The last few years have seen such turbulence in our political culture that many who previously felt confident of their political home have been shaken, and others who never connected with political parties are now passionate supporters.

This upheavel is both the result of political realignment, but also the fuel for further realignment. This has been witnessed in parliament as MPs have left their parties, often sparked by concerns over leadership or policies on Brexit, and it has been seen in elections as new parties have burst onto the scene. The sight of neither the Conservatives nor Labour coming first or second in the 2019 European Parliament elections was a clear indication of our current political moment. 

Recent polling suggests Labour no longer command the majority support of the working classes that was previously the bedrock of their vote. Analysis of home ownership and voting shows that property wealth is now less clearly linked to voting Conservative than was true as recently as 2010. Incidentally, there is a clear correlation between voting remain in the 2016 referendum and having more wealth in property.

The changing tides of politics is not necessarily a bad thing – and it’s not inevitably a good thing either. It can provide an opportunity to reassess what is important in our political allegiance and why we put our cross where we do when we go to the ballot box. Too often voting has been about responding to deeply ingrained cues that lead us in a pre-set direction – you hear about seats where they would vote for a monkey with a blue rosette on, or a clown with a red one. 


With many people feeling politically homeless and looking at the list of candidates standing and parties competing for their vote, how can Christians decide who to vote for? To be clear, I will not, and cannot, tell you who to vote for. If my pointers below are vague, it’s because I don’t want to present the semblance of an iota of an idea that there is a single good way for Christians to vote. As Christians with conviction we are likely to think some options are better than others, and some perhaps beyond the pale, but we will likely differ in that opinion too.

As well as understanding how values and beliefs will lead Christians in different directions, as charities, churches cannot support or oppose political parties or candidates. For both compliance with the law and respect for individual conscience, it is important that churches do their best to be impartial and above party politics especially at election time. 

Being above party politics does not mean ignoring politics; being involved in politics is an intrinsic outworking of our faith, and a key part in partnering with God as we seek to see His kingdom come in our world. 

Policies and priorities

Even when we agree on political priorities we will disagree on the best policies to achieve this; and different voters will prioritise different issues when deciding how to vote. For some, this will be a matter of choosing whether to vote according to a party’s stance on Brexit or the NHS, or on taxation or education, but it might also be based on a preference for the national policies or local campaigns the candidates are involved with. 

This is not to say all options are equal, nor that as Christians with convictions about our favoured political party we shouldn’t think that others whose politics differs to ours aren’t fundamentally wrong. But it is an acknowledgement that such diversity of political allegiance exists within the church.

We are also in an era of greater differentiation between the main political parties. For many years, especially since 1990 there was significant convergence in the policy aims of competing parties. Since the 2015 election this consensus has somewhat shattered with both Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party and Brexit disrupting the political landscape.

Person or party?

On top of this difference there is the vital aspect of the person we are voting for. The UK electoral system is not without its flaws but one significant advantage is that we get to vote for an individual person. That person is likely to be representing a political party but independent candidates have increased in profile this year as many have left their previous parties and either changed allegiance or are standing on their own. 

When we look at our voting options it is not just the national policies or the local campaigns that we should consider but the person who is asking to be our representative in parliament. When we elect an MP we are placing them at the heart of our political system to make decisions on their constituency’s behalf, and therefore the character of the candidate is vital. For some this will override party loyalties, leading them to vote for a candidate of a party they would not normally support. 

Conviction or tactics?

A third complication – on top of the differences between policies and priorities, and the tension between candidate and party – is the increased role of tactical voting that appears to be present at this election. Because Brexit has taken centre stage this election it has caused some to consider voting for a different party than usual to either ensure that a candidate who either backs remain or leave wins. 

There has been an explosion in tactical voting guides, looking at which candidate will stop Brexit, encouraging Labour voters to lend their votes to the Lib Dems in some seats (and vice versa), a formal alliance between the Lib Dems, the Greens and Plaid Cymru agreeing not to compete in 60 seats, and the Brexit Party not standing in seats the Conservatives are defending. For some, this tactical voting will enable them to prioritise what they consider most important, whereas for others, despite their convictions on a particular policy area, the overall platform of a party might push them to vote in a different direction. 

Research conducted by the Evangelical Alliance ahead of the 2015 general election showed that while their voting intention was fairly similar to the general public, the issues they prioritised varied significantly (information on pages 12 – 13 of the booklet attached below). At that election more than one fifth of the population said race and immigration was the most important issue facing the UK, whereas only 6 per cent of evangelicals agreed. 

Conversely, only 4 per cent of the public said poverty and inequality was the most important issues, but nearly a third of evangelicals surveyed did. More than two thirds of evangelicals (71 per cent) said policies that ensure religious liberty and freedom of expression were important and would affect their vote. Other important issues included pro-life positions on abortion and euthanasia and opposition to same-sex marriage. 

While these are important, and for more than 4 out of 10 evangelicals would affect the way they vote, the parties have relatively similar policy positions supporting abortion and same-sex marriage, which limits how these issues can actually affect where the cross goes on the ballot paper. 

At the time of the survey we found that 93 per cent of evangelicals said being honourable and not corrupt” was the most or very important in any candidate; far fewer – 32 per cent -considered it important that politicians were Christians. 

Political exile?

If there is any benefit of the instability and turbulence of contemporary politics, it may be that it forces many of us to rethink how we vote. But despite the challenges, voting is a crucial act, and the decision we face may not be easy and may involve compromising, but is one that represents our commitment to being involved in the life of our nations. If we don’t, we are in affect handing that responsibility to those who are willing to vote, regardless of who that might be for. 

It is also a reminder that the places we might have thought of as our political home were never that. In biblical exile the people of God were in an unfamiliar land but retained their identity as the people of Israel. Likewise, our political homes may be unrecognisable but we can remember that our home in the kingdom of God is permanent and unshakeable.