Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hazel Blears: Government ‘should teach right and wrong’

The Minister for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears MP, has adopted one of Cranmer’s favoured themes. It is heartening to hear in the interminable age of fragmented relativism that a notion of benign paternalism endures in the hearts of some at Westminster, even if they be Socialists.

She is of the opinion that that it is time that the whole community stood up for democracy, and told those who would reject it that they were wrong. She said: “There is a need for moral clarity, a dividing line rooted in our overriding sense of what is right and wrong. There is a line when respect for other cultures is crossed and a universal morality should kick in.”

This has been taken as a ‘reaffirmation of values’ in the face of ‘extremist religious groups that nurture violent attitudes’.

She just does not name it them.

‘Cultural differences, or fear of causing offence, should not be allowed to cloud people’s judgement of what was unacceptably extreme behaviour. A statement from her office said: “A nervousness on the part of public policy-makers towards religion and culture . . . has led to a number of recent questionable judgements spawned by an overzealous commitment to political correctness.”

‘People who were leaders acted in the belief that they were protecting others from offence; but it was not always clear who they were protecting or from what. “A creeping tide of oversensitivity and intolerance is in danger of threatening religion’s legitimate place in the public sphere.”

‘Ms Blears said that the political-correctness pendulum had swung too far. “Worse, at times leaders have been reluctant to challenge absolutely unacceptable behaviour: forced marriage, female genital mutilation, or homophobia.”

‘Such “oversensitive approaches” to this kind of behaviour could alienate certain groups. “Prominent figures in faith communities have repeatedly said, for instance, that they are not offended by public manifestations of the Christian faith.”

One has to wonder why she has been silent on this matter for so long. And why is she speaking now? Did she object to the banning of Geert Wilders from the United Kingdom? Did she speak out against Lord Ahmed’s threat against Parliament? Has she uttered a word in defence of Catholic adoption agencies? Has she defended the manifest educational benefits of schools with a Christian ethos? Has she sided with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor in his concerns about Labour’s understanding of tolerance, which is fundamentally intolerant of anything Christian? Or Labour’s façade of democracy, which is Marxist and totalitarian?

Of course not.

She may be Iain Dale’s favourite chipmunk, but she appears to have been gnawing her politics to the point of hollowness.

Unite: Church of England job policies ‘not transparent’

The largest trade union in the country has said that Church of England appointment policies are ‘not transparent’, so they have decided to fire a few warning shots at that State Church.

Well, why not? It is a bandwagon much favoured by just about everyone else.

It strikes Cranmer that it is difficult to demand transparency when God works in mysterious ways.

But the self-styled ‘Union for Life’ says the church lacks even ‘basic procedures’ such as job descriptions. Apparently, its 2,500 ‘faith workers’ have a right to rely on more than faith in their employment.

Cranmer can think of one or two bishops who might certainly benefit from a job description.

Unite’s Rachael Maskell observes: “...the Church of England is introducing a range of new clergy terms of service policies, which include a capability procedure and ministerial development reviews. And yet there is no appointment process, which is remotely transparent, to judge someone's capability to do the job in the first place.

"If there is a work-related problem with a member of the clergy, the capability policy will only kick-in if the church deems that there is a problem with that individual. This clearly begs the question whether that member of the clergy was capable of doing their job when they were appointed.

"The Church of England argues that it is too busy to address the issue of appointments. Unite believes that it should do this first of all, before drafting capability procedures. At present, what is proposed is ‘a cart before the horse’ exercise which is clearly unsatisfactory.”

Is it not profoundly sad that what used to be a matter of vocation, of seeking God, of prime ministerial recommendation and royal appointment, has been reduced to such mundane issues as ‘capability procedures’ and ‘equality legislation’?

There is a sense in which Unite’s defence of the rights of its ‘faith workers’ is admirable. For the trade union movement was founded upon the Christian faith, when ‘faith workers’ consisted of all of those who laboured for five days a week and went to church or chapel on Sundays. But now the church has become simply another employer. It is no longer God at the top, but reams of red tape and legislation, directives and guidelines – a mountain of protection which would have ensured a handsome payout of compensation to the family of Thomas Becket. Being assassinated in Canterbury Cathedral must be, at the very least, a breach of health and safety regulations.

For Cranmer, faith is being sure of what is hoped for and certain of what is not seen. Treating faith as real and tangible, with rights and regulations, is to negate the very concept.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Lord Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor – ‘The Times has learnt...’

...that Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor is set to be first Roman Catholic bishop in the House of Lords since the 16th century.

Sorry, Times, but Cranmer learnt suspected this back in December, when His Eminence began praising Labour and supporting key Government ministers against the criticism they were attracting from certain Anglican bishops.

His elevation to the House of Lords would require papal dispensation, but Cranmer noted that also. For according to Canon 285 §3. ‘Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power.’

Since Lord Murphy-O’Connor would constitutionally be required to be styled a Lord Temporal (the Lords Spiritual being limited to 26 Anglicans), his elevation would ‘entail a participation in the exercise of civil power’. Unless Pope Benedict is minded to waive Canon Law, it is difficult to see how this may be circumvented. If his becoming a Lord Temporal might present His Eminence or His Holiness with difficulties, they would be no less significant than those for the British State to recognise a Roman Catholic as a Lord Spiritual. Indeed, it would be easier for the Pope to waive Canon Law than for Gordon Brown to try to amend this aspect of the Constitution.

Not, of course, that the time might not be ripe for such a development.

But the timing of all this is most convenient for the Prime Minister. Along with the proposed repeal/reform of the Act of Settlement 1701, the elevation of Cardinal Cormac to the Lords is simply a crass attempt to re-acquire all of those Roman Catholic ‘traditional Labour’ voters who have seen the light and switched to the Conservative Party en masse, largely in protest against the most anti-Christian government in modern British history. Labour has been no friend of the Catholic Church, or even of any church or ‘ecclesial community’.

By accepting a peerage from a Labour prime minister, there is a sense in which it may be perceived as a mutual affirmation. Yet His Eminence has questioned whether Roman Catholics can any longer be loyal to this Labour Government. He has objected to the imposition of 'a different version of our democracy' - one in which 'diversity and equality are held to be at odds with religion'.

Before he accepts (or before the Pope grants him the necessary dispensation), he might reflect on what Labour has done to this country and its people over the past decade: the anti-Christian legislation on the statute books; its intolerant secularism; its refusal to re-examine abortion legislation; the enforced closure of Catholic adoption agencies; and what they have attempted to do to Catholic schools.

The enduring presence of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor on the religio-political scene will not overly please the more ‘robust’ Catholics, but he will certainly put to shame 25 of the Anglican bishops. And that cannot be a bad thing.

If his religio-political agenda accords with his preaching, his voice may well be sought before that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and even before that of his successor at Westminister. He would become England’s Cardinal Emeritus, and with no constitutional precedent, he could carve out the role to suit himself.

Enlightened progress indeed.

Lord Ahmed to received 10,000 visitors in prison

Lrd Ahmed hs bn snt 2 przn 4 txtn on hs fone + drivn bad. He got 12 wks bt wll srv jst 6 wks in przn coz he’z a gr8 geezr realy.

Hz Grce thnks Hz Lrdshp shud b xpeld frm th Lbr Prty bcs its own roolz say NE membr that recvs a przn sntnce shud b xpeld.

Xept 4 mtig8in crcumstncs:

Jeremy Baker QC, defending Lord Ahmed, asked the judge to take into account ‘the Peer's years of service to the community and the country’. And also, after causing death driving dangerously, the Peer ‘took it upon himself to warn other motorists about the incident at some personal risk to himself’.

Noble chap.

Mr Baker also told the judge how Lord Ahmed had come Britain ‘as a child speaking no English but built up a successful business and political career before he was made a life peer’.


The barrister also said Lord Ahmed ‘provided an important function for the country both nationally and internationally, particularly in the field of inter-faith relations’.

How does Jeremy Baker QC sleep at night?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The politics of feeling

One cannot but be touched by the tributes in Parliament yesterday to the brief life of Ivan Cameron, and the condolences expressed to David and Samantha Cameron. Some say it was the House of Commons ‘at its best’; others that it was self-indulgent, ‘sentimental schlock’.

And therein lies the apparently unbridgeable gulf between those who cling to the form, order and reason of modernity, and those who have adopted the postmodern narrative of sensing, feeling and intuiting. Parliament is no longer about hard facts, lawyerly legislation or taxation, for that is a man’s world of sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. It has been feminised for an age which yearns for spiritual aesthetics more than hollow politics. And to marry politics with sentiment one has to be both male and female at a glance. It is the political age of androgyny.

It does seem absurd that the business of government and the functioning of Parliament should be suspended ‘as a mark of respect’ for a 6-year-old boy. After all, children die every day in tragic circumstances: the death of ‘Baby P’ might be considered a case far more worthy of parliamentary lamentation and the suspension of democracy.

As Dr Helen Szamuely observes, ‘the death of six-year old Ivan is not a national tragedy’. She proceeds to list a number of personal tragedies in history which did not result in the suspension of proceedings ‘even for an hour’. Michael White in The Guardian also berates the Dianification of politics, noting that the death of as many as 146 children in the tragedy of Aberfan did not cause a suspension of parliamentary proceedings, and neither does the weekly list of fallen soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like Dr Szamuely, he is of the opinion that ‘private and public life are separate and one does not and should not intrude on the other’.

Cranmer is reminded of the defiant gesture of Margaret Thatcher the day after the Brighton Bomb, in which some of her friends and colleagues were killed, maimed and crippled. But normal politics continued, enduring like the Royal Standard of England. Perhaps this was the final manifestation of political modernity – the age in which duty, obedience, respect and reverence were deemed essential. They underpinned the foundation of the dominant political and intellectual ideas of the age, forged through criticism and reform. But now we move in a different direction. Politics has been replaced by romance, and the narrative embraces the inexplicable and the indefinable. It is concerned with the science and mechanism of charm – the art of pleasing and imperative of weeping. One is no longer so much concerned with reason and logical discourse, but with reading human hearts.

And so the media places more emphasis upon clothing and jewellery than on policy or parliament. Politics is fused with feeling and experience, elation and depression. The antidote to the utilitarian creed of modernity is sensual emoting. What used to be masculine and muscular has been feminised with dreams of contemplation and moments of meditation.

The suspension of Parliament as ‘a mark of respect’ may not have been appropriate, but it felt it.

Politics, like theology, has to embrace the vernacular. And the narrative has become that of illogic and unreason. It may not be right or good, or even conducive to the rational and reasonable, but it is real and it is now. Politicians, like priests, either use it, or they cease to communicate and simply confirm their utter irrelevance.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On the death of Ivan Cameron

There can be few griefs so unbearable as that of losing one's child. At whatever age, it feels somehow so profoundly unnatural that the child should pre-decease the parent. It offends against justice, and runs contrary to the moral order.

Cranmer sends his deepest and most sincere sympathies to David and Samantha Cameron on this sad day. It is strangely pertinent to the post below, for there is no doubt all things work together for good to them that love God. And we have a God who knows what it is to lose a son. As grief fills the room up of their absent child, Cranmer prays the Cameron family will reflect on the incomparable joys this brief life brought them; the lessons he taught them; the priorities he reminded them daily to reconsider.

Bless you, Ivan. May you find eternal joy and peace in the place created for you from the foundation of the world.

Is Sam Coates David Cameron’s Jon Favreau?

........................Jon Favreau.................................................Sam Coates........................

When Barack Obama stepped up to the podium to deliver his inaugural address, there was one man who knew the speech better than the President: one man who had honed every word, rehearsed every inflection, composed a symphony of assonance with scrupulous attention to every consonant and vowel, every jot and tittle. He was unassuming and quite anonymous. But he was the author of one of the most important speeches in modern political history.

It was not quite the Sermon on the Mount, but it was fit for a latter-day messiah; suited to the time, perfect for the occasion, imparting at every turn the essence of the undeniably-gifted orator Barack Obama.

Jon Favreau is just 27 years old – one of the youngest chief speechwriters in the history of the White House. But his skills as a wordsmith belie his age. He has the advantage that his employer is blessed with the enviable gift of making the most prosaic political matter at least sound interesting. President Obama posseses such a voice of baritone melodies that one can easily be lost in the musical mists and distracted from the critical content. He is a truly postmodern political incarnation: it is not what he says which is important – for he says very little at all – but the sounds he makes have the capacity to hypnotise one into an ineffable ecstasy, point one to a noetic mystery, transcend the reality and lure one into a timeless passivity.

It is not that President Obama is a religious experience, but his chief speech-writer has to exist on that plane if the President is to persuade his people that he lives with bread like them, feels want, tastes grief, needs friend. For only an empathetic, caring, feeling, hurting politician can reach the parts that other politicians cannot reach.

Oratorical skill has always been an imperative in politics. Just as Socrates has outlasted a multitude of contemporaries whose names are long forgotten, so the Obamas, Clintons, Thatchers and Blairs will always eclipse the Bushes and Browns. The former make moments memorable; the latter make the memorable eminently forgettable.

But there is no point in being able to soar lyrically above the dirge of the masses if there is no inspirational rhetoric set down. Speech-writing is an art: it requires study, discipline and risk. It is a patient process of inculturation: understanding the narrative, indwelling the context and inhabiting the thoughts and feelings of the master. A speech-writer has to be a mind reader. He has not only to understand each occasion, political event, or seismic catastrophe; he has to grasp the intellectual length, breadth and depth of the political implications while simultaneously communicating every nuance of the necessary emotional and spiritual response.

David Cameron will inherit a godforsaken slough of despond, as people feel they are sinking without hope into an economic and social morass of unemployment, inflation, house repossession, wars and rumours of wars.

He needs to inspire trust, loyalty, unity, fortitude and patience. He needs to mentally motivate and emotionally move. He can talk forever of ‘responsibility’ or ‘accountability’, but the more technical his politics, the less he shall inspire. He needs to articulate themes which flick emotions, and keep them running like a leitmotif so that he becomes the incarnation of his word.

Like Jon Favreau, Sam Coates is young to be a speech-writer. But he is a man who pursues the heart of God and who is eminently capable of composing the high notes that rise up to the divine whilst never forgetting the dirge beneath. His apprenticeship was with ConservativeHome. Tim Montgomerie probably had no idea of what he had discovered.

It is now for Sam Coates to study David Cameron’s speech patterns and to exploit his innate musicality. He must become David Cameron’s emotional expert and spiritual stalker, for the Conservative leader has soul. And in this postmodern era of illogic and unreason, the sensing of a political soul is the cadence of electoral victory.

But it is not just the music which must captivate: Sam Coates must become David Cameron’s political spy: a strategist of diplomacy and a savant of cunning. It is one thing to study his master’s past; but he must be attuned to the present and prophetic of the future. He can read old speeches and pore over autobiographies, but he needs to feel and reflect on what makes his master tick; what is the heart of the man. For there is nothing more offensively obvious or frustratingly fraudulent than a political speech which has no ring of authenticity. When Gordon Brown talks of feeling our pain, although he very well might, there are few who believe it. When Barack Obama talks of such things, his words are a warm and compassionate embrace; he cries your tears and feels your fears. Of course, he may very well not, but that is of no consequence. The speech-writer’s task is done.

Speech-writing is collaborative, but if David Cameron is to move beyond the parochial, it will not be sufficient to shuttle his draft speeches between numerous policy experts, political advisors or wordsmiths. He must inject vision, for without it the people will perish. Sam Coates must forget the laptop and the Blackberry: all he needs is a pad and pencil in his pocket by day and on his bedside table by night, upon which he can note every sound of nature or light of insight which may become a crucial component of a speech.

Nothing can be more damaging to national unity as disunity within government. If the Conservative Party is to persuade the people that it is a credible government-in-waiting, there can be no discord within its plurality or distraction from the Conservative bond of unity.

Sam Coates’ task is to create the canvass for David Cameron’s themes. But he must be sensitive to the fact that people are impatient of broad brush strokes and generalisations. During the pain of this recession, there must be a focus on society and community, with acknowledgement of the commonalty of our pleasures and pains. People will feel understood by David Cameron in proportion to the extent to which Sam Coates can persuade people that he is made glad by their joys and grieves with their sorrows. The task is formidable.

But while the orator is awaiting the words, the author is waiting on God.

Therein lies the key to the next Conservative victory.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Labour’s moral wilderness

Cranmer has been wondering what Gordon Brown ought to give up for Lent. As he was doing so, he was drawn to the theme of wilderness. The Conservative Party has been there in previous generations, in particular between 1850-1874 when the party was riddled with division. And these past 12 years have been an undoubted parallel period of physical anguish and profound soul-searching. It remains to be seen whether David Cameron will be able to inspire the same miracle of restoration as that performed by Benjamin Disraeli.

But the wilderness which Cranmer wishes to reflect upon today is that of Labour. He is not prophesying for Gordon Brown a sustained sojourn in the desert (though he prays for it daily), but an examination of Labour’s present wilderness, which is neither physical nor geographic, but philosophical and moral.

Labour is writhing in a period of uncertainty and doubt. It is so riddled with the affliction that 40 days of fasting will not be sufficient to restore its spiritual life, and certainly not to permit such a renewal to extend to the life of the nation.

The United Kingdom is in an undeniable wilderness which is solely of Labour’s creating. As long as the Government decomposes in its own festering incompetence, sleaze and greed, righteousness cannot return. Labour has replaced the light of truth with the relativist shadows of pressure groups – especially the Islamic and Homosexual. The party is trying to serve so many schizophrenic masters that it has ceased to know which mask it must wear for which ball, and to which master of which lobby group at which ball it has promised the final dance. It has become a multifarious hydra which undermines marriage whilst dishing out tax credits to support families; it demeans the faithful majority while deifying the equality of all minorities; and it has trivialised the purpose of Parliament to the point of political prostration.

Lent is a good time for traditional Labour supporters to reflect upon their party’s foundations, for they were acutely Christian. There was a time when ‘Labour’ meant authenticity: at the very least, people associated the word with a political philosophy which was concerned with pacifism, the suffering of the poor, housing the homeless, compassion for the elderly and under-privileged, and rights for exploited workers. It was the party of Christian-inspired social activism, with spiritual roots which stretched back to the halcyon days of Methodism. So gloriously righteous was its mission that Jesus himself would have felt comfortable being taxed one of his coats in order to keep Keir Hardie warm. The party had conviction, principles and morals.

But in the naked pursuit of power, Labour has abandoned all that was true, noble and good and supplanted it with duplicity, avarice and the stench of sleaze. Its principles have been shredded, and its sense of Christian morality pulped and recycled as an idol to every god in the firmament but the One who is known. It has become the party of war, the party of torture, the party of exploitation and the party of deceit. It rewards the thieves and fraudsters with ‘rights’ while penalising the law-abiding and responsible. As former Labour MP Bryan Gould observes: Labour’s achievements ‘have been molehills, judged against the towering peaks scaled by New Labour in its rejection not only of Labour, but of any decent and civilised values’.

Labour has ceased to be civilised, for it has no clear vision of the meaning of this civility. It is no longer good, for it has lost sight of the common good. This recession may be global, but it is Labour’s fault that the United Kingdom is the worst place nation in the western world to cope with its effects. Labour has become the embodiment of that for which it always despised the Conservatives: it is now the undoubted party of unemployment, recession, inflation and increased poverty. Labour is seduced by celebrity and beguiled by vanity.

This is an undoubted moral issue, for firms are condemned to closure, people are reduced to hardship and depression, more workers to unemployment and more families to homelessness through unprecedented levels of repossession. The total number of suicides, heart attacks, divorces and mental breakdowns is never known.

Labour has become the party of widening inequality and social disintegration.

Cranmer exhorts all who are moral, all who are compassionate, all who are discerning and visionary, all who care about the Christian foundations of this nation – it’s civil liberties, religious tolerance, respect for life and the rule of law – to abandon Labour, for its heart is corrupt, its flesh is rotten. Labour has ceased to understand the moral values of the Labour movement: Labour has ceased to be Christian.

As you contemplate this Lenten fast, enduring economic hardship in the wilderness of Labour’s workhouse, consider the empty promises and the vain assurance that ‘things can only get better’. And then reflect upon the undeniable fact that Labour has actually made things a whole lot worse.

So what should Gordon Brown give up for Lent?

How about Number 10?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Is Parliament ‘institutionally racist’?

As the police decide to abandon all ‘diversity’ targets which were designed to make them ‘more representative’ of the communities they serve, one has to wonder at the irony of Parliament moving towards embracing quotas for women, ethnic minority and gay MPs.

And politicians wonder why people are dismayed and disillusioned with the democratic process and their institutions of government.

Cranmer is of the opinion that any ‘diversity’ target which actively discriminates against white men is racist. And any that discriminates against straight men is heterophobic. But one does not hear much about these, for it is only minorities who are permitted to establish a –‘phobia’. ‘Positive discrimination’ is still manifestly negative towards the disadvantaged other, and the policy has most certainly seen lesser-qualified people from minority groups appointed to jobs at the expense of higher-qualified applicants from majority groups. It is patronising and divisive for a number of reasons, not least being the implicit assertion that minorities are not able to succeed on merit. There is also the stigma of never actually knowing if one is in Parliament because of one’s political ability or because one is a one-legged Asian lesbian.

There has been no Macpherson Report into parliamentary representation, but there is an increasing awareness of an unwritten Harmon Report which forms the backdrop to the first Speaker’s Conference in 30 years. Ms Harmon appears to have a clear grasp of what is wrong with democracy and intuitively gleaned why Parliament is failing.

It has nothing to do with governmental incompetence, policy failure or having abdicated authority to Brussels. And neither does it have anything to do with political duplicity, the lack of personal integrity or sleaze. Parliament is not working because there is a democratic deficit in its composition: it is not only ‘marred by institutional racism', but sexism and homophobia.

Thus Mr Speaker is to confer with sundry others on how best to address these deficiencies. His Conference shall consist of: Anne Begg (Vice-Chairman, Labour), Diane Abbott (Labour), John Bercow (Conservative), David Blunkett (Labour), Angela Browning (Conservative), Ronnie Campbell (Labour), Ann Cryer (Labour), Parmjit Dhanda (Labour), Andrew George (Liberal Democrat), Julie Kirkbride (Conservative), William McCrea (DUP), David Maclean (Conservative), Fiona Mactaggart (Labour), Anne Main (Conservative), Jo Swinson (Liberal Democrat) and Betty Williams (Labour).

This appears to be made up of 44% male to 56% female, 6% disabled, 6% lesbian (though this could be higher). There are no gay men (or gay men who are ‘out’ – should that be a separate category?).

Their objective is to formulate a strategy to recruit more ethnic minority MPs in direct proportion to the make-up of the country, and also more gay, lesbian and trans-gender MPs, not to mention the disabled – a few in wheelchairs, a few who are blind, maybe one who is deaf and a couple who are mute.

Cranmer would actually favour a disproportionate number of mutes.

But in order to achieve this, one must actively 'deselect' all the able-bodied white, heterosexual males. Or at least somehow advantage the one-legged Asian lesbians in the hope that, when it comes to government, one or two of them might know something about economics or defence.

White women shall not be discriminated against because of a separate policy aimed at encouraging women into Parliament. The disproportionate number of white women who make up this Conference will doubtless ensure this.

Cranmer has more than a few problems with this 'box-ticking’ culture which is fundamentally anti-meritocratic and a profoundly damaging manipulation of the legislature. Let us begin with the primary concerns of this Speaker’s Conference: ethnicity, gender and sexuality.

Ethnic minorities constitute around seven per cent of the population. With 646 MPs, one might expect to see 45 members with brown, black or yellow skin. Yet there are just 15.

The gender division is Parliament is 521 male as against 125 female. But there are 31 million women in the UK and 29.9 million men. With a 48:52 per cent division, one should expect Parliament to be composed of 336 women to 310 men.

Sexuality is unfathomable and not statistically verifiable. In terms of proportion of the population, Cranmer has frequently heard the 10% figure, though there are those who assert that it is much higher.

But how is Parliament going to redress any imbalance? Will it oblige all MPs to fill in a questionnaire about their sexuality or sexual behaviour? Might not those who wish to remain ‘in the closet’ somewhat distort the eventual representation? Should there be equal numbers of ‘in’ and ‘out’ homosexuals? And what is the proportion of bisexuals to be?

And what of the cross-dressing masochists or the hermaphrodite narcissists?

As if these issues do not raise enough problems, why should the Speaker’s Conference stop at gender, ethnicity, disability and sexuality? Should not diversity be... err... diversified?

What about selecting MPs by age, profession, income, or - dare one say - religion?

Has politics become so utterly superficial as to be more concerned with the colour of one’s skin than with one’s moral worldview? Which is more likely to determine the way one votes?

The average age of MPs is presently 50.6. This needs to be drastically amended to incorporate a fair proportion of teenagers. They are not all obsessed with making babies, and their idealism will be a welcome antidote to the prevailing negativity and cynicism. They would doubtless help to drag Parliament into the 21st century, supplanting ‘My Honourable Friend’ with ‘Yo Dude’ and ‘Black Rod’ could become the Dark Force. The teenagers would, of course, be recruited in proportion to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability and those who favour X-Box over Wii.

In order to improve the social diversity of the House of Commons, it needs MPs who are dustbin men, road sweepers, charity workers, teachers and nurses. These people would not be able to afford the costs of being a parliamentary candidate, so Mr Speaker needs to look at subsiding their costs. And let us not forget those who are content to be mothers and home-makers. In order to make space for these, Parliament will need to dispense with its over-representation of lawyers, accountants and career politicians.

And on religion, there is no point having 42 Asian MPs in Parliament if they are all Muslim, for that would offend the Sikhs and Hindus. And what proportion of the Muslim representatives should be Sunni, Shi’a or Sufi? Indeed, are there any Shi’a or Sufi Muslims in Parliament? Why not? They have thousands of adherents in the UK, but only the Sunni perspective presently has a parliamentary platform. Cranmer has given up trying to work out if Roman Catholics outnumber the Anglicans, not least because most Anglicans in Parliament are indistinguishable from the abundance of relativist agnostics: they no longer strongly believe anything anymore. And he shall not delve into how many Jews there might be for fear of provoking the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists who insist that Jews run the British Government.

There is already one corner of the United Kingdom which insists on quotas of religious observers, and it has noted a fall in Protestant recruitment. The DUP have noted that ‘the proportion of new employees in the public sector from the Protestant community does not reflect the religious makeup of the working age population in Northern Ireland’. They are consequently questioning what plans the Government have to put in place affirmative action plans to ensure that a more equitable distribution of employment takes place in future years.

The answer is none which will be more equitable towards white male Protestants.

If one were to constitute the House of Commons in proportion to the religious make-up of the nation (excluding the agnostics, atheists and undeclared) it ought to contain 17 Muslims, 6 Hindus, 4 Sikhs, 3 Jews, 2 Buddhists, 465 Christians and 6 Jedi Knights.

But why stop there?

Why not select MPs by illness? Let us make the Department of Health more relevant by having a quota of AIDS sufferers and a proportion of cancer sufferers. Let us make the Education Secretary more ‘in touch’ by reducing the proportion of those educated in grammar or private schools in order to increase those from comprehensive and secondary modern schools.

So many groups are under-represented in the House of Commons that their concerns and priorities are chronically ignored. What of those who favour an English Parliament? Does not more than 70% of the electorate favour a referendum on our continuing membership of the EU? What proportion wish to severely curtail immigration? How many favour the reintroduction of capital punishment?

These people presently have no proportionate representation in Parliament.

But there is a further consideration.

In 2005, Labour secured 356 seats with just 35.3% of the vote.

It would seem wise to abolish political parties altogether and appoint a parliament solely in proportion to the multiple, diverse and disparate groups that make up our fractured society.

This would result in a majority white, female and Christian House of Commons. And since the majority of white Christian females really do prefer to focus on being good mothers, wives and home-makers whilst juggling a flexible career path, this would leave a House of Commons which would be predominantly white, male and Christian, which favours severely limiting immigration, establishing a Parliament for England and granting a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

But such a parliament would be racist, sexist and xenophobic.

And we can’t be having that, can we?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The importance of being Archbishop Cranmer

Meet Mark Zuckerberg.

Mark who?

Cranmer could have commented today upon riots in Dublin, the erosion of free speech, the Conservative Party's plans for government, or Labour’s latest woe. He could even have turned his hand stump to the Myanmar amnesty, the ‘mother of all defections’ from the Roman Catholic Church, or the never-ending troubles of the Church of England. But instead, he wishes to report how is delighted he is to read that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is having a little difficulty.

For Cranmer has been having a little difficulty himself - something of a Facebook faceoff.

His Grace discovered that his account had been arbitrarily suspended a few weeks ago for ‘violation of (their) terms and conditions’. They accused His Grace of ‘not being a real person’

How dare they.

How very dare they.

His Grace responded to Facebook, insisting in the strongest terms that he was most definitely a real person.

A few days later, without any request for evidence to establish His Grace’s veritable incarnation, his account was restored. But ‘Archbishop Cranmer’ had become plain old ‘Tom Cranmer’.

How utterly, inappropriately and presumptuously familiar of them.

When His Grace appealed against this unauthorised diminution, he was granted the name ‘Thomas Cranmer’. They would not restore his style or title.

His Grace would like all readers and communicants to know that Facebook now officially recognises him as a real person, and that Thomas Cranmer is his name. This ought to be sufficient for him to acquire an identity card at some point in the future.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jade Goody has turned to God

Jade Goody does not sound like a spiritual theme. She would not even be a political one if the Prime Minister and Justice Secretary had not made her so. But the moment they passed comment upon her media deals and changed her fiancé’s curfew conditions in order to permit him to spend his wedding night with his dying wife, Jade Goody’s last days became a witness to matters of justice, mercy, love and peace.

Only a few months ago this appalling creation of reality television seemed to represent all that was wrong with modern society. She was a superficial and crass product of legendary Essex; variously referred to as being a ‘pig-faced’, ‘loud-mouthed’, ‘ignorant’, ‘selfish’, ‘racist’ and ‘self-promoting’ chav. Her life was just that of another quasi-celebrity - a two-dimensional virtual existence with no higher purpose other than to copulate and consume; to wallow in Armani excess whilst patiently awaiting an invitation to stumble onto ‘Dancing on Ice’. She was a commodity of Max Clifford who owned her, the chat shows which fed off her, the ‘celebrity’ culture which scoffed at her, and the ‘red-tops’ which would one day destroy her. The inexorable course of her petty and pointless existence was set.

But cervical cancer changed all that. Now, as she awakes each new morning, she is increasingly riddled with malignant tumours which have spread to her groin, bowel and liver. As she sleeps at night, the cancer ravages her body as it courses through her arteries and veins. She has exchanged champagne for morphine, and in a few short weeks she shall be dead, and returned to the earth in ashes and dust whence she came.

It beggars belief as someone stares death in the face that there are those who spitefully criticise Jack Straw for sympathetically relaxing Jack Tweed’s curfew restrictions to make their wedding day possible. Where is the compassion, understanding or mercy in these people? What has the nation become that, as a girl faces death, there are those who callously cling to the pedantic letter of the law and demand that our politicians harden their hearts to human suffering? Why would they wish to deprive a dying woman of the warm embrace of the man she loves on what is supposed to be the happiest day of her life?

Nothing has become Jade Goody more than the manner in which she is leaving the world. Cranmer has known this, and has extended his hand to some of the world’s most noble and inspirational as they turned their mourning into rejoicing.

And let us rejoice that Jade Goody’s life has now found a purpose. In her final weeks it is reported that the publicity she has generated has already helped to save the life of another cancer sufferer. More importantly, she is saving souls, for it is also reported that she is ‘taking comfort in The Good News Bible, repeatedly reading a passage promising hope’. And she has decided to christen her sons Bobby and Freddie, so they know ‘Mummy will be in heaven and watching over them’. These young boys will soon have no-one to call ‘Mummy’, and there shall be no-one to wipe away their tears. So let no-one pour judgemental scorn upon the simplicity of this fragile faith.

As Jade Goody walks in the valley of the shadow of death, she will be weeping day and night, screaming at God with frustration, and angry with the world. She will be asking ‘Why me?’, as the Psalmist has done, pleading for this cup of suffering to be taken from her. She could have chosen bitterness and resentment and the path that leads to Hell. But she has turned to God ‘to help her cope’. She says:

“I’ve always thought there’s a God although I’ve never been a churchy kind of person but now I think, 'Why not go to church?' I’ve got a version of the Bible which is easy to read and I look through it when I’m feeling down. It really helps. And I’ve always prayed but now I do find it helps. Maybe the big man upstairs thinks 'She’s a tough cookie, she can handle this. She’s watched her dad inject heroin, watched her mum do crack, she’s lost a baby, had boyfriends who’ve hit her. Yeah, she can handle this too.' But I do think after this is over, God might think I’ve had more than my fair share to deal with.”

Jade Goody was made in the image of God, and, like all images, she has inevitably fallen short. But she is an incarnation nonetheless, and her heart has discovered a belief that salvation is found in Jesus Christ. The one who took our human nature knows his creation, and he shall fulfil all of Jade Goody’s deepest needs as she seeks the breath of his life-giving Spirit.

And Jade Goody has become a witness to this truth, now professing the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds. She has become one of the counter-cultural mad ones, but is embracing the very aspect of that culture by which the gospel may be made known. It is now for Max Clifford to tell The Sun, The Mirror and The News of the World that ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’. It is for Max Clifford to tell the BBC and SKY of Jade Goody’s new-found faith that 'all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose'.

For God indeed loves the world – the whole human family which is his creation, and that includes every politician, publicist and chav, no matter how much we may occasionally be tempted to believe them to be worthy of nothing but contempt.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Government must ban the Pope from visiting Britain

There appears to be some confusion about the invitation extended by Presbyterian Prime Minister Gordon Brown to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to visit the United Kingdom. The son-of-the-manse says the Pope greeted the invitation warmly. The Prime Minister suggested to the Pope that he could consider making the visit coincide with the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman - the second most prominent English convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism - which is expected later this year or early next (how does the Prime Minister know this?). However, the Vatican quite vehemently repudiated this account, insisting that there are no plans for the Pontiff to visit the UK. And those in the know assert that an impromptu Papal visit to Britain before a 2010 election is not remotely possible, however many ‘Hail Gordons’ the Prime Minister might recite.

Cranmer thanks Jesus, Mary and Joseph that the Pope has more sense than to help prop up the most anti-Christian government of modern times.

Or has the Pope declined for another reason?

His Holiness must be aware of recent decisions to ban the Dutch politician Geert Wilders from entering the UK for his manifestly moderate views on Islam; and the much beloved Baptists of Westboro for their utterly reasonable views on homosexuality. Perhaps the Pope has reflected on the proximity of their beliefs to his own.

Consider his clear condemnation of homosexuality. He says that it ‘shall always be condemned, because it is against the nature of man; and it is a violation of all human morality, and shall not be tolerated by the Eternal Father in the Trinity’. It is a ‘moral evil’ and even the inclination is an ‘objective disorder’. Those who indulge in the perversion without repentance are guilty of mortal sin and will go to hell.

This is homophobic and hateful, and likely to incite Peter Tatchell and his (few) friends to spout their usual demands for 'gay marriage', or accuse His Holiness of 'crucifying queers' with his bigotry and prejudice. The Pope's views on this matter have been widely reported, and even equated with the 'extremism' of the BNP.

But His Holiness also has ‘extreme’ views on abortion, for he wishes it to be banned outright, which is a tad extreme. He asserts that is a ‘grave sin’ for it is also mortal, and those who participate in it, facilitate it, or legislate in favour of it are in danger of eternal separation from God in Hell. This is not very sympathetic to the suffering endured by women and young girls (or politicians), and might even constitute undue pressure upon them to reconsider their enlightened decisions. Moreover, the Pope tends to excommunicate those who participate in, facilitate or legislate for abortion, which is a hateful and discriminatory act, and seeks to undermine the law of the land.

He seeks to ban contraception, for it is also a mortal sin. This attitude is more than a little naïve in an era of STIs and over-population. It is also irresponsible as the Government attempts to spread the ‘safe sex’ message to British teenagers and Alfie Patten.

He also opposes sex equality, insisting that women are excluded from some jobs and positions in society merely by virtue of their gender. This is manifestly misogynistic, and contrary to the law of the land. Further, he insists on a weird cult of celibacy, which has been known to lead to acts of adultery, homosexuality and paedophilia. This is, at best, unnatural; at worst, morally depraved.

He has offended Jews by restoring a holocaust denier to the Catholic fold and by re-affirming the Good Friday prayer which calls for their conversion. This is religious intolerance and hatred.

He has offended Muslims with his speech in Regensburg in which he said that Mohammed spread his religion by the sword. This is the plainest articulation of religious hatred, and risks inciting 10,000 Muslims to protest wherever His Holiness might speak.

He is equally clear in his repudiation of the Anglican Church, to which he derisorily refers as a mere ‘ecclesial community’, preaching hate with his reiteration of the assertion that its holy orders are ‘absolutely null and utterly void’. This must mean that he is of the opinion that Her Majesty is deluded if she believes herself to be Supreme Governor of any kind of church. This is plainly offensive to all Anglicans, monarchists and British patriots.

It is the official view of the Home Office that it will ban individuals who have 'engaged in unacceptable behaviour by inciting hatred against a number of communities'. They will 'stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country'. These people do not have to have been found guilty of preaching violence, nor do they have to have overtly expressed 'hatred' to any group or community. They simply have to be perceived as having done so or likely to do so.

Cranmer is therefore persuaded that the real reason Pope Benedict did not accept Gordon Brown’s invitation to visit the UK is because His Holiness knew that the Home Secretary would ban him from entering the country anyway.

Which is what she now routinely does to anyone professing ‘extreme’ views of any kind, especially those which might offend the Muslim or homosexual communities.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Barring Baptists from the UK - would the Government ban Jesus?

Well, why not?

Admit the Muslim extremists, the persecuted homosexualists, the misunderstood paedophiles and anyone and everyone from the European Union. Grant amnesties to the economic migrants, fraudsters and criminals. Let them all stay: give them all a house, a doctor, a dentist, schools, hospitals and thousands of pounds in benefits – whatever they may need to make their lives comfortable.

But, for God’s sake, do not admit anyone whose message might offend Muslims, homosexuals or the Home Secretary

For what it is worth, Cranmer thinks the ‘anti-gay fundamentalist US Christian preacher’ the Reverend Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, is not a very nice chap. His message is un-Christian and manifestly unsympathetic to families who have suffered. He and his family are known for picketing the funerals of US servicemen and railing against the families of dead gay teenagers, proudly telling the mourners that their children are in hell.

It is hardly a gospel of love, and the Reverend Fred Phelps might reflect on the Lord's exhortation to weep with those who weep. The Baptists would probably say that he is not a very good Baptist: baptising by full immersion does not make one so. He must therefore be an extremist Baptist, or a Baptistist.

But as offensive as the Reverend and his misguided family may be, to deny him access to the UK on the grounds that he could spread ‘extremism and hatred’ is yet another nail in the coffin of free speech.

Actually, Cranmer is no longer certain that a coffin exists. He more than half suspects there has already been a clandestine cremation.

On the same grounds of spreading 'extremism and hatred', the Government would have had to bar entry to Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah – indeed, all of the Israelite prophets of the 5th-9th century BC. They fiercely railed against the prevailing culture, immorality, greed and idolatry. Isaiah said people were evil (1:6) and Ezekiel even cooked using human excrement (4:12) to help make his point, which is more than a little 'extreme'. They all publicly terrorised the people with the consequences of God’s judgement should they not repent. They believed themselves to be servants of God, vehicles through whom God himself spoke; divinely appointed to correct illegal beliefs and practices.

They offended by their message, and their words incited hatred.

The Government would probably ban Jesus himself from entering the UK. After all, he clearly caused offence (Mk 6:3; Jn 6:61), and was not overly complimentary towards the Pharisees or the Sadducees. He also had one or two stern words to say to those in government. And, let us not forget, he was a Jew, which might be even more likely to incite hatred from a few in the Muslim community, or Lord Ahmed.

It seems now that one may be denied entry to the UK if one has engaged in ‘unacceptable behaviour’, regardless of whether or not that behaviour has led to a criminal conviction. In frightening Orwellian fashion, the Government has adopted in full the mechanism of ‘Minority Report’ for prophesying criminal activity, and using it to justify depriving innocent people of their liberties and rights.

One is no longer innocent until proven guilty. But neither is one guilty until proven innocent. It is more a case of being guilty if the Home Secretary prophesies that you shall be.

How long, O Lord. How long?

Can the ECHR halt the deportation of Abu Qatada?

Cranmer hears that Abu Qatada has won compensation from HM Government (ie the taxpayer) for the years he has spent in prison. This is by order of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

This is lunacy, when one considers that Mr Qatada could have walked free at any time if he had simply agreed to leave Britain.

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Abu Qatada has been referred to by a British judge as ‘Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe’, and the Home Secretary has identified him as ‘a truly dangerous individual’. Doubtless others have called him far worse.

He has been in the UK for many years, happily living off the taxpayer, and now the taxpayer shall compensate him for the inconvenience he has suffered while a guest in this country.

It is therefore with a degree of relief and an expression of confidence in the criminal justice system that five Law Lords have unanimously decreed that Abu Qatada must be deported to Jordan, whence he came.

But it transpires that Mr Qatada's lawyer has submitted an application to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Mr Qatada cannot now be deported until the appeal bid has been considered. Any appeal may take up to two years. In the meantime, HM Government (ie the taxpayer) shall provide him and his family with an £800,000 house in West London, and all the welfare benefits they require.

Cranmer does not mean to be thick, but he was under the impression that Labour’s Human Rights Act 1998 gave legal effect in the UK to the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. This was to put a stop to the steady stream of alleged human rights violations being appealed to Strasbourg before they became a tidal wave.

The 1998 Act therefore obliges all UK courts, including the Law Lords, to consider the provisions of the European Convention before dispensing judgement, and to ensure that judgements are in accordance with it.

How, then, can the European Court of Human Rights remain in any sense a superior appellate court to the House of Lords?

And on a tangential matter, Abu Qatada is concerned that his enforced repatriation to Jordan is likely to result in him being severely punished, even executed, for his alleged involvement in acts of terrorism.

Again, Cranmer, does not mean to be thick. But why should those Muslims who wish to see Shari’a law in the UK be protected from its punitive excesses when they are obliged to go and live in a more Shari’a compliant country?

Quantitative easing - Mammon from heaven

With blessings to Beau Bo D’Or for the graphic, and with apologies to Moses:

"And they took their journey from Bradford, Birmingham, Leicester and Slough, and all the congregation of the children of New Labour came from the wilderness of the United Kingdom, which is between Europe and America, on the nineteenth day of the second month after the markets had given their emphatically damnable response to the banking bailouts.
And the whole congregation of the children of New Labour murmured against the GORD in the wilderness:
And the children of New Labour said, Would to God we had not replaced Tony who is now exalted in the land of Barack, yea, all over the world, when we enjoyed an economic boom, and when we did enjoy impressive poll leads; for ye have brought us forth into this recession, to kill this whole assembly with credit crunch and repossession.
Then said the GORD, Behold, I not only saved the world, but I shall devise a rescue package which will stem the slide into recession and depression. I will rain cash upon the economy and spread it unto you; and the people shall go out and enjoy a low interest rate every day, yea, even zero per cent, that I may prove them, whether they will vote Labour, or no.
And Alastair said unto all the children of the United Kingdom, these bailouts are surely working, but they need a little assistance. The Mammon markets are frozen because there is none who hath confidence. We shall renew this confidence. Then ye shall know that the GORD hath brought you out from the land of recession and depression:
And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the GORD; for that he heareth your murmurings:
And Alastair said, The policy response of some worldly governments hath been back to front. If they solved the underlying problem, liquidity shall eventually return, yea, even flow like honey. This shall be, when the GORD shall give you in the evening cash to pay thy mortgage and more cash to feed thine offspring, and in the morning very good opinion polls; for that the GORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him:
And Alastair spake unto Peter, Say unto all the congregation of the children of the United Kingdom, Come near before the GORD: for he hath heard your murmurings.
And it came to pass, as Peter spake spin unto the whole congregation of the children of the United Kingdom, that they looked toward Number 10, and, behold, the glory of the GORD appeared in the ozone.
And the GORD spake unto Alastair, saying,
I have heard the murmurings of the children of the United Kingdom: speak unto them, saying, some time next month, or the month after that, or even the month after that, but certainly before the next general election, ye shall have cash, and shed loads of it, for there shall be deep interest rate cuts followed by quantitative easing, and ye shall know that I am the GORD your Prime Minister, who saved the world.
And it came to pass, that billions of pounds fell from heaven, and covered the country: and in the morning the low interest rates lay round about the plentiful cash, deep and crisp and even.
And when the low interest rates that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a look of perplexion, as confused and worried as a prime minister on the skids.
And when the children of New Labour saw it, they said one to another, It is Mammon: for they wist not what it was, for that had not wist it since Tony had departeth. And Alastair said unto them, This is the cash which the GORD hath given you and your constituents to spend.
This is the thing which the GORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his mortgage, at least a couple of thousand for every man, according to the number of your family living in relative poverty, and more if ye live in a key marginal; take ye every man for them which are in the Northern Rock tents, for, yea, the feel-good factor must return.
And the children of the United Kingdom did so, and gathered, some more, some less. But mostly some more, for they were Thatcher’s children, and knew a good thing when they saw it.
And when they did grab their thousands, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack, for the government bailed out all of them, prudent and imprudent alike, without distinction; they gathered every man according to his mortgage.
And Alastair said, Let no man leave of it till he be persuaded of the GORD.
And the children of the United Kingdom had not a clue what he was talking about; and the children of the tribe of New Labour knew not neither, and neither did they care. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Alastair; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it caused price increases, which is known as inflation, and it stank across the land: and Alastair was wroth with them.
And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his mortgage and the rest: and when the sun waxed hot, they spent it all; and when the moon waxed cold, they spent it all. Night and day was it spent, like water flooding the land.
And it came to pass, that on the sixth month they gathered twice as much cash, four thousand for each child, and still more in the key marginals: and all the members of the New Labour came and told Alastair that the current stream of government initiatives is wreaking havoc with inflation and public sector finances.
And he said unto them, This is that which the GORD hath said, Tomorrow there shall be jam, and the day after, and the day after that. And if there be no jam, ye shall lose thy seats at the next general election.
And they shut up promptly, as he bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.
But it did really, and the worms were bountiful. And Alastair said, Spend today; for tomorrow is the election unto the GORD: thou canst spend then also, but do not put off spending until tomorrow what thou canst spend today.
And the GORD said unto the children of the United Kingdom, How long refuse ye to spend thy way out of recession and depression?
See, for that the GORD hath given you cash, therefore spend like there be no tomorrow; abide ye every consumer in his consuming, let no man or woman or child or unborn not spend what he, she or it doth not yet possess.
So the people went on a shopping spree with the cash that had fallen from nowhere.
And the house of the United Kingdom called the name thereof Mammon from Heaven: and it was like euros, with lots of bridges, windows and doors; and the smell of it was like returning to the years of Tony.
And Alastair said, This is the thing which the GORD commandeth, Fill thy bank account with it but not to be kept for your generations; that ye may see today the new car, the new hi-fi and the new plasma telly wherewith I have provided for you, when I brought you forth from the land of recession and depression.
And Alastair said unto Peter, Take some pot, and put a few thousand of Mammon therein, and lay it up before the GORD, to be kept for his final salary pension.
As the GORD commanded Alastair, so Peter laid it up before the Treasury, to be kept.
And the children of the United Kingdom did spend Mammon forty weeks, until they came to a land inhabited by another tribe; they did spend Mammon, until they came unto the borders of the land of the children of the Conservatives. But there was a stench of inflation in the land, yea, uncontrollable hyper-inflation, for the fat years had consumed the lean and just about everything else besides.
And David much pleased the LORD..."

(To be continued)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

British Government orders reverence for the Qur’an

According to The Daily Mail, libraries are being instructed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council - a quango which answers to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham - to place the Qur’an on a top shelf in order to avoid giving offence to Muslims, who have allegedly ‘complained of finding the Koran on lower shelves, saying it should be put above commonplace things’.

Accordingly, librarians are being told to move the Bible ‘and all holy books’ to the top shelf as well.

The librarians reportedly consulted the Federation of Muslim Organisations and were advised that all religious texts should be kept on the top shelf: ‘This meant that no offence is caused, as the scriptures of all the major faiths are given respect in this way, but none is higher than any other’.

This is the sort of story designed to fracture community cohesion and engender ill feeling. It has already led to a lot of anti-Muslim prejudice from the usual reactionary and manifestly bigoted journalists, despite no organisation having been named as the source of the complaints, and no individuals being identified. This story has led to calls for Muslims to ‘go home’, with accusations of ‘outrage’ being their ‘default setting’.

Cranmer agrees with Civitas that books in libraries are simply books to be read; not works to be treated as objects of veneration. He also accords with the assertion that ‘libraries and museums are not places of worship. They should not be run in accordance with particular religious beliefs’. In short, one cannot be compelled to treat a textbook with veneration if one does not believe it to be an object worthy of such. It is not the business of libraries or museums to inculcate a sense of what is holy and or to determine what is sanctified and should be set apart.

But all the Daily Mail histrionics about making the Bible ‘inaccessible’, of ‘putting the scriptures beyond reach’ and of a ‘reversion to medieval times’ is utter nonsense. It is concerning to see it all thoughtlessly reproduced verbatim by The Daily Telegraph.

Books on top shelves are eminently reachable. The only offence here is to the Dewey Decimal System.

So Cranmer would like to know how the Hizb ut-Tahrir interpretation of Islam has been permitted to override the official method of book categorisation which has been in use in British libraries for more than a century, and with which British Muslims have hitherto had no problem whatsoever. The only issue of classification with which librarians ought to concern themselves is whether the Qur’an is a religious text or a political one. If it is religious, Dewey places it alongside the Bible, Torah, Adi Granth, Bhagavad Gita and the Wisdom of Yoda. If it is deemed to be a political text, it should be placed alongside Mein Kampf, the Communist Manifesto, the brief pamphlet entitled ‘The Wisdom of Gordon Brown’, or the one-page tract on 'The Moral Superiority of Socialism’.

And Cranmer would also like to point out that it is intrinsic to Islamic worship that only Muslims may touch the Qur’an, and then only after performing wudu – a ritual cleansing.

So could the Secretary of State please explain when washing facilities are to be installed in the nation’s libraries?

The anti-Anglicanism of the BBC

Cranmer has long observed the rise of anti-Anglicanism, but scarcely has he come across such an overt example as that provided by the BBC. In a news article headed ‘Henry VIII love letter exhibited’, we read the following comment:

“When he came to the throne, Henry was the pious prince who ruled an England at the heart of Catholic Europe.

"When he died, he was the great schismatic, who had created a national church and an insular, xenophobic politics that shaped the development of England for the next 500 years."

This is priceless religio-political impartiality.

The BBC is constitutionally established by a Royal Charter which begins:

ELIZABETH THE SECOND by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Our other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith...

That would be an insular and xenophobic faith

Accoring to this Charter, the BBC ‘exists to serve the public interest’ by:

(a) sustaining citizenship and civil society;
(b) promoting education and learning;
(c) stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
(d) representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities;

One might expect some impartial appreciation of the contribution of the National Church to five centuries of civil society, especially from the ‘Trust member for England’, who is supposed to be qualified by virtue of:

(a) his knowledge of the culture, characteristics and affairs of the people in the nation for which he is to be designated;
(b) his close touch with opinion in that nation.

Whoever be the Trust member for England is plainly out of touch with both. Indeed, if he or she were in ‘close touch’ with the opinion of England, one might expect to hear more about England’s attitude towards the EU, or its desire for and English parliament.

Perhaps the explanation for the omissions are found in the preamble to the Charter, in which Her Majesty states that ‘it has been represented to Us by Our right trusty and well beloved Counsellor Tessa Jowell, Our Principal Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport...’

Well beloved Tessa Jowell she may be. But right and trusty?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How Labour could (easily) win the next general election

There are increasingly feverish and not entirely speculative rumours that Gordon Brown might yet resign before the next general election to become another ‘world leader’.

There are two schools of thought on Labour’s election-winning strategy. The first is that it no longer matters who leads the Labour Party - they are known to be such a shower of abhorrent incompetents that victory at the next general is now utterly unattainable. The second is that it matters very much, and anyone but Gordon Brown at the helm would stand a better chance of delivering Labour a fourth term.

This has nothing to do with policies, or reason, or even politics. It is simply about perception, popularity and feeling. For in the postmodern age of unreason, that is all that matters. While the rational politicos worry about policies and argue over manifestos, the overwhelming majority of the electorate vote more in accordance with how they feel than how they think. This is not subject to any discourse of reason.

If Labour MPs were simply to focus on winning another term instead of internal feuding over ideological divisions, they could easily secure a victory, and haggle about personalities and policies afterwards.

Here is Cranmer’s winning team:

Prime Minister - Alan Johnson
Chancellor of the Exchequer - Frank Field
Home Secretary – John Denham
Foreign Secretary (and Europe Minister) - Gisela Stuart
Health Secretary – Stephen Byers
Education Secretary – Alan Milburn
Justice Secretary – Ben Bradshaw
Business Secretary – James Purnell
Environment Secretary – Hazel Blears
International Development Secretary – Hilary Benn
Defence Secretary – Quentin Davies
Communities Secretary – John Cruddas
Transport Secretary – Shaun Woodward
Culture Secretary – Glenda Jackson
Olympics Minister – Kate Hoey
Leader of the House of Commons – Chris Bryant
Party Chairman – (out of sight but highly effective) Peter Mandelson

Cranmer is neither advocating the merit nor lauding the integrity of any of these characters; merely stating this would be a winning formula and would contribute to an electoral victory for Labour.

Such a line-up would have the media flocking to Labour’s doors and send the Conservative Party into convulsions, leaving them to face a record fourth defeat and a potential 18 years in the wilderness. This new Cabinet would not actually have to do very much at all over the coming months; simply circulate the media outlets, do a string of interviews and make lots of inspiring speeches about ‘change’, of which they would be the undoubted embodiment. And if they were to invite Baroness Thatcher to No10 and secure the blessing of Tony Blair, they would be anointed for an unparalleled fourth term.

Cranmer would also recommend elevating Oona King to the House of Lords. It does not matter what portfolio she holds; she is beatiful, charming, eloquent, and the people adore her.

He would also elevate Shazia Mirza to the House of Lords - just to irritate the hell out of Lord Ahmed.

Concurrent with this re-shuffle (if that is not to tame a word) would be the imperative of keeping certain personalities out of the media altogether, especially Gordon Brown, Alastair Darling, Harriet Harman, Patricia Hewitt, Dawn Primorolo, Keith Vaz, Ed Balls, Ed and David Miliband, Goeff Hoon, Jacqui Smith, and sundry lords (but especially Ahmed).

The public either loathe or distrust them, or both.

It is not that Cranmer wishes to assist this appalling Labour government in any way. But he is increasingly disturbed by the complacency induced and the euphoria exhibited with each new opinion poll which is having the effect of inculcating a sense of inevitability about the outcome of the next general election. A Conservative victory is not assured, and a Cameron premiership is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘Society is coming round to my views on sharia’

According to The Sunday Telegraph, the Archbishop of Canterbury has defended his controversial comments about the introduction of Islamic law to Britain and claimed that ‘public opinion is now behind him’.

If this were true, he should stand for election. And Cranmer would be happy to stand against him.

Except that Dr Williams said no such thing.

This is shoddy and amateur reporting, and only serves as fuel to other reactionary Telegraph journalists who make a living out of prejudicially railing against the Church of England and unjustly impugning the character of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

What the Archbishop actually said was that ‘a number of fairly senior people’ now share his view that the incorporation into UK law of some aspects of Shari’a ‘seems inevitable’. There was no assertion that ‘public opinion is now behind him’, for ‘a number of fairly senior people’ hardly constitutes ‘public opinion’. Instead, he talks of a ‘drift of understanding’ towards what he was saying.

And that there certainly is.

And on this ‘drift of understanding’, he added in a self-deprecating manner, ‘...perhaps I like to think so’. There is no suggestion that this ‘drift of understanding’ constitutes positive affirmation; indeed, there is an expression of humility. It might have assisted if he Archbishop had talked of the limits of Shari’a or the identities of these ‘fairly senior people’. For they are unnamed, unless one be former Lord Chief Justice the Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers.

Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, is quite wrong to lay the blame at the feet of Dr Williams for the Shari’a phenomenon. He said the Archbishop ‘has started a process which is deeply dangerous, damaging to Britain and to Muslim women in Britain. It was a wicked move because it undermines the progressives and gives succour to the extremists’.

Except that Dr Williams did not start this process: he does not possess the authority to permit Shari’a courts in the UK. That was a decision taken by the Government, and they seem content to have these courts arbitrating on matters concerning the family and finance. But it suits the pathologically anti-Anglican journalists at The Telegraph to lay the blame upon the shoulders of the Archbishop, for he looks a little odd, and his pronouncements are usually inaccessible to their GCSE-level of comprehension.

One wonders why they have not blamed the Archbishop for:

Shari’a school dinners
Shari’a banking
Shari’a pizza
Shari'a criminal justice
Shari’a religious tolerance
Shari’a education (Warning: upsetting and graphic imagery)
Shari’a sex equality
Shari’a homophilia
Shari’a freedom of speech

If the Church of England were responsible for all this, the Church of Rome must be responsible for all the social upheavals and ills that have inflicted Europe since AD312.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gordon Brown to meet the Pope

Hail Gordon, devoid of grace.
The Lord is not with thee.
Cursed art thou amongst men,
and cursed is the fruit of thy labours, the recession.
Unholy Gordon, author of incompetence,
intervene no more for the electorate,
from now until the hour of your political death.

It is reported that the Holy See has granted an audience to the Unholy See Nothing. Doubtless His Holiness would like to know more of how this heretical Son-of-the-Manse plans to save the world, for that task really falls under the aegis of His Holiness.

These will be the first talks Mr Brown will have had with the Pope since becoming Prime Minister, and are a sure sign that he has arrived (Mr Brown, that is, not the Pope). While there may be a few orisons for the intercession of St Prudence to liberate the Prime Minister from his economic excesses and political purgatory, there are no indications that he intends to leave office imminently and convert.

During their discussion, Cranmer sincerely hopes the Pope will raise the UK's increasing intolerance of the Christian faith and rising incidences of the persecution of believers.

*For those of His Grace's readers and communicants who might be more inclined towards the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, courtesy of Bella Gerens, he is delighted to reproduce the Latin version of his 'Hail Gordon':

Ave, Gordon, gratia carens,
Dominus non tecum.
Vituperatus tu in hominibus
et vituperatus fructus laborum tuorum, recessio.
Nefas Gordon, pater incompetentiae,
interveni usque non adeo pro nobis civibus
nunc et in hora mortis perduellionis.
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