by Guy Brandon, 19th May 2014
The European and Local elections will take place on Thursday and, by all indications, we're in for some changes. Every few years the public have an opportunity to say what and how things are achieved at the local, national and international level. This time, it looks like we are planning to express our deep discontentment about the status quo. If a large enough proportion of the electorate agree then we will end 25th May (when the results are announced) happy that we have done our part to make Britain a little more the kind of place we want to live in.
And therein lies the problem.
I'm not talking about the outcomes of the elections themselves, though these will doubtless be significant in their own right. Recent polling points to a good result for UKIP, with the Conservatives and Labour vying for second place. If the Lib Dems come fifth, behind the Greens, as seems possible, they face the prospect of losing all of their MEPs. Presumably these results will be reflected to a certain extent at the local level, too - giving UKIP a strong platform (and the Lib Dems an even more fragile one) going ahead into the General Election next year. The result may even have a bearing on the Scottish Referendum in September: the thinking goes that a win for UKIP could bring about a crisis in confidence for Labour north of the border, with implications for the NO campaign.
Whatever the results of the elections, those who vote will be responsible for bringing them about. In this sense, we get the government we deserve.
However, the problem with our attitude to voting is that we often see it as the be-all and end-all of our political engagement. We are used to a consumer culture that offers instant gratification through accessing the choices we want and deserve. But voting for politicians does not work the same way as voting on the latest Reality TV show. We cannot expect the world to change simply because we put a cross in the right box. That involves getting our hands dirty and becoming involved in the situations where we see injustice and deprivation ourselves - not using Election Day as a chance to pass the buck on to the Powers that Be.
Voting should be the reflection of everything else we do to bring about God's Kingdom on earth. It should be the last thing we do in a parliament, rather than the beginning and end of our political engagement.