts some of the more unsavory elements of British society. There is nothing inherently racist in opposing immigration but many of those who claim to support UKIP do so precisely for that reason. I am personally not against immigration but I would like more confidence in the system if only to ensure that those people we welcome into our country intend to do us no harm. As an affluent country, I believe we have a duty to give aid our international brothers and sisters so UKIP's promise to cut the UK’s foreign aid budget by two-thirds strikes me inhumane as some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world depend on the UK for food, medicine and education.

As I could not bring myself to vote for a particular party, I decided that I would be willing to vote for a local candidate if I thought they would represent my concerns in parliament. I therefore emailed (details below) the candidates for Swansea West for the Conservative, Liberal, UKIP Green and Plaid Cymru parties to see if I could give my vote to one of them (I didn't bother with Geraint Davies our current Labour MP as his voting record is exceedingly poor). Unfortunately, not one of the candidates has replied to my email. 

I hope one day to be sufficiently convinced of the qualities of an individual or party to be able to vote for them but until a party or movement emerges which is brave enough to take on the liberal hegemony, I am set to continue the time honoured practice of spoiling my vote.


Email to Candidates
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Dear XXX,

I believe that it important to use our right to vote in an informed and considered manner. Despite this belief however, I have long felt felt alienated by the British political system and its parties and therefore am inclined to register this dissatisfaction with a spoiled vote. As I feel unable to give positive assent to a particular party, I am willing to consider voting for an individual candidate based on their own convictions. In order to help me decide whether or not to vote for you in the upcoming election, please could you answer the following questions:


1) Had you been an MP in the previous parliamentary term, how would you have voted on


a) Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill - http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2014-15/abortionsexselection.html
b) Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations 2015 - http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2015/february/commons-debate-statutory-instrument-on-mitochondrial-donation/
c) Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 - http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/marriagesamesexcouplesbill.html


2) If elected to parliament, how would you vote on the Assisted Dying Bill (http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2014-15/assisteddying.html), if it were to be presented?

Kind Regards,

Luke O'Sullivan

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[1] http://lucascambrensis.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/spoiling-for-vote.html
[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 898
[3] http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/content/download/54629/421861/file/elect15-bps-letter.pdf


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