Tag Archives: politics

Why am I standing as a Green Party local council candidate?

Some of my readers may have seen on Facebook, or discovered through a general Google search, that I am standing in Holywell Ward in Watford as a Green Party candidate. In this post, I’d like to outline some of my personal reasons for standing. They’ll be different for everyone and what follows isn’t official Green Party policy in any sense.

I’m a paper candidate, in the sense that I’m not seriously expecting to get elected – we are hoping to have Green Party councillors in Watford soon, as we have done in the past, but Holywell isn’t a ward likely to produce them. I’ll be going out leafleting with our team on the other side of town. But even paper candidates need strong reasons to stand, because it’s a public commitment and requires some networking and paperwork behind the scenes. I’ve got three reasons I am standing and one reason I reject.

I’m NOT standing against anyone. Some of the other council candidates in other parties are well known to me; one I would count as a personal friend. My aim in standing is not to see other people’s perspectives put down. I certainly disagree with some of them, but I want their voices to be heard equally with mine. The voting system we use here might make it seem like we are fighting one another, but my reasons for standing don’t include this.

I AM standing so that voters in my ward have a wider choice. Having more candidates to choose from, representing a wider range of parties, gives voters in Holywell ward the opportunity to express more nuanced political views and let everyone in the council, whether or not they got the votes directly, what matters to them. In Holywell ward this year we will have candidates from six parties, and to me that represents a healthy spectrum of debate.

I AM standing because justice and the environment are important to me. As a voter, the issues I want to raise are most closely aligned with those represented by the Green Party. I am personally concerned about inequality, climate change and the environment, and having made personal lifestyle changes to reflect this – such as doing voluntary work, not to driving a car, and eating mainly vegan – standing as a Green Party candidate is a next step for me in trying to make changes. To put this in my religious terms, standing as a Green Party candidate is part of my witness to the possibility of a better world and my dedication to helping to create it.

I AM standing because I can – because I have the vote, and because you could be involved too. Anyone can get involved in their local politics and make their voice heard. Voting itself is important, but there are also lots of other options. By standing for the Green Party, I make my views known and help others to do the same. There are lots of ways to get involved – every candidate needs ten nominations, and every party needs supporters, canvassers, fundraisers, and a wide range of other help. I’m getting involved – will you?

Sustainability: a garden image

If you have a garden or an allotment, it can be useful to, from time to time, walk through and get the big picture. As you go, you’ll note what’s doing well, what needs harvesting or dead-heading, what needs some TLC and where the weeds are outgrowing the plants. While I was at Yearly Meeting this year, through a chain of thoughts too tedious to recount here, it occurred to me that this image might help me to work out what’s going in with my attempts to lower my carbon footprint and live more sustainably. So here is a tour of my sustainability garden.

Let’s start with one of the oldest plants – ‘eat less meat’ in sustainability terms. I’ve been growing a tree of vegetarianism for a long time, and it flowered into nearly-vegan a couple of years ago. It still needs looking after – there a times when choosing not to eat diary is choosing not to eat, and I’m not actually up for that. (Eating out, mainly, especially when there are other people’s needs to meet as well.) In the more general food bed around the vegan-tree some things are organic and some aren’t; and worryingly, I’ve got all these plastic-packets growing. They’re a very tenacious weed and although I’ve cut them down a bit it seems almost impossible to stop them arriving with the food.

The next bed is transport flowers. These pretty little blue ones are walking, and those are growing well this year. (A lot of people grow cycle flowers here, too, but I don’t.) I’ve got lots and lots of these train-travel flowers this year, too, and at the back you can see the final few leaves from the couple of plane flights I grew last year. I haven’t planted any more, but I didn’t intend to plant last year’s, either – they were volunteers, so to speak. You can see a scattering of the purple getting-a-lift flowers, here and over there. No driving-myselfs this year, though, although perhaps the seeds are in the soil.

My energy-saving corner is a bit sad – a few simple things like better light bulbs have been planted, but I haven’t got space for all the fancy things they sell in the garden centre – solar panels and wind turbines and all that. I never know quite what to do with this.

Finally, I’m building a better path so that it’s easier to come and visit – and so that I can go out from the garden more easily. I’m think I might be building a path to my local council offices. They could be helping a lot with the bus-flowers, for example – you didn’t spot those? No, there are a few but they’re not always where I want them to be!

What is a ‘Christian country’?

Is the UK a Christian country?

I don’t know. A lot of people are talking about it this week, thanks to David Cameron, and many of them are more angry than analytical – which is fair; politics should not exclude emotion any more than religion. However, I don’t really mind whether this is a Christian country or not (possibly I should – another debate!); what fascinates me is the issue of how we would decide. What would make a country Christian?

Generally, things which can be labelled ‘Christian’ are people, beliefs, practices, and some associated objects. You can have a Christian community, Christian doctrine, and Christian prayers; you can have a Christian book, a Christian church (building and group), and a Christian position, theology, or argument. These things are made Christian in different ways:  a person is made Christian by a ritual of baptism, a declaration of faith, and/or a practice of behaving in Christian ways – and the practice in turn is made Christian by association with Christian beliefs and being undertaken by Christian people. Objects and buildings may be Christian because they are created by Christians and/or used for Christian practices. A hymn book, for example, is written by Christians for use in Christian services (and remains a Christian hymn book even if it contains material originally not Christian – Jewish psalms, a tune written by an atheist, etc.).

Accepting that a country can’t be baptised like a person (although you could make a tasteless joke about floods if you wanted to), how can it be Christian? The community could, collectively, make a statement of faith. Given that we’ve never held a referendum on this -and if we did what on earth would be the question? – the best anyone can do is look at surveys and census questions to try and work out whether we would if we could – but understanding these results is complex, as Abby Day has written. Alternatively, you could use churchgoing or some other Christian practice as a measure, and although you’d have to average it across the population, you might manage to reach an answer. Church going is easier to count than, say, private prayer – but it isn’t what’s vital to the felt Christian identity which Cameron is talking about. He admits he’s “not that regular in attendance”, and knows that he’s in good or at least plentiful company in this.

So what, if anything, does make this country Christian? I think there are three themes in Cameron’s article, all picked up by Justin Welby in his response: history, establishment, and morality. These are bound together, obviously, and they go along with a general trend for British people to continue to identify as Christian – for, as Abby Day says, natal, ethnic, or aspirational reasons (Cameron personally seems to have a little of all of these in his article, as it happens). For a country, the natal is about the founding of the nation. This one is the easiest to determine, which is why other commentators are falling back on it: the UK has a Christian history, it is full of Christian heritage – in art, architecture, law, and language – and it has an established church. If this is what you mean by ‘Christian country’, then Britain is one.

The ethnic remains an undercurrent in Cameron’s piece, but in an age where other religions – especially but not only Islam – are heavily racialised in public discourse, this has to be a factor. Liberal commentators who are critiquing Cameron’s claims are often concerned about this aspect: that saying that the UK is a Christian country appeals to xenophobic voters (the people who might vote for UKIP or similar parties, the people who are being tempted away from Cameron’s Tory party…). This is hard to untangle – back to census results and the problems with interpreting them – but I think that this alone is not enough to make a country a Christian country. A nation could be majority Christian in this sense and secular, although if it’s majority Christian for long the historical aspects mentioned above will begin to build up.

Finally, Cameron’s Christianity is moral and aspirational. He knows that faith is “neither necessary nor sufficient for morality”, but he likes the way that lots of Christians and Christian organisations do charity work. (Work that, one might think, should be done by the government with taxes rather than by volunteers who also have to pay taxes, but that’s another debate again.) A nation can be based on Christian moral teachings – although since you’d have to get Christians to agree on those, and then compare them with the current law, working out if it still is could take a while. A nation could easily be Christian in another practical sense, however – relying on the actions of Christian groups to keep it running. Even if these tasks (schools, food banks, other services) were opened up to other religious groups, the nation might be religiously-reliant but not Christian.

What could make a country Christian? History, culture, public understandings, political desires, legal situations… at the very least – and the impressions given by each of these can easily conflict with the others.

Is the UK a Christian country, then? In some senses, no; in other senses, yes. Should it be? Is that even a question, given that some of the definitions (historical, for example) would be difficult or impossible to change? Under other definitions (about establishment, for example), it seems like a very live question.