Who will British Catholics vote for in May? And who should they vote for? Is there anyone who has not been alienated in some way or other? The offending issues vary across the political spectrum, but – whether your problem is with faith schools or gay marriage, with environmental protection or defence of the realm, with abandoned family values or the exclusion of the those in need - the main parties have lost voters’ confidence to an alarming degree. But on 7 May, most of us will still cast our ballot. So all this week, Catholic swing voters explain why they’re ditching old allegiances and say who – if anyone – now best represents their electoral concerns
I am voting Ukip at the 2015 general election, for the first time. The Conservatives’ support for redefining marriage means that I cannot, in good conscience, vote for them again.
As a cradle Catholic who feels a strong disappointment with fellow Catholics who give up on particular beliefs and practices that conflict with the culture of broader society, I was interested to read the bishops’ letter advising the flock on how to vote.
I have a tendency to be quite tribal with my vote, so I welcomed the chance to re-orientate my political views by reflecting on how my faith should inform them.
Most commentators I have read agree that the bishops’ warning – of the “great danger of blaming immigrants for the ills of society” – was pointing us away from the arms of Ukip.
I admit, in modern, pressurised London it is easy to get stuck into a selfish mindset and forget our Christian values of loving our fellow man and caring for those less fortunate than ourselves. So when the bishops called for us to vote for a candidate that recognises “the rights, dignity and protection of refugees and migrants” they offered a chance to put our own needs into perspective.
But as the bishops themselves say, “Immigration is a highly emotive issue”. When my son didn’t get his place at his nearest Catholic infant school, it wasn’t because desperate refugees had filled the places, but economic migrants. When I picked my son up at the school he did get into, he innocently asked me why I am sent him to a Polish school. On the bus taking him to school we are often the only native English-speakers to be heard, and my wife, who herself moved here from abroad, pities my cultural isolation in my home city. It's this sense of isolation that leads me to vote Ukip rather than what is commonly implied, xenophobia.
As the son of a white working-class London family, I might now consider Ukip my tribe, even though the bishops’ letter effectively warned me not vote for them, and their concern is for people whose problems make my complaints laughable.
Immigration is not the zero-sum game they present it as. We don’t have to sacrifice our community, shared heritage and sense of belonging to help those in desperate need. Indeed, what the people who will require shelter need more than anything is a cohesive community to be welcomed into.
Tony Gunn (a pseudonym) is a software engineer from East Acton in the diocese of Westminster