We are just a day away from what has been described as the most important election in a generation, though it seems to me this is how every election is described.

This election is certainly unusual: it is the first December election in the UK since 1923 and has fallen outside of the normal election cycle. Moreover, it comes just seven weeks before the UK is due to leave the EU. Brexit has dominated the political landscape of these islands over the last four years, with Northern Ireland and the border at the eye of the storm. Like in other parts of the UK, alliances and pacts have emerged between parties who share positions on Brexit. In Northern Ireland there is always an added layer of constitutional politics. 

Alongside these UK wide issues, there are also pressing local issues for Northern Irish voters to consider. After a relentless campaign and a subversion of devolution, legislation on same-sex marriage and abortion was passed at Westminster in the summer and is now in the process on being consulted upon and implemented. 

Sponsored

All of these issues might affect how people here choose to vote. So, too, might issues that have arisen due to a lack of a functioning executive here for the last three years. For example, the health service is proving to be a big part of this election. In Northern Ireland waiting times for outpatient appointments are astronomically larger than in the rest of the UK in real terms and nurses are currently on strike for the first time in over 100 years. It is no exaggeration to say that the health service is in serious danger of collapse. Three years ago parties had agreed on a radical change to the health service after the Bengoa report. The lack of an executive has played a major role in inaction on such issues and other vital concerns of civil society.

So, Brexit, social policy, the constitution, health and the vacuum of leadership at Stormont – maybe this is actually the most important election in a generation.

How, then, should we as Christians weigh up the decision of who to vote for? What should some of our priorities be?

Prayer. We must pray and seek God’s wisdom. The apostle Paul encourages us to no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world. It’s important that we don’t allow ourselves to fall into tribal voting, and the established patterns of voting that dominate our culture. Let’s seek to approach this with the desire to honour the Lord and the good of our neighbour.

Research. Certain commentators have said this is one of the first elections taking place in an increasingly post truth culture. Therefore, it is important to do some research. Rather than reading article headlines or unverified posts on social media, it would be helpful to consider party manifestos. Additionally, what about the character of your local candidate? Do they display integrity, transparency, competence? Are they concerned for all sections of society? What about kindness, grace, humility?

Vote. It’s important that we make our voice heard in the public square, and to do our best to vote for those who we trust will make our society a better place for all. Many people will choose not to vote for various well-considered reasons, however as tempting as it might be, apathy or indifference do not fall within that category.

In this moment, let’s walk wisely, think deeply, and speak hopefully.