The common good and the lives of others

By Jill Segger
April 27, 2017

What will you vote for? Hard Brexit? Soft Brexit? Your own interests? Maybe you will vote for the party which has always commanded your loyalty. Perhaps you are disillusioned or angry and your vote will be one of protest.

The present political climate is more volatile and fissile than it has been in the lifetime of most of us. The old party loyalties are breaking down and the smaller parties now in contention have the capacity to change the face of marginal seats. Brexit has cut across both party and constituency lines and tactical voting is likely to be utilised far more than has been the case in the past.

So although the essentially undemocratic first-past-the post system will still disempower many of us, there are good reasons for considering how we will vote in six weeks time and therefore, for what we will vote. Ekklesia's General Election theme for 2017 is #Vote4CommonGood. To have a concept of what that may mean, a willingness to step away from the familiar is essential.

There is no shame in the not knowing which arises from inexperience. But real harm may be done in the failure to question and to discover. Few of us are good wayfinders outside our communities of the familiar and to be alert to 'goods' beyond our own social and intellectual geography may be something of a challenge.

So for people of good faith, here are a few challenges. Find out what the minimum wage would deliver you for a 40 hour week. Search the tax credits which might be added to that according to your family situation. Take a look at  the average rents for your area and at the vacancies and wages offered at your local JobCentre. Cost a week's shopping at both your supermarket of choice and the cheapest local outlet. In fact, draft a household budget based on the incomings of this unfamiliar situation and compare it with your own.

The foregoing assumes you are in work and are neither disabled nor chronically ill. So now look at what ESA would give you (in both the Support Group and the Work Related Activity Group). This comment piece by Bernadette Meaden may be helpful here  And then try to imagine the added strain of the compulsory back-to-work activities demanded by the Work Programme and the sanctions applied when poor health makes you unable to meet these demands. And while exercising that useful moral muscle of imagination, apply it to the extra expenses of prepayment gas or electricity meters, or to the crises which could arise if your washing machine broke or two of your children grew out of their shoes at the same time.

If you are willing to undertake these small research tasks, you may be limbered up for looking honestly at your own situation. What compromises and sacrifices are you willing to make? Is your life secure enough for you to give a little? Will you forgo some 'entitlement' in the interest of others less fortunate? And most important of all, might you concede that commonality asks us all to consider the lives of others? If those lives are deformed by economic and social injustice, we foul our own nests and should be ashamed.

No political party will deliver everything we want. No party is above reproach. But we have an obligation to study the manifestos and the past records of those who want our votes; to interrogate our own prejudices and self-interest and to put the common good at the heart of our reflection and decision making over the coming weeks.

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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.co/quakerpen

Ekklesia's General Election theme for 2017 is #Vote4CommonGood. This will be explored by writers and researchers from different perspectives and backgrounds, as well as analysis of the different party manifestos in relation to the principles and policies we have advocated for many years. 



Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.