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AV will give Catholics a stronger political voice

In Britain there is no such thing as ‘the Catholic vote’, but with the Alternative Vote there might well be

By on Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Labour leader Ed Miliband joins Business Secretary Vince Cable in support of the Yes campaign (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Labour leader Ed Miliband joins Business Secretary Vince Cable in support of the Yes campaign (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

There has been a lot of news about recently – the royal wedding, the beatification, and on a rather different note, the unlooked for end of Osama bin Laden – so you might be forgiven for forgetting that tomorrow is an election day here in the United Kingdom. The devolved assemblies in Cardiff, Stormont and Edinburgh are about to be renewed, and there are local elections in most of England; but the one vote that happens everywhere will be the referendum on AV, the Alternative Vote.

It is the duty of priests to remind their flocks that voting is a duty, and that not to vote (unless one has a serious reason that prevents one going to the polling station) is a sin. Just in case you did not hear that from your own priest, take it from me. Trust me, I am a doctor – of moral theology.

Of course the clergy, while directing people to vote, should never direct them on how to vote – though this has certainly been done in the past, it is certainly neither prudent or indeed morally justified. Every conscience must come to an informed but autonomous decision. So what follows is entirely personal opinion.

The Alternative Vote offers a good chance for Catholics to increase their political influence. Under the present system, elections are decided in a very few marginal constituencies. In most constituencies the result is a foregone conclusion, and campaigning, if it happens at all, is purely for form’s sake. AV will make more constituencies marginal, and thus make our candidates work harder. That must be good; it will improve the quality of political discourse.

The other factor is this: under AV candidates will have to solicit first preference votes as they do at present; but they will also have to make a play for second preferences. Someone standing for the Pro-Life Alliance may get a few hundred first preferences; under AV the way those people make their second preferences could be crucial. It will mean that the two leading candidates may well have to make themselves attractive to those who vote for the Pro-Life Alliance. AV also means that with a second string to their bow, voters for the Pro-Life Alliance cannot be dismissed as people who “waste” their votes. Thus single-issue parties may well do much better under AV.

AV allows a more nuanced vote. Let’s say I wish to vote Lib Dem; but how should I use my second preference? If one of the candidates of the major parties is stronger on pro-life matters, I would vote for her or him, surely. AV will mean that mainstream politicians will no longer be able safely to ignore the Catholic vote. Of course, in this country there is no such thing as “the Catholic vote”, but with AV there might well be. Other minorities may also get a voice.

While we are on the subject of voting, please make an effort to vote in the local elections. Everyone moans (myself included) about, let’s say, the failure of local councils to grit pavements during snowy weather. Well, now is our chance to do something more than moan.

  • The GF

    How dare you. Are you a Doctor of Theology and an Oxford MA? I doubt it.

  • Anonymous

    Day off: No money to do anything: Believed the issue was important: Nuff said?

  • Anonymous

    As this is a doxic discussion rather than an epistemic one – people’s opinions come to the fore – and when it comes to opinions people may be right for all the wrong reasons or wrong for all the right ones – I believe most of us on here who oppose AV truly believe Fr Alexander is wrong for all the right motives and considerations.
    Doesn’t not make him wrong though – but it doesn’t diminish the respect afforded him.

  • Tiggy

    This is more to do with common sense really.

  • DBMcGinnity

    I am sorry for making the Mary Tudor comment. It is clear that you are very sincere, and what you say about Europe and Ireland are very true and for me it is heartbreaking. However what you call secularism and modernism, I call rationality, based on logic and reason. I know very many practicing Catholics, who do not believe the teaching of life hereafter (heaven, hell, angels and saints) anymore, because it is impossible for the integrity of the mind to accept such illogicality. But some bloggers making the insinuation and allusion that Protestants and other religions are not part of God, and are not good people, is not Christlike.

  • Parasum

    MiliCable seems not to realise that that shade of purple clashes with the carpet and the floor.

  • parasum

    1. That kind of law would go far beyond the toleration of private religious acts by non-Catholic bodies that used to be the rule in Spain & Malta. It would be a great injustice, because faith cannot be compelled, even if its outward manifestations can. What is just, is that those professing another faith than the true one should be permitted the exercise of their religious convictions in private; & that they should not be given any right in law to disrupt the exercise of the Catholic Faith.

    2. Whether Catholics believe doctrine X, is irrelevant to its truth or lack of truth.

    3. Like the rest of the human race, Catholics have a grave moral duty to obey their consciences: it is a mortal sin to follow Catholic moral teaching, if one is seriously persuaded that to do so would be displeasing to God. One is absolutely obliged to obey one’s conscience – even if it is is misinformed. No man on earth is exempt from this obligation. What also needs saying is that if one is in the slightest doubt as to the moral character of what one intends to do, it is a sin to do whatever-it-is; if something might be immoral, it is sinful to go ahead and do it. One must be clear in one’s mind that it is not sinful. If conscience is misinformed, that may be culpable, or it may not; everyone is morally obliged to use all the means at their disposal to make sure that their consciences are properly informed.

    FWIW, conscience is a means of becoming sensitive to God – it is a gross abuse of conscience to use it as a mechanism for escaping from what we so much as suspect God may desire from us. If all Catholics were obedient to their consciences, they would be Saints. As Cardinal Newman said, it is a “stern monitor”. Conscience may well be many things – but it is not a means of self-will; it’s the very opposite.

    4. England was Catholic in the past – it may be again.

    5. A lot more Catholics believe the teaching of the Church than the media might suggest. For as long as there are some on earth, there will be a Catholic Church on earth. “Abraham, our father in faith” was just one man.

  • ms catholic state

    I am sorry to break it to you…..but there is absolutely NO logic in secularism. Secularists fail to understand life…..and that’s why they produce nations which fail. If they understood life…..they would applaud Catholicism……and know that it was rational. All rationality comes from God.