We’re working with churches across the UK to share visions of a Good Society – first at events on Church Action on Poverty Sunday, and then by holding General Election hustings events based on the churches’ Vision of a Good Society.
By sharing our own vision, we hope churches can challenge politicians to talk more about their own positive visions, and less about short-term problems and negative issues. So we’ve asked Christian politicians and candidates of all parties to share their reactions to our 2020 Vision of the Good Society, and talk about their own aspirations.
To avoid any bias in our presentation, we’ve selected the order of these guest blogs at random. This second one is by Jonathan Bartley, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Green Party in Streatham.
It’s no mistake that the Green Party has chosen ‘For the Common Good’ as its strapline. It asks the question, not how can we better the lives of this or that particular group, but “How do we live well together?” It offers our vision of what that might be.
As the Vision 2020 document points out, the notion of the Common Good should not remain in a box marked ‘Christian’. This is God’s world and the question of how we live together is not a religious or secular vision, but the right vision.
The churches have a vital role to play, not just in articulating it, but in challenging a political orthodoxy which advocates something different. The churches should not be afraid to speak truth to power. Do the three big parties believe they can create the vision of a good society when they are all funded by big business those associated with tax avoidance? How can they stand up for a publicly owned NHS, when they have all been involved in its privatisation? Why do they all subscribe to the culture of testing and league tables in schools which does so much damage to our children?
The lie that there is no alternative to austerity – in which the poorest pay the price for a succession of economic crises they were not responsible for – can also be met with something better. The churches should feel liberated to articulate boldly what their vision is.
Britain remains one of the richest countries in the world. There is enough money to go around. The problem is that it is in the wrong hands. There are dozens of sensible steps that could be taken to generate the money we need. We shouldn’t waste £100bn on renewing our nuclear weapons. We should levy a Robin Hood Tax to raise £20-£30bn a year, and a wealth tax on the top 1% of earners generating a similar amount. Inheritance tax should be based on the wealth of those who will inherit, rather than those who have died. We should introduce a fairer Land Value tax, to replace council tax.
The minimum wage should be lifted to £10 an hour, and made a Living Wage. Rent caps could be introduced. There should be a focus on creating truly affordable housing, which stays affordable, through Community Land Trusts and co-operative models, with investment in proper social housing. A Citizens Income and Citizens Pension, would address benefit traps, but also provide a basic subsistence level for all.
And of course, one of the best ways to work towards the proposals in the Vision 2020 document is to vote for them! Unless a clear message is sent to Westminster that we need a change of direction, away from cuts and austerity, the scapegoating of migrants and those on welfare, it will be business as usual for the next five years until 2020.
If you want these things, vote for what you believe in, and vote Green for the Common Good.