In some respects they’d be right (no pun intended). After I’d made my mark against the Liberal Democrat candidate’s name on the ballot paper in the general election, I apologetically voted for the Conservatives in my local election – as if somehow making recompense by allowing the Tories to take charge of my refuse collection.
Later that day I arrived at an election night party (yes, they do exist) in a red, blue and yellow top. I am socially conservative, appreciate our liberal democracy, and strongly believe we cannot dismiss needs of the vulnerable. I am, like many twenty-something Christians, a confused politico.
When it came to the general election at least, my muddle didn’t proceed from total ignorance. I had trawled my way through all the party manifestos (including the Monster Raving Loonies) and stewed over the decision for some time before confusion reigned.
Like many diplomatic types, I can see the verities of all the major parties. But I voted Lib Dem because I felt on balance that their manifesto addressed the issues I cared about most at that time. I felt too that it was time for a change. Whether it was the result of effective Conservative PR, or the sharply contrasting personality types of Blair and Brown, Labour appeared to be running out of steam. And with pre-election talk of a possible coalition government, perhaps I felt a tad curious to see whether we Brits could pull it off like the Germans.
Clearly my thinking wasn’t particularly ideological. I had leafed through the commitments of each party for the next five years or so, but had a limited grasp of the theory and history underpinning those positions. Of course I should say that now I’m totally clued up. (I’m not.) But I do have a slightly better idea of where they’re coming from.
More recently, I sat in a room of politically interested people discussing how we’d voted. More than you might imagine voted Lib Dem – and were all somewhat apologetic about it. We didn’t go into detail, but if we had, I imagine the media had a considerable role in our shame. They’re portrayed as having ‘let voters down’ on tuition fees and swayed government decisions on unexpected policies like same sex marriage.
Whatever your thoughts on that, it’s certainly no longer fair to characterise the Liberal Democrats as the more unusual choice for Christians – particularly given that the fight over the centre ground blurs the shades of a stubbornly blue and red debate. Lib Dems (generally speaking) are passionate about freedom and the environment, two things Christians need to care about one way or another so far as I can see.*
I think I was sold on the idea of being a floating voter when my politics teacher said they had all the power. But maybe one day I’ll stop being such a commitment-phobe, pick a party and stick to it. Until then, no matter how indecisive I feel on election day, and whatever Russell Brand may have to say on the matter, I will vote. That right didn’t come cheap and I don’t intend to squander it.
*For a much more thorough and authoritative consideration of Liberal Democrat policies and the Christian faith, I recommend you consult Lib Dems Do God (LDCF) – a recently published book of essays by Lib Dem MPs and Peers. Apologies to anyone who thought this blog was aiming to do that!
The CARE Leadership Programme provides a year long educational placement for graduates to gain experience through working placements in politics or third sector organisations alongside a programme of theological and practical training each Friday. Applications for the 2014-15 programme are now open – until 11 November. Lucinda was placed with Christianity magazine as part of the programme in 2012-13.
(Photo via James Cridland on flickr)