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Politics that dare not speak its name

by
26 June 2015

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Sir, - I wonder how many clergy voted Conservative in the General Election. Quite a few of us did, I'm sure, although I know none who would dare to admit it and risk the insulting and hurtful comments that such an admission attracts.

Before I went to theological college in the late 1990s, I was advised by a former member (my Labour-voting vicar) never to reveal that I voted Conservative, or, as he put it, "your life will be hell." When I got there, I soon realised that his advice was well-founded, and consequently, I kept my head down.

In my first incumbency, I followed a vicar who spoke openly of his Labour Party membership, and who made it clear from the pulpit that it was simply not possible to vote Conservative and be a good priest. Again, I kept my head down.

During the run-up to the General Election - and increasingly since - almost all my clergy "friends" on social media who comment politically have made it clear that those who vote Conservative are at best uncaring and, in one or two cases, evil. When I was ordained, I decided to engage only in single-issue politics that directly affected the communities I served. Furthermore, I decided to keep my voting preference a secret, thereby avoiding accusations of using my position for party-political ends.

I am not an uncaring fascist, and resent that implication. But, to avoid being ostracised by fellow Christians, or lumped together with the English Defence League and other obnoxious parties of the extreme Right, I have once again, wisely, I feel, kept my head down.

No party is perfect; indeed, I disagree with a number of Conservative policies (not least the "bedroom tax"). I simply voted for a democratic, mainstream political party whose leader actually goes to church and whose leadership of the country, over five years, has been democratically judged better than anything else on offer. I don't expect to be applauded for this, just to be treated with a little Christian courtesy.

 

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