Democracy and Our Responsibility

Democracy and Our Responsibility

Next week’s General Election will be again very closely contested and therefore potentially exciting. Here are some principles you may wish to consider when voting, based upon a document prepared by the Chaplaincy Team in Canary Wharf.

In a recent letter from the Bishops of the Church of England entitled ‘Who is my neighbour?’ they began with the following statement:

“We live in challenging but hopeful times. All political parties struggle to communicate a convincing vision. People feel detached from politics. Alongside a healthy openness to new ideas, worrying and unfamiliar trends are appearing in our national life. There is a growing appetite to exploit grievances, find scapegoats and create barriers between people and nations. The issues around the election call for a fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be”

The Bishops’ letter suggests that there are some general points that are worth sharing with a wider community than just the Church of England. Whether we adhere to a faith community or not, the Bishops raised a number of issues which concern us all, about what kind of country we wish to live in.  We are privileged to live within a democracy; we have the right to vote because our ancestors struggled for that right and we should honour them and take the responsibility to vote.

In the last General Election approximately 65% of the UK turned out to vote, just think how different it might be if a larger majority of people turned out to vote.

The aim of this short document is not to tell you how to vote but to offer some criteria to help you think about as you make your decision about which party gets your vote to create a fair and just society for all. Some principles to think about in terms of candidates and their parties and their policies, do they:

  • Promote and help to grow a strong economy, not just for accumulation of wealth by individuals, the state or global companies but to benefit society as a whole.
  • Encourage people to take responsibility and involve them at a deeper level in the decisions that affect them most.
  • Assist distinctive communities, whether defined by geography, religion or culture, which make up the nation and enable all to thrive and participate together.
  • Treat the electorate as people with roots, commitments and traditions and address us all in terms of the common good and not just as self-interested consumers.
  • Demonstrates that the weak, the dependent, the sick, the aged and the vulnerable are persons of equal value to everybody else.
  • Offer the electorate a grown up and informed debate about Britain’s place in the world order and the possibilities and obligations that entails.

Virtues are nourished, not by atomised individualism, but in strong communities which relate honestly and respectfully to other groups and communities which make up this nation.

We all have responsibility within the day to day life of our nation, and given our context we are reminded daily about the importance values and ethics within our workplaces. We should not hold politicians to a higher set of moral standards than we expect from ourselves, nor let them off the hook by treating political life as if it were outside the demands of morality. We can however in the run up to the General Election ask questions, reflect on polices and their commitment and ability to deliver a just and fair society. As Christians, we would want to add, do their policies enhance or threaten human dignity?

Join us at Morning Prayer in the Prayer Corner at St John’s at 9am on Thursday 7th May, to pray for the exercise of democracy and the conduct of the General Election, including in this constituency.