four weeks to go

Till the Holyrood election and the referendum on AV.

I’m keeping my polling card pinned to the fridge in full view, otherwise I might forget all about it. Is it just me, or is the goal of each new election campaign to out-do the invisibility of the last one?

Thanks to Google, then, I have learned the following.

The Scottish Parliament election involves:
1) a constituency vote, on lilac paper
2) a regional vote, on peach paper
(according to the Herald).

The AV referendum question is:
“Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the ‘alternative vote’ system instead of the current ‘first past the post’ system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?”
(according to the BBC).

For extra fun, each ballot paper requires a different voting system.
1) Holyrood constituency – first past the post
2) Holyrood regional list – Alternative Member
3) AV referendum – Yes/No

If this sounds like all the makings of a fiasco (and that’s not deja-vu, we have been here before), worry not. The ballots are all going to be counted by hand this time. What could possibly go wrong.

~

Referendum-wise, I’m voting no to AV. I know, controversial, eh. Nothing quite like a technical dispute over voting systems to rouse the masses.

Holyrood-wise, I have no idea. Well, the Catholic Teuchter had a fairly insightful article here some time ago – his conclusions are worth pondering. Apart from that, the only thing I know is that the Scottish Christian Party remains as unattractive as ever. Indeed I couldn’t find their manifesto anywhere on their website, or even a list of their candidates. Thus it is left to the Grauniad to supply the information that they have four regional candidates [edited to add: in my constituency], although what policies they’re offering remains a mystery.

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30 thoughts on “four weeks to go

  1. AV no! Absolutely. Democracy is a dodgy enough philosophy as it stands, never mind introducing this proportional representation nonsense. You can’t rule a country by committee!

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    • If I may make so bold as to correct a very common error – AV is not a form of Proportional Representation – in fact, in the very few jurisdictions in which it is used it tends to produce less proportional results than the Simple Majority System we use here, colloquially known as “First Past the Post”.

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      • Thereby proving once and for all that without the benefits of a Higher in Modern Studies, the whole thing is shrouded in impenetrable mystery :-)

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  2. Definitely voting “NO!” :-) Also, grateful for Modern Studies in Scotland which went through all the pros and cons of each system at school. My sad experience of the English education system leads me to believe that no one here probably has a clue unless they went to school prior to the 1980’s!

    I was particularly tickled to receive a flyer from the “yes” campaign which could basically be boiled down to: “You should vote YES because these six celebrities are going to”. Do I really care if Jo Brand is going to vote “yes”?!

    Yes they think we’re stupid!

    Rant over…. :-) Elspeth

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  3. “I couldn’t find their manifesto anywhere on their website, or even a list of their candidates…. although what policies they’re offering remains a mystery.”

    http://www.scottishchristianparty.org.uk/faq/#what-is-your-manifesto-for-the-scottish-parliament-in-may-2011

    There are policies under various sections:
    http://www.scottishchristianparty.org.uk/policies/

    Those standing for election under the SCP are mainly on the regional list, pick your area:
    http://www.scottishchristianparty.org.uk/regions/

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  4. “6 celebrities are going to”. Give the campaigners a break, that’s the only possible argument there is for AV, six photos of self-obsessed, money-induced, Kensington-living celebs or a blank sheet?

    The really sad thing is that, that, is all they may need to swing the majority of this nation.

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  5. Oh nooo, James, this just won’t wash. I’ve clicked on “Policies – Health in Scotland” (http://www.scottishchristianparty.org.uk/policies/health-in-scotland/) and discover that “it is the duty of government to support and promote the health of the nation” and “it is a blessing from God that health care in Britain is free at the point of delivery”.

    In what way is that a Christian position?

    I mean, I’m sure some Christians do believe it’s right for the government to tax its citizens silly and call it a blessing. Others don’t. Which position truly “proclaims Christ’s Lordship”?

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    • Cath, that is the position of the Scottish Christian Party. The motto is not “speaking for all Christians everywhere”, or “this is Christianity”, or “this is what Christians should believe”, but rather “proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”, and that represents the attitude they have to the whole process.

      The SCP want to hear what people have to say regarding the problems in Scotland, so that they will come up with good policies, but they can only listen to those who are willing to speak and make suggestions. Naturally, they try and do what’s right and wise, but they can only do the best they can with those who are willing to get involved. There are plenty who will criticise, but few who will help.

      You and I both know you’re fully capable of tearing something apart on probably every page/post/article, but I’d much rather your gifts were engaged in investigating them and building up. At least engage with them, figuring through whether they should or should not exist. It seems to me, and do correct me if I’m wrong, that your argument/logic/issue with them stems from this?

      I hope addressing you isn’t seen as an ad hominem attack, but rather an appeal. I can’t debate until I know where you’re coming from.

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  6. Fair enough James.

    I have two problems with the SCP. One is that I am still undecided whether they should exist at all. I mean genuinely undecided and listening for arguments. It does not seem consistent with the ‘coordinate jurisdiction’ part of the Establishment Principle (which all the heirs of 1843 are supposed to be committed to) for a group of Christians *as such* to muscle in on the civil authority’s territory. If the govt sent working parties to contribute a civil voice to the decisions of presbytery, we would find that intolerable. I don’t see how church representatives have the right to contribute a churchy voice to the workings of parliament. Is there any argument to be made to the contrary?

    The other problem is that in any case, I struggle to see how it is appropriate to link “the Lordship of Christ” to any particular political ideology. The Lordship of Christ is perfectly compatible both with a vaguely socialist ideology and with a very minimalist state. How can the SCP justify adorning *their* policies with the “lordship” slogan when other Christians can be equally committed to Christ’s Lordship while finding SCP policies impossible to vote for? Who gave them the right to invoke his name? What does Shorter Catechism 26 have to do with prescription charges? with Post Office closures? with tuition fees?

    I’m firing these questions but I’m not really holding you personally responsible for the SCP, although if you can offer any suggestions about what their position might be, I am listening. But I can hardly imagine that I’m the only person to wonder these things. They seem to be foundational, but they remain unaddressed. As I’ve said before, there has been no shortage of literature on Church-State relations in the Scottish context – surely there must be somebody who can speak to the concerns which post-1843 people are likely to have.

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  7. Thanks Cath, this is new on the website, it might answer some of that:
    http://www.scottishchristianparty.org.uk/faq/#what-is-a-christian-policy

    Some of the motivation:
    http://www.scottishchristianparty.org.uk/faq/#why-do-we-need-you
    Seeing point 2 – we are given a lawful way to change this countries laws. If we stand by and do nothing, what are we then doing? We can try and oppose through lobbying, but the countries laws are changed by people persuaded they need to change – lobbying only attempts to create that persuasion in others. Politicians don’t listen to the church any more, they’ve got what they see as a representative playing field where they each fight for what they’re looking for – that’s where they listen.

    Personally, if I was voted in as a Tory/Labour/LibDem member, my Christian conscience would lead me to be torn when I wanted to go against the party line, as it was probably on the basis that I was in that party that I was voted in. Opposing the party is biting the hand that feeds/supports you – one guy was dropped as a candidate last year by the Conservatives for what he said.

    w.r.t. the Establishment Principle, I’ll get back to you :)

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    • Re the ‘What is a Christian policy?’ link, some thoughts:

      1) the question is neither meaningless nor non-specific, and such a cavalier dismissal doesn’t inspire much confidence. You can’t set up a Christian party and then expect people *not* to ask what’s so Christian about your policies. It would be like belonging to the Tory party and then being surprised when someone asks how your policy fits with Tory values.

      2) Hectoring fellow Christians about being prejudiced, lazy, isolated, and in need of having their mis-understanding (hyphen original) mortified by the Holy Spirit is not a great way to win friends and influence people.

      3) The “idea” that Jesus Christ is Lord is not a political ideology. It is not remotely comparable with Green ideology, Euroscepticism, or Scottish independence. It is a doctrine, ie spiritual and religious. Whatever implications it has for this life, it is not a blueprint for political activism.

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  8. Regarding the Establishment Principle – do you say Christian’s may only get involved in politics if they’re not associated with one-another, either in some organisation or political party.
    The extension from Christians as politicians to a Christian party, I don’t see as a sudden breach of the Est. Prin.

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  9. I say, if Christians get involved in politics, it must be on a political rather than religious basis.

    Ie: here we are with our policies, vote for us, and by the way we’re Christians.
    Not: here we are as Christians, and vote for our random policies cos we’re Christians.

    Or something like that.

    Christianity is not a political programme.

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  10. If Christians get into politics because their Christianity motivates them to, that’s different to Christians getting into politics because they’re into politics.

    In any good argument you state your assumptions so that it is clear where you’re coming from. A Christian is motivated and led by their Christianity. “Worldly wisdom” also comes into their thinking, and feeds into the forming of policies, but which do (or should) they give precedence to though? Doing all to the glory of God doesn’t mean that “glory to God” is tacked on at the end of every endeavour.

    Their policies aren’t random. They’re worked out between a group of people with knowledge and experience in the relevant area.

    What do you mean by programme in that last sentence? I kind of think you mean “issue”, such as the Greens and their environmentalism being their core issue, but I’m not sure and don’t want to assume?

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  11. So here’s the confusion.

    You’re a Christian motivated by Christian principles and you want to go into politics with other Christians and you set up a party called “The Scottish Christian Party” which consists of Christians.

    The only principled thing you have to offer is that you’re well-intentioned Christians.

    So in order to make yourselves electable, you have to find some policies.

    Your primary criterion in developing policies is to make people want to vote for you.

    It has to be that way, because your motivation is Christian and the Bible doesn’t tell you how to govern a country.

    So you are attaching the name of Christ (or, if it’s any better, the name of Christian) to an assortment of policies, none of which contradict lowest-common-denominator moral values, but which have nothing to commend themselves to the electorate unless a voter is (i) a Christian who feels guilt-tripped into voting for a fellow-Christian or (ii) a non-Christian who happens to like the sound of one of your policies.

    This is a total confusion of the two spheres, secular and religious.

    In other words: If you’re so Christian, why couldn’t every Christian vote for you? If you’re so political, why do you need to invoke the name of Christian?

    (Yes, that’s what I meant by programme btw)

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  12. “the Bible doesn’t tell you how to govern a country”
    What? Once we’ve applied the good of the examples contained, and the wise principles expressed and demonstrated, wouldn’t you agree the country would be better governed? I’m really amazed at you saying this!

    Tickling the ears of the electorate isn’t best done by telling them that Christ is Lord, I can assure you of that.

    Guilt-tripped? Knowing what we know of the stances of the main parties, there’s no guilt voting for them is there? The Christian Institute is kept pretty busy showing the intentions and actions of the main parties. Law after law is made, yet the people cannot demonstrate their opposition to this at the ballot box unless a party standing on these issues is available.

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  13. No, the Bible really doesn’t tell you how to govern a country. It tells you how to be saved and grow in grace. If the country was governed by Christians they would hopefully make their decisions with integrity and prayer, but they couldn’t consult the Bible to see whether AV is better than FPTP or whether £7500 is actually a sensible rate to budget for tuition fees.

    Guilt – “As he votes in the privacy of the polling booth, so is he. When you get to heaven, do you want it to be known that you voted for such policies?” – friend, if that kind of talk doesn’t actually bind the conscience, it’s perilously close to it. If I voted SNP at the last election, would I be guilty on the day of judgment? Expressed as strongly as a nice Christian can, the answer is, “erm, no.”

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    • On second thoughts – there are Christians who conscientiously don’t vote for any political party, for reasons which I don’t agree with but which are nevertheless sensible and consistent. That’s different from working on people’s conscience for party-political reasons, ie saying it’s sinful to vote for any party other than the one you support.

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        • Someone could vote SNP for any number of reasons – because they’re committed to Scottish independence, because they like the idea of a freeze on council tax, because otherwise Labour will get in, because the candidate is more socially conservative than the alternatives, or because they just happen to be friends of the candidate or related to them.

          There can only be a tiny proportion of voters who vote for a particular party because they agree with *everything* that party stands for.

          In most cases, whether they’re a Christian or not, it’s a vote for the least-worst option.

          Like everyone else, Christians have to weigh up the options, and exercise their own discretion, taking a host of both principled and pragmatic factors into consideration.

          The implication that voting for a party is sinful because some of its policies may be morally objectionable would be inappropriate at the best of times, but all the more so, if you’re only making the case in order to get people to vote for your particular party.

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  14. Very interesting comments on church and state. In the US, where there are only 2 parties there has been a lot of discord and Concord (New Hampshire) over a bishop meddling in state politics. You could hear the reaction for miles. There is a similar debate in Australia concerning chaplains in state schools.

    I’m strongly inclined to view a Christian party with very soar misgivings. I remember listening to Joseph Devine extolling the virtues of the Christian party to a Radio 4 audience. Now I hear the RCs have fallen out with Labour. If there is to be a Christian party, does it include Catholics, Christians and the rest?

    On a connected note, the C of E is concerned about Clegg’s plans to change the House of Lords. ugh! And on a question of those who are challenged in being able to discern voting forms, what help can be given in sorting out :

    a) the party
    b) the list
    c) the candidate.

    But I’m still voting NO to AV.

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  15. I would also like to know if the SCP includes Catholics.

    The Electoral Commission has sent out/ is sending a guide to the election and referendum. But I’m a bit challenged in this department myself. Even with mine right here beside me, I’m not entirely comfortable about giving any advice!

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  16. The SCP does not include or exclude Roman Catholics. That is for them to do based on whether they agree with the statement of faith, which you can find on the Membership form on the website. Some have felt they couldn’t sign it, yet happily still work for the party putting up posters etc. Others have felt they could sign it.

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  17. Ok, thanks. That’s interesting.

    On one hand, it makes perfect sense, because the moral values which the SCP is proclaiming are lowest common denominator values which anyone in Christendom can share and which (to be honest) RCs are even generally better at publicising than others.

    On the other hand, what kind of political vision for a nation can be shared by people whose views of the Church, and so of Church-State relations, are so different. This is just an extension of the original problem – a real fuzziness about what exactly the roles of Church and State are. Even setting the establishment principle to one side, as a sort of internal-to-Protestantism issue, there are serious obstacles to Catholics and Protestants working together within the political system, not so much on moral issues, but ostensibly on policies for the nation as a whole. There really doesn’t seem to be any coherent ideology behind the SCP at all.

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