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QUAKER QUESTIONNAIRE TO CANDIDATES


MAY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS 2015



QUAKER PERSPECTIVES

The questionnaire comes out of a long-standing conviction of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) in Britain that our faith needs to be put into practice in the real world of competing social, economic and political values. Hence the chosen questions are centred on three of our fundamental testimonies to the importance of Peace, Sustainability and Equality.

Quakers, for several hundreds of years have been a peace-loving people, opposed to war and the threatening of war. From our origins in the 17th century, we have also been clear that a true community of the children of God can only be generated from a living conviction of our equality, one with another – and that this will not work out unless we are relatively equal in economic terms. Finally, we have come to accept that we have an overriding obligation to show our love for all things, currently threatened by human over-exploitation of the earth and its resources; this means we need to learn to live sustainably, which in turn means, amongst many other things, limiting the emission of carbon by leaving much of the discovered fossil fuels in the ground. The following comment rests, therefore, on the Quaker Testimonies to Truth, Peace, Simplicity, Equality and Sustainability and to the policy positions adopted in relation to them by Britain Yearly Meeting and its committees. These comments are made simply from replies received and are not based on a wider knowledge of any of the parties.
Those positions will not, by themselves, determine how individual Quakers will vote, but are likely to be important factors in their decisions.


Brief Comment from the Quaker Social Justice Group

We recognise that candidates who have replied to our questionnaire have done so both as party representatives and as individuals. Candidates of a party clearly are not always in agreement. We are grateful for the responses we have received and are making them available on our website for our members to read in full and take account of as they individually are moved to do so. There are issues on which Friends might well feel sympathy with a candidates or candidates from all the parties that responded.

If, however, we set aside all considerations of tactics and the effectiveness of any vote, and simply consider the concordance of the expressed views of candidates with our Quaker testimonies to Peace, Sustainability and to Equality, it seems to  the Social Justice Group that the Green candidates are, taken together, closer to the policies that are emerging for Quakers from a consideration of our testimonies. There is also much in common with a number of the positions put forward by TUSC. The position of Labour candidates will strike a chord on some questions, but not others: two candidates express opposition to Trident and one acknowledges that some fossil fuels will have to remain unexploited, a view which is not common amongst the parties that currently dominate parliament. There are points of agreement with some Liberal Democrat responses too, again including opposition to Trident. The responses of the three Conservative candidates were perhaps generally less close to Quaker aspirations, although their responses on welfare cuts varied more than might have been expected.

However, we very much encourage visitors to the web site to read the replies in full to evaluate the replies of candidates in general, or those within their own constituency. We hope that others will join with Quakers in making decisions on how to vote in the particular circumstance of their constituency on the basis of our best understanding of the impact of our decision on the common good and on the long term future for both humankind and all the life forms which co-exist still with us on the planet.


ANALYSIS BY POLITICAL PARTY


From the six constituencies we have had responses to date from

Conservative 3 (Altrincham and Sale West; Wythenshawe and Sale East); Central Manchester

Labour 3 (Altrincham and Sale West); Central Manchester, Manchester Withington

Liberal Democrat 2/3 (Manchester Withington, Warrington South and  partial –       Altrincham and Sale West)

Green  5 (Altrincham and Sale West, Manchester Central, Manchester Withington,    Warrington South and Wythenshawe and Sale East)

UKIP  1 (Manchester Central)

TUSC [Trade Union and Socialist Coalition] 4 (Manchester Central, Salford and       Eccles, Warrington South, Wythenshawe and Sale East)

Pirate Party  1 (Manchester Central)

Communist League Election Campaign 1 (Manchester Central)


A. PEACE

1. Are you in favour of Britain renewing its Trident nuclear weapons system ?

Conservative: Graham Brady and Xingang Wang are straightforwardly in favour; Fiona Green is open to multilateral renunciation of nuclear weapons, extending the life span of the existing submarines and an open debate

Labour: James Wright is opposed, as is Jeff Smith; Lucy Powell is in favour, though at a reduced level

Liberal Democrat: John Leech is opposed; Bob Barr supports a lesser nuclear deterrent

Green: All 5 are opposed.
TUSC: All 4 are opposed.

UKIP: In favour

Pirate Party: In favour of some nuclear deterrent in European sphere.

Communist League: Opposed


2. Do you think our country is right to be involved militarily in the Ukraine, even if in a training and support role?

We refer you to the full replies on the website as they are too nuanced to be summarised fairly


B. ENVIRONMENT

3. Do you give full weight to the urgency of minimising global warming? In the light of this, do you accept that much of the known fossil fuel reserves should be left underground, especially the most environmentally damaging such as tar sands and Arctic oil?

Green Party: all candidates answer very strongly in the affirmative to both parts of the question.

Conservative Party: one candidate (GB)  recognises the need to minimise emissions and the dangers of pollution, but counsels against any action that might stop or reverse economic growth. The other looks for wider cross-party agreement without giving a view on leaving fossil fuels in the ground. The third is warmly in favour of tackling global warming but again without giving a view on leaving fossil fuels in the ground

Labour: a. supports major investment in renewables but not leaving fossil fuels in the ground  (Altrincham and Sale West); b. very strong support for far-reaching agreement to the 2015 negotiations but doesn't address the issue of leaving fossil fuels in the ground (Central Manchester);  c. strongly supports the premise of the question and would leave some fossil fuels in the ground.

Liberal Democrat: Both responses are strongly affirmative

TUSC: broadly affirmative, including expropriating the big energy companies

UKIP: non believer in global warming.

Pirate Party: affirmative but little detail.

Communist League: capitalism is the real problem.


4. What is your attitude to fracking?

Green: all are totally opposed,

Labour: a.opposed (Altrincham and Sale West), (Manchester Withington); b. not absolutely ruled out, but must have very robust regulatory regime (Central Manchester)

Conservative: two offer conditional support; should be stopped if health and safety issues really come to the fore. Xingang Wang is strongly in favour.

Liberal Democrat: JL supports a moratorium; BB more inclined to think it may have a future if safety considerations are sorted.

TUSC: all 4 are totally opposed

Pirate Party: the issue should be decided by local democracy; but sceptical about the relevance of fracking for the future

Communist League: capitalism is the issue




 5. Many people can’t afford to heat their homes over the winter. We can’t afford to ignore climate change either. How would you tackle fuel poverty in a long-term, sustainable manner?

Replies here were difficult to interpret; best to look at the full replies


C. ECONOMICS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

 6. Do you think our economy can or should go on growing indefinitely?

Cons: a. Yes. (Altrincham and Sale West). b. Wants more emphasis on sustainability in the economy but doesn't answer directly the question on indefinite growth. (Wythenshawe and Sale East) c. Central Manchester lauds economic growth and gives no view on it ending.

Green: Firm “no”, with more or less detail

Lab: a. answer given doesn't answer the question but focuses on the quality of growth in terms of justice;  (Altrincham and Sale West); b. Lists Labour's manifesto commitments on the economy (Central Manchester) c. acknowledges the conundrum and looks to smarter growth as a resolution.

LD: Both firm “no” … with personal arguments for a “circular economy” (Warrington South)

TUSC: 2 candidates make a distinction between wasteful growth under capitalism that cannot possibly go on for ever; and necessary growth under socialism that will eliminate social injustice; one of the others argues that some things will need to continue to develop, including living standards of the world's poor.

UKIP: Yes, it must, at least for a long while, possibly for ever … unless one day a “perfect balance  is achieved for everyone”.

Pirate Party: We should concentrate on innovation more and growth less

Comm League: Growth will be OK only under true socialism

 

7. Are you opposed to the the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? If so why; if not, why not?

C. a. In favour of free trade but concerned about the detail of this treaty; also concerned about the potential loss of sovereign control (Altrincham and Sale West); b. In support of TTIP (Wythenshawe and Sale East); c. Central Manchester unequivocally in support.

LD. It depends on the final detail; the three sound as though they would like to support it, but need reassuring safeguards.

Lab. a. Simply opposed to TTIP applying to the NHS  (Altrincham and Sale West); b. Recognises need for greater transparency and accountability; not convinced of the need for ISDS, recognises that it needs to ensure that regulatory standards are not reduced and that it won't apply to public services, especially the NHS, but it may help the economy (Manchester Central); detailed list of concerns that need to be addressed, within a basic framework of support (Manchester Withington)

Green. All five are totally and passionately opposed

UKIP: Strongly opposed on grounds of losing national control to transnational corporations

TUSC: All four candidates are totally opposed

The Pirate Party: Totally opposed

Communist League: Totally opposed

 

8. Do you intend to help shrink the yawning gap between rich and poor and check the extraordinary concentration of wealth in very few hands? If so, how?

C.  a. Yes, but I am much more interested in improving the lot of the poor and don't think the 'gap' is the most important thing. What is important is spreading opportunity, which requires growth. b. The government has reduced the gap already and she approves of this; c. would like a smaller gap; approves of government policy

Lab. Yes

Green: Yes - with passion and much detail especially from Altrincham and Sale West, Manchester Central and Manchester Withington.

Lib Dem: Yes from both

TUSC: Yes from all

UKIP: Yes, but personally he can't do much about it

The Pirate Party: Yes – close tax loopholes

The Comm. League: Yes: via workers' power

 

9. Do you recognise that low wages and benefits, plus harsh and arbitrary stoppage of benefits, is causing serious and unjust hardship? Do you want to restore the safety net which ought to protect British people from serious want?

Lab. Yes, with some detail

Green: Yes, from all five , with varying levels of detail.

C. All three accept the reforms and cuts introduced in the last parliament. However, Wythenshawe and Sale East gives more detail and looks forward to more local and more flexible arrangements.

Lib Dem: Broadly supportive of government reforms, based on getting people into work; however, propose that sanctions should be preceded by a yellow card warning. Manchester Withington points out the huge importance of housing costs in the benefits issue.

UKIP: Yes, from personal experience; but it won't happen unless we leave the EU.

TUSC: All four give a strong “yes”.

The Pirate Party: Yes

Comm League: Strong “yes”.