Churches can play a key role in this election
By providing hustings, the Church can play a central role in this election, says Nola Leach, Chief Executive of CARE.
Another election is upon us and voters head to the polls in just four weeks’ time. Everything is up for grabs and until the dust settles on 13 December, we won’t know for sure what the next Government will look like.
That said, there are a number of striking features that make this election unique. One of which is the number of MPs who are standing down, from all across the House of Commons.
At the time of writing, more than 70 MPs have said they will not be going for re-election. Being an MP is hard work at the best of times and these last few years have been especially difficult. MPs have been subjected to disturbing levels of abuse online and offline and it is no wonder so many are calling it a day.
Of course, MPs standing down means new opportunities for first-time candidates or for those who have repeatedly attempted to enter Parliament. The Commons is going to look very different on 13 December.
With so many familiar faces stepping aside, engaging with candidates in this election takes on a whole new level of importance. Something CARE is passionate about is the significance and importance of local, church hustings. There is still nothing quite like it if you want to quiz the candidates on a whole range of issues, and a hustings meeting, hosted by a Church may be your only opportunity to do so.
Churches, then, can play a key part in this election, for there are few venues more suitable to hold a husting than a church building. They are key public spaces and often have excellent links with their local communities.
I remember at the 2010 election, we had nearly 300 church hustings recorded on our election website which was, as far as we were aware, the largest recording of hustings in one place. Tens of thousands of Christians and many others benefited as the Church stepped up to the plate.
It would be a brilliant thing if the Church got stuck in during this election and worked hard to provide the same opportunities. Of course, a Winter election brings its own challenges with many church leaders extremely busy already, planning for Christmas and Advent. But amidst the business of carol services and Christmas services, I hope churches will play a key role in facilitating debate and discussion ahead of polling day.
To help equip churches, CARE has launched a dedicated and bespoke election website, engaGE19. It’s packed with up-to-date policy information, MPs voting record and crucially, a Hustings Guide. From practical tips to template invitations, it is perfect to set you on the road to deliver a first-class husting that will benefit the community at large.
EngaGE19 also has useful questions for voters to use when asking candidates where they stand. While this is the Brexit election, we are potentially electing MPs for the next five years. The next Parliament could also see key votes on issues that matter deeply to Christians and others, such as abortion, assisted suicide and divorce. Our website will not tell people who to vote for, but it will provide them with plenty of information as they think through and wrestle with the decision themselves.
Even though this is a short election campaign, I am confident that by providing hustings, the Church can play a central role in this election. Our election website, engaGE19 has been designed to help churches play a part and in so doing, provide a valuable public service as well.
The charity’s General Election website can be found here.
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