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May 10 Archdeacon Richard: How will you vote?

You may be one of those who viscerally belong to a particular party - not so different from belonging to a church or a family. Or you may be one of those floating voters who, it is said, will be so important in this election. Or you may be feeling - “A plague on all their houses; they’re all corrupt; I’m not going to vote for any of them!�

One problem is that in voting for a particular party, you have to sign up not only for policies with which you agree, but also for policies with which you strongly disagree. And that takes us straight to the point of political parties…. It’s a nice idea to imagine that we could all be consulted about everything - but even in this electronic age it isn’t always practical. Another nice idea is just to have a series of independent candidates - but how would they carry through a programme and how would they run things? The word ‘politics’ comes from the Greek word ‘polis’ which means, ‘city’ - a place where people live together. In other words the essence of politics is compromise: not just agreeing to differ, but the wheeler-dealing, horse trading, of: “you support me to do this and I’ll support you to do that.� To outsiders this can make politics seem completely unprincipled - even corrupt - but what is the point of being principled in such a way that what you want and believe in has no chance of becoming reality? - no chance of doing anyone any good? Don’t forget a couple of points. First, the Church - because it is human - is also very political. Even doctrine is sorted out through politics: in the Church of England, doctrine is decided by the General Synod; and the Creeds were decided by General Councils, called by Emperors, and in which politics played a huge part. Second, this messiness is the way things are, whether we like it or not; and it is into this messiness that God was born - the Word made flesh. One unusual aspect of this election may be the importance of smaller parties - especially if the election is close and there is a hung parliament. In one sense, this leads to the most undemocratic scenario of all - where the parties with the fewest votes exercise the most power. On the other hand you may feel that the unassailable majorities gained at the 1979 and 1997 elections allowed party leaders to be casual or cavalier about parliament and public. A narrower base may lead to more cautious policies. I do want to say that in this county we have been blessed by good and faithful MPs who work hard for our nation and for us. (Don’t forget that our MPs are there for the whole country first, and us constituents second.) Pray God that able and decent people will continue to stand for election locally and nationally. So all of this says to us: “dive in, be good citizens, go and vote.� Even if you are disillusioned by all of the parties, and indeed by the system which allowed not just the expenses scandal but other outrages too, still turn up to the polls. To make our mark on that paper is to do the best we can in a fallen world.

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