Sunday, 26 February 2017

It matters enough

There were two by-elections last week.  The weather was foul.  So was the political climate. In their different ways, these two factors must have contributed to the result which came out like this:

Registered to vote but didn't do so: about 66 000.
Voted Labour: about 19 500, and they got a new MP as a result.
Voted Conservative: about 19 000, and they got a new MP as a result.
Voted for someone else: about 14 000.

Commentators have focused on the way the votes fell.  Labour should have done better than this since the by elections were in areas traditionally more supportive of it.  The Lib Dems and UKIP don’t look like significant players any longer if they can’t emerge from the pack at by-elections.  And so on.

But where is the commentary which focused on the majority who didn’t vote?

There has always been a perhaps unhealthy percentage who don’t, from about 20% at General Elections in the 1950s to about 40% more recently.  But more than half the registered voters?  Seriously?  Imagine how different either result might have been if just 10% more had been tempted out in the rain.

Perhaps those who have been most energised to campaign or vote by the prospect of the sorts of changes which ‘take control’, ‘keep immigrants out’ and ‘create a smaller state’ don’t see anything they are lacking. 

Perhaps those who have been energised by the old liberal consensus see a House of Commons in which a majority believe we are on a destructive path but vote for it anyway so don’t see much point in electing more of them.

Most of which aside, this makes me wonder whether this relates to my recent posts about Prof Linda Woodhead’s anlaysis of the ‘rise of the nones’ (that is, those who describe themselves as being of ‘no religion’ rather than, for example, atheist, Christian or Moslem)?  Perhaps non-identification and non-participation is quite as much a societal issue as one of faith?

Meanwhile, there was a real buzz in St Michael’s yesterday at the Traidcraft Big Brew event for Fair Trade Fortnight.  Four families involved in our Youth Group and ‘Last Saturday Thing’ worship took the lead.  Two newly attending families were also there getting to know people.  One of our regional MEPs (on the left in the picture) dropped in.  Over £200 was raised.

Linda McAvan chairs the European Parliament’s Fair Trade Group and has achieved its agreement that Fair Trade tea and coffee are automatically served in the Parliament building and changes to procurement laws so that public bodies can specify Fair Trade produce in their tenders.

Perhaps it is this patient low grade work to which both politicians and church are called – ‘there can only be speaking and acting authentic possibilities... our picking up that many people think we are onto something when we explore forgiveness (may) be one hint; the chord struck by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s focus on Wonga may be another significant example...’ and sticking to our guns about fairness may simply be another (however high the percentage of those who are simply not interested enough even to be hostile).

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