Friday, August 31, 2012

The Damning of the Diocese of Chichester



Predatory paedophile priests.. child abuse.. manipulation.. rape.. unimaginable psychological damage.. cover-up.. continued failings..

One has (sadly) become more than used to reading such accounts within the Roman Catholic Church, but this is the Church of England - the Diocese of Chichester, to be precise. Thankfully, it's a one-off, peculiar to Chichester (and there isn't a hint of blaming the teen-victims for seducing the vicar), but one is one too many in the Holy Church of Christ. It is appalling, damning, and utterly inexcusable.

An interim report by the Archbishop of Canterbury's office talks of the 'abiding hurt and damage' caused by 'an appalling history' of 'dysfunctional' local safeguarding measures, which had fallen 'woefully short' for two decades.

Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC, who are leading the inquiry, wrote: "It has been particularly distressing to us to have met people whose lives have been deeply wounded by the abuse they have suffered at the hands of clergy and of lay people holding positions of responsibility in the Church. Sadly, these wounds often refuse to heal.

"It is clear to us that many lives have been blighted. Some have sought justice through the courts of law. Clergy have gone to prison for their abuse of children. We are clear that those who have sought justice through the courts are but the tip of the iceberg."

Tip of the iceberg? Two decades? Jesus wept. How in the name of Christ can the measures for safeguarding the wellbeing of children have been deficient for 20 years?

Episcopal polity is localism in action: it brings church governance nearer the people. When it fails, the temptation is to centralise - to impose structures and assert the aloof and hierarchical. This is now the mode of governance to which Chichester is subject: henceforth, Lambeth Palace will oversee clergy appointments and the protection of children and vulnerable adults in the diocese.

As appalling as this is, it is important to keep it in perspective: we are not talking about a national Church of England failing or an international Anglican one. But when one part of the body is wounded or infected, we are all hurting and livid with fever.

His Grace understands that this report is the first of its kind in the Church of England for over a century. One wonders now if that is a blessing or a failing. It calls for 'a radical change of culture in the diocese – one in which the sanctity, dignity and well being of children and vulnerable adults is openly and transparently at its heart'. The sickening thing is that this ought to be a given: it is like demanding a change of culture in the diocese in order to reflect the radiance of Christ.

Of the victims, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: "The abiding hurt and damage done to them is something that none of us in the Church can ignore, and I am deeply sorry that they should have been let down by those they ought to have been able to trust."

His Grace is sorry, too. Deeply, profoundly sorry.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sir Rhodes Boyson RIP



Respec'.

For a more considered tribute, here's The Telegraph.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

David Cameron: man or mouse?


Very occasionally (thankfully), a senior Tory MP will articulate a certain negative view about a senior colleague or even the entire Conservative Party which reverberates down the ages. Remember Theresa May's conference speech reference to the 'nasty party'? That phrase was almost exclusively responsible for David Cameron's entire programme of 'brand decontamination' which gave us 'Vote Blue go Green', huskies on glaciers, 'hug a hoodie', 'the NHS is safe in our hands', and the more caring and compassionate 'Blue Labour', not to mention the A-list of candidates to ensure the election of more soft and cuddly women, gays, lesbians and ethnic minorities.

And let us not forget Ann Widdecombe's 'something of the night' comment about Michael Howard, which spawned years of Dracula cartoons which dogged his entire leadership (and beyond). Ms Widdecombe explained the strategy: "Then I tried it on a couple of other people who reacted similarly and I thought 'Right, I've got a phrase that people understand'. You only understand a phrase like that if you don't have to explain it. Ten years later, people often ask me to explain it and at this point I can't, because the whole idea was that it spoke to people's instincts at the time."

The enduring potential of the damning phrase is not only contingent on demotic instinct, but is directly proportionate to the seniority or public profile of the politician expressing the view. A back-bench gripe about ham-fisted party management or an out-of-touch prime minister might cause temporary inconvenience in the media, but nothing lasting.

But Tim Yeo has struck gold with his 'man or mouse' jibe at David Cameron. As Chairman of the 'hug-a-huskie' Energy and Climate Change Select Committee he wields real power even if he's utterly unknown to the general public. he was an original Cameroon and also a fierce advocate of the Coalition. All of which makes his comment all the more damning.

One expects such barbed comments from 'the Right' of the Party, but when the Wets start to round on their own man in No10, it is difficult to see how the Prime Minister can recover. His Grace can hear it now: every question of Ed Miliband at PMQs will end with: '..is he a man or a mouse?'. And there will be roars of scorn and much waving of order papers. And Mr Cameron will squeak his way through a feeble response which no-one really hears, for the damage is done - permanently.

Mr Yeo warned that Britain will 'slide towards insignificance' without a third runway at Heathrow. Little does he realise that he's done more to shunt the Prime Minister towards insignificance than any broadside from Nadine Dorries.

“The Prime Minister must decide whether he is a man or a mouse,” he said. “Does he want to be another Harold Macmillan, presiding over a dignified slide towards insignificance? Or is there somewhere inside his heart a trace of Thatcher?”

We already know the answer: it speaks to people's instincts. Tim Yeo has just gifted Labour an entire general election campaign. He might even have assisted Alex Salmond's independence bid with 'Ur ye a man ur a moose?'. And the cartoonists will have many field days with the rodent-killing skills of Larry the Downing Street Cat. Poor Mr Cameron.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cameron's downfall will be the price of bread

SCENE I. Rome. A street.

[Enter a company of mutinous Citizens, with staves, clubs, and other weapons]

First Citizen: Before we proceed any further, hear me speak.

All: Speak, speak.

First Citizen: You are all resolved rather to die than to famish?

All. Resolved: resolved.

First Citizen: First, you know Caius Coriolanus is chief enemy to the people.

All: We know't, we know't.

First Citizen: Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at our own price. Is't a verdict?

All: No more talking on't; let it be done: away, away!
There is much speculation in circulation about David Cameron's leadership: is he a man or a mouse? Jelly or steel? Following a raft of damaging U-turns, it appears there are more to come (though one hopes and prays they do not include anything as seismic as a third runway at Heathrow).

Policy indecision and a lack of political vision are undeniably damaging. But these are as nothing compared to the price of bread. Nadine Dorries made it known a few months ago that the Prime Minister and Chancellor are oblivious to the daily challenges posed by normal life: "There is a very tight, narrow clique of a certain group of people and what they do is they act as a barrier and prevent Cameron and Osborne and others from actually really understanding and knowing what's happening in the rest of the country," she said.

"Unfortunately I think that not only are Cameron and Osborne two posh boys who don't know the price of milk, but they are two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition and no passion to want to understand the lives of others and that is their real crime,"  she concluded.

His Grace does not cast David Cameron as Caius Marcius - 'a very dog to the commonalty'. And yet Nadine Dorries does echo something of the citizens' complaint in her criticism of the Prime Minister and his Chancellor:
Care for us! True, indeed! They ne'er cared for us yet: suffer us to famish, and their store-houses crammed with grain; make edicts for usury, to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act established against the rich, and provide more piercing statutes daily, to chain up and restrain the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they will; and there's all the love they bear us.
Why has His Grace taken this theme today?

While the the politocos and Westminster obsessives mutter about coalition fudges and muse about Cabinet reshuffles, famine looms. Okay, not quite the biblical sort with plagues of locusts, but devastating droughts in the USA will surely impact the cost of bread, pasta and meat in the UK. And soaring food bills will be the last straw for many hard-pressed families. Indeed, as Coriolanus discovered, and we have seen throughout history - in France, Russia or Cambodia, for example - revolution is closely linked to the price of grain: when the people are starving, an out-of-touch elite who have no concept of the price of milk can expect to be beseiged and deposed. And the fear of hunger is far more potent than the hunger itself, for, as Shakespeare observed, the people 'are all resolved rather to die than to famish'.

So, His Grace offers a word of warning to the Prime Minister: fear not them which carp and criticise, but are not able to end one's premiership: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both premiership and party in an election.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Disabled Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy



His Grace has been criticised, rebuked and scorned for having commented upon the crime and punishment of Pussy Riot while remaining silent on the plight of an 11-year-old Down's girl in Pakistan. Apparently, she has burned some pages of the Qur'an, and stands accused of insulting Mohammed. In accordance with Pakistan's laws on blasphemy, she faces the death penalty.

But, this being Pakistan, there's not a lot of time to organise lawyers and arrange some time in a courtroom before a judge. No, the mob is already baying for blood, and the little girl's house in Islamabad is surrounded night and day by hordes of zealots eager to do the will of Allah.

The reason His Grace hasn't yet commented on this (apart from the fact that he is not a rolling news service and his time is constrained) is because the facts are somewhat in contention: some accounts say the girl, identified as Rimsha Masih, is a juvenile - perhaps 11 or 12; some insist that she is 16. Some say she has a mental disability (Down's) and was unable to respond to police questioning; others that she is of normal intelligence and so culpable. Some Muslims from the area claim the girl had burned pages of the Qur'an in defiance of the Islamic religion (she is Christian); others that she was simply burning paper for fuel, which is not uncommon in the area.

Frankly, His Grace cares not whether the girl is 11 or 16, with Downs or not: she is accused of blasphemy because she allegedly burned pieces of paper which are not sacred to her. What on earth happened to there being 'no compulsion in Islam'?

President Asif Ali Zardari has ordered his Interior Minister to launch an investigation into this case because of the attention it is attracting. He'd better get a move on, for the natives are clearly restless, and Allah must be avenged. It isn't unknown for the mob to take the law into their own hands and summarily execute people who are accused of violating the blasphemy laws. Liberal politician Salman Taseer was shot and killed by one of his own guards in January 2011, and in March 2011, armed men assassinated Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian minister in Pakistan's cabinet.

Perhaps if the Foreign Secretary were to move towards a more ethical foreign policy... for why should British Overseas Aid be contingent on international gay rights but not on averting the persecution of religious minorities? Is the life of a homosexual man in sexually-repressive Uganda worth more to HM Government than that of a Christian girl in religiously-extremist Pakistan?

Surely President Zardari might be a little more inclined to ensure justice for the girl if it were tied to (say) £650million?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saudi Arabia challenges Roman Catholic web hegemony


A few months ago, His Grace wrote about Vatican City having spent $740,000 in applications for control of the top-level domain extension ‘.catholic’ (and the equivalent in the Cyrillic, Arabic and Chinese alphabets). The objective was to be able 'to authenticate the Catholic presence online’. The Vatican planned to permit only those ‘institutions and communities that have canonical recognition’ to use the extension, ‘so people online – Catholics and non-Catholics – will know a site is authentically Catholic’.

Some Roman Catholics thought this a jolly good idea. But His Grace wrote at the time:
The thing is – let’s be honest – that ‘.catholic’ would be owned exclusively by the Latin Rite Church of the Western Empire. Its own claims to universality are not shared by the Reformation churches or those of the Orthodox East: we are no longer in an age of cultural and religious unity or linguistic and liturgical uniformity under the authority of the Pope in Rome. The application to own ‘.catholic’ simply because ‘we decided we were best suited’ is the claim of medieval Christendom. It is the Roman Catholic Church which calls itself Catholic, and has done so since the Emperor Constantine pushed through the requisite religio-political formulae to establish politician-bishops at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, whose task it was to quell the rise of the Arian Christians and, indeed, to obliterate them. Since most of the history books of the time were written by (Roman) Catholic clergy, and most of the libraries were owned and run by monks, it is unsurprising that 'Catholic' became synonymous with 'catholic', and Western canon law became systematised and widely inculcated by missionaries of the Nicene vision.
His Grace needed to raise £115,000 in order to contest the Vatican’s application, so he assumed the granting of the domain was a fait accompli.

But it transpires that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has come to the rescue of all those Christian groups who consider themselves to be part of the Universal Church of Jesus Christ, despite the Roman Catholic Church insisting they most certainly are not. In filing a formal objection, the Communication and Information Technology Commission of Saudi Arabia says:
This application is sensitive as the term CATHOLIC which has been applied-for as a gTLD string represents the multitude of Christians across the world.

The term has been incorporated into the name of the largest Christian communion, the Catholic Church (also called the Roman Catholic Church). However, many other Christians use the term "Catholic" to refer more broadly to the whole Christian Church regardless of denominational affiliation. Other Christian communions lay claim to the term "catholic" such as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Church.

We do not believe that the applied-for gTLD string (.catholic) should be under the control of one church which cannot, and does not, represent every catholic communion.

Further, we believe that any and all gTLD applications for any name in relation to religion or a specific community should be presented to the whole of that community for evaluation before an application is denied or granted. If this cannot be accomplished then such names should be restricted completely from being used as gTLD's.

Failure to do so would give the use and control of an important religious name to one group, unjustly elevating its influence above others and permit that group to solely represent a spectrum of different churches.

The current applicant cannot demonstrate that it possesses a monopoly over the term "catholic" nor can it demonstrate that its intended ownership of that term is accepted by Catholics around the world.

To allow this string to be registered may be offensive to many people and societies on religious grounds.

Therefore, we respectfully request that ICANN not award this gTLD string.
It is kind indeed of an Islamic Gulf state to ride to the rescue of Christian heretics and separated brethren worldwide. It is true that the Vatican 'cannot demonstrate that it possesses a monopoly over the term "Catholic"', and it is equally true that 'Many other Christians use the term "Catholic" to refer more broadly to the whole Christian Church regardless of denominational affiliation'. It is worth noting that the Kingdom has also complained about bids to create top-level domains for .islam, .halal and .ummah on similar grounds (does the Saudi Royal Family read His Grace, perchance?).

The Church of England is, of course, Catholic and Reformed, but doubtless would be prevented by the Roman Catholic Church from using (say) 'Cranmer@Reformed.Catholic'. So, His Grace is deeply appreciative that the vastly wealthy Muslim Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has seen fit to throw a few meagre pennies (relatively) at this thorny Christian issue. It is now for secular ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to arbitrate between the competing theologies and conflicting histories in order to determine an official global ecclesial orthodoxy.

Allah works in mysterious ways.

Friday, August 24, 2012

ConservativeHome trashes Boris

There is an article up today on ConservativeHome which is damaging not so much to a future potential Conservative Party leader (about which there is much speculative amusement), but utterly damning of the present Conservative Mayor of London.

It refers to Boris as having 'half-baked ideas'; of being 'an embarrassment'; with his 'questionable personal life' ('fact'); his 'clowning around would...make our country, and its voters, look like idiots'. We are told that 'his policy and belief cupboard is consistently bare'; he has a 'deep need to be liked' - the 'weakest and most feeble quality any leader'; 'entirely fake'; 'terrible laziness'; 'lack of preparation'; 'a clown'; 'pitiful'; 'moronic'; 'entirely unsuited for the big time'; a 'Berlusconi comedy leader'; 'a laughing stock'; 'low grade vaudevillian'; 'soiled'; 'self-serving fool'; 'a monkey in high office'; 'a lightweight joker'.

Has the spirit of Michael Howard possessed the ConHome editorial team? In reading this poisonous diatribe, His Grace wondered if they had merely put into words what he himself presented in pictures a few days ago. And then he asked himself if they have simply written what everyone else really thinks. And then he pondered that it's really just a light-hearted, frivolous piece, fit for the end of the silly season, penned by a pseudonymous nonentity after the insignificant fashion of His Grace's entire output.

But ConHome has a unique position within the Conservative Party family: it alone is a professional outfit, purporting to represent the Tory grassroots, financially supported by Lord Ashcroft, pored over daily by politicians of all parties.

For a Conservative blog of ConHome's stature and standing to write so much of Labour's script for them is deeply unfortunate, especially when one considers - as one of the comments in the thread beneath does - that Boris may well run for a third term as Mayor. And this commentator reminds us just how damning and chronically damaging was Theresa May's identification of the Conservative Party as the 'nasty party'.

Boris has his faults - as do we all. And those who stand for public office can expect to be personally attacked and vilified by one's enemies and the opposition. But when the onslaught comes from within; when those from whom one seeks alliance and expects allegiance decide instead to caricature, gang-up, mud-rake and assassinate, the wound cuts deep and the pain can last a very long time indeed.

Whatever you may think of him, Boris is a Tory with conservative instincts. His Grace by no means agrees with him on everything, but in the politics of liberal democracy we are concerned with the administration of Augustine's 'necessary evil' and the discernment of Aquinas' 'lesser evil'. Boris is heartily frustrated with the present leadership's 'pussy-footing' around: he has advocated tax cuts, and describes the values driving him as 'freedom, democracy, taxpayer value and building up the sense of neighbourliness and duty towards each other'. He has signed a pledge demanding a referendum on the EU, and insists ‘Parliament should be sovereign’. This isn't jokey stuff.

Boris is the people’s politician: he (almost) invariably speaks and writes manifest common sense, and has a rare gift for a politician – he is lovable. No matter what his faults and failings, there is something profoundly warming about his personality, and he makes us all smile. He reaches way beyond the Westminster bubble and soars above the petty fray. In an era where the medium is the message, he reaches - as Tim Montgomerie has previously observed - the parts that other politicians simply cannot reach.

And everyone has heard of Boris: like Diana, he has the aura of first-name familiarity about him; not such a one that may breed contempt, but one that endears people to him; one that makes people feel that they somehow know him. There is something cultic about him; to use the vernacular, he has mojo, he creates his own mystery which inevitably yields a loyal following. In that sense, Boris belongs to the people, and God knows that modern politics desperately needs politicians with whom the electorate wants to engage; politicians who can lead and create disciples.

There is no shortage of talent on the Conservative backbenches, but God knows the party is certainly short on potential future leaders. This is by no means the first time His Grace has taken issue with ConHome: they have, after all, previously advocated that Islam should become the state religion. But they ought to be aware that, of all Conservative blogs, they alone are quoted by Labour at the despatch box - sometimes to damning effect.    

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cecilia Gimenez restores... oh, shit..

Tories MUST repay their Asil Nadir / Polly Peck donations


This is why people are turned off politics: it is why politicians are distrusted, political parties are reviled, and democracy undermined. Duplicity, hypocrisy and cynical manipulation are what ordinary people hate about politics and politicians.

Asil Nadir used to be the boss of Polly Peck, a FTSE 100 listed company which collapsed in 1991 with £1.3bn (yes, billion) of debt because of accounts fraud and financial irregularities.

Mr Nadir was charged with fraud, but in 1993 jumped bail to Cyprus where he’s been tanning himself for the past 20 years. Bizarrely, despite being an EU member since 2004, the island has no extradition mechanism with the UK. Mr Nadir has now voluntarily returned to face the music, and, in the third movement of this sparkling concerto, been found guilty of fraud and faces 17 years in prison, where his tan will surely fade.

What has this to do with the Conservative Party?

Well, it transpires that Mr Nadir made several donations to them between 1985-1990. Indeed, he was one of the party's biggest donors during the Thatcher era, and a regular visitor to Downing Street. When it became clear that those Tory zenith years had been subsidised by a Nadir (sorry), John Major gave an unequivocal pledge to return the money if it were ever established that it had been ‘dishonestly obtained and dishonestly donated’. Sir Norman Fowler told the House of Commons in June 1993: "Let me make this clear: we will return the money if it was stolen."

Fast forward to 2010, we can read the same assurance given to The Guardian by ‘Tory party (sic) officials’. The pledge is manifest for all to read: ‘The Tories are ready to repay the £440,000 Asil Nadir donated to the party should the former Polly Peck boss be found guilty of fraud.’

Well, he has been. And it has been established that £440,000 was siphoned off without the knowledge of the Polly Peck board of directors or its shareholders. That is theft, is it not?

But now the Conservative Party are saying that the money did not come from Asil Nadir, but from Polly Peck. In The Independent, they are quoted as saying that ‘they will not hand over the money because it was accepted in "good faith" from what was then considered a "leading British company"’. They claim to have ‘no record of having received donations from Asil Nadir. Donations were received from Polly Peck companies more than 22 years ago’.

This is cynical and duplicitous: Asil Nadir was Polly Peck; donations made from company funds were made by him. Donations to CCHQ may have been recorded under the name ‘Polly Peck’, but it was invariably Asil Nadir who got to guzzle the wine and scoff the canapés at No10. The Conservative Party must repay £440,000 to the Administrators (Touche Ross) to disseminate to the Polly Peck shareholders: it is the honest, right and moral thing to do, for it belongs to them.

But it appears that the assurances of Conservative Party leaders from John Major to David Cameron, and the pledges of Conservative Party chairmen from Norman Fowler to Baroness Warsi and Lord Feldman, are utterly worthless. And so the Conservative brand is once again dragged through the mud of sleaze and corruption; re-contaminated in a swill which no number of huskies or wind-farms and no amount of hoodie-hugging will ever sanitate.

And they wonder why politics is so debased and politicians so loathed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cameron to let children vote on Scottish independence


16-year-olds in the UK can’t purchase cigarettes or alcohol; they can’t drive; they can’t leave home or get married without parental consent*; they can’t give blood; they can join the army, but can’t go on active service. They can’t obtain a street trading licence; they can’t go abroad to act or perform music professionally; they can’t get a credit card; they can’t apply for a mortgage, or own houses or land. They can’t be called for jury service; can’t change their name; and can’t act as an executor of a person's will. They can’t place bets, purchase fireworks or become a local councillor. In Jersey and Guernsey – discriminatory horror of horrors – they can’t even legally have gay sex.

But HM Government is contemplating giving 126,000 Scottish 16 and 17-year-olds a vote on the irreversible break-up of the United Kingdom in Alex Salmond’s 2014 referendum on Scottish independence.

If you can trust Scottish children with discernment and good judgment on something as seismic as a nation’s political independence, why not trust 1.5 million 16 and 17-year-olds across the UK to vote on more trivial matters like matters like taxation, welfare, health or education? Surely extending the franchise in Scotland alone is racist against the English, Welsh and Northern Irish? Or is this provision to apply only in referenda? If so, can we be sure that when we come to vote on the EU that all 16 and 17-year-olds are included, since (against all the odds and countering years of propaganda) the vast majority of them appear to be turning against Le Grand Projet?

Or is this enfranchisement applicable to the independence referendum only; a constitutional one-off? If so, is that not rather overt gerrymandering? Why should the constituency that elected the current First Minister not be the same as that which votes in his referendum? Surely the age group that determines his success or failure ought to be the same as that which gave him his mandate?

Apparently, a reduction in the voting age is the Prime Minister’s quid pro quo for Alex Salmond’s agreement to ditch the second ‘Devo-Max’ question on the ballot paper: ie, the referendum is to pose only a straightforward in/out question.

The Prime Minister has no right to barter with the Constitution in this fashion: it is too important a settlement to use for short-term political expediency. Those who are insisting that no precedent will be set by lowering the voting age in this referendum clearly have no understanding of the word ‘precedent: the groups that campaign for lowering the voting age permanently are in no doubt at all that a clear precedent would indeed be set.

It's barking. Absolutely barking.

If 16-year-olds are to be trusted with what they want to do to the body politic of the Union, at least give them the power to decide what they might do to their own bodies first.

*Except in Scotland

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

After the passage of the Civil Unions Bill in Illinois...

Only 6% think Cameron is in touch with ordinary people


Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome circulated a chart yesterday evening, the most alarming aspect of which (alarming, that is, for the Conservative Party) was the stat which suggests that only six per cent of the electorate believe David Cameron to be in touch with ordinary people.

By ‘in touch with ordinary people’, one must assume the researcher means ‘in touch with the concerns of ordinary people’, for it is highly unlikely that the Prime Minister’s contacts are limited to weirdos, fruitcakes and barm-pots, not to mention extraordinary people like Mo Farah and Boris. If the Prime Minister is not in touch with the concerns of ordinary people, with whose concerns is he concerned? If he believes himself to be a servant of the people, yet the people do not perceive him to be so, then we have a certain epistemic distance which becomes problematic not only for the Prime Minister, but also for the Conservative Party as a whole, for the fortunes of the party are tied to the fortunes of its leader, and if its leader is perceived to be an uncaring, unfeeling, unconcerned charlatan, then the electorate becomes indifferent to his charms and likely to turf him out at the earliest opportunity.

People enter politics for a variety of motives, some noble, some vain. Some of them may be called great, while the overwhelming majority are mediocre or utter failures. The problem the Prime Minister faces is that we live in a cynical and disaffected age in which the ordinary people are most likely to believe that politicians are liars, cheats, and scoundrels: the noble and virtuous are swamped in a morass of disillusion and despair.

Politics matters: it is the means by which we organise, civilise, and work through our differences without coming to blows. And those differences consist of our concerns, and those concerns can be mightily important, though more often they are mundane and banal. A prime minister who ceases to be concerned with the mundane and banal – such as the price of a pint of milk, for example – has become detached, aloof, and alienated from the people who elected him to power.

Jeremy Paxman once observed that as the public have come to think politics trivial, the more trivial people have become attracted to politics. This is cynical, and ignores the very hard work which many of them do on behalf of their constituents: an MP must be primarily involved with and attuned to the concerns of his or her constituents. But a prime minister has to be disturbed by every anxiety in the nation, and passionate about the resolution of those anxieties through policy.

David Cameron is perceived as being uninterested in the political method: he sees the political world as a canvas on which the is busily painting his own self portrait. It is as though he had been planning this all his life, from high and noble birth, through Eton and Oxford, to becoming a political adviser, flown into a safe seat in the Home Counties, followed by a meteoric rise to the great offices of state. To him it is about honour and respectability: to the ordinary people it is about vanity and venality.

We must remember that we are dealing here not with truth, but with perception. Politics is an awful life – risky, tough and psychologically damaging. There is a sense in which it is a career made for the dysfunctional. But politics is an illusionist's art, and when the actor is no longer convincing, he must leave the stage or risk bringing the whole show down and bankrupting the theatre.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Through Obamacare the USA is sterilising her children


Poor Rep. Todd Akin, the GOP Senate nominee in Missouri. In his rigorous, personal, no-exceptions belief about abortion, he said in a TV interview that ‘legitimate rape’ rarely causes pregnancy. And so the entire liberal-left establishment has besieged his little world, not to mention quite a few liberal-rightists, for (let us be frank) ‘legitimate rape’ is an absurd phrase to use, even when one is trying to highlight the thousands of times women lie about the circumstances surrounding a conception in order to procure a swift American abortion.

But it is strange that such a story should circumvent the globe with the predictable backlash against the GOP, when the Democrats are busy offering sterilisation to the giggling fans of Justin Bieber without parental consent.

In a policy which sounds as though it belongs in China, the state of Oregon is pursuing eugenically-inspired population reduction by providing free sterilisations to girls and boys as young as 15. And mum and dad don’t have a clue that they’re being permanently deprived of their grandchildren.

The ‘Required Health Plan Coverage Guidelines’ set forth by the US Department of Health and Human Services states: ‘Non-grandfathered plans and issuers are required to provide coverage without cost-sharing consistent with these guidelines in the first plan year that begins on or after August 1, 2012. All [FDA] approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.’

Under Oregon State Law, the state's revised statutes (ORS) defines ‘informed consent’ for 15-year-olds independently pursuing reproductive sterilisation as being ‘(a) Based upon a full understanding of the nature and consequences of sterilization pursuant to information requirements set forth in ORS 436.225(1); (b) Given by an individual competent to make such a decision; and (c) Wholly voluntary and free from coercion, express or implied’.

That's okay then. So, in the USA, you can’t obtain a driving licence until the age of 16; parental consent to marry is required under the age of 18; children also need parental consent to get a tattoo; and in some states you can’t buy a beer until you’re 21. But 15 is considered sufficiently mature to provide informed consent for one’s own permanent, irreversible sterilisation. It is incomprehensible that Democrats cannot see that this is likely to pressure the poorest and most vulnerable girls (for the boys are not likely to care) into a permanent insurance against the costs of pregnancy and child-rearing. And it is a decision they are taking years before they might meet their life-long partner, who is thereby deprived forever of progeny.

Oregon's consent form, specific for the sterilisations of 15 to 20-year-olds, reads: ‘I understand that the sterilization must be considered permanent and not reversible. I have decided that I do not want to become pregnant, bear children or father children.’ And that’s it: comprehension established. In the case that the patient does not speak or read English, an interpreter is permitted to assist the patient ‘to the best of (his) knowledge and belief’ in signing away the patient's reproductive capacity.

You’d better hope your interpreter understands the difference between translation, transliteration and dynamic equivalence. Or perhaps ‘to the best of (his) knowledge’ is the best one can hope for. This is Oregon we’re talking about, after all: the state which pioneered ‘physician assisted suicide’.

And scarcely a word about this development has been breathed beyond the fringes of the blogosphere. While the world’s media are focused on poor Todd Akin, America’s horny teenagers are being inculcated in the belief that irreversible family planning is a decision you can make out of the pits of hormonal depression and hysterical Justin Bieber obsession. It is an absolute Obamanation.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

BBC finally pays tribute to Usain Bolt's Christian faith


A few weeks ago, His Grace bemoaned the fact that the BBC never mentioned Usain Bolt's Christian faith in the context of his stunning Olympic triumphs, while poring over every other aspect of his life in minute detail. Despite crossing himself and mouthing a prayer before every race, and exalting God after each victory in both word and physical supplication, BBC commentators were mute: there was a distinct 'Don't mention the prayer!' policy, for fear of offending someone somewhere.

Well, His Grace is delighted to note that Auntie has recanted and written a very impressive tribute to Bolt's faith:
Christian prayer

Jamaicans were overwhelmed with joy and Bolt reciprocated their support by expressing his sense of appreciation for all Jamaicans, irrespective of where in Jamaica they came from or which clan they belonged to.

This, I think, has further lifted the reverence the Jamaican people had for him.

He chose to appreciate the bigger picture in a deeply divided society and as a result has perhaps created a sense of unity that has long been missing in the Afro-Caribbean community.

Additionally, he has remained true to his religious beliefs, giving a Christian prayer after each win and thanking God for his victory.

This will no doubt restore confidence in black youth, who often grapple with finding a balance between their Western upbringing, African or Caribbean roots and Christian faith.

I am optimistic that his win will shed light on a different kind of role model black youths can look up to and aspire to emulate, and maybe we might be lucky enough to see more Jamaican-British youngsters competing in the next Olympics.

Bolt's display of his faith portrays to the rest of Britain that Afro-Caribbeans can remain true to their culture and beliefs while fully integrating with the wider society, which will hopefully counter-balance the common association of black youth with crime and under-achievement.

It is precisely for these reasons that I think Usain Bolt will remain dearly cherished by all Jamaicans both inside the country and beyond, and I hope his effect will stretch wide enough for all Christians to unite once again.
Oh, hang on. Dammit. His Grace is surely mistook.


His Grace has got it completely wrong. (Again). This is becoming tiresome. He apologises.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Government's 5-point plan to drive voter turnout into the ground


Did you know that on 15th November 2012, there will be elections in 41 police force areas in England and Wales for Police and Crime Commissioners? No? Neither did His Grace. Being an anorak, he knew they were looming, but nothing of the details.

Anyone who can vote in a local election will be able to vote for the PCC of their choice, and almost anyone who can stand in a local election can stand to be a PCC. His Grace says 'almost anyone', because if you threw a brick through your neighbour's window when he caught you scrumping apples at the age of 14, you're excluded.

The PCC’s key roles will be to set the budget and strategic objectives for the Force and hold the Chief Constable to account.The statutory powers and duties of the PCC will include:
  • Holding the Chief Constable to account for an effective and efficient police service on behalf of communities.
  • Production of a Policing and Crime Plan that sets strategic objectives
  • Setting the policing budget and the Council Tax precept
  • Producing an annual report detailing how the police and crime objectives have been met through the year and what resources have been required to do so.
  • The appointment of the Chief Constable, and dismissal if required.
  • The PCC will have a role in wider community safety issues and will have powers to issue crime and disorder reduction grants
  • The PCC has a duty to consult the public, and will also consider the views of victims when setting police and crime objectives.
The PCC will be held to account by an external “Police and Crime Panel” consisting of local councillors and independent members.

But the Electoral Reform Society has noted that PCC elections threaten to result in the lowest turnout of any nationwide election in British history.They will have cost a whopping £75m, but evidence suggests that we can only hope for a turnout of around 18.5% - the lowest ever.

From the start, the PCC elections have been marred by controversy and now it seems that the Home Office is shirking its responsibility to provide voters with even the most basic information that the elections are even taking place.

The stated purpose of electing Police and Crime Commissioners was to improve accountability and reconnect the public and the police - an aim which is clearly undermined by a painfully low turnout.

The Home Office’s 5-point plan to drive turnout into the ground:
1.    Do not conduct a mail out with information about the elections and the candidates;
2.    Only provide information online so that the 7m people on the electoral roll who don’t regularly access the internet are unlikely to know it's happening;
3.    Set up a helpline but don’t activate it until 23 days before the election is due to take place;
4.    Hold the election in November when no other elections are taking place (research shows that winter elections have significantly lower turnout than those held in summer months);
5.    Include no provisions for information in accessible formats for the blind or partially sighted or information in any other languages.
Additionally, despite the fact that independence and diversity were proclaimed as important features of PCC candidates, unrealistic eligibility rules have meant that strong independent candidates with minor misdemeanours in their teenage years could be excluded. This is in addition to the fact that independent candidates were already hampered by the lack of a funded mail-out since, unlike party candidates, they will have no network of campaigners or party resources behind them to help them reach out to large constituencies.

Conversely, an extremely low turnout could unfairly advantage extremist candidates who would never succeed in winning over a bigger proportion of the electorate.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society says: "This election is beginning to look like a perfect storm, which could result in the lowest turnout for a national election in British history. Those pulling the strings have not done their homework and as a result this election looks primed to degenerate into a complete shambles. Put simply, if the people elected to localise decision-making over how our streets are policed, do not represent local people, what is the point of having them?”

As His Grace says, the elections for Police and Crime Commissioners are due to take place on 15th November 2012. Please put this date in your diary, lest it become a clean sweep for the Lefty liberals.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pussy Riot sentenced to 2 years for 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred'


His Grace posted a few weeks ago about the appalling treatment of the Russian feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot, who performed an innovative (but heretical) liturgy to the Theotokos on the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. It wasn't to everyone's taste; akin somewhat to the sort of gaily-coloured 'worship' now common in many Western churches of all denominations. And the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia - who happens also to be Putin's best mate and former KGB colleague - Kirill I found it ‘blasphemous’.

So, unsurprisingly, Pussy Riot have been convicted of 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred', and sentenced to two years in prison ('lenient' because they have small children). There were very loud chants of 'Freedom to Political Prisoners' outside the Court building, but to no avail. For this is Putin's Russia and Putin's Church (he converted 20 years ago, and is reportedly devout).

While iconic Russian statues were sympathetically bedecked with Pussy Riot's trademark balaclava helmets, the Court determined: 'The Pussy Riot singers colluded under unestablished circumstances, for the purpose of offensively violating public peace in a sign of flagrant disrespect for citizens. The women were motivated by religious enmity and hatred, and acted provocatively and in an insulting manner inside a religious building in the presence of a large number of believers.'

The girls' lengthy closing statements of self-justification may be read HERE. They do not deny defiling the sacred space, but their motives, they insist, were honourable. They have apologised for any offence caused to believers, and repudiate allegations of 'religious hatred'.

For His Grace, the only 'hooliganism' they expressed was in their chosen genre of music: indeed, Jesus was rather more of a hooligan when he overturned the tables in the Temple. He was concerned with material corruption of the sacred; they with political corruption of their country. As His Grace has written, Pussy Riot are guilty of the postmodern equivalent of nailing their 95 Theses firmly to the door of the Cathedral; they have not burned a copy of the Qur'an; the Orthodox inconostasis is not equivalent to the Roman Catholic real presence.

In summing up the prosecution case, Judge Marina Syrova confirmed the tangential theological argument that prayers in a Russian cathedral may only be offered by a priest and not by 'ordinary members of the public', so Pussy Riot's professed protest-as-prayer was contrary to church rules. But this is simply not true: Orthodoxy permits laity to lead public prayer. Perhaps it would not bestow the honour upon rabid feminists, but there is no canonical prohibition. The Judge observed: "It was a small act but maybe not a very elegant act but they consider that it is the country which is sick. For them, individuals are not important, they consider that education in Russia is still in the Soviet mould. And that there is still cruelty in the country and that prison is a miniature of Russia itself."

If education is no longer in the Soviet mould, justice certainly appears to be. Putin's Russia has regressed to the Soviet era: he is forging another oppressive kleptocracy which routinely persecutes the unorthodox and crushes dissent. It might even feel like theocracy. Some of the prosecution witnesses were not actually in the Cathedral at the time of the protest, but told the Court they were offended by the YouTube recording. The Judge described them all as 'good Christians', based on nothing but their 'right' testimony. Thus the actions of Pussy Riot 'degraded the moral feeling' of the victims, who are the Orthodox everywhere for all time.

This was a show-trial inquisition for the sake of all Russians, and we must thank God that Pussy Riot have brought the true nature of Putin's Russia to the attention of the world.

Lord Justice Goldring seeks to silence Magistrate bloggers


Magistrates or Justices of the Peace constitute a distinctly English approach to the dispensing of summary justice and have been doing so for some 650 years. They are classified as members of the judiciary but are unremunerated and are appointed as representative of the community in which they work or live. As such, they are drawn from backgrounds as diverse as the population as a whole. Their interests are equally diverse: amongst these 25,000 JPs, about four or five write regular anonymous or pseudonymous blogs on their experiences in the courtroom and topics of similar interest. These literary efforts have provided even His Grace with knowledge of which he would otherwise have been unaware (especially that of the excellent Justice of the Peace). Indeed, His Grace is well known for his appreciation that a common law is essential for the temporal and spiritual well being of his communicants and all people.

It would appear that the aforementioned Senior Presiding Judge is of a different opinion.

Last week he issued the following guidance:-
Blogging by Judicial Office Holders
Introduction

This guidance is issued on behalf of the Senior Presiding Judge and the Senior President of Tribunals. It applies to all courts and tribunal judicial office holders in England and Wales, and is effective immediately.

Definitions
A “blog” (derived from the term “web log”) is a personal journal published on the internet. “Blogging” describes the maintaining of, or adding content to, a blog. Blogs tend to be interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments. They may also contain links to other blogs and websites. For the purpose of this guidance blogging includes publishing material on micro-blogging sites such as Twitter.

Guidance
Judicial office holders should be acutely aware of the need to conduct themselves, both in and out of court, in such a way as to maintain public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.

Blogging by members of the judiciary is not prohibited. However, officer holders who blog (or who post comments on other people’s blogs) must not identify themselves as members of the judiciary. They must also avoid expressing opinions which, were it to become known that they hold judicial office, could damage public confidence in their own impartiality or in the judiciary in general.

The above guidance also applies to blogs which purport to be anonymous. This is because it is impossible for somebody who blogs anonymously to guarantee that his or her identity cannot be discovered.

Judicial office holders who maintain blogs must adhere to this guidance and should remove any existing content which conflicts with it forthwith. Failure to do so could ultimately result in disciplinary action. It is also recommended that all judicial office holders familiarise themselves with the new IT and Information Security Guidance which will be available shortly.
Being unaware of any judge who is blogging anonymously on the law, it would appear that this so-called guidance is aimed at silencing those few magistrates who have given the public an insight into the day-to-day workings of the courts, warts and all. His Grace must assume that the good Lord Goldring is as familiar with the European Convention of Human Rights Article 10 as His Grace is with the Gospel of St Luke. For those who are not cognisant, the Article says:
Article 10 – Freedom of expression
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
It would therefore appear that this 'guidance' is issued 'for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary'. This being accepted, it follows that a magistrate cannot blog without negating the meaning of that phrase. This approach by Lord Goldring appears to be in conflict with that of Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbiry, Master of the Rolls, who, in a speech on 16th Marcch 2011, said: "The importance of open justice arises from the role it plays in supporting the rule of law. Public scrutiny of the courts is an essential means by which we ensure that judges do justice according to law, and thereby secure public confidence in the courts and the law.”

His Grace has experienced the effects of the law misguided, and it would seem that similar forces are at work in the edict of the Senior Presiding Judge. It would be beneficial for His Lordship and the people of this nation if he were to revise his 'guidelines' such that magistrate-volunteers might retain their traditional freedoms while maintaining their confidence in him. Responsible blogging magistrates should not be threatened into silence on pain of removal from office.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sikh TV station rebuked for offending a Sikh



The ASA are at it again. They have banned an advertisement for The Sofa Factory in Birmigham for allegedly distorting religious verses in a way that was likely to cause serious offence to the Sikh community.

In fact, one (yes, one) Sikh had complained to The Sofa Factory because the ad showed an image of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, and featured a song in the style of the Gurmantur (sacred Sikh verses). The lyrics in Punjabi had been adapted to:
True name of God is You are wondrous; come to The Sofa Factory in Birmingham; measure and make your corner sofas; reupholster your older sofas.

My father Sarvan Singh sowed the seeds of this business; I come from the village Kooner Dhanni; come on dad; I get plenty of your love and good wishes, plenty of love; you are my guru, my true guru. Sofa Factory.
Most Sikhs are generally good humoured and would find this a bit of a riot (not a literal one, of course: Birmingham has put those behind them). Indeed, the ad above (which is not that which elicited the complaint, for after scouring it thrice after the fashion of 'Where's Wally', His Grace could not find Guru Nanak anywhere) clearly features prominently a Sikh gentleman. And Sangat, who broadcast the ad, is a Sikh TV station. So there was a general consensus among 'the Sikh community' that the ad was not offensive to Sikhs.

But one viewer found it so.

Upholding his complaint, the ASA said: "We considered that the use of the central icon of the Sikh faith and the use and distortion of religious verses to advertise products made light of those important elements of the Sikh faith in a way that was likely to cause serious offence to some members of the Sikh community."

It ruled that the ad must not appear again.

This manner of censorship is an incremental evil: freedom of speech and freedom of expression cannot coexist with the right not to be offended. Good grief, rulings like this could soon put His Grace out of business, for even yesterday's polite post on the Assumption invoked ire in another place. What religious liberty remains if we may no longer criticise, satirise or lampoon the images, texts, icons or personages which others hold sacred?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On the Assumption of Mary into Heaven



Apparently, Pope Benedict XVI has explained to the faithful that Mary’s assumption, body and soul, into heaven at the end of the course of her earthly life – though only dogmatically defined in 1950 by Pope Pius XII – is something that Christians throughout the world have always believed, confessed and celebrated.

Not all of us, of course.

Today is her Feast Day, and His Grace wishes all his Roman Catholic readers and communicants a blessed and holy day of obligation. The above film is a record of the original ex cathedra pronouncement, on 1st November 1950. According to the Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation refers to Mary's bodily assumption.

His Grace is (very) reliably informed that De Gasperi, Andreotti and Schumann were all present.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Prime Minister Boris?


There is much talk at the moment of Boris Johnson succeeding David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party and becoming the next Prime Minister. Certainly, with the demise of the proposed boundary changes, David Cameron will not win a majority at the next general election on the present trajectory. Tim Montgomerie has already plotted the path Boris needs to take; Pete Hoskin points out that the Mayor's appeal reaches beyond London and the traditional Conservative vote; but Iain Dale has published a book repudiating the possibility (or at least employing the wrong tense). One senior Conservative source was reported last week as saying: "If the answer is Boris, it's some question."

His Grace would like to offer some profound political insight and intelligent comment on the 'Boris for PM' phenomenon:
    

Monday, August 13, 2012

The British Dream


There has been an American Dream since the United States were founded: an ethos constructed upon ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ in which ‘all men are created equal’ and have been ‘endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights’. It is a Protestant ethic in which hard work is rewarded, social mobility is upward, and success leads to prosperity.

Well, that’s the dream.

The reality is often rather different: spiritual happiness has been fused with material gain; liberty conflated with consumerism; and aspiration confused with expectation. And that dream has a definite ceiling if you happen to be an immigrant: while Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger could rise to become Governor of California, he was and remains constitutionally barred from ever rising to the highest office. To become President and occupy the White House one has to be a ‘natural born citizen of the United States’. Although Schwarzenegger has been a naturalised citizen since 1983, he remains foreign, and foreigners can never sufficiently integrate to be trusted with the ultimate political authority.

Mo Farah’s father was born and bred in Hounslow. He returned to his roots in Somalia, bringing Mo back here when he was eight to escape a life of hopeless poverty. Unable to speak a word of English, Mo would have immediately qualified for generous teaching assistance and a plethora of  interventions for ‘inclusion’. He would have been the sort of immigrant the BNP would want to expel/repatriate, who practises a religion which the EDL seeks to eradicate.

Yet here he is, the greatest runner in British history, winning double Olympic Gold for the United Kingdom. History is a child of conflicting perspectives, but if Mo Farah has indeed eclipsed Sir Roger Bannister as the greatest, then we must soon be looking at Sir Mo Farah. When he was rather impertinently asked after his victory in the 10,000 metres if he would rather be representing Somalia, his brusquely replied: “Not at all, mate. This is my country.”

This is indeed Mo’s country: the Somali immigrant learned English and applied himself at school. He worked hard, married and had children. He has embraced Britishness, and the British have embraced him right back. Draped in the Union Flag, he is a powerful symbol of adaptation, integration, naturalisation and absorption. There is no demand in Britain for uniformity, but a generous acceptance of difference and diversity in pursuit of the common good. That is the British culture, the ethos, which remains fundamentally Christian.

Mo Farah appears to have an interest in the politics of world hunger, and there would be nothing to prevent him from following in the steps of Sebastian Coe, whose triumph in the Olympic Games of 1980 and 1984 catapulted him into Parliament as the Honourable Member for Falmouth and Camborne. If Mo were to stand in the forthcoming Corby by-election, he would walk it (or run it), whatever his party allegiance.

But, unlike in the United States, there is no ceiling on this imagined political aspiration: the British Dream not only rewards industry and integration with financial freedom and social mobility; it permits the immigrant to participate fully in the political process, and even to become Prime Minister.

Mo Farah will certainly be honoured by the State – whether it is a CBE or a knighthood is of little consequence. He has become a role model for all children, but especially for those alienated and disaffected Muslims who prefer to build ghettos of separation and feed on the residue of anti-immigrant hostility. Mohammeds up and down the land should want to be like Mo Farah, for he is the authentic British Muslim and the voice of Anglican Islam.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bishop of Chelmsford on the Olympic 'legacy of goodwill'

The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, has praised the vital legacy of London 2012 saying that in his own diocese – home to the Olympic Park and Village – and beyond, the Games are having an important impact on community life. He writes:

"It isn’t the first time that the world has come to the East End of London. Waves of immigration have shaped the culture and aspirations of this most resourceful and diverse bit of England over many centuries. This has irrigated the whole of our culture, changing it in many ways.

"The London borough of Newham is in the Anglican diocese of Chelmsford , where I serve as Bishop. Alongside its many deprivations and challenges, I know it as a place of vibrant faith and irrepressible creativity.

"Now it has been athletes and tourists, the world’s media and, with them, the eyes of millions of people around the globe who have come to Stratford . We have all seen some marvellous and inspiring things, cheering medal winners and finding new and strange enthusiasm for sports we had hitherto barely heard of. There has been much talk of the legacy that will be left behind. The vast and impressive buildings of the Olympic Park and the Olympic Village will indeed bring much needed regeneration. But I am beginning to wonder whether the Olympic legacy may bring a further change as well: a legacy of good will.

"I was lucky enough to be in the stadium last week to see Usain Bolt win the 200 metres. It was a fantastic experience. On the train home I sat and chatted with one of the hundreds of Olympic volunteers. Each day she was doing the 2.30-10.30 shift outside Stratford station ushering great tides of people this way and that, making sure no one was lost, remaining unfailingly cheerful. OK, it isn’t the same as winning a gold medal, but her achievement is also heroic. Here is a big society worked out in the astonishing little details of selfless charity and kindness. And there are indeed hundreds and hundreds of volunteers. And the example of their simple, cheerful goodness is very inspiring. Last week I also met a 17 year old who is on duty at Stansted airport every other morning. There is nothing very glamorous about this. But she wanted to be part of it; part of something bigger than herself. She wanted to do something. So she is spending her summer welcoming strangers.

"At the same time, many of us have not only found ourselves surprised by the joy of the Olympics, we have rediscovered a desire to celebrate it with our neighbour. In community gatherings large and small – and the largest I have come across was organised by local churches and gathered ten thousand people in Central Park, Dagenham to watch the opening ceremony on a big screen – we have expressed our own need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It all just seemed too important, to special to watch on our own.

"Commentators, marvelling at the efficiency with which these Games have been put together, have said it is the largest logistical exercise in Britain since the Second World War. It might also be one of the largest outpourings of good will. This is an Olympic legacy worth holding onto: the desire to serve my neighbour and the desire to celebrate with my neighbour. It is with these things that communities are built."
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