Its politics in a church - the atmosphere before the start is muted. About a hundred mainly Christian elderly and apparently affluent electors gathered on a lovely sunny early spring evening in a Stockport suburb. Four candidates present, all suited, white males.
The hosting Minister begins with a couple of Bible readings and urges us, “To listen with respect” and “remember to vote for our community not ourselves.” It is all too civilised in the context of the last 12 months. The Chair for the evening is another Minister and all the questions were submitted beforehand.
The Tory has an advantage over the others as the event is taking place in the church he attends. Isn’t a Christian Conservative an oxymoron? He is a product of the ToryBoy haircut school and obviously groomed by the extra cash to make the most of his opportunities. The Labour candidate is from Scotland and is another practicing Christian, however from the more radical wing.
The LibDem is the current MP and he plays that card for all he is worth citing surgeries, meetings and Parliamentary questions whenever possible. The final player is an affable old cove who wandered in from the golf club to represent UKIP.
The Labour guy is head and shoulders above the rest but hasn’t got a cat in hells chance. The Tory loves his mum who is a brilliant nurse and he adores David Cameron’s community policies, which apparently will eradicate the debt and make us all better people.
Being a religiously organised event there is an emphasis on faith matters. This grates after a while. Everything chugs along in a passive silence and even when the candidates disagree it is surprisingly soulless. Thoughtful but peripheral.
The only issue to light the Christian folks fire was the ‘highest council tax in Greater Manchester’ which half the audience blamed the MP for. The Tory did well on this point with the backing of his mates in the audience and it is the only time the LibDem is ruffled. The Labour candidate made the point that Bramhall is a wealthy place and could afford to subsidise needier areas. A message not welcomed by some of these affluent Christians though.
Interfaith initiatives were prominent. Jews and Muslims got several mentions; not a peep about the Roman Catholics. I wonder why?
We finished with a prayer for the candidates. A few of us did not join in – an indication of the nature of the audience. Overheard at the end, “I couldn’t understand a word that Scotsman said.” Shame that because his accent was not thick.
Reform? Trust? Troops out? Torture? Rendition? No mention. What was that about comforting the afflicted or afflicting the comfortable?