Wednesday, 7 April 2010

General Election Day 1 - And They're Off (at last!)

Have we just survived a ‘phoney election’? Keen history boffins will recognise this phrase describing the initial months following declaration of the second world war when, to a large extent, life in the UK continued without much interruption. By the time the ‘proper’ war started many initial evacuees, to take one example, had already returned home. Now Gordon Brown has officially fired the starting gun have we now got to the election proper?

Election time proper should be a moment of great excitement and I must admit to at last getting a heavy dose of election fever. Already I am alert and ready for the latest policy announcements, I’m waiting to hear political speeches and I’m wanting to see people out quizzing their candidates.

I’m quietly wanting to see the passion. For an average period of 4 years between elections we have the politicians and media pundits batting about political ideas and principles all the while trying to claim they have the support, or reflect the will, of the public. Now we really have a time to say what we really think.

While we may not have the parties election manifestos yet, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland have already putout an easy accessible guide to election issue. Faith in Politics is a stunning publication (I can say that having not written it!) that really provides an ABC to many key issues in the political alphabet from Criminal Justice to Poverty and Social Exclusion, via Health and Global Security.

I’m getting excited though. I think mass democracy is a wonderful moment to behold. But it is only our moment if we make it so. Politicians have to face and talk with the public in a way that means they are meeting us on our terms, not theirs. Some of the highlights of previous elections have been when the unexpected happens. From John Prescott punching a voter to Tony Blair being berated as he entered a hospital – this is where we see the real metal of our elected representatives.

This election is fascinating. With potential for a hung parliament the parties are really going to have to go back to basics. After years of political hegemony we will see fault lines deepening. We will see people, of all hues, arguing for the New Jerusalem they wish to see, and it's up to each of us to help make this happen.

I look forward to seeing you at the ballot box, on the streets talking with candidates, at the hustings meeting asking questions and on the sofa watching the results coming in.