Sunday, September 30, 2007

Is England the key to a Conservative victory?

Ever since his coronation, the unelected Scottish Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has never mentioned the words ‘England’ or ‘English’, yet has spoken of Britain and the British ad nauseam. Whenever he needs to refer to England, he talks of ‘regions’, which certainly alludes to the once-great nation, yet balkanises it to the point of historic meaninglessness and political insignificance.

But Frank Field MP has observed that England might just be the key to David Cameron’s electoral salvation. It is not that no Conservative MP has noticed this, but their reluctance even to raise the subject has more to do with the fear of a Labour assault on their ‘English nationalism’ than it has to do with the issue being a non-starter.

There is no doubt that English voters are irritated, principally because their concerns are sidelined, their taxes subsidise the standards of living in the devolved corners of the UK – in particular Scottish health and education - and, unlike Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, they have no national holiday for their saint's day. As a spiritual entity, England has her church (just), but as political entity, England does not exist, and reactions to this range from it being an unacceptable state of affairs to a chronic and profound injustice in need of urgent redress. A Newsnight survey has found that ‘61% of English voters think they should have their own parliament and that this proposition was supported by a majority of Scottish voters. Another poll revealed that a greater proportion of English voters wanted independence for England than did Scottish voters for Scotland.’

Whenever David Cameron has talked of ‘English votes for English issues’, it has largely gone down well in England, but quickly falls off the radar of public consciousness for lack of policy detail. But this, as Mr Field points out, could be the ‘issue to mark him out’:

The Tories are in fact an English party in all but name and their leader doesn't seem to realise this. All bar three Tory MPs sit for English constituencies. Making the English question his big idea could give Mr Cameron the kind of electoral launch for the general election that he gained last time he was in Blackpool seeking the Tory leadership.

The Conservative Party has been the English Party for more than a decade, yet they resile from the electoral possibilities for fear of the political consequences for the United Kingdom. Cranmer understands this, but wishes to point out that Labour’s constitutional vandalism and ill-conceived programmes of devolution has set an unstoppable train in motion. It is infinitely preferable to have a Conservative settlement for devolution than to persist with the half-baked, deficient, catalectic compromises of New Labour.

If the anticipated ‘flurry’ of policy announcements in Blackpool this week is limited to the environment, health, education, and tinkering with taxation, there will be too little to set the Conservative Party apart from Labour. The electorate will stick with the experienced statesman who consistently out-performs Mr Cameron in the personal ratings. But if David Cameron’s Conservatives were to pledge a retroactive referendum on the EU Constitution / Reform Treaty, and also offer a credible solution to the English question, they would be on course for victory.

Frank Field is a true Christian Englishman who loves his country and its liberties. He has many excellent and thoroughly Conservative ideas for welfare reform and social policy. If he were Cranmer’s MP, he would vote for him. The wonder is, after the appalling way he has been treated by Mssrs Blair and Brown, that he hasn’t crossed the floor.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Times produces anti-Israel propaganda for schools

This is a slide from a Powerpoint presentation produced by The Times Educational Supplement for use in Britain’s schools. It parades under the guise of encouraging students to ‘compare their own lives with those of children in Palestine’.

They might as well say that their objective is to manipulate students into accepting that Israel is an illegal entity, that the land should be named ‘Palestine’, and that the students’ comfortable life in Britain is a relative heaven compared to the hell caused by Israeli occupation and military acts of terrorism. This slide gives more than the impression of oppression; it conveys the distinct sense of an Israeli police state, covertly monitoring 'every breath' that Palestinans take. There are no balancing arguments at all, and absolutely no mention of the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism executed by Palestinians against Israelis. And as Melanie Phillips observes, neither is there any mention of the reality that ‘what actually enslaves Palestinian children is an ideology which indoctrinates and brainwashes them into fanatical hatred and then pays their parents to turn them into human bombs’.

This has nothing to do with education, and is reminiscent of anti-Semitic propaganda of Nazi Germany. Its sole purpose is to inculcate into the nation’s most vulnerable hearts and minds that Israel is illegitimate and that Israeli Jews are evil.

That this presentation is being offered free of charge to teachers is a cause of great concern; that it is being offered by The Times is appalling; and that it is being taught in Britain's schools is outrageous, not to mention a flagrant violation of the law. Such lessons are actually illegal under Section 407 of the 1996 Education Act which forbids school children being fed political propaganda of any sort, and requires that secondary school students be given balanced views of controversial subjects.

Dare Cranmer hope that one, just one, of the nation’s teachers might rise to challenge this appalling piece of blatant anti-Israel propaganda?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Heir to Blair, or matcher of Thatcher?

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that David Cameron is about to distance himself from his tree-loving, hoodie-hugging, tax-raising, image, and make a distinct appeal to the ‘core’ Conservative supporters who have not been unimpressed with the conviction of Prime Minister Brown this week. There are even rumours of imminent defections, but rumours are nothing but gossip, and Cranmer discourages indulgence in the pursuit.

Except, of course, in matters religio-political.

The Conservative Party is reported to be relishing the prospect of an autumn election, asserting that if the Prime Minister does not call one, he will have ‘bottled it’. In preparation, the Party is ditching many of the recommendations of the Gummer/Goldsmith report - all talk of matching Labour’s public spending commitments, making families pay to park at out-of-town supermarkets, and taxing internal UK flights. Instead, there are rumours of abolishing inheritance tax and reforming stamp duty. There will doubtless also be a few noises about immigration, cleaner hospitals, more discipline in schools, not run 'by Europe'... Mr Cameron will no longer refer to himself as the heir to Blair, but the true heir to Thatcher.


Cranmer does not need to be gifted with prophecy to bet his ashes that if there were to be a general election in October, David Cameron’s Conservatives would be humiliated. Perhaps unlike his immediate predecessors, he would neither resign nor be pushed, but there would be certain demands for a change in direction, and a conviction change at that. The concerns are with his honesty, integrity, his perception of truth, and his consistency.

Cranmer is not saying that the Leader of HM Opposition lacks these qualities, but the all-important public perception is that he manifestly does. And the decision to u-turn (if it be true) on his recent centre-ground strategy in order to appeal to ‘core’ voters simply perpetuates the perception that the Tory Tree simply blows with the strongest wind.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear' (2Tim 4:3).

David Cameron’s problem is that (for all its cuteness) Labour's 'chameleon’ campaign has paid off, as has the drip-drip-drip of the ‘flip-flop’ mantra. No matter how much Mr Cameron refers to himself as a conviction politician, or ‘an admirer of Margaret Thatcher’, or asserts that the present Shadow Cabinet is made up of the ‘successors of the Thatcher inheritance’, people simply do not believe him. And those who believe least are many ‘core’ supporters, not least because what he says on one day is frequently contradicted the next, and any who criticise him, no matter how experienced, how credible, or how senior, are arrogantly and pompously dismissed as being 'out of touch'.

How can the heir to Margaret Thatcher criticise Lord Tebbit and declare that he is ‘out of touch with where the Conservative movement is’? It is not only a naïve assertion; it is fundamentally wrong. There is a vast chasm between David Cameron’s ‘Conservative movement’ and that constituted of thousands of loyal Party workers. The real ‘Conservative movement’ is neither the Shadow Cabinet nor CCHQ, but the tens of thousands of members and millions of ‘core’ supporters, many of whom respect and admire Lord Tebbit. When Mr Cameron attacks him, he pours scorn upon them all.

No-one calls for justice; no-one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil (Isaiah 59:4).

The Conservative Party has become a Party without true conviction. Announcements are made off the cuff, amended or disowned within days, and there is a feeling of a weekly policy shift. True to the heir-to-Blair strategy, style is perceived to have triumphed over substance. While this reported change in direction may be welcome, it comes far too late for an autumn poll.

Or could a manifesto pledge to hold a retroactive referendum on the EU Constitution / Reform Treaty save him?

Yet if the pledge were made, would any either believe or trust him?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Council of Europe votes on creationism in schools

From Reuters, Cranmer learns that there is further substance to his previous observations that the EU is seeking a takeover of British education, and that there is an emerging EU dimension to the training of the nation’s teachers. It is even more ominous because the Council of Europe is far broader than the EU: it consists of 47 member states, and, unlike the EU, is truly pan-European. One might argue that it is therefore more representative, bit it remains completely unaccountable to the peoples of Europe, and utterly unfettered by the inconveniences of democracy.

The Council is based in Strasbourg, and oversees human rights standards in member states and enforces decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Its primary task, according to its own website, is ‘to develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals’. Its wider aims are:

- to protect human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law;
- to promote awareness and encourage the development of Europe's cultural identity and diversity;
- to find common solutions to the challenges facing European society: such as discrimination against minorities, xenophobia, intolerance, bioethics and cloning, terrorism, trafficking in human beings, organised crime and corruption, cybercrime, violence against children;
- to consolidate democratic stability in Europe by backing political, legislative and constitutional reform.

So if its raison d’être is to sustain plurality and to promote diversity, why is it voting soviet-like to ban the teaching of creationism and ‘intelligent design’ in Europe’s schools?

Whether or not one has a faith, one believes in evolution, one perceives ‘intelligent design’ to be a valid theory for scientific examination, or one believes that the subject belongs solely in the religious studies class, any decision on its teaching should be a matter solely for the Secretary of State for Children, Schools, Families, Breast Feeding and Nappy Changing, or the heads and governors of schools. While Cranmer does not support the notion of a National Curriculum, he is at least a believer that education should remain the preserve of the nation state.

Yet the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly faces a motion that creationism ‘attacks the theory of evolution’, and that such a challenge has its origins in ‘in forms of religious extremism’. This, apparently, constitutes ‘a dangerous assault on science and human rights’.
The resolution therefore urges Europe’s schools to ‘resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion’, and dismisses ‘intelligent design’ as a pseudo-scientific ‘updated version of creationism’. The Council sees it as its function ‘to prevent belief from opposing science’.

This amounts quite simply to an attack upon religion and the teaching of religion, which, it may be counter asserted, has its origins in forms of secular extremism. Both the EU and the European Council are seeking to relegate the role of religion to the realms of the private, and assert an increasingly aggressive secular agenda in the public realm.

Yet there is an interesting dimension to this story which Cranmer would like his communicants and readers to consider. Many of Europe’s schools have been teaching that God made the world in six days for centuries. It is the literal teaching of orthodox Judaism and Christianity. And true to its Enlightenment foundations, the modern education system encourages children to question, analyse, seek knowledge, and to make up their own minds on the matter. Intelligent design is simply another theory which posits that some life forms are too complex to have evolved according to the theory of evolution, and that they would have required a higher intelligence or force to develop as they have. And this theory is as scientifically supportable as the theory of evolution, which, Cranmer would like to point out, remains a theory.

So why, after centuries of harmonious coexistence, is ‘Europe’ seeking to expunge creationism from the continent’s schools?

Well… Reuters notes that the issue has been taken up by the Council ‘because a shadowy Turkish Muslim publishing group has been sending an Islamic creationist book to schools in several countries’.
It is purely a mechanism to limit the influence of Islam.

Cranmer would like to suggest that this is an area where all of the Continent’s faiths should unite to challenge the increasingly God-less and pathologically anally-retentive European institutions, and tell them, politely but firmly, how pluralism and diversity are wholly in accord with nature, what they can therefore do with their soviet secular religion, and where they can put their myopic man-made god.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cranmer’s Celebratory Pulpit No.VI

Cranmer is delighted to reward his communicants with an open pulpit today.

The principal reason is that (to his immense surprise) his august blog of intelligent and erudite comment upon matters religio-political has been ranked #6 in the ‘Top 100 Right of Centre Blogs’, and #1 in the ‘Top 10 Religious Blogs’ in Iain Dale's Guide to Political Blogging in the UK.

In celebration of this, and in perpetual commemoration of the spiritual liberation afforded by his own pulpit experience with the Provost of Eton, Dr Henry Cole (illustrated above), His Grace is pleased to host another Cranmer’s Pulpit for communicants to raise whatever religio-political or politico-religious concerns they do so wish…

…intelligently and eruditely, of course.

And if communicants are in need of focus, he asks all who are so minded to pray for the thousand of Buddhist monks and civilians who are marching for democracy in Burma. Amidst reports today that they are being beaten and assaulted by the military, they are brave and principled souls indeed. They have most recently supported by the Dalai Lama and the President of the United States of America, who has announced the tightening of economic sanctions and a visa ban on Myanmar’s leaders.

This helpful site notes that ‘democracy is strengthened by values drawn from Buddhist moral and social theory, and Buddhist moral and social theory gains concrete institutional and procedural specificity when it is articulated through the framework of liberal democratic theory’.

If a repeat of the 1998 bloodbath is to avoided, Cranmer believes prayer to be an imperative.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An outbreak of Brown-tongue

Cranmer is nauseated. “I am a conviction politician,” said the Prime Minister: “I will not let you down.” Listening to the peroration, it is clear that his thespian skills have been honed at the Blair Academy of Dramatic Art, and he has learnt how to deliver a line with feeling, integrity, and a winning smile. It was a very proficient performance indeed, but as devoid of reality as theatre itself.

The speech was replete with some innately Conservative thinking – GP choice, hospital choice, one-to-one education, support led by the voluntary sector, the notion of ‘Britishness’ - and the Conservative Party must embrace these initiatives, and boast about their genesis, and witness some of their own agenda fulfilled as a prelude to the authentic. But after a decade of New Labour, for which Mr Brown was responsible for the billions of pounds poured into its policies, the nation’s social structure is still crumbling: crime has increased, taxes have soared, programmes to cater for infants have failed, pensions are in terminal decline, education standards are abysmal, prisoners are wrongly released, immigration policy in chaos, the tax system incoherent and convoluted, and millions of unemployed have either been employed by the state in one of a million non-jobs, or simply been re-classified so as to remove them from the official statistics altogether.

But what really irritated Cranmer was this little section:

We all remember that biblical saying: "suffer the little children to come unto me." No Bible I have ever read says: "bring just some of the children."

How dare he. How very dare he.

Off he pontificated, about how ‘every child deserves the best possible start in life’, how they have ‘lifted 600,000 children out of poverty’ by doubling child benefits and trebling maternity allowances, and bestowing upon 6 million families the soviet ‘Child Tax Credit’. And he and he alone will suffer ‘the children of two parent families, one parent families, foster parent families; to the widow bringing up children’, because he and he alone stands for a Britain ‘that supports as first class citizens not just some children and some families but supports all children and all families’.

It is the clear inference that the Conservative Party preaches a gospel for ‘just some of the children’ that is an appalling caricature of an utterly coherent compassionate Conservative philosophy. The Conservative Party does not ‘write children off’, or ignore families and ‘teenagers in trouble’. On the contrary, Conservatism is about identifying the gifts and talents of every child, and tailoring an education to permit each child to realise his or her true potential. If that is academic, they should be stretched academically; if it is vocational, there must be respected and credible vocational training; if the child excels in the arts or sport, they should be liberated to develop their talents, not crammed into a one-size-fits-all Socialist Comprehensive system which has been the sole cause of the decline in education standards. And neither should they be packed off to pseudo-universities to obtain third class degrees in golf course management, witchcraft, or Posh and Becks studies, if they don’t drop out first, in order to fulfil some arbitrary government quota which demands that 50% of school leavers must enter university irrespective of aptitude or ability.

Conservatism suffers all the little children to come unto it, because it is wholly in accord with nature. Selection by ability or aptitude is observable in all of creation; people are different, and those variations should be embraced, not measured against some artificially constructed touchstone. Conservatism creates a natural environment for children in which they can risk, compete, explore and excel; Socialism creates artificial constructs which eliminate risk, which considers competition anathema, and demands conformation irrespective of ability or aptitude.

God forbid that parents should permit Mr Brown to suffer their precious children. Trust this man, and as sure as night follows day, you will be let down.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Gospel according to Gordon

As the nation waits, and the Conservative Party holds its breath for fear of an imminent apocalyptic call to a general election, Prime Minister Brown is articulating his gospel for our salvation: a vision for a second decade of New Labour.

It consists of the usual higher spending commitments on health on education, the tiresome mantra of removing barriers to work and university, and the oft-repeated assurance of the increase of opportunities for all, particularly the poor, with an emphasis on helping children and families and promises to lift them out of poverty.

All good Christian concerns, doubtless stemming from his background. He will also probably talk of Darfur and an ‘ethical foreign policy’ as well, if only to remove the righteous glow from David Cameron’s Conservatives.

But there will also be something new – talk of a ‘new politics’ for New Labour, a theme of national unity which embraces the best of the Liberal Democrats and (the best?) of the Conservative Party. His decision to reach out his hand to involve Paddy Ashdown, and the agreement of John Bercow and Patrick Mercer to ‘advise’ the Labour Government on issues of national importance, permits him to present himself as father of the nation, unconcerned with the old politics of unprincipled, tribal opportunism. In an age obsessed with image, the visit of Lady Thatcher last week was symbolically very important for Mr Brown. She may not have blessed his vision, but appearance is all. The important thing is that she has not been similarly photographed with David Cameron, who is perceived to be moving so far from Conservative ‘core’ beliefs that New Labour has become more ‘right’ than the Party of the Right. It is no wonder that prominent Conservative donors are defecting to where they believe the power will remain for another decade.

Mr Brown is confident and assured, and emits an aura of trustworthiness, experience, gravity and credibility. Mr Cameron is not, and does not. He is, apparently, the least popular of all the leaders of their parties, and that is an honour usually preserved for the mid-term blues of being in office. Mr Brown has the capacity not simply to defeat the Conservative Party, but to destroy them, or at least inflict such a disorientating wound that another decade of their wandering in the wilderness will be assured.

And he has a lead in the opinion polls against which the gates of hell cannot prevail, and this looks as though it will hand him the keys to No10 for a further term.

No, no, no. This must not be. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much…


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Whitehall vetoes first ‘secular school’

A headteacher who tried to eliminate religion altogether from state education by creating the UK’s first ‘secular school’ has been told by Whitehall mandarins that it would be a 'political impossibility'. It is easy to forget, amidst the arguments for and against faith schools of every hue, that the Christian faith is embedded by law in all state schools. There is not only a requirement to teach Religious Education, but pupils must also take part in a daily act of worship of a ‘broadly Christian’ nature.

Since the 1944 Education Act, there has been a statutory obligation upon all maintained schools to provide a daily act of collective worship for all registered pupils, unless they have been withdrawn by their parents. This was reinforced by the Conservative Party – during those years when the Church of England was deemed to be the Conservative Party at prayer - in the Education Act 1988, which followed concerns that this worship in many schools was becoming a secular ceremony, mainly concerned with immanent humanitarian concerns rather than the transcendent and spiritual, and that Religious Education had become a confusing multi-faith amalgam.

Despite the substantial and evident changes which have occurred in the religious make-up of the UK since 1944, the 1988 Act reiterated that schools are required to hold a daily act of collective worship, and specified that this has to be of a ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character’ which should ‘reflect the broad traditions of Christian belief’. According to government guidelines, worship is deemed to be of a broadly Christian character ‘if it reflects the broad traditions of Christian belief without being distinctive of any particular Christian denomination’. However, if this is inappropriate for some or all pupils, the head teacher can apply to the Local Education Authority for a determination to have this requirement lifted, as Dr Paul Kelley has sought to do. But he was told that ‘bishops in the House of Lords and ministers would block the plans’ because religion was 'technically embedded' in the education system.

Dr Kelley wishes to reduce religion to ‘moral discussions about religion and world views’, and bemoans the ‘19th-century architecture of education in a 21st-century environment’. In this he is not without reason. Aside from the Established Church, the United Kingdom is Christian nowhere moreso than in its education system. It is a child of the Enlightenment, based on reason and scientific rationalism, whose metanarrative is empiricism which seeks knowledge via the senses and human experience. This is constructed upon a bedrock of the Christian religion, and has served the country well. But Dr Kelley has essentially identified that the era is now postmodern, and that the epistemological relativism of postmodernity challenges all notions of ‘truth’. The notion of even a ‘broadly Christian’ act of collective worship is therefore deemed to be an unacceptable imposition; an offensive attempt to inculcate children with a particular worldview. They should simply be permitted ‘to choose freely’.

His ignorance, of course, is evidence in the undeniable fact that he is simply exchanging one spiritually inductive process for another. If it is wrong, as he asserts, to 'directly or indirectly influence children into a belief that a particular faith is preferable’, then a fortiori must it be wrong to inculcate a lack of faith and spawn generations of irreligious children whose only notion of right and wrong resides in their ‘free choice'.

The country has seen a wide disintegration brought about by the loss of the ‘sacred canopy’ - the overarching framework of shared meanings that once shaped individuals and society. In its place has come pluralism: the idea that society is a neutral arena of private choices where every vision of the good carries its own credentials of authenticity.

In response to Dr Kelley, an unnamed Church of England spokesman says: ‘Either overtly or by default, this country is still a Christian one.' Indeed it is, but it is hanging on by the skin of its teeth. There is a fundamental dichotomy between worship and education. The former assumes belief and involves commitment; the latter scrutinises belief and implies a critical attitude. There is a real and serious question as to whether the two can coexist, and this is a valid debate. But if politicians permit the ‘sacred canopy’ to be eliminated altogether, there will no longer be any right or wrong, good or bad, or fact and opinion – ‘what you believe is true’, and consequences for society will be dire.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The moral case for tax cuts

According to The Independent, Baroness Thatcher’s call for tax cuts has ‘rocked’ the Leader of the Opposition, and her assertion that ‘you can’t have stability if you don’t have tax cuts’ is quite at variance with the Osborne/Cameron pledge to ‘share the proceeds of growth’ between spending on public services and reductions in taxation.

The problem is that nobody knows what they are talking about. The more platitudinous waffle that is talked by politicians, the more they are perceived to be divorced from the real world. A tax cut is simple to understand, and even talk of ‘tax relief’ would be welcomed by the masses, but an insistence that ‘economic stability’ is primary, and the policy is to ‘share the proceeds of growth’ is the language of political anoraks. Philip Hammond MP, the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, insists that tax cuts could come in the longer term under a Conservative government. But the tense is unattractive, and constitutes an assurance of nothing. Going to the polls with manifesto pledges of coulds and mights and maybes will simply lead voters to stick to the devil they know.

The Conservative Party appears to have been persuaded that high levels of taxation, high public spending, or high levels of borrowing lead somehow to a more just and compassionate society. This is the mantra of New Labour which has permeated the age and infected almost all sections of the media. But it is a lie.

There are sound economic arguments against high taxation, and Baroness Thatcher lived and breathed the philosophy. High taxes lead to a ‘brain drain’ of entrepreneurs, and businesses move overseas to be competitive. Voluntary giving is reduced, growth is stunted, unemployment rises, and the poor multiply. And these poor are real people in real situations – the very people to whom the Lord ministered and placed in a privileged position in the Kingdom. They were called blessed, and were given assurances and promises of a better life in the world to come. They are hard-pressed pensioners or single mothers pulling their hair out trying to make ends meet; they are not simply numbers in the latest government round of statistics. The reality of their plight becomes a very strong moral argument for lower taxation, and if any in the Party knew anything of Conservative philosophical foundations – which are and have always been acutely compassionate - they would arrive at the conclusion instinctively.

The government has a duty to taxpayers to ensure that their money is well spent, and the moral obligation is all the greater because this taxation is extracted through compulsion, on pain of imprisonment. And when billions of pounds are poured into black holes of bureaucracy, inefficiency and incompetence, it is a moral outrage. To take a worker’s hard-earned money through coercion demands that the level of public spending be good enough to fulfil the trust and good faith of the worker. The benefit to society of the tax must outweigh the pain of paying the tax. This is not an economic argument for a specific level of taxation, but a moral argument for limiting taxation. The limit should lie where the trust is fulfilled - where the value obtained for taxpayers from the money outweighs the harm done by the tax.

But this is not some attempt at a scientific Benthamite concept of psychological hedonism or utility analysis by which pleasure and pain may be measured to devise a new moral standard of behaviour. One cannot easily measure the pain inflicted by tax, or even the good that is contributed to society through public spending. It is rather an utterly unscientific appeal to a sense, a feeling, an intuition that the actions of government are useless or counter-productive, that public spending no longer justifies the pain of the levied taxation.

Over the past 9 years, council tax as soared, NHS spending has soared, spending on education has soared, and money has been poured into numerous government departments to very little discernible effect. People are not ‘happier’ than they were twenty years ago, and they are acutely aware that they are paying much higher taxes without experiencing any proportionate benefit. They now have this sense, this feeling, this intuition that the Utopia they were promised has failed to materialise, and that they are paying heavily for the government fraud committed against them.

The promise of lower taxes is therefore a necessity. It takes moral courage to take the tough decisions associated with the policy, but no-one wants more government, and very few actually want big government. So while Labour vilifies the greedy ‘fat cats’ of the private sector, Cranmer is more concerned by an obese government oblivious to its terminal condition. Government needs to be smaller, so it must slim down. One could resort to liposuction, but the self-discipline of a healthy diet will be more enduring. When it is slimmed, it will be fitter, leaner, and much healthier. Taxes can then fall, and people will feel better. Harm is limited, and the good proliferates. Growth increases, jobs are created, unemployment falls, and poverty will diminish.

What on earth is so difficult to understand about that?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Catholic Herald: ‘We cannot turn Muslims into traditional Britons’

There was a time, not so long ago, when the British Establishment asserted that one could not be Roman Catholic and British, if only by virtue of the fact that Roman Catholics owed superior allegiance to a foreign head of state, the King of the Vatican, whose laws and dictates were superior to English law in every instance where the two conflict. Their campaign of attrition against the English church, their terrorist threats against the Protestant monarchy, and their (suicide?) bombing exploits at the Palace of Westminster, all conspired to convince the state that the religion was not just anti-Protestant, but anti-Christian, anti-democracy, anti-liberty, anti-Enlightenment, and anti-freedom-of-speech and conscience.

One might therefore expect The Catholic Herald to view the plight of Islam with a degree of sympathy. But they seem intent on inflicting upon this minority religio-political system the very bigotries they accused the Protestant majority of inflicting upon their religio-political system in ages past (or present, if one heeds the opinion of Cardinal Keith O’Brien). It is not only perceived in the opinion of the paper’s editor-in-chief on Muslim schools, but also in articles like their review of God’s Continent by Philip Jenkins.

The theme is ‘the influx of Islam into a rapidly secularising Europe, its nature and its possible outcomes’. There is a cursory mention of what Christians and Muslims have in common – ‘belief in an omnipotent God who created us for a purpose, and requires of us a way of life and prayer in order to reach him (which) puts us into a minority set up against a consciously secularised society’. But then there is the difference: in Europe at least, Christians are in decline, perceived largely as harmless eccentrics, while ‘Muslims are seen as a dangerous invading force seeking to change our society, and ready to go to extreme lengths to achieve this’.

The problem is that recent legislation in the UK tars all religions with the same brush: ‘so the regulations and movements which seek to defend democracy against the threat of divine fiat spatter us both’. The Catholic Herald asks: ‘It is even alleged that controls applied to faith schools or sexual discrimination, use the fear of Islam as a foil to attack Christianity (and in particular Catholicism – which is a kind of backhanded compliment). Of course we do not have bombs in our hands. And that makes all the difference. Or does it?’ While (accurately) observing the problems associated with immigrating Muslims, they forget how equally-applicable the words once were to British Roman Catholics:

The Muslim community consists of immigrants often separated from society by language, culture or location. This may be in part their fault, but it is a common feature of all large immigrations. The children of immigrants find it difficult to overcome prejudices which bar them from even the first rung of the ladder; their lives seem meaningless and frustrating. Their defence is to deepen their immersion in their own group, and, in some cases, to define themselves by anti-social behaviour. But, add to this a religious ideology which makes this behaviour feel virtuous and you have a perfect recipe.

And the following is worthy of quotation at length:

Islam contains many schools, from the extreme to the rational, so it is not hard to find a justification which suits psychological need. Even the Koran, which may appear to provide a solid rock of certainty, is not so. There were several versions of the Koran as late as the 10th century, when the current version became canonical. And there are Muslim scholars of note, not popular with their co-religionists, who interpret the book and its doctrine in contextual and hermeneutic terms not dissimilar to modern scientific exegesis of the Bible.

The general, and more mature, members of the Muslim community may disagree profoundly with extreme doctrines, or accept their inappropriateness within the country of their adoption. But it is hazardous to give this a public voice, let alone to co-operate actively with the authorities in identifying the dangerous groups. I am reminded of the Catholic population in Northern Ireland. Nor have we helped in the past by giving safe havens to extreme voices, which still speak through the internet and elsewhere.

But Jenkins does see some hope. The further a Muslim community is from the Arab hinterland, the more likely it is to adapt to Western society, and the many attractions it has to offer. It will be a long process, but the Muslims are not in Europe for the short term, most of them will stay indefinitely. In fact, we might not want them to abandon all their values for those of the Babylon in which they now live.

Multiculturalism – in effect insulating different cultures in parallel – was never a good idea in our tight little island, and it has been replaced by the ideal of integration. But we have to realise that this does not mean absorption in the sense that we turn all the Muslims, and the many other immigrants we have, into traditional English people. We have to be ready to change too. The result will be a new mixture. Undoubtedly the fundamental basis of the rule of law and democracy will remain but our habits and our attitudes will be modified. And a characteristic of the new society will be that we value the diversity of traditions.

There will be limits of course and, while maintaining as wide a diversity as possible, the issues that threaten integration will need to be tackled sensitively, and often on a case-by-case basis. Refreshingly, Jenkins sees this as a potential opportunity for European Catholicism. In adjusting to change there will be a greater awareness of the roots of our traditional society, and no doubt a higher value placed on us as a creative and contributing minority. Currently there is an exaggerated respect for Muslim rights, born at least in part of fear. In the future, broader society may recognise that creative minorities have something to contribute to the whole. And creative minorities must acknowledge the rights of broader society to disagree with them.

Meanwhile, we might remember St Bernadette’s remark that the only thing she had to fear was bad Catholics. Living out our religion fully in all its dimensions is the strongest of all the arguments we can mount.

So is the only thing we have to fear ‘the bad Muslims’?

Cranmer can hardly wait for Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party’s Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, to reveal her thoughts upon these complex religio-political issues. As the first Muslim woman to sit in the Shadow Cabinet (or, indeed, any cabinet), she has a considerable burden of expectation upon her shoulders. She professes to believe in ‘greater equality’, yet she has used election leaflets which were hostile towards ‘gay rights’ and an equal age of consent. For her, the Islamic view of the family, society and religion are the pattern to which we must conform. Her actions speak loudly, and she has never said otherwise. She also advocates dialogue with the extremists intent on destroying us, and that must mean appeasement.

How Sayeeda Warsi will balance her belief in the innate superiority of Islam with a Party dominated by kafir in the land of the kuffar remains to be seen.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Archbishop to hold 'secret' meeting with gays

The Archbishop of Canterbury is to meet behind closed doors with gay Anglicans to discuss the current crisis in the Church. The Times has revealed details of this ‘secret’ meeting, and the fact that Chatham House rules will apply (though how enforced?) has upset quite a few who think the issue should be dealt with openly. The title of his sermon shall be ‘Present realities and future possibilities for lesbians and gay men in the Church’. Cranmer is hoping to get his hands on a copy.

A spokesman for Archbishop Williams played down the significance of his meeting with gay priests and others: ‘It should come as no surprise that the Archbishop is meeting pastorally with clergy and others affected by the current debates in the Church. Such encounters extend right across the range of opinions within the Church.’

These are testing times indeed for the 77-million-strong Anglican Communion, which is deeply divided over the role of gay men and lesbians in the Church. There is intense pressure to hold the Communion together, but many African bishops are preferring schism. With the Archbishops present tour of the United States, schism appears to be unavoidable, but so what? The worldwide Communion is a little like a relic of Empire, and it is fatuous to believe that one man in Canterbury has responsibility for sustaining the unity of autonomous constituents. Indeed, as he has concluded, the only means of achieving this is to become more pope-like in his expression of ecclesial authority and his assertions of theological primacy.

And then it is simply a matter of discerning the lesser evil...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Discerning Tories

Cranmer was encouraged to read an article in The Times by Michael Gove MP, and a letter in The Daily Telegraph from the now retired Winston S Churchill. He reproduces both for your edification:

Wisest words come from a churchman

The bestseller charts in recent months would seem to indicate that most people believe religion, like fishpaste and sock-suspenders, is a drearily unfashionable anachronism indulged in only by a few antique eccentrics.

The dominance of works by A. C. Grayling, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and, above all, Richard Dawkins, all give the impression that any of us who harbour a faith in any sort of God are in the grip of a tragic delusion.

But if an established Church is merely institutionalised superstition, then why is it that probably the most sensible thing said by any public figure last week came from one of those spinners of fairytales?

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, calmly pointed out that the situation in Zimbabwe is a towering moral disgrace. And we need a campaign to topple President Mugabe every bit as urgent as past crusades to get rid of apartheid. He also reminded us that Kate and Gerry McCann weren’t just probably innocent. They are totally innocent. And they will be until the situation ever arises that they have been tried, and found guilty, in a forum better designed to arrive at the truth than the media. One thing is certain: they have lost a daughter and their daily suffering must be torture. Christianity teaches us to show compassion to individuals who find themselves in such a position.

With his affirmation of the need for justice towards the poorest, and love for those who suffer, Sentamu may not speak as wittily as Dawkins. But I think I know whose moral force is more likely to mobilise action against dictatorship and win sympathy for a family enduring agonies that none should know.

Islamist danger

Sir – Britain sends some of the finest and most courageous of their generation to risk their lives and spill their blood chasing the Taliban out of Afghanistan. But who, meanwhile, is guarding our homeland?

A recent police report makes clear that, back here in Britain the Deobandi – the very same Islamist sect responsible for spawning the Taliban in Afghanistan – has succeeded in taking over more than 600 of Britain's 1,350 mosques. In addition, it controls 17 of Britain's 26 Islamic seminaries and produces 80 per cent of Britain's home-trained Islamic clerics.

It's a funny old world, as Margaret Thatcher once famously remarked. Except that this is no laughing matter. Not for 70 years has there been a more clear or present danger to our internal security, to our free society and to our democracy, than that posed by this vipers' nest in our midst. The Deobandi, an ultra- conservative sect, outlaws music, art, television and football, and also demands the entire concealment of women.

According to the Lancashire Council of Mosques, the Deobandi has now taken control of 59 out of 75 mosques in the old Lancashire mill towns of Oldham, Preston, Bury, Blackburn and Burnley. While not all Deobandis are extremist, leading preachers of this sect aim to radicalise the Islamic youth of Britain, and to mobilise them against our society and the freedoms we hold so dear.

When will the Government wake up to this mortal threat which – if not swiftly dealt with – threatens to bring strife and bloodshed to the streets of Britain on a scale far exceeding anything seen in the bombings of recent years?

Why are Gordon Brown and David Cameron, indeed our entire political class, so deafeningly silent on this, the most pressing matter confronting Britain today? Who will help the moderate majority of Muslims maintain control of their mosques? Who will safeguard the homeland?

Winston S. Churchill, London SW1

It is heartening indeed to hear of Conservative politicians who are prepared at this important hour to advocate the primacy of the Christian faith and to alert the nation to the enemy within. May the Lord bless and protect both.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The fate of British Muslims who convert to Christianity

Channel 4 are to be praised and applauded – and quickly, before they are investigated by the CPS and charges laid at them for ‘inciting racial hatred’. Dispatches has dared to investigate the violence and intimidation faced by Muslims who convert to Christianity, and interesting viewing it was too for a religio-political system which professes to believe that ‘there is no compulsion in religion’.

Many of the 3000 Muslim converts to Christianity in Britain live in fear for their lives. Despite a network of churches supporting the converts, there is little police interest, and they are forced to worship under a veil of secrecy. The reason, of course, is that one may support from the Qur’an that apostates should be punished severely (ridda) for denying their prophet, Mohammed, and this severity extends to the death penalty. What Dispatches exposed is the reality that where the state does not have Shari’a, a form of Islamic mob justice is more than prepared to take matters into its own hands.

C4 notes that with ‘radical British Islamic groups calling for apostates to be executed if they achieved their goal of a worldwide Islamic state, it's a potentially dangerous cocktail that has been exacerbated by the silence of both Muslim and Christian leaders on the subject’.

Quite so. From the British Government to the Church, from the EU to the UN, there is a wall of silence. Consider the international stage. At the moment there are Christian twin boys in Egypt – a ‘moderate’ Islamic state – who are being forced to take Islamic education. This case highlights inequalities faced by kaffir (non-Muslims) in Egypt, where one’s religion, printed on all official documents, regulates family laws. Custody of children is automatically given to whichever parent is Muslim, and this Shari’a code is enshrined in the nation’s constitution. Conversion from Islam may be deemed to affect Egypt’s national unity or to incite sectarian strife, both of which are punishable by death. The UK, the EU, and the UN are silent on the matter.

And in Indonesia, Roman Catholic girls are being forced to wear a hijab, and they ‘have no other choice’ but to dress according to Shari’a law which is supposed to be applicable only to the nation’s Muslim citizens. Once again, the UK, the EU, and the UN are silent on the matter.

There may be 'no compulsion in religion', but everything about Islam - its taxation system, its social provision, its hierarchy, its system of worship - is designed to make the non-Muslim feel utterly inferior. Yet none of this matters to the man who is destined to be the next Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Prince’s Trust is sponsoring the production of ‘religious swimwear’ - by which they mean swimwear for Muslim women – in order to ‘to protect Britain's modesty’. Nothing was ever done for turban-clad Sikh men and boys, for whom swimming can be a highly problematic pursuit, but Muslim women are placed in a position of privilege by the Prince of Wales, because Islam is deserving of it.

No matter at all that he failed last year to extract an assurance from Muslim leaders in Britain that the death penalty for apostasy should be publicly renounced.

And Cranmer would like to know since when compliance with Shari’a law was deemed necessary ‘to protect Britain’s modesty’, whatever that means.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Conservatism and Christian Democracy

It appears that David Cameron has at long last met with Chancellor Merkel in the German capital, at the invitation of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. She has been somewhat reluctant to meet the Leader of HM Opposition since he decided that his party should withdraw from the federalist European People's Party (EPP), the mainstream centre-right grouping in the European Parliament. But after two frosty years, relations are thawing, and they are reported to be setting up ‘joint working groups’ on issues like ‘climate change, counter-terrorism and economic competitiveness’. The focus is to be on ‘how centre-right parties can work together’.

Mr Cameron appears to be ignorant of the fundamental irreconcilable differences between the British right and that of the Continent, and quickly forgets why the EPP is antithetical to everything that Conservative Party professes to believe in. The continental right has historically been the political wing of the Vatican, and is of quite a different political and social philosophy to the Anglo-Saxon right. But while Chancellor Merkel is Protestant, as is the leader of the CSU in Bavaria, the Christian Democratic parties have not progressed from their fundamental obsession with Catholic social teaching, autocracy, cohesion, and corporatism.

Christian Democracy is the antithesis of the Anglo-Saxon political right-wing philosophy, which, as Dr Andrew Lilico observes in the European Journal, is concerned with free markets, liberty, tolerance, and a sovereign legislature. It is the corporatist section of the Conservative Party which favours the EU agenda, corporatism being an expression of Roman Catholic social doctrine. It advocates close co-operation between employers and workers, with the state overseeing wages, working conditions, production, prices and exchange. By eliminating competition, the system is meant to promote social justice and order. The connection between Catholicism and the continental right-wing is evident in the various Christian Democratic parties, where for ‘Christian’, one should substitute ‘Roman Catholic’. They are the lineal descendants of the old centre parties brought into politics at the behest of the Papacy towards the end of the 19th century, and were attracted by the idea of a united European Christendom. True to their confessional roots, they are perfectly at ease with the notion of authorities higher than national governments.

The Conservative Party consequently has a profoundly different view of the EU from that of the centrist Christian Democratic parties on the Continent that make up the EPP. With Catholicism and interventionist statism dominating on the Continent, the Conservative Party, founded on a Protestant Christian ethic, deliberately eschews denominational links and espouses free-market liberalism. When Disraeli referred to the Conservative Party as the National Party, it was essentially because of its defence of the nation state. If Britain ceased to be a state, the Conservative Party would be deprived of its raison d’être. The Labour Party’s abhorrence of the ‘forces of conservatism’ (which comprise fragile constitutional balances which have contributed to centuries of peace and stability) has been a soundbite designed to serve the federalising agenda of the EU, and move this ‘New’ Labour Party into the territory of European Christian Democracy. Indeed, Tony Blair was rewarded with the ‘Charlemagne Prize’ for services to European integration, and stated that it was his ambition to end any ambiguity in Britain's relationship with Europe. He failed, but it is no coincidence that his leadership style was described as overbearing and autocratic, and his Executive’s contempt for the parliamentary process caused the Speaker to chastise him for undermining the role of Parliament. Such a style is intrinsic to the continental system of state government, and central to the ‘modernising’ agenda to change Britain radically and irreversibly.

But if Mr Cameron were serious about economic competitiveness, he would ignore the EU and look to the US. According a UN report, US workers are the most productive in the world. They stay longer in the office, at the factory, or on the farm, and they produce more per capita over the year. They also get more done per hour than everyone but the Norwegians, and lead the world in labour productivity.

Cranmer wonders if this might possible have something to do with the Protestant work ethic.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Faith schools and ‘cherry-picking’

As Cranmer was walking yesterday through the lovely English countryside, he was struck by the beauty of early autumn – red leaves, yellow leaves, blackberries, plums, cherries, and conkers – thousands of them. Being rather fascinated by these shiny brown spheroids, he set about finding the largest, and as each in his possession was subsequently trumped by a superior one, the inferior were discarded, and Cranmer returned home with two magnificent specimens. They now sit upon his mantelpiece, small trophies of autumn, waiting to complement the log fires of an impending winter.

He well remembers soaking these in vinegar all those years ago, drilling a hole, inserting a shoelace, and going into battle in the school playground. Cranmer was always proud of his conkers, and frequently reached the championship stakes of a ‘25-er’.

But all that was a very long time ago, and such pursuits are now, apparently, banned. Health and safety, you see. So many children lost eyes, limbs, or even their life playing conkers, that HM Government has outlawed the pursuit in its schools, and teachers enforce the regulations much more rigorously than they demand acquisition of the skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. There are probably league tables for health and safety, in the Department for Children, Schools, Families and Nappy Changing if nowhere else, and headmasters and headmistresses the length and breadth of the land live in mortal fear of their school being named and shamed by the education Gestapo, because the children we are producing today belong to the state by which all things are made. They are programmed to exalt secularism, to conform to pluralism, and to laud relativism.

It is no wonder that standards are sinking into a morass of mediocrity. It is also no wonder that schools which have a faith dimension are somehow ‘better’. Oh, it’s awfully un-PC to say it, but it’s as plain as the nose upon one’s face. Faith schools are popular, over-subscribed, encourage the pursuit of excellence within a moral framework, and yield first class results. They are a credit to the country, a liberating beacon of light in the anally-retentive politically-restrictive education policies of all the political parties.

And now they stand accused of ‘cherry-picking’ the best children. Could it be, could it just possibly be, that the ‘best’ children have been nurtured in a faith environment? Could it be that they are more inclined to value hard work, respect authority, and pursue excellence because these are qualities that are pleasing to God?

It is heartening indeed that the Government is not seeking to eliminate them, as some teaching unions demand, but their expansion to include Muslim, Sikh and Hindu schools has caused more than a ripple among some commentators. Speaking at the launch of Faith in the System, Dr Mohamed Mukadam, chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools, said their schools ‘should be free to teach according to the tenets of their faith’. In response, The Daily Telegraph’s Holy Smoke blog goes so far as to suggest that all faith schools should be closed rather than permit the expansion of state-funded Muslim schools. Prominent Roman Catholic Damian Thompson declares: ‘I would rather every Anglican, Catholic and Jewish school in the country lost government funding than set up an Islamic state sector in education.’

This is reactionary nonsense and ill-considered hyperbole. Indeed, one might even call it ‘bigotry’. Of course there are concerns, as there are with some church schools and ‘the tenets of their faith’, but taken as a whole they are a force for good. While Damian Thompson talks of Muslim schools turning into madrassahs, he appears oblivious to the many Roman Catholic schools in which children have been emotionally terrorised and sexually abused by nuns and monks, who have been indoctrinated with ‘the truth’, all of which has had the life-long effect of causing them to repudiate utterly their faith and despise the Church. Cranmer knows many. Yet, taken as a whole, these schools are an undoubted force for good.

As long as the state is content to finance Jewish, Church of England, and Roman Catholic education, it is impossible to argue against it doing the same for Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. They are, after all, British tax-payers also, and (according to Conservative educational philosophy) these parents are fully entitled to bring up their children as they wish as they are the primary educators. There should not be, however, carte blanche granted for an unregulated curriculum. If nice Muslims parents want their nice children educated for the niceties of Shari'a law and Islamic culture, they should send them to a nice Muslim country like Pakistan. And there they should stay.

The solution must be to demand an absolute and unequivocal commitment by schools in receipt of public funding to underpin their educational philosophy with the principles of liberal democracy. There cannot be endless hours dedicated to reciting the Qur’an or learning Arabic, and neither should there be gender segregation in those areas of school life where there is no discernible educative benefit. And it is not ineffectual local education authorities which should oversee and ensure implementation of these policies, but a rigorous Ofsted regime, with the power to close schools which fail the test.

Closing excellent faith schools in order to prevent a few radical Islamic schools will deprive generations of children of all faiths of the opportunity of an excellent education based on moral principles, worship, and a greater awareness of God. It is wrong, quite utterly wrong, to undermine the Christian foundations of the educational structure of the United Kingdom simply because other faiths wish to acquire a slice of the cake. Church schools are a part of our heritage and culture, and must remain so. And rather like the process of natural selection in acquiring a championshp conker, schools should be able to select by aptitude and ability in order to ensure that children receive the best education for which they are suited. And if that is unacceptable, un-PC 'cherry-picking', then the nation is in desperate need of an educational philosophy which can expound the superlative qualities of a natural, juicy, ripe cherry over the disgusting, mass-produced, e-number-ridden, glazed specimens found on cheap trifle.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Archbishop: the Monarch should remain ‘Defender of the Faith’

Hallelujah! At last, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has spoken out. And The Daily Telegraph takes Cranmer’s theme when it observes: ‘As politics concentrates increasingly on moral questions, so the church has become ever more political’. And if Dr Williams’ interview is anything to go by, the Church of England intends in the future to take a more high profile stand on moral issues than it had done over recent years. And this permits even the Romophile BBC to report favourably upon the Established Church. It is not so much the Archbishop's speaking out that is welcome, for he has said an awful lot since his enthronement in 2003 which has been insignificant, inept, and unacceptably compromising. But the assertions he makes in this interview are a cause of considerable political hope and theological optimism.

There is rightly a primary focus on ‘our broken society’, and the Archbishop places the blame ‘pushy parents’, materialism and multiculturalism. He observes: ‘Modern society, with its emphasis on exam results, material success and constant entertainment, is stunting the emotional development of young people.’ He refers to ‘the claustrophobia of intense achievement in middle class areas’, and compares it to gang culture. Quite so, and as sure as night follows day, society shall reap what it is presently sowing. He attacks the cult of celebrity and accuses broadcasters including the BBC and Channel 4 of encouraging a culture of ‘shamelessness’ with shows such as Big Brother.

He confronts the Pope head-on (for those who have eyes) in his assertion that the next coronation would be a service of Holy Communion during which the monarch would be anointed. He declares: ‘The acts of worship that we perform have their integrity. I don't want to see amateurish messing around compromising what's going on.’ This refutes utterly the recently reiterated papal assertion that Anglican Orders are ‘null and void’, and that the Church of England is ‘not a proper church’. To have integrity is to have moral uprightness, wholeness, and a secure foundation. Pope Benedict XVI would do well to manifest a little humility in his assertions of papal infallibility, and consider that the Church of England is indeed the Church in England, and it securely and confidently rejects the theological and political claims of the Church of Rome, and has every right to do so.

The Archbishop forthrightly rejects any change for Prince Charles when he becomes king: he shall be Defender of the Christian faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Prince of Wales first expressed a wish to become ‘Defender of Faith’ rather than ‘Defender of the Faith’ back in 1994, and it is heartening to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury say that he will not allow this multi-faith morass to enter Westminster Abbey and that prayers to Allah, Waheguru or Brahman shall not contaminate the Coronation service.

He also calls for the abortion law to be tightened, saying: ‘People are not happy about abortion as a back stop to contraception.’ This has been Rome’s consistent stance, and a laudable one, and it is good to hear the Primate of the Anglican Communion raise his voice on the issue. He quips that it is now ‘like having a tooth out’. And it is. The ease with which abortions are performed in the UK is a stain upon the nation’s morality and a stench before God. It must be changed, and Cranmer looks forward to the Bishops in the House of Lords joining with the Christians in the House of Commons to significantly limit its availability.

Today, Cranmer has a spring in his step, and his hope keeps him joyful.

Friday, September 14, 2007

He’s not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy

According to reports, The Rt Hon Anthony Charles Lynton Blair QC is rapidly making his presence known throughout the world as a Middle East messiah envoy. He has met ‘almost everyone who matters’ in the Israeli political and military establishment, the West Bank administration, and in the UN. He is due to report his findings next month to the interested ‘Quartet’ of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, to be followed by Middle East Peace Conference No. 185b in November.

Interestingly, for a man previously obsessed with the limelight, he has become a back-room operative. There are no cameras heralding his coming, and no interviews to impart his gospel. He is not eclipsing the majesty of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and neither have rumours of his salvific mission provoked Mr Abbas to issue an edict to slaughter the innocents. He is simply listening and talking, considering and planning how to lay the foundations of a modern, democratic Palestinian state, and simultaneously bequeath to Israel the secure borders for which it longs.

Will he do it? Well, Cranmer has a hunch that he will. He achieved in Northern Ireland what had been deemed a religio-political impossibility, and today The Rt Hon Ian RK Paisley is governing the Province with an unrepentant terrorist at his side. It would be churlish not to put this down in very large part to the conviction, sincerity, charisma, and considerable political skill of Mr Blair.

Having failed to become a pop star, having failed to remould the United Kingdom in his image, having failed to reform the European Union, having failed to take Britain into the Euro, having failed to convince people of the righteousness of his foray into Iraq, having failed to heal Africa, and having failed to halt the apocalypse of global warming, Anthony Blair is a messiah in search of a mission. Middle East peace is a tough one, but he ‘strongly believes that is achievable, not least because Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas – each under acute domestic pressure – have nothing to lose by agreeing a joint declaration and showing a willingness to reach a final deal’.

He is an eternal optimist – self-delusional, puffed up with pride, inflated with a sense of his own immortality, infused with self and vain conceit and a vocation that he believes to be divinely ordained. If anyone can do it, he can. It would be the perfect political precursor to his becoming Europe’s first emperor in half a millennium, and his coming was heralded by Paul-Henri Spaak, a founding father of what is fast becoming the United States of Europe. He declared:

"We do not want another committee. We have too many already. What we want is a man of sufficient stature to hold the allegiance of all people, and to lift us out of the economic morass in which we are sinking. Send us such a man and, be he god or the devil, we will receive him."

Sufficient stature he shall have, and he shall hold the allegiance of all people, and he shall lift them out of their economic morass, and he shall save them from terrorism, turmoil, and war. He shall usher in an age of peace and prosperity…

Sorry, Cranmer thought he was having a prophetic vision. But you get the picture.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

EU policing - a portent of things to come?

This disturbing video is evidence, if any were needed, of Belgium’s ideological policing. A September 11th demonstration against the ‘Islamisation of Europe’, which was to include a minute’s silence to remember the 3000 victims of that atrocity, was banned by Brussels’ mayor, Freddy Thielemans. He was, it appears, concerned that Muslims might be offended.

Despite the ban, over 200 Belgians gathered for a peaceful demonstration, and they were joined by a number of MEPs and other politicians. It is reported that the police initiated violence without provocation. According to one eye-witness:

I personally witnessed and photographed the officer who appeared to be coordinating the assaults on people. This officer was busy throughout the encounter and was seen and photographed maneuvering frequently between groups of uniformed police and communicating with unknown others whereupon he re-directed the troops to another snatch operation against identified targets ... it was fascinating to watch and he became appallingly clumsy, predictable and blase about his nefarious actions - he obviously was having a really thrilling 'boys day out' telling 'the lads' who to pounce on next - a real hardline bully.

I witnessed first hand the un-provoked and un-warranted assaults on peaceful participants and stood near groups of armed officers waiting for their instructions listening to them in 4 separate locations whispering, nodding and calling up attention onto apparently specific participants who were moving around and circulating.

I am convinced the police were there deliberately to target specific individuals as they left many participants alone who clearly were not in their sights - myself included. The vast array of armed 'stormtroopers' in backstreets and my witnessing of their subsequent initiation of unprovoked assaults against targeted participants leads me to firmly believe there was a counter-agenda. The SIoE demonstration was but a sideshow and Freddy-the-Mayor is just a stalking horse.

This is the heart of the European Union. If this can happen in the EU’s capital city, it could happen anywhere throughout the Union. The United Kingdom has spent centuries developing its liberties, all emanating from religious differences, but gradually, one by one, they are being subsumed to the religio-political ideology of Euro-nationalism. One used to have the right to protest peacefully, the right to state one’s view upon a religion, the right to cause offence, the right to profess an article of faith according to conscience. Now it appears that only Muslims have this right – the right to march with threats of violence, the right to demand the death of the Pope, the right to demand the slaughter of British servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, the right to deny the divinity of Jesus, the right to demean the Bible and assert the supremacy of the Qur’an.

Islam is becoming the de jure religion of the state. While Christianity is reviled by the forces of secularism, and the blasphemy laws have ceased to have any meaning at all, Islam is moving in to fill the vacuum. And neither the politicians nor the media dare question its inceasing power, influence, or its becoming the default religious setting of many EU member states.

EUrabia indeed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Will the Trade Unions defend democracy?

UPDATE: Yes, they will!!

Many early trade union pioneers were drawn from the ranks of Primitive Methodist Preachers, and a basic ‘welfare state’ used to operate among chapel-goers, their neighbours and families. They were founded out of a Christian concern for the underprivileged, outcast and disenfranchised. It is wholly consistent with their founding principles that today some of them will vote on whether or not to demand a referendum on the EU’s ‘Reform Treaty’. And yet there remains a dilemma at the heart of this campaign.

In the context of the EU seeking to discourage plebiscites, and Prime Minister Brown reneging on a manifesto pledge to let the British people decide their destiny in Europe, His Grace has been dipping into Plato’s Republic once again. He is minded to recall Winston Churchill’s assertion that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those others that have been tried from time to time.

Plato asserts that people are bad judges in many political matters, principally because the ordinary man has no experience or expert knowledge of such things as foreign policy or economics, or the complexities of constitutional minutiae. Therefore to expect any very sensible judgement from him on such matters is to have an expectation of the highly improbable, if not the impossible. He will judge on impulse, sentiment or prejudice, and though the heart may be sound (and on this both Plato and Christ cast profound doubt), his head is invariably muddled.

Democracy may even encourage incompetent leadership. It is bad enough that the people’s judgement of their leaders is not always good, or that they cannot be trusted to make the best choice, but the popular leader, dependent as he is for his position and income on popular favour, is under constant pressure to retain their favour by the easiest means. He will play on the likes and dislikes, the weaknesses and foibles of the public, will never tell them an unpleasant truth, or advocate a policy which may make them uncomfortable. He is simply another salesman, obliged to emphasise the comforts at the expense of the truth.

Politicians are sophists and salesmen, and popular leaders are as devoid of true knowledge as are the people they lead. According to Plato, the salient characteristic of democracy is liberty – ‘every individual is free to do as he likes’ – which gives democratic society diversity and variety. Yet herein lies the seeds of its destruction, for democracy and liberty are disintegrating precisely because ‘the minds of the citizens become so sensitive that the least vestige of restraint is resented as intolerable’. There is a breakdown of social cohesion, struggles between competing factions, irreconcilable assertions of mutually exclusive rights, and a consequent necessity to move towards authoritarian rule in order to maintain peace, stability and security.

It all sound rather familiar, does it not?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gordon Brown’s moral purpose

Having to contend with fires, floods and pestilence within his first weeks of becoming prime minister, Gordon Brown endured a baptism of biblical proportions, and (it has to be said) passed with flying colours. He was the embodiment of competence, and manifested serious moral purpose. Following John Smith and Tony Blair, he is the third consecutive leader of the Labour Party to place his faith at the heart of his politics, to formulate policy based upon a distinct spirituality. And he has around him a Cabinet with a Christian-Socialist bent, even if any mention of this is deemed to be utterly irrelevant by vast sections of the media. One could be certain, if this were the Conservative Party, that every trivial connection of its leading figures to a religious ideology would be pored over and paraded as the ‘religious right’ to the point of tedium.

While the Christian faith is derided and sidelined in society, it remains the inspiration of its present Prime Minister and Government. Secular humanism is not on the ascendancy at the expense of Christian political philosophy: on the contrary; Christian political philosophy beats at the heart of the nation’s politics. It may not be overt, but the solution to the ages-old problem of how one helps one’s neighbour is indeed to ‘do God’, but only in private. The public policy no longer has to give him credit, but he has been there throughout, manifest in the personal faith of the political animal.

While Mr Blair emoted in a Roman fashion, Mr Brown is the epitome of the restrained Puritan. His Christian orthodoxy is fused with his Socialist orthopraxis; his Scottish Presbyterianism consists in finding ways to support individuals and communities through the hardest times, which is an intellectual assent with an intensely practical commitment. It is no surprise, therefore, that he passionately advocates the Protestant work ethic, and unashamedly exalts the type of social capitalism that can only be achieved through the nation state, accountability, and democracy. It is no wonder that he eschews the social-Catholic supranationalism manifest in projects like the euro. He is all for the interdependence of corporate confession, but not if it supplants the individual responsibility to get down on one’s knees and choose to humbly submit to one’s maker. It is in the resolution of these dilemmas - the relationship between the body and member, between the market and morality, and between the citizen and the state – that Gordon Brown has found his religio-political vocation. Caring for widows and orphans, feeding the starving, and clothing the naked, are at the very heart of the man.

It may be adduced that the subliminal attraction of Mr Brown to the British people is that his political house is built upon the rock of Christianity. The wary caution that they manifest towards Mr Cameron emanates from the perception that his political house is built upon the shifting sands of a thoroughly postmodern and utterly nebulous spirituality. The people just know, somewhere deep down, that ultimately salvation lies only in the stark offence of the cross; it will never be found in crystals or tree-hugging, however shiny, green and fluffy the wrapping may appear.

Monday, September 10, 2007

EU foreign policy toward Iran

There is, of course, no such thing as an EU foreign policy, but it is a provision of the Reform Treaty that there will be an EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, and this presupposes that there will be an agreed common foreign policy for him to pontificate upon.

But in the case of Iran, it already exists, and it makes a complete mockery of UN Security Council resolutions calling for sanctions against Tehran over its uranium enrichment programme. The EU is Iran’s largest trading partner, accounting for 35% of Iran’s total imports. But the EU’s ‘big three’ - Germany, France and Italy – provide billions of euros of export credit guarantees to minimise the risk to private companies of doing business with this fanatical theocratic regime which has pledged itself to wipe Israel off the map.

In fact, EU trade with Iran has actually increased since the uranium enrichment process has been operative. This is manifestly a case where EU foreign policy is nothing but a front for the business interests of key EU members, and stands in diametric opposition to US foreign policy. And the UK is powerless to do anything about it.

There is something morally repugnant about latter-day Christendom exalting Mammon in order to sustain a corrupt Shi’a Muslim regime which is pledged to the extermination of Israel. And this is its divine mission. The most remarkable aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad's piety is his devotion to the Hidden Imam, the Messiah-like figure of Shi’a Islam, and the president's belief that his government must prepare the country for his return. All streams of Islam believe in a divine saviour, known as the Mahdi, who will appear at the End of Days in the company of Jesus. A common rumour is that Mr Ahmadinejad and his cabinet have pledged themselves to work for the return of the Mahdi. Indeed, his military involvement in Syria and Iraq is purposely designed to agitate against Israel to hasten the Last Day. Iran's dominant "Twelver" sect believes the Mahdi will be Mohammed ibn Hasan, regarded as the 12th Imam and descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.

At the moment, the UK is free to righteously and unilaterally impose its own sanctions against this repugnant regime. When the Reform Treaty is agreed in October, and ratified by the 27 parliaments, the UK shall be as complicit in perpetuating a terrorist regime and augmenting the threat against Israel as Germany, France and Italy presently are. And doubtless it shall incur the consequent preternatural wrath for abdicating its sovereignty in this crucial area.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mr Dale's religious survey

Cranmer is intrigued by the results of a ‘religious survey’ conducted by Mr Iain Dale, inquiring into the religious views of the readers of his blog. He states that it was not scientific, but that 500 people participated, which is indeed a sizeable proportion of those who actively participate in the blogosphere. Mr Dale’s statistics are useful insofar as his readership tends to consist of politicos with a broad spectrum of philosophy and allegiance.

There are some interesting observations to be gleaned both from the questions framed by Mr Dale and the responses they elicited. Each of his summaries is italicised, followed by Cranmer’s reflections:

45% of you believe in God, 36% of you are atheists and 19%, like me, are agnostic

The 45% who profess belief in a deity is massively beneath the national average. In the 2001 census, just over 70% professed the Christian faith. Around half of the non-white population were Asians of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi origin. A further quarter were black, and fifteen per cent of the non-white population were from the mixed ethnic group. About a third of this group were from white and black Caribbean backgrounds. If one includes this proportion, among whom there is generally a higher level of faith adherence, one is looking at almost 80% of the entire population of the UK who believe in God.

That only 45% of Mr Dale’s readership believe in God would appear to indicate that the majority of political aficionados tend to reject the ultimate source of their authority, the one from whom the Law proceeds, and the one who defines moral standards of behaviour. The figure for agnosticism is on a par with the census figure (16%), but significantly this statistic includes professing atheists or those who profess no religion. That 36% identify themselves distinctly as atheists is a colossal (and concerning) proportion.

Of those that 'believe' 66% are Anglican, 24% Catholic, 2% Jewish, 1% Muslim, 1% Buddhist, 1% Sikh, 6% Other

In common with most religious surveys, Mr Dale avoids the word ‘Protestant’; indeed, it would appear that there was no such box to tick. This may have been a little theological and historical ignorance, but time and again Cranmer notes that the term has fallen into disuse and become an object of derision. The BBC used to frequently juxtapose the term ‘Protestant’ with ‘terrorist’, yet one never heard the phrase ‘Catholic terrorist’. Cranmer covered some time ago the views of Tony Blair on Protestants, which he juxtaposed with ‘bigotry’ (again, the term ‘Catholic bigot’ appears to be considered oxymoronic). In 1998, The Catholic Herald stated: Protestantism, once the foundation of our ‘glorious constitution in Church and State’, is now something preached in small, back-street chapels and among the fanatic fringes of Northern Ireland's criminal classes. It has become the battle cry of murderers.

Yet while Roman Catholics in the UK constitute 11% of the population, they account for 24% of Mr Dale’s readership. This might indicate that Roman Catholics tend to be more politically savvy, and yet Muslims tend to be even more so. Their 1% ranking (as against constituting almost 3% of the population of the UK), indicates that Mr Dale’s blog is probably ‘hideously white’, and that his attempts to ‘reach out to ethnic minorities’ are having about as much effect as the Tony Lit campaign had in Southall.

53% pray, 7% more than once a day, 13% once a day, 15% a few times a week and 18% less frequently

If only 45% believe in God, it would appear that almost half of Mr Dale’s agnostics are inclined to pray. Theirs is undoubtedly a U-boat faith – one that surfaces in times of trouble.

77% believe that politics and religion are best kept separate

This is a convenient mantra, and chimes with the secularism of the age, but it ignores completely that the two are irrevocably fused. Religious adherence demands political involvement: in a democracy, one has a duty to vote for ‘the lesser evil’, and encourage policy formulation consistent with one’s worldview. For Protestants, Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs, political action stems from faith. It is fatuous to pretend otherwise, and repressive to enforce the false division.

78% believe the Prime Minister should give up his right to choose bishops

The surrendering of Prime Ministerial power under the royal prerogative to choose diocesan bishops is historic. But there is a more concerning issue which underlies this development, and that is quite simply that the existing hierarchy of the Church of England has already demonstrated its inability to choose its leaders. A further concentration of powers will lead simply to a self-perpetuating cabal. The reason there are so few Evangelical Protestants in the Church of England hierarchy is that very few are deemed to be theologically, spiritually, or pastorally in tune with the ‘mainstream’ of Liberal-Catholicism. It is therefore the Liberal-Catholic wing which will dominate all future appointments, and it will ensure that it retains that power. It appears that an overwhelming majority of Mr Dale’s readership would (inadvertently) also favour a logical consequence of this proposal, which is that the Prime Minister might take steps to remove the right of bishops to take their seats in the House of Lords. This is antithetical to Conservatism, but wholly consistent with Labour's constitutional vandalism witnessed over the past nine years.

53% believe the Church of England should be disestablished

Again, following Wales and Scotland, the arguments for this may be sound, but Cranmer is concerned at the complete lack of forethought, and the profound ignorance of history and of the constitutional implications. The Constitution of the United Kingdom is a delicate and precariously-blananced settlement. To hack away at the foundations risks the collapse of the whole house and order.

49% believe that religion is a force for good in society

Therefore a (slight) majority believe it to be neutral or a force for evil. Which explains why:

34% believe that most wars have been caused by religious forces

This is a sub-GCSE level of assertion. Wars are not caused by ‘religious forces’, but by the corruption and sin of the human heart. It seems convenient to ignore the millions of deaths that have been caused by the propagation of atheistic creeds.

39% believe in an 'afterlife'

This is surprisingly low, and baffling in the context of 45% believing in God. What do the other 6% believe God does with the human spirit? Snuff it out? To believe in God and to reject the afterlife is illogical, not least because belief in his existence establishes precisely that there is something more, and there is not a major belief system on the planet that advocates the extermination of the spirit by an infinite God. This statistic also does not accord with one of the principal features of postmodernity, which tends to embrace the spiritual dimension of life. The era has logically followed the modern shift away from a theology of redemption to a theology of creation; from a Christocentric theology to a theocentric theology; from a theology of God’s redemptive acts and promises in history, to a theology of the state of things in their natural order as being the final expression of God’s will. The gospel’s focus on the doctrines of sin and repentance are supplanted by the doctrine that what is, is essentially good and right. This changes the proclamation of the Church from a call to transformation according to the image of Christ, to one of God’s affirmation of his creation without any further need for change. All paths therefore lead to the afterlife. That only 39% of Mr Dale’s readership believe this might indicate that ultimately those who are active in politics do not believe they shall give account to their Maker.

What a surprise they shall have.
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