Thursday, September 17, 2009

I've been watching too much of the West Wing

I think it's true, for some time now I've considered joining a political party only I've never done anything about it. I write letters and emails and I vote, but more often than not I complain. It's not terribly influential.

So maybe The West Wing is to blame for inspiring me again that politics can possibly, sometimes, in its better moments actually make a difference but I've decided to join a party, only at the moment I'm not sure who. I'm going to commit myself to researching each of the parties, their values and aims and their Christian sub-groups before making a choice.

Here's my political background so far. I grew up in a Conservative home, but as I grew up I began to care about the poor and that was something in the 80s and 90s that the Tories weren't very good at. Not sure they still are but I do respect some of what The Centre for Social Justice has to say. I've had trouble relating myself to a bunch of posh people but that's prejudice, its policies that matter.

So I've voted in three elections in 1997, 2001, 2005 and have voted Labour each time. I'm unlikely to do so next time even if I choose to join their party. I think our country needs a change.

But before then I decide I need to become clear about the things that matter most to me, so I can evaluate each of the parties (including the Greens and excluding the BNP) on merit before we have all the hullabaloo of a general election next year. Let me know your thoughts


Anonymous said...

As a christian actively involved in politics I want to see more christians get involved. We can make a difference.It is great to see you are thinking of joining a party.
Until 3 years ago I was a labour supporter. I felt I should join a party and get involved and was not sure of which party. It was very strange for me and my friends who have always known me as a labour supporter. After prayer and reading up on the parties I felt I should join the conservatives.
I feel I don't fit in. I am not posh, into hunting and feel the local conservative assoc is in the dark ages in some ways but I know it is where I can make a difference.
I am a local councillor. I am totally sure this is where God wants me. It has an impact on my involvement in church but I have some very supportive friends.

steve on 17 September 2009 at 22:19 said...

I think joining a political party is a great idea. My personal choice was the Greens, for reasons explained in this post:

But we need Christians within all the parties if we want to see real change in the political realm.

You might also want to consider your own local area. Find out what the local branches of the parties are like before committing - it's difficult to get involved in a party if you're the only member in your town, unless you want to be the person who sets up a local party.

Tim Simmonds on 17 September 2009 at 22:34 said...

you wait till season 5. That will put you off politics again.

Phil on 18 September 2009 at 09:11 said...

Thanks for the comments -
Tim - don't you dare spoil things for me!
Steve - appreciate your thoughts on why you joined the greens and good spot on the local party point.
Anon - brave move. I don't feel that brave at the moment but who knows. Trust God will use you to make a difference.

Tim Simmonds on 18 September 2009 at 09:21 said...

Wouldnt dare spoil it for you!

Si said...

Unfashionably, I find the current state of British politics tremendously exciting. As a centrist deep down I enjoy the major parties realising that the battleground is for the centre. Labour's repositioning 15 years ago was necessary, and it has only been the past few years which have seen the Conservatives being fully comfortable about the necessity of not recoiling to the right in response, as was so disastrous under Michael Howard.

The flipside to this of course is that politics becomes less about ideology, or even manifestos, but more about how trustworthy a party is to handle and respond to an issue that comes up after coming to power. I think it's that kind of thing which Josiah Bartlett is so great at.

Jeremy on 18 September 2009 at 17:22 said...

I've often thought about this, and every time I encounter a good politician I'm inspired to rethink it. The problem is, the one I most agree with in basic philosophy is the Labour party, and I can bring myself to do that.

My idea was to wait until Labour lose, and then join. There's no better time to join a party than right after a crushing defeat, I reckon. You get to help them rebuild and work out where they went wrong, and maybe bring them back to where they should be.

I think the bigger problem is that I just don't really believe in party politics. I see people like my MP, who has never once voted against the party in her entire career, and I wonder how much of yourself you have to sell to be successful in a party context.

Phil on 19 September 2009 at 08:23 said...

Si - I sort of agree with you. However I find the move away from vision/ideology to 'who will manage situations the best' profoundly uninspiring. Josiah Bartlet is inspiring

Jeremy - I've thought the same thing about Labour, but they just don't seem to have any real heart. It's a bit depressing.

Si said...

I know what you mean about the vision/ideology thing - although the concept oddly sounds much more attractive when the word 'vision' is used; as if it refers to a future which has not been attempted yet, whilst ideology in my mind has come to have the association of things which have been tried, but now shown to be fairly vacuous - quite a depressing outlook I'm afraid! Do you see any difference between vision and ideology?

The other aspect to the situation I described is that it has a tendency to give politics a more presidential 'flavour', which I struggle with.

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