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Looking ahead

In this last blog of 2014 I want to look forward to what the New Year holds in store. The coming months will be increasingly dominated by the General Election in May.

Before we groan at the thought of endless political clamour we should recognise the significance of government and politics. If there are specific policies we deprecate it is worth asking what we did to persuade politicians and public opinion not to choose them. Opting out removes our right to complain. The generations who struggled to win votes for all must turn in their graves at the 40% who don’t bother to vote. Anyone cynical about politicians has to say what they have done to help elect people they respect.

The 2010 election gave no party a majority and the Coalition was born. The polls currently suggest a similar result but not another coalition. If he doesn’t win a majority Mr Cameron is thought to favour a minority government. Labour leaders are having similar thoughts. The Liberal Democrats have suffered from being in coalition and are expected to lose seats. They will want to restore their political identity and not join another coalition. Alternative coalition partners are unattractive. Cameron is said to have ruled out working with UKIP, who are unlikely to win enough seats to make much difference anyway. A Labour led coalition with SNP is unlikely if the nationalists take many traditionally Labour seats in Scotland but they will probably be the third largest party at Westminster.

Minority government is fragile and only survives if given ‘supply and confidence’ support by the smaller parties. This means voting with the government so that it wins votes of ‘no confidence’ and passes its Budget. With that in mind the Conservatives have been cosying up to the eight Democratic Unionist MPs. Labour might do a similar deal with the SNP if the concessions demanded by the Scots are not excessive.

We voters will have a big say in what happens but we might not like the result. Minority governments are vulnerable to pressure from their own extremes as John Major experienced in the 1990’s. Perceptions of weakness would only increase voter cynicism. They would also make it more difficult for Ministers to tackle difficult issues such as climate change and developing low cost sources of energy, that require long term planning. Sorting out the economy and the right balance between the responsibilities of the State and the individual and the implications of that for taxation and the welfare system won’t happen in a weak government. Determining Britain’s future international role and relationship with the EU also call for a government not constantly fighting for survival.

Christians concerned about the incidence of family breakdown and the moral state of the nation will also be frustrated by governments lacking the will and authority to adopt appropriate policies. Secular materialism and moral relativism will continue to shape public opinion and public policy until a credible Christian voice persuades us to change course.

My New Year resolution will be to pray for this.

Happy New Year.

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