Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tyranny versus Liberty

Every so often, one of His Grace's communicants contributes a gem which merits reproduction beyond the confines of an ephemeral thread of largely-forgettable dialogue.

This from Bryan (with His Grace's thanks):

'I see the debate is framed here as it is in my own country; as a struggle between liberalism and conservatism.

'Yet no matter how the struggle turns out, both the liberals and the conservatives feel frustration, no matter who "wins", neither seem to enjoy the victory as "their" party fails to live up to its promises once in power.

'You see there is another, less obvious, struggle at work in the body politic, and that is tyranny verses liberty. Tyranny is the natural course of professional politicians, whilst liberty is the heart's cry of the populace.

'Tyranny lives in the professional politician's desire to remain in power, to increase his own personal power, and therefore the power of the central government over the people. He sells this through offering to lift the heavy burden of personal responsibility from off the shoulders of the populace.

'The amount of this tyranny you allow is entirely based on the amount of personal responsibility you refuse to bear; for personal responsibility is the cornerstone of personal liberty. Surrender your personal responsibility to anyone or anything else, and that other controls your actions.

'The true struggle of politics is therefore, how best to balance government control with personal responsibility. And the level of tyranny a people will abide is inversely proportional to their moral ability to shoulder personal responsibility.'

Tony Blair - The Second Coming


He's got the whole world in his hands.

He would, of course, have preferred the Mount of Olives, surrounded by the world’s media as he descended in the clouds with great glory. But instead it was Sedgefield, and the venue was the Trimbdon Labour Club (which he described as his political and spiritual home).

The presence was far too powerful for the stage: it was not possible to confine his shekinah aura in such a lowly tabernacle. But he condescended patiently as he became one of them, fully messiah yet fully man; mindful of his humble origins as he emptied himself of his Faith Foundation.

Cranmer was not alone in the messianic allusions to Tony Blair’s Second Coming. The Daily Telegraph talked of Labour’s Saviour, finding biblical allusions perfectly fitting: “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”

And the Financial Times took the same theme.

But for all the hype and audience adulation, it was the same actor using the same rhetoric, with the same pregnant pauses and the same pleading gestures.

And this rhetoric remained evangelical: “Although the sea is still rough the storm has subsided….at the moment of peril the world acted, Britain acted.”

And he, who constructed his entire political career on Labour’s need to change, had the audacity to describe the Conservatives’ ‘time for change’ slogan as ‘the most vacuous in politics’.

You see, only Labour can change and remain authentic: when the Tories do, they are pretending, deceiving, luring in the unsuspecting electorate who will soon discover that they are the ‘same old Tories’ – nasty, spiteful, selfish and only out for themselves.

And so Labour’s Saviour deconstructed David Cameron’s Conservatives brick by brick: "On Europe, they've gone right when they should have gone centre; on law and order, they've gone liberal when actually they should have stuck with a traditional Conservative position; and on the economy, they seem to be buffeted this way and that, depending less on where they think the country should be, than on where they think public opinion might be."

Buffeted?

Presumably contrasted with the sure-footedness of New Labour, who would never have dreamed of being ‘buffeted’ by something as ephemeral and capricious as public opinion.

And on his successor: “At the moment of peril the world acted. Britain acted. The decision to act required experience, judgment and boldness. It required leadership. Gordon Brown supplied it.''

His principal message is that the Conservatives are inconsistent and indecisive while Gordon Brown has ‘experience, judgement and boldness’.

It was pitched of necessity to the marginal voters in the ‘swing’ constituencies: Tony Blair has now become the Middle England Peace Envoy.

But the lies, misinformation and misrepresentation were unbecoming. He said: "On some issues like racial equality the Conservatives have left behind the prejudices of the past. I welcome that.”

And he might as well have added gender equality to his patronising ‘welcome’, for the inference was clear.

How many minority ethnic leaders have Labour had?

How many women?

The party that gave the United Kingdom its first Jewish prime minister and its first woman prime minister has never been ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’, because conservatism admits or tolerates neither.

Yet it suits his purpose to leave a whiff of irrational prejudice under the noses of those who are still taking a long, hard look at the Tories.

"Is there a core?” he asks. “Think of all the phrases you associate with their leadership and the phrase 'you know where you are with them' is about the last description you would think of. They seem like they haven’t made up their mind about where they stand; and so the British public finds it hard to make up its mind about where it stands. In uncertain times, there is a lot to be said for certain leadership."

Mr Blair never once mentioned David Cameron by name. But he didn’t need to.

When he talked of ‘vacuous’, ‘question marks’, ‘confusion’, ‘inconsistency’ and ‘inexperience’, there was no doubt his target was the present incarnation of conservatism.

By contrast, Labour is ‘consistent’, ‘certain’ and ‘coherent’, with a ‘strong commitment to public services’ and a ‘strong commitment to reform’.

And the evidence, he averred, may be seen in ‘reduced crime, higher standards in schools, and hospital waiting lists reduced from 18 months to 18 weeks’.

This was Blair the preacher delivering his Sedgefield sermon: the extravagant evangelical Roman Catholic convert condescending to exalt the Presbyterian puritan with great ecumenical generosity.

But he is an hypocritical charlatan; a perma-tanned fraud who desperately wants to be all things to all people in order that all may be duped.

David Cameron said he was ‘not at all worried’ by Mr Blair's intervention. Referring to the millions the former prime minister has made in public speaking since he left office, he said: 'It is nice to see him making a speech that no-one is paying for.’

The problem, of course, is that we all have.

And will continue to do so, for decades to come.

Tony Blair was right about one thing. This election is about ‘…who gets the future... who understands the way the world is changing…’

The future will not be ‘fair for all’ under another Labour government.

It is time for conservatism to articulate itself for the 21st century.

The choice is clear.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Building A Foundation


This is Labour's latest poster campaign.

Iain Dale has said everything that needs to be said.

Couldn't be bothered to wait for the technical geeks to create another spoof poster generator, so here's the rough and ready version:

“We know you is the mayor” – the political elixir of instant recognisability

Very few attain it: short of the prime minister, only the infamous rascals and rogues of Parliament achieve fame, or notoriety. And even then, it is more often the name rather than the face which penetrates the national consciousness by a process of media inculcation.

Boris Johnson is fast-becoming a national treasure. Some may consider him an idiot, a buffoon, a caricature. But they thought the same of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Yet still they flock from the four corners of the world to kiss her shrine.

The story in yesterday’s Daily Mail is so typically Boris. Apparently, he chased a ‘souped-up Astra’ along the streets of London on his bike after the ‘louts’ had thrown litter out of their window.

What other mayor would do that?

What other national politician would?

What local councillor would?

They only seem to care when there’s a camera around.

But Boris’ instinct is to decry the injustice, to confront the ‘lout’, to reprimand the hooligan and to chastise the recidivist.

And he does so personally: he can’t be bothered with politicians, the police, or interminable bureaucracy:

'Soon the bike had beaten the car, as it always does,' he wrote. As they waited at the next set of lights, I pounded on the window. "Open up!" I cried.

'There were three kids inside, and I could see the culprit goggling up at me with appalled recognition. They lurched off again in the hope of escape, but of course I had them at the next lights.'

The ensuing conversation must have made entertaining listening it indeed unfolded as Mr Johnson - distinctive even with his trademark mop of blonde hair hidden under a cycle helmet - described. It began with the irate mayor demanding the car's occupants open up, then him telling his assailant 'you aren't going to get away with it, I am the mayor!'.

Rolling down a window, the driver replied: 'I know you is the mayor, and it was a accident'.

The conversation then continued on the street, after the culprit offered to get out of the car.

Mr Johnson's asked 'why did you throw something at my head?'

The response, was it seems: 'Please, Mr Boris sir, this wasn't meant to happen.

'We know you is the mayor, man.

'We gotta lot of respect for the things you are doing.'

Not normally one to be lost for words, at this point Mr Johnson appears to have lost his track.

After discovering two of the car's occupants were Derron and Erron, he failed to elicit the name of the third.

He erupted with rage when one of the men told him 'it was only a piece of litter', but only to warn them not to throw litter at people's heads.

All appears to have ended amicably, with the litter louts promising 'we won't do it again' and asking 'can we have a photo, Mr Boris?'

Whether he obliged, the mayor did not say.

What he did say, in his column, was: 'Only a piece of litter, he says, when we all know that the number one environmental concern of the British public - far ahead of global warming - is the tidiness of their neighbourhoods and the plague of litter.

'I don't know what the Astra passenger threw at my head, but whatever it was, it wasn't just a piece of litter. It was a national disgrace.'

It was only four months ago that Mr Johnson saved a woman who was being attacked by a group of hoodies. One of the gang was brandishing an iron bar, but that didn't stop Boris.

In Boris, the Conservative Party has a high-profile, intelligent and personable politician who is a true Conservative of considerable pedigree.

What he speaks is true and what he writes is common sense. And he has a rare gift for a politician – he is lovable. No matter what his faults and failings – and these have been broadcast far and wide - there is something profoundly warming about his personality. In an era where the medium is the message, Mr Johnson speaks Tory volumes.

This is just vintage stuff:

'I don't know what the Astra passenger threw at my head, but whatever it was, it wasn't just a piece of litter. It was a national disgrace.'

And everyone has heard of Boris – even the litter lout in the souped-up Astra. Will they have heard of George Osborne? Or Alastair Darling? No, not at all. They are obscure, undistinguished and indistinguishable from the bland uniformity that politics has become. The characters are being cleansed, individualism eradicated. But, like Diana, Boris has the aura of first-name familiarity about him; not such a one that may breed contempt, but one that endears people to him; one that makes people feel that they somehow know him. There is something cultic about him; to use the vernacular, he has mojo, he creates his own mystery which inevitably yields a loyal following and God knows the Conservative Party desperately needs politicians with whom the electorate wants to engage; politicians who can lead and create disciples.

In an age of cynicism for the political process and disdain for politicians, parties ought to be looking out for those who are instinctively above manipulation, evasion, cunning and deceit, and those who might possess individualism, uniqueness, beliefs of their own, and a personality.

Boris is the people’s politician.

And his being Mayor of London is like trying to put infinite space into a nutshell.

He is destined for much greater things.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lord Patten on the ‘wacky, hardcore and highly illiberal’ British Humanist Association

According to two Humanist representatives to the House of Lords, the Government ‘has repeatedly bowed to pressure from the church while pursuing its legislative programme’.

Well, ‘repeatedly’ must have slipped under Cranmer’s radar.

Speaking during a Lords debate on two key British Humanist Association (BHA) publications, Lord Harrison said: "The Church of England has continued unwarrantedly to enjoy and increase its privileges within the state-in education, in employment practices, law and public broadcasting-as statutory public services continue to be contracted out to religious organisations.”

Unwarranted?

And the vastly disproportionate influence of the BHA is wholly warranted, one presumes.

He continued: "The consequences have been to imperil the take-up of public services and to encourage discrimination against users of such services and against employees who owe allegiance to another religion or to none at all."

"Most egregious has been the discrimination offered to the gay community," he added.

"Religious harassment has had an open goal to shoot at, while the status of religious organisations has been undeservedly advanced under the cover of the public purse," he said.

"In the current Equality Bill, for instance, the government still ponder giving religious organisations the power to discriminate against gays, non-believers and believers of other faiths who apply for lay positions."

He said this was a further example of the government "bowing to church pressure".

"In the Children, Schools and Families Bill, religious groups have seemingly wrested back the control to teach children their versions of sex education. The government's feeble sticking plaster of a 'balanced approach' will hardly dilute the ingrained homophobia and antipathy to sex redolent in the teaching practices of too many of our religious schools."

And he said it now appeared that believing in a religion privileges those who have broken the law.

"A custodial sentence was recently set aside because the prisoner was deemed to have a greater sense of right and wrong, born of his religious belief," he said.

"The fact that three out of four prison inmates declare themselves to be religious undermines that partialist philosophy."

Lord Harrison also criticised the presence of reserved seats in the Lords for Bishops.

"It is undeniable that in its present form, with 26 seats reserved for the Church of England Bishops, the House of Lords presents an odd face to the outside world," he said.

"I believe that in the future reform of the Lords, all privileged places should go.

"If religious groups are to be present, they should be chosen in line with their current strengths, and humanists and atheists should also be acknowledged, given the growing numbers of our tradition-Professor Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough spring to mind-indeed their wider interests would make a valuable contribution to this House."

But Lord Patten said the two BHA publications represented a ‘wacky, hardcore, highly illiberal, campaigning sort of humanism’.

He said: "They point the way towards a society dominated by majoritarianism and not a more tolerant view of society."

And he said it would be wrong to exclude religious bodies from being commissioned to provide public services such as schools:

"It is philosophically bankrupt and inept, for it assumes automatically that, while faith-based projects are not value-neutral, by definition secular projects are inherently value-neutral," he said.

And the Conservative peer said rather than religious groups advancing their influence, the trend was towards the total opposite:

"You cannot wear a crucifix to work, offering to pray for someone gets you suspended and Catholic adoption societies are getting closed down," he observed.

"Rampant secularism is what we face, of the most intolerant and illiberal sort."

Baroness Massey of Darwen said the idea the British Humanist Association represented ‘aggressive secularism’ was nonsense:

"Secularism seeks neutrality from the state as regards different religions and beliefs, including non-belief and non-religious affiliation," she said.

Ah, that old chestnut. The ‘neutrality’ of the state simply seeks to neuter the Christian foundations of the nation, of liberty, of justice, of law-making…

The Baroness said: "Humanism maintains – as I do – that values, ethics and morality are not exclusively in the gift of religion. Individuals can, and do, develop moral codes that are equally valid and have a right to live by non-faith principles. In my view the influence of religion on law-making is very disproportionate."

Well, there’s an observation she would do well to apply to her own group’s influence.

Communities Minister Lord McKenzie of Luton said he agreed with the Humanist Philosophers' Group's aims of creating a society where people were treated fairly without discrimination.

And he pointed to the Equality Bill which he said placed new equality duties on public bodies which will bring together the existing duties on race, disability and gender and extend them to religion or belief, sexual orientation, age and gender reassignment.

"The Government believe that it is important to ensure that members of all faiths, and those of none, enjoy the same life opportunities and feel confident in working with people who have different beliefs, but shared values, to work together towards common goals," he said.

But he said he did not believe this was incompatible with allowing faith groups to deliver public services.

He added: "We believe that what we might call 'the faith sector' is a key part of the third sector.”

Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, said: “The separation of religion and politics, of church and state, is an issue that is ever-more pressing. Segregation in our education system through divisive and discriminatory ‘faith schools’ is increasing at a frightening rate and more and more of our public services, including health, social care and welfare services, are set to be handed over to religious organisations – organisations which are exempt from important parts of equality and human rights laws.

“We are also seeing threats to basic freedoms and rights through our lack of church-state separation, such as recent moves influenced by the religious lobby to restrict employment rights for gay people, and to teaching young people attending ‘faith schools’ Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in ways that are not balanced, accurate or that promote equality and diversity.

“This timely debate offered an opportunity for peers to set the context for fresh discussions about these issues that affect us all, in the next Parliament and beyond.”

Cranmer has, of course, dealt with this issue before, but there was a choice quote provided during the debate by the the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton). He said:

"The Government's Faith Communities Capacity Building Fund funded the British Humanist Association to establish and support a network of grass-roots humanists."

So tax-payers have subsidised the establishment of a ‘network’ of ‘grass-roots humanists’.

Why is the Government obliging us to fund the Church of Secular Humanism?

What is ‘neutral’ about that?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bishops criticise Labour's anti-Christian culture

This letter appears in today's Sunday Telegraph:

The religious rights of Christians are treated with disrespect

SIR – On March 29, a Christian nurse, Shirley Chaplin, will take the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust to the Exeter Employment Tribunal.

This dedicated nurse, who has cared for thousands of patients over 30 years, was told by the trust to remove from her neck a cross she first wore at her confirmation service over 40 years ago.

She has worn the cross every day since her confirmation as a sign of her Christian faith, a faith which led to her vocation in nursing, and which has sustained her in that vital work ever since.

Mrs Chaplin refused to remove her cross and, as a result, was prevented from working in a patient-facing role.

It would seem that the NHS trust would rather lose the skills of an experienced nurse and divert scarce resources to fighting a legal case, instead of treating patients.

The uniform policy of the NHS trust permits exemptions for religious clothing. This has been exercised with regard to other faiths, but not with regard to the wearing of a cross around the neck.

Furthermore, Mrs Chaplin has been informed that the Court requires evidence of the fact that Christians wear crosses visibly around the neck. It cannot be right that judges are unaware of such a basic practice.

This is yet another case in which the religious rights of the Christian community are being treated with disrespect. We are deeply concerned at the apparent discrimination shown against Christians and we call on the Government to remedy this serious development.

In a number of cases, Christian beliefs on marriage, conscience and worship are simply not being upheld. There have been numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country. We believe that the major parties need to address this issue in the coming general election.

The cross is ubiquitous in Christian devotion from the earliest times and clearly the most easily recognisable Christian symbol. For many Christians, wearing a cross is an important expression of their Christian faith and they would feel bereft if, for some unjustifiable reason, they were not allowed to wear it. To be asked by an employer to remove or "hide" the cross, is asking the Christian to hide their faith.

Any policy that regards the cross as "just an item of jewellery" is deeply disturbing and it is distressing that this view can ever be taken.

Most Rev Lord Carey of Clifton
Former Archbishop of Canterbury
Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt
Bishop of Winchester
Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali
Former Bishop of Rochester
Rt Rev Peter Forster
Bishop of Chester
Rt Rev Anthony Priddis
Bishop of Hereford
Rt Revd Nicholas Reade
Bishop of Blackburn

One shudders to think how much money the redoubtable barrister Paul Diamond has made out of Labour's pathological anti-Christian propensity (see here, here and here), but when bishops of the Established Church are so bold as to criticise and confront the party of government so publicly on the run-up to a crucial (and cliff-hanging) General Election, one is left in no doubt (and somewhat relieved) that there is still a corner of the Church of England that is forever the Tory Party at prayer.

40 days and 40 nights

David Cameron told Conservative activists yesterday that they had 40 days and 40 nights to convince the electorate that Labour is not the future and that only he offered the change necessary to heal broken Britain. He said: "The economy's stuck, society's stuck, the whole country is stuck with Gordon Brown. And we need that change, that energy, that dynamism, to get our economy moving, to get our country moving, to get our society moving."

The biblical allusion prompted Tom Harris MP to tweet:

Odd that Dave's using Biblical language. When I hear "40 days and 40 nights" the first thing I think is "wilderness".
And that, Mr Harris, is right and good.

For these 13 years have been a period of soul-searching and introspection every bit as painful as the other two great periods in the wilderness that the Conservative Party has endured. Its longest period in opposition (1850-74) came as a result of the schism caused by the repeal of the Corn Laws. Since the Party lost power in 1997, Disraeli’s darkest days have been re-lived by John Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard. They were typified by a lack of unity, fractious in-fighting, disloyalty and a resigned despondency that the party never actually deserved to win against Tony Blair: indeed, there were many on the Conservative benches who preferred Mr Blair to Major, Hague, Duncan Smith or Howard.

But then New Labour removed their most successful leader in the party’s history, and foisted Gordon Brown upon the nation. And week after week he had to face the youthful David Cameron across the despatch box, with Mr Cameron exuding a passion for change, tenacity, vigour and suave presentation. In just a few short years since he was elected, David Cameron has managed to draw together the disparate and sometimes conflicting strands of the Conservative Party, and has succeeded in reconstituting it as the ‘broad church’ consonant with its history.

On this Palm Sunday, let us remember that periods in the wilderness are invariably sorely testing, but they can be profoundly purgatorial. Yet the catharsis is only beneficial if it is enduring, if the lessons are learned and effect real change.

In the Lord’s case, the wilderness was a necessary prelude to the incarnational kenosis: he conquered the temptations of the Devil and demonstrated that He came to free people from Satan’s power.

In Disraeli’s case, his wilderness years were inseparable from the great Tory revival, his ‘One Nation’ legacy and the birth of the modern Conservative Party.

In Cameron’s case, the fruits of his wilderness years are yet to be tasted. But there is sure and certain hope of resurrection.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Vatican Strikes Back



It is unsurprising that the priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church are vigorously defending the Pope against the global deluge of allegations of child-rape and torture. They are, after all, simply sanctified MPs, private secretaries, junior ministers and cabinet ministers whose pledge of loyalty to their prime minister is absolute. The Pope is a head of state, an absolute monarch, unaccountable and unanswerable to any civil authority. It is no surprise, at a time of grave political crisis, when the polls are grim, approval ratings plummeting and the relio-political strategy in tatters, that the Vatican should wheel out its Peter Mandelson, its Ed Balls and its Alastair Campbell to spin and rebut in order that nothing might touch the Lord's anointed.

And Roman Catholic journalists are spouting predictable verbiage, insisting that they know what the Pope critics do not not know, and reassuring us that their supportive knowledge is true while those who profess critical knowledge are false.

Yet they cannot know what they do not know: they can only choose to believe.

And we are supposed to be persuaded by the sincerity of their faith.

So the Archbishop of Westminster assures us that his church is not trying to cover anything up: Pope Benedict XVI is beyond reproach.

But he cannot know this: it is his belief.

And Cristina Odone assures us that Pope Benedict is not the problem, and that these sporadic reports of child molestation are 'sensationalist' (an absolutely appalling word to use in these circumstances).

But she cannot know this: it is her belief.

The political strategy is now to make us know what they think they know and to forget the things we do not know because we cannot know.

While the mob is baying for blood, there must be a sacrificial lamb; a political scapegoat. And Cardinal Brady is it: his days are clearly numbered.

Just as successive home and foreign secretaries have fallen loyally on their swords in order that their prime ministers might live; in exactly the same way as the puss-filled boil of parliamentary expenses had to be lanced with a deep cleansing of the temple, so it is hoped that the imminent execution of Cardinal Brady will be sufficient to assuage the wrath of the laity gods.

But it will not be.

While Roman Catholic journalists dismiss reports of child rape as 'sensationalist', and while the bishops and archbishops protest too much the innocence of their king, suspicions will only be aroused, and the quest for more lurid and salacious stories will continue. There may not be a paedophile road that leads to Rome, but that will not stop a yellow-brick one being created.

In a political crisis such as this, the dismissal of one junior cabinet minister is woefully inadequate. If Pope Benedict XVI is to avoid his papacy being forever corrupted with the stench of pederast priests, he must have the boldness to carry out a series of religio-political purgations (dare one call for 'reformation'?): he needs a Vatican Night of Long Knives.

And Cardinal Law must be the first to go.

The wonder is that he has not already seen fit to sacrifice himself for his king.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Is this a Times 'anti-Catholic' joke? :o)

Conservatives will shun the Muslim Council of Britain


The Times observes that a Conservative government (if…) would cut links with the leading representative of the Muslim Council of Britain.

David Cameron said that his party ‘won’t do formal things’ with the Muslim Council of Britain unless the organisation distanced itself from Daud Abdullah, its deputy secretary-general.

So they will do informal things?

Cocktails (halal) on the Commons terrace?

Invite them to an Eid celebration, perhaps?

Labour rightly and properly severed all ties with the MCB a year ago after Mr Abdullah (along with 90 other Muslim leaders) put his name to the ‘Istanbul Declaration’ which supports the right of the Palestinian people ‘to resist the ongoing illegal and brutal occupation of their land’. The declaration includes the statement that ‘foreign warships in Muslim waters, claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza’ was a declaration of war.

It was written ‘In the name of Allah the Most-merciful the All-merciful’, of course.

Considering that the Royal Navy is present in those waters precisely to prevent smuggling of arms to Gaza, Dr Abdullah's support for the declaration was not only controversial and provocative; it was a betrayal: encouraging foreign nationals to attack the Royal Navy is treason.

And so the plucky, principled little chipmunk Hazel Blears severed its links with the organisation.

Astonishingly, in January of this year, without any contrition by Mr Abdullah or a change of heart by the MCB, Labour restored full diplomatic relations.

But that was under the aegis of John Denham, who is neither plucky nor principled. Mr Denham moved to mend the broken relationship because ‘the government no longer wishes all UK Muslims to be viewed through the prism of terrorism and the security threat’.

It was, of course, nothing at all to do with the imminent General Election.

The Times quotes Mr Cameron as saying: “We should have a very positive relationship with the Muslim community and representatives of the Muslim community. There are other representative bodies. We would be fully engaged with them.”

This is very promising indeed.

One gets the distinct impression that the lucid observations and wise counsel of Paul Goodman have been heeded, and that Conservative Government policy towards the MCB might at last be put into some sort of perspective.

The real nature of the MCB is a world apart from that which it presents to the media. Its spokesmen are always polite, always placating, always pleading for understanding of their piety and sincerity. But the organisation is not liberal, and it does not in any sense represent the mainstream voice of Muslim Britain, despite the confession that it does.

One hears their apologies for their boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day; they express regret about the persecution of Sir Salman Rushdie; they talk of their desire to integrate with ‘British culture’. But they then carry on regardless. Their boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day has become an annual event; Sir Salman receives no encouragement with an MCB assertion of the right of freedom of expression; and social integration is to be on their terms. Dr Abdullah was neither sacked nor asked to resign as a result of his outrageous incitement against Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, and no statement was forthcoming which made it clear that he opposed extremism.

There is nothing ‘moderate’ about this group, and those true democrats and moderates who are content to operate under its aegis ought to ask themselves how the organisation can be so vulnerable to penetration by extremists at the highest level.

The MCB has been around since 1997 and purports to represent about 800 Muslim organisations in the UK, making it the self-declared ‘most representative Muslim body in the UK’. That David Cameron has now promised to sideline them in favour of other representative bodies is one of the most significant social policy announcements to emerge during this interminable pre-General Election period.

And (doubtless to Mr Dale’s delight) the plucky little chipmunk will have been vindicated.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Church of England publishes General Election prayers

The Church of England has published prayers and compiled useful information to help voters as they consider their options in the forthcoming General Election:

Loving God,

Thank you for caring about how our country is run, and that we have the right to vote for our politicians and government.

But in the run-up to this general election there are so many policies to understand, and so many different points of view to consider - sometimes I wonder whether there's any point in voting, whether anyone cares what I think.

As I choose who I am going to vote for, help me not to be cynical about politics and politicians,

help me to remember that my vote can make a difference,

and help me vote for those people who will protect the poor and vulnerable, and do all they can to make our nation a place of fairness and peace.

Because you call us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you, our God.

Amen.

Heavenly Father,

source of all truth and wisdom, who knows and loves the whole creation,

watch over our nation at election time:

that truth may prevail over distortion,

wisdom triumph over recklessness

and the concerns of every person be heard.

Lord Jesus,

who chose the way of the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane,

help us to turn our backs on self interest

and to support policies that sustain the poor, the vulnerable and the frightened people of this world.

Holy Spirit,

who brought understanding among myriad peoples and languages at Pentecost,

give to all your people a passion for peace

and inspire us to work for unity and co-operation throughout the world and in our political life together.

Amen.

Lord, we give thanks for the privileges and responsibilities of living in a democratic society.

Give us wisdom to play our part at election time,

that, through the exercise of each vote,

your Kingdom may come closer.

Protect us from the sins of despair and cynicism,

guard us against the idols of false utopias

and strengthen us to make politics a noble calling

that serves the common good of all.

We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

His Grace was sorely tempted to fisk, but managed to overcome his acerbic cynicism.

Just.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Is Cowell the new Orwell?


It was delightful to hear that David and Samantha Cameron are expecting another baby in September, and doubtless they have been inundated with warm congratulations from across most of the divides. The bringing of a new life into the world is perhaps the most selfless response to their recent tragedy, and it will be a profound joy to see another little one born in Number 10 (if…).

But His Grace was struck by an article in yesterday’s Daily Mail in which Bel Mooney said:

Like everybody else I send congratulations and wish the couple joy. But I tell you this - the subliminal message couldn't be better if they'd hired Simon Cowell to produce this event. It says: What could possibly cheer up this country more than a new start – and a new life?

It is undeniable that politicos tend to conceive of everything in terms of votes, and in this media-obsessed, emoting era a bereavement or a baby can affect public perception and voting intention just as much as a scandal or a strike: electoral volatility is no longer an aberration; it is the norm. Every opportunity is to be milked for everything it’s worth, especially if that milk is breast.

Yet it is Simon Cowell who is now credited with ‘producing’ public opinion. It used to be the press barons, then editors, the BBC perhaps, or Max Clifford, and (of course) Alastair Campbell. There were times during the New Labour era (for it is surely past) when one wondered if politics could ever recover from its addiction to ‘spin’: would people ever again be able to distinguish between reality and the Westminster Matrix?

But then the political system itself imploded, and people no longer give a damn. If they do not wish a plague on all their houses, they no longer feel particularly disposed to any party, and so a hung parliament is in the offing.

Perhaps David Cameron needs an injection of Simon Cowell, for now all politicians are deemed to be liars, and no-one tells it like it is better than Simon Cowell. Parliament has become a palace of deceit; a privileged priesthood of self-believers who pass their days raping the taxpayer and selling indulgences. The X-Factor offers reformation: it provides an uncomfortable truth, but it is a truth which liberates and which the public already know, and actually yearn in the depths of their souls to hear.

According to Total Politics magazine, Simon Cowell is the 26th most influential non-politician in politics: that is to say, the 26th most influential unelected person responsible for ‘shaping the political ideas that dominate the election and in the unknown entity beyond’.

He is described as a ‘music supremo’:

Perhaps a surprise inclusion, Cowell is someone who can guarantee the attention of political leaders if he wants it. Last year the X-Factor mastermind announced that he was considering bringing the populism of the show to politics, with politicians suggesting policies to be voted on by the public. Such is his influence that David Cameron admitted recently that "politics can learn from Simon Cowell".

Indeed it can.

X-Factor mania has swept the western world: it is the 1984 of the new interactive media age. It is defining and creating reality, permitting the masses to live vicariously the ecstasy of others; to fulfil their fantasies and to dream big dreams.

And David Cameron has been studying the strategy carefully – very carefully indeed.

He has grasped the public mood of impotence: a pervasive lack of faith in politicians, universal exasperation with bureaucracy and ubiquitous frustration with the great institutions of state. He knows there is a gulf between the political class and the public: party memberships are in terminal decline, and activists are aging. There is an epistemic distance between those who wield power and those upon whom that power is wielded. The fragile social contract is in danger of being torn up, not simply because the good times are gone, but because there is a feeling that, whatever the parties choose as their theme music for the imminent General Election, things will never get better.

Reconnecting with the marginalised; engaging the dispossessed; reversing the indifference; enthusing the cynical, jaded and despairing: these are the principal tasks which must occupy David Cameron, for without this urgent priority our democratic institutions and system of representation are in danger of collapse.

And what is X-Factor but a revamped 'Opportunity Knocks'? It is a postmodern 'New Faces'; a reconstituted 'Sunday Night at the London Palladium' with an unknown surprise guest perpetually topping the bill.

This is the sort of invigoration with which politics could be infused. And the remedy must produce happiness and peace. Not ephemeral jollity or ignorant dormancy, but enduring happiness and the peace which passes understanding. Until politics begins to touch people deeply, its perceived usefulness will be increasingly eroded by its own systematic failures.

Unless political discourse is to be reduced to the mono-dimension of single-cause issues, there is a need for the entire political class to coalesce around the higher needs of democracy. Independent views must be encouraged, and proper debate restored to political conferences. The public can tell the difference between real Cole-Cowell contention and staged angst, and their engagement is heightened when the stresses, intolerance and conflict are authentic.

And Simon Cowell knows this.

Which is why he is a paragon of authenticity.

He does not whip the other judges (or the voting public) into line in order to achieve victory.

He arrives at a winner by wading through a sludge of mediocre candidates, enduring his colleague’s policy convulsions, and then giving birth in all its glorious messiness in full public view.

That is true democracy.

Yet Parliament’s new candidates are shiny, happy people, airbrushed to perfection: there is no debate about policy even within parties, for fear of them being portrayed as ‘divided’; and victory, when it comes, is a staged affair, with just the right cast of black, Asian, gay and disabled characters.

Simon Cowell couldn’t give a damn about whether or not X-Factor finalists are ‘representative’ of the nation as a whole: he simply wants the best.

It is impossible to conceive of a life without music: it is not only the food of love; it is the breath of life to the soul. As the Bard observed:

"The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils."

And the nation which does not treasure its democracy is destined for disunity, betrayal, treachery and corruption. Politics abhors a vacuum as much as nature. If a way is not found to fill the void, if the collective wisdom of the British people is not enthused to engage, we will be left with nothing but a hollow shell of political so-called ‘experts’. The crowd may be maddening, but it knows: and its instinct is for the common good. It is innately conservative, and is tired of being patronisingly ‘consulted’ only to be forever completely ignored.

Unless there is reformation of the mechanisms of democracy, there will be revolution within the demos.

You can’t buck the people.

It is not likely that the Cameron’s Christmas conception was planned to coincide with the coming months of crowd-sourcing. But it will constitute a people-pleasing side-show to the tedious consultations and interminable pretence at ‘listening’ in order to arrive at ‘the people’s policies’, which the unseen bureaucrats will ensure coincide with everything the Government wanted to do anyway.

The art of Simon Cowell is not an illusion: or, at least, not one as depressing and discredited as the art of policis. There is something of a façade in deferral to the crowd, and yet that crowd can rebel. It had chosen Jodie Prenger to be its Nancy while the divine right of experts was determined to reserve the crown for their own anointed. And they chose Leona Lewis (black) and Alexandra Burke (black) on merit. And doubtless there were a few gays there as well, who all progressed on merit.

The big ‘reality’ idea in television could be the next big idea in government. Certainly, it is a risk. But so is democracy – true democracy. If the people are not permitted the possibility of voting for the wrong person, they will give up altogether on voting for the right one. If you let them participate in writing the script and casting the show, they will feel they own the outcome and share in the awards.

The 20th century bequeathed the Orwellian narrative of Newspeak.

But that prophecy is now fulfilled.

The new era is producing the Cowellian paradigm of Politricks.

And politicians would be foolish not to grasp this shift in the medium, because it is the message.

It is axiomatic that he who controls the nation’s currency owns the country.

But he who controls the nation’s music has bought the country’s soul.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nothing is certain in this world...



Cranmer was accused of being partisan (as if) in his reporting of the 'cash for access' Labour MPs.

The truth is that none of the early reporting referenced Sir John Butterfill at all. His Grace only learned of it when he watched Dispatches.

There is a certain irony, as Sir John boasts of the likelihood of his going to the Lords, that he observes 'nothing is certain in this world'.

Indeed it is not.

But David Cameron has since made it rather more certain that Sir John will not be taking ermine.

Give it time...

From this day forth it is a crime to incite hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation


The Torah says:

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination (Lev 18:22).

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them (Lev 20:13).

The New Testament says:

Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1Cor 6:9f).

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another (Rom 1:24).

The Qur’an says:

Lut: he said to his people: "Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? "For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds" (7:80-81).

Of all the creatures in the world will ye approach males. And leave those whom Allah has created for you to be your mates? Nay ye are a people transgressing all limits!" (26:165-166)

Please note, this is not a post about the theological divergences between Hasidic/Orthodox/Haredi/Masorti and Reform/Reconstructionist Judiasm; or between Orthodox/Protestant/Roman Catholic and Liberal Christianity, or between Sunni/Shi’a and Sufi Islam. And Cranmer is fully aware of the hermeneutic complexities, exegetical difficulties and socio-theo-political debates over the Sitz im Leben of all of these passages. Sexual ethics is not the point.

We are concerned here with the religious conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the perception of ‘hatred’.

Whatever one’s interpretation of the above scriptures, as of today it would be a bold preacher who so much as jokes about homosexuality.

Today is the appointed time by our wonderful Government for Section 74 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to come into force. It creates the new offence of intentionally stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

What is ‘hatred’?

OED: ‘intense dislike’.

It is not a matter of inciting violence or grievous bodily harm: there are already laws against that.

So it is now a crime to ‘intensely dislike’ homosexuality.

Or to ‘intensely dislike’ homosexuals.

Because the two are so easily confused in the mind of the victim (if not the perpetrator) that the mildest disapproval of the behaviour might be mistaken (or purposely distorted or misinterpreted) as vehement disapprobation to the extent that it becomes an irrational attack upon the person.

It is true that the Lords won an important ‘freedom of speech’ amendment, but it will exist only on paper. In practice, the culture will shift towards an auto-self-censorship: people will be so afraid of transgressing the law (or, worse still, of merely being accused of transgressing the law) that the jokes will subside, humour will diminish, drama will avoid the subject and real life will consequently be impoverished. Debates on sexuality will become taboo, not because of a statutory prohibition but because of an impediment to negativity, questioning, accusation and allegation.

Did you hear the one about the gay guy who…?

Bigot.

Call the police, report the crime.

And you can be very sure that the police will treat the allegations with the utmost urgency.

God forbid that Her Majesty’s Constabulary might be accused of being homophobic.

What is ‘hate speech’?

Is not literature full of it? Not only the religious texts from just about every culture, but also the greatest works of Shakespeare, Marlow, Webster, Ford, Tourneur…

And that’s just the Elizabethans and Jacobeans.

This manifestly illiberal legislation is not only designed to prohibit the use of words or behaviour and the display, publishing or distribution of written material which might be deemed to constitute ‘hatred’ towards homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered: it also covers the public performance of plays; distributing, showing or playing a recording; broadcasting a programme and the possession of inflammatory material.

Is the Bible ‘inflammatory material’?

Is the Qur’an?

Is it not ironic that forty years after the Lord Chamberlain ceased being the official censor of theatrical performances, with the primary responsibility to uphold public decency and morality, that we now have an entire Government dedicated to inflicting upon us the very indecency and immorality from which they used to guard us?

Or is it now a crime to say that?

Should one really face a seven-year jail sentence for voicing an opinion in an inappropriate way?

Who is to decide whether that opinion is justified or not? Who is to judge the propriety?

Let us not be deceived that this legislation has been rationalised by Parliament or that it will be fairly interpreted by the Courts. It is the police we must fear, for it is their heavy hands, hot heads and over-zealous authoritarianism that will descend upon the religious, with allegations of incitement, condemnation and ‘hatred’.

And then they will descend upon the school playgrounds where children do what children do: tease, cajole, hurl insults… slugs and snails and puppy-dog’s tails. That’s what little boys are made of.

And who then judges the level of ‘threat? Who predicts the likelihood of violence?

Cranmer can do no better than to reproduce the speech made by Rowan Atkinson in the context of New Labour’s religious hatred laws. The parallels are self-evident:

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Those of us who have opposed this measure since its introduction in 2001 have never had a problem with its alleged intent, viz. to counter the expression of racial hatred under the disguise of religious hatred. Rather, our problem was always the legislation’s breathtaking scope and reach far beyond that intent.

The prime motivating energy for the Bill seemed to come not from communities seeking protection from bullying by the British National Party but from individuals with a more aggressive, fundamentalist agenda. Those who have sought, from the very day of the publication in 1989 of Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, to immunise religions against criticism and ridicule – or at least to promote legislation that is so sinister and intimidating, it can provide that immunity without even the need to prosecute anyone. In other words, to impose self-censorship.

The starting point for my objections to this Bill is to argue with its supposedly inarguable premise: the ‘ooh Yes Religious Hatred, that sounds like a bad thing, let’s have a law against that’. As hatred is defined as intense dislike, what is wrong with inciting intense dislike of a religion, if the activities or teachings of that religion are so outrageous, irrational or abusive of human rights that they deserve to be intensely disliked?

The Government has often spoken of how under existing legislation, Jews and Sikhs are protected from religious hatred on the basis of their race and that this Bill seeks merely to extend that protection to others. The problem that that ignores is that race and religion are fundamentally different concepts – you cannot choose your race, you can choose your religion – and even if for many the line dividing their race from their religion is blurred in the eyes of the law. A sharp line can and should be drawn.
If Jews and Sikhs are protected from criticism of their religious beliefs or religious activities, then that is a wrong and the idea of extending that to other religions is also a wrong. To criticise people for their race is manifestly irrational but to criticise their religion, that is a right.

The freedom to criticise or ridicule ideas – even if they are sincerely held beliefs – is a fundamental freedom and a law which says that you can ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas, is a very odd law indeed. It promotes the idea that there should be a right not to be offended, when I think that the right to offend is far more important than a right not to be offended.

The only moderating influence on this legislation will be the Attorney General, who can veto prosecutions. Yet how can the Office of the Attorney General, an instrument of government, be expected to take only a judicial view of cases brought before him and not be influenced by the political ambitions of his employer?

The ease with which one religious group or another could be favoured or disfavoured is clear. You many not know that there is an Anti-Vilification law in a state in Australia, where a Witch successfully brought a prosecution against a Christian pastor for vilification of her religion. Now the government has assured us that our Attorney General would veto such a frivolous prosecution.

However, you can imagine that if, one day, electoral research by the party in government revealed that there were a surprising number of witches living in a number of marginal constituencies whose votes could be of considerable benefit to the party at the next general election, then such a prosecution might suddenly seem a more attractive and less frivolous idea to the Attorney General than it had previously. The potential for abuse is manifest.

It is time for the Government to listen. It has made no attempt to address any of these concerns – other than to deflect the criticism with the most anodyne rebuttals.

The Government says you will continue to be able to criticise or ridicule religion. Where in the Bill does it say that? Where is the clause that even implies that kind of freedom of expression? How can such bland reassurances carry any authority when there is no wording in the bill to support them and the chief promoters and supporters of this legislation, in consultation with whom the thing was drafted, have always taken the opposite view. They don’t think that religions should be ridiculed. They don’t think that religions should be criticised or insulted. That is why they have lobbied for this legislation for so many years and unlike the government are not blind to its potential to achieve those aims.

The problem with this Bill is its imbalance. It represents the relentless pursuit of the interests of a tiny minority of the population with, so far, no consideration or quarter being given to the concerns of the baffled majority. This is not to belittle the concerns of the minority which can be and should be accommodated but good government is also about doing everything in your power to accommodate the concerns of those most affected by your legislative ambitions. And this is simply not happening.

That is what these amendments are about. They do not affect the essence of the Bill – they seek only to provide reassurance and above all to protect freedom of speech, from which not just a minority will benefit, nor just a majority, but every single one of us.

It is undoubtedly irrational and illegal to state that black people are somehow disordered or in any sense inferior: that is racism.

It is undoubtedly irrational and illegal to state that women are less able than men and ought therefore to be paid less: that is sexism.

It is undoubtedly irrational and illegal to prevent the disabled from the fullest participation in education and wider society: that is disability discrimination.

And now it must be illegal to state that homosexuality is ‘an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder’.

The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well-meaning or good-intentioned it may be.

"...if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God..."

Monday, March 22, 2010

The arrogance, sleaze and corruption at the heart of New Labour


The revelation that four (yes, four) cabinet ministers were caught in an undercover sting boasting that they were able to secure access to ministers and change Government policy in return for £3000-£5000 ought to appall all democrats. It is not ‘cash for questions’: it is worse. It is ‘cash for Government policy’ garnished with ‘cash for Government access’.

The sleaze which bedevilled John Major’s final years was as nothing compared to this: a few individuals were guilty of taking bungs in brown envelopes in return for tabling questions in Parliament; a former minister went to prison for perjury. And yet the residual (un-)popular memory of that era is of a government ‘mired in sleaze’.

New Labour promised to be ‘whiter than white’, yet they have not only bankrupted the country and inflicted us again with trade union militancy: they gave us Peter Mandelson; the £1 million Bernie Ecclestone affair; ‘cash for honours’; Derek Draper’s lies; Damian McBride’s plot to smear David Cameron and other senior Conservatives with lies and malicious slander; Peter Mandelson; a voting system worthy of a banana republic; Charlie Wheelan and Ed Balls with their ‘forces of hell’; a corrupt and deficient Speaker – the first to resign in 300 years; Peter Mandelson; Jack Dromey’s dodgy accounting; quangos, cronies; Lord Mandelson; three MPs facing prison for falsifying accounts; and now four cabinet ministers boasting they can grant ‘favours’ to private companies, at a price.

Stephen Byers spelled it out quite specifically: he saved companies millions of pounds in his ‘secret deals’ with Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, and Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary. He was recorded as saying he was like a ‘cab for hire’ who would work for up to £5,000 a day, could get confidential information from No 10 and was able to help firms involved in price-fixing get around the law.

This is not merely a matter for the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner: it is not simply an inquiry into whether the ministerial code of conduct has been broken. This conduct is criminal.

Patricia Hewitt, a former health secretary, and Geoff Hoon, a former defence secretary, were also secretly recorded offering their services to the bogus lobbyists. Mr Hoon reportedly offered to lead delegations to ministers, and said he wanted to make use of his knowledge and contacts in a way that ‘frankly makes money'. He said he charged £3,000 a day. And Baroness Morgan, a former adviser to Tony Blair, also allegedly offered to arrange meetings with ministers.

Of course, they all deny any wrongdoing.

But they were all recorded by the bogus lobbying company, and the evidence is damning.

And so they now attempt to brush off this sleazy affair with admissions of ‘exaggeration’, or (quite incredibly) a statement that they were suspicious of the company and so somehow ‘played along’ and purposely ‘overstated the case’.

They must think we are all irredeemably stupid.

Frank Field was right when he spoke of the 'darkness at the heart of the Labour Party'.

We have a government built upon a foundation lies, deception and corruption. There is sin at the heart of this Labour Government, and the Devil dwells within Number 10. It is time for the whole edifice to come tumbling down.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Archbishop Cranmer, burned at the stake on this day in 1556



Let us pause from the noise and frenzy to recollect the burning on this day of His Grace 'the heretic'; the last Archbishop of Canterbury to be appointed by a pope.

Almighty and everliving God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be make partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God,for ever and ever. Amen.



Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life.

Judgment must begin at the house of God

It is more than a disingenuous deflection when those who leap to defend the Roman Catholic Church from the present tsunami of allegations of torture and child-rape point the finger at other institutions which have, from time to time, had their share of pederasty.

“Why,” they wail, “should the victims of clerical abuse be singled out by the media? Why are the prepubescent prey of perverted priests, libidinous bishops and carnally-minded cardinals deemed more worthy of scrutiny and investigation than those abused by other groups of predators?”

And so they cite the vice of various children’s homes, the Church of England, the Baptists, the Lutherans and a few ‘progressive’ schools which have nothing to do with any religious foundation at all.

Pederasty, they aver, is not simply a papal problem.

Very true.

And Cranmer has some sympathy with those who feel some injustice in the matter.

But he has little patience with the poverty of their spirituality and the ignorance they display of the teaching of their first pope.

St Peter said:

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1Pet 4:14-17)

It may be that Pope Benedict XVI is indeed suffering ‘as a Christian’ as he is ‘stitched up’ by the media and thrown the wolves by his liberal ‘enemies inside the Church’ (which, reportedly, includes members of the College of Cardinals).

But other clerics rightly suffer for being murderers of innocence, thieves of childhood and meddlers in collusion and cover-up.

Yet it is a bit rich for those Roman Catholic journalists to cry foul over an ‘anti-Catholic’ media frenzy when they are not averse to dishing out the same (and worse) upon every trial faced by the Archbishop of Canterbury and every tribulation to befall the Church of England.

Those who berate The Times for its measured, reasoned and intelligent reporting of this crisis are the very journalists who are the first to crow about ‘the end of the Church of England’, the ‘wreckage’ its incompetent bishops leave in their wake, and demand that the proper (ie Anglo-Catholic) Christians swim over to Rome.

But that, of course, is not ‘anti-Anglican’ or ‘bigotry’. That is pastoral concern for the spiritual edification of deficient Protestants and a genuine desire for wholeness in the soteriological fulfilment of wayward and misguided Anglicans.

The media are full of vipers, serpents, dragons and beasts: it is a world of darkness and a den of demons governed by the prince of the power of the air. You might think, therefore, that Christians might seek to be united to confront the zeitgeist.

But no.

Unity is impossible when The Daily Talibgraph prefers to talk of forging alliances with atheists rather than with Anglicans; when its journalists are more absorbed by their own embittered egos and puerile carping than with rational discourse; and when they consistently resort to ad hominem attacks upon their competitors in order to deflect from the religio-political substance they prefer not to face, or their own cognitive dissonance prevents them from even perceiving.

Those robust defenders of Pope Benedict who defame The Times (or, now, ‘the recent Media’) for daring to ask some awkward questions ought themselves to ask these questions. They might learn from the example of Cardinal Sean Brady as he presided over Mass yesterday. In deep pain, from the depths of his anguished soul, he thanked and praised the communications media – even the serpents, dragons and beasts who have been unforgiving in their agonising crucifixion of him over recent months. He was patient, courteous, respectful and humble: in short, he was Christ to them. Even if Ruth Gledhill had been there, he would have extended the right hand of fellowship and smiled warmly at her, instead of descending into hysterical, unreasoned and un-Christian abuse.

The negative media surrounding Pope Benedict is being fanned by his co-religionists, both clerics and journalists. They are gorging this ravenous ‘mood of the moment’ by which the obsessive media live and breathe. It is a game to them, though it be life and death to others. And now Pope Benedict’s entire papacy risks being forever tarnished with allegations of pederasty in exactly the same manner as that of Pope Pius XII has become synonymous with anti-Semitism. And history has a very long memory.

But Christians – real Christians – would not be spitting at the media organisations or cursing the journalists. They would love, as Christ did, and forgive them, not least because judgment begins with the house of God. And we might expect that wrath, when it comes, to be more severe. From those who have been entrusted with much, much is expected. And if that trust involves the guardianship of the lively oracles of God, then there can be no fellowship with darkness. The hypocrites have been rightly and justly exposed, and this is a work of the Holy Spirit in cleansing the temple. But, as Pope Benedict reminded us, let us not fool ourselves into believing that pederasty is the sole preserve of the ordained and religious: it is also a pursuit of the laity. It is perfectly possible to project the sanctified façade of being a Benedict-adoring, Latin-loving, orthodoxy-exalting media hack and a holier-than-thou participant in God's work of chastisement and judgment, while secretly harbouring a penchant for young boys.

Those who seek to wound and destroy their brothers and sisters in Christ are only bringing judgment upon themselves. And that judgment will surely come.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

'Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland'

The full text of this document may be found HERE.

It is curious that the Pope has a swipe at secularisation and Vatican II as contributory factors for priests adopting ‘ways of thinking…without sufficient reference to the Gospel’, as though all ages have not been antithetical or downright hostile to the Christian message. If the Hellenic world did not offer greater temptation to pederasty (to give it its proper name), it is difficult to blame the ‘liberal’ reforms of the 1960s and encroaching secularisation for the present manifestation of the phenomenon.

The Pope appears to suggest that child rape and torture 'canonically irregular situations' are a natural consequence of the culture war between tradition and modernity, between the Rock and relativism, which have only been manifest since the golden era of Vatican I was supplanted by the postmodern vagaries of trendy liberalism.

Were there no priestly pederasts prior to 21st November 1965?

The Pope talks of shame and remorse, doubtless with great sincerity, but it is a hollow apology which leaves the innocent victims still yearning for justice. There is passion and conviction in his words, but no action beyond the intention to dispatch a sort of curial Ofsted inspection team to visit unspecified dioceses.

And with a worldwide tsunami of allegations of child rape and torture, it was unfortunate that the Pope did not catholicise the problem. When he referred to the ‘inadequate response… on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in your country’, he placed the blame squarely with the priests and bishops of Ireland: there are no deficiencies in the Vatican: in this instance, not so much as a solitary back-road leads to Rome. It is the Irish bishops and they alone who were obsessed with ‘a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal’.

Addressing his ‘brother bishops’, he says unequivocally that some of them ‘failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse’. He talks of their ‘serious mistakes’, ‘grave errors of judgement’ and ‘failures of leadership’. All this, he says, ‘has seriously undermined (their) credibility and effectiveness’.

How can there be holiness, purification, reconciliation and ‘ecclesial and individual renewal’ while Cardinal Brady remains in charge? What would the Chief Exec of any other institution do to a fellow board member who had made ‘serious mistakes’, ‘grave errors’ and manifested such ‘failures of leadership’ that his credibility and effectiveness were ‘seriously undermined’?

How can Cardinal Brady not posses the humility to see that his mere presence is now hindering the mission of his church?

And how can the Pope demand that the bishops of Ireland cooperate fully with the civil authorities there when he does not despatch Cardinal Law back to Boston to face his long-delayed Missa Solemnis? Why are the bishops of Ireland thrown to the secular authorities while the erstwhile bishop of Boston continues to sing his Angelus three times a day like an innocent songbird in a gilded cage?

Spring of discontent


Now this is good.

Very good.

The 'Spring of discontent' idea (while lacking the bleak resonance of a winter) is sufficient to remind the electorate of the 1979 economic turmoil and the undeniable fact that, just as night follows day, Labour invariably leave the nation bankrupt and at the mercy of the trade unions.

And it is all coming at the worst possible time for Gordon Brown.

As Bob Crow and the RMT bring the rail network to a standstill by calling out the signal workers, Unite (Labour's paymasters) are intent on ruining the travel arrangements of hundreds of thousands of people as they call out BA's cabin crew.

And all of these people have a vote.

Since Unite are funding Labour's general election campaign, Gordon Brown's hands are tied and his mouth gagged.

The wheel has come full circle: 30 years after Margaret Thatcher stormed to victory to resurrect the 'sick man of Europe' and remind the unions that it is the job of Government to run the country, Labour have put Britain back into intensive care and re-infected the nation with the virus of trade union militancy.

Only six more weeks...

In a speech to be delivered today, David Cameron takes on vested interests:

Since the beginning of the year, we have been setting out the choice at this election.

Five more years of Gordon Brown.

Or change with the Conservatives.

New energy, to get Britain moving.

But change doesn't just happen.

Change isn’t easy.

It's hard because there will always be people who want to preserve the status quo even when it isn’t working in everyone’s interests.

To maintain their privileges.

To maintain their position.

To make sure that the way things work suit them, rather than everyone else.

They're called vested interests, they are the enemies of change and often they will use any means to block progress.

So any politician who thinks they can just sweep in and implement their plans is sorely mistaken.

You can't bring about political change unless you confront those who want to protect the status quo come what may.

Political leadership means standing up for the people – and standing up to those who act against their interests.

What does that mean?

Put simply, you can’t change Britain unless you take on vested interests.

VESTED INTERESTS

That idea lies behind the progress of our country.

It was only when people stood up to a despotic King that our rights first came enshrined in Magna Carta.

And it was only when Parliament stood up to planters, merchants and ship owners that the slave trade was abolished.

And it’s an idea that is written in the history of our party too.

Peel, took on landowners, repealed the corn laws and brought cheap food to everyone.

Disraeli, took on some of the richest in the land, introduced factory reforms and protected people from exploitation.

And Margaret Thatcher’s government was defined by taking the side of the people against the powerful, the vested interest...

...those whose survival depended on keeping things as they were.

Take her union reforms.

She recognised that as long there was a closed shop and no proper ballots, power would lie with the big union barons.

They would continue to hold governments to ransom, to drag this country down, and to bully their members.

So she took them on.

She broke the stranglehold of the union barons and gave every worker an equal right and equal say.

Vested interests broken - people empowered.

The same is true for council house sales.

Before her reforms, the system predominantly favoured one set of people...

...local authority bureaucrats who controlled huge budgets and wielded huge power because they decided who could live where.

So Margaret Thatcher took them on.

She gave people the right to buy their own homes, invest in their future and take control of their lives.

Vested interests broken - people empowered.

And then there's the denationalisation of industry.

We saw that the growth of state power and state patronage, of state employment and state subsidies, gave massive power to a few people at the centre.

The big bosses, the union leaders, the politicians and civil servants who were in control of multi-million pound industries.

So Margaret Thatcher took them on.

She stripped companies like British Telecom of their monopolies...

...broke up failing monoliths like British Leyland...

...gave people choice, the opportunity to buy shares and created a truly popular capitalism based on enterprise and aspiration.

Vested interests broken - people empowered.

One vested interest after another was taken on and defeated.

Unions were given back to their members.

People were given greater power and control over their lives.

Business was set free to grow and create wealth.

Real change happened.

LABOUR WEAKNESS

Compare that to Gordon Brown.

Everyone knows that our public services are too bureaucratic, too badly managed, in urgent need of reform.

But did the Prime Minister allow that reform to happen?

No - because he's too terrified of upsetting the union barons, losing their votes and their money.

So, for instance, Foundation Hospitals were neutered and Academy School freedoms weakened all at the behest of the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown.

The vested interests triumphed and the people lost out.

Powerful lobby groups proposed a third runway at Heathrow that would cause great damage to our environment, but did the Government take them on?

No - they gave the runway the green light.

Again, the vested interests triumph and the people lose out.

Look at the government’s failure to ensure either fairness or effective regulation when it comes to powerful interest groups in the City of London.

For years, non-domiciles did not pay their fair share of tax while enjoying the benefits of living in this country, but did the Government do anything meaningful about it?

No - not until the Conservatives first proposed a non-dom levy in 2007.

Taxpayers funded the biggest bank bailout in our history.

And what did the Prime Minister do?

Did he stand up for the taxpayers who had put up £850 billion of their hard-earned money to save the banks?

No.

He refused to even contemplate separating retail banking from the most risky financial activities like proprietary trading.

He refused to bring in stronger regulation by the bank of England.

Once again, under Gordon Brown the vested interests triumph and the people lose out.

And now we see it again with the British Airways strike.

This threatens the future of one of Britain's greatest companies along with thousands of jobs.

But will the Prime Minister come out in support of those people who would cross the picket line?

No - because the Unite union is bankrolling the Labour party.

So the vested interests triumph and the people – including those cabin crew staff who don’t want to go on strike – suffer.

From the BA strike to public sector reform and his approach to the City of London, Gordon Brown has consistently given in to special interest groups and shown that he is unable to deliver the change that the country needs.

CONSERVATIVE CHANGE

That change can only be led by a Conservative government.

Since becoming leader of the Conservative Party, I have rolled up my sleeves and argued for what is right, not what is convenient.

Sometimes that means taking on vested interests.

Some people said don’t do it, don’t rock the boat, don’t pick fights.

I knew our country needed a Parliament it could trust...

...that unless MPs were willing to show they understood the anger of the British people and change their behaviour then our democracy would emerge from the expenses scandal permanently damaged.

So I said to my MPs – before any inquiry did – we must apologise, pay back money, restrict claims and be transparent.

Scrapping Parliamentary subsidies.

Cutting the number of MPs.

Cutting the number of ministerial cars.

Cutting and freezing ministerial pay.

Full transparency over expenses.

Closing the final salary pension scheme.

It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary – because this way Parliament can start to look the British public in the eye and say ‘we’re here to serve you, not ourselves’.

I knew our country needed restraint across government, because frankly we couldn’t afford, and people wouldn’t put up with, fat cats and bureaucrats spending and wasting more and more money with little to show for it.

So I said to the quango chiefs, the town halls, the government departments...

...all the officials that for too long have jealously guarded their budgets...

...that a Conservative government would bring transparency to everything they do.

Publishing every item of central government spending over £25,000 and every item of local council spending over £500.

Publishing every public sector salary over £150,000 and every town hall salary over £60,000.

Cutting the number of quangos.

It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary – because if we open up the whole process of government we’ll make it accountable to the people it serves.

I knew our country needed someone to demand some restraint from the market and stand up to big business...

...pointing out that companies have a real effect on people’s quality of life, a real effect on our culture, so it’s time to take some responsibility.

So yes, I have had battles with entrenched interests, including those in the corporate sector.

Opposing the third runway at Heathrow.

A right for every parent to request flexible working.

Changing advertising rules to stop the premature sexualisation of children.

Taxing banks to fund free financial advice.

It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary – and today I think big business knows it will be criticised when it ducks out of its social responsibilities if we’re elected to government.

And I knew our country needed a modern Conservative Party to apply Conservative methods like encouraging responsibility and strengthening families to the great social problems that after a decade the centre-left have failed to get to grips with.

So I took it on a journey of change.

More women candidates.

More black and minority ethnic candidates.

Social action in our constituencies.

In touch with the modern world and modern issues.

It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary - and now the public has a real choice: a modern, progressive Conservative choice at the next election.

So I believe this all points to one thing: that today, it’s the Conservative Party that has the leadership, the energy, the strength of character to stand up to vested interests and make change happen.

FUTURE CHALLENGES

And we’re going to need all that strength in the years to come.

I have no doubt that some of the changes we want to make will mean facing down some really powerful vested interests.

Not all of the policing establishment like our plans to make them more accountable to local people...

...but they need to understand that accountability is the best guarantee for getting the zero-tolerance, beat-based policing that will really cut anti-social behaviour.

Some union barons may use strikes to block progress on cutting the deficit...

...but they have to realise that unless we pull together and deal with our debts then the economy will not recover, more jobs will be lost and things will get worse.

And just take our school reforms.

We say – and we mean – that we will open up the market and allow churches, charities, parents and yes private schools into the state sector to set up new, small, popular and successful state schools.

We say – and we mean – that we want to restore rigour and discipline in the classroom, end dumbing down and the “all must have prizes” mentality throughout the education system.

I know that these things may mean a fight.

A fight with some teaching unions who want things to stay as they are and who oppose the flexibility we want to give to schools.

A fight with the educational establishment who built and backed the consensus on teaching methods that in my view have demonstrably failed.

And, yes, a fight against some local authorities who can find parent power, choice and diversity an uncomfortable blast of fresh air though the system.

People need to know that we both recognise the difficulties in driving change through and are prepared to take the difficult decisions in bringing it about.

And with the Budget this week, this is no time to shy away from confronting some of the biggest vested interests in our country – the banks.

We had the biggest bank bail-out in the world.

We can’t just carry on as if nothing happened.

In America, President Obama has said he will get taxpayers back every cent they put in.

Why should it be any different here?

So I can announce today that a Conservative government will introduce a new bank levy to pay back tax payers for the support they gave and to protect them in the future.

No, it won’t be popular in every part of the City.

But I believe it’s fair and it’s necessary.

CONCLUSION

This election is about choices.

Yes, choices between different visions and values; plans and policies; aims and ideas.

But there’s also a big choice between two different styles of governing.

We’ve seen Labour’s style.

It’s feeble, it’s weak, it panders to vested interests.

That’s why they have wasted so many of their years in power and delivered so little real change.

The style we offer is different – strong, resolute, taking on those who block progress so we see change through.

From weakness to strength.

From elite power to people power.

From vested interests to the national interest.

That’s the change we offer.
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