Who should I vote for in the General Election?

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Today I’m writing about the question on everyone’s lips at the moment:

How will One Direction survive without Zayn Malik?

(I’m kidding. It’s the other question.)

Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, all together. How often does that happen?

Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, all together. How often does that happen?

Right now, in the UK, the media is buzzing with personal information about the people who could be leading the country: what their hobbies are, what their families are like, their favourite fish, or how they eat a bacon sandwich. Whether we realise it or not, we are asking ourselves the questions: is this leader nice? Do we like them as a person?

These, I am sorry to tell you, are not the questions we should be asking.

  • Don’t vote for a leader because they’re nice to their family

Even the cruelest dictators had friends, family, people who genuinely liked them. Even Hitler had a loving wife, and was popular enough to get elected.

Conversely, if Jesus were up for election, he could have been criticised for not being a ‘family man’ – he wasn’t married, he didn’t have children, and when his family asked to see him he said his disciples were his mother and brothers. (Luke 8:21)

Here is a better test of a leader than how nice they are to their family:

  • what they say
  • what they do

Their words and policies matter. How they have acted in the past matters. What they say they will do matters. (On this score, it’s probably worth noting that Jesus does significantly better than Hitler.)

We should not be asking, ‘do they seem a nice person?’ but ‘will they do good things for others?’

  • Don’t vote for a leader because they’re nice to your family

It is natural to want to vote for a leader who will make things easier for us, but Christians are called to love and serve others (Matt 20:26-28, Rom 13:10, Luke 10:25-37)

When we talk about voting for who we think will be the best as a leader, do we vote for who will make things good for us, or who will look after the most vulnerable in society? Even those we don’t know personally?

This week I have had leaflets through my door from both Labour and Conservative parties, promising to reward ‘hard-working families’, which immediately gets my hackles up because it implies that those who are single, or those who are not able to work (hard or otherwise) do not merit their votes. They have divided the population into ‘valuable’ and not valuable: but every life is valuable.

Recently we have seen columnists in national newspapers decrying drowning refugees as ‘cockroaches’, politicians who advocate that we stop giving foreign aid (because ’they’ don’t matter, we do), cuts in the welfare system that are causing children to go hungry and sick and disabled people to commit suicide because their money is cut off.

As with politicians, so too with us: our character is revealed most truly not by how we treat our friends, but how we treat the ‘other’, those who differ from us.

Our character is revealed by how we treat people stigmatised by society: foreigners and refugees (including those of different religion), people of colour, the poor, the LBGT community, elderly people, single parents, disabled people, people with mental illness. Every life is valuable.

Don’t vote for a leader because they’re nice to their family. Don’t vote for a leader because they’re nice to your family. There are better questions to ask.

One would hope a leader would love their friends and family. But do they love the people turning up to food banks? Do they love the migrants drowning in the seas?

One would hope we love our family and friends, and want to do what’s best for them. But do we love the people turning up to food banks? Do we love the migrants drowning in the seas?

These are the questions we should be asking.

Over to you: 

  • What reasoning do you use when choosing who to vote for?
  • What do you think about the media coverage of the General Election?
  • What do you think about the idea of not voting for who will make life better for you, but for those stigmatised by society?

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12 Responses to Who should I vote for in the General Election?

  1. John Jordan 4th May, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

    Hi Tanya,

    My political instincts have always been left wing, radical and democratic.

    I believe that the state has a duty to care for the vulnerable, disaffected, marginalised and weak. To this end I would gladly pay more tax.

    I have come to the conclusion that the success of any kind of democratic, radical movement is impossible in the political system as it stands. Unfortunately, the vested interests of the rich and influential find their voice in most of the British media. One only has to read the sickening ranting against asylum seekers, so called scroungers and other, “out groups,” in our society to be convinced of this malign influence. Any kind of radical programme designed for greater social democracy is demonised and rubbished.

    The other barrier is the all powerful British establishment. Tony Benn writes with eloquence and insight of this, in his books, Arguments for Democracy and Arguments for Socialism.

    Other barriers against true democracy are the antiquated first pass the post system and the unelected House of Lords.

    Faced with this, I vote in a pragmatic and perhaps cynical way for the least capitalist party that has a chance of success.

    Sorry Tanya, I have tried to keep this brief because I have a lot to say on this issue. I may be considered a dreamer for wanting a truly democratic society in which all members have a voice, support when needed; and an egalitarian distribution of wealth but I don`t care.

    In history, William Wilberforce, Elizabeth Fry stood up for ideas, that at the time were radical and considered subversive, but they did not keep quiet.

    I have done my bit over the years holding various positions in the local committee of the Trade Union of which I am a member, but unfortunately I am not charismatic or gifted enough to have any real influence. I was always a foot soldier of the cause.

    I am sorry if this reads as a ranting polemic, but to prove I am not a bigot, I can honestly say that some of my best friends are as conservative as I am left wing, and I love them dearly. I commiserated with one of them following the death of Margaret Thatcher, a politician he all but worshipped. Knowing my diametrically opposed world view, he was touched by this.

    I`ll stop now.

    John.

    • Tanya 21st June, 2015 at 10:58 am #

      Preach, John! I love your thoughtfulness on these things. We need the dreamers. Thanks for being one.

  2. Lorraine Wheeler 30th April, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    Thanks for covering this topic; brave and necessary at once. I really appreciate your thinking.

    I have always understood that I am privileged, and that the greater good is what my vote should enhance. My family is fine. We don’t need any more tax breaks. But for all those whose families and whose lives are not fine, I place my vote for them.

    • Tanya 30th April, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

      Ah, this is one of the many reasons I love you, Lorraine!

  3. Sipech 23rd April, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    You might have known I’d comment!

    I largely agree with you on ‘others first’ as point of principle, though I’m not sure you’ve addressed the question of efficacy. I’ve moved constituencies since the last election and am now in a safe seat. So I really don’t believe that my vote will make a difference; the candidate from the incumbent party is highly likely to win. In which case, I feel I have a free hand who to vote for. In this case, I will tend to look at who I can vote for and who might be at risk of losing their deposit. At the moment I’m leading towards such a “no-hoper” but who I think is a decent person, not a career politician, whose heart is in the right place. I’m not convinced by their party’s manifesto but am likely to try to help them out where I can.

    Previously, I lived in a marginal seat – and a bellwether at that (since the constituency was created as a result of boundary changes in 1983). Then, my choice is somewhat limited. Given the inadequacies of the first past the post (FPTP) system, it becomes much more questionable if, on the basis of your reasoning, I vote for party X knowing that they are unlikely to win. In reality, it’s a marginal between Y & Z. If Y is preferable to Z, I am compelled to vote tactically for Y, for if I vote for X, then that allows a greater probability of Z winning, when they are the least desirable and will inflict the most harm upon people.

    • Tanya 30th April, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

      You raise some really important points here, which is what makes the whole system so messy – efficacy, ‘safe’ seats vs swing seats, tactical voting etc. However, I had never before even considered the potential outcome for the candidate who would lose their deposit – I love your thoughtfulness. Thanks for this!

  4. Rebecka 22nd April, 2015 at 7:43 pm #

    Good thoughts. I pray Britain will get a govenrment who sees the value in every life.

    • Tanya 30th April, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

      Thanks, lovely Becka!

  5. Daniel 22nd April, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    Good thoughts, to which I want to say “yes, but…”

    Because of course one can care about the vulnerable without being committed to a state-led solution – one could even care about the vulnerable whilst believing that in most instances the state is very poorly placed to intervene. I would want to add questions like: what do they believe about freedom (and how has that translated into action)? How interested are they in ‘life’ issues? Do they have a vision for life that goes beyond economic wellbeing?

    Sadly, I’m not sure any of the leaders do very well on my questions or yours.

    • Tanya 30th April, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

      I wondered if you’d read it!
      Re: the vulnerable – what if the vulnerable themselves are saying that they’d prefer the state to intervene rather than a non-state solution?

      I find your questions really interesting. The freedom thing made me think (made more sense to me when I saw a political graph with ‘libertarian’ vs ‘authoritarian’ on the axis). I think I’m probably more authoritarian than you on stuff like welfare, but the last two governments between them have taken away more civil rights than [insert hyperbole here], which alarms me greatly.

      My question would be this: if they are libertarian – who is benefitting from the freedoms, and who is not benefitting?

      Could you tell me more about ‘life’ issues? I’m not sure what you mean – do you mean abortion, or something more general?

  6. Mark Allman 22nd April, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    Tanya,
    Good questions to ask. I also don’t think we should be concerned necessarily with what someone did 20 years ago. The thought that a person can not change is implied when we try to hold someone to something they said or did years ago. This seems to be an open field for people to mine when commenting on someone running for an office. I want to know what they believe now, how do they treat people now, what is their recent track record. I want someone who will do whats best for what he is looking after. I don’t want someone who wants to go on late night tv shows or tell me their picks for the upcoming football season. I don’t care what their favorite food, team, tv show, vacation spot, book or restaurant is. I don’t want them on social media communicating. I want them concentrating on doing the job we voted them in to do. I don’t care if they like me or I like them as long as they focus on doing what is best.

    • Tanya 30th April, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

      ” I don’t want someone who wants to go on late night tv shows or tell me their picks for the upcoming football season. I don’t care what their favorite food, team, tv show, vacation spot, book or restaurant is.”
      – Yes – it is a worrying thought that people might vote for someone because they support the same football team as them!

      Thanks for commenting.

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