Calling the real poll - the ‘ethics election’

Simon Barrow
By Simon Barrow
6 Apr 2010

This morning Ekklesia called the "ethics election" (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/11712) - just ahead of the one declared by the British Prime minister: the media-oriented Lablibservative (un)popularity poll which is about to swallow up much of our 24/7 consciousness before spitting us out with ‘new’ masters on the other side of 6 May 2010.

At least, that’s the way the political fixers want it to be, without ever quite putting it like that. But though not many will tell you this, there is another election to be had. It's the one a lot more people would be interested in, but which we are in danger of being denied once more.

As the predicted politicking gets underway across Britain today (with alternative voices of hope like the Greens instantly having to run to catch up, incidentally) a large range of vital, ethically-rooted issues will be submerged while big, corporate parties try to convince us that they hold, and deserve, the key to ‘change’.

The not-to-be-forgotten "ethics election" pot-boilers include social and environmental justice concerns, the greed and corruption at the heart of ‘business as usual’ politics and economics, and the need for really radical political reform to break the power of corporate oligarchs.

We intend to highlight such matters and also to give attention to the voice of those who will mostly be ignored by the power-mongers in General Election 2010 - including many migrants, asylum seekers, children, the elderly, disabled people, the unemployed, prisoners, the poor, and the planet.

What we are saying is that these issues (and there are many more we could and will mention, too) are indeed ethical to the core – that is: they are about who we are (our 'ethos'), what makes up our character, how we live together through unity and difference, what we believe (or don’t believe), what choices really matter, and how we can use power either to build or to destroy.

The ‘we’ is vital. Politics is not just a matter of choosing representatives from a limited array skewed by a deeply undemocratic first-past-the-post system. More fundamentally, it is about taking responsibility, being the change you seek, calling the principalities and powers to account, changing the agenda, and remaking a civil and just life from the ground-up... in community and interest groups, faith organisations, local and regional associations, campaigns, trades unions, environmental initatives, alternative and fairtrade / credit schemes, online networks, federations of shared social concern, and so on.

Naturally, Ekklesia will also be examining in particular the changing role of religious and non-religious voices, groups and institutions in the political process.

This includes looking at how Christians concerned for justice, peace, neighbourliness, sharing and sustainability can make a difference… not by trying to grab power and influence for themselves, or by using politics to buttress the vested interests of institutional religion, but by rediscovering the other-focused, subversive, ethical core of radical, prophetic faith.

All this matters because the "ethics election" that underlies predictable party posturing, concerns the way in which politics can be reclaimed from the dominance of wealthy elites, and how the search for hope, integrity and meaning by “people of good faith” (whatever religious or non-religious labels they use) can be properly brought to the fore.

It is important to realise that an election is not the be-all and end-all of politics, as we discovered recently in the USA – when the great drama of hope embodied in Barack Obama soon became enmeshed in a huge bout of partisan fighting and an altogether deeper struggle over issues like health, war, climate change and economic justice.

No, an election like this is a moment in a much bigger change process; one that needs to be driven by people and communities, not by large monied interests. That’s why the all-encompassing political reform agenda of Power2010 (http://www.power2010.org.uk/) is vital.

It’s also why Ekklesia will be highlighting alternative policy-making initiatives of friends and partners (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/about/affiliations) in the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, the New Economics Foundation, Get Fair, Just Share, Vote Global, Hope Not Hate (challenging the BNP), Strangers into Citizens and Put People First. These are non-party networks who have brought together tens of thousands of people from all faiths and none to demand real – not cosmetic – change, and to prescribe and model new approaches in practice.

So there is much, much more to politics than will be on show over the next month. Nevertheless, the 6 May 2010 General Election does matter. A hung parliament where real pressure can be put on the political patriarchs is a possibility. Vote swapping can help turn a ‘wasted’ vote into a vital one. Larger agendas and options can be signalled in debate and in the media. And so on.

The local-global dimension is also crucial. Britain is a small country of diverse nations, but it still wields global influence in a number of ways. The issues debated over the next month will have an impact not just to those who get a vote – but upon millions upon millions who do not, or who get no real say, both in the UK and across the world.

The "ethics election", in contrast to much of the official one, is about making all this count. That’s why we encourage you to take a distinctly different view of Election developments with Ekklesia here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/tags/7286 and to get involved in the campaigns and initiatives calling the politicians to make real change with us.

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© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He authored our June 2009 research report on ‘The State of Independents: Alternative Politics’ (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/research/independent_politics).

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