The outcome of the forthcoming general election is, by common consent, one of the most difficult to predict for years. Anyone who says with confidence what will happen on May 7 does not know anything about politics. I regard myself as someone with political conviction, but even I can't make my mind up. It may be based on nothing more than anecdotal evidence, but my feeling is that, this time round, there is an unprecedented number of people who feel the same.
I know it's not de rigeur (I have mislaid my Debrett's Handbook) but I don't mind talking about my personal politics. I have voted in every election since 1979, and only once have I voted for the party which formed the government (1997, in case you're interested). I've never voted Conservative, and I don't intend to start now. But voting for Ed Miliband presents something of a challenge to me, and I am still disenchanted that the Lib Dems didn't use their blank cheque after the last election to bring about reform of our electoral system.
This puts me in something of a spot. The Greens? Possibly. Ukip? Not in a million years. The Monster Raving Loony Party? Don't laugh, but some of the things that have improved our quality of life - all-day pub openings and passports for pets, for example - appeared in the Loony Party's manifesto before they became law.
It's a very unsatisfactory state of affairs, but at last I've found a group of people who are really talking to me.
Their political agenda is thought-out, well-expressed and comprehensive. Their policies are reasonable and compassionate. They believe that we are badly led by politicians, and that society is poorer as a result. They have called for a “new direction” in the public realm. And their main purpose is not to seek power but to encourage those who are disaffected with politics (particularly the young) to re-engage with the process. Who could argue with that? Well, the Daily Mail for one, and Norman Tebbit for another (good reasons to support them, in my book).
Unfortunately, you won't be able to vote for them on May 7. This outbreak of political good sense from an unlikely source: the Church of England. A group of bishops have published a 52-page open letter in which they set out their political philosophy. Among their stated policies are issues about which I feel strongly: continued membership of the EU, a rethink of Trident, no cutbacks in foreign aid and scrapping the first-past-the-post system for Westminster elections. With almost every line of the letter, I found myself saying: hear, hear!
It is all too depressingly predictable that politicians have attacked The Church of England - traditionally the Tory Party in frocks - for this intervention. You can see why. It threatens their cosy order, and challenges conventions. And I will leave you with this thought from the House of Bishops. “Thatcher's market revolution emphasised individualism, consumerism and the importance of the corporate sector to the extent that...the paradigm for all relationships became competitive individualism, consumption and the commercial contract, fragmenting social solidarity at many levels.” For that alone, you've got my vote, Mr Welby.Reuse content