The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Davies, spoke to a motion on encouraging electoral participation in the coming months.
“Politics and religion are not a toxic mixture, but they go hand in hand,” he said, reminding the Governing Body that the right to vote was hard-won. But this right and privilege should be exercised in an informed way. He also urged the members to consider housing justice a priority in how they vote. “It’s not about roofs over people’s heads, it’s about homes. Everyone should have a home. A sense of local family community. Where their health is better and aspirations are enabled to flourish.”
He also encouraged Christians to ask candidates in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections how they would maintain community policing.
When it came to the EU referendum, he cautioned against being swayed by the “spin” of each side’s arguments. “Think of some of the issues confronting the EU at the moment. If someone has to suffer financially for the benefit of the greater number, then so be it. Are we better together?”
The Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andrew John, said that he would soon travel to the refugee camp in Calais. But despite the awful conditions there, the refugees’ greatest privation was the lack of vote, of having no way to shape their future. “When we don’t vote, we are kind of putting ourselves in that sort of position and depriving ourselves of the right to shape a better future for us and our communities,” he said.
The Assistant Bishop of Landaff, the Rt Revd David Wilbourne, spoke of the significance of church schools in Wales, which educate one in eight children. “If we were to withdraw, the primary and secondary sector would be brought to its knees.”
Linda Tyler-Lloyd (Swansea & Brecon) (pictured), a Conservative councillor in Swansea, asked if it was time for women to take a greater part in politics. “We woman are trying our very best to be in there and changing society, but isn’t it time we threw ourselves under the horses?”
Caroline Willard (Monmouth) said there were 100 people at a hustings she recently chaired, with people from the ages of nine to 80 present. She urged members of the Governing Body to organise their own hustings. “In a different lifetime I interviewed some elderly women who had been suffragettes. It pains me when I talk to people, particularly young women, who say ‘I won’t bother to vote.’”
Carol Cobert (Llandaff) said that while some thought politics and religion shouldn’t mix, they are actually all part of the same thing. Her grandmother, who only received the vote aged 28, never once missed an election, despite living until she was 104. “If we are really concerned about people’s welfare, we should be encouraging people to vote,” she said.
Motion passed unanimously.
That the Governing Body:
(i) recognise the importance to the future of Wales and the United Kingdom of participation in the democratic process;
(ii) encourage members of the Church in Wales to inform themselves about the issues and vote in elections, particularly in the forthcoming elections to the National Assembly for Wales, for Police and Crime Commissioners and the United Kingdom European Union Membership Referendum.