Friday, 30 April 2010

The ecclesiastical establishment and the election: 1

As an alternative to reading bloggers and the main stream media, I thought I’d find out what members of the ecclesiastical establishment are saying. As reported at ekklesia, the Church of Scotland’s magazine, Life and Work invited some religious leaders in Scotland for their opinions. Here are the thoughts of the Rt Rev William Hewitt, Moderator of the General Assembly.
“I would want to stress the importance of taking part in the democratic process. Voting is not only a civic duty, but is a right we should cherish. We remember those people in the past who won the right to vote, and those around the world who envy us for having the freedom to choose our own government."
Not controversial, and I’d basically agree. But I would want to add that I think that deliberately abstaining, whether by spoiling one’s ballot or by not casting a ballot at all, because one believes that none of the candidates is worthy of a vote, is not a failure to do that civic duty.
“Some people say that there is no point in voting because the parties are all the same. This is unfair, as we elect individuals, whose values and opinions will always be different. We have a responsibility to discover what our candidates are saying and what the party manifestos are proposing.”
Important points, and I agree (though it is true that there is not much difference between the main parties). How many people actually bother finding out about candidates and the content of manifestos? Not many.
“We all know that the major issues of economic recovery, education and health will dominate. However the Church is pushing for an end to Trident, both from a moral and an economic point of view.”
In other words, the Church of Scotland thinks you should probably vote for the LibDems, the Greens, the SNP (we’re talking about Scotland, after all), or one of the smaller socialist parties. It would rather that you didn’t vote for Labour, the Conservatives, or UKIP - or the LPUK.

I, personally, don’t have strong views on this one. I can see that an independent nuclear deterrent is expensive, and it is possible that our defence budget may be better spent in other ways. However, I tend to go with the maxim “If you wish for peace, prepare for war.” In other words, I believe in deterrence, and while I believe strongly that we should not invade other countries, make pre-emptive strikes, or initiate violence, the UK should be heavily armed to discourage other nations from attacking us - and that probably includes having a nuclear deterrent. If we do not have our own nuclear deterrent, we are basically either asking our friends to shelter us with theirs - in other words passing the buck, and freeloading off someone else - or we are saying that only knaves, outlaws and terrorists should have nuclear weapons. And both of those positions seem unacceptable to me.
It is also particularly important to vote for a party that respects human rights and to make sure that no racist or fascist candidate can be elected.
This is interesting. There are two things that are particularly important - i.e. more important than scrapping Trident. One is that we should vote for a party that respects human rights. This is, to put it mildly, vague. What human rights does he have in mind? He doesn’t say - which is odd, considering this is particularly important. So I must assume that this is related to Mr Hewitt’s belief that it is important “to make sure that no racist or fascist candidate can be elected” - i.e. that parties that respect human rights are those that don’t contain racists and fascists.

The use the word fascist concerns me. I agree with George Orwell that it is almost “impossible to define fascism satisfactorily”, and that “the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless,” and also with the Rev. John Richardson that “the use of the word 'Fascist' is (still) an excuse for not thinking, not defining and not engaging.”

In this case, it seems that Mr. Hewitt means the BNP, but doesn’t want to actually mention them. And I’m not impressed when he says “we must make sure that no racist or fascist candidate can be elected.” The use of the words “can be” instead of “is” implies that he wants a ban on racist and fascist candidates. I hope he doesn’t mean that. But even if he doesn’t, this still strikes me as silly. Who cares if a couple of BNP candidates are elected? We have a couple in the European Parliament, and it hasn’t brought about the end of civilisation as we know it. A couple of effectively BNP MPs in Parliament would inflict a lot less damage on the country than the Labour Party has over the past 13 years.

I’m not a fan of the BNP, but I find the view that the BNP are uniquely evil to be somewhat questionable.* In fact, I suspect that the BNP are the modern equivalent of the prostitutes and tax-collectors in the gospels - the really evil people that all good Pharisees and respectable folk should avoid like the plague.

*Edit: I notice that the YouFundMe website says "YouFundMe is a project open to candidates from all registered UK parties (except the BNP)." That seems odd to me. Is it for legal reasons, or is it just a bit of self-righteousness?


Anonymous said...

And no mention of Communist parties?

Young Mr. Brown said...

Sorry, Indigomyth, but I'm a bit slow on the uptake this morning, and am not sure I understand your comment.

Are you noting that Mr. Hewitt expressed a hope that no racists or fascists would be elected, but didn't express a similar wish concerning communists?

Phil Walker said...

Isn't it nice that a church can agree on ditching Trident, but not on, say, the Resurrection?

Anonymous said...


you have me correct

bethyada said...

I am not certain the difference between class based socialists and nation focused socialists is that significant?

Young Mr. Brown said...


Well, communism isn't the threat it once was. But more to the point, I think you'll find that the Communist Party of Britain are anti-trident, anti-racist, and anti-fascist. I suspect that the ecclesiastical establishment see them as a bit misguided, but not too bad.


You may not think so, but they certainly do!


Exactly. It tells you all you need to know about the value of their pronouncements on social, political and economic matters.