Thursday, May 31, 2007

Labour Party moves to stand in Ulster

Historically, the Labour Party in Ulster has allied itself with the SDLP, refusing to permit its own members to form constituency associations, or to make nominations to conferences and other official bodies. But following threats of legal proceedings for racial discrimination, the Labour Party has been forced to reconsider this policy, and has agreed to the formation of a Northern Ireland Labour forum. It is to be funded like a constituency party, and will be able to send delegates and submit motions to party conferences. The forum will have a guaranteed seat on Labour’s national policy forum, and will be able to put forward candidates for election to the national executive committee.

All of this is effectively a step closer to permitting Labour Party members to fight elections in the Province.

Cranmer has always believed that Unionist parties should stand in all parts of the Union; to do otherwise is to manifest oxymoronic tendencies and to deprive British subjects of their democratic rights. The case against Labour was that its members in Northern Ireland had been given second class membership compared to their English, Scottish and Welsh colleagues, and this was manifestly discriminatory against the Irish. Quite why Labour has been fierce in its quest to bestow equal rights upon Conservative-supporting homosexuals but not upon the Labour-supporting Irish is bizarre, but they now have their democratic right to participate fully in the party and shape its policies. To prevent them from standing in Ulster’s elections is to perpetuate their second-class status, and to risk further threats of litigation.

One wonders if this has anything to do Mr Cameron’s Unionist overtures in the Province. Cranmer mused a few months ago of a possible Conservative-DUP coalition in the event of a hung parliament. Ulster’s First Minister, the Rev Dr Ian Paisley, has held several meetings with Mr Cameron, and has confirmed that he would be ‘very interested in doing business with the Conservatives’. With the demise of Labour’s SDLP friends, and the ascendancy of the Conservative Party, Mr Brown is left with no alternative but to play catch-up.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Academics vote on Israel boycott

Following the vote by the National Union of Journalists to boycott Israel, the UK’s largest professional association for lecturers and researchers is gearing up to vote on similar boycott proposals. There had already been an agreed motion for its members to ‘boycott Israeli universities and academics who do not dissociate themselves from their government’s policies’, and the new motion builds on this. It reads:

Israel's 40-year occupation has seriously damaged the fabric of Palestinian society through annexation, illegal settlement, collective punishment and restriction of movement… The union deplores the denial of educational rights for Palestinians by invasions, closures, checkpoints, curfews, and shootings and arrests of teachers, lecturers and students…and condemns the complicity of Israeli academia in the occupation.

Such anti-Israel and anti-Semitic expression is becoming so commonplace that to express anything to the contrary is increasingly considered tantamount to racism. NATFHE has said nothing about boycotting China, Iran, Sudan, North Korea or Zimbabwe, all of which have appalling records in ‘human rights’.

And these are supposed to be the nation’s academics. They must have attended some of those grammar schools that Mr Cameron finds so deficient…

Monday, May 28, 2007

Will Gordon Brown ‘do God’?

The Independent is probing into the Christian worldview of Prime Minister Brown, asserting that his Scottish Presbyterianism is far more faithful to scriptural priorities than the Anglo-Catholicism of Mr Blair, and that he will be a father to the orphans, and a helper to the widows. Mr Brown is the son of a Church of Scotland minister, and he recalls ‘a constant stream of people passing through our front door. As a child growing up in a minister's family, you get to see all the hardships that are going on around you at first hand. All of them had been hit hard.’ These memories seared into his conscience, Mr Brown’s Christian Socialism will return to its 19th-century focus on the poor, and the emancipation of oppressed people everywhere.

Throughout the Old Testament, the cause of the widow, the orphan, and the poor is particularly enjoined upon Israel as befitting a redeemed people who are entrusted with the character and standards of their Redeemer. The theme is carried into the New Testament, particularly in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus himself said: ‘I will not leave you as orphans’, and the Holy Spirit, has been given and has taken up his abode in the Christian that he might be an effective ambassador of Him who ‘hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation’.

It is this ministry to which Mr Brown intends to dedicate himself. He will reject the sexual and cultural obsessions of the ‘religious right’, and dedicate himself to ‘weightier matters of justice’. He has no truck with secularism, and believes that spirituality is profoundly relevant to social change – ‘religion should be a presence perpetually motivating people to pursue "justice" for the poor’. He will articulate ‘moral truth’, because he is ‘listening to the message of the biblical prophets when he brilliantly slashes Africa's debts, doubles aid, and increases tax credits for poor kids here at home’. His support for the Jubilee Campaign to cancel Third World debt was noteworthy, as is the observation that he has not voted on a single one of the 18 pro-gay measures brought by the current government. He also supports faith schools, and (unlike Mr Blair) has not been ashamed to talk of God or his Christian faith.

All of this looks sounds very promising indeed. Yet one must look beyond the superficial spin of The Independent, and listen to those who know the man well. The one Christian Socialist for whom Cranmer has irrepressible admiration is the Member for Birkenhead, Frank Field, who said: ‘Allowing Gordon Brown into No 10 would be like letting Mrs Rochester out of the attic. He has no empathy with people. Tony Blair walks and talks like a Prime Minister and Gordon Brown doesn't, that's all there is to it.’ And Lord Turnbull talked of his ‘Stalinist ruthlessness’ and his ‘cynical view of mankind’.

If he is really ‘listening to the biblical prophets’, Cranmer would like to know the scriptural foundations for beggaring the country with tax and spend, for recklessly selling the nation’s gold reserves, for sustaining evil dictators in Africa and elsewhere, for hiring a million pen-pushers in non-jobs, for stifling business with reams of red tape, or for increasing the tax burden on the poorest of society. For a man supposedly in touch with the prophets, Mr Brown has a track record of being wrong on so many levels that the prophetic voices from whom he is alleged to hear must be false.

And Cranmer happens to think that there are already too many false prophets in the world, and prays therefore that Prime Minister Brown will be in office just long enough for him to reveal his true nature, but short enough to restrain his pathological propensity to inflict further damage upon the governance of the United Kingdom.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cranmer's Pulpit

It has been an interesting week. Politically, the interregnum has brought paralysis, offering HM Opposition ample opportunity to seize the agenda. Yes... indeed. Religiously, there has been little of interest, save the deportation of a Mohammedan fanatic to Jamaica, and news that Bishop Robinson will not be going to the Lambeth ball. Cranmer won an award - his first - and this is now proudly displayed. That day brought Cranmer his most unique hits in a single day - 473 - in commemmoration of which he has decided to bestow upon his communicants the opportunity to raise their concerns, vent their fury, or exercise their apologetics upon whatever religio-political or politico-religious concerns they do so wish…

…intelligently, and eruditely, of course.

Friday, May 25, 2007

EU orders animal holocaust

Cranmer likes cute, little furry things, and intriguing, intelligent, hairy things. He is not so keen on scaly, slimy, slippery things, so he eats them with an unfettered conscience. And chickens are stupid, so he eats those also. He is mainly against vivisection, unless such research is deemed to be absolutely necessary for the benefit of humankind, not least because man is made in the image of God, and he does not expect to be standing before the majestic seat of the ineffable gerbil deity on Judgement Day.

It is widely known that the EU’s Common Agricultural policy encourages intensive farming techniques and demands the transportation of live animals for days on end, often without water. It is also widely known that the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy permits our waters to be plundered recklessly by the Spanish, and requires that perfectly edible dead fish be thrown back into the sea because they are not supposed to swim into the nets. But Cranmer has been made aware of an animal-testing horror that is soon to befall millions of cute, little furry things, and intriguing, intelligent, hairy things.

The REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals) regulations due to be imposed across the Union are concerned with chemical testing. They require products that have already been in use for the past 25 years without any problem to be tested on animals. It is estimated that this will involve the exploitation of an additional 45 million animals over the next 15 years. Such tests involve painful chemical poisoning experiments - toxicity tests – such as irritants being dripped into rabbits’ eyes, cancerous tumours grown on mice, and pregnancy trials necessitating stillborn offspring. All such tests are considered outdated in the UK, having largely been replaced by computer modelling and testing on cell cultures.

This is mindless and barbaric, yet utterly consistent with the absurdities of the CAP and the CFP. The EU pretends to be ‘green’ and environmentally friendly, but this dictatorially-imposed vivisection lunacy is an offence to common sense, and an abuse of creation. And our political masters – Labour, Conservative and LibDem – are united in their support for it. How does one change this policy? To whom does one protest? For whom does one vote? And why is the Royal Soviet Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals not spending millions of pounds on full-page advertisements to inform people of this barbarism, as it did in the campaign to outlaw fox hunting?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Unaccustomed as His Grace is...

Cranmer is not one to boast, but it would appear that last night he won an award in the inaugural ConservativeHome ‘Best Conservative Blog’ awards. He triumphed in the ‘Best Anonymous Blog’ category.



ConservativeHome said: ‘His Grace writes in the persona of the man who was burned at the stake almost five hundred years ago, even in emails and blog comments. The aim of this blog is to "investigate and expose religio-politics or politico-religiosity, whatever the cost" (or more specifically, conservative-Christianity and Christian-conservatism). He does this with moral seriousness and intellectual rigour, bringing some refreshing common sense to some of the touchiest subjects in British politics.

Cranmer is humbled and honoured. He would like to thank all of his Communicants for making this blog what it is – a manifest beacon of intelligent and erudite comment on a plane well beyond the ‘tabloid’ mentality of most of the medium. Indeed, His Grace is aware of undergraduates who download comment threads and submit them as their own theses...

His Grace was not, however, able to be present at the ceremony, but an acceptance speech made on his behalf read as follows:

His Grace apologises that he is not able to be with you in person, owing to the lack of a corporeal state. He is both honoured and humbled to have been voted ‘Best Anonymous Blog’ by the evidently discerning readers of ConservativeHome.

Both in the pulpit and at the despatch box, it is increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to articulate one’s views on sensitive issues without them being purposely misrepresented. Thus the church embraces ‘multi-faith’, or else it is bigoted; and politics embraces ‘multi-cultural’, or else it is ‘racist’.

And to take a contrary view from the prevailing religio-political zeitgeist is to invite ridicule, isolation, and other forms of persecution. Those who insist that politics and religion should not mix understand neither religion nor politics. And in today’s world, it is naïve to assert that the one has nothing to do with the other.

His Grace is proud to be (in this order) Christian, English and Conservative. He prays that the importance of the philosophy and foundations of all three might be rediscovered by the Conservative Party, and that a period of righteous government might begin in the UK in 2009.

However, the winning of this award presents Cranmer with a dilemma. It would now appear that a bottle of champagne awaits him, but to collect it would be to negate the very category in which His Grace triumphed. To not collect would be to let a perfectly good bottle of champers go down the throats of Mssrs Montgomerie and Coates. So far, one (un)helpful suggestion has been received:

I recommend that His Grace's award be poured onto a roaring fire, as a libation.
It's What He Would Have Wanted.

Cranmer would be most interested to hear from his intelligent and erudite communicants. If a problem may be halved in the sharing, a dilemma may certainly be progressed towards resolution…

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Selection by ability is just natural selection

As Shadow Secretary of State for Education, David Cameron urged the Prime Minister ‘to allow schools to control their own admissions policies’. A perfectly logical corollary of this would be the creation of new grammar schools, or at least schools which are able to select by academic ability, whatever they be called. The Conservative Party has trumpeted so much about the need for ‘localism’, trusting the individual, and devolving powers to councils, that a Conservative education policy must, to be consistent, hand power to schools over selection, and to parents to decide what kind of school is best for their child.

But as Leader of HM Opposition, Mr Cameron’s policy has flipped. And it has not only flipped, but to even raise a contrary view risks accusations of being 'delusional', or obsessed with ‘right wing debate’, or of a 'pointless' unhealthy fixation with the redundant arguments of the past. If one were to believe Mr Willetts, it is simply a question of social justice, and grammar schools are no longer the motor of social mobility they once were. He would be wiser to look at examination results in Northern Ireland instead of in Kent, for there he will find a considerably higher level of attainment than in the rest of the UK, and that among some of the Province’s poorest.

Does not Mr Cameron understand that the Lord created human beings with infinite variety? Some are (with apologies to Mr Shakespeare) noble in reason or infinite in faculties; others, in form and moving, are express and admirable; still others in action are like angels, and a very few in apprehension like a god…

Why is it that sports colleges may select on athletic prowess; beauty and modelling colleges on looks; drama colleges on presence and acting expertise; music colleges on ability in counterpoint and harmony? And if a child shows neither aptitude nor ability in these areas, they are rejected. As cruel as this may be, is it not simply natural selection? There is no equality of outcome, but a sifting of the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff.

Yet Mr Cameron is concerned to protect the goats and the chaff from ‘hurt feelings’. But the problem is that a goat will never be a sheep, and chaff is useless for making bread. What business is it of government to force modelling colleges to take fat and ugly students, or music colleges to accept the tone deaf, or sports colleges to offer cricket and football to those in wheel chairs? Selection by ability not only accords with natural law; it obliges an acceptance of the truth, encouraging an accurate assessment of one's gifts, and that is an act of love.

Why is selection on academic ability at the age of 13 (Cranmer’s preferred threshold) so wrong, but not at 18? Should all have an equal opportunity to go to university? Of course. But should all have an assurance of an equal outcome? Not at all. Failure is a part of life – some win, some lose; some are in, some are out. If this is somehow artificially engineered so that all win, and all are in, the future is bleak. If Cranmer is sick, he wishes to be operated on by great physicians who have good degrees. Then he shall be healed. If he walks over a bridge, he wants only the finest engineers with the highest qualifications to have been involved in its construction. Then he shall have safe journey. And if he wants to be governed…

…well, why not fill Parliament with those who got poor GCSEs, no A-levels, and a poor degree (if any)? After all, does not everyone deserve the chance to be in Parliament, irrespective of aptitude or ability?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Charles Moore: EU Constitution decreed by ‘papal conclave’.

In his Telegraph article on the true impetus behind fortnightly rubbish collection (which demonstrably emanates from an EU directive on recycling), Charles Moore explains precisely how unelected ‘Commissioners from Finland or Greece’ are responsible for micro-regulations which must be implemented at a local level, and that no-one in the United Kingdom is in a position to change such policies because we ‘cannot appoint or dismiss’ those who pontificate on such matters.

Whilst it is true that no British voter under the age of 50 has ever been consulted directly on anything related to EU matters, it is indisputable that two of the EEC’s founding members - France and Holland - voted ‘No’ in their respective referenda on proposals for an EU constitution. When these plans were rejected, the 'Constitution for Europe' was declared to be dead. Then there were rumours of resurrection; then evidence of 'un accident' which resulted in coma; then murmurs of reincarnation. The Prime Minister said: ‘What you cannot do is have a situation where you get a rejection of the treaty and bring it back with a few amendments and say, “Have another go”. You cannot do that.’

Cranmer foresaw years ago that they would, and they are. Chancellor Merkel was concerned to agree some ‘presentational changes’ and schemes ‘to use different terminology without changing the legal substance’, and now she is joined by President Sarkozy. As ever, it is the Franco-German alliance - the empire which President Sarkozy termed 'sacred' - which is setting the agenda. The Constitution is very much 'on track', because, according to Chancellor Merkel, it is 'Europe's soul'

On June 22, days before Prime Minister Blair is due to step down, there will be a European Council in Berlin. The resurrection of the ‘Constitution for Europe’, under the guise of a mere ‘treaty’, will be top of the agenda - indeed, the only item on the agenda - and Cranmer prophesies that Mr Blair will sign this on behalf of the United Kingdom. It will signify the agreement of the British Parliament to the provision of a permanent President of the EU, and an EU foreign minister with the authority to speak on behalf of all member states.

Prime Minister Brown will be silent on the matter.

Charles Moore takes Cranmer’s theme when he asserts that the inexorable drive to ever-closer union ‘is being conducted like a papal conclave’. In this, he echoes the late Lord Shore of Stepney, who observed that the Commission behaves ‘like a priestly caste - similar to what it must have been in pre-Reformation days, when the Bible was in Latin, not English; the Pope, his cardinals and bishops decided the content of canon law and the message came down to the laymen, only when the Latin text was translated into the vernacular by the dutiful parish priest’.

Cranmer remembers all to well what it was like, and is grateful that the Lord is opening the eyes of journalists and politicians to the nature of the beast. Such a top-down, autocratic system of government is antithetical to the bottom-up model of accountability which beats with the heart of Protestant theology. Much encouraged by this support, His Grace is in a prophesying mood, and foresees:

1) Prime Minister Brown will renege on New Labour’s commitment to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution. He will not give the British people a vote, for he knows he will not win it.

2) Her Majesty’s Opposition will miss the most significant vote-winning opportunity that could present itself; the sure and certain path to No 10. Mr Cameron might indeed offer the British people a retrospective referendum, but the folly of this strategy was evidenced in 1975 when the British people did not vote to reverse the decision taken to join the EEC in 1973. People tend to vote for the status quo: thus Mr Cameron’s offer, if it is made, and if a manifesto pledge is actually fulfilled (unlike his pledge to leave the EPP ‘in weeks’), may not, in fact, reverse the decision.

3) Ex-Prime Minister Blair will convert to Roman Catholicism, and, despite all his assertions to the contrary, shall become the first ‘President of Europe’, and thereby assure himself of his much longed-for place in history.

Of course, Mr Cameron need not pledge a referendum at all. He could simply pledge to assert parliamentary sovereignty, and give an assurance that the Labour Government’s decision to subjugate the Constitution of the United Kingdom to the ‘Constitution for Europe’ will be repealed by an incoming Conservative government. The effects of the ‘treaty’ would become null and void, and the United Kingdom would be liberated from the ‘ever closer union’ which is leading inexorably to the single State of the European Union. If the oaths taken by our elected representatives mean anything, they would consider the liberty, customs, and traditions of the 66 million people they seek to represent, and realise that in a parliamentary democracy sovereignty ultimately rests with the people. If the Conservative Party is to remain Conservative, it must pledge itself to this strategy.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Demands to ban the Bible

It was really only a matter of time before there were serious efforts to ban the Bible because of its sex, violence, and rock and roll timbrel and harp. You really don’t have to look very far to find something that might offend someone - there is rape, incest, masturbation, bestiality, adultery, fornication, buggery, incitement, murder, genocide, assault, etc, etc. And so it is perhaps unsurprising that in Hong Kong there have been more than 2000 serious requests for it to be censored.

But the demands for an over-18 classification were dismissed by Hong Kong's media regulator, who said: ‘The Bible is a religious text which is part of civilisation. It has been passed from generation to generation… (It) has not violated standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable members of the community.’ And a Hong Kong pastor agreed, saying: ‘If there is rape mentioned in the Bible, it doesn’t mean it encourages those activities.’

While the pastor’s reasoning may be true, it is puerile to expect that films about paedophilia or rape may not be similarly condoned. As long as it’s not a ‘happy ending’ for the proponents of such vice, the film may be considered to have some moral dimension to it. A stronger argument would have been to talk of what is gratuitous, but even then there is great difficulty in codifying degrees of subjectivity.

One might expect to hear very soon of such cases being brought in the courts of the United Kingdom. Cranmer suspects that they may come first from the militant gay lobby, demanding that any passages that may be adduced to make homosexuals ‘feel uncomfortable’ ought to be excised from (at least) Bibles used in schools. The Qur’an will, of course, be exempt (probably because it is not ‘widely used’).

If Prime Minister Brown were to revive attempts to outlaw the incitement to religious hatred, there are vast tranches of Scripture which may be deemed to fall foul of such a law. And one does not need to focus on those crimes and vices. The Roman Catholic Tridentine Mass is deemed to be offensive to Jews because it talks if their need for their conversion. They are ‘blind’, and need leading from the ‘darkness’ that is Judaism. Yet the Apostle Paul makes a savage comment on the Jews, declaring: ‘The wrath of God has come on them at last’ (1Thess. 2:16 NIV, or ‘uttermost’ KJV).

It is naïve to suggest that such a sentence may not be used to justify anti-semitic sentiment, and therefore to incite hatred. As the UK is increasingly subject to anti-discrimination legislation, it really is only a matter of time before Christianity and the Holy Bible are perceived as the root of all social divisions, if they are not so portrayed already...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Church of England to finance City Academies

As the Conservative Party has announced its decision to abandon support for the grammar school system of selective education, Cranmer is bemused by the level of dismay the news has generated among traditional supporters. The Conservative Party purposely dismantled the system in the 1970s, and has done nothing to revive it during any of the years it has been in office since. Their policy is actually unchanged. Grammar schools have been the single greatest mechanism for social mobility in the country’s history. Any political party with an interest in social justice, as the present Conservative Party professes, cannot ignore the undeniable fact that they provided children from working-class background the chance to go to a school where the brightest and hardest-working could flourish. They were truly meritocratic, and therefore the embodiment of a foundational Conservative principle.

David Willetts has now declared that the grammar system is failing to help children from poor backgrounds achieve academic success. Setting aside that this may have something to do with the fact that the remaining grammars are only in those affluent areas where eloquent Conservative Party supporters argued persuasively for their retention decades ago, the conclusion hinges solely upon the statistics for the number of children claiming free school meals. Note that it is ‘claiming’; not those ‘entitled to’. For all manner of issues of ‘pride’, especially among some low-income minority-ethnic households, there is a considerable disparity between these two figures. Mr Willetts is therefore wrong to depend upon their reliability, and ought to examine more reliable data. His aim, however, is to make it much easier for new suppliers to enter the market and for there to be new models of schools. This is considerable progress.

While City Academies have achieved very mixed results under Mr Balir, under Conservative development they could offer smaller class sizes, an adaptable curriculum, and permit teachers and heads to experiment and innovate. Labour's education failure could indeed be turned around into a Conservative success, but not by adhering to outdated socialist educational dogma.

In fulfilment of its commitment to social justice, most notably during the 18th century, the Church of England has announced that it is to open 100 academy schools. They will be state funded but privately run by the newly-founded Church of England Academies Services Ltd, and will operate mainly in deprived areas. They will have a Christian ethos, but will be open to children of all faiths or none. The church already runs five academies and more than 200 other secondary schools, and has said it is ‘committed to providing good schools for the poorest. We're not looking for a short-term rise in exam results or for trophy schools, but for long-term improvement’.

Cranmer thinks it is wrong to be hung up on nomenclature and ‘outdated’ terminology. He has always supported grammar schools, but is committed to the principle of selection rather than to the label. City academies profess to rule out ‘arbitrary selection’ and promise a long-overdue emphasis on excellence. They may not have delivered, but, most importantly, specialist academies do perpetuate the principle of selection because they are permitted to select a percentage of their students by aptitude. Cranmer is unsure of the distinction between aptitude and ability, indeed, they appear to amount to the same thing. This being the case, amidst the reality that no party was ever going to re-introduce the grammar system, City Academies are quite possibly worth developing. They are not glorified comprehensives; they have an autonomy and an ethos that make them quite distinct.

Education reform must reassert the undeniable reality that bright children taught alongside other bright children do better. The Conservative Party asserts that setting and streaming achieve this. But Cranmer would like the party to consider something else - ‘vertical tutoring’. This has the capacity to create a ‘grammar stream’ within each school. These students are not then limited and held back by their age (as presently in the horizontal streaming system operating in most schools), but the vertical system would see, for example, the most able Year 9s being taught alongside Year 11s, and so on. It would even be possible for very able to skip entire years, perhaps entering school in (say) Year 8, or sitting increasingly-easy GCSEs in Year 9 or 10, and A-levels much earlier. Such a system is truly meritocratic. It manifestly stretches the brightest, and ends the absurdly simplistic age-discrimination; indeed, it would return English education to a golden era when it was possible to enter university in one’s early teens. And what could be wrong with that?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cry, God, for Harry, England, and an indecisive military

It is reported that Prince Harry of Wales will not, after all, be deployed with the rest of his unit to Iraq. A few weeks ago he wasn’t; then he was; now he isn’t again. The reason given is that insurgents ‘had planned to kill or kidnap the prince’, and that the threats necessitated a reconsideration of ‘security situation’ surrounding him.

Cranmer would like to bring to the attention of the Chief of the General Staff the words of another royal Harry, who positively gloried in the ‘security situation’ of the French insurgents at Agincourt:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Shakespeare articulated to the point of literary perfection the patriotism of war and the celebration of valour. He engraved upon the British psyche the notion of service with leadership, fusing royalty with the military to the point of making it a raison d’être of the Monarchy. This echoes some of the most prevalent themes of Scripture, in which the Lord is portrayed as a warrior throughout the Old Testament, and in the New, believers are exhorted to put on the full armour of God in order to wage war against the prince of the power of the air.

The main problem with the reasons given by the Chief of the General Staff for not deploying Prince Harry is that Iraqi insurgents would, in fact, kill or kidnap any British soldier, given half a chance. This decision therefore hands them a degree of victory. It is said Prince Harry’s presence would endanger the lives of others, yet in combats, helmet, camouflage, and blacked up, it is unlikely that one soldier may easily be distinguished from another. And it is perfectly possible to keep deployment decisions out of the media, and halt the perpetual conjecture about his precise location.

The decision is also an affront to the parents of all those soldiers already killed in combat - as if royal blood were somehow of greater worth – and it is also potentially damaging to the Royal Family, who are now obliged to perpetuate an impression of exemption: one’s subjects may die in defence of one’s realm, but one has to be manifestly exempt from participating in that defence in case one is harmed.

Prince Harry is evidently a man of courage and conviction, and his own sense of self-worth is certain to have been damaged by this. His media portrayal as a ‘playboy’ is unremittingly negative, and he has now been deprived of an opportunity to prove his worth. Military combat is, after all, what he has been trained for. He has previously been reported as saying: ‘There is no way I'm going to…sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country.’ Sadly for him, he now will. And he shall doubtless think himself accursed that he was not there. And as he hears, week by week, of his comrades, Dave and Derek, who have fallen on the battlefield, the resentment and regret may well be life-long.

Cranmer wishes his Communicants a blessed Ascension Day
(and a measly PS is just about precisely what the Church has made this most important of Christian festivals)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Smoking ban threatens churches with closure

In all of Cranmer’s years in ministry, he has witnessed all manner of things in churches and cathedrals. These include the wearing of bikinis and swimming trunks, the eating of ice cream, women doing their make-up, men holding hands (with other men), beer, whisky, pornography magazines, condoms (really), and a sizeable smattering of smuttiness.

But never, no, not even once, has he ever witnessed anyone light up and smoke.

There are some 16,000 churches in England and not one has a problem of smoking. Despite this, the Government, in its increasingly infinite wisdom, requires all public places of worship to display prominent ‘No Smoking’ signs in their foyers from 1st July, even if those foyers are Grade I listed. The Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev Colin Slee, has already said that these regulations are ‘daft’, and the Dean of Peterborough has received a very heavy-handed letter informing him that if he fails to comply, he will be ‘closed down’.

Now then… being a rather contrary cleric, Cranmer advises the Dean of Peterborough to refuse to comply. Yes, he knows that there all sorts of scriptures that demand compliance with the laws of the land, but this one is so absurd as to be laughable. He can hardly wait for the local council to enforce the closure of the cathedral, with all the attendant publicity to highlight the absurdity of regulation of which there is and never has been a transgression.

The bizarre thing is that the Government permits the continuing use of the highly carcinogenic incense, but demands the banning of tobacco (in a place where none is consumed). Why should altar boys be subject to the ‘bells and smells’ cancer-causing chemicals? Why does the Government not intervene to protect these young innocents?

Cranmer wonders how long it will be before there are signs for the compulsory wearing of lifebelts around the font. There are just seven weeks for churches and cathedrals (and mosques, mandirs and gurdwaras) to comply with this legislation. If the Government had had a sense of humour, they would at least have given a temporary derogation until Ash Wednesday…

(and please, no ‘jokes’ about Cranmer’s propensity to ‘smoke’, or other distasteful allusions to that fateful day…)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Spinning religion and winning the Muslim vote

(Cranmer blesses ConservativeHome for this graphic)

Now we know that the next General Election will be fought between the son of a Scottish manse and a nominal Anglican, Cranmer looks forward to a detailed investigation into how matters of faith shape these men. Gordon Brown gives his prescription straight, and it is puritanically monochrome and two-dimensionally boring; David Cameron embraces the Church of Engalnd's via media (no pun intended), and communicates creatively. He may indeed have something of the chameleon about him, but being all things to all people in order that some may vote Conservative is precisely what is demanded in politics, and in this postmodern, relativist era, why not use religion and spirituality? Politicians may no longer 'do God' or advocate any particular religion, and if they do, they ought not to advocate it strongly, for therein lies suspicion and accusations of bigotry. And Mr Cameron cannot afford to have his shiny new brand tarnished by such perceptions.

So in The Observer is an account of what Mr Cameron learnt this week from his stay with a Muslim family. How this family was chosen is unknown to Cranmer, but living in a £500,000 house in the leafy suburbs of Birmingham, overlooking Warwickshire’s cricket grounds and unpressured by trivial matters of economics, unhindered by the complexities of educating their children, untroubled by mosque dynamics, and unconfused by their view of the family and the role of women in society, this was not a typical Muslim family, nor even a typically Asian one.

However, Mr Cameron has used his experience of this family to highlight the UK’s ‘challenges of cohesion and integration’, and for the need to end ‘racism and soft bigotry’. Cranmer is unsure what Mr Cameron means by ‘soft bigotry’, but perhaps a meaning may be elicited from the context. He talks of the ‘deep offence’ felt by Muslims by the use of the word 'Islamic' or 'Islamist' to describe terrorist threats. He refers to it as a ‘lazy use of language’, and is thereby sending a message to his MPs and candidates that they may no longer use such terms. This will trouble Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, and Paul Goodman, to name but three, because to use such terms now means that one may suffer the same fate as Patrick Mercer, and yet to be denied the right to do so silences the intelligent and eloquent identification of the true roots of this terrorist threat. Fanatical religio-political ideology may be distasteful, but it should not silence legitimate debate or mean that one may not discuss such concerns in the vernacular.

Mr Cameron exhorts faith-based schools, yet the example he gives is that of an undoubtedly successful Jewish school which has a mixed roll with some 60 per cent of Muslim families, who study alongside Jews, Christians and Sikhs. Mr Cameron’s Muslim hosts explain that they send their children there because of ‘good discipline and good results’. But such attributes are not unique to faith schools, and had Mr Cameron probed further, he would almost certainly have discovered the desire of this Muslim family to send their children to an Islamic school. The question then becomes one of how many Jews, Christian, Hindus and Sikhs would send their children to such a school, and this is territory into which Mr Cameron dare not tread.

In talking of society, the Leader of HM Opposition sates: ‘the picture is bleak: family breakdown, drugs, crime and incivility are part of the normal experience of modern Britain’. This is profoundly pessimistic, and Cranmer doubts indeed that this is Mr Cameron’s experience in Wantage. But whilst it is doubtless true that many marriages end in divorce, some youths are drug addicts, crime is a constant fear in some areas, and expressions of incivility have become more commonplace, to focus on these ills is to negate the immense positives of those marriages that last for 50 years, that many young people strive to achieve, that policing strategies often result in falling rates of crime, and that polite expressions of civility are intrinsic to being British. Yet Mr Cameron credits these positives to ‘the British Asian way’; he insists that these are values only ‘they hold dear’, and this is an expression of racism itself. Ignoring Mr Cameron’s superficial suggestion that Asian and Muslim are synonymous, his most offensive proclamation is in his conclusion that ‘it is mainstream Britain which needs to integrate more with the British Asian way of life, not the other way around’. What is this 'mainstream' if it is not the Judeo-Christian heart that gave the nation its foundation, and still nourishes the richness of its spiritual life?

No, Mr Cameron, you will find such virtues in people of the Christian faith, and of the Jewish faith, and (had you bothered to spend a week with such [dare one say?] ‘indigenous’ families), you would have discovered that the British values you identify – ‘hospitality, tolerance and generosity’ – are intrinsic to 'religious conservatism', and may therefore be found in households of all faiths. And we do not, as you assert, need Muslims ‘to show us what those things really mean’, and, moreover, it is not ‘racist’ or ‘soft bigotry’ to say so.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Pope threatens politicians with excommunication

It appears that the E-word has sent a frisson of excitement throughout the Roman Catholic world. Speaking in Brazil, His Holiness has threatened to excommunicate Roman Catholic politicians who support abortion, declaring: ‘The killing of an innocent human baby is incompatible with being in communion with the body of Christ’.

There is no room for individual conscience; pro-choice politicians should be excommunicated, and this very public rebuke is manifestly intended to sway voters and influence the outcome of an election. Some commentators put the defeat of John Kerry in the 2004 US presidential race down to his humiliation at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. He supported a woman’s right to choose, yet professed the Roman Catholic faith, presenting voters with a dilemma. He was barred from communion in more than one diocese, and it became a significant media story. Former Mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani, also a pro-choice Roman Catholic, now finds himself pursued by the same issue.

However, Cranmer is intrigued by the arbitrary picking and choosing that elicits these threats. According to George Weigel, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre in Washington, ‘Catholic politicians who think they can remain part of the Church after supporting abortion are putting a lie on top of the original offence against justice’. As repugnant as Cranmer believes abortion to be, he wonders why the Vatican has not threatened to excommunicate those who maim and murder, or those who terrorise and torture. Cranmer could briefly mention the actions of Catholic Croats against the Serb Orthodox. And he observes that the likes of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams are now feted by the Vatican; indeed, convicted IRA terrorist Bobby Sands received a gift of a crucifix from the late Pope John Paul II.

It appears that the Vatican does not adhere to the principle of the Sanctity of Life without qualification. There is more than a whiff of accommodation when the termination of life suits its own religio-political agenda.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ulster’s ‘time of peace’

This photograph is truly remarkable; it is the epitome of religio-political fulfilment. There are some, like Dr Paisley, who believe it to be an occasion for Qoheleth:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

But there are others who prefer to view these developments through the lens of 1 Samuel 4:21.

Cranmer shall not bother to quote this verse, and shall leave it to communicants to discover its contents for themselves. Their complaint appears to be centred upon the decline from pure principle to impure pragmatism, and the tragedy of entering a political alliance with unrepentant terrorists.

Cranmer, however, dismisses such cynicism, and accords with Dr Paisley. That the Roman Catholic and Nationalist communities have agreed to abide by the rule of law and submit to the authority of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and that Sinn Fein has agreed to sit in a corner of the Government of the United Kingdom, under the jurisdiction of Her Majesty the Queen as Head of State, is repentance indeed. It has taken perseverance, tenacity, persistence, humility, and grace. He can’t somehow see the Lord being displeased with either these spiritual qualities or these political developments.

Cranmer exhorts therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made…for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The evils of an amnesty for illegal immigrants

There are burgeoning demands for Britain’s illegal immigrants to be pardoned and granted British citizenship. These calls are being led by church groups, unions, MPs, and social activists, with Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor at the head. The churches argue that illegal immigrants working in Britain should be given permission to remain ‘on humanitarian, economic, fiscal and administrative grounds’. There is to be no retribution, but instead an assumption of reformation leading to immediate restoration. This is apparently necessary firstly because of cost, as though Mammon somehow outweighed the rule of law; and secondly because the vast majority attend Mass, which is very nice for them. But absolution before the Almighty does not negate the necessity for earthly retributive justice.

Why should the misdemeanours of British nationals be doggedly pursued and punishable until justice is seen to be done, yet those of illegal immigrants expire after a couple of years? If the preoccupation is cost, it would probably be cheaper to pardon all of our non-violent offenders, so why stop with illegal immigrants? We are not here talking of genuine asylum seekers, who indeed may be driven by acts of desperation to escape persecution and oppression, but illegal immigrants from Kenya, Russia, or Latin America, and their economic needs are supposed to challenge us to pardon the forging of government documents, and the intrinsic fraud, lies, theft and deception.

Cranmer is bemused that those immigrants involved in these dubious pursuits are termed ‘honest’, ‘good’, and ‘hard-working’. In a world of moral relativism, ‘honesty’ may indeed mean whatever people wish it to mean, but it is a definition that is antithetical to honest, right-thinking, and law-abiding people.

Aside from placing further strain on housing, hospitals, schools, doctors and dentists, not to mention the costs involved in translating every document into the myriad of necessary languages to give them access to their ‘rights’, an immigration amnesty will only serve to encourage more illegal immigration, as it has ever done.

The occasional ‘normalising’ and ‘regularising’ of the odd 500,000 is certain to compromise the peace and security of the Realm. The solution? Deportation. And if that means Cranmer is ‘racist’, then let the debate begin.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sarkozy – l’homme de la nation

The new Président de la République inherits from Jacques Chirac stagnant wages, a lagging economy, and pockets of civil unrest in the impoverished suburbs populated largely by immigrants. Some of these immigrant youths rioted and torched cars very recently, mainly in protest at their poverty and alienation. Monsieur Sarkozy referred to them as ‘scum’, and has pledged himself to be tough on immigration, to cut taxes and unemployment, to limit the disruption to public services during strikes, to cut public sector staff – in short, to abandon the French model and perform the radical surgery necessary for France to compete in a global market.

The pay-back for the French people is that he intends to create a ministry of immigration and national identity; to ensure the defence and promotion of the French identity. This sounds like code, and Cranmer wonders how many more cars will be torched by these upset youths…

Setting aside his ‘Thatcher with trousers’ agenda, the election of Monsieur Sarkozy is a very significant development for two main reasons. Unlike most of the French ruling class, Monsieur Sarkozy is not an énarque – he did not go to the Ecole Nationale d'Administration. He is the son of a Hungarian immigrant and a French mother of Greek Jewish origin, and was baptised a Roman Catholic. He will be the first son of an immigrant to rule modern France, and he intends to do it his way.

He has voiced consistent opposition to Turkey's bid to join the European Union, and the Turks have just had their European dreams ended for as long as Monsieur Sarkozy occupies the Elysée Palace. It is not merely his disapproval of the imminent involvement of the military to reassert Turkey’s secularism, but he has a profound distaste for ‘political Islam’, which he perceives to be antithetical to the founding principles of the Fifth Republic. He also intends to scupper any notion that France will be the recipient of Muslim-Turkish migrant workers, and would doubtless invoke the amended French Constitution to do so.

Monsieur Sarkozy has come to power declaring: ‘I am not in favour of any kind of censorship, whether of men, ideas or religions’.

These will be interesting times not only for France and Turkey, but also for the entire European Union. Vive la France!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The English Conservative imperative

This is the political map of the United Kingdom following Thursday’s results, and very encouraging it looks too. Some communicants may be disturbed that Cranmer appears to have abandoned the ‘religio-’ suffix to his political inquiries, but it is necessary to dig beneath the superficialities of party politics and electoral snapshots in order to discern the deeper realities of this outcome.

According to The Sunday Times, based on these voting patterns, the Conservative Party would win a general election by 54 seats. Despite the carping of the biased-BBC, this was a good result for Mr Cameron. However, with Mr Blair due to announce his departure this week, the next general election is not likely to be until 2010. Gordon Brown has not waited a decade for power in order to call an immediate general election and risk going down in history as one of Britain’s all-time shortest serving prime ministers. The electorate is fickle and forgetful, and the era of tribal loyalties has passed. Three years is an age away, and this election was more a vote against Mr Blair than it was a vote for any alternative.

The SNP must be reminded that two-thirds of the Scottish people voted to retain the Union. It might help too if Mr Salmond understood that the Union between Scotland and England was the work of a Scottish king, who inherited the English throne, and chose Westminster as his seat of power. As Mr Salmond claims the ‘moral authority’ to be Scotland’s first minister, he will make incremental independence demands upon the UK’s new Scottish prime minister, and these wranglings will dominate Mr Brown’s premiership. The West Lothian leitmotif will be a constant refrain which Mr Salmond could deploy to make Labour and the ‘anti-Scottish’ Mr Brown increasingly unpopular.

But amidst all this politicising, Mr Cameron needs to study this map very carefully indeed, for it confirms Cranmer’s English thesis. The Conservative road to power lies in understanding the history, literature, traditions, institutions, laws and customs of the English. If Mr Cameron were to offer the English something to forge and reinforce their sense of identity, his walk into No 10 would be assured.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Electoral chaos and the judgement of Babel

In their attempt to build a tower that would reach to the heavens, the ancient Babylonians offended God with their architectural arrogance, and their voices were forever confounded and cursed to perpetual confusion. The modern era similarly offends with its technological arrogance. Our sky-high buildings are symbiotic with the indwelling computers and electronic wizardry, which appear to supplant God with their omniscient omnipotence. Yet once again man has been humiliated and humbled as e-voting has resulted in confusion, chaos, and undermined trust in the democratic process.

Across Scotland, more than 100,000 have been discounted as rejected ballot papers, so 5% of voters were disenfranchised. Their votes are in the bin, and the hands with which they voted have been severed. In Glasgow Shettleston alone there were 2,035 spoiled ballots and most constituencies saw at least 1,000 papers rejected. In some areas, the rejected votes outnumbered the winners' majority, and right across the UK many counts were suspended due to problems with the electronic counting systems.

First-past-the-post was simple, and human beings counting paper ballot papers were visible, tangible, and yielded a clear result within hours which could be corroborated with recounts if necessary. We now have elections which deploy three separate ballot papers - list, constituency, and single transferable vote - some requiring a cross, and others requiring numbers and ranked preferences. They take days instead of hours to count, and as computers crash and counting machines jam, there is no easy way to perform recounts, and absolutely no assurance that every vote cast will be included.

The United Kingdom, which has a proud history of parliamentary democracy, now has an electoral system worthy of a banana republic. It is immoral and corrupt. With the on-going concern over postal-vote fraud, Britain’s democratic process has fallen into disrepute, with demands for reviews and assurances of judicial inquiry. A system that was intended to maximise the turnout and ensure that no one's vote was wasted had, ironically, completely the opposite effect.

What on earth was wrong with the system we had?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Judgement Day for the United Kingdom

As the Scots, the Welsh, and vast numbers of the English cast their votes today, the outcome will be as much a test of David Cameron’s prospects of walking into No 10 as it is a seal on the fate of Tony Blair. The most important vote, however, will be cast in Scotland. If, as opinion polls appear to suggest, the SNP form the largest group at Holyrood, Alex Salmond will become First Minister, and it will be a democratic statement that no sensible person or serious political party could ignore.

As the 300th anniversary of the Union passed without flags and bunting, Cranmer is of the opinion that Mr Cameron is missing a trick. Conservative representation to Westminster from Scotland has become almost as dead as the dodo, and a sure vote-winner would be a Conservative policy (…there’s a rare thing…) to stabilise and equalise the status of England within the Union; to restore a sense of proportion. Mr Salmond’s proposed referendum on secession may herald the end of the Union, but the Scots should not have a unilateral say in a path to divorce; any separation will affect England just as much. But it is one thing to mutter on the back row about the Barnett Formula, the West Lothian Question, or the inappropriateness of having a Scottish Prime Minister legislating on matters that affect England but not his own constituents. It would be quite another, and a sure vote-winner, to bestow upon England a constitutional existence; to recognise that, uniquely in the United Kingdom, the heritage and institutions of this once-great country have been subsumed to the cause of Great Britain, and to acknowledge that to talk now of England is to pander to the BNP, nationalism, and to vainly dream of a bygone ethnicity.

To acknowledge the cause of England would strengthen the Union, not weaken it. The United Kingdom is the sum of its parts, and none is greater than the whole. The status of the nation and its influence in the world resides in its unity; in fragments it is conquered. It is quite possible to be a Conservative and Unionist while supporting the concept of an English Parliament, if only because the policy would be a ‘tidying up exercise’ to endow England with the same powers as those now held by Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The English will not be prepared to be treated indefinitely with neglect and contempt, and Mr Cameron would be wise to recognise this (presently) latent feeling and harness it. It is time to recognise the flag of St George, April 23rd, and a country called England. An English polity would be perpetually Conservative, for the Conservative heartland lies in England. To revive England would be to renew Conservatism and Unionism, and in that renewal could be a re-assertion of the Union in a 21st-century constitutional settlement based on localism.

Why can Mr Cameron not see this?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Gay rights activists issue death threats to priest

There is an increasingly tense Church/State conflagration developing in Italy, where an ongoing row over the place of religion in the Italian state is threatening civil unrest. Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco was appointed head of the Bishops Conference in March, and was charged with his Church’s campaign to block a new law that would grant extended rights to homosexual couples. He has since received abuse and death threats for daring to juxtapose homosexuality and gay adoption with incest and child abuse. His cathedral has been vandalised, pictures of him defaced with swastikas, and he is now under police guard after receiving a live bullet in the post.

Italy has been gripped by the conflict between traditionalists and progressives since Romano Prodi unveiled proposals to recognise same-sex partnerships. Members of Parliament have been strongly lobbied by the Roman Catholic Church, with His Holiness calling the proposals ‘anti-church and anti-family’. The bishops have reminded the legislators of their obligation to perform their public roles in accordance with the teachings of the Church, asserting their ‘moral duty’ to vote against the legislation.

Arcbishop Bagnasco is not the first to be so threatened by gay activists, and will doubtless not be the last. Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the Vatican's second-highest ranking doctrinal official – has also branded homosexual marriage an evil and denounced abortion and euthanasia as forms of ‘terrorism with a human face’. Amato said newspapers and television bulletins often seemed like ‘a perverse film about evil’, and denounced ‘evils that remain almost invisible’ because the media presented them as ‘expression of human progress’.

He pulled no punches by referring to abortion clinics as ‘slaughterhouses of human beings’, and condemned the ‘parliaments of so-called civilised nations where laws contrary to the nature of the human being are being promulgated, such as the approval of marriage between people of the same sex…’.

And here in the UK, Gay rights now outrank religious adherence and spiritual conscience. One expects Italy to have a Gay mafia, but it simply isn’t the British way… yet…
Newer›  ‹Older