Monday, 12 October 2009
Who would God vote for?
In the old days, you knew when you were being robbed. A man would stick a gun in your back and say “stick ‘em up”. Now, however, the crooks have found a more efficient method to systematically steal our hard earned cash, and with far fewer risks attached. First they stand for Parliament. Then they get us to buy their furniture, do the gardening, clean their moats and pay their non existent mortgages. And when there is just one squeeze of the lemon remaining, they sting us for a gold plated index linked pension.
Similarly, in the old days, when the villains were caught red handed, their response was more usually “it’s a fair cop guv” rather than “this was approved by the fees office”.
Listening to the shameful cabal of dishonourable MPs repeating the mantra “it was all within the rules” is somewhat reminiscent of Nazi officers at Nuremburg protesting “we were only obeying orders”, not because anybody is suggesting that the crimes perpetrated by some MPs are even remotely comparable to the atrocities carried out by the Nazis, but because they exude a similar arrogance and show neither the slightest contrition nor the ability to distinguish right from wrong.
The damage to democracy and our political institutions will take many years to repair because there are similar problems of accountability and transparency at local level where the antipathy between electors and elected is rising.
Prior to 2002, councillors would receive an allowance of a few hundred Pounds a year. People stood for election out of a sense of civic duty because they had skills and experience of benefit to the community. Money was not the motivation. Today, a back bench councillor can receive £10,000 for attending just two meetings a year. Cabinet members receive £30,000 - £40,000 and many Council leaders receive £70,000+ because they also sit on highly paid quangos without any democratic mandate.
Allowances have increased thirty fold in the last few years but you would be hard pressed to find many people who would agree that there has been a corresponding improvement in front line services. The public are justifiably angry because they have been forced to tighten their belts due to the economic climate, whereas politicians have their snouts in the trough and appear totally oblivious to our pain.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown told us that he was guided by a moral compass, but he must have acquired it from the bargain bucket at Woolies because the current political crisis is entirely due to the collective moral failure of the ruling classes. At the next General Election, policies will be of secondary importance to large swathes of the electorate who will instead be more concerned as to the honesty and integrity of the candidates.
In 1997, the Catholic Church published a document entitled “The Common Good” which was widely considered as a call by Bishops for the public to vote Labour. Many Christians believe that Jesus would have been a Socialist whereas the late former Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovitz was ennobled by Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, of whom he was a great admirer. It begs the question as to who God would vote for to restore public confidence in the political establishment.
Looking at the manifesto pledges of some of the political parties contesting the next election, one party has a range of policies which might possibly meet with God's approval.
On political sleaze, this party believes that an MP’s salary is quite sufficient for the average person to survive on and that their expenses are too high. These expenses would instead be distributed to the poor and needy.
On electoral reform, the age at which people can stand for election would be reduced to 18. At this age you can vote, drink, and do almost anything else, except run for Parliament. Elections would be held on weekends to increase voter turnout.
This party proposes help for parents to combat child obesity. On the environment, it has a clear policy to deal with global warming, including the planting of more trees, and also proposes severe penalties for littering.
On education they propose to reduce class sizes and to reintroduce student grants. On transport, speed cameras would be abolished in favour of automatic speed limiters operating in built up areas. Its answer to the fuel crisis is that we should walk more. Politicians in future would be required to use public transport.
They also propose that everyone should have free connection to the internet to improve education and help British business compete in the global market.
Many voters would look at this list and conclude that they are all eminently sensible policy ideas. But they are not taken from the manifesto of any mainstream party. Rather, they have been selectively edited from the manifesto of The Official Monster Raving Loony Party who aim to achieve a reduction in class sizes by moving the desks closer together! To combat global warming, the Raving Loonies propose to put air conditioning units on the outside of buildings!
But not all of their ideas are daft. The Raving Loony pledge to reduce childhood obesity by telling parents to feed their children less junk food is not loony at all and, indeed, many of their other proposals over the years have found their way into law.
It is simply a matter of presentation and the serious concern is that fringe parties such as the BNP will now profit from the moral decline of our political lords and masters. Unlike the National Front, whose ideological hatred was tattooed on the forehead of its members, the BNP presents itself as a moderate respectable party whose members dress in smart suits and have the appearance of typical middle class citizens.
Politicians are all now running around like headless chickens talking about the need for systemic reform to restore public confidence, but it is not the system that is at fault but rather the people in it. Religious leaders of all denominations undoubtedly have a very important role to play at the next general election, not by campaigning for a particular candidate or party, but by helping to recalibrate the moral compass of all candidates of all parties.
Of course God doesn’t have a vote, but if he was inclined to get involved in politics, he would surely tell those wishing to hold public office that they must observe his laws above all others. Perhaps he would also remind candidates that they should always honour their manifesto pledges and that they cannot claim for a Mezuzah on expenses!