After Mass in Dundee Cathedral yesterday we were given two handouts. The first was from the SPUC (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) and the second was a Scottish Bishops’ Election Statement. The SPUC handout was at pains to underline that they had no intention of telling anyone which way to cast their vote, before outlining with admirable sobriety the position of the leading candidates for both Dundee East and Dundee West on the issues of abortion, abortion on minors without parental consent, human-animal hybrid embryos used for research, euthanasia, assisted suicide and ‘living wills’. The Bishops’ Statement was also at pains to underline that they did not seek to tell anybody which way to cast their vote, but were hoping to encourage people to ‘let your faith count at the ballot box’. Which all adds further evidence to the increasingly obvious truth that, under sustained attack, Christians are mobilising in a way that I for one have certainly never experienced before.
Perhaps the most explicitly written section of the Bishops’ Statement came with these words;
The political choices we face today are not the choices your parents and grandparents faced. They would never have voted for any candidate who refused to protect unborn human life, who supported experimentation on human embryos, or planned to assist unfortunate people to commit suicide. They would never have voted for a candidate who would undermine marriage and family in the way that has happened in recent years with cross-party support. They would never have voted for candidates who rejoiced in same-sex unions. They would never have voted for candidates who would stop the Church offering adoption services. They would never have voted for candidates who were clearly hostile to the values they held dear. Your parents and grandparents voted for those they believed shared the fundamental Christian values as they did. It is for us to do likewise to shape a society where they dignity of each individual and life itself is respected.
Now, there’s two interesting things about that. Firstly, the last two sentences, and the general exhortation to ‘make faith count’, illustrates a wider and gradual detachment of the ‘faith vote’ from party tribalism and toward, as with the ‘progressive vote’, a body of floating voters who will vote for anyone who stands for, upholds and defends their moral and/or social values and beliefs (though not always – I know many who still refuse to vote Conservative, though I think even they could be winnable were there a Conservative Party that chose to engage them). This is both encouraging and problematic – as I have noted before, the result could well be the polarisation of society and a pernicious culture war in which only naked power, and those with the most of it, will in the end be victorious.
Secondly, apart from those extreme and reactionary social-liberals who will denounce this statement as being extreme and reactionary, there is plenty in that snippet which will be closer to the opinions of many than are the doctrines of the metro-bourgeoisie. And since Labour has become the political progeny of the ‘social revolution’, and since the Conservatives have historically and successfully offered some sort of counter-balance to the Left’s embrace of post-60s liberalism, then one might expect that the Tories would be willing, nay enthusiastic, about representing, as far as is expedient, precisely those opinions. Interesting, then, that when questionnaires were sent out to candidates in order that they might make clear their own position on a variety of controversial issues, all the main parties agreed to allow their candidates to speak for themselves. Except for one. The Tories.
The Bishops’ Statement ends with words that would have been perfectly well at ease across the political spectrum a generation or so ago.
‘It is our duty to encourage you to engage with the political process and to vote for the candidate who best represents the values we, like our parents and grandparents before us, hold dear’.
Only the political parties of today, all three of them, mock and despise the values our parents and grandparents held dear. As such, this voter remains undecided.