Voting Conundrums

Deciding who to vote for in this General Election is difficult. There is, of course, local politics to consider and whether to vote with heart in who you most believe, or head to acknowledge the candidate most likely to be elected that is the lesser of two undesirables. Do you vote according to past records, or future promises? How do you choose when the best option would not be the set menu of one particular manifesto, but a la carte – selecting individual pledges, from 30 hours free childcare to better mental health care, prioritising brown field development to scrapping Trident.

As a Christian, I find the process even more complicated because so little is said about issues that really do matter. The sanctity of human life and the importance of the family may seem peripheral, but actually impact us all significantly. We spend billions aborting the unborn and incubating test tube babies, rather than spotting the obvious solution: ensure every baby is protected from womb into world and then given to those who are childless through a robust, compassionate adoption process. Meanwhile, the time-honoured family that has been the bedrock of a stable society has been devastated by the liberalisation of divorce and trashing of marriage. Rather than setting the example for us to follow, politicians have capitulated to the basest selfishness that runs out on responsibility and lands the Welfare State with the care bill. The benefits of families for children and adults are numerous, repeatedly demonstrated in a plethora of studies: higher academic achievement, better emotional health, fewer behavioural problems, a lower risk of substance abuse and safer homes for children with less likelihood of abuse. An average child in care needs £2,500 per week funding to provide just a smidgen of the love most families give for free. Morality matters. Building on a truly ethical vision, as set out in the Bible and exemplified in the life of Christ, leads to innumerable blessings.

However, these facts are swept under the carpet by politicians who “don’t do God”, unless appealing specifically to the religious vote at election time with mere warm words or some gimmick.

So, how will I vote? Well, in 2010 I hoped the Conservatives would repair the public finances and at least live up to their name on the big moral questions. The utterly repulsive debacle of “gay marriage”, pushed through against strident warnings and overwhelming opposition, suppressing the facts of consultations and research, has truly shocked me and irreparably sullied their image. They also seem hell-bent on reducing spending, whatever the cost for those who are disabled, or struggle to move home and vacate that spare room. Cuts that were, generally, prudent and sensible five years ago have hardened into inflexible dogma. They trumpet their virtue in preserving the NHS budget, whilst plundering the Social Care pot, leaving our hospitals to sort out the mess. I also oppose the complete waste of time that is Scottish Nationalism, playing games with the constitution and people’s identities whilst so many suffer from poverty. Labour, then, third-placed in my constituency (Moray, Scotland) from previous voting, will most likely receive my vote on 7th May 2015.

In some ways, this is deeply ironic as Miliband is a professed atheist, but as differences between the parties on traditional moral matters vanish, then I will judge based on how well the candidates will look after the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

Sprucing up our High Streets

On a recent visit to Stirling, I was very impressed, not just by the city’s lack of litter and profusion of well-maintained flower beds/planters, but also the presentation of empty shops.  As you can hopefully see from these photos, high quality prints completely filled the windows of retail units that could so easily have become eyesore and headaches.  These posters could clearly be taken down and reused, as required.

Whilst obviously everyone would prefer to see a successful business inside, this determination to improve the appearance of the community, coupled with creativity in achieving this goal, was highly commendable.  Moray (and many other places) could learn much from Stirling.  If we want to attract tourists and boast our economy, a modest investment of cash and a razor-sharp attention to detail can lead to great accomplishments, just as Robert the Bruce, with a small force largely composed of well-trained schiltrons and keen eye for exploiting the terrain around Bannockburn, overcame a better-armed, more numerous invading army in 1314.

Creative idea for sprucing up an otherwise empty shop!

Creative idea for sprucing up an otherwise empty shop!