Saturday, May 07, 2005


Life being as busy as it has been, I have been quiet for most of the British general election campaign. Here, anyway. Over on Ekklesia I was involved in the Subverting the Manifestos document. I also penned two columns, one during and one right at the end of what turned out to be a rather depressing campaign: how the Cross marks our ballot and Questioning political leadership.

The outcome was pretty much as I expected and wanted: a Blair goverment may have many faults, but after the appalling xenophobia of the Tories, with their vilification of migranst and asylum seekers, the main opposition deserved nothing but defeat.

I voted Labour without much enthusiasm, however. Thank goodness my London MP is the dedicated and principled Glenda Jackson, who deserved re-election. If I had voted in Exeter it would have been with the Lib Dems against pro-war (and anti-asylum gateway scheme) MP Ben Bradshaw. He got my effective abstention instead.

As many commentators have observed, the most pleasant irony of the result is to be found in the fact that a non-proportional electoral system ill-suited to nuance ended up delivering just the kind of mixed message that was needed at a time like this.

The prime minister's majority (and his room for manoevre) has been limited by dissenters in the Labour Party and by those who stengthened the Liberal Democrats. The Greens, sadly disabled by greener-than-thou sectarianism, had little impact.

At the same time, and less enjoyably, we have also been made to face up to the scale of anti-immigrant opinion reflected both in the Conservative vote and in the growth of support for the British National Party. The issue must now be confronted, both politically and socially.

The big lie behind the 'tough immigration controls' argument, besides its unfeasibility and immorality, is the unspoken notion -- one that goes back to the early 1950s in British parliamentary discourse -- that a dose of racism at the borders will innoculate the country against racism within those borders. This is the reverse of the truth. Michael Howard boosted the BNP mentality by scapegoating for votes. Christians should not be afraid to point this out.

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