Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Confessions of a tactical voter

The news today (4 May) seems to be dominated by calls for and against tactical voting in the General Election.

I confess that I have been a tactical voter ever since 1984. Before that I had always voted for my party of choice. What happened in 1984 was that we moved from Rusholme, Manchester to Warlingham, Surrey and nothing changed when we moved back to Greater Manchester in 1992 to Cheadle Hulme. The real, sometimes only, choice in both Warlingham and Cheadle Hulme was between Conservative and Liberal Democrat.

For me, that was no choice because my instinct has always been and remains anti-Tory. Performance in office is another matter. The Conservatives have taken some counter-intuitive decisions like making non-selective education the norm (undermined by governments of both colours ever since). Labour have taken the UK into the disasters of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (albeit needing the support of Conservatives because of the resistance of many of their own MPs).

My anti-Tory bias is a matter of personal principles (or prejudices). Even though I am irredeemably middle class, I do not forget my working class connections. I have met relatives who knew what it was like to sweat on the factory floor or on the land at the whim and to the benefit of their masters. Some relatives are still trapped in social deprivation. The Conservatives are a party of privilege where even the demeaning principle of noblesse oblige has withered.

I am from a non-conformist Christian tradition and, therefore, from a radical social/political stream that was opposed to the ruling class mentality of the Church of England and the Tories. Things may have changed with part of the Church of England embracing a more critical approach to the state in one direction and an individualistic faith encouraged by evangelicism resonating with a market economy in another. Embracing the radical non-conformist tradition probably may make me one of a dying breed but it does mean that I have an anti-Tory bias.

I fail to live up to the demands of the gospel but I do believe in them. I want to see the powerful brought down from their thrones, and the lowly lifted up; the hungry filled with good things, and the rich sent away empty. Political decisions may have to be pragmatic but they should be based on principle. So I want to know where the heart of a political party is as measured by the gospel. I do not say that the other parties embrace the values of God’s kingdom, even (especially) so-called Christian parties. However, my judgement is that the heart of the Conservative party, even as made user friendly by David Cameron, is not in the right place.

So, on Thursday my vote will be cast tactically. I can do no other!