And at last we're off! A month-long general election campign which, I'm quite sure, will ensure everyone in the country (even us politics junkies) has become thoroughly tired and fed-up of everything political by voting day (6 May).
This election is very important for people of faith. Naturally, as Christians our faith shapes our worldview which in turn influences how we vote. There can be little doubt thirteen years of Labour government has been strongly antithetical towards Christian values and had a massive impact upon Christianity in this country. Not only various bishops and well-known figures take this view, some on the religious left dismayed with Labour's wars would agree. Elsewhere, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has announced he is an atheist, something political leaders always avoid doing. Honesty, or indicative of an even tougher time for Christian values if he secured a government role? Meanwhile, David Cameron is a churchgoer who is keen to be seen holding to traditional values. But confusingly he also wants to be seen as modern, inclusive and ridding the party of its so-called nasty image, for example by seeking to capture the gay vote. There are, of course, other parties to vote for (though some are regional) including some where faith and politics are intertwinned, for example Northern Ireland's DUP.
My view is Christians should take a strong interest in this election and vote. After all, this represents an important election which could see more of the same - even more - antithesis towards Christianity. A hung parliament could also mean a change in the voting system which changes our politics for ever. What could this mean for Christians? And if this is a reality shouldn't we be looking much more carefully now at the Lib Dems and what they could mean for Christianity in the UK? Moreover, the Conservatives were the party of traditional values but if they return to power will there really be a reversal of some of Labour's social and moral policies? Committed Anglican Daily Mail columnist Peter Hitchens feels the Tories have so ditched their values that a thumping at the polls and the emergence of a new party along the old Tory lines is what is needed. There are various other issues we could raise, but as you can see there is a lot to play for here, particularly for people of faith. And if we don't vote, when the dust settles and we find ourselves in difficult circumstances we will only have ourselves to blame. In future years complaining about the erosion of Christian values will seem pretty hollow if we didn't at least bother to vote, being salt and light by encouraging others to do so and seek to bring change.
Over the course of this election I'll be drawing attention to issues which have relevance to Christians and are worth bearing in mind as we prepare to decide who to cast our vote for. To keep these pages fresh, up to date and relevant I'll be keeping my comments short and to the point. Please feel free to elaborate or develop the discussion of issues raised through your comments.