Friday, July 31, 2009

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Bless you all,

Law Lords of death rule for assisted suicide

Debbie Purdy is fearfully and wonderfully made. The joy in her face is the thrilling exuberance of life: the ecstasy, the vibrancy, the vitality. It is life in all its beauty – the precious gift of the mysterious breath of God, still coursing through every vein and illuminating her eyes despite her debilitating multiple sclerosis.

She is ecstatic after a Law Lords’ ruling which paves the way for legally assisted suicide abroad, of which she says, apparently oblivious to the irony: 'This has given me my life back'.

Assisted suicide is a curious life to get back.

Giving judgment yesterday – their final one from the red benches of the House of Lords – Lord Hope, sitting with Lords Phillips, Brown and Neuberger and Baroness Hale, said it was no part of the Law Lords' function to decriminalise assisted suicide, which was up to Parliament. Their function was to say what the law is and, if uncertain, to clarify it. So this ruling has not changed the law on assisting suicide, which remains punishable by up to 14 years in jail. It relates specifically to ‘suicide tourism’, and now families who help terminally ill relatives to end their lives will be free from the risk of prosecution.

Is it not profoundly sad and disturbing that the final ruling of the Law Lords from the Chamber of the Upper House should be for death and destruction?

Rather like the legalisation of abortion, which was only ever intended to be performed in extremis, this will lead to all manner of unintended abuses. Miss Purdy's lawyers are already talking of the eventual legalisation of assistance for suicide in certain circumstances. They said a distinction will now be drawn between maliciously encouraging someone to kill themselves, which would continue to be prosecuted, and compassionately supporting someone's decision to die, which would not lead to legal action.

Can one not be compassionately malicious?

This is not just the thin end of a wedge. It is not even the tip of an iceberg. It is a legislative coup, driving a coach and horses through the Section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1861 – a sovereign Act of Parliament – without reference to that Parliament. Effectively, it has been decreed by judicial authority that it is lawful for somebody to help a person to commit suicide abroad but not in the UK. This amounts to a change in primary legislation. And it is an absurd and unsustainable distinction in any case, for British nationals should not be encouraged to pursue legally abroad what is illegal here: why not encourage cannabis smokers to journey to Amsterdam? Why not encourage paedophiles to journey to Thailand? Those who pursue the latter are extradited and prosecuted on their return to the UK: we do not 'assist' their predatory sexual perversion. To pretend that by permitting assisted suicide in Switzerland the UK somehow remains legislatively morally superior is absurd.

But of even greater significance is that Miss Purdy also won on a second point – the Law Lords said she had the right to choose how she died, under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ECHR is now deemed to grant one the right to determine how and when one may die. The ECHR has become God.

Now people will have the ultimate power to choose how and when they end their life, and it is a human right.

And yet Cranmer cannot but think these Law Lords to be spiritually undiscerning and morally deficient. For what message does this send to the vulnerable, the disabled and the seriously ill? Perhaps they should all pack their bags and jet off to Geneva with their Dignitas vouchers courtesy of their caring, compassionate and supportive families.

The sad case of Miss Purdy sets a dangerous precedent as far as the state is concerned: if you have MS, it is better to just get it over with. You will no longer be a burden to your relations or to the state. The NHS could save billions by no longer keeping alive people who have all manner of ailments and diseases.

Why not just end all suffering, for surely it is an infringement of one’s human rights?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Judge Ian Trigger for the new Supreme Court

It may have passed the attention of most, but this week saw the eradication of the Law Lords from the Upper House. No more will the House of Lords be the highest court of appeal: in New Labour's New Britain, there is no place for this ancient institution and the subtle fusion of powers: there has to be an increasing separation. So the Law Lords have been expelled and replaced by the new Supreme Court, on the US model, to be housed in the old Middlesex Guildhall in Parliament Square, at a cost of some £60 million.

The appointed supreme judges will have silky new robes in a shiny new building. The Supreme Court will cost £12 million a year to run: at present, the Law Lords cost about £2 million.

But the money is of little consequence.

Although there was a certain tension in having judges in the legislature, the system has evolved over centuries, and it worked. Tony Blair removed the Lord Chancellor - the head of the judiciary - from the Cabinet, after discovering he could not simply abolish the ancient post. At the plea was to the 'rational' in order to 'modernise'. The creation of the Supreme Court is a logical consequence of this incessant constitutional tinkering, but it will be to the detriment and diminution of the status of the House of Lords. A further consequence will be the inevitable politicisation of the Court, exactly as it is in the US. Liberated from the constraints of the legislature, the judges will be more likely, spurred on by EU law and European conventions, to overturn Acts of Parliament. Their personal political views will therefore become a factor in their appointment.

Insofar as each successive prime minister will now ensure that those who constitute the Supreme Court will be ‘on-side’, Cranmer would like to propose a nomination.

Judge Iain Trigger does not look very happy, but he talks an awful lot of sense.

Dispensing a two-year jail sentence this week to a Jamaican drug dealer, his comments were politically insightful and refreshingly lucid:

He told Lucien McClearley, 31, at Liverpool Crown Court: 'Your case illustrates all too clearly the completely lax immigration policy that exists and has existed over recent years.'

He added: 'People like you, and there are literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people like you, come to these shores to avail themselves of the generous welfare benefits that exist here.

'In the past ten years the national debt of this country has risen to extraordinary heights, largely because central Government has wasted billions of pounds. Much of that has been wasted on welfare payments.

'For every £1 that the decent citizen, who is hard-working, pays in taxes, nearly 10 per cent goes on servicing that national debt. That is twice the amount it was in 1997 when this Government came to power.'

Judge Trigger, who is also a part-time immigration judge, told McClearley: 'The fact that it took nearly two years to process your claim shows how desperate the situation in this country has become.'

This is precisely the sort of Supreme Court judge we need: one who will tell it exactly as it is.

After the Conservative fashion, of course.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Non-Muslim women police officers issued with 'multi-faith' hijab

Cranmer has been up all night trying to sort geeky issues, and he is not a geek. He is immeasurably grateful to his loyal communicants who assisted him, and apologises to all for the brevity of this post, but he is somewhat pressed for time as a result of the technical inconvenience.

It appears that Avon and Somerset Constabulary is equipping its female officers with a uniform issue hijab to wear when they enter a mosque. However, these are not intended purely to cater for Muslim cultural sensibilities but are 'multi-faith'.

They are intended to 'respect the cultural and religious practices of local communities'.

This is the force which, in 2006, used positive discrimination to try to increase the number of female and ethnic minority officers, randomly excluding 186 white male applicants during a recruitment drive on the grounds that they were already over-represented.

The PCs have gone PC mad.

Cranmer looks forward to hear of them issuing 'multi-faith' turbans and kippahs.

And how about a multi-faith crucifix?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Any technical communicants?

Dearly beloved...

His Grace is having a technical problem with his banner.

As many of you noticed last week, he has become so popular that he exceeded his bandwidth limit.

Accordingly, he switched to a limitless host, which hitherto has been working just fine.

Now, however, the demons have returned. The image is still correctly uploaded, but on IE and Forefox it does not display. Some readers and communicants may get the message 'Stack overflow at line:0', whatever that means.

Is there an awfully kind communicant who may care to enlighten His Grace's ashes because he is getting a little urinated afar by matters technical.

Bless you.

Tea with the Taliban

It is a curious obstinacy which refuses all polite dialogue with the BNP yet advocates talking to the Taliban.

Cranmer has no time for Nick Griffin and his acolytes, yet he has even less for Mullah Omar and his global jihadist ummah. And while the BNP is a legally-constituted, democratically-elected and peaceable political party, the Taliban is none of these. Unless, of course, you subscribe to their creed that all who oppose them are infidels and that their law is The Law.

But even as the bravest and best British soldiers are paying the ultimate price in the course of their duty for Queen and country, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband wants to chat about reconciliation with the more warmongers over tea and cake.

No doubt he would obligingly ensure the cake was halal.

Since Cranmer does not wish to misrepresent the Foreign Secretary, he wishes to clarify that Mr Miliband’s invitation is extended exclusively to the ‘moderate’ Taliban: the ‘extremists’ are not invited to tea.

But this is a curious strategy, and one wonders how there can be any credible negotiated settlement with the ‘moderates’ when the ‘real’ Taliban are ostracised. It is rather like inviting ‘moderate’ Sinn Féin to Downing Street, ensuring that the extremist terrorists Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are excluded from the peace talks.

It seems doomed to failure.

The ‘senior Taliban commander’ Sirajuddin Haqqani is reported to have already rejected Mr Miliband’s overtures, noting in his polite RSVP that ‘the British only want to talk because they are feeling the pain from heavy losses’. He said: "Those struggling to liberate their homeland from occupation forces... will never talk to US or British forces when we are winning on the battlefield. We have a clear-cut stance on negotiations. The Taliban will stop fighting and talk when the US-led forces and the British government announce they are leaving Afghanistan."

And he rejected any suggestion that there might be ‘moderates’ in the Taliban. The brotherhood are united: they are all as convicted as Nick Griffin; as devout as Gerry Adams. There are no divisions, no factions, no sub-groups or schisms.

But the Foreign Secretary insists on drawing a distinction between the extremists who are ‘ideologically committed to a global jihadist viewpoint’, and the moderates who simply want a parochial tyranny and a local jihad.

The British Government can do business the latter because they ‘just have a particular view of how their own locality should be governed’. This, according to the Foreign Secretary, is ‘a critical distinction’.

Is it?

It is a curious ‘ethical foreign policy’ which distinguishes between the indistinguishable. Did not Saddam Hussein just have a particular view of how his own locality should be governed? Robert Mugabe does not appear to have global ambitions. Even Gerry Adams and the IRA only had ‘a particular view of how their own locality should be governed’: they were not interested in imposing their Irish nationalist jihad on London.

If communicants are puzzled by the juxtaposition of Northern Ireland with Afghanistan, it is only because International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, insists that the British experience of Northern Ireland shows that jaw-jaw and war-war may be complementary; that talking to terrorists makes sense in the long run.

Cranmer begs to differ.

Kabul is not Belfast.
Hamid Karzai is no Ian Paisley.
The Pashtun nationalists are not the SDLP.
The Masajid of Helmand are not the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.
The Good Friday Agreement was only possible with humiliating concessions (mainly) from the Unionists, not to mention the sacrifice of David Trimble.
Irish unification has no political equivalent in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has no political wing.
The Christian culture of Northern Ireland comprehends liberal democracy and yearned for it: the Islamic culture of Afghanistan does not.
The people of Northern Ireland on both sides of the sectarian divide were united in their desire for peace: the people of Afghanistan are not.
The Son of God who rejected the sword cannot be equated with the Prophet who lived by it.
Sinn Féin were given a taste of power sharing in advance of a final settlement: Mullah Omar has no desire to share power with anyone, least of all the ‘moderate’ infidel.

Still, it is axiomatic that yesterday’s terrorists are tomorrow’s statesmen.

One thinks of Nelson Mandela, Yitzhak Shamir, Colonel Gaddafi, Yasser Arafat, Gerry Adams...

One may yet see Mullah Omar shaking hands in Downing Street, and Prime Minister Miliband declaring ‘Peace in our time’.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Grammar School imperative

There is presently much chatter among the politicking intelligentsia about education. Possibly because after a decade of Tony Blair’s ‘Education, education, education’ and God knows how many education white papers, green papers and acts of parliament to ‘reform’ the system, standards have fallen, results have worsened, and thousands upon thousands of children still leave school year after year having failed to achieve the most basic of qualifications. After 13 years of New Labour, two entire cohorts have passed through secondary education, and they are as ill-equipped as ever. It has been empirically established that where governments interfere, demanding ‘equality of outcome’ from social engineering with proscriptive initiatives and micro-management of process, the effects are damaging to generations of schoolchildren and detrimental to society.

A recent report establishes that Labour has succeeded in restoring a privately educated ruling class. It highlights the fact that just 7 per cent of the population attend private schools, yet they account for 75 per cent of judges, 70 per cent of finance directors, 50 per cent of top journalists and 33 per cent of MPs (among Conservatives, the figure is closer to 50 per cent). It does not matter how many incomprehensible Glaswegians read out the news, how many Geordies dispense life sentences, how many Brummies become bishops or how many one-legged Asian lesbians are adopted for safe Conservative seats, a disproportionate number will have been privately educated.

For he that hath, to him shall be given even more: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken the very means by which he might one day have hath.

Grammar schools have been the most dynamic and successful motor of social mobility ever conceived. Yet every major political party is dedicated either to their constriction or eradication: they are all intent on abolishing the meritocratic principle by which they were defined.

The rich have always sent their children to private schools, and the not-so-rich have scrimped and saved in traumatic attempts to spare their own children from the inadequacies and deficiencies of a system they half endured. When there was a grammar school in every town, entry was on merit, irrespective of parental income or social class. And the poorest could rise to attain the highest: the sons of miners could become a Nobel prize-winner and the daughters of grocers could become prime minister. Now, of course, entry to the grammars is as restricted as it is for private education: while the latter is dependent on the ability to pay the fees, the former is dependent on the ability to afford a house in the catchment area.

Social mobility has nothing to do with the fascist egalitarianism of Socialism – economic equality or equality of outcome. Sadly, there will always be those for whom aspiration causes social division and so must be abolished. But social mobility is inherent to meritocracy which is foundational to Conservatism because it is dependent on equality of opportunity. And that opportunity must be available to all. In order for there to be ‘grammar school boys’ to compete fairly with the privileged Old Etonians, there simply needs to be more grammar schools to provide the bright working and lower middle class child with opportunities equal to those of private schools.

There are some in the Labour Party who recognise this. Some are duplicitous liars; a few are struggling to express integrity and honesty in a party stewing in its own corruption. Ed Balls is one of the former; Alan Milburn the latter.

A few weeks ago, the Secretary of State for Breast Feeding and Nappy Changing Children, Schools and Families provided a statement on the Schools’ White Paper, and he made an extraordinary remark. “Our best state schools”, he said, “now match the best schools in the private sector and anywhere in the world.”

This was a curious boast and a perverse arrogation of credit, since the only state schools which ‘match’ the academic achievement of the best private schools are the few remaining grammar schools – the very schools New Labour have persistently undermined and have sought consistently to eradicate.

And yet he manifestly (if tacitly) praised the achievement of the grammars, which manifestly (and overtly) select by academic ability.

But, of course, the selection is no longer purely meritocratic, for it is not by academic ability alone, but the ability of mummy and daddy to buy a house with the right postcode.

This is what the Conservative Party must address, and by doing so they would do well to learn from history. If Michael Gove wishes a true revolution, he must study the provisions of the 1944 Education Act. Two cohorts on from the passing of that act, the ‘best jobs’ were no longer the preserve of the privileged élite: they were open to everyone with the ability, irrespective of social class or economic circumstances.

Alan Milburn’s report on social mobility is brave, though it is a curious intervention in the twilight of Gordon Brown’s premiership from which Mr Milburn had removed himself in order ‘to spend more time with the family’. His return to the stage is ominous. But he is evidently a man with whom the Conservative Party could do business. He praises the Conservative proposal to introduce more competition in the supply of school places, noting that in countries such as Denmark and Sweden parents are able to choose schools. And he even uses the ‘v’ word which no Conservative has dared to use since the very concept was blamed for the loss of a general election. He advocates vouchers for education (and if for education, why not for health?), and sees clearly that what Britain needs ‘a second great wave of social mobility like that of the 1950s and 60s’.

It does not take a genius to credit this first ‘great wave’ to the 1944 Education Act which made access to grammar schools free for all.

Working class children in these schools were ‘pushed’ to aspire in ways their parents never knew how. Academic aspiration has historically been the preserve of the wealthier parents, but those from deprived backgrounds have rarely spurred their children to achieve beyond the confines of their context, principally for fear of them ‘getting above themselves’. Low aspiration begets low expectation; low expectation begets low achievement; low achievement begets low income; low income begets poverty; poverty begets crime...

The Conservative Party is on the right course in all but two respects:

1) There must be selection by ability and an end to mixed-ability teaching, which is ineffective and demoralising. Under existing plans, the intention is to remove the red tape that stops the creation of new schools. These institutions would then be free from local authority control, with central government paying an allowance of about £6,000 per pupil. But they will be unable to select by ability: they will all be comprehensive schools.

Inequality is the natural order of things. Just as ugly people are barred by nature from beauty competitions, and the tone deaf from joining the choir, so those who are not academic must be separated from those who are and provided with an education tailored to their needs. It is called ‘personalised learning’, and it is a Government initiative. But it is not possible to teach excellent bricklayers and outstanding poets at the same pace in the same group of 30, for the lowest common denominator will prevail, and this negates potential and undermines the country’s social and economic future.

2) Schools run by private companies must be able to make a profit. Under existing plans, only charities and non-profit-making bodies would be allowed to create new ‘free schools’ supported by the taxpayer. Worried that too few voluntary bodies will come forward to set up the schools, it is reported that the Party is presently considering introducing a profit motive.

Even James Purnell, the former work and pensions secretary, has said: “If allowing state schools to be run by profit-making companies encourages equality of capability, we will have to allow it.”

Cranmer is not sure what Mr Purnell means by ‘equality of capability’, but it sounds as though he is on the right lines.

Even as the Conservative Party considers permitting companies to profit in the provision of education, they are adamant that there is to be ‘no return to selection’. With 167 grammar schools still functioning, it is unclear why they talk about ‘return’. Selection has never entirely left us because the ‘pushy’ parents in some staunchly Conservative English counties (and Northern Ireland) demand it. And these schools lead the league tables: Northern Ireland leads the United Kingdom. And those counties where grammar schools exist will be given the right to create more grammar schools as populations expand, thereby perpetuating the school / house-price injustice.

The problem with the grammar / secondary-modern division is that it is too crude and simplistic for the postmodern area: it is just wrong to divide children into sheep and goats at the age of 11. The perception of success for the élite and failure for the rest is too unjust for mollycoddled Wii generation for whom appearance is all. And perhaps, like democracy, it always was imperfect. But with the return of access determined by wealth, it has become unjust.

And so Cranmer has a solution. There needs to be a tripartite system of secondary education quite independent of the state. Those gifted with academic ability should be educated in accordance with the grammar philosophy; those gifted with practical ability should be educated in accordance with the needs of their vocation; and those gifted with the ability for either must be educated such that their learning permits them the liberty to choose. For ability is as diverse as nature, and there is more in the ‘centre’ than exists at the extremities. Parents should indeed be given vouchers to spend in the school of their choice, but the school must be able to assert its choice provided the selection criterion is academic ability alone. And, curricula permitting, children would be free to move between schools, ending the primacy and finality of the 11+. Free of state interference, these schools would be free to pay teachers as they wish (and therefore more in a challenging environment), specialise, innovate, personalise and develop a unique ethos. And they must also be free to expand, for why limit the model of success? Indeed, if they are not to expand, oversubscription makes unjust selection a necessity.

It beggars belief that the same questions once posed by the great Dr Thomas Arnold are still being asked two centuries on. Real progress can only come from irrevocable reform. The only solution to the present delinquent educational tyranny is the removal of state control and the infuriating interference of the politicians, and the introduction of competition, selection and vouchers. And once parents get a taste of that, no democratic government would dare contemplate removing it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Church that doesn’t ‘do God’

Imagine a tour of the Dome of the Rock which did not mention Mohammed or Allah; or one of the Golden Temple which did not Guru Nanak; or of St Peter’s in Rome which did not mention the Pope; or of the Palace of Westminster which did not mention Churchill, Disraeli, Gladstone; or Hampton Court which did not mention Henry VIII, or of Stratford-upon-Avon which did not mention Shakespeare...

or a tour of an Anglican cathedral which did not mention God, Jesus, Christianity or the Bible.

Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome tells of a tour he took of Salisbury Cathedral last Friday. The tour guide recounted the details of ‘the stone used in the Cathedral's construction. She was instructive about the art, about the candle for Amnesty International and told us proudly that Salisbury was the first Cathedral to have a girls' choir’.

But there was not one mention of God.

Mr Montgomerie rightly had no expectation of a sermon or a declaration of the Gospel of salvation. But he would have appreciated a hint, a murmer, a whisper, a slight allusion to the God of Glory who inspired the sublime majesty of the architecture.

He says: “With so much ignorance of the Christian story these visits provide an opportunity for the Church of England to say a little of what motivated previous generations to build such magnificent monuments to God. But nothing.”

And so he asks: “Where is the Church's passion to share the good news?”

The reality is that the Church of England has adopted the very deity which St Paul found in Greece. In the Acts of the Apostles, he proclaims: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

The Church of England is busy making unknown what it has previously known. It is so busy selling teddybears, making coffee, preaching inoffensive political correctness and developing gay liturgy that it has lost all sense of its spiritual raison d’être. One comment in the thread, from the professing atheist Mikey, says: “I am atheist but would have more respect for the Church if it had a tiny bit of confidence in its message.’

Well, Mikey, Cranmer has more respect for open-minded atheists than he has for a lukewarm church. He would rather live life with the vibrant passionate godless than do God with the tedious passionless.

It is one thing for this anti-Christian Labour government to eradicate Christianity from the public sphere; but quite another for a supine Established Church to assist it by error, oversight or purposeful omission.

Yet perhaps the Bishop of Salisbury might respond that his cathedral is to be worshipped in, not toured...

Glasgow City Council subsidises Bible desecration

Cranmer was not going to comment upon this, but it seems a number of his communicants wish to discuss it, even though there be not much to say, and His Grace’s perspective will be unsurprising.

There is apparently an exhibition in the Gallery of Modern Art (Goma) in Glasgow, entitled Made in God’s Image.

It encourages people to deface the Bible in the name of art — and obliging visitors have responded with predictable abuse and obscenity. This can come as no surprise to the ‘artists’, who included in their creation a video of a woman ripping pages from the Bible and stuffing them into her bra, knickers and mouth.

Cranmer has never been one for the burning of books, a logical corollary of which must be the freedom to burn a book if one so wishes, or place a rasher of bacon within it and call it ‘art’.

But when that book is burned with taxpayer subsidy, the offence is multiplied a thousandfold, for the good people of Glasgow are forcibly paying for the desecration of a sacred book, and they are therefore unwittingly complicit. This, to Cranmer, would be a just reason not to render unto Caesar.

Bizarrely, or naively, the exhibit, Untitled 2009, was proposed by the Metropolitan Community Church, which ‘celebrates racial, cultural, linguistic, sexual, gender and theological diversity’. Their idea was to reclaim the Bible as a sacred text: they simply wanted those who ‘felt excluded’ from its pages to ‘write themselves in’.

And so one writer has altered the first line of Genesis from ‘In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth’ to 'In the beginning, God (me) I created religion.’ Another has written ‘The Gospel According to Luke Skywalker’ (Cranmer suspects one of the Jedi fraternity). But the principal expression has been one of blaspemous derision: one message says ‘F*** the Bible’.

Cranmer is all for religious and theological protest, but this is taking Protestantism a little far.

According to The Times, the Church of Scotland has ‘expressed concern’, the Roman Catholic Church called the exhibit ‘infantile’, and a Christian lawyers’ group said that the exhibition was ‘symptomatic of a broken and lawless society’.

It is, of course, concerning, and even infantile. But it is no more symptomatic of a broken and lawless society than Luther’s 95 Theses: it is simply a reminder of the depravity of the human heart, which is inherently sinful or 'broken'. And Cranmer has, in any case, a high degree of ‘broken’ fatigue: he is sick of hearing about the 'broken society'. It is written: 'Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet' (Mt7:6). This is simply cause and effect. Art is supposed to invoke, evoke, awaken and incite. Untitled 2009 is as incongruous as placing Tracey Emin's enseamed bed, stew'd in corruption, on the altar of Westminster Abbey. By placing a holy text in a secular setting and inviting 'comment', the protective sacred canopy was removed and the swine duly and obligingly trampled it under their filthy trotters. And the artists knew exactly what they were doing, and so – unless they are incredibly stupid – did the church. Any Christian group which chooses to preach 'racial, cultural, linguistic, sexual, gender and theological diversity’ instead of Christ and him crucified simply reaps what it sows.

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church said: “One wonders whether the organisers would have been quite as willing to have the Koran defaced.”

Answer: ‘No’.

Reason: ‘Most Christians are a pushover; some Muslims are likely to riot, cause criminal damage or threaten death’.

And therein lies the most important consideration for artistic liberty and freedom of expression, in exploration of which a degree of taxpayer subsidy might indeed be justified.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Did God create the USA?

The Guardian reports: ‘The Christian right is making a fresh push to force religion onto the school curriculum in Texas with the state's education board about to consider recommendations that children be taught that there would be no United States if it had not been for God.’

And the newspaper sneers at the body appointed to oversee the state's history curriculum for including ‘a Christian fundamentalist preacher’ who is alleged to be ‘fighting a war for America's moral soul’.

As far as The Guardian is concerned, of all the Christians worthy of scorn, derision and contempt, there are none who compare to the ‘fundamentalists’, which is Left-speak for ‘Evangelicals’, who are Protestants by another name.

And these rabid, feverish, saliva-spewing bigots simply want lessons ‘to emphasise the part played by Christianity in the founding of the US and that religion is a civic virtue’.

There is, of course, a strict separation of Church and State in the US. But Cranmer finds it difficult to perceive the creation of the United States with anything but a Christian provenance, and a Protestant Christian one at that. David Barton, one of the aforementioned ‘fundamentalists’, observes that the US Constitution ‘was written with God in mind including that "there is a fixed moral law derived from God and nature", that "there is a creator" and "government exists primarily to protect God-given rights to every individual". It follows, for him, that ‘children should be taught that Christianity is the key to "American exceptionalism" because the structure of its democratic system is a recognition that human beings are fallible, and that religion is at the heart of being a virtuous citizen’.

Another of the ‘fundamentalists’, the Reverend Peter Marshall, recommends that children ‘be taught about the "motivational role" of the Bible and Christianity in establishing the original colonies that later became the US.’ He observed: "In light of the overwhelming historical evidence of the influence of the Christian faith in the founding of America, it is simply not up to acceptable academic standards that throughout the social studies (curriculum standards) I could only find one reference to the role of religion in America's past."

He perceives the struggle over the history curriculum to be part of a wider battle: "We're in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it."

And so these men are dismissed severally as being ‘simplistic’, ‘deceptive’ and ‘devious’. It is the ‘religious Right’, you see. It is one thing to recite a pledge of allegiance in class each morning which includes a reference to the US as ‘one nation under God’, but quite another to actually mean it.

The Pilgrim Fathers were pioneers of liberty: one needs no understanding of their Puritanism or grasp of the religious persecution from which they were fleeing.

But the principal issue here is not so much theology as the teaching of history. If one ignores the past, one is doomed to repeat the errors of that past. If one re-writes the past, one is destined to build a delusional future based on falsehood and lies.

It is one thing to have a constitutional separation of Church and State, but quite another to interpret this as a requirement for the eradication of every expression of Christianity from the public realm. The United States is searching for its via media: one which accommodates ‘In God We Trust’ and the liturgical coronation of a president – with hand on Bible and ‘fundamentalist’ in the pulpit – while somehow purporting to remain ‘secular’ and ‘neutral’.

The drive to eradicate God and Christianity from the history of the United States is simply mirroring what is happening in the UK and the EU. God forbid that one should refer to the Protestant Reformed Religion by law established, the Protestant Work Ethic or the part played by Christianity in the history of Europe. No, as far as the secularists who drew up the ‘Constitution for Europe’ are concerned, Europe evolved from the great civilisations of Greece and Rome and proceeded directly to the Enlightenment. The ‘missing link’ is a millennium of Christian insight and, of course, the Reformation. But, in the interests of secular ‘neutrality’, to placate the French and appease Muslims, these are ignored. And so it is in the UK, for what school history syllabus deals with the Christian foundations other than in a negative light? Henry VIII ‘invented’ the Reformation simply to bed the woman for whom he lusted. The Act of Settlement is bigoted, otiose and irrelevant. The history is forgotten, the battles are long gone, and it is time to move on and to ‘modernise’.

And so the public memory is diminished; vernacular history is subsumed to the postmodern need to empathise, and the people become ahistorical. Thus do we have the introduction of ideology; the means of ‘social engineering’. Understanding one’s traditions and culture demands a grasp of their history, and this must include a fair assessment of the role of religion. If this is not to be part of a school curriculum, then that curriculum is corrupted by omission because children are deprived a means of making sense of the modern world.

God made the US in exactly the same fashion as he created the world. It may have taken a little longer than seven days, but he had Americans to deal with... and quite a few of them wanted him out of the picture altogether.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Chloë Smith sweeps to victory for the Conservative Party


In a nation oppressed by recession, infected by swine flu, disillusioned by expenses-gate and depressed by Gordon Brown, it was always going to be difficult for Labour to win the Norwich North by-election.

But the extent of the collapse of the Labour vote is an unmitigated disaster and an unqualified humiliation for the party of Government. Labour secured just 18 per cent of the vote, as against 44 per cent at the last general election.

How many disasters and humiliations does Gordon Brown have to endure before he gets the message?

Basking in the glory of this well-deserved Conservative victory - a very convincing 7000 majority - Cranmer sends his sincerest congratulations to Cloë Smith, who, at the tender age of 27, becomes the ‘baby of the House’. He thanks the constituency’s former MP, Dr Ian Gibson, for having the integrity to resign in protest at his appalling and unjust treatment at the malicious hands of Gordon Brown, and the self-sacrificial humility not to stand as an independent (he would probably have won). There are few politicians who put country before party and self.

This victory marks only the second time in almost 30 years that the Conservatives have taken a seat from Labour in a by-election. Of course, one should be cautious about transposing by-election results onto national predictions, but for the Conservative Party to win target seat number 163 bodes very well for the forthcoming General Election.

And it is the first time that a ‘vicar’ has stood as a candidate for the BNP.

Labour's candidate, Chris Ostrowski, stayed away from the count after being forced to abandon the campaign trail after collapsing with a bout of swine flu and being taken to hospital.

There are those who believe plague and pestilence to be the Lord’s judgement...

Anti-Semitic attacks increase in the UK

The United Kingdom has seen an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic ‘hate crimes’, with more incidents recorded in just the first half of 2009 than in any previous entire year.

Up until the end of June, there had been 609 recorded anti-Semitic incidents ranging from verbal abuse to extreme violence, compared with 276 in the same period last year. Alarmingly, 77 have been classified as ‘extreme violence’ – an attack which could cause loss of life or grievous bodily harm. Most incidents took place in London and Manchester, the two biggest Jewish communities in Britain.

The Community Security Trust (CST), which advises Britain's estimated 300,000 Jews on safety issues, said it was the highest number it had recorded since it began collating figures in 1984.

The response of the political parties to this sinister development is that of unqualified condemnation, except in the case of Shahid Malik, the Communities and Local Government minister responsible for cohesion. He said: "This rise in anti-Semitism is not just concerning for the British Jewish communities but for all those who see themselves as decent human beings. The fight against anti-Semitism is a fight that should engage us all. This country will not tolerate those who seek to direct hatred towards any part of our community.”

He then adds: "Of course it may be legitimate for individuals to criticise or be angry at the actions of the Israeli Government but we must never allow this anger to be used to justify anti-Semitism."

It is a nuanced distinction, for how many can be bothered to reason that the Israeli Government does not speak for global Jewry? Or that the Zionists are not all Jews? Or that not all Jews are Zionists?

If it is legitimate for individuals to be angry at Israel's Gaza offensive against Hamas militants, where are the government guidelines on how this anger may be legitimately expressed? Of course it is illegal to assault the nearest convenient Jew, set fire to a synagogue or desecrate a Jewish grave with a swastika. These are universal laws for the protection of person and property. But the violent marches and threatening protests we have witnessed on the streets of London have been permitted and tolerated despite them being manifest expressions of anti-Semitism, against which the police opted to do nothing.

Is it 'legitimate' to burn the Star of David on London's steeets? Is it 'legitimate' to carry placards denigrating Jews or insulting Judaism?

Can you imagine the furore and immediate police response if anyone ever dared to burn a rainbow flag or carry a placard saying 'Down with Gays!' in an expression of 'gay hatred'?

If these marches had been against homosexuality, the authorities would have stamped out the protest and arrested people for ‘homophobia’. No government minister would have said, “It may be legitimate for individuals to criticise or be angry at the actions of the homosexuals.” If these marches had been against Islam, the authorities would have stamped out the protest and arrested people for ‘Islamophobia’. No government minister would have said, “It may be legitimate for individuals to criticise or be angry at the actions of Muslims.”

But Israel and Jews?

There is no recognised ‘phobia’ to incite the police to intervene, especially when the hatred is manifest by a swarm of masked, extremist Muslims baying for Israeli-Jewish blood. Anti-Semitism has such a long heritage across so many continents that its endurability and ubiquity have almost become excuses for acquiescence and toleration. Especially with a Leftist anti-Semitic media which perpetuates the narrative that ‘they brought it on themselves’.

It is time for anti-Semitism to be elevated in the national consciousness to the status of homophobia and Islamophobia: that is, zero tolerance; summary arrest and detention at the merest whiff of it. If police stations are so keen to promote ‘diversity training’ that they fly the rainbow flag to remind them of their equality obligations, let them from time to time also fly the Star of David.

Or are ‘legitimate’ manifestations of anti-Semitism to be ‘understood’ each time Israel tries to defend herself?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bishop of Willesden tweets the 'beautiful people of Norwich' to vote Labour

The Rt Rev Peter Broadbent ('Pete') is the Bishop of Willesden. He has joined that mind-numbingly banal pursuit 'Twitter'.

Perhaps one gets the see one deserves.

His dialogue today:

@BevaniteEllie: Any Norwich voters on Twitter? May I suggest you vote Labour, you beautiful people.

@hackloon To the contrary - a return to Thatcherism in baseball capped disguise would be a fate too horrendous to contemplate...

@hackloon And that's what the Tories did. Lesser of two evils...

If voting Labour is the lesser of two evils, Cranmer cannot grasp the Bishop's ponerology or understand his vision of hell.

Thankfully, he only has 424 followers (as at 9.00am), and it is unlikely that any of them would be voters in Norwich.

But it is curious that a Church of England bishop should seek to intervene so blatatantly in a parliamentary election. Other than abandoning the BNP, it is not the Church of England's style to direct the faithful from the pulpit.

Cranmer refers the Bishop to some lines from the Church's official election prayers (yes, they exist):

"Heavenly Father, we thank You for the privilege of exercising our right to vote in a free election in a democratic society."

"God, who from of old taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things."

But perhaps the Rev Dr Peter Mullen expresses it best in his General Election prayer, which Cranmer has slightly adapted to the occasion of this by-election:

“O Lord, who hast tried us and that right sore these twelve years of our trying; and hast, through the stiff-necked usurper the Great Brown, laid upon us so many and weary burdens, and hast set us on thy Left hand: stretch forth now O Lord, we beseech thee, thy Right hand and return to thy longsuffering people those things wherein they were wonted to put their trust.

“Behold, O Lord, the sorrows of thy people which do tarry these many days for to see a physician in the service which is called Health; hearken, O Lord, unto the voice of them that leave their teachers of many years, yet can they count not, neither can they read; and see how we are compassed about by the multitude of robbers which do break through and steal even into our household, and do set upon us in the street to do us harm. Thou who hast said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’, restore thy law and commandments to the punishment of evildoers, so that thy people may pass in peace in the land which thou hast given them.

“And behold the wailing of thy people which are sorely taxed, so that the half of all our substance goeth to feed the fancies of the usurpers that do rule over us.

“Turn, O Lord, turn thee again at the last, and behold the abomination of desolation which is called EU (he that hath ears to hear, let him hear); and deliver us from the great let and hindrance, and the burdens of it which do command us to worship strange gods, and saith to thy people that they be no more a people.

“Deliver us, O Lord, deliver thy people of Norwich on the twenty-third day of this month. Deliver them from the deceitful and wicked man. May those who cast all these heavy burdens upon thy people be cut altogether away, that their voices be no more heard in the land. And bestow upon us, O Lord, the wisdom that cometh through doing Right."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Guardian: ‘Measure not your politician by their Christianity’

So says former Labour parliamentary candidate Mike Ion.

The last time Cranmer came across an ion was during a riveting discussion involving the exchange of electrons between an aqueous solution and a solid. And he was more enthralled by that tedious process than he is with the puerile level of religio-political comprehension of Mr Ion. His Grace is in the mood for fisking, so here, in negation of Mike Ion, is Cranmer’s cation:

According to the conservativehome website more and more Christians are likely to vote Conservative at the next election. In support of this assertion, it cites the Tory party's pledge to recognise marriage in the tax system, its commitment to move towards 0.7% of GDP being spent on overseas development, support for faith schools and the views of many Tory candidates on the need to restrict the present abortion laws.

It is impossible for Cranmer to take seriously any journalist who manifests sloppy grammar or carelessly deploys the lower case when a word demands capitalisation. Or perhaps the small-c ‘conservative’ was purposeful, and the small-h ‘home’ a tedious emphasis of an alleged insignificance. That aside, it is difficult to grasp Mr Ion’s objection to his list of ‘support’ for the assertion. All of these issues are of varying degrees of concern to Christians of all denominations. It stands to reason that if the Conservative Party is identifying with these priorities that it will attract voters for whom they constitute some degree of importance. Support for faith education and an indication of reducing the time limit for abortion will attract in particular the traditionally Labour-supporting Roman Catholic vote; recognising marriage in the tax system and increasing overseas aid will accord with all Christians who favour the traditional family unit and desire to express compassion to the world’s poorest.

As Tom Harris points out the premise that one party is more "Christian" than any other is both facile and worrying.

The absence of commas is appalling, as is the adulation of Tom Harris who purposely caricatured His Grace’s beliefs and conveniently ignored his riposte and counter-arguments. But neither of these is as appalling as Mr Ion’s facile and worrying inability to reason. If one party supports church schools, favours marriage, seeks to save the child in the womb, feed the poor and house the homeless; while another seeks to close church schools, undermine marriage, promote abortion, maintain levels of poverty and pursues economic policies which increase homelessness, it is perfectly reasonable to assert that the former may be ‘more Christian’ than the latter. One does not need eyes to see or ears to hear that if one church is preaching Christ crucified from its pulpit while another is sacrificing chickens on the altar, that only one is trying to build Jerusalem while the other propagates the dark satanic mills.

Back in 2007 my local Tory MP (Mark Pritchard) initiated a Westminster Hall debate on "Christianophobia" – it was a pity that he couldn't find time to secure a debate about how we can prevent further services transferring from our local hospital in Telford over to Shrewsbury, but obviously he felt this issue was of greater importance to the good people of the Wrekin. During the debate Pritchard argued that the "political correctness brigade" were to blame for fewer schools putting on nativity plays and argued for the need protect our "Christian traditions".

Actually, the liberty to debate services in your local hospital stems from the constitutional liberties guaranteed by the contract between the Monarch and the people, and these liberties are fundamentally those bequeathed and preserved by the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law. The more freedom of speech is hindered; the more freedom of conscience is limited; the more each passing generation is inoculated against the meaning and significance of the nation’s Christian traditions, the more we are diminished. To dismiss this important debate is to dismiss a primary concern of all Christians, and perpetuate the fear that practices not in conformity with the Gospel will be forced upon the unwilling consciences of believers, particularly in the public services. Increasingly it will be the independence of the Christian conscience and those churches that can sustain that independence in spirit and in fact that will come to be seen as the defences of human liberty.

There is a real danger that people use "Christian" as shorthand for "white British" (just as they also often use "Muslim" as shorthand for "British Asian") with the implication that Christianity is seen as synonymous with "Britishness".

Ah, now Cranmer understands. Anyone who expresses concern about the diminution of Christian expression in the public sphere is a closet member of the BNP. Who are these ‘they’, Mr Ion? The Gospel of Christ knows no racial barriers, and Asians may belong to any faith and have done for centuries. Christianity has never been synonymous with Britishness, but ‘Britishness’ (whatever that be) has been Christian in an evolving political character and particular jurisprudence for more than a thousand years. England is Christian, and in that there is no shame. And it is no ‘danger’ that the ‘white British’ may wish to identify themselves as Christian, for the overwhelming majority manifestly do. The danger, Mr Ion, is in those who foment religious strife and who cry ‘danger’ where there is none.

The closer we get to a general election the more I worry that some of our political leaders will simply not be able to resist playing the "faith card" at some stage during the campaign.

The Christian faith is not a card to be played at a moment, but a life-long race to be won. Those who play the ‘faith card’ may be superficial, nominal Christians. But those who live their lives sincerely trying to work out their faith in an increasingly hostile world should not be a cause of worry but of relief. For they are the guardians of conscience, defenders of liberty, and advocates for the right to speak and to think as one wishes. And to accuse such as these of 'playing the faith card' is only to play the anti-faith card.

In 2005 we saw a glimpse of such a move when Michael Howard sought to make abortion an electoral issue.

Hmm... Cranmer must have missed that, though he was somewhat preoccupied. But let His Grace assure Mr Ion that, while Michael Howard might have talked about abortion, he certainly played no ‘faith card’. Such expression would have been antithetical to his essentially secular mindset. He has no understanding of religious conviction, no respect for Christian conscience, no grasp of the Protestant dimension of the Constitution, and no understanding of the symbiosis inherent in the delicate contract that exists between Parliament, Church, Monarch and the people. If Michael Howard mentioned abortion, it was in order to win votes. Any ‘faith card’ he played was simply a joker.

If Britain ends up (heaven forbid) mirroring what happens in the US, candidates seeking the Christian vote in the UK are likely to fall into one of two categories:
1. I am a Christian so please give me your vote. I am a good guy/girl, I go to church regularly and I am a person of simple faith just like you. You are a Christian and I am Christian – that's all you need worry about.
2. I am Christian and I have a strong moral compass (particularly when it comes to "family" values) so please give me your vote. Not only am I a Christian I am also a married Christian with a family. I think family life is the backbone of Britain; it is what makes our nation a great nation and we need to protect and promote the traditional family unit at all costs.


Cranmer agrees with Mr Ion's sentiment here, but is puzzled by his derision of Gordon Brown, who is manifestly a ‘Category 2’ Christian, obsessed with his ‘moral compass’ and who would certainly equate his ‘values’ with the ‘Britishness’ that he is still trying to define.

Let's be honest here. Category 1 is just silly – you might as well be saying "I voted for Diversity on Britain's Got Talent and so did you, please vote for me." Category 2 is slightly more sinister – "I am normal, just like you are" so vote for me. Does it matter? Well yes. Modern Christianity is in danger of becoming a privatised, pietised and politically compliant servant of the status-quo and the prospect of it ending up becoming the handmaiden of conservative, reactionary politics, similar to what has for so long dominated right of centre thinking in US politics, should worry us all.

This is an appallingly-written and utterly confused paragraph, and Cranmer is relieved that God spared the lovely people of Shrewsbury from having this man as their Member of Parliament at the last general election. To equate the agonising and eternal depths of the Christian faith with something as ephemeral and insignificant as voting for ‘Diversity’ is an insult to all people of all faiths. And note the derogatory ‘simple faith’; the caricature Evangelical salesman. There is a degree of projection here, for the only ‘silly’ reasoning is the crass superficiality of this analysis. And the final sentence reveals an alarming ignorance of the English settlement. The Christian faith has been fused at the heart of government for centuries: the English Church is bound with Parliament, and this expression of Christianity has been, to varying extents in various times, the ‘handmaiden’ of whichever political party has been in power. Through the Tory and Whig era, it has even been ‘reactionary’: the English did it way before the Americans declared their statehood. And let us not ignore the purposeful juxtaposition of ‘right of centre’ thinking which ‘should worry us all’. It is the gospel of the secularist, the false faith of ‘neutrality’ which should worry us all, not the temporal liberty inherent in the politics of the Right or the spiritual liberation offered by the Christian faith.

'Measure not your politician by their Christianity'?

That is the cry of the continuing hostility of this anti-Christian government to the defenders of the faith. What better touchstone can there be than that which measures a man by his honesty, integrity, humility, goodness, kindness, self-control? It is written in Magna Carta that ‘the English Church should be free’. In the context of Labour’s overweening power and onslaughts like this from The Guardian, the precepts of Magna Carta take on an urgent contemporary relevance: they remind us that the Christian Church is the defender of liberty and of conscience against the totalitarian State. It is time for Christians in politics to ‘do God’, for if they are silent, who is left to defend what remains of our liberty and rights of conscience?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Religion enters the Glasgow North East by-election

Those who persist in the fantasy that religion plays no part in politics, that the two do not mix, or that they should be permanently detached, will doubtless point to the present furore in Glasgow North East, where the SNP candidate, David Kerr, has been outed as a member of the ‘Catholic extremist’ group Opus Dei, which is perceived, thanks to Dan Brown, as a kind of sinister Roman Catholic freemasonry.

It appears that both Labour and Conservative MSPs are making Mr Kerr’s religious views an issue during the campaign. Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker and the Scottish Conservatives’ deputy leader Murdo Fraser have both raised questions about Mr Kerr’s membership of the controversial group. Mr Fraser said it raised questions about whether it was appropriate to have a political candidate who was a member of a ‘secretive’ and ‘hard-line’ organisation. Mr Baker said it would be ‘a cause for people to have questions’.

Cranmer has some sympathy.

But the more Mr Kerr insists that his faith is a ‘personal matter’, and pretends that ‘religion had no part to play in the election’, the more he deludes himself and deceives the electorate. He says: ‘Modern Scotland and Scottish political parties encompass people of all faiths and none. My faith is a personal matter, and religion has no part to play in this or any other campaign.’

The delusion is that Mr Kerr insists that his faith, being ‘a personal matter’, will have no bearing on the way he votes in Westminster, which is a very public matter. Asked, for example, about his views on abortion, he said: "I'm not here to talk about theology. The Catholic Church's view is well known."

So abortion is simply a matter of theology?

If religion were simply piety and devotion, it may belong in the private realm. But when that religion instructs one in the way one should vote, the public are fully entitled to enquire into the provenance of the prelate giving the direction. Members of Opus Dei are exhorted to incarnate their church's teaching through their professional work. So are all Christians. But this organisation is a strong advocate of Roman Catholic moral values on issues such as abortion and contraception. Mr Fraser was not questioning whether, as a member of Opus Dei, Mr Kerr had a right to be a candidate, but simply that his views on certain issues should be made known to the electorate.

The Labour candidate Willie Bain said: “I want to bring people together, not divide them up. My faith is important to me, but it does not matter what religion or religious organisation a candidate is in.”

That’s nice, Mr Bain. But this is Glasgow, where it matters almost as much as it does in Belfast.

Yet the SNP candidate insists that it is ‘preposterous and deeply prejudiced’ to argue that somebody of his religious beliefs should be ‘debarred’ from running for public office. He said his religious views were now an ‘open book’.

That, you see, is the problem. When one is an ‘open book’ on religion one runs the risk of being subject to scrutiny, systematically codified and labelled a bigot by some unintelligent, undiscerning, unreasonable, reactionary, bigoted journalists. One might even be called a ‘nutter’ by one’s political opponents.

No matter how reasoned, thoughtful and sincere one’s beliefs, it is almost impossible to overcome the media caricature. And all journalists engage in this; even those who profess to hold a reasoned, thoughtful and sincere faith. A National Secular Society spokesman said: "The concern for voters would be that such a person would have their allegiance to the Church and not to the SNP. It is one thing to bring your religious beliefs to politics, but it is another to bring the dogmas of a right-wing Catholic organisation. That would be the worry for voters."

Ah, we are back to ‘Pope or Parliament?’. But Cranmer is puzzled by the distinction drawn by the NSS. They appear to be saying that it is acceptable ‘to bring your religious beliefs into politics’ as long as they are not Right wing and Roman Catholic. Or is it just the ‘extreme-Catholic-Right’ variety? They appear to have no problem with Left-wing Anglicanism. Is that because it is benign and supine? Curiously, ‘the dogmas (sic) of a right-wing Catholic organisation’ were not an issue for Michael Martin, who went on to become the first Roman Catholic Speaker of the House of Commons since the Reformation. Pace Mary Honeyball, being Roman Catholic is no longer a bar to holding public office.

And in Michael Martin’s case, there were far better reasons for barring him permanently from public office.

Sadly, this by-election establishes that Tony Blair was right about ‘doing God’. Whipped up by the fervour and ecstasy of DaVinci, David Kerr’s faith has become a political football, obliging him to deceive the electorate that it is simply a personal matter and quite divorced from his public duty.

That deception alone is sufficient to establish his unsuitability for public office.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Baron Sugar of Clapton


..advance, create and prefer our trusty and well-beloved Sir Alan Michael Sugar?

...to the state degree style dignity title and honour of Baron Sugar of Clapton?

...appoint give and grant unto him the said name state degree style dignity title and honour of Baron Sugar, to have and to hold unto him for his life?

Or until such time as it becomes expedient for him to relinquish it.

Having previously said he would be 'politically neutral' and had no intention of aligning himself with Labour and that he did not know what ‘taking the Labour whip’ meant, it transpires that he has discovered its meaning and will, after all, be taking it - in a manifestly non-neutral fashion.

And so the star of 'The Apprentice' is elevated; another celebrity is advanced; another crony ennobled.

Baron Sugar of Clapton.

Sweet and sour.

Is Peter Mandelson preparing to become Prime Minister?

Labour’s proposed Constitutional Reform Bill will grant Peers of the Realm the right to ‘resign’ from the House of Lords by renouncing their right to sit in the Upper Chamber. It seems ‘life peer’ will soon mean about as much as a life sentence.

Cranmer is of the opinion in both cases that ‘life’ should mean ‘life’.

But his opinion is of no consequence.

His Grace has been pondering this development. Cui bono?

And there is only one:

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.

The post of First Secretary of State is about as senior as one can now be as an unelected peer. The roles of foreign secretary, chancellor of the exchequer or prime minister present certain constitutionally difficult issues for a member of the House of Lords to perform. Of course, Lord Salisbury managed it, but in a very different era. The proposal now is that life peers would still retain their titles even if they do resign from the Upper Chamber, thereby permitting the Lord Mandelson to once again enter the House of Commons.

It has been widely reported that he wishes to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Herbert Morrison, and become foreign secretary: it would be his ‘dream job’.

The fact that it would be another’s nightmare is neither here nor there. Now that Lord Mandelson is the most powerful politician in the land, he is able to legislate for his own personal ambition. And he alluded to doing so more than a year ago in an interview with the Financial Times:

FT: That’s touching. Have you ever considered renouncing your life peerage and standing again for the House of Commons?
PM: It’s not possible legally to do that.
FT: There’s no way you can do it?
PM: Nor have I made any inquiry. [Laughter]. Therefore, I’m trapped.
FT: Is it really not possible?
PM: I believe. I believe it is for life. That is what a life peerage is.
FT: Does it feel like a life sentence now you’ve got the taste for British politics back again?
PM: [Sneering, with his little finger curled to the corner of his mouth] Of course, you could always change the law.
FT [Laughs]: Part of the next Labour manifesto?
PM: You may see it on Monday.
FT: Really? That is a joke, I presume.

Disclosing the manifesto may have been a joke (as is Cranmer’s allusion to Dr Evil), but the possibility of changing the law manifestly was not. This proposal was clearly being formulated at the very time Peter Mandelson was being elevated to the Lords, and one can only assume that it was a condition of his elevation that it could be rescinded. When one asks ‘cui bono?’, there is necessarily a hidden motive.

We should not forget that Peter Mandelson is a fighter, not a quitter.

Lord Mandelson is manifestly fighting for a route back to front bench politics in the House of Commons, paving the way for his adoption by a ‘safe’ constituency and taking a more senior position in the Cabinet.

Forget his personal corruption, undeclared loans, implication in sleaze, obsession with spin or the slightly inconvenient fact that he has had to resign twice from the Cabinet for conduct unbecoming. Anyone who dares to refer these unfortunate episodes would conveniently be labelled a homophobe. For that plea now covers a multitude of sins: it is as politically effectual as the blood of Christ is for the salvation of the soul. Calling someone a homophobe or a bigot or a homophobic bigot now neutralises all that they say on any matter. Like ‘racist’, the mere accusation can now terminate careers and tarnish reputations in perpetuity.

Thus, even when the professional reputation of the delinquent is already sullied, it is he, the victim, who becomes victorious.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pope ‘insisted on waiting his turn’ for medical treatment

There has been an awful lot of fuss over a fractured wrist. Yet we are talking about the spiritual leader of more than a billion people, and it was his ‘blessing’ hand, which is the spiritual equivalent of President Obama’s nuclear finger. And he is 82 and very popular. And it has (thankfully) overshadowed Cherie Blair’s swine flu, who is only 54 and about whom no-one really gives a damn. Except, perhaps, her husband.

But Cranmer is disappointed that the mainstream media have missed the real story in the Pope’s misfortune.

It is reported in passing that when he arrived at the local hospital for an x-ray, he joined the queue and insisted on waiting his turn.

He insisted on being treated ‘like any other patient’.

How many world leaders would do that?

Could you see an injured Barack Obama going to his local hospital and waiting in a long queue of injured Americans haggling with the ER receptionist over their Medicare entitlement? Or Gordon Brown in need of surgery but being content to register on an NHS waiting list only to be summoned on a date which suits them, and then being cancelled two or three times while they deal with a more deserving case?

The Pope manifested an exemplary Christian witness: a true expression of humility; the very incarnation of ‘he who is last shall be first’.

It is widely held that politicians are venal creatures, and religious leaders are largely held in contempt. The example of His Holiness is the precise antidote necessary to heal the patient – not to be engaged in as some superficial PR exercise which ensures that photographs are taken under a convenient ‘Waiting Room’ sign while journalists are briefed on the ‘humble meekness’ line they should take; but a genuine humility authentically expressed from the heart: outward visible signs of inward spiritual sincerity.

George Bernard Shaw once declared: "The Church must learn humility, as well as teach it.” Is it not refreshing that there is one world leader who is seen to possess integrity; who speaks truth from the heart against the zeitgeist? True humility – about which our politicians appear to know very little – is being humble about the right things in the right way and at the right times. As GK Chesterton observed: "What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has settled on the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself but undoubting about the truth. This has been exactly reversed."

Christian humility has become a hidden virtue. In a vain and boastful world obsessed with the self, the ego, convenience and the pursuit of gratification, God still gives grace to the humble. In humility is wisdom. As TS Eliot glimpsed: "The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility.”

But rather like the Mozart sonatas which His Holiness is fond of playing, humility is most understood and best appreciated when it is performed rather than merely scored, defined or preached about. The dictionary may talk of meekness, self-denial, self-deprecation, abasement and self-sacrifice. But these are just black notes on a page.

The symphony of humility is found only it is performance. And those who have time for others, who are more interested in others and who express genuine sympathy for others, are the true servants of the people.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Roman Catholic marriage agency advocates gay and unmarried parents

One is used to diversity in Anglican circles. Indeed, those circles are so concentrically numerous that it is no longer easy to discern what is orthodox Anglicanism, which church traditions are to be maintained and which foundational doctrines sacrificed on the altar of relativism. The via media has been become a cul-de-sac: the pretence of unity has finally been acknowledged, and schism become reality.

This is not AD325, and neither is it 1054: it does not approach 1517 or even 1534.

But the schism of 2009 is not an acutely Anglican problem, though there are those in another place who pour all manner of scorn and contempt upon the Worldwide Communion for its inconsistency, mutability and contradiction. Essentially, they mock its humanity. Instead of reaching out in love, some of those who are persuaded that their church alone is built upon a rock prefer to deride that part which is sinking into the sand.

But the ‘gay’ issue which has so plagued the Church of England has now reached the Church of Rome. It was, of course, an issue in Rome first, for Rome preceded England by 1200 years or so. And Rome has always had its gay priests, some of whom are certainly not celibate, and the worst of whom prey on the innocence of the altar boy. Although long known, it is simply not discussed. And when it is discussed, it is covered up – sometimes with tragic consequences.

At least the Anglican Communion is addressing the issues openly. It may not be edifying, but it is honest.

And yet those in another place continue to convey the impression that fragmentation is peculiarly Protestant; that division is intrinsic to Anglicanism; fracture is guaranteed and scission inevitable as a consequence of rejecting the papal and fusing the episcopal with the synodical.

But divisions are as evident in the Roman Catholic Church, and not only among the bishops in England and Wales. Terry Prendergast, chief executive of Marriage Care – a marriage support agency funded by the Roman Catholic Church – is of the opinion that homosexuals and unmarried couples can be just as good parents as married couples.

Presumably he favours the closure of the Catholic adoption agencies.

Their website says: ‘Marriage Care embraces and holds true to the Church's vision of marriage as a vocation of love, with the power to transform individual lives and to serve as a bedrock to a stable society.’

Its ‘Philosophy and Values’ make interesting reading.

Yet Mr Prendergast asserts there is ‘no evidence’ that children do better if they are brought up in a traditional two-parent family. And he laments that ‘those who live together out of wedlock are trying to lead good lives but find themselves "consigned to the dustbin" by the church’.

It is a great pity he chose to conflate these two issues, but he was addressing a group by the name of Quest - a 'group for lesbian and gay Catholics’ – and one gets the impression he was scratching itching ears. Certainly, his position directly contradicts his church's teaching, which holds that homosexuality is sinful: Pope Benedict maintains that it is a ‘moral evil’ and even the inclination an ‘objective disorder’.

It is a mystery to Cranmer why the Roman Catholic Church continues to finance Mr Prendergast’s itinerant ministry, for he preaches the sermon of the most liberal Anglican, and does so with misinformation, distortion and lies.

Consider this:

"We see, for example, that statistically children do best in a family where the adult relationship is steady, stable and loving – you should note here perhaps that I stress adult, not married, since there is no evidence that suggests that children do best with heterosexual couples."

No evidence to suggest that children do better with heterosexual couples? What about THIS, or THIS?

And what about the authority of Scripture itself?

He said that God is present in the relationships of married, homosexual and cohabiting heterosexual relationships where there is ‘commitment, consent and covenant. He continued: "They want to live good lives according to the precepts of the Gospels. They are an advert for the Church, an advert that the Church often ignores or consigns to the waste-bin."

Well, God can be anywhere and in any relationship, for he is omnipresent. And if he can speak through an ass, he can certainly speak through Terry Prendergast. But Mr Prendergast fails to perceive that cohabitation is the precise opposite of commitment for it is the absence of covenant. And the desire to live a good life is not sufficient for salvation: we are not saved by being nice. To assert that either cohabitation or homosexual relationships are consistent with ‘the precepts of the Gospels’ is to misrepresent the teachings of Christ. Unless, of course, in the Gospel according to Terry Prendergast, ‘love your neighbour’ is concerned with eros and not agape.

In Mr Prendergast’s Protestant-Catholic-Relativist mind, orthodoxy is subject to orthopraxis. His gospel is the synthesis of a number of heresies, fusing truth with error, thus rendering it as hard for Roman Catholics to discern authentic Christian doctrine as it has become for most Anglicans.

As if this were not enough, Mr Prendergast also said: “The fact that there are all kinds of benefits available for different family forms, and legal imperatives to support families suggests that the State is even more concerned for families than Church."

So this appalling and profoundly anti-Christian Labour government cares more about families than the church because it supports people who are unmarried and allows same-sex civil partnerships.

Cranmer can hardly be bothered to engage with this tripe. Of course single parents must be given support, and Cranmer has no problem with homosexual couples entering into secular binding contracts – for that is what ‘civil partnership’ amounts to. But the family unit is important to the Church because it is instituted by God for the effective functioning of society. And anyone who asserts that the present Government ‘cares more about families than the church’ is either stupid or in the wrong church.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pagan Police Association granted holidays to practise witchcraft

According to the Office of National Statistics, there are 31,000 pagans in England and Wales (with an additional 7000 Wiccans).

The proportion of these who happen to be in the police force must be minuscule, and yet there exists the Pagan Police Association.

Well, why not? We have the Muslim Police Association, the Christian Police Association (with a separate Catholic Police Guild), the Sikh Police Association, the Jewish Police Association, the Gay Police Association, the Black Police Association...

there is no logical end to the fracturing of any society along minority concerns: one may, after all, be a minority of one. And so this Pagan Police Association – who ‘worship nature and believe in many gods’ – has been granted the right to observe such holidays as Hallowe’en and the Summer Solstice. Doubtless, since the origin of the timing of Christmas and the naming of Easter are also pagan, they will enjoy those as well. Along with Thor’s birthday, the commemoration of Odin’s eye and Freyr’s fertility rite.

And yet this Association appears to have a membership of one. Or, at least, PC Andy Pardy’s eight annual immovable, immutable, non-negotiable pagan holidays appear to be of no consequence to anyone except PC Pardy (who happens to be a force ‘equality and diversity representative’).

A statement from Superintendent Simon Hawkins of Hertfordshire Police says it all: "While balancing operational needs, the force's religion and beliefs policy gives all staff the choice of re-allocating the traditional Christian bank-holiday festivals to suit their personal faith. This has been very well received from a number of faith groups, including Muslim and Jewish."

A spokesman for the Home Office confirmed: "The Government wants a police service that reflects the diverse communities it serves. It is down to individual forces to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the religion or beliefs of individual officers, as far as operational requirements permit."

But in the true spirit of Anglicanism, there is already a pagan schism. For another officer, PC Andy Hill of Staffordshire Police, a practising Wiccan (basically, a witch) has founded the Pagan Police Group UK. He said: "Wiccan has always been a bit of a taboo religion, there are lots of misconceptions around it. This is nothing to do with black magic or devil worshipping. It is working with nature for good."

But is not PC Hill a religious bigot?

Who is he to condemn the sincerely-held beliefs of the devout Satan worshippers?

Who defines which religions are to be recognised or not? Who authorises the authorisation? Is the state defining religion? If so, by what criteria?

If the police are to be granted days for religious observance for every pagan idol under the sun, would they permit Satan worship? If not, why not? If so, could this right be extended to (say) school holidays or to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces? If so, could Her Majesty’s ships be legitimately used for Satan worship?

There must be more declared Jedi than there are Pagans. In fact, there are more registered Jedi in Strathclyde Police alone than there appear to be pagans in the entire national constabulary.

So why not have a Jedi Police Association?

Or a Gay Jedi Police Association?

Or a Gay Black Jedi Police Association?

Reductio ad absurdum.

It is not often you will hear Cranmer say this, but he agrees with the National Secular Society on this matter. Their spokesman Terry Sanderson said: “The police should call a stop to this and dismantle all religious groups.”

And not only the religious groups, but all of these politically-correct scissions, divisions and partitions.

Cranmer is all for freedom of religion: it is foundational to liberal democracy. But Her Majesty’s Police Service is not charged with the provision of religious services: it is not a theological college, a sexual health clinic or an identity counselling service. Police officers should be united by their uniform, not segregated by their sexual preferences, the gods they worship or the colour of their skin. Cranmer will probably be condemned for intolerance, but he is convicted that there should be no Black Police Association, or Gay Police Association, or any association or guild within the organisation, for they are often mutually exclusive, invariably foment division, and unavoidably detract from what the police are supposed to be about.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

BBC pays head of Muslim Council of Britain £45,000 for 'libel'

Cranmer is simmering with rage – the thumos type, not the orge, though it may soon become so.

He reported a few months ago that the corporation had offered the MCB the princely sum of £30,000 and an apology for remarks made by Charles Moore on 12th March, when Question Time was debating the protests in Luton of a group of Islamic extremists during a homecoming parade by the Royal Anglian Regiment. These professing Muslims heckled the troops and waved placards which read 'Butchers of Basra' and 'British Government: Terrorist Government'. Charles Moore simply criticised the leadership of MCB for failing to condemn the killing and kidnapping of British soldiers overseas: thus, he averred, do they tacitly support such atrocity. The reason is manifest; the logic impeccable.

Cranmer was incensed then. Now he has a deep, inward feeling of anger.

£30,000 was clearly insufficient, for it has risen to £45,000.

The BBC has paid libel damages simply for broadcasting Charles Moore’s comment, which, it appears to Cranmer, would amount to fair comment. And it is even more grotesque when one considers that Muhammad Abdul Bari, the recipient of this small fortune, was never even mentioned by name.

How can one libel someone who was not named?

Thus is Charles Moore rendered guilty of a ‘thought-crime’ for an unacceptable ‘slur’ the good name and impeccable reputation of the MCB.

Instead of defending the right of Mr Moore to hold or express such views, the BBC loyally pays its jizya (or, rather, pays it on our behalf), and offers material proof of the kafir’s acceptance of subjection to the shari’a state.

But what is curious in the BBC’s reporting of this story is that they do not mention Charles Moore by name: he is simply referred to as ‘one of the Question Time panellists’.

Why might that be?

Could it be that by offering an ‘unreserved apology’ and paying out this absurd sum of taxpayers’ money to the Muslim Council of Britain, they are actually libelling the impeccable, upright, honest and noble Charles Moore?

Cranmer urges him to contact Carter Ruck without delay. His Grace would be happy to assist with the procurement of a legal opinion.
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