Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why does UNISON subsidise the abortion industry?

His Grace has received quite literally hundreds of emails, tweets and DMs over the past few days – very many of them unpleasant and personally abusive, and almost all of them misunderstanding the proposed Dorries/Field amendment to the forthcoming Health and Social Care Bill, or purposely seeking to misrepresent it.

If His Grace’s email box is anything to go by, it is the opinion of many that a woman’s womb is nothing to do with the Government. It is a curious proposition, leaving the woman to do with her ‘foetus’ whatever she wishes, presumably right up to the point of birth. The ‘religious nutters’ like Nadine Dorries should butt out, they say, and leave the enlightened, progressive, ‘pro-choice’ politicians to do the right thing. And then, of course, we arrive at a point where women may not even be selected as parliamentary candidates unless they are sponsored by Emily’s List, which ensures that Labour’s green benches are packed with abortion-supporting women, thereby creating an inbuilt pro-abortion majority in perpetuity.

If the Roman Catholic Church were to do that, to attempt to gerrymander a hint of ‘Pro-life’ bias, there would be uproar.

But if a woman’s womb is nothing to do with the Government, what concern is it of a trade union?

It appears that UNISON (amongst other unions) finance the 'Pro-choice' group known as 'Abortion Rights'. Why is this? Why should 'religious nutters' be barred from propagating their dogma while political activists are free to spout their ideology? Abortion Rights say of themselves:
We are an active membership-based democratic campaigning organisation. In additional to individual members, we are delighted to have the support of NUS and civil society organisations as well as the TUC and national trade unions including AMICUS , ASLEF , CWU , FBU , NAPO , PCS , RMT , T&G , TSSA , UCU , UNISON , trade union regions, branches, sections and individual trade unionists.
The manner and form of this ‘support’ is nowhere disclosed, but it would be a fair bet that in some cases it is financial. Abortion Rights do choose to reveal:
We would like to thank The Feminist Review Trust , UNISON's General Political Fund, and Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust for the generous financial support they have made towards our campaigning activities.
Generous financial support? Do UNISON members know their subscriptions are being used in this way?

We are not simply talking here about maintaining women’s current rights on abortion, or promoting their welfare in the workplace, both of which may be considered wholly proper pursuits for a trade union. No, Abortion Rights seek to go much further:
We are campaigning to defend and extend women's rights and access to safe, legal abortion. We oppose any attack on the 1967 Abortion Act including any attempt to lower the abortion time limit. 40 years after the introduction of safe, legal abortion in Britain women's rights should be advanced not driven back. A consistent three quarters of people support a woman's right to choose in Britain. We believe the law should be brought into line with public opinion - so that women can make their own reproductive decisions without the current unfair legal barriers, obstructions and delays.
Presumably, they seek even to abolish the need for the consent of two doctors before a baby is terminated. Whilst reiterating (once again) that the Dorries/Field amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill interferes with none of the legal rights already established, Abortion Rights are actively campaigning to oppose the move, portraying it at as ‘anti-choice’ amendment (the strategy revealed yesterday).

So why are trades unions supporting the aggressive tactics of Abortion Rights? And why is UNISON doing so with ‘generous financial support’? The union declares unequivocally on its own website: ‘UNISON is affiliated to Abortion Rights’.

To be affiliated is to be attached, connected, associated (literally, ‘adopted as a son’).

His Grace knows quite a few Roman Catholics who refuse to support charitable events like Red Nose Day because some of the money raised goes to fund abortion provision in the developing world. Fair enough. But by the same standard, how may any Roman Catholic be a member of UNISON when they are ‘affiliated' to Abortion Rights? Indeed, how may any Christian who is concerned with the issue of abortion help to finance a trade union which actively supports a group dedicated to ending all ‘legal barriers, obstructions and delays’?

Pope Benedict XVI has called abortion a ‘crime of aggression not only against the unborn, but also against society’. It is, he says, ‘never a solution’. Moreover, the decriminalising of abortion is a ' betrayal of democracy’ against which all Christians should make a stand.

According to the Vatican, abortion is the primary issue 'because it negates two of our most fundamental moral imperatives: respect for innocent life, and preferential concern for the weak and defenceless'.

It is not the business of His Grace to direct his readers or communicants on any issue of conscience: he is Anglican, and holds that believers may bring their own reasoning faculties to Scripture and interpret it in accordance with Christian tradition.

But it is inconceivable to him that a Christian who prioritises the issue of abortion could be a member of UNISON, which is in a self-declared partnership with Abortion Rights not merely to sustain the status quo but to extend abortion provision and advance the cause of those who wish to terminate the unborn. Individual union members have NO CHOICE about this: their subscriptions are handed over regardless of their personal beliefs.

From the information in the public domain and presented here, it is His Grace’s considered opinion that membership of UNISON (and other unions which subsidise or ‘support’ the work of Abortion Rights) is certainly incompatible with the traditions and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

Is it not time for a mass exodus?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The abortion lobby discloses its ‘anti-choice’ strategy

Following on from yesterday’s post – which elicited an awful lot of invective and vitriol aimed at His Grace, with Chris Bryant even referring to His Grace as a ‘fundamentalist Christian’ (merely for asking others to pray for him) – it is kind of the New Humanist magazine to outline their strategy for neutering Nadine Dorries. And please note (as per yesterday’s post) that the target is solely and exclusively ‘Conservative MP Nadine Dorries’. There is no mention at all of ‘Labour MP Frank Field’ (who is jointly tabling the amendment):

How should we respond to Nadine Dorries and the anti-choice agenda?

I attended a meeting last night, organised by Jess McCabe of The F Word and Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy, on how to respond to the renewed efforts of the anti-choice lobby, highlighted by the efforts of the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries on abortion and sex education, and the government's inclusion of the anti-choice group Life on its new advisory forum on sexual health. There's lots to think about in light of the meeting, so I thought I'd share some of what was said and invite you to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

First, we heard from Diane Abbott, the Labour MP and Shadow Minister for Public Health, who began by saying that, in campaigning on these issues since the 1990s, she has learned that the "price of the right to choose is eternal vigilance" – just when you think the argument has been won, the anti-choice lobby always comes back. Her second point was that we should not be fooled into thinking that those who oppose abortion do so in the interests of the unborn child – the people who would vote to restrict abortion rights are often the same people who would happily cut welfare for children once they have been born. Abbott also pointed out that Nadine Dorries isn't entirely stupid. She is approaching the issue via a genuine problem – the high rate of teenage pregnancy – but attacking choice is not the answer. Those who want to lower teenage pregnancy should focus on improving education and social conditions, rather than pursuing an abstinence-based approach that gas a proven record of failure. It is shocking that a group like Life, which pushes an anti-scientific approach for ideological reasons, should have been invited by the government to sit on a sexual health forum that should be scientific. Abbott also noted that the new intake of Conservative MPs is quite right-wing on these issues – "these are not people you want voting on women's reproductive rights" – and ended with a call for people to stand up for the right to choose. The anti-choice agenda, she said, is not about the rights of the unborn child or the sexualisation of children – it is an attack on women and the advances made in the last century. For the sake of women who have no voice, those that do need to find theirs.

Next up was Darinka Aleksic, campaign co-ordinator at Abortion Rights, who noted that there has been a sea change since the general election last year. Instead of a major attack on choice, such as the attempt to lower the time limit for abortion in 2008, we are seeing small measures designed to reframe the debate. Dorries is presenting it as a "pro-woman" agenda, tying the abortion debate in with the question of the sexualisation of children. It is important, said Aleksic, for those who are pro-choice to take back control of the agenda and remind people that the majority of people in the UK support the right to choose.

We then heard from Lisa Hallgarten of Education for Choice, who began by pointing out that pro-choice campaigners need to think carefully about the terminology they use, ensuring they do not allow the debate to be framed by the anti-abortion lobby. The term "anti-choice" should be used, not "pro-life", and we should not accept the notion that "every abortion is a tragedy". Abortion has been a huge boon to public health, and it is important, not just for the women accessing it, but also for communities and society as a whole. Dorries' tactic, said Hallgarten, is to throw as much mud as she can in the hope that some of it will stick. Everything she says is based on a false premise. For example, she has proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill that would require women seeking abortion to access "independent information, advice and couselling services", under the entirely false premise that women do not already have access to counselling. In terms of her abstinence bill, it is not true that children how told to go out and have sex, and the hypocrisy is that the people who support such measures are the same people who have cut funding for good sex education. Hallgarten ended by pointing out that the pro-choice movement should argue from an evidence base – evidence-based practice unites everybody, and sexual health policy should not be based on the whims of ideologues. It should be about what works, and that is why arguments for choice should be based on evidence.

There followed an open discussion on how to proceed with responding to the anti-choice lobby, in which the 40-50 people present offered their ideas. Many were in favour of backing a pro-choice rally that is taking place in London on 9 July, and there was discussion of how to mount a stronger response in the media – the pro-choice message is prevalent in the liberal broadsheets, but how can it get a better hearing in the tabloids? One of the best points made, in my opinion, concerned the need to seize the initiative from Dorries and the anti-choice lobby. Those in favour of abortion rights need to press the fact that the status quo isn't good enough – women in Northern Ireland don't have access to abortion, there is a postcode lottery in the rest of Britain, and the two doctors rule is an unnecessary obstacle for women seeking abortion. There was discussion of the shock-tactics used by anti-choice groups such as Life and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in schools (the Guardian reported on this a couple of years ago) and the need to highlight and oppose this, protecting children from being exposed to lies disguised as sex education. It was also noted that we should not fall in to the trap of thinking the anti-choice lobby represent the religious perspective – most religious believers in the UK support access to contraception and many support choice.

So, while there were no firm conclusions from the meeting, there was plenty to consider and there are clearly lots of ways in which those who are pro-choice can take back the initiative and answer Nadine Dorries and the wider anti-choice lobby.

The purpose of the meeting was to share ideas, so let's get a discussion going in the comments below. How should we respond to Nadine Dorries and the anti-choice agenda?
To be clear, the Dorries/Field amendment is NOT limiting choice; it is NOT changing abortion law; it is NOT reducing the time limit; it is NOT making counselling mandatory. These are lies being put about to confuse and deceive.
The Dorries/Field amendment is actually INCREASING CHOICE in the provision of counselling by permitting companies other than the abortion provider to offer the service. His Grace has tried long and hard to see this from the perspective of the pro-abortion lobby, who object vehemently to exclusivity being removed from BPAS and Marie Stopes. But he truly cannot see the objection. According to a Right to Know report, BPAS and Marie Stopes ‘are strongly driven by financial motivations and see success in increasing the number of abortions that they perform. Both organisations employ Business Development experts to promote abortion and increase revenues. They have business plan objectives and targets to increase the number of abortions that they perform’.

The Dorries/Field amendment STREGTHENS WOMEN’S CHOICE by insisting that independent advice is offered where it is sought. Where it is not sought, the process is unchanged; the women ‘unhindered’. The proposal removes the unacceptable conflict of interest and the perceived conflict of interest that organisations in receipt of state funding to perform abortions are also those who give advice on a woman’s best course of action. It is a separation routinely insisted upon in so many other areas: imagine a Member of Parliament using his parliamentary allowances (taxpayers’ money) to advise Government departments on services provided by the MP, and this ‘advice’ resulted in contracts by which the Minister's company was enriched to the tune of £60 million per annum.

Perhaps the advice was objective, professional and impartial, as many insist the counselling services of BPAS and Marie Stopes are. But would not there be just a whiff of justifiable doubt? Was not the Register of Members’ Interests introduced to mitigate or eradicate even the perception of such conflicts of interest? Was not the Standards and Privileges Committee established to ensure that political influence may not easily be sold?

If this was deemed necessary to improve the reputation of Parliament and the respect and standing of our politicians, why, when we are dealing with abortion providers and the lives of the unborn, may the same rigour and standards not apply? Seriously, would not BPAS and Marie Stopes (not to mention Diane Abbot, ‘Abortion Rights’ and ‘Education for Choice’) prefer every year to see some 60,000 more adoptions than abortions? Or are they really so anti-life?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Nadine Dorries is a victim of Lib-Lab sexism

Dr Evan Harris (LibDem), David Allen Green (LibDem) and Chris Bryant (Labour) aren’t at all happy with Nadine Dorries. In what is being billed as the biggest shake-up to abortion law in a generation, her modest proposal is that women should be offered independent counselling to give them a breathing space before proceeding with termination. ‘Pro-life’ campaigners estimate that some 60,000 children would be saved every year. ‘Pro-choice’ campaigners insist that it will mean more stress for the women concerned.

His Grace reported on this some months ago. At the moment, abortion providers like BPAS and Marie Stopes offer counselling to women, but they are paid only when the termination is carried out. Each year in the UK, some 180,000 children are dispensed with through this method, at a cost of some £60 million to the tax-payer. There is an evident bias because companies like BPAS and Marie Stopes are profit-making businesses and have a vested interest in procuring abortion: when women are dissuaded, it hits the profit margin. There is nothing independent about BPAS advice or impartial about Maries Stopes' counselling at all. Mrs Dorries says:
‘Abortion has become a factory-efficient process that denies women the right to independent, professional counselling. Many women who are given the opportunity to talk through their situation in a calm environment cease to panic and begin to consider other options. It is every woman’s right to be given the choice of access to professional help at the time of a crisis pregnancy.’
According to former MP Dr Evan Harris, Nadine Dorries is ‘mad’. According to lawyer David Allen Green, she is ‘illiberal’. According to Labour MP Chris Bryant, she is 'misguided'.

What could possibly be ‘illiberal’ about wanting to give information to women contemplating an abortion, which is the standard throughout the European Union? What is ‘mad’ about a policy which seeks to give women a real choice, which the ‘pro-choice’ lobby profess to support, while anyone with half a brain (who hasn’t been aborted) knows that ‘pro-choice’ is simply a euphemism for ‘pro-abortion’? What is ‘misguided’ about ensuring that counselling is truly independent and that pregnant women are given complete information about all their options, including that of adoption?

One might expect The Guardian to have a go at these evil Christian activists, and seek to portray Mrs Dorries as some self-righteous, swivel-eyed, loony Christian right-winger, of the sort they have in abundance in the United States. One might expect an extremist atheist secularist like Dr Evan Harris to manifest prejudice against Evangelical Christians, or refer to Pope Benedict XVI as a dictator.

But it is to be observed that these proposed amendments to the Health Bill also have the support of Labour’s Frank Field MP. He is backing the change, and explains: ‘I’m anxious that taxpayers’ money is used so that people can have a choice – we are paying for independent counselling and that’s what should be provided.’

But Messrs Harris, Green and Bryant ignore him, and all aim for the woman. It is a despicable Lib-Lab strategy to attack the easy target, because Frank Field is male and enormously respected on all sides of the House. His Grace asked Chris Bryant last night why he was focusing on the fairer sex, but reply came there none. Their attack is sexist; a reaction against conservative feminism which seeks nothing but the right to education. Shame on them.

All across Europe, there is legislation requiring informed consent, and these countries have significantly lower abortion rates. In the UK, there is no requirement in law for women to be informed about the abortion procedure or the alternatives. If you want evidence of the present ‘conveyer belt’ approach to abortion, read this report in the Telegraph, and then thank God there are people like Nadine Dorries and Frank Field in Parliament with the conviction to confront this systematic state slaughter of our children. Oh, and they're both Anglican, by the way.

And as you're praying for them, please also pray for Evan Harris, David Allen Green and Chris Bryant, and try to discern what their true motives may be.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Stand: Christians for Israel

His Grace has been asked to publicise The Stand, an event of peaceable assembly (so the Home Secretary cannot ban it) organised by Mordecai Voice to take place on Tuesday 13th September, 3-5pm at Old Palace Yard, Westminster:
As many of you are aware, the Palestinian Authority is evidently going to put forth a resolution to be voted by the UN in September this year (some are saying the 20th). This is a frightening development and one I know will have huge implications for the nations of the world. As a result the Israeli government has reached out to ICEJ for Christian support! We want to respond to this call.

These are urgent times I'm sure you'll agree. Mordecai Voice would like to join with the efforts of many other fantastic organisations in praying and seeking the Lord's face regarding this development, so that we in the UK (especially the Church!) will not be party to what is happening. Therefore because of the urgent nature of what is upcoming we are going to do another STAND for/with Israel from the UK church as we did in July. We have liaised with the police who will again be working with us to ensure another successful and impacting event. They have suggested Old Palace Yard, right outside Westminster and the Houses of Parliament will be the best place to get the maximum impact and to get the most public, politician and media views. The date for this key event will be Tuesday 13th September, from 3.00-5.00pm and will be another chance for us to show that we, as UK Christians, love, support and believe in the scriptural promises for the Jewish people and Israel. We will publicly pray, proclaim scriptural truths and prophecies and worship the Lord as we so powerfully did outside the Israeli embassy in July. We have chosen this date to coincide with others who are doing key things.

Please pass this info on as a matter of urgency. Although one month seems short notice, we have recently conversed with an excellent organisation in Holland that managed to get hundreds of people to publically support Israel with just 2 days notice and I believe that we can 'gather the troops' to be in force, in even greater numbers than July. Please book your time off work, make preparations and inform me as soon as possible of your involvement at this key event and pass on this info to all you know to be Christian supporters of Israel and God's agendas in these last times. Please bring your banners again (which were so awesome in July – the banners were shown around the Jewish world via the media, and will be seen again). Banners of love and support for/with Israel NOT AGAINST the Muslim/Palestinian peoples. Our mandate is clear; to be publically FOR and WITH Israel, not AGAINST anyone, for our battle is against powers and principalities, not flesh and blood (people). Banners proclaiming Scriptural promises for Israel regarding their land and Jerusalem will also be relevant.

Please spread the word to your contacts and RSVP via the advanced contact form or through, as a matter of urgency so we can have an idea of numbers for co-ordination purposes, for this key day. If you would like leaflets to hand out at your Church/meetings/prayer groups etc please let me know as soon as possible and we will hurry them out to you.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Anti-Semitism at St Andrews University

On the left is 20-year-old Gentile Paul Donnachie; on the right is 18-year-old Jew Chanan Reitblat - both students at St Andrews University.

On the evening of March 12th, a drunken Mr Donnachie entered Mr Reitblat's room in the halls of residence, rubbed his genitals and then wiped his hands on an Israeli flag displayed proudly upon Mr Reitblat's wall. Mr Donnachie said: "Whilst in the room at the student residences of an individual who I considered a friend, Chanan Reitblat, I placed my hands down the front of my jeans and onto an Israeli flag which belonged to him, accompanied by comments to the effect that Israel is a terrorist state, and is guilty of many civilian deaths."

He continued, "The action was not malicious. However, it sparked a great deal of political debate amongst our group of friends within our Hall of Residence, whereby the nature of the State of Israel was discussed."

But Mr Donnachie has been found guilty of racial abuse, and has been expelled from St Andrews University.

Cupar Sheriff Court in the county of Fife is not really a happening kind of place, but it was packed throughout the two-day trial, with friends of the plaintiff and members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) among those in attendance. There were cries of 'shame', 'disgrace' and 'scandal' from the public benches after Mr Donnachie, who described himself as a 'political activist', was found guilty by Sheriff Charles Macnair.

Sentence has been deferred until September 13th, with Mr Donnachie vowing to appeal the verdict. He maintains that he was protesting against the state of Israel rather than offending any individual.

The case turns on whether or not critism of the Israeli flag amounts to anti-Semitism. According to artist Carlos Latuff, the Star of David is a legitimate target when placed on the Israeli flag:
Since visiting the West Bank in 1999, Latuff has become known for his support of the Palestinian cause; some campaigners claim his work is antisemitic. “Part of the supposed ‘evidence’ for my antisemitism is the fact that I’ve used the Star of David, which is a symbol of Judaism,” he says wearily. “But check all my artworks – you’ll find that the Star of David is never drawn alone. It’s always part of the Israeli flag. Yes, it’s a religious motif, but in Israel it has been applied to a state symbol; and it’s the institutions of the state – the politicians and the army – that I’m targeting. Including the flag of Israel in a cartoon is no more an attack on Judaism than including the flag of Turkey would be an attack on Islam.”
But Harry's Place exposes the lie: Latuff is a high-grade anti-Semite, and the prejudice just pours out of his artwork.

The St Andrews case is indeed interesting, not least because the University's own Chaplaincy Centre has a web page to advise Jewish students, which warns: 'A continuing and on-going concern of all Jews is the manifestation of anti-semitism.' They didn't quite expect to find it with their own halls of residence. But despite the Sheriff stating that the case has a 'significant and very legitimate' public interest dimension, you'll only find the story reported in a local newspaper or in the Jewish press. When you consider all the fuss and bother (and cash) expended on campus 'Islamophobia', is it not rather anti-Semitic of the mainstream media (pace the BBC) not to have dedicated just a few column inches to the story?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Blog Cabinet of the United Kingdom

Several years ago, when the Conservative Party was in opposition and we dwelled under the oppression of the Blair/Brown/EU oligarchy, His Grace fantasised about his ideal Cabinet (from people living or dead). Much of it escapes him: he vaguely recalls creating a new department for Norris McWhirter – Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (or some such), yet the entire post appears to have been lost in the mists of time and the dense fog that is Google. But no matter. This being the final week of August – and there being no sign of the Prime Minister being imminently recalled again from his holiday – His Grace thought it would be a bit of fun and silliness to seek the thoughts of his communicants as to which UK bloggers ought to be appointed to the Blog Cabinet of the United Kingdom.

The make-up of the present Cabinet may be found HERE. Below are His Grace’s favoured nominations to the Blog Cabinet. They are not all a perfect fit (though many are), but, as with all politics, His Grace was obliged to find positions for all those he favoured. Naturally, modesty prevents him from proposing himself for office, though other bloggers are free to nominate themselves should they wish to do so. There is no obligation to fill all positions (which takes quite some time), and alternative departments may be created (with justified reason). Please include the name of the blog as well as the nominee.

UPDATE 11.30am - after considerable lobbying and significant media (Twitter) pressure, His Grace was forced into a Blog Cabinet reshuffle: Tim Montgomerie went to DWP and Donal Blaney to Justice.

Archbishop Cranmer's nominations to the Blog Cabinet of the United Kingdom

Prime Minister - Norman Tebbit (Telegraph)

Deputy Prime Minister - Daniel Hannan (Telegraph)

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs - Melanie Phillips (Melanie Phillips)

Chancellor of the Exchequer - John Redwood (John Redwood's Diary)

Secretary of State for Justice - Donal Blaney (Dale & Co)

Secretary of State for the Home Department - Janet Daley (Telegraph)

Minister for Women and Equality - Ed West (Telegraph)

Secretary of State for Defence - Dr Richard North (Defence of the Realm/ EU Referendum)

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills - Douglas Carswell (Douglas Carswell's Blog)

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions - Tim Montgomerie (ConservativeHome)

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change - James Delingpole (Telegraph)

Secretary of State for Health - Nadine Dorries (Dale & Co)

Secretary of State for Education - Katharine Birbalsingh (Telegraph)

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government - Nick Baines (Nick Baines' Blog)

Secretary of State for Transport - Mark Wallace (Crash Bang Wallace)

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - Therese Coffey (Dale & Co)

Secretary of State for International Development - Paul Goodman (ConservativeHome)

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland - Mick Fealty (Slugger O'Toole)

Secretary of State for Scotland - Tom Harris (Dale & Co)

Secretary of State for Wales - Grant Tucker (Dale & Co)

Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport - Iain Dale (Dale & Co)

Chief Secretary to the Treasury - Phillip Blond (The Disraeli Room)

Leader of the House of Lords - Michael Ashcroft (Dale & Co)

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster - Greg Callus (Dale & Co)

Minister without Portfolio (Minister of State) - Nelson Jones (Heresy Corner)

Also attending Cabinet meetings

Minister for the Cabinet Office - Charles Crawford (Charles Crawford)

Paymaster General - Mike Smithson (Political Betting)

Minister of State in the Cabinet Office - Peter Hitchens (Mail)

Minister of State for Universities and Science - Guy Walters (New Statesman)

Leader of the House of Commons - Toby Young (Telegraph)

Lord Privy Seal - Martin Bright (Spectator Coffee House)

Chief Whip in the House of Commons - Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes)

Also attends Cabinet when ministerial responsibilities are on the agenda

Attorney General - David Allen Green (Jack of Kent)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Is Sarah Palin about to announce her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination?

O, please, God. Pleeeeeease.

Michael Meacher on the EU’s ‘unnoticed power-grab’

Michael Meacher MP has written a peculiar article which purports to disclose what has hitherto been concealed. He refers to ‘licentious members of the eurozone’ who are having ‘punishment meted out to them for their financial wickedness’. He observes:
Greece and Ireland have had their domestic fiscal policy-making amputated. This has been done without anaesthetic by Euro Commission surgeons supervised by the German finance ministry using hacksaws and chisels apparently loaned from Milton Friedman’s Chicago economics department.
He then explains the lack of transparency in the EU’s decision-making process and the total absence of democratic accountability. He observes the shift towards EU harmonisation of wages, taxation and benefits. He decries that the European Parliament – ‘the only democratic EU institution’ – is able only to offer its ‘opinion’ but may not amend what the European Commission has already set in stone. And he is incredulous that recalcitrant countries can be bullied to conform or punished with fines if they refuse to submit to the suzerain power. He concludes:
That amounts to being forced to implement EU law, but without any say on the law being produced. The Commission is emerging, quietly and insidiously, as the European Tea Party movement of neoliberal fundamentalists. The AGS is an extraordinarily reactionary document, and Britain – and the Labour Party in particular – should be strongly rejecting this slide towards undemocratic government.
Just where has Michael Meacher been for the past 40 years? He was elected to Parliament in 1970 and would have heard all the fractious debate surrounding UK accession to the EEC in 1973. He would have witnessed (and been party to) the 1975 referendum. He would have listened intently to the speeches of Enoch Powell on the implications for political sovereignty; his own party would still have been reverberating with the warning of Hugh Gaitskell that EEC membership would mean ‘the end of Britain as an independent nation state… the end of a thousand years of history’.

Yet Michael Meacher sat meekly by throughout the Blair years, climbing the greasy pole of ministerial responsibility, all the way to the Cabinet. He was mute through the Maastricht mêlée and noiseless through the Nice negotiations. He was silent through Lisbon, and completely quiescent on the Constitution. And now he stirs from his speechless slumber to warn us all of the EU’s ‘unnoticed power-grab’.

O, please.

It is not going unnoticed at all. In fact, it is positively audacious in its shameless, immodest and barefaced raid on members’ sovereignty. This is a power-grab which comes as no surprise at all to those with an ounce of intelligence or discernment, for it was the stated objective from the outset: economic union implies monetary union which demands political union. Powell saw it; Gaitskell saw it; anyone with eyes can see it. It goes unnoticed only by those without the mental capacity to comprehend (ie, those who fall foul of the Lunacy [Vacating of Seats] Act 1886), and by those who choose to be blind and deaf to the plainly-disclosed and clearly-written objective of ‘ever-closer union’ (ie, subsidiarity is a sham). Those without the mental capacity to comprehend are barred from Parliament. Those who deceive the people damn well ought to be.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

If Andy Coulson was a 'double agent', so is Chris Patten

With a revolution of 'martydom or victory' going on in Libya (not forgetting Tunisia and Egypt); civil war raging in Syria; and eurogeddon still in full swing, it beggars belief that the mainstream media is obsessing about what News International paid to Andy Coulson in 2007, after he had become David Cameron's director of communications. One might expect it from Socialists and the left-leaning press, but even The Spectator alleges incompetence on behalf of CCHQ. His Grace inclines towards the view of David Hughes in The Telegraph: 'The hysteria over Andy Coulson is getting out of hand.'

Robert Peston (BBC) broke the story (which some already knew) that Mr Coulson continued to receive money as part of a 'severance package'. His Grace has done a bit of fishing around on this, and such arrangements are not at all unusual under 'compromise agreements': the reasons may relate to taxation, or some clause to stagger payments to ensure the compromise conditions are met. So the issue appears to be that Mr Coulson was apparently serving two masters - in the words of John Prescott, he was a 'double agent being paid by the Tories & Murdoch'.

If that is the principal objection - or perception - how can Lord Patten simultaneously be Chairman of the BBC Trust and in receipt of an EU pension? He readily gave up jobs (with the Global Leadership Foundation, the International Crisis Group and Medical Aid to Palestine) which might have been perceived as a conflict of interests, but his EU pension of around £100,000 per annum continues to be paid.

Lord Patten's pension is conditional upon him doing nothing to harm the interests of the European Union. According to Article 213 of the Treaty establishing the European Community:
The Members of the Commission shall, in the general interest of the Community, be completely independent in the performance of their duties.

In the performance of these duties, they shall neither seek nor take instructions from any government or from any other body. They shall refrain from any action incompatible with their duties. Each Member State undertakes to respect this principle and not to seek to influence the Members of the Commission in the performance of their tasks.

The Members of the Commission may not, during their term of office, engage in any other occupation, whether gainful or not. When entering upon their duties they shall give a solemn undertaking that, both during and after their term of office, they will respect the obligations arising therefrom and in particular their duty to behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after they have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits. In the event of any breach of these obligations, the Court of Justice may, on application by the Council or the Commission, rule that the Member concerned be, according to the circumstances, either compulsorily retired in accordance with Article 216 or deprived of his right to a pension or other benefits in its stead.
Yet the Chairman of the BBC Trust is obliged to be politically impartial (indeed, Lord Patten has relinquished his membership of the Conservative Party). The Trust is tasked with monitoring and holding the Executive Board to account for the BBC’s compliance with the BBC Editorial Guidelines and other relevant codes and guidelines. Further:
The Trust will require the Executive Board to draw up and submit for approval Election Guidelines and Referendum Guidelines. Election Guidelines will include a code of practice for elections regarding the participation of candidates in items about the electoral area during the election period. Referendum Guidelines give editorial guidance in relation to coverage of referendum campaigns. The Trust will review and, when it is satisfied, approve the Guidelines, which may be subject to public consultation.
The BBC already manifests considerable pro-EU bias, but Lord Patten is perceptibly unable to address this lest he be accused of acting against the interests of the Union.

Now, Lord Patten may be an honorable man. But, as Lord Prescott has pointed out, there is the perception of a conflict - of being a 'double agent'.

Why, pray, is the media kicking up such a fuss over payments to Andy Coulson from 2007, but not batting an eyelid over the hundreds of thousands of pieces of silver still being paid to keep the state broadcaster in thrall to the EU?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Libya's Draft Constitution affirms the Lordship of Jesus

The Draft Constitution for the post-Gaddafi Libya is a fascinating document. At times, it sounds almost like the foundational sacred text of the United States of America, with its affirmation that the 'people are the source of authorities' and an assurance that the linguistic and cultural rights of diverse groups will be preserved. There is a commitment to equality, the rule of law, and certain freedoms (speech, religion, press) with clauses guaranteeing the right to private property, an independent judiciary, and the presumption of innocence.

It's not quite Magna Carta 1215 or the Bill of Rights 1689, but there's more than a whiff of Locke about it. Some, however, have expressed concern that Part 1, Article 1states:
Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).
The inference being that all the freedoms and rights guaranteed by this constitution are subject to the sharia; ie, it is the Islamic religio-political concept of equality, religious liberty, etc, which will prevail.

His Grace thinks this is an overly pessimistic interpretation, not least because there is no single, unified understanding or interpretation of 'Sharia Law', so much so the the upper case 'S' and 'L' are something of a Western caricature. Libya's politicians and jurists are more than capable of codifying a Locke-compliant interpretation of sharia, and His Grace wishes them well. Not least because above even Part 1, Article 1 of this draft constitution is the date: '7th February 2011 AD'. It may be written 'In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate', but those who drafted this document have acknowledged that Jesus is Lord. Amen.

John Redwood: Anne Boleyn was 'the first Eurosceptic'

There are very few MPs these days with a grasp of history, and even fewer with any appreciation of how the past both shapes and informs the present, especially as it relates to the Constitution of the United Kingdom.

John Redwood is one of the few, and he has written an excellent account of Anne Boleyn as 'the first Eurosceptic'. This he gleaned from a visit to the Globe Theatre to see a new play. Lest he should be forced at some point to withdraw it, the salient parts are reproduced here:
The author, Howard Brenton, portrays Anne as a powerful politician in the Protestant cause. She sells the Protestant religion to a King advised by a Cardinal by appealing to Henry’s own sense of importance, self interest and need to settle his own divorce, as well as using her feminine charms over him. She comes across as an early Eurosceptic, wishing England to settle its own affairs at home without recourse to Rome. She dislikes the intervention of Roman authority between a person and their God, and seeks the issue of the Bible in English to all. She sees the advantage of the dissolution of the monasteries.

The play includes an important scene where Thomas Cromwell, by now the King’s trusted adviser, is busily drafting the famous and seminal Statute of Appeals. (24 Henry viii c12 "An Act that the appeals in such cases as have been used to be pursued to the see of Rome shall not be from henceforth had nor used but within this realm”).

They cited historical precedent for claiming imperial power to the government of England.
"Where by divers sundry old authentic histories and chronicles it is manifestly declared and expressed that this realm of England is an empire, and hath been so accepted in the world, governed by one supreme head and king…”
They claim that the power of self government within these islands is complete
“he (the king) being also institute and furnished …with plenary, whole and entire power, preeminence,authority, prerogative and jurisdiction to yield justice and final determination to all manner of folk…in all causes, matters, debates and contentious happening to occur…”
The power to appeal to Rome had to be removed owing to
“great inquietation, vexation, trouble, costs and charges of the King’s Highness and many of his subjects….but also to the great delay and let to the true and speedy determination of the said causes…”
and for the difficulty in cross examining witnesses in so far away a place. They asserted that remote justice was delayed justice, wrong justice or no justice at all.

This revolutionary piece of legislation is presented as a restatement of old law and is partially founded on Richard II’s praemunire provisions (legal butresses against foreign jurisdictions). The Crown approached the break with Rome in a crab like way, aware of the dangers of retaliation from the continent by the Catholic powers as well as by the Pope. Nonetheless, it was radical to state that in future the Crown was the fount of all justice and legal settlement. The Church in England was the King’s to shape and control.

The Crown used its influence in Parliament to give full Parliamentary backing to this constitutional revolution. It proved useful in later years when Parliament wished to transfer powers from the Crown to itself. It is only in the last thirty years that England - now with the rest of the UK – has ceased to be a sovereign empire governed by itself, as it has surrendered more and more of its power to the Brussels government.

What Parliament can give away, it can reassert. It was a pleasure to be reminded of such a gutsy lady, who fought for a great cause as well as for her own advancement. She was indeed one of the architects of the Tudor revolution in government, the consolidation of English governing power here at home. She was also the mother of Elizabeth 1. It was Elizabeth who had to secure her father’s Protestant settlement against Spain, which she did by leading the anti Armada campaign in 1588. The establishment of home rule took place through a simple Act of Parliament. It survived until a much later Parliament decided to give it away, once again allowing appeals to continental courts.
It is not simply that Mr Redwood is intelligent and cultured: he is wise, discerning and astute. It is a tragedy for the country that he is not even a minister of state, let alone a member of the Cabinet. And it says even more about David Cameron that he leaves such a formidable politician languishing on the backbenches while he favours and promotes those he who will say 'yes'. It is a pity the e-petitions specifically exclude appointments: if it were down to a democratic Conservative Party, John Redwood would now be Chancellor of the Exchequer. But a Conservative prime minister must be free to shape the Government he or she wishes, to preserve and reform in accordance with Burke's first principles. And that is a Tory-Whig tension Mr Redwood completely understands, even if David Cameron does not.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Statement on Libya from our High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security

Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, made today the following statement:

"We are witnessing the last moments of the Gaddafi regime. I call on Gaddafi to step down without further delay and avoid further bloodshed.

I call on the National Transitional Council and opposition forces to ensure the protection of civilians, to fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law and to act with responsibility in the interests of maintaining peace and stability throughout the country.

Today Libya is entering a new era. I salute the courage of those who have fought to make this possible. It is now time to launch a process of transition towards a new Libya, in which democratic principles, justice and human rights are fully respected.

The coming months and years will test the resourcefulness and determination of the Libyan people. I have no doubt that they will rise to this challenge and that they will unite to ensure that Libya takes its place in the international community as a prosperous, stable and democratic state. For its part the EU will continue to offer support and will remain a strong and committed partner for the Libyan people."

So, everything's alright, then.

Precisely what was it the EU contributed to this pursuit?

The fall of Gaddafi vindicates Cameron and Hague

Today, two men can feel more than a little satisfied with their policy of liberal interventionism. When David Cameron and William Hague decided unilaterally (almost) that something had to be done about Libya, our traditional allies weren't queuing up to lend their aircraft carriers and fighter jets. Except for President Sarkozy, that is, who made the liberation of Libya a joint Anglo-French pursuit to rid the world of another Middle East dictator. The UN were persuaded to support armed conflict, though resolution 1973 stoped short of advocating regime change.

Today, David Cameron and William Hague are vindicated. It was they who first called for a no-fly zone to be enforced, while President Obama dithered and Germany rebuffed. The delay was unfortunate: it undoubtedly cost lives and made military objectives more difficult to attain. This is not a day for triumphal rejoicing, of course, not least because the dictator has not yet quite gone. But we can now be certain that he is definitely going.

There is a sense in which military force always represents a failure of diplomacy and the repudiation of democratic politics: it is still, as Augustine and Aquinas decreed, the option of last resort. The decision to commit the nation to war must weigh profoundly on the mind and rest heavily on the heart of any prime minister. David Cameron inherited Tony Blair’s military action in Iraq and Afghanistan: the names of the fallen are still recited each week at the Dispatch Box, though they are not attributable to him. But Libya was his own conflict, and he was going to be responsible for any British losses. Mercifully, to this date, there have been none.

But this is just the beginning. Hopefully, with lessons learned in Iraq, there will have been preparations for the post-Gaddafi era, and the peace-keeping will be a relatively bloodless affair. But blood there will be, for you cannot eradicate a century-old civil war with few blue helmets. Keeping the peace will be far more complicated than the media make out: Libya, rather like Iraq and Yugoslavia, is an artificially-constructed state, forged out of distinct and separate tribal identities: east Libya has historically been in conflict with what is now the west. Benghazi in the east was part of a Greek region known a Cyrenaica, and Tripoli in the west was a Punic settlement, both separated by Mediterranean trade agreements, language, culture, ethnic temperament and 600 miles of desert. This is how it remained as empires came and went – Greek, Roman, Ottoman and British. It was not until an invasion by Italy in 1911 that the two entities were forcibly united, with a central governance in Tripoli. Ever since, the Cyrenaicians have considered themselves a people oppressed and a land under occupation: they were Gaddafi’s Basque region; his IRA and his PLO all rolled into one. In Benghazi, they were freedom fighters.

The fall of the strongman in Tripoli is the fulfilment of a century (to the year) of longing for independence. If there is no deal for a post-Gaddafi democratic government, there will be demands for secession, and Libya will revert to its constituent regions. And the civil war will be bloody: we will probably arm the ‘rebels’ in their quest for freedom, and then just let them all get on with slaughtering each other.

But to those who criticise this UK intervention and insist that Gaddafi and Libya are nothing to do with us, His Grace does not agree. As Lord Palmerston said:
"Our duty – our vocation – is not to enslave, but to set free… we stand at the head of moral, social, and political civilisation… when we see people battling against difficulties and struggling against obstacles in the pursuit of their rights, we may be permitted… if occasion require, to lend them a helping hand."
In short, it is our Christian duty to help the oppressed: we have a moral obligation to defend the weak, liberate the captives, and usher in an era of justice, righteousness and peace.

But Rome wasn't built in a day. And neither was our own democracy. These things take centuries, and so we must be patient. As the Lord said: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Especially when defence cuts make it harder each day to eradicate that evil.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cameron: "We are going to fight in Europe for changes to the way the European Court works"

Writing in the Sunday Express, David Cameron returns to one of his favourite pre-election (ie pre-coalition) themes. He writes:
We are looking at creating our own British Bill of Rights. We are going to fight in Europe for changes to the way the European Court works and we will fight to ensure people understand the real scope of these rights and do not use them as cover for rules or excuses that fly in the face of common sense.
This proposal was dismissed by the present Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, as ‘xenophobic and legal nonsense’, and the present Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, lauded the ECHR in his maiden speech in 1997, in which he said:
The incorporation of the European convention on human rights into our national law is something that, although challenging, is nevertheless desirable if it can be done without diminishing the sovereignty of Parliament.
So, with the two most senior legal minds in the Cabinet opposed in principle to derogation from or revocation of the European Convention (or repeal of the Human Rights Act), it is not at all clear how the Prime Minister can 'fight in Europe' without first fighting in his own Cabinet and tearing his party asunder (yet again) over the issue of 'Europe'.

Never the less, a Commission on a Bill of Rights was established by the Government on 18 March 2011, and is seeking your views (by 11 November). But it is a bizarre political process, the outcome of which is more than a little pre-ordained. There is a feeling of being marched to the top of the hill only to be marched all the way down again in a few years time, and nothing will have chaged.

We already have a Bill of Rights. It was the legislative expression of the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688, and was part of the deal under which William and Mary became joint rulers, giving Parliament, rather than the monarch, power over taxation, criminal law and the military. It is not a mere Act of Parliament, but a foundational constitutional treaty of the order of Magna Carta, the Act of Settlement 1701 and the Act of Union 1707. Does Mr Cameron’s new Bill of Rights imply the repeal of any of the provisions in these treaties? If so, it must be done expressly, for the doctrine of implied repeal may not be applied to constitutional statutes.

Is the Conservative Party (of all parties) really proposing to unsettle the Settlement of the relationship between the Monarch and Parliament, and the establishment of the Church of England?

A British Bill of Rights will not be binding on future Parliaments for Parliament may not bind its successors. A new Bill of Rights would, once passed into law, have no more chance of surviving a subsequent parliament or of guaranteeing rights than any other Bill passed by both Houses and rubber-stamped by Her Majesty. What is the point of enshrining any such rights in a Bill, the provisions of which may be revoked at any point by any future parliament?

The Prime Minister has said that he wants the new Bill of Rights to be somehow ‘entrenched’, to have a greater degree of ‘permanence’. But, if followed to its logical conclusion, this would give ultimate power to unelected judges, rather than to elected politicians, and so judicial activism is not mitigated. Is the Conservative Party really proposing to abolish the supremacy of Parliament?

Mr Cameron’s latest indignation is caused not by the remote judgement of unaccountable judges in Strasbourg, but by a ruling from England’s ‘Supreme Court’, which is a (New Labour) creation of the UK Parliament. The Court is not so supreme insofar as it is subject to the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. Section 2 of the Human Rights Act 1998 instructed UK judges to follow judgements from the ECHR: ‘A court or tribunal determining a question which has arisen in connection with a Convention right must take into account any (a) judgment, decision, declaration or advisory opinion of the European Court of Human Rights...’

So, slowly, in words of one syllable, repeat after His Grace: “A new Bill of Rights will not stop the rot.”

We simply need to re-assert those liberties enshrined in Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights 1689, which are binding treaties drawn up during the age of revolution to enshrine the liberties of the people and define the limitations of government. The US Constitution came from the enlightenment mind of the 18th-century Englishman (or Scotsman). It is to England's eternal loss that such principles were never set in stone during that era. A modern (or postmodern) Bill of Rights will never articulate the same inviolable principles, especially if it seeks to ‘build on’ the European Convention.

A modern British Bill of Rights would need to refer to individual rights, which necessarily infringe the rights of others. It could not, for example, guarantee freedom of religion. The US Bill of Rights is actually the triumph of the Anti-Federalists:
The idea of adding a bill of rights to the Constitution was originally controversial, and was strongly opposed by many notable American statesmen, including Alexander Hamilton. In Federalist No. 84, published during the Philadelphia Convention on May 28, 1788, Hamilton argued against a "Bill of Rights," asserting that ratification of the Constitution did not mean the American people were surrendering their rights, and therefore that protections were unnecessary: "Here, in strictness, the people surrender nothing, and as they retain every thing, they have no need of particular reservations." As critics of the Constitution referred to earlier political documents that had protected specific rights, Hamilton argued that the Constitution was inherently different. Unlike previous political arrangements between sovereigns and subjects in the United States, there would be no agent empowered to abridge the people's rights: "Bills of rights are in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects, abridgments of prerogative in favor of privilege, reservations of rights not surrendered to the prince. Such was Magna Charta, obtained by the Barons, sword in hand, from King John.

Finally, Hamilton expressed the fear that protecting specific rights might imperil rights that were not mentioned: "I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?"
A British Bill of Rights is supposed to embrace 'British values'.

Those would include the foundational principle of the Common Law, which is antithetical to the EU model of law, Corpus Juris. It has been found by experience that Common Law is the bulwark against state tyranny and the best guarantor of our liberties.

So, before the Prime Minister 'goes to fight in Europe', would it not be preferable to decide what ‘British values’ are and what we seek to preserve, lest we just placate the Liberal Democrats (not to mention Messrs Clark and Grieve) and perpetuate this dog's breakfast with more smoke and mirrors?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Petition to stop Scientology tax breaks

At the time of writing, this e-petition has garnered a meagre 336 signatures, but they have a whole year to trundle along to the requisite 100,000. It concerns the Scientologists, who are either a supremely enlightened group of magnificent global beneficience, or an evil cult which practises dubious psychology and defrauds adherents of their money. Discernment between these polarities appears to depend on whether or not you’re an ex-member of their church. They include amongst their number such stellar luminaries as John Travolta, Lisa Marie Presley, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and this A-list ensures considerable publicity.

You can read up on their beliefs at Wikipedia: it is doubtless monitored and ‘corrected’ by a small army of good, omniscient, non-material Thetans to ensure the propagation of the truth of Lord Xenu.

In the UK, religious groups qualify for tax breaks on account of their contribution to society and the common good. The problem is, of course, that no government has ever defined what constitutes bona fide religion in this ‘post-Christian’ era: all we know is that all religions are equal and that discrimination is illegal.

Although many international and regional human rights instruments guarantee rights related to freedom of religion or belief, none attempts to define the term ‘religion’. The absence of a definition is not peculiar to international human rights conventions; most national constitutions also include clauses on freedom of religion without defining it. Thus we are presented, on the one hand, with important provisions guaranteeing fundamental rights pertaining to religion, but on the other hand the term itself is left undefined. Of course, the absence of a definition of a critical term does not differentiate religion from most other rights identified in human rights instruments and constitutions. However, because religion is much more complex than other guaranteed rights, the difficulty of understanding what is and is not protected is significantly greater.

Theologians and philosophers may have the luxury of imprecision, but lawyers and judges do not – especially when it comes to taxation.

It would greatly assist if the judiciary would establish a little case-law clarity on what now constitutes a legitimate religion in the UK, who is judged to be a messenger of God, what doctrine may be preached, what creed followed, and what liberties may be granted or rescinded. As far as His Grace is concerned, Scientology is intellectually difficult and religiously rubbish. It is a money-spinning cult of mind-bending psychology. It is about as much a religion as a Star Trek convention.

But as Christianity is supplanted by polytheistic ecumenism, Christ is subsumed to the politically-correct Pantheon. Political correctness has become the state creed: we must all now adhere to an ideology that classifies certain groups of people as victims in need of protection from criticism: we are obliged to feel that no dissent should be tolerated.

And so, by virtue of Labour’s Equality Bill and under the benign Anglican aegis, Scientology is as worthy of tax breaks as any other religious sect or pseudo-religious cult. That which does not constitute the majority expression is, by definition, a minority religion and so worthy of protection and promotion. The Government cannot remove tax breaks from Scientology without seeking to define religion, and that would be a spider's web, can of worms, knot of vipers and a house of cards all rolled into one. It may even prove a Gordian Knot.

His Grace won’t say he told you so.

But he told you so.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Don't watch Diary of a Badman, or you'll go to Hell

This helpful chappy provides his mobile phone number, should any of His Grace's readers feel inclined to contact him. He appears to have an issue with a YouTube phenomenon called 'Diary of a Badman'. His Grace has never seen it, so forms no judgement about it.

But His Grace is increasingly irritated by Muslim preachers who persist in telling the Ummah that the 'kuffar' (non-believers) are 'less than animals'. If he were to read and study Genesis - one of his sacred texts - he would discover that there is no exegetical possibility that any man comes beneath the animals in the hierarchy of creation: mankind is given dominion. This 'imam' clearly doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. But at least he hasn't been imported from Pakistan and is teaching them in English. Perhaps it's time for the Mosque of England to start 'licensing' imams.

Boris & Ken, Churchill & Hitler, Good & Evil

It was with some amusement that His Grace read the latest splutterings of Qu’en Ken Livingstone, accusing Mayor Boris of resembling Hitler while he himself possessed all the righteous virtue of Churchill. His Grace paid a visit to photoshop and discovered that, facially and physically, Ken actually bears rather more resemblance to Adolf than Boris, and that Boris with a cigar makes a rather passable Winston. Readers and communicants may decide for themselves:

The context of the comments? In a Total Politics interview, Ken Livingstone was asked why people should vote for him next year. He joked:
"It's a simple choice between good and evil – I don't think it's been so clear since the great struggle between Churchill and Hitler… The people that don't vote for me will be weighed in the balance, come Judgement Day. The Archangel Gabriel will say, 'You didn't vote for Ken Livingston in 2012. Oh dear, burn forever. Your skin flayed for all eternity.'… I'll come round with a serious pitch nearer the time."
And he also gave his take on the News International relationship with politicians:
"Boris was the News International candidate last time, and he will be this time. That is why he was still defending News International after the Milly Dowler revelations… When Boris and George Osborne are locked in a death throe to succeed Cameron, the Mail will vote for Osborne. The Telegraph will vote for Boris because the Barclay brothers have been grooming him for years, and they want access to a prime minister. So the big media focus is the group in contention – News International. Osborne has been very close to them and Boris needs at least to have them neutral."
He doubts Boris' motivation as mayor:
"I'm coming in with all these ideas, whereas Boris came in and thought, 'Oh, shit, I didn't expect to win this. What am I going to do next?' I think he was horrified (to win)."
And he stresses that he's physically ready for the mayoral fight:
"I've got a low cholesterol level. My doctor says I've got the same heart profile as an Olympic runner. I can't run like a champion athlete, but I can cope with a lot of stress… (My teeth) are shit. That's the weakness."
And so The Daily Mail spouts forth its condemnation, quoting (anonymous) Labour frontbenchers who want Livingstone replaced. And the Mail helpfully includes pictures of ‘Winston Churchill (L) and... Hitler’ (they don’t specify ‘(R)’, but there are only two images, so they trust their readers with a process of elimination). Conservative Gavin Barwell MP said: “Londoners need a mayor who will unite our city, not one who regards people who don't share his views as evil.”

And The Evening Standard carried similar condemnatory splash, quoting ‘a source close to Mr Johnson's campaign’ as saying: "We always knew that Ken was a nasty, divisive character who would fight a dirty campaign but the Labour leader must surely distance himself from these, and similar comments, made in recent times and clarify to Londoners that this is not how his party conducts itself in 21st century democratic politics."

O dear.

It is really quite sad that in order to be a politician one must have a humour bypass. Ken Livingstone obviously spoke in jest, not least because he ascribed to the Angel Gabriel the judgement that belongs to Christ: it is not for mere angels to divide the sheep from the goats and despatch the latter to the everlasting lake of fire. And skin-flaying is actually qur’anic; not biblical. So, theologically, Ken is all over the place and clearly intended his comments to be taken in jest. A further clue may be found in ‘I'll come round with a serious pitch nearer the time’.

Ken made his comments in a spirit of good humour during a light-hearted interview. Boris makes a living out of oral hyperbole: indeed, only a few months ago, amidst a row over housing benefit reforms, he referred to ‘Kosovo-style social cleansing’ in London, after Ken had described Boris’ Chief of Staff Edward Lister as ‘the Ratko Mladic of local government’. Frankly, His Grace thanks God that there are a few political characters still on the stage who aren’t afraid to use humour, hyperbole or colourful language.

Next year’s mayoral battle is not between Churchill and Hitler, and neither is it a struggle between good and evil: it is a democratic contest between a refined Tory reformer who says ‘piffle’, and a fossilised Socialist who says ‘shit’.

There is, quite simply, no competition.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Israel attacked by Palestinian terrorists - but the BBC focusus on Gaza

As another Israeli bus packed with civilians is attacked by gunmen near the Red Sea resort of Eilat, the impartial, unbiased, fair and neutral BBC carries the headline 'Israel pounds Gaza'.

And instead of leading with news of Israel's seven dead (which chronologically precipitated the 'pounding'), the BBC opens with:
At least six people, including a senior militant, were killed in the air strikes, Palestinian sources said.
And then we get a list of Gaza's wounded and dead, quoting numerous 'Palestinian sources and residents'. The BBC also quotes Hamas-run Al-Aqsa television, but not a peep of a reference to (say) Haaretz or The Jerusalem Post. And for some reason Auntie omits to mention that some of the terrorists were wearing Egyptian uniforms.

His Grace just thought you might like to know.

No charge for the service.

Here's what they do to Israeli buses, by the way:

But the BBC probably won't be showing that, either.

Iain Duncan Smith: "This is our warning... the crisis is coming."

In an interview for The Spectator, one of the Conservative Party’s true Conservatives gives a detailed account of the state we’re in. When the coalition was formed more than a year ago, His Grace said that only three agendas really mattered: addressing the fiscal deficit and national debt; welfare reform to make work pay; and education reform to liberate schools and raise standards. While His Grace would prefer to see John Redwood at the Treasury, it is a source of comfort that both Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove are implementing truly Conservative reforms which will endure.

IDS says Britain is ‘in the last-chance saloon’. O, how His Grace loathes that hackneyed phrase of the way-out Wild West. We’ve been in it so many times that the last-chance saloon is at least the last bar 10: it is a tired wolf-crying political cliché designed to induce urgency and invariably linked to raiding our bank accounts. That aside, it is heartening that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, a military man, approaches his task like a no-nonsense sheriff. It is reported that when he moved into his office he replaced the abstract ‘Cool Britannia’ paintings of his predecessor with scenes of the Duke of Malborough’s victories: ‘When a group of officials came to visit him just after he changed the decor, they told him it felt like the Ministry of Defence. "That’s right," he replied. "I want you to know that from now on, this is the war room."’

He describes the recent riots as gang-driven, but incited by groups like the Socialist Workers Party. Well, if that’s the case, they should be closed down and the ringleaders given four years like the Facebook Two. If only because these gangs ‘will try to do it again’, he prophesies, which is why David Cameron sees August 2011 like George W Bush saw September 11th 2001 – a game-changing, pivotal, crucial turning point. With up to 200 gangs in London, IDS advocates a US approach: ‘to offer gang members education and protection. Those who refuse are told there will be no hiding place.’

His Grace isn’t sure why we need to import and idea from the USA when it’s really common sense to your average Brit: fix the education system – get them young – and you’ve got them for life. The old Jesuit adage predates any Boston initiative. But outside of school is the more intractable problem of family breakdown. This is a difficult one, not least because the state has spent decades undermining the traditional family by downgrading marriage, sidelining fatherhood, subsidising single parenthood, and being ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ of whatever lifestyle happens to take your fancy. And now we read that IDS is ‘looking at a plan to intervene in 120,000 families who cause the greatest problems’. His Grace can hardly wait to hear what this intervention will be, for the state already offers ‘remedial education, work programmes, job interviews (and) drug addiction rehab’. There’s not a lot of point in getting young people off drugs and coaching them in job interviews when 154 per cent of job vacancies are filled by immigrants. The despair simply drives them back to drugs. You have to instil hope that education will lead to training and that training will result in gainful employment.

IDS is a Christian, and his mission is evangelical: he sees things rather as Margaret Thatcher saw them – as a battle between good and evil, and the problem is sin. Of course, he can’t easily say so because all hell would break loose. But he is intent on renewing society, and you do that by renewing the heart of man, and that is easier the earlier you captivate the heart. And he is adamant that ‘It cannot be the government doing this!’:
“The government can check the signals, but most of the intervention is done by the voluntary sector, private organisations, people who have proven programmes that work. You don’t want some official trying to descend from on high and intervene. We’ve been doing that for years, and it’s all gone wrong. I’m talking about intervention, but on a programme based around local communities. Government doesn’t do this. It can pave the way, set up the structures.”
The initiatives are cross-party, and it is a joy to see fellow Christian Frank Field onboard. IDS says: “...we care more about our society than we do for the political party. I don’t care if I’m attacked for it. I want to get Britain right — to me that’s more important than actually having a political spitting match." And therein lies the problem, because David Cameron has to concern himself with political spitting matches as well as hold a coalition together. And the Liberal Democrats are not overly keen on supporting marriage or addressing these pressing social problems with Conservative remedies.

And it is difficult to see what may be done about youth unemployment when immigration reduces the prospects of British workers. The latest figures suggest that not only have immigrants taken all the jobs created in Britain since David Cameron became Prime Minister, but they have pushed nearly 100,000 British people out of the workplace and on to benefits. Unemployment among those aged 16-24 has jumped 15,000 to 949,000.

With almost a million unemployed young people - and five of them chasing every vacancy - it is simply not possible to address the deep-seated issues as long as the Government is restricted by the EU and bound by the ECHR. Parliament does not control our national borders, and neither can it legislate for British workers to be given British jobs. Before Jesus preached, he made sure his audience was well fed: it is very difficult to renew hearts on an empty belly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gangsta & Mammon - idols of the riots

This is a guest post by the Rev'd Julian Mann.

The rioting in London and other major English cities was fundamentally an idolatrous religious festival. The two gods being worshipped were Gangsta and Mammon.

Gangsta is a deity growing in popularity amongst black and white young people in English urban society. He is a god who glorifies defiance of the established forces of law and order. His hymns take the form of rap music with violent lyrics.

Mammon is the god of material greed. He is popular across all social classes and cultures in our country and includes Members of Parliament amongst his devotees. His hymns are pop songs that glorify the human ego.

This spiritual fact has to be faced by politicians inclined to talk up morality in the wake of the riots: the young people who took part in the devastating and appalling criminality on our streets are finding satisfaction and fulfilment in Gangsta worship. They find a sense of belonging and community in the church of Gangsta. And they are enthusiastic missionaries for him, spreading his word through social media.

What happened during the rioting was that Gangsta and Mammon formed a syncretistic alliance and that was what proved so attractive to the young people who looted from shops.

Britain will not rediscover Christian morality unless and until it rediscovers the Christian God. The Ten Commandments, the eighth of which was so flagrantly broken during the riots, begin with the following declaration: 'And God spake all these words, saying: I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me' (Exodus 20v1-3 - King James Version).

This is the God who, the New Testament affirms, made himself known in his Incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Before the social revolution of the 1960s, British people used to worship this glorious Lord and Saviour in considerable numbers, and millions of young people used to learn about His love in Sunday schools.

Amongst other things, He taught them not to loot from shops and to respect the police.

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire. He is an occasional columnist for the Church of the England Newspaper.

Making the punishment fit the crime

There is a certain disquiet arising out of some of the sentences being handed down in the wake of last week’s riots: we have seen a student, 23, with no previous convictions, jailed for six months after pleading guilty to stealing bottles of water; an entire family turfed out of their home when only the (18-year-old) son had been involved in criminality; and yesterday, two young men (Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan and Jordan Blackshawm) given four years each for attempting to organise a riot on Facebook:
Jordan Blackshaw, 20, set up an "event" called Smash Down in Northwich Town for the night of 8 August on the social networking site but no one apart from the police, who were monitoring the page, turned up at the pre-arranged meeting point outside a McDonalds restaurant. Blackshaw was promptly arrested.

Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, of Latchford, Warrington, used his Facebook account in the early hours of 9 August to design a web page entitled The Warrington Riots. The court was told it caused a wave of panic in the town. When he woke up the following morning with a hangover, he removed the page and apologised, saying it had been a joke. His message was distributed to 400 Facebook contacts, but no rioting broke out as a result.
Conservative MP Gavin Barwell, whose Croydon constituency bore the brunt of the anarchy, said tougher sentences sent a clear message that disorder would not be tolerated. But Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake said sentences ‘should be about restorative justice’ not retribution, and he pointed out that some of those convicted had received sentences which would have been different if they had committed the same crime the day before the riots.

When justice is seen to be done, it must also be seen to be proportionate and fair. When it ceases to be perceived as being so, it ceases to be just. This applies equally in leniency as it does in severity: it may be posited that a few years for murder is as offensively disproportionate as six months for stealing a few bottles of water.

One who opposes the four-year Facebook sentences tweeted His Grace last night, pointing out that the perpetrators were just ‘a bunch of kids pissing abt on FB’. In support of the sentences is the assertion that Sutcliffe-Keenan and Blackshawm pleaded guilty to inciting others to a crime which actually carries a maximum 10-year sentence. Although no rioting resulted from their Facebook exhortation, they clearly hoped and intended that there would be. This is not, as some aver, a ‘thought-crime’: a page was set up to incite others to violence. The fact that none ensued cannot be attributed to their virtue.

In a fragmented, pluralist, liberal democracy, it is inevitable that disagreements will arise that derive from different (and sometimes incompatible) conceptions of justice. In the United Kingdom, this has been constructed upon the Judaeo-Christian moral tradition which appeals to a set of first principles which provides justification for particular moral claims. In the conflicts between rival points of view, appeals to the primary precepts of the natural law seem to take their place as no more than the expression of one more contending standpoint. Because each of these contending points of view has within it its own standards and mode of justification, there appear to be no common, shared standards sufficient to decide between such rival claims.

While uniformity and consistency are desirable, society is perpetually changing and context shifting. If a state of war is sufficient for the UK to invoke the death penalty for treason, then civil disorder or the threat thereof must constitute just reason for more severe punitive responses than would be meted out during peacetime. The theory of law and jurisprudence must be based upon practical reason and subject to rational enquiry.

For His Grace, the four-year sentences handed down to Sutcliffe-Keenan and Blackshawm were fair, proportionate, and wholly justified. They intended to damage property, cause misery and inflict suffering upon innocent, law-abiding people, and that must merit a custodial sentence.

But in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, justice may be tempered by mercy. So it would be perfectly fair and wholly justified for the convicted pair to appeal, in accordance with the principles of natural justice, in order that another judge on another day may entertain arguments of mitigation in a time of relative tranquillity. And His Grace can’t say fairer than that.
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