Like me you have probably had various leaflets through your door about the forthcoming referendum about the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. The voting form has the feel of an instruction manual for the hokey-cokey – it’s in or out – but with no mention of ‘shake it all about’. Although, perhaps, shaken will be what David Cameron and the ‘In’ supporters will be if the country votes ‘Out’.
Referenda are relatively rare as we leave decision-making to the government that is formed from our elected members of parliament. The referendum in June will be just the third in our history as a United Kingdom. The first, like this one, concerned our membership of the EEC as it was then called, while the second, five years ago, was about whether we should change to a different method of electing MPs. On both occasions the country voted to maintain the status quo. We shall have to wait until after 23rd June to find out if it will be three ‘conservative’ votes in a row.
The Electoral Commission’s guide that has been delivered to every home sets out how to vote, but it also has two opposing pages with the details of each group’s case. What is noticeable is that both sides make the promise that we will be better off – financially and socially – if we support their view. They also offer dire warnings about what will happen if we support the other view.
I have heard few voices offering any suggestions as to why we might vote one way or the other based on anything other than self-interest. This sounds rather a self-righteous point to make in that many of us vote in elections according to who we think will give us and our families the best deal. Politicians rarely try to sell their policies by telling people that they will be worse off under their party than they would be under the opposition.
It would be unreasonable to expect everybody to follow the teaching of Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount, but it would be interesting to see what sort of world we would live in if we did ‘seek first the kingdom of God’.
I’m pretty sure which way I will vote on 23rd June, but my belief is that all who vote should consider what is best not just for ‘us’ – whether that is us as individuals or as a country – but what is best for a safer, peaceful Europe and for a fairer world.