Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cranmer feriatus est

His Grace’s ashes are off in search of summer.

His august blog of intelligent and erudite comment upon matters religio-political will be taking an intermission.

He exhorts his communicants to play nicely and speak temperately in his absence.

Do unto others as you wish the Conservative Party to do unto you.

In the meantime, on the 450th anniversary of the Reformation in Scotland, The Guardian urges the nation to thank God for this mighty movement, while The Times observes its inherent contribution to the Scottish Enlightenment.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dan Hannan – Defender of the Faith

Cranmer comes to praise Daniel Hannan, not to bury him.
The evil that politicians do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So decree the journalist-guardians.

Cranmer cannot recall the last time he was inundated with so many emails requesting comment upon an issue. And this one perhaps comes as no surprise, though it is an awful lot of ado about nothing.

Well, not quite nothing. For the NHS is a venerable institution. But the column inches and airtime which have been devoted to remarks made by one MEP are out of proportion to any rationality. With the present journalistic purdah on the inept lameness of Mssrs Brown, Mandelson, Darling, Miliband and Ms Harperson – who, you may recall, constitute the Government – one might be forgiven for believing that their actions (or inactions) merit any investigative scrutiny at all. Indeed, with the constant critical focus on matters Tory, one might think the Conservative Party were in power.

The funny thing is that when Cranmer heard Mr Hannan’s first interview on this matter a few months back, he had an inkling that it would come back to haunt him, carefully edited, re-crafted and perversely remoulded to cause harm and make mischief. The journalist-guardians have a habit of carefully selecting and re-ordering one’s words in order to create their story ex nihilo.

They have to earn a crust, you see. And this justifies their slander, misrepresentation, misinformation, disinformation, lies, duplicity and deceit.

After the recent treatment meted out upon MPs and Peers, they ought to be next.

But His Grace digresses.

Daniel Hannan is one of the most upright, honest and fair men in politics. But he is convicted, and, in an age of postmodern relativism with its imposition of a uniform pattern of public utterance, the merest trace of orthodoxy reveals itself as a jarring dissonance.

And he made a few comments in the US about the NHS.

He praised its 1.4 million workers for their patriotism and dedication. But he pointed out that the system has flaws. It is the third biggest employer in the world after the Red Army in China and the Indian National Railways, and this has resulted in bureaucratic waste and inefficiency. He favours personal responsibility for healthcare rather than sprawling state imposition, with the proviso of a ‘safety net’ to protect the poorest and most vulnerable. This would be, he says, more cost effective and efficient than a healthcare system funded wholly out of general taxation. He points out that Britain does not always compare favourably with other countries in terms of survival rates and waiting times, and so proposes transferable health savings accounts (which, he emphasises, would be met by the state for those who lack the financial means).

All of this is consistent with Conservative philosophy, though it is not present policy. But if the party can argue (as they do) for localism, deregulation and the involvement of the private sector in education, why is it anathema to apply the same principles to healthcare?

But David Cameron hath told you Daniel was eccentric:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Daniel answer'd it.
And David is an honourable man.

Andrew Lansley says Daniel is 'negative and distorted' on NHS.

And Andrew is an honourable man.

Timothy Kirkhope says that Daniel's remarks about the NHS were ‘unwise’ and that he could face discipline from the chief whip.

And Timothy is an honourable man.

But Andy Burnham says he is unpatriotic.

And Andy is an honourable man.

And John Prescott says he has made an ‘appalling misrepresentation’ of the NHS.

And John is an honourable man.

And for the journalist-guardians, Adam Boulton of Sky says Daniel is ‘an arrogant right-winger in love with the sound of his own voice’.

And Adam is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men.
But they say he is eccentric / negative / distorted / unpatriotic / arrogant;
And they are all honourable men.
He hath sought to liberate captives from the Treaty of Rome
Whose taxes do the EU’s coffers fill:
Does this in Daniel seem unpatriotic?
When that the poor have cried, Daniel hath wept:
Arrogance should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet David says he is eccentric;
And David is an honourable man.
You all did see that at the Tory Party Conference
He was granted his own slot to make a speech,
To which the Leader did not object: was this eccentricity?
Yet David says he is eccentric;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
Cranmer writes not to disprove what David speaks,
But here he is to write what he does know.
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with His Grace;
His Whiggish heart is on the rack there with Daniel,
Though he hath not the slightest intention of pausing...

With a thousand apologies to the Bard, not least for not having the time to scan the iambs in coherent pentameters. But this ‘story’ is nothing more than a Whig-Tory tension; a Roundhead-Cavalier resentment.

Toryism has traditionally been a synonym for stability and Whiggism for experiment, and these antagonisms coexist in the ‘broad church’ of the Conservative Party. Individuals within the party hanker after one or the other on the basis of ingrained disposition. Toryism is the guardian of order while Whiggism the defender of liberty. They combine a religious adherence to what is ancient and past with a passion for knowledge and enlightenment. Tories are for the establishment of ‘Church and King’: Whigs tend towards Protestant dissention. And the one side has always accused the other of heresy, treason and irreligion.

The Roundhead Mr Hannan holds to such principles as personal liberty, small government, parliamentary supremacy, patriotism, localism and Euro-scepticism. He favours the interests of small traders over concentrated wealth and liberty over the powers of state. Yesterday’s Whigs favoured Parliament against an autocratic King; today’s Whigs favour Parliament against the oligarchic European Commission. It is instinctive for Conservatives of the Whig tradition to oppose any kind of unaccountable, centralised power-base.

But his Anglo-Saxon political right-wing philosophy of free markets, liberty, tolerance, and a sovereign legislature is the antithesis of the continental right-wing of autocracy, cohesion and corporatism. And Mr Hannan is up against the Cavaliers in his party who are Europhile, interventionist, corporatist, statist, and favour the centralised power of the Executive and the consequent sidelining of Parliament (if only in the form of quangos).

Daniel Hannan is the defender of an important tradition within the Conservative Party, indeed, one of its foundational strands of thought. To greet his Whiggish philosophy with ad hominem attacks and to dismiss him as ‘eccentric’ is either to misunderstand his creed or to misrepresent his conviction. Or perhaps ‘eccentric’ is simply the postmodern term for ‘radical’.

All Conservatives should be united on the need for the dispersal and democratisation of power. Daniel Hannan defends this article of faith, and he does so consistently, forthrightly, passionately and eloquently.

Would to God that some of the Tories had his conviction.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Labour minister ‘storms out’ of Muslim wedding

There is quite a bit of ‘Muslim bashing’ going on over this incident, in which Jim Fitzpatrick MP, minister for food and farming, and his wife walked (or stormed) out of a Muslim wedding after refusing to be segregated into male and female areas.

‘Evil Muslims!’ some will cry. ‘Appalling discrimination!’ ‘The unacceptable face of Islam!’ ‘Misogynists!’ Blah, blah.

Cranmer is quite frankly appalled and the arrogance and ignorance of this Labour MP and his wife. His Grace can hear Mr Fitzpatrick now, losing his composure and barking at the hosts: “I don’t just want to sit down, I want to sit down with my wife.” And he adds, contemptuously: “I am a Minister of State, am I not?”

And indeed he is. But the Executive has no status in the London Muslim Centre, where there are people more important than he who hold customs which are not his.

His arrogance and rudeness are symptomatic of this Labour government, which has become insensitive to its traditional supporters and ignorant of its limits.

Where is the courtesy, the grace, the humility, the respect for the fact that this was somebody else’s day? The arrangements were the personal choice of the bride and groom. How they chose to seat people and conduct their wedding was entirely up to them.

But Jim Fitzpatrick has succeeded in turning the biggest and happiest day of their lives into a PR stunt and an anti-Muslim media fest. He has made their wedding day his ‘anti-extremism’ day, creating tarnished memories which will forever overshadow the anniversary.

And he had the audacity to assert that enforced segregation threatened community cohesion. Apparently he fears the growing influence of the Islamic Forum of Europe, which favours shari’a law, some members of which have links to the wedding venue. Mr Fitzpatrick said: “We've been attending Muslim weddings together for years but only recently has this strict line been taken. The segregation of men and women didn’t used to be as much of a strong feature. But it is an indication of the stricter application of rules that is taking place that didn’t exist before. We left so as not to cause offence.”

It is quite incredible that anyone in public life could be so obtuse as not to realise that their actual leaving might cause offence.

And then they chose to talk to the press, doubtless to avoid giving further offence.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “It is a disappointment. I think the stranglehold influence of the IFE is present more than ever before. We are trying to build social cohesion in a community but this is not the way forward.”

The problem, Mr Fitzpatrick, is that your party has mistaken social cohesion for multiculturalism. You have destroyed community cohesion by pandering to the whims of every minority and creating a hierarchy of rights in which each and every disparate group now vies for supremacy. There can be no cohesion where there is no harmony, and no harmony in a climate of perpetual struggle for supreme rights.

But Mr Fitzpatrick declares defiantly: "I’m not pandering to any minority opinion.”

Labour's raison d'être of the past decade has been to pander to every minority opinion - and principally that of Muslims and homosexuals. Jim Fitzpatrick is either a fool or a liar.

A spokesman for the London Muslim Centre astutely observed: ‘Labour is in complete disarray. Maybe Mr Fitzgerald (sic) is worried about the election next year. It’s yet another case of “let’s just blame the Muslims”.’


George Galloway is to contest the Poplar and Canning Town constituency for Respect, and most of the seat is in Tower Hamlets where an estimated 35 per cent of the residents are Bangladeshi Muslims. For them, George Galloway is almost the Mahdi. If Mr Fitzpatrick is to avoid the fate of Oona King, who was ousted from Bethnal Green and Bow by Mr Galloway at the last general election, he clearly needs to shore up his white, working class vote.

What better way than a bit of Muslim-bashing?

Segregated weddings have always been popular among some religious communities, and they are by no means peculiar to Islam. Mr Fitzpatrick must learn to adjust to the culture and be sensitive to religious customs. If he were to attend a papal audience, would he mind being separated from his wife? If he were to attend an orthodox synagogue, a gurdwara, or a service in the Eastern Orthodox Church, would he insist on sitting with his wife and storm out when he was segregated?

You have simply experienced the reality of multiculturalism, Mr Fitzpatrick. Your political philosophy spawned it and your party has propagated it.

Please don’t blame the Muslims for Labour’s incompetence, inadequacy and insufficiency.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Government plans CCTV surveillance in 20,000 homes

Orwell was right. The prophet of tyrannical state omnipotence foresaw all that we are enduring under this liberty-eradicating Labour government, which has made the UK the most spied upon nation in the world – even ahead of China.

Not content with CCTV on every street corner, the retention of all telephone records and emails, the incessant snooping into one’s internet viewing, or plans to issue every citizen with an ID card, the Government is about to force thousands of ‘problem’ families in the country to live with 24-hour CCTV surveillance ‘in a bid to cut back on child abuse and neglect’.

Apparently, 2000 families are already monitored in this fashion: the plan is to extend it to 20,000 at a total estimated cost of £400million.

Under these ‘Family Intervention Projects’, parents will be monitored to make sure children go to bed on time, eat proper meals and attend school.

And Ed Balls wants to see such projects in every local authority area ‘because every area has families that need support’.


Is that now the euphemism for spying?

According to a recent report, the UK has a staggering 4.2 million CCTV cameras – representing 20 per cent of the world’s cameras globally. And they are all watching us in the name of ‘safety’ and for our ‘support’.

With the nationalisation of MPs and the state funding of the nation’s politics, our state-assured safety and state-contracted support amount to nothing more than a dictatorship of conditions and compulsions. And not only in the behavioural sphere, but also in the realm of thought. For no doubt these families will have their television-viewing monitored in order to ensure compliance with the ‘correct’ media diet of moderation, neutrality and relativism.

And no doubt the Thought Police will swoop down on any family which dares to express politically or religiously ‘incorrect’ views.

New Labour. New Britain.
O brave new world.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An eye for a tooth

Look here, upon this picture, and on this,
The genuine presentment of two pairs of vermin.

Those on the left need no introduction: their stone faces are icons of depravity and barbarism.

Those on the right are the mother and step-father of ‘Baby P’ – Peter Connelly – who died in agony in a blood-stained cot with 50 injuries to his body, including blows to the head so hard he swallowed a tooth, missing fingernails ripped out in some form of torture, a torn earlobe, eight fractured ribs and a broken back.

Hindley and Brady were found guilty of torture and murder and sentenced to life imprisonment – in the days when life meant life.

Connelly and Barker were found guilty of... err... well, he got 12 years for ‘causing death’ and she got five for ‘allowing’ it.

She will be eligible for parole in just three years.

It was not quite murder, you see. She only stood by while her son was repeatedly attacked.

Of course, the effect is the same: Peter is no more.

On earth, anyway.

Just like Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey, and Edward Evans are no more.

And Peter was tortured.

Just like the victims of Hindley and Brady.

And in some ways worse, for those who were inflicting the torture and privation were the very people he looked to for love and protection.

One wonders what today’s criminal justice system would make of Hindley and Brady.

They would have been sent to clinical psychologists and psychotherapists so the courts could hear of how the ‘broken society’ made them selfish, calculating and manipulative; how loneliness drove them to an internet networking site and how they spent their days drinking vodka, watching pornographic films and having sex. And consultants who have studied women who abuse or collude with a partner's abuse would have declared that Hindley is a victim: in cases like this there is often this early experience of abuse and trauma and neglect in the mother's background.

And Hindley’s evil would have been rationalised as the development of a narcissistic attitude or way of relating to children as an extension of herself; and so she treats children with the cruelty, contempt and neglect to which she was herself exposed. Accounts of her therapy would have disclosed notes which revealed her thoughts: ‘Life is bullshit’; ‘I'm fed up with letting people down. All my life I have messed up. When will I ever get it right?’. And we would have heard of her low self-esteem and suicidal tendencies: ‘Sometimes I wonder why I am here as I always feel I'm useless and worthless. People should stay away from me as I have always messed up everyone who's close to me. I'm a jinx to all I know.’

The court would then have heard that these cases are not rare. And because of the scale of this the dynamics of the maternal abuse, neglect or collusion in a partner's abuses should not be overlooked. It needs to be examined, understood and addressed, because scarred, abused and love-impoverished children grow up to be scarred, abusive, love-impoverished adults.

And poor Brady, with an IQ of 60, went to a failing school which Ofsted had put in special measures. He showed great promise, but the state system let him down very badly. He would have applied for Oxbridge under Lord Mandelson’s proposals for lower entry criteria for the deprived, but the ‘broken society’ got the better of him.

We would have heard tales of how Brady’s father was a sex offender and always absent. And of a neglectful mother and other relatives who lured him into a paedophile ring. And so he too is a victim, and not wholly responsible for the abuse he meted out on innocent children.

And so this context mitigates their sentences, because they genuinely tried to make the best out of their unpromising starts in life. But they lived in a private hell from which they could not escape, and they should not be damned for circumstances beyond their control. They should be understood.

And there would have been more psychiatric assessments and a probation report. And then they would have been released on parole because they were considered to be no longer a risk to young children.

And on their release, they would have been given new identities and anonymity under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, the right to life, and Article 8, the right to privacy and family life. And they would have been assured of round-the-clock police protection, all at the expense of the taxpayer.

And Hindley and Brady would have been moved into a nice home, right next door to you.

And you would never have known.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Elders of the Earth

It sounds like planet Earth’s representative body to the United Federation of Planets, except that the creator of Star Trek ensured that interplanetary affairs were conducted in accordance with the principles of liberal democracy, and Starfleet combined defence, diplomacy and research in a humanitarian and peacekeeping effort which makes the United Nations look positively palaeozoic.

Apparently, our planet’s Elders are:

Kofi Annan
Ela Bhatt
Lakhdar Brahimi
Gro Brundtland
Fernando H Cardoso
Jimmy Carter
Graça Machel
Mary Robinson
Desmond Tutu
Muhammad Yunus

One reads that they are ‘an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity’.

That’s nice.

But Jimmy Carter?

They must all obviously subscribe to the Mandelan political and religious worldview in order to be elevated to the status of planetary dignitary. The hubris is passing belief.

Apparently ‘the story of the Elders’ (they are legendary, you see) ‘started in a conversation between the entrepreneur Richard Branson and the musician Peter Gabriel (what, no Bono?). The idea they discussed was a simple one (indeed). In an increasingly interdependent world – a global village – could a small, dedicated group of independent elders help to resolve global problems and ease human suffering?

'For inspiration, they looked to traditional societies, where elders often help to share wisdom and resolve disputes within communities. They took their idea to Nelson Mandela, who agreed to support it. With the help of Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu, Mandela set about bringing the Elders together.

‘Prospective members were invited to join on the basis of a distinct set of criteria. Firstly, and most importantly, they should be independent. They should have earned international trust, demonstrated integrity and built a reputation for inclusive, progressive leadership.’

But Jimmy Carter?

‘Mandela announced the formation of the Elders in July 2007, on the occasion of his 89th birthday, at a ceremony in Johannesburg. During the ceremony, he described the mission of the group:

"The Elders can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes. They will reach out to those who most need their help. They will support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict and inspire hope where there is despair."

They should credit their manifesto to St Francis of Assisi.

‘The Elders amplify the voices of those who work hard to be heard, challenge injustice, stimulate dialogue and debate and help others to work for positive change in their societies.

‘The Elders do not hold public office and have no political or legislative power. Because they are not bound by the interests of any single nation, government or institution, they are free to speak boldly and with whomever they choose on any issue, and to take any action that they believe is right.

‘When undertaking initiatives, the Elders are committed to listening to the views of all groups and individuals – and especially women and young people. The Elders work both publicly and behind the scenes and at all levels - local, national and international - lending support and advice when invited, and sometimes when it is not.’

All of which makes Cranmer wonder why he has never heard of them. What immeasurable success they have been having in Israel/Gaza, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Georgia, Colombia, Kurdistan, Darfur...

Perhaps the make-up of the group explains the deficiency.

They missed out Oprah Winfrey.

And what ‘Elders of the Earth’ would be complete without the greatest religio-political achievers?

Where is Margaret Thatcher?
Pope Benedict XVI?
George W Bush?
Stephen Harper?
Rudy Giuliani?
Dick Cheney?
Condoleezza Rice?

Ah, wait. They are all of the Right...

Monday, August 10, 2009

The hypocrisy of trade union leaders

There was a time when ‘trade union’ was synonymous with Christian morality; such notions as justice, equity, fraternity which in England were born out of Methodism deriving from the spiritual state of the nation during the industrial age. Just as pre-industrial religiosity stressed individual faith within the context of obedience to the church and state, modern evangelicalism laid stress on faith in the context of the individual as a free moral agent. Working people created their own systems of moral authority in plebeian chapels and forged their identity as a self-managed organisation for the men of the industrial age who had little to do with government and nothing to do with the state church. The Christian Socialists expounded a belief in the brotherhood of man and the consequent development of mutual obligations. They called for moral responsibility, a just distribution of wealth, the fostering of initiative and self-restraint.

GK Chesterton remarked upon the parallels between Christian and Socialist collectivism which both arose from compassion for the unfortunate and from the belief that evil in society emanates from the incessant accumulation of riches.

But that was another age.

Now, trade union leaders are content to receive salary increases of up to 20 per cent while many of their members are having their wages cut, frozen or while they are being made redundant.

The largest rise reportedly went to Tony Woodley, the joint general secretary of Unite, whose salary increases from £88,359 to £105,761. Derek Simpson, Unite's joint general secretary, received a salary of £97,027 – up 4 per cent on the previous year – along with housing benefit of £38,340 and £24,480 toward his chauffeur-driven car.

Billy Hayes, leader of the Communication Workers Union – responsible for the recent postal strikes – has received a 5 per cent pay rise to £88,438.

Bob Crow, the militant leader of the RMT rail union, saw his pay and benefits rise by 8 per cent to £91,646 in 2008. He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘I don't really know if my pay rise was inflation busting.’

Well, Mr Crow, your ignorance is alarming. Your members ought to be profoundly concerned that they are being led not only by an egotistical bully, but by an hypocrite or an ignorant moron.

One might have hoped that those who preach social justice, equality and fraternity might lead by example and forego such obscene salary increases during a time of economic recession and hardship – if only out of seeming compassion.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Gordon Brown does God – again.

Apparently, the Prime Minister recorded an interview with a Christian radio station in advance in order that it might be broadcast to the nation in his absence to reassure us all that he is still in charge.

And not only in charge, but doing God.


And in the interview, broadcast this morning at 8.00am, the Prime Minister insisted that Britain is still Christian country.

He further defended the right of worshippers to express their faith in public.

Which is convenient for him, but not so convenient for the odd nurse, teacher, foster parent, registrar or adoption agency.

Gordon Brown asserts that the country's values are ‘still based on traditional religious teachings’.


In that word alone is the evidence of the faith which dare not speak its name.

He says it is wrong that the devout should be forced to keep their beliefs private.

But the devout of all faiths do not feel they have to.

Just the Christians.

There has been a steady stream of public sector employees who have been stigmatised, suspended and even sacked for merely daring to talk about their personal beliefs. Nurses, teachers, registrars and adoption agencies are all obliged by the state to ‘keep their beliefs private’. An an EU equality directive has raised further fears that Christian groups might be sued by anyone who declares themselves offended by their words, practices or imagery.

The Prime Minister, whose father was a Church of Scotland minister, told Premier Christian Radio: "I think the role of religion and faith in what people sometimes call the public square is incredibly important. In Britain we are not a secular state as France is, or some other countries. It's true that the role of official institutions changes from time to time, but I would submit that the values that all of us think important – if you held a survey around the country of what people thought was important, what it is they really believed in, these would come back to Judaeo-Christian values, and the values that underpin all the faiths that diverse groups in our society feel part of."

It is just a pity that 12 years of New Labour have created such a context of hostility towards the faith which yielded those very liberties by which the faith is being cleansed from the public sphere.

Asked if he thought it would be better if Christianity were ‘privatised’, he replied: "I think it's impossible because when we talk about faith, we are talking about what people believe in, we are talking about the values that underpin what they do, we are talking about the convictions that they have about how you can make for a better society. So I don't accept this idea of privatisation – I think what people want to do is to make their views current. There is a moral sense that people have, perhaps 50 years ago the rules were more detailed and intrusive, perhaps now what we're talking about is boundaries, beyond which people should not go. And I think that's where it's important that we have the views of all religions and all faiths, and it's important particularly that we're clear about what kind of society we want to be. So I think the idea that you can say: 'What I do in my own life is privatised and I'm not going to try to suggest that these are values that can bind your society together', would be wrong."

He may not accept the idea of privatisation, but by talking about ‘boundaries’ and accommodating ‘the views of all religions and all faiths’, he certainly moves into the realm of 'privatisation'. What are boundaries to some are not to others; what is liberating to some is confining to others; what is innocuous to one is offensive to another.

And time and again Labour have sided with the offended, such that the two main groups to have benefited from a decade of equality legislation are the very loud, proud and mutually-exclusive homosexuals and Muslims. Peter Tatchell and Muhammad Abdul Bari now outrank the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster in the hierarchy of rights and in their access to the highest echelons of power; in the extent to which government heeds their every pronouncement and yields to their every demand.

And the one group which has endured systematic erosion of its liberties is the Christians.

The Prime Minister was asked directly if he believed the Government gave preferential treatment to Muslims. He responded: "When you've got a society that is diverse, what happens is for a time, the issue is integrating your minorities into that society. And so people want to make sure that people who may feel discriminated against have the chance to get jobs, or get education, or get chances that otherwise they might not have. Then people – rightly, I think – say: 'But what about the integration of your society as a whole – how can people work together, how can you have a more cohesive society'?"

That’ll be a yes then.

And it won’t just be ‘for a time’.

The Prime Minister needs to rediscover his ‘Presbyterian conscience’ soon.

Before it becomes illegal even to possess one.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Who is in charge of Government?

There is presently a degree of confusion with regard to which of these ‘deputies’ is in charge while the Prime Minister is away. Who is the official vice-PM? That is, who is the vicarious prime minister, or, for those with an appreciation of etymology, the vicar of the Prime Minister?

The plan was for Harry Harpy Hattie Harperson Harpy Hormone Harriet Harman to experience the ecstasy of primacy in her imagination during this week, and then for Peter Mandelson to lord it over the entire Cabinet (or the three over whom he does not presently exercise authority) for the duration of next.

But this abysmal shower cannot even coordinate their holidays correctly.

While the Prime Minister is swinging his sporran in Scotland, Ms Harman has gone off to play the Duchess of Malfi a few days early – while Lord Mandelson is still working on his tan in Corfu.

So the country finds itself in something of an interregnum – a whole weekend without any PM or deputy or a vice or a vicar.

But who will notice?

Who will care?

Is anyone actually missing Gordon Brown?

Is not life rather more pleasant without him grinding on about how he is getting on with the job, without ultra-feminist Harriet Harman telling men they are all useless, and without Lord Mandelson telling the Prime Minister and Harriet Harman that they both are?

But while Cranmer acknowledges that Ms Harmon has a degree of democratic legitimacy – having been elected to Parliament by the good people of Camberwell and Peckham, and to the position of deputy leader of the Labour Party by misguided members of that party – His Grace does not believe that the country has been governed by an unelected Peer of the Realm for almost 300 years.

When Queen Anne died on 1st August 1714, her successor, the Elector of Hanover (George I), was in his German dominion. Baron Parker of Macclesfield was designated Regent of Great Britain, Ireland and the realms beyond the seas until the new King was able to take the Crown. He reigned until 18th September, and was the last Peer to exercise sovereign power...

...until the advent of The Right Honourable the Baron Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the County of Durham, First Secretary of State and Lord President of the Privy Council and Secretary of State for Business and Secretary of State for Innovation and Skills.

As of Monday, the Royal Prerogative will rest with him.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The most important year in history – does Gutenberg 1439 really beat Jesus 5BC?

According to readers of The Economist, it does. The invention of the printing press is apparently more important than the birth of Jesus.

You might expect that of readers of The Economist. After all, there would be no such dedicated group if their beloved magazine had never been printed, and they have ever been a little myopic.

But the single most important date in history?

Andrew Marr, who suggested the poll, is persuaded that 1776 trumps all others.


It is perhaps symptomatic of the age that the birth of technology should be considered more important than the man who split history in two and brought salvation to the world. Johannes Gutenberg may have figured out how to print words on paper, but it was Jesus Christ who healed the sick, cast out devils, destroyed the power of Satan, led the captives free from Hades and sacrificed himself in an agonising death in order that we might all be saved.

It all makes inventing the printing press sound something of a breeze.

Words are of little consequence without the Word.

As the poll presently stands, some 2,600 have voted and the most important dates stack up thus:

1. 1439: Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press
2. 5BC: the birth of Jesus
3. 1953: the discovery of DNA
4. 1945: the fall of Nazism and the atomic bomb
5. 1776: the year America declared its independence from Britain

The debate began with an article by Andrew Marr in the summer issue of Intelligent Life magazine. He and five Economist journalists drew up an informal shortlist of important years and voters were allowed to plump for one of their selections or choose any other year of their choice.

Other suggestions included: the year the Ford Model T hit the road (1907); the birth of Mohammed (570); Isaac Newton invented calculus (1693); Charles Darwin wrote about evolution (1859); the twin towers fell (2001); and the French had their revolution (1789). At least one reader thought Michael Jackson’s death was worth mentioning, and quite a few felt the most important year in the whole of history was the one when they were born.

The birth of Jesus was proposed by Adrian Wooldridge, The Economist's Washington bureau chief, who is not even a believer. He wrote:

The most important year in history is both easy to identify and hard to pinpoint. Easy to identify because we use it to divide our calendar into “before” and “after”. Hard to pinpoint because there is some confusion about whether we got the calendar right.

You do not have to be a believer (and the author of this article is not) to recognise that Jesus’s birth was the most important event in human history. Jesus inspired the world’s most popular religion and plays an important role in both Judaism and Islam. But he also shaped all subsequent secular history. The Roman Catholic church is the world’s oldest global institution. The Reformation, which helped to inspire individualism and capitalism, was an attempt to return the church to its original purity. The French and Russian revolutions were inspired, in large part, by hatred of the religious establishment. Two thousand years after Jesus’s birth, about 2 billion people, or a third of the world’s population, call themselves Christians.

The frustrating thing is that we cannot pinpoint Jesus’s birth-year exactly. The Christian calendar presumes that it took place in year 1 - everything before that is BC. But modern scholars have complicated the picture. The Gospel of Matthew places Jesus’s birth under the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4BC. The Gospel of Luke says that he was born during the first census of Judea in 6AD. The consensus is that he was born between 6 and 4BC. Let’s call it 5BC for the sake of simplicity - not as clear-cut as some of the other dates suggested, but then the year of Jesus’s birth is such a momentous event that it makes other contenders for the most important year look feeble by comparison.

Cranmer has been contacted by The Economist because, although they appear to have announced a final result, this poll remains open.

It appears that we have the opportunity to impress upon the world that the one who separated from BC from AD, and who bequeathed to the world the manifesto which has influenced every political manifesto since, is rather more significant than the one who first printed it.

Do vote. It is August, and readers and communicants will have little better to do. Cranmer is informed that the poll will probably close next week, and they are not expecting it to change vastly.

Let us prove them wrong. Cast your votes HERE.

And forward the link to as many as you know who might care.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Woman marries fairground ride

Well, why not?

Marriage long since ceased to be the foundation of family life in which children are born and nurtured.

It has ceased being between a man and a woman.

Mayor Boris once observed: "If gay marriage was OK - and I was uncertain on the issue - then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog."

And if a dog, why not a fairground ride?

Alfred Lord Tennyson – on the bicentenary of his birth

It will pass mostly unremarked. There will be no commemorative stamps, no service of thanksgiving, no minted coins; just as there were not for the quatercentenary of the sainted John Milton.

“Perhaps Tennyson does not deserve it,” Cranmer hears his communicants mutter under their cynical breath. “Who’s Tennyson?” muse some of his readers. “What the hell’s this weirdo on about today?” blogs the green-eyed god.

Alfred Tennyson was born on 6th August 1809, to become arguably the most popular and certainly the most prolific of the Victorian poets. He was Poet Laureate, succeeding William Wordsworth, from 1850 to 1892 – the longest tenure in the post’s history. His verse is pure melody – its musicality is a symphony of luxurious shapes and textures which beguile any who yield to the rhythmic imagery. And he was among the first generation of poets to leave audible and visual corporeal traces of himself — he was photographed and his voice recorded on wax cylinders reciting his own poetry.

According to the Oxford Book of Literary Quotations, he is (surprisingly) the most quoted English poet after Shakespeare. He created a number of phrases which have entered the vernacular, including: ‘Nature, red in tooth and claw’; '’Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all’; ‘Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die’; ‘Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers’; and ‘The old order changeth, yielding place to new’.

He twice refused the Peerage offered by Disraeli, only finally to accept it from Gladstone.

But Cranmer can forgive him this awry politicking.

Towards the end of his life, Lord Tennyson revealed that his religious beliefs defied convention. He wrote in In Memoriam - a work he publish anonymously after the death of his closest friend: ‘There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.’ The poem was a great favourite of Queen Victoria, who found it a source of solace after the death of Prince Albert in 1861. She said of it: "Next to the Bible, In Memoriam is my comfort."

In Maud, he wrote: ‘The churches have killed their Christ.’ In Locksley Hall Sixty Years After, he observed: ‘Christian love among the churches look'd the twin of heathen hate.’ And in his dramatic work Becket, he opined: ‘We are self-uncertain creatures, and we may, Yea, even when we know not, mix our spites and private hates with our defence of Heaven.’

The churches have killed their Christ.

Christian love among the churches look’d the twin of heathen hate.


There will doubtless be a little something on Radio 4, and the odd speech on the Isle of Wight. But that’s about it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The No10 Petition against the legalisation of assisted suicide

The irrepressible and indefatigable Nadine Dorries intends to lay down a private member’s bill in the autumn to counter the Law Lords’ demand that the law against assisted suicide be ‘clarified’. She opposes moves to permit what Edward Leigh terms 'creeping euthanasia by the back door', and believes that the only clarification needed will be that everyone who helps someone commit suicide should be charged.

It had been assumed that the ‘clarification’ announced by the Director of Public Prosecutions would apply only to those who helped relatives to travel abroad in order to end their lives in places where assisted dying is legal. But yesterday, Keir Starmer said the new rules would apply to those who help people take their lives in the UK as well.

Ms Dorries said: “The Law Lords called for clarification of the existing law; they did not call for Keir Starmer to assume undemocratic legislative powers and create new law.”

She added: “Whilst a few may feel that they would personally benefit should assisted suicide become legal, many more would be subjected to an unbearable pressure and worry over which they would have no control.”


In order to assist Ms Dorries, and to express something of the strength of opinion that exists to oppose this sinister ‘clarification’, Cranmer exhorts all of his readers and communicants to sign the No10 petition for the law to remain unchanged.

Until last week, there were only several petitions calling for assisted suicide to be made legal. But now there is one arguing to the contrary. It says:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to retain the law that makes it a criminal offence to assist another person to commit suicide".

The author, Tony Bennett, explains:

“The law currently makes it a criminal offence to assist another person to commit suicide. There has been a stream of media stories about British people travelling to Dignitas in Switzerland to be killed because they wish to end their lives. These are all very tragic stories. However, it is important to note that in recent years no-one in Britain has been prosecuted for taking their relatives to Switzerland to die, or in respect of other cases of assisted suicide in the U.K. But to decriminalise assisted suicide would - as many commentators have observed - make many elderly people vulnerable to relatives who may have ulterior motives for wishing them to die early. The law as it is acts as a deterrent to those wishing to assist a relative to die early. There is therefore a very strong case NOT to change the law, despite the increasing clamour in some quarters for assisted suicide to be made legal.”

Let the strength of feeling be heard the length and breadth of the land: life is sacred; it is the gift of God; it is not for man to terminate or to assist his fellow man in the termination thereof, for that is to defile what is holy and offend against the created order.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

How to create a party in one’s own image

There is something more than a little objectionable, not to say sinister, about the Conservative Party’s intention to limit candidate selection in its ‘plum seats’ to just six good men and true, three of which must be women, at least one of which must preferably be a one-legged Asian lesbian who knows a thing or two about defence.

These six will be hand-picked for each Conservative Association by two of the most powerful people in CCHQ – John Maples MP and Baroness Shireen Ritchie, who hold the future of the party and the make-up of the next government in their hands: it is theirs to mould, in accordance with their own professional preferences and political proclivities. Out will go the ‘Right-wing troublemakers’, and in will come ‘a new breed of youthful and inexperienced “Chloë-bots”,’ as the telegenic, smooth-talking, compliant candidates are known, named after the 27-year-old Chloë Smith, who was recently elected MP for Norwich North. David Cameron said she is ‘exactly the sort of MP I want to see in the House of Commons for the Conservative Party’.

It should not be for the Leader to declare, but for the people to decide 'the sort of MP' they wish to elect.

But from the thousands who have applied to join the élite Approved List, about 30 others are also ‘exactly the sort’ and are about to have their path to power assured.

Many are called, but few are chosen.

And the many have passed hours of arduous psychometric tests, attended weekend suitability assessments, completed demanding real-life exercises, taken the trouble to acquire high-profile testimonials and references, dedicated months to being mentored by an obliging MP, spent cumulative weeks mind-numbingly researching constituencies and submitting bespoke CVs, and loyally paid their on-going ‘flat tax’ annual fees - fixed irrespective of income - for the privilege of remaining 'approved’.

But some are evidently more approved than others.

And these may not be the best, the most loyal, the most experienced, the most knowledgeable, or even the most inspirational.

They are those who, for one reason or another, have caught the eye of John Maples or Shireen Ritchie; those who ‘fit the mould’ of David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

“Which of you shall we say doth love us most,” he asks of the prospective candidates, like Lear dividing his kingdom.

And like Goneril and Regan, the candidates feel obliged to fawn and flatter, to caress and cultivate, to oblige and adulate in order that they might be awarded a plum portion of the kingdom in the home counties, with shadowy forests and with champains rich'd, with plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads.

What is it which makes the Conservative Party’s candidates’ department exempt itself from David Cameron’s commitment to localism, devolution, subsidiarity and democracy? While the Leader preaches the gospel of demos, the party practises kratos.

Surely the Leader is not a centralising control-freak. Surely he is not a hypocrite. Surely he would not talk of shifting power from the state to the citizens and from Whitehall to town halls while centralising his own bureaucracy. Surely he would not preach the liberating mantra of ‘let the people decide’ while actually empowering his party’s unaccountable technocrats to thwart the popular will.

If the flourishing, literate, mature, responsible and civil local Conservative associations are not ready for democracy, what makes Mr Cameron believe the town halls are?

It gives Cranmer no pleasure to make these observations. But how can one persuade the electorate that one stands for something out of conviction if one’s instinct is to practise the contrary. Is a man not best judged by what he does in secret?

Cranmer perfectly understands the need for a new ‘gene pool’ of candidates, appealing beyond what John Bercow once referred to as the base of ‘ageing, white, male, rural and southern supporters’.

But why does Mr Cameron not trust his local associations to deliver this?

Why does he seek to impose candidates through the old boys’ network or fawning sycophancy?

As he questions each candidate to assess their suitability, he will listen intently as they eloquently quantify their love. And in his omnipotence he will accordingly divide the kingdom between them in proportion to their allegiance. Goneril is awarded the glory of a ‘safe seat’ vacated by an aged bed-blocker; Regan is apportioned a ‘key marginal’; but poor Cordelia is banished to a ‘no hope’ seat or, indeed, to no seat at all.

Her only redemption would be to declare herself a lesbian.

It is puzzling in the extreme that the Conservative Party has learnt nothing from the electorate’s reaction to the controlling and centralising tendencies of New Labour. When the people of Wales wanted Rhodri Morgan, Labour imposed Alun Michael; when the people of London wanted Ken Livingstone, Labour imposed Frank Dobson; when the people of Blaenau Gwent wanted to select their own candidate, Labour imposed an all-women shortlist. It is the Socialist way.

Yet in each and every instance, through the simple, patient application of democracy, the people ultimately got what they wanted, with significant humiliation for New Labour in the process. It is not entirely beyond the realms of possibility that proud and independently-minded Conservative associations, increasingly exasperated by an autocratic centralised power antithetical to all that is being preached about localism, might eventually stick two fingers up to this ultra-Approved List, which is essentially the resurrected ‘A-List’, and begin to field their own ‘democratic’ or ‘independent’ Conservative candidates.

If this were to happen, CCHQ would be yearning for the days of mild irritation caused by UKIP.

Meritocracy is foundational to Conservatism. It beggars belief that the Conservative Party can simultaneously declare that they believe in freedom, or the devolution of powers to the lowest possible level, or that they eschew political correctness, when they are intent on running their own internal affairs precisely to the contrary. The Party that derides the social engineering implicit in New Labour’s ‘access targets’ for university admissions is now demanding those very targets for itself. If such a policy is so abhorrent in further education, how much more objectionable is it when applied to those who may one day govern us?

It is worth considering that had the Conservative Party had central control of its MPs throughout its history, it would doubtless have removed Churchill, Eden and Macmillan from its approved list. And it is highly likely that they would have become more than a little exasperated by a shrill candidate called Margaret Thatcher who complained numerous times to Central Office of her inability to get selected.

These would never have found a place in David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

What on earth is wrong with local associations having the freedom to select the candidate they wish to promote and for whom they will knock on a thousand doors? For all Tony Blair’s control freakery or presidential aspirations, even he never went as far as interfering in such a freedom or declaring that someone is ‘exactly the sort of candidate’ he wishes to see in Parliament. Clare Short was sacked from the Government, critical of party policy, contemptuous of her leader, outspoken and offensive in the media, and even allegedly breached the official secrets act. The magnitude of her transgressions make the alleged misdemeanour of Howard Flight look like a walk in the park. Yet, despite such conduct causing acute embarrassment to her leader and her party, even she was permitted to stand for the party she had served for decades.

Such independence should not only be maintained, it should be actively encouraged. And it is a cause to which the Conservative Party above all parties should commit itself. For when the King will one day need backbench support for the passage of legislation or the consensual abolition of numerous safe Conservative seats in order to diminish the number of MPs by 10 per cent, it is then that Goneril and Regan might display their true colours.

And Prime Minister Cameron will howl for his banished Cordelia.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Bruce Anderson: The great ethical questions that society chooses to ignore

Every so often, an article is so lucid and thought-provoking that it is worth reproducing and preserving in its entirety. This from Bruce Anderson in The Independent:

The level of moral debate in modern Britain is pathetically, contemptibly low.

Death is often messy. The same is now true of aspects of the law relating to death. To assist in a suicide – including one in which death would take place abroad – is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Yet those who have had dealings with Dignitas in Switzerland have not been prosecuted. The authorities are as reluctant to charge them as juries would be to convict them. The law lords have now declared that this is unsatisfactory and that matters must be clarified; individuals are entitled to know where they stand.

It is easier to state that principle than to put it into practice. The debate on assisted suicide did not create the uncertainty. It merely highlighted it. When it comes to individual rights and behaviour, the law is adrift, for two basic reasons. First, there has been a breakdown in the relationship between our legal code and Christian morality. Second, it is not clear when, or why, the state is entitled to regulate the private behaviour of adults.

England was never a theocracy. But over the centuries, the criminal law reinforced theology, imposing pains and penalties on those who broke the Church's rules. Until the 1960s, the laws on abortion, divorce and homosexuality all reflected Christian doctrine. Then everything changed. Today, we have a largely post-Christian criminal code. Inasmuch as there are echoes of the Ten Commandments, as on murder and theft, these simply reflect the legal norms of any civilised society. Assisted suicide is one exception. Clearly, any Christian must regard suicide as a sin. It is a blasphemy for man to encroach on the prerogatives of his Creator. But how can a state prepared to tolerate almost 200,000 abortions a year possibly object to a handful of suicides, who were at least exercising their free choice?

As long as it was a free choice. Anyone but the most unleavened libertarian would agree that a civilised state has a duty to protect the vulnerable (though not, it seems, foetuses: the most vulnerable of all). Those who are considering suicide are likely to be vulnerable. If any change in the law is contemplated, there would need to be safeguards to ensure that those who wish to be helped to die are of sound mind and a settled disposition, which they have arrived at voluntarily and without being coerced in any way. So we might conclude that the state is entitled to protect the rights of the potential suicide, while ultimately conceding his right to decide his own departure date.

Set down in cold print – cold being the word – that proposition might arouse alarm. A lot of people, whose residual Christianity has declined to a trite superstition with no more intellectual content than the astrology column, will still feel unhappy. They might even reach for the word sacred. They are entitled to do so. If God did not create man, then man created God. Christian ethics – and Christian aesthetics – express mankind's noblest impulses, including the belief that life is sacred (and life needs all the help it can get). So a refrigerated review of the bureaucratic arrangements necessary to ensure that a suicide's papers were in order might strike many people as a sophisticated reversion to the ethics of the jungle.

Any such reaction is mere squeamishness, which would be more usefully deployed on the abortion figures. If you believe that the law of England should be based on Christian morality, you are entitled to argue that the current law should be enforced. But even if you had your way, you would find that squeamishness had changed sides, and that jurymen who found the general principle repugnant were still determined to act on it. Given the general temper of our laws and our society, there are no grounds for criminalising assisted suicide with safeguards – and even devout Christians should ask themselves a question. Whom would the Christ of the New Testament find it easier to forgive: Sir Edward and Lady Downes, or a doctor who kills foetuses in industrial quantities?

Apropos of questions, the suicide debate raises a basic one. If God does not own us, who does? There would appear to be two claimants: the state, and ourselves. Although the thought of being owned by the state might seem excessively Germanic, any effective modern state must have the right to regulate the behaviour of its citizens, and charge them a great deal for doing so. But where does this end? Are we the state's livestock? If not, why are governments entitled to prohibit certain drugs?

It is possible to construct a case for prohibition that might claim to navigate a middle passage between livestockism and libertarianism. Few of us wish to live an a society in which decadence is unrestrained. So why take the risk of legalising drugs, when there are enough social ills to cope with already? Reinforced by the political hazards of advocating change, that is a fair summary of many politicians' views on the matter. But even if it sounds realistic, it is not intellectually rigorous.

If we are worried about decadence, what about the cretinising effect of watching television for hours and hours, day after day? What about the many schools which, despite considerable receipts from the taxpayer, have given up the attempt to pass on values, culture or a knowledge of Britishness? Above all, what about the disintegration of the family? Could it be that the battle against drugs is only a displacement activity, especially as we seem to be losing it?

The arguments are finely balanced. But that brings us to another problem. There is no argument. The level of moral debate in modern Britain is pathetically, contemptibly low. That is another undeniable sign of decadence, and we should all be ashamed. This applies a fortiori to the churches, which should be taking the lead. Instead, they appear to be suffering from a collapse of intellectual and theological self-confidence. That is especially true of the Church of England, which has ceased to offer any coherent moral leadership.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is said to be clever. The main evidence for this is his ability to dress up accessible thoughts in incomprehensible prose. Not many years ago, if a question such as attempted suicide had arisen, everyone would have wanted to know what the Archbishop thought. Now, no one is interested, and he is probably too busy anyway, writing another speech about homosexual clergy. He must be the most ineffective Archbishop of all time. Under his lack of leadership, his Church is giggling its way to oblivion.

Other sources of moral guidance must be found. The Roman Catholics have a difficulty: their version of the homosexual imbroglio is still causing difficulties and undermining their self-confidence. Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, is an impressive figure, though less good at publicising himself than his predecessor, Lord Jakobovits. If it had not been for a couple of millennia of disputes, Margaret Thatcher would have loved to make him Archbishop of Canterbury.

But even if the Anglicans were in better shape, the churchmen cannot do everything, while too many philosophers are solely concerned with the meaning of meaning. If one wants to find contemporary intellectuals who are capable of addressing the big ethical questions, the best source is the judiciary. We need a Royal Commission, chaired by the retiring senior law lord, Tom Bingham.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Harriet Harman: you can’t trust the Roman Catholic Church

This is the logical corollary of her assertion that ‘you can’t trust men in power’ and her aversion to the notion that leadership is male.

The Church of England must be making considerable progress - in her eyes.

And the Conservative Party must be an unending source of inspiration to her.

“I don’t agree with all-male leaderships,” she said. “Men cannot be left to run things on their own. I think it’s a thoroughly bad thing to have a men-only leadership.”

Well, tell that to Jesus.

If Harriet Harman were a man saying this of women, she would be pilloried to kingdom come.

And yet, Cranmer thinks she has a point.

There is much empirical evidence to support her assertion that ‘you can't trust men in power’. There is the whole of history for a start, which is replete with examples since time immemorial of man’s propensity to untrustworthiness in the exercise of power - temporal and spiritual. They have been proven time and again to be venal, corrupt, deceitful and war-mongering.

But this is not a quality of manhood; it is an attribute of power.

The king and the queen, the emperor and empress, the lord and the lady, the priest and the nun - all have shown themselves to be perfectly capable of the most disghusting excesses and the most inhuman and perverted of abuses.

Power corrupts whether exercised by men or women, though perhaps it corrupts more when comingled with testosterone, which some women posses more than others.

And if one needs evidence of its corrupting effect on the fairer sex, one only has to examine the career of Harriet Harman herself. She has skilfully manipulated her way almost to the top (and, Lord Mandelson permitting, she may yet get there), riding roughshod over those who have stood in her way and by attempting to change the rules to ensure that her gender is favoured irrespective of merit.

She clearly has a problem with men, possibly as a result of a neglectful or abusive father and/or an untrusting or overbearing mother. One cannot make laws or govern a country on the basis of psychological projection.

O, hang on...

But if leadership is not male, a fortiori is it not able-bodied, heterosexual or Caucasian.

And who says it should be human?

For is not that a little specie-ist?

If Harriet Harman’s quest for equality were to reach its logical endgame, the next Labour government (God forbid) would be an anti-meritocratic oligarchical construct consisting of: a man and a woman; a disabled man and a disabled woman; a homosexual and a lesbian; a disabled homosexual and a disabled lesbian; a black/Asian man and a black/Asian woman; a black/Asian disabled homosexual and a black/Asian disabled lesbian.

And an ape.

Or a dog or a rat.

Or is this the Conservative Party’s preferred list of candidates?

One-legged Asian lesbians have a secure future in politics, whichever party is in power.

But it is to be hoped that they might also know a thing or two about defence, foreign affairs, health or education.

Archbishop Cranmer’s statistics

His Grace has been of considerable global interest throughout the month of July, due principally to an additional 12,362 searching for information on Michael Jackson’s funeral, which post received 27,655 hits and has become his most-viewed post ever (dwarfing the previous highest on Lord Ahmed’s threat to bring 10,000 Muslims to Parliament, on 3,667 hits).

Readers and Communicants will observe the steady growth over the past two years, which is indeed a cause of rejoicing.

According to Google Analytics, His Grace received 63,924 Absolute Unique Visitors from 196 countries who made 102,989 visits with 122,863 page views (all new records).

This must be the zenith. It is, of course, quite unsustainable.

His Grace's ashes are in need of repose, and this month offers an opportunity for reflection on the future. He will be considering over the coming weeks the wherefore and whither.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Census 2011 and the religion question

It is confirmed that 'Jedi' will not be an option box in the 2011 census religion question. And neither will Christian denomination:

From the House of Lords' Hansard:

Census Question
Asked by Lord Laird

“To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Crawley on 24 June (WA 282), whether they will review the census question on religion which currently permits one Christian answer without denominational distinction and lists five other religions; and why that question is as it is. [HL4806]

13 July 2009 : Column WA183

Baroness Crawley: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, National Statistician, to Lord Laird, dated July 2009.
As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent question asking whether the census question on religion which currently permits one Christian answer without denominational distinction and lists five other religions will be reviewed; and why that question is as it is. (HL4806)

The religion question was introduced in the 2001 census as a voluntary question and has been designed to collect information on religious affiliation, which is required by many users of census statistics for monitoring equality and planning of services.
Question development for the 2011 census began in 2005. A detailed and lengthy process of user consultation, prioritisation of user requirements and qualitative and quantitative question testing has been carried out to inform decisions on the topics, content and design of questions to he included in the 2009 census rehearsal and 2011 census.

As part of this process ONS has already considered the feasibility of an extended list of Christian denominations in the England and Wales census but rejected this approach for a number of reasons.

Testing of a question with Christian denominations indicated that some respondents may interpret and answer the expanded question differently, which would make it difficult to compare data with those from the 2001 census. Trends in religious affiliation over time are required by many census users, primarily for service planning: three-quarters of the respondents to the 2007 consultation regarded comparability with the 2001 census question as essential.

In addition, different and potentially a higher number of categories would be needed in Wales , which would make comparison across England and Wales difficult.

Furthermore, space constraints on the census questionnaire for England and Wales mean that providing detailed breakdowns of the Christian category would result in losing other questions or compromising the questionnaire design, thereby putting the quality of responses and their comparability with 2001 data at risk.

A key reason for including a question on religion in the 2001 census was to provide statistics on minority religions. This helped to provide benchmarks so that employers and public authorities, for example, could fulfil their duties under the Race Relations Act. The proposed 2011 question lists five other religions in addition to Christian: Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh. These religions are included as they are widely recognised as being the largest of the minority religions within the UK , although it is also proposed that there will be a “write-in” option, where those who wish to record themselves under any other religion may do so.

Full details of this consideration are set out in an information paper relating to the development of the 2011 census religion question, which available on the website:

ONS is currently testing a revised wording to the question on religion that asks “Which of these best describes you?” with no changes to the “No religion” and pre-designated religion tick-boxes."

So there you have it. The extent of the Christian majority was never the issue: the question was to determine figures for religious minorities in order that employers and public authorities could fulfil their duties under the Race Relations Act.

Perhaps Baroness Crawley might learn the difference between race and religion, and appreciate that membership of a particular faith group is not necessarily a pointer to ethnicity.
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