General election 2019: How Catholic voters can help the world’s poorest people
4 December 2019
The UK general election is set to take place on Thursday 12 December.
The election campaign is likely to be dominated by Brexit but also gives Catholic voters the chance to ensure candidates standing for Parliament address the issues affecting the world’s poorest communities.
Daniel Hale, Head of Campaigns at CAFOD, said:
“The idea of having to go the polling station on the way back from our Christmas shopping isn’t something that will fill many of us with festive joy.
“But an election is one of the most valuable opportunities we have to bring the voices of our poorest sisters and brothers to people in power – making sure that they are not an ‘afterthought’, as Pope Francis has warned.
“Brexit is bound to dominate this election, but we need to make sure that the candidates asking for our votes are reminded that politics has to also focus on the other critical issues we face in our common home.”
What should I ask election candidates in my area?
Along with our sister charity Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), we have produced a list of actions you can take to show candidates that voters want them to act and help to fight poverty.
There are lots of opportunities for us to speak to candidates during an election campaign – including when campaigners from political parties knock on our doors, participate in hustings, and when responding to letters, emails and petitions from people in the constituency they’re campaigning to represent.
Four especially important election issues to raise with candidates and parties during this campaign are:
- Aid: What they will do to tackle global poverty and to support overseas aid.
- Climate crisis: The steps they will take to end the UK’s contribution to climate change by putting us on track to reach ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions.
- Trade, refugees and migrants: What they wish Britain’s role in the world to be – especially when negotiating new trade deals if the UK leaves the European Union and how they will make sure refugees and migrants are treated with dignity.
- Domestic poverty: How they will help people trapped in poverty here in England and Wales.
Daniel Hale said:
“It’s vital that those standing for election know that we expect them to urgently put us on track to end our contribution to climate change, to make sure our trade with the world benefits rather than exploits poor communities and that we help people who’ve been forced from their homes by poverty and persecution.
“There are still millions of people worldwide struggling for the right to vote. We need to honour those people – and those who fought for the right for us to vote in the generations which went before us: registering to vote, speaking up to those seeking our vote and then exercising our vote in solidarity with our global family.”
The money the UK government spends on aid for the world’s poorest communities is an important tool for tackling poverty and its causes.
There is support across political parties for the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our national income on overseas aid. But it’s important that the focus of the aid budget is on the needs of the world’s poorest people.
Thousands of CAFOD supporters have played a vital role alongside school children, grandparents and campaigners from hundreds of other organisations in persuading the government to set a new climate change target.
The target, which is a legal commitment for the UK to reach ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, is more ambitious than the goal originally set by Parliament in 2008.
Now politicians need to urgently put the steps in place to bring emissions down to net zero by:
- increasing the amount of electricity generated by renewable energy
- making it easier for people to choose electric cars by installing more chargers
- planting more trees to soak up carbon dioxide.
This is particularly important ahead of the UN climate talks, known as ‘COP26’, taking place in Glasgow in November 2020. The government’s advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, have warned that ministers must act faster to ensure the UK is a credible host of the conference.
Britain’s role in the world
The UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU by 31 January. This means new rules will need to be agreed for matters such as migration and how we trade with the rest of the world.
Pope Francis has warned that issues affecting vulnerable communities can be neglected by decision makers in these types of processes, meaning it is important voters make politicians aware they will not accept this.
Any trade deals negotiated after Brexit must be scrutinised by Parliament and mustn’t harm poor communities and the environment.
Rules on migration must protect the dignity and rights of everyone, especially the most vulnerable people who face the greatest hardships when they leave their homes.
Poverty in England and Wales
Whilst the remit of CAFOD is to help vulnerable communities overseas, our sister agency the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) is responsible for supporting people struggling with poverty here in England and Wales.
An important aspect of CSAN’s work is to help the increasing number of people of all ages who live in insecure or inadequate housing. Part of this is due to the differences in the cost of housing and job opportunities in different parts of the UK.
How can I get in touch with election candidates?
Parliamentary candidates and canvassers for political parties will often knock on doors to encourage residents to vote for them.
This is an opportunity to raise the problems affecting poor communities, showing that voters care about the issue and asking them to explain what they have committed to doing in their election manifesto.
By email or letter
You can find a list of the candidates wanting to become the Member of Parliament in your constituency in your area on the Electoral Commission website.
Through the media
Writing a letter to your local newspaper or radio station is a great way of showing general election candidates that voters in their area care about an issue.
On social media
You can tweet candidates with your questions.
At election hustings
Hustings are public meetings where election candidates from different parties will debate policies and answer questions from voters.
You can find more information about hustings in your local newspapers and websites and through your local Churches Together network.
Where is my polling station?
When you have registered to vote, you will receive a polling card before the date of the general election. This will have information on which polling station you can vote at.
When are the leaders' television debates?
- Tuesday 19 November: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.
- Friday 22 November: BBC Question Time with party leaders in Cardiff.
- Friday 29 November: Seven parties represented (BBC, Cardiff).
- Friday 6 December: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn (BBC, Southampton).
- Monday 9 December: BBC Question Time aimed at voters under 30.
How do I register to vote?
The deadline for registering to vote in the 2019 general election was Tuesday 26 November.