Friday, April 30, 2010

The body language points to a Lib-Lab pact


The immediate post-debate polls were unequivocal in their result: David Cameron won.

But these same polling organisations are also united in their view that a hung parliament is the most likely outcome next week, and - let's be honest - whether or not the Conservatives win the most votes or the most seats, it is more likely that a Lib-Lab coalition will try to form a government than a Con-Lib coalition.

Just look at the body language.

While Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown verbally trashed each others' policies and character, they were positively flirting with each other through their bodies.

Only seven per cent of communication is through words: some 38 per cent is intonation, speed and volume of speech; the remaining 55 percent is received via the body.

This peculiar photograph shows both Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown engaged in what movement psychologists refer to as 'mirroring':

We can make others feel comfortable by mirroring or matching their mood. When two people enjoy similar things, they tend to move in sync with each other. This does not mean that every single move they make is exactly the same, but rather that their moods are the same.

When a person finds something in common with another, an instinctive fondness develops between them. This same effect is replicated by mirroring. In mirroring, you need to tune in to the other person’s movements and imitate them, not mimic them. Also, these actions should not be done in the same pace as his/hers, otherwise, the person might take it instead as mockery. Generally, the mirror actions should be done after 10-20 seconds, and must be done naturally. The other purpose of the mirror actions is to show the other person that you accept and respect their views without them noticing it. In effect, he/she will subconsciously see you as an open-minded person.
Essentially, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown may have engaged in a Benedick and Beatrice game of verbal loathing, but their body langiage indicates that they are flirting with each other; they are bonding.

Mirroring is flattery: we immitate those we like and admire. If someone is doing what we're doing, we feel they're on the same level as us and in the same mood as we are. When body language and speech characteristics are mirrored or synchronized between people, this tends to assist the process of creating and keeping rapport (a mutual feeling of empathy, understanding, trust).

So, since it appears that there is to be a Lib-Lab union, and we know only too well the manifest failings and falsehoods of the Labour half, it is worth focusing for a moment on the Liberal.

Nick Clegg came unequivocally unstuck trying to hide his unpopular policies.

He tried to hide his euro policy. In the debate, Nick Clegg said: ‘No I’m not advocating entry into the euro.’

But last year, he thought the euro was an ‘anchor’. Last year, Nick Clegg told the Financial Times that the euro would ‘anchor’ countries against the ‘vulnerable exposure to international financial markets.’ (The Financial Times, 21 January 2010).

And his manifesto advocates joining the euro. ‘We believe that it is in Britain’s long-term interest to be part of the euro.’ (Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010, p67).

He tried to hide his policy for an amnesty for 600,000 illegal immigrants. He said: 'I'm not advocating an amnesty…’

But Nick Clegg has previously called his policy a ‘selective amnesty’: 'And most controversially in our proposals…also establishing a selective amnesty, if you like, a route to earned legalisation for the up to 600,000 people who have being living in this country invisibly, illegally, often exploited by unscrupulous employers and others’ (approximately one minute into this video).

And his manifesto promises illegal immigrants an amnesty. ‘We will allow people who have been in Britain without the correct papers for ten years… live here long-term to earn their citizenship.’ (Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010, page 76).

And he tried to hide the facts about immigration from outside the EU: 'You say numbers, can you now tell me, am I right or wrong that 80 per cent of people who come here come from the European Union…?’

But official statistics show Nick Clegg is completely wrong. In 2008, net foreign migration was 251,000 of which 63,000 or 25 per cent was from the EU. Over the past five years the average has been 31 per cent (see Table 2.01a).

And he tried to hide his benefits policy: ‘We all agree benefits should be conditioned. We all agree they shouldn't be dished out for free if people refuse to take up work.’

But his DWP spokesman says benefits should not be conditional. Asked about the LibDem benefits policy today, their Work and Pensions Spokesman Steve Webb said: ‘[Questioner] “Just a very quick yes, no question. If somebody, long term unemployed, or, or even more recently, turns down the first job offer, will you do what the other two are doing which is remove their benefits after two weeks or after a month?” [Steve Webb]: “No we won’t because what we need to do is look at the demand for work, and there’s not really enough of that...”’ (Daily Politics, BBC 2, 29 April 2010).

And Nick Clegg tried to hide his VAT bombshell on houses: '…the second thing we need to do is invest in the kind of things we need… affordable housing...’

But his manifesto promises to levy VAT on new homes. Liberal Democrats would make it more difficult for first-time buyers to get onto the housing ladder. They want to levy VAT on new homes, which is currently zero-rated: ‘We will equalise VAT on new build and repair.’ (Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010, page 81).

We all know that Gordon Brown says one thing in public and quite another in private. So, it appears, does Nick Clegg.

It may be a marriage made in heaven. But it be an unendurable purgatory for the nation.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lord Justice Laws: the Anglican Settlement of the United Kingdom 'is deeply unprincipled'

There is no alternative interpretation to be put upon the judgement of Lord Justice Laws in the case of Gary McFarlane, a Christian counsellor who was appealing his dismissal after refusing to provide a homosexual couple with 'sex therapy'.

From The Times:

Christianity deserves no protection in law above other faiths and to do so would be “irrational” , “divisive, capricious and arbitrary”, a senior judge said today, as he rejected a marriage guidance counsellor’s attempt to challenge his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to gay couples.

In the latest clash between the judiciary and Christian believers, Lord Justice Laws said that laws could not be used to protect one religion above another.

He also delivered a robust dismissal to the former Archbishop of Canterbury who had warned that a series of recent court rulings against Christians could lead to “civil unrest.”

To give one religion legal protection over any other, “however long its tradition, however rich its culture, is deeply unprincipled”, the judge said.

It would give legal force to a “subjective opinion” and would lead to a “theocracy”, which is of necessity autocratic.”

The judge went on to dismiss Lord Carey’s plea for the establishment of a specialist panel of judges to hear cases involving the practice of religious beliefs.

That would be “deeply inimical to the public interest,” he said.

Lord Carey had given a witness statement in support of the counsellor, Gary McFarlane, 48, from Bristol, a member of a Pentecostal church.

Mr McFarlane wanted permission to appeal against an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling that supported his sacking by Relate Avon in 2008

The father of two, who had worked for the national counselling service since 2003, had alleged unfair dismissal on the grounds of religious discrimination.

But rejecting Mr McFarlane’s application to appeal, Lord Justice Laws said that legislation for the protection of views held purely on religious grounds could not be justified.

He said it was “irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective”, adding: “it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.”

“We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs.

“The precepts of any one religion - any belief system - cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other.”

“If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens, and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.

“The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments.

“The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the State, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.”

Lord Carey had urged a specially constituted panel of judges with a “proven sensitivity and understanding of religious issues” to hear the case.

In his statement, the Anglican church leader had said that recent decisions involving Christians by the courts had used “dangerous” reasoning and this could lead to civil unrest.

Referring specifically to Lord Carey’s statement, the judge said it was right that he should address what the former Archbishop had said because of his seniority in the Church “and the extent to which others may agree with his views, and because of the misunderstanding of the law which his statement reveals”.

Lord Carey said: “The description of religious faith in relation to sexual ethics as ‘discriminatory’ is crude and illuminates a lack of sensitivity to religious belief.”

He added: “The comparison of a Christian, in effect, with a ’bigot’ (ie, a person with an irrational dislike to homosexuals) begs further questions. It is further evidence of a disparaging attitude to the Christian faith and its values.”

Lord Carey and other Christian leaders had expressed concerns after Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, and two other appeal judges, ruled last December that Lillian Ladele, a Christian registrar, was breaking discrimination laws by refusing to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

In his witness statement Lord Carey said: “It is, of course, but a short step from the dismissal of a sincere Christian from employment to a religious bar to any employment by Christians.

“I believe that further judicial decisions are likely to end up at this point and this is why I believe it is necessary to intervene now.”

The fact that senior clerics of the Church of England and other religions felt compelled to intervene directly in judicial decisions was “illuminative of a future civil unrest”.

But the judge said that Lord Carey’s views were “misplaced”: judges had never likened Christians to bigots, or sought to equate condemnation by some Christians of homosexuality with homophobia.

He said it was possible that Lord Carey’s “mistaken suggestions” arose from a misunderstanding of the law on discrimination.

As to Lord Carey’s concerns over a lack of sensitivity by judges, Lord Justice Laws said this appeared to be an argument that the courts ought to be more sympathetic to the substance of Christian beliefs and be ready to uphold and defend them.

But he drew a distinction “ between the law’s protection of the right to hold and express a belief and the law’s protection of that belief’s substance or content.”

The Judeo-Christian tradition had exerted a “profound influence” on the judgment of lawmakers. But to confer on it preferential legal protection was “deeply unprincipled.”

It would mean laws being imposed “not to advance the general good on objective grounds but to give effect to the force of subjective opinion since faith, other than to the believer, was subjective.

“It may of course be true; but the ascertainment of such a truth lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society.”

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which backed the case, warned that the judgment would deny Christians a whole range of jobs because of their beliefs.

“The judge’s comments could lead in effect to a religious bar to employment, in which Christians could be prevented from being registrars, counsellors, teachers, social workers or work on adoption panels.”

“We never attempted to argue that we could impose a Christian law, which the judge seems to suggest.

“We are simply talking about the principle of marriage, between a man and a woman, which has undergirded society for hundreds of years.”

"Gordon, what do you really think?"


That is the question with which David Cameron must interject at every available opportunity in today's Leaders' Debate.

It is on the economy, which ought to be a gift to the Conservative leader from the outset. With the Greek tragedy unfolding, the Euro in peril, and EU member states about to start falling like Icelandic banks, the fact that David Cameron has said 'Never' to joining the Euro places him firmly on the side of the people. If we had joined when the Liberal Democrats wanted us to, we would now be gripped by the very same crisis and turmoil unfolding in Greece. It is a card which Mr Cameron must play, and play often.

But the revelation yesterday that Gordon Brown thinks that anyone who holds a view contrary to his is a 'bigot' is manna from heaven for the Conservatives. Back in November, Gordon Brown said:

I have never agreed with the lazy elitism that dismisses immigration as an issue, or portrays anyone who has concerns about immigration as a racist. Immigration is not an issue for fringe parties nor a taboo subject.
Whatever Gordon Brown says tonight, whatever assurances he gives on taxation, however he explains away the recession and the UK's doleful performance since, David Cameron is able to perpetuate the doubts about the Prime Minister's integrity which already exist in people's minds: 'Is he telling us the truth?'

And the answer, as we now know, is 'No'.

Gordon Brown is content to say one thing on camera to reassure his audience, and then, in private, to assert a precisely contrary view. He is a hypocrite, a charlatan, a fraud and a liar. Even his 'penitent sinner' apology was faked. After his first conversation with Gillian Duffy, he was asked in the car what it was she said which so irked him. He clearly responded 'Everything - she's just a bigoted woman.'

It was 'everything'.

Yet, after delivering his heartfelt and sincere apology to Mrs Duffy (now 'Gillian'), Gordon Brown emerged from her house with that fake grin beaming across his face, assuring us that he had 'simply misunderstood some of the words she had used'.

David Cameron might drop that line into his presentation this evening. Whenever Gordon Brown dismisses what he says or attempts to smear Conservative policy, Mr Cameron simply has to say: "Gordon appears to have misunderstood some of the words I have used."

And there is no reason at all why a debate on the economy should not include the subject of immigration.

Perhaps, as we all dare to disagree with Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg, we might find out that we are all Mrs Duffy: we are all bigots. Mrs Duffy speaks for millions of the 'great ignored'.

If David Cameron deploys the 'I'm Spartacus' line tonight, he will win hands down.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gordon Brown, hypocrisy and bigotry



All that Gillian Duffy (a life-long Labour supporter) attempted to do was discuss the issue of immigration. She observed: "You can't say anything about immigrants. All these eastern Europeans - where are they coming from?"

Gordon Brown was patient with her, and said to her face: "Very nice to meet you, very nice to meet you."

He then said behind her back: "That was a disaster - they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It's just ridiculous... she was just a bigoted woman."

This episode is rather timely after what His Grace posted earlier today.

A bigot is now anyone who happens to disagree with a point of view, especially if those views are concerning matters of religion, immigration or sexuality.

Even intelligent commentators seem to think it unarguable that deeply-held beliefs against immigration, homosexuality or some religious beliefs are bigoted. Anyone who maintains their view in the face of modern social pressure is only following their conviction, which is often rooted in faith. The word ‘bigot’ does have an accepted meaning: it is the obstinate and blind, often nasty and hypocritical, attachment to a particular creed. No doubt some people who oppose immigration or homosexual relationships are indeed like this — venting hatred towards foreigners or homosexuals. But many are decent, conscientious and thoughtful.

Isn’t it rather bigoted, in fact, to assume that your opponents on certain issues are bigots?

And isn't it rather hypocritical to pretend to enjoy meeting life-long Labour supporters when it is evident that Gordon Brown holds them in utter contempt?

The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

What sort of 'ordinary, middle-class' man from an ordinary town would be so pompous, patronising and duplicitous? On the day of the final Leaders' Debate, this is a devastating and potentially fatal blow to Gordon Brown's campaign. The people want authenticity: Gordon Brown is not only incapable of expressing the virtue, he is evidently socially retarded.

The self-censoring of debate

Cranmer really does not know what to discuss today.

If he turns to immigration, he is racist.

If he queries issues of European Union, he is xenophobic.

If he expresses an opinion on the case of Philip Lardner, he is homophobic.

If he questions the Pope, he is a bigot.

If he expresses concerns over aspects of Islam, he is Islamophobic.

Thus is the level of political discourse in modern Britain: every contentious issue, no matter how worthy of scrutiny or debate, is swiftly closed down with threats of a fatwa or character assassination. In this age of hyper-sensitivity to offending anyone on any matter, discussion is suppressed and liberties are surrendered.

What do you call a liberal democracy which prohibits rational discourse?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

David Cameron's profound empathy


Fraser Nelson refers to this campaigning episode as a demonstration of David Cameron's 'amiability'.

But it more than that; much more. Look at the body language: spontaneous, empathetic, compassionate and authentic. Could you see Gordon Brown instinctively crouching in order that a wheelchair-bound child might be able to observe such a conversation?

Fraser Nelson's article:

David Cameron has just taken his first real “kicking” of the campaign from a parent of a disabled child. Handled it brilliantly, I think. The parent is angry, understandably, about the problems he has finding a normal school for his wheelchair-bound son. The Tories are suspicious of the “inclusion” agenda – often a code for denying special-needs children the extra tuition that they deserve. But, as the father of a severely disabled son, Cameron knows more about this subject than almost anyone else in Westminster.

“It should be your choice, sir” he said: and he’s right. The voucher system would make a disabled child worth north of £22,000 a year to teach – four times more than an able-bodied pupil. You can bet that the new breed of Swedish-style 'free' schools (if they are allowed to make a profit) will be doing all they can to attract the business of people like the father Cameron spoke to. He should be in a position, under the Tory proposal, where special needs schools and “normal” schools are fighting for the right to educate his son.

Cameron tried his best to get this across: people will differ on this, but I didn’t see him looking defensive. I saw him empathise. “Nice to meet you,” he said to the wheelchair-bound pupil at the end. Cameron knows how irritating it is to see adults ignore a disabled child, as if they are not a person just because they can’t communicate as well. Cameron kneeled down, to make sure the child could see the discussion he was having with his adult: a position that he will be all too familiar with.

Cameron is very good at dealing with real people, and I think that came across. I wish him several more such encounters in the remaining nine days of the campaign.

Cameron: Let’s mend our broken society

Conservatives are today campaigning on mending the broken society. David Cameron has addressed the issues of crime and violence so far largely ignored by the other parties in this General Election campaign.

Anti-knife crime campaigner Brooke Kinsella has agreed to take on an ambassadorial role in a new Conservative Government (DV) for flagship youth mentoring and engagement projects in each of the hundred most deprived wards in England and Wales. She would head a small panel of young people to work with the new Government in identifying the projects that should receive support, and also to establish a means of tracking their progress without imposing great bureaucracies upon them.

David Camerons speech:

Brooke Kinsella is here today because one night, nearly two years ago now, her brother Ben had his life taken from him in the most violent and tragic way.

Just a few months before his death, Ben had written a creative writing piece for his English GCSE, imagining what it would be like to be killed by a knife.

With Brooke’s permission, I’m going to read some of it out.

“Everything feels cold. Numbness persists. As I stare up at my killer-to-be he feels not the slightest measure of remorse at what he has just committed. Instead his dark smile sickens me in ways I couldn't imagine.”
It is heartbreaking beyond belief that while out celebrating the end of those GCSEs, Ben’s vision of his own death became true.

Ben Kinsella has been added to a long list of victims who are now household names.

Rhys Jones. Gary Newlove. Sukhwinder Singh. Damilola Taylor. Jimmy Mizen.

And there’s a name you might not know.

Sofyen Belamouadden.

He was the boy who was chased into Victoria Station by a gang of school children and stabbed in front of crowds of commuters.

Just think about that.

It was about twenty past five in the afternoon, when people were making their way home, thinking about where they’d go out that night or what they’d have for dinner – when a boy lay bleeding and dying on the floor of the busy station.

Let me say that again: this happened at rush hour.

And he was a boy – not a youth, not a thug, not a faceless member of a gang – but a boy who loved playing football with Acton Garden Village Youth Sunday league team, who had talent and a future until that day in Victoria Station.

In the week after his death some flowers appeared there on the floor of the station, some lovely bright yellow daffodils that someone had laid there, but the bustle of the station soon swallowed up the shock of what had happened.

And that’s why I’m here – and why Brooke is here – today.

There’s a danger that we as a society can slowly become immune to events like this.

Each time the shock is a little bit slighter, a little bit quicker to pass.

And as our sensitivity gets coarsened, we get a step further away from what it is to be civilised.

So I think it is time to be honest about what has been happening in our country.

There has always been violence.

There has always been evil.

But there is something about the frequency of these crimes – the depravity of these crimes, that betrays a deep and fundamental problem in Britain today.

As I have argued for many years now, these acts of murder and abuse are just the most violent and horrific expressions of what I have called the broken society.

I know I’ve been criticised for saying our society is broken and I know I will be again.

But I am saying this as I see it.

When you see schools that have metal detectors at their entrance.

When you see fire engines called out on a hoax only to be pelted with bricks.

When you see people with disabilities abused on the streets because they are in a wheelchair.

When you see people take their lives because they’ve become so overwhelmed by out-of-control debt and they can’t bear to tell their family.

When you see addicts whose only daily event is the queue to get some methadone to take the edge off life for a little bit.

When you see those who have never worked, who have no shape to their day or structure to their life and the grim grind of hopelessness is there in their eyes, your inner voice says – something is fundamentally not right here.

Something is broken. Society is broken.

The broken society is not one thing alone.

It is not just the crime.

It is a whole stew of violence, anti-social behaviour, debt, addiction, family breakdown, educational failure, poverty and despair.

This is life – or the backdrop of life – for millions of people in this country.

So how should we respond?

The first response – the human response – is to feel unutterably sad at so much waste.

Wasted hopes. Wasted potential. Wasted lives.

But sadness and anger aren’t going to change anything on their own.

Mending the broken society needs head as well as heart.

It requires us to have an understanding of what has gone wrong as well as a clear approach to putting things right.

MY ARGUMENT

And my argument today is this.

We have arrived at this point in our society for a number of reasons, many completely divorced from politics and what government does.

But I am certain that government is a big part of the problem – its size has now reached a point where it is actually making our social problems worse.

That’s because by trying to do too much, it has drained the lifeblood of a strong society – personal and social responsibility.

And the biggest victims are those at the bottom, who suffer most when crime rises and educational standards fall.

They are the victims of state failure. They are the victims of big government.

There is, I believe, only one way out of this national crisis – and that is what I have called the Big Society.

A society where we see social responsibility, not state control, as the principal driving force for social progress.

A society where we come together, and work together, to solve problems.

A society where we remember every day that we’re all in this together.

And today, I want to make the case for the values that should drive the creation of the Big Society - and the policy agenda that flows from those values.

It requires, I believe, drawing on the deepest values of Conservatism, giving power to people not the state, strengthening families, encouraging responsibility, common sense and rigour, and applying these values to the key aims of improving the lives of people in our country – especially the very poorest.

Progressive ends. Conservative means.

That’s the guiding philosophy of any future Conservative government.

I want to explain why this particular combination – progressive and conservative – is the way to tackle the problems that have defeated policymakers for decades.

The approach we offer is profoundly different to what any government has done before.

It ranges from the more conventional means such as improving policing and schooling, to the politically more difficult things like supporting families and backing commitment.

I believe we have the right weapons in our armoury to be the ones who finally confront social breakdown – and start winning the battle.

And today, I want to set out the key elements of this pioneering approach - the progressive conservative approach - to mending our broken society and building the Big Society.

BIG GOVERNMENT

The process of mending our broken society must begin with an understanding of what has gone wrong.

There are the concrete characteristics of our broken society – the violent crime, teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol addiction, family breakdown, debt, worklessness, inequality – which have been bad for decades.

And there is the less tangible feeling, that we have been slowly losing the value of responsibility in our society...

...a sense that more and more people are less concerned about their responsibility to themselves, their duty to their family, their obligation to their community.

This is something we can trace back to cultural changes and shocks that have been going on for decades at least.

So I’m not going to pretend that the broken society was born under this Labour government.

But I do believe that, after thirteen years, it is reasonable for us to evaluate Labour’s effectiveness in dealing with our biggest social problems.

Because the evidence – as well as our instincts – shows that our social problems are getting worse, not better.

The poorest are getting poorer.

Social mobility has stalled.

Teenage pregnancy is the worst in Western Europe.

Levels of family breakdown are some of the highest in Europe.

Violent against the person has risen since Labour came to power.

Drug offences are up seventy percent.

There are now 10,000 incidents of anti-social behaviour every day.

And one in six children now grow up in a home where no one works.

These are astonishing statistics.

And what makes them more astonishing is that, for the past decade, the state has been hyperactive in its attempts to deal with these problems.

It has pumped record amounts of money in, passed record numbers of laws, and collected and stored record amounts of information about its citizens in its growing number of databases.

But the interesting thing is not simply that the state has failed – more, it’s why the state has failed.

I believe part of the reason is because the state – monolithic, inhuman, clumsy, distant – more often than not only treats the symptoms of our social problems, not their causes.

So for instance, its main response to rising severe poverty is more and more redistribution, with means-tested benefits and tax credits, and its main response to crime is passing another law or criminal justice act.

Let me make clear: we will keep tax credits.

But this approach, in which big government deals only with symptoms of our social problems, is nearing the limits of its effectiveness – to put it mildly.

It is time to ask some searching questions.

How many more tax credits do we keep funding before we finally ask ourselves: just what is keeping people in poverty?

How many more laws do we pass before finally we ask ourselves: just why is it that people are turning to crime?

And there’s another, connected, reason why the state is making things worse, not better.

As it has continued to expand, becoming bigger, more dictatorial, more intrusive, it has taken away from people the belief and desire to do things for themselves, for their families and for their neighbours.

So there is less expectation to work, to use your discretion and judgement, to engage with your local community, to keep your neighbourhood clean, to respect other people and their property.

Today, the state is ever present: either doing things for you, or telling you how to do them, or making sure you’re doing it their way.

We see this starkly when it comes to the fight against crime.

Police performance indicators were introduced as a means of measuring the effectiveness of different police forces.

They take into account things like the number of crimes each force detects and clears up, and bonuses can be awarded accordingly.

It sounds like a good idea.

But in reality, it completely undermines the discretion of each and every officer, encouraging them to pursue those cases that will get easy convictions, to classify as crimes things that they previously would have dealt with informally, and, most substantively, to ignore those offences where it will be difficult to get a conviction – like a lot of anti-social behaviour cases.

It is the law of unintended consequences, one we see time and again from Labour’s approach to our public services - in schools, in hospitals, in social services.

Indeed, right across our national life people’s instinct to do the right and responsible thing is neutered or even discouraged by big government.

Some parents are better off if they live apart rather than live together.

Head teachers who want to restore discipline in the classroom are overruled.

Local residents who want to get involved with their local community, giving young children something to do in their holidays, have to go through the rigmarole of vetting and inspection.

This is the moral failure of Labour’s big government approach.

When our police officers, those who are there to protect us, are encouraged to steer clear of the most difficult cases, when parents can be rewarded for splitting up, when professionals are told to follow rules rather than do what they think is best, when the kind-hearted are discouraged from doing good in their community, is it any wonder our society is broken?

PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATISM

We need to move from big government to the Big Society – a society with personal and collective responsibility right at its heart.

To set off on this new course, we will be guided by the philosophy of progressive conservatism.

Progressive – because if the Big Society exists for any reason, it must be to help the most disadvantaged in our country and seek to create a more united and equal place for us all.

But Conservative too – because we need to draw upon historic values of conservatism, discipline, responsibility, a deep faith in mankind and womankind, a respect for traditional institutions, such as family, church, community and country, and an appreciation of the limitations of the state.

Progressive conservatism is a modern philosophy that is right for an age in which debate is being widened and power is being diffused.

That is why it is such a powerful idea, one that should be unleashed to tackle our biggest problems.

It is an idea whose time has come.

And it reflects age-old truths.

In fact, it was perhaps the most famous liberal politician in British history, William Gladstone, who best summed up what I believe a government should do.

‘It is the duty of government to make it difficult for people to do wrong, easy to do right,’ he said.

Gladstone was, of course, a classic liberal.

But he also understood the power of traditional values.

And in these 19 words, he perfectly defined the ideal for government.

One that frees up people to do good, but is not scared to confront them when they are bad.

PEOPLE POWER

So how are we going to do it?

The defining characteristic of the modern Conservative approach is found in the phrase power to the people.

This is not just a slogan.

It is a radical blueprint for redrawing society based on a belief that the best ideas come from the ground up, not the top down.

On a faith that people can come together to make life better.

And on the simple idea that we must give innovators and the idealists the opportunity to deal with our most pressing problems.

So we will improve state schools by inviting in anyone with the ideals and inspiration to create a new school so that every child has the chance of a good education.

We will invite charities, church groups, businesses and social entrepreneurs into our public services to crack the dependency culture and get people off drugs and welfare and into work.

And when it comes to fighting crime, who do you think is best placed to make our streets safe?

Politicians issuing diktats in Westminster, civil servants pushing pens in Whitehall, or communities who know where the cars are broken into, the street lighting doesn’t work, the drunken fights break out and the local gangs gather?

That’s why we will give local people much greater control over local policing, with elected police commissioners and beat meetings to discuss local priorities and to raise local issues.

And we won’t stop there – we will go further and faster in building the Big Society.

Let’s give new powers to people to keep local pubs open, stop post offices from closing, to run their local parks, to help decide on planning decisions that affect their lives, to spend the profits from developments on local playgrounds and youth facilities.

Let’s give people the chance to take control of their lives and of their communities – and help make life better.

In almost every area, we will bypass the politicians and bureaucrats in Whitehall and hand control directly over to individuals, to communities and to local civic institutions.

With government giving them the support and power they need, they will help mend our broken society and build the Big Society in its place.

RESPONSIBILITY

This return of power to the people will be complemented by the second method through which Conservative means will deliver progressive ends - an emphasis on responsibility.

Personal responsibility. Social responsibility.

The right balance between liberalism and conservatism.

Trusting the individual, but demanding a commitment to society in return.

This will be the core of every policy: if it encourages irresponsibility we shouldn’t do it and if it encourages responsibility we should do it.

So we will say to head teachers - you do what you think is right to impose discipline and order in your school.

But parents will be free to judge you on your results.

We will say to those on welfare – if you can work we will do everything possible to help you get a job.

But refuse to work and we will cut your dole.

We will say to criminals - if you commit a crime you won’t get early release because if you commit a crime you should be properly punished.

But we will do everything we can to help you stop reoffending.

And we will say to the young - spend two months on National Citizen Service, working and living with people from different parts of society, and you will emerge a better and stronger person.

Above all, we will be the most family-friendly Government you’ve ever seen in this country, because I believe that the family is the crucible of responsibility.

Strong families lead to strong societies. It’s as simple as that.

So whether it is flexible work, flexible paternity and maternity leave, Sure Start or recognising marriage in the tax system, we are on the side of the family.

But in return, our plans also include giving parents greater legal responsibility for the actions of their children if they commit anti-social behaviour.

We are going to do all that we can to support every family - and every kind of family.

After all, show me the boy smashing up a bus stop, and I’ll show you a boy who feels worthless.

And show me an inmate doing time for a violent crime, and I’ll show you the man who never knew the love of his father.

So many of our biggest problems start and end with the family - and there can be little progress until we recognise this.

COMMON SENSE AND RIGOUR

But as well as people power and encouraging responsibility, we need something else.

We need to bring some Conservative common sense and rigour to our social problems.

Such simple words to use, but all too absent from our politics in recent years.

Common sense and rigour are part of our core beliefs as Conservatives.

And we’re going to bring them to government.

So we will cut back the bureaucracy imposed on the police, and free our officers to provide the sort of high visibility, zero-tolerance, beat-based policing that communities really want.

We will untangle the giant knot of health and safety rules and regulations which prevent so many people from engaging with their local community or volunteering to help children.

And we will insist on rigour at the heart of the curriculum in our schools.

No longer will so many children leave primary school unable to read and write, or leave secondary school with no sense of our island story. And no longer will we put up with an exam system that tests credibility rather than pupils.

Indeed, what sort of country have we become in which authors are not allowed to go into our schools and inspire children with a love of books without first going through criminal vetting?

And let me tell you something else:

I never again want to hear of a hospital that is so obsessed with meeting government targets that it allows patients to go unwashed and unfed.

And this approach, based upon common sense and rigour, must start at the top - with the way politicians spend taxpayers’ money.

This year Labour are spending more on debt interest than on our schools. That makes no sense whatsoever.

So we need to act fast to cut our debts - to protect our frontline services.

There is nothing progressive about piling taxes like the jobs tax on working people and firms trying to keep their heads above water.

There is nothing progressive about putting people out of work.

For every pound wasted on a public sector fat cat, a bloated quango, a computer programme that never works, that is a pound less to spend on our schools, our hospitals, our police forces and our social services.

So we won’t wait to slice out the waste.

If we win the election on May 6, we will start rooting it out on May 7.

CONCLUSION

So this, in a nutshell, is how we will set out to rebuild the broken society.

Harnessing the strength of conservative values to the power of progressive ideals.

The progressive aims of a fair society, opportunity for all, a safer place to live, delivered through the conservative means of giving power back to the people, social responsibility and common sense and rigour.

With a government focused on making life difficult for wrong-doers, and easy for those that want to do right by themselves, their family and their neighbourhood.

Gladstone’s ideal for government. Put into practice by modern, progressive Conservatives.

Only in this way will we liberate people to strengthen their families, rebuild their communities and create a better country.

Only in this way will we start to reclaim our streets from the menace of crime and to ensure all of our schools offer children the same chances in life.

To ensure that our public services serve the public and that our politicians are servants of the people, not their masters.

Inspired by the Big Society, not crushed by the effects of big government.

Based on hope, optimism and faith in each other.

Not rules, regulations and fear of each other.

This is what Barack Obama called the audacity of hope.

Now it is our turn to dare to believe that we can change our world.

Together. All of us.

So let’s do it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

UKIP to form coalition government with BNP


It is now almost universally accepted that the UK is heading inexorably towards a hung parliament. Even if the Conservatives win the most votes, Labour could still take the most seats, leaving the Liberal Democrats with a moral argument for bestowing the crown upon the head of the leader of whichever party offered them the most... which is likely to include a demand for PR, appointing Vince Cable as Chancellor and something very meaty indeed for Nick Clegg.

According to the received wisdom, the surge for the Liberal Democrats is due to them attracting the 'anti-politics' vote.

Cranmer is not so sure.

Why would the British people deposit their collective protest vote into the ballot box hands for another banal mediocrity who is promising even more of more-of-the-same? He may deride the Conservatives and Labour for being 'the old parties', but the Liberals have a heritage which predates Labour, and you couldn't get much older than yet another high-taxing, high-spending, centralising, statist, europhile party.

And that is what the Liberal Democrats are.

No. If the British people were to protest in revolutionary terms, with their customary 'glorious' and bloodless zeal, they would vote for real 'anti-political' outsiders - like millions did during the Euro elections last year. When UKIP came second, and the BNP vote soared in Labour heartlands, that ought to have sent a very clear message to all three 'mainstream' political parties: the electorate has concerns which you are failing to address.

It didn't.

Sadly, Screaming Lord Sutch and his Official Monster Raving Loony Party are no more. Perhaps that is a good thing, for if he were alive today, he would be in with as good a chance of entering Downing Street as H'Angus the monkey had of winning the mayoralty of Hartlepool.

Dissenting Tories tend to cast their protest vote for UKIP; in the Euro election, we saw tens of thousands of disaffected Labour supporters cast their votes for the BNP. The Liberal Democrats were not the beneficiaries of the 2009 anti-politics protest. And Dan Hannan is incredulous that they should be now.

He notes the exasperation of an electorate depressed by the omnipotence of the EU and despondent over uncontrollable immigration, and wonders why sensible, discerning and intelligent people would ever cast their votes for the most pro-Brussels party which also happens to want an amnesty for all illegal immigrants who have managed to evade deportation for ten years.

The only parties which are prioritising these policies are UKIP and the BNP. UKIP favour British withdrawal from the EU and have become increasingly vocal about Muslims and burkas; the BNP also favour British withdrawal from the EU and have a rather robust immigration policy of 'No more - we're full'. Frankly, the policies of these parties on health, education, transport, defence and criminal justice have never been scrutinised, but it's a fair bet that they wouldn't be too divergent. Since UKIP are of the 'right' and the BNP of the 'left', there are a few differences over taxation and the economy. But so there are between the Conservatives and the LibDems, and between Labour and the LibDems.

And yet neither Gordon Brown nor David Cameron has ruled out a coalition with Nick Clegg, however repulsed they may be by the very thought.

So, perhaps Lord Pearson and Nick Griffin should also set aside their ideological differences (which are nowhere near as diametrically opposed to each other as those of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) and prepare for a coalition government. Since the 'Cleggmania' phenomenon has been fabricated by the media, and since Mr Griffin and Lord Pearson have been denied their leaders' debates, they need to do something to garner the very considerable support both achieved last year, sidelined, as both are, by media conspiracy.

David Cameron is right to offer 'change'. But as long as the electorate don't quite 'get it', there is a risk that a plague of fatigue will descend upon both houses of the 'old parties'. Neither the BNP nor UKIP is palatable to millions for very many sound reasons, and only the misguided will vote for them in this General Election. But only a fool would cast their 'anti-politics' protest vote for the Liberal Democrats. A hung parliament may be a novelty, but there is no surer way of ensuring more of the same.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Foreign Office: Susan Boyle a more influential Roman Catholic than Archbishop Vincent Nichols


There is an amusing article in The Sunday Telegraph about Foreign Office 'secret papers' drawn up earlier this month by civil servants following a 'brainstorm’ for the Pope's visit to the UK in September.

The ideas, included in a memo headed 'The ideal visit would see ...’, ridiculed the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in its opposition to abortion, homosexual behaviour and contraception.

Ideas for the 'ideal visit' iitinerary include:

Launching a helpline for sexually abused children;

An announcement reversing Rome's 'policy on women bishops/ordain woman';

Sponsoring a network of Aids clinics;

Blessing a gay marriage;

Launch a papal brand of condoms;

And opening an abortion clininc.

Apparently, politicians were so 'furious' at these suggestions that an investigation was launched. One senior official was found responsible and 'has been transferred to other duties'.

Transferred to other duties?

Cranmer would like to ask what would have happened to an FCO 'official' who had dared to suggest the 'ill-judged, naive and disrespectful' itinerary below for a visiting Muslim head of state?

Breakfast of bacon sandwiches with the Queen;

Attending a memorial service for a 16-year-old girl whi had been buried alive by her brothers and father in an 'honour killing';

A meeting with the Danish artist responsible for the Mohammed bomb-turban cartoons;

Attending a private screening of South Park featuring Mohammed;

A lecture on stone-age paedophile worshippers;

Watcing an episode of Room 101 in which the Qur'an is disrespectfully dispatched.

Operating the levers of the crane to hang two 14-year-old boys accused of being homosexual.

Cranmer is sure his Communicants might come up with a few more.

Would a civil servant who proposed such an itinerary simply be 'transferred to other duties'?

Another document, entitled 'Papal Visit Stakeholders', lists figures and groups that the FCO considers significant to the tour, and ranks them in order of how 'influential' and 'positive' each one is perceived to be.

The Queen, David Cameron, and Tony Blair are all ranked as 'highly influential' and 'positive'. It rates Susan Boyle as being more influential than Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster.

Wayne Rooney, is considered to be a negative influence, as are Madonna and Professor Richard Dawkins, 'Pro-choice' groups, homosexual pressure groups and the National Secular Society.

For what other religious leaders or heads of state are such 'brainstorming' exercises held?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Margaret Thatcher: 'What’s wrong with politics?’

This speech was given in Blackpool in 1968 – more than a decade before she became prime minister. As you read it, you may wonder what has changed. Here is not only manifest prescience, but great wisdom.

What's wrong with politics

Criticism of politics is no new thing. Literature abounds with it.

In Shakespeare we find the comment of King Lear:

‘Get thee glass eyes;
And, like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not.’

Richard Sheridan, reputed to have made one of the greatest speeches the House of Commons has ever heard (it lasted 5 hours and 40 minutes), commented that ‘conscience has no more to do with gallantry than it has with politics’. Anatole France was perhaps the most scathing: ‘I am not so devoid of all talents as to occupy myself with politics.’

Nor have political leaders escaped criticism:

‘Disraeli unites the maximum of Parliamentary cleverness with the minimum of statesmanlike capacity. No one ever dreams to have him lead. He belongs not to the bees but to the wasps and the butterflies of public life. He can sting and sparkle but he cannot work. His place in the arena is marked and ticketed for ever.’

This from the Controller of the Stationery Office, in 1853, quoted in The Statesman by Henry Taylor.

There is no need to remind you how utterly wrong that judgment was.

There are even some things that have improved over the years. Bribery and corruption, which have now gone, used to be rampant. The votes of electors were purchased at a high price. The famous Lord Shaftesbury when he was Lord Ashley, spent £15,600 on successfully winning Dorset in 1831. It is interesting to note that £12,000 of this went to public houses and inns for the refreshment of the people. And this when gin was a penny a glass! Some forty years before, Lord Penrhyn spent £50,000 on his campaign — and then lost!

But we can't dismiss the present criticisms as easily as that. The dissatisfaction with politics runs too deep both here and abroad. People have come to doubt the future of the democratic system and its institutions. They distrust the politicians and have little faith in the future.

Why the present distrust?

Let us try to assess how and why we have reached this pass. What is the explanation? Broadly speaking I think we have not yet assimilated many of the changes that have come about in the past thirty to forty years.

First, I don't think we realise sufficiently how new our present democratic system is. We still have comparatively little experience of the effect of the universal franchise which didn't come until 1928. And the first election in this country which was fought on the principle of one person one vote was in 1950. So we are still in the early stages of dealing with the problems and opportunities presented by everyone having a vote.

Secondly, this and other factors have led to a different party political structure. There is now little room for independent members and the controversies which formerly took place outside the parties on a large number of measures now have to take place inside. There is, and has to be room for a variety of opinions on certain topics within the broad general principles on which each party is based.

Thirdly, from the party political structure has risen the detailed programme which is placed before the electorate. Return to power on such a programme has led to a new doctrine that the party in power has a mandate to carry out everything in its manifesto. I myself doubt whether the voters really are endorsing each and every particular when they return a government to power.

This modern practice of an election programme has, I believe, influenced the attitudes of some electors; all too often one is now asked ‘what are you going to do for me?’, implying that the programme is a series of promises in return for votes. All this has led to a curious relationship between elector and elected. If the elector suspects the politician of making promises simply to get his vote, he despises him, but if the promises are not forthcoming he may reject him. I believe that parties and elections are about more than rival lists of miscellaneous promises—indeed, if they were not, democracy would scarcely be worth preserving.

Fourthly, the extensive and all-pervading development of the welfare state is also comparatively new, not only here but in other countries as well. You will recollect that one of the four great freedoms in President Roosevelt's wartime declaration was ‘freedom from want’. Since then in the Western world there has been a series of measures designed to give greater security. I think it would be true to say that there is no longer a struggle to achieve a basic security. Further, we have a complete new generation whose whole life has been lived against the background of the welfare state. These developments must have had a great effect on the outlook and approach of our people even if we cannot yet assess it properly.

Fifthly, one of the effects of the rapid spread of higher education has been to equip people to criticise and question almost everything. Some of them seem to have stopped there instead of going on to the next stage which is to arrive at new beliefs or to reaffirm old ones. You will perhaps remember seeing in the press the report that the student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit has been awarded a degree on the result of his past work. His examiners said that he had posed a series of most intelligent questions. Significant? I would have been happier had he also found a series of intelligent answers.

Sixthly, we have far more information about events than ever before and since the advent of television, news is presented much more vividly. It is much more difficult to ignore situations which you have seen on film with your own eyes than if you had merely read about them, perhaps skimming the page rather hurriedly. Television is not merely one extra means of communication, it is a medium which because of the way it presents things is radically influencing the judgments we have to make about events and about people, including politicians.

Seventhly, our innate international idealism has received many nasty shocks. Many of our people long to believe that if representatives of all nations get together dispassionately to discuss burning international problems, providence and goodwill will guide them to wise and just conclusions, and peace and international law and order will thereby be secured. But in practice a number of nations vote not according to right or wrong even when it is a clear case to us, but according to their national expediencies. And some of the speeches and propaganda to explain blatant actions would make the angels weep as well as the electorate.

All of these things are a partial explanation of the disillusion and disbelief we encounter today. The changes have been tremendous and I am not surprised that the whole system is under cross-examination. I welcome healthy scepticism and questioning. It is our job continually to retest old assumptions and to seek new ideas. But we must not try to find one unalterable answer that will solve all our problems for none can exist.

You may know the story of the soldier of fortune who once asked the Sphinx to reveal the divine wisdom of the ages in one sentence, and the Sphinx said, ‘Don't expect too much.’

In that spirit and against the background I have sketched, let us try to analyse what has gone wrong.

The great mistake — too much government

I believe that the great mistake of the last few years has been for the government to provide or to legislate for almost everything. Part of this policy has its roots in the plans for reconstruction in the post-war period when governments assumed all kinds of new obligations. The policies may have been warranted at the time but they have gone far further than was intended or is advisable. During our own early and middle period of government we were concerned to set the framework in which people could achieve their own standards for themselves, subject always to a basic standard. But it has often seemed to me that from the early 1960s the emphasis in politics shifted. At about that time ‘growth’ became the key political word. If resources grew by X per cent per annum this would provide the extra money needed for the government to make further provision. The doctrine found favour at the time and we had a bit of a contest between the parties about the highest possible growth rate. Four per cent or more. But the result was that for the time being the emphasis in political debate ceased to be about people and became about economics. Plans were made to achieve a 4 per cent growth rate. Then came the present government with a bigger plan and socialist ideas about its implementation, that is to say if people didn't conform to the plan, they had to be compelled to. Hence compulsion on Prices and Incomes policy and with it the totally unacceptable notion that the government shall have the power to fix which wages and salaries should increase.

We started off with a wish on the part of the people for more government intervention in certain spheres. This was met. But there came a time when the amount of intervention got so great that it could no longer be exercised in practice by government but only by more and more officials or bureaucrats. Now it is difficult if not impossible for people to get at the official making the decision and so paradoxically although the degree of intervention is greater, the government has become more and more remote from the people. The present result of the democratic process has therefore been an increasing authoritarianism.

During July The Daily Telegraph published a rather interesting poll which showed how people were reacting against this rule of impersonal authority. The question was: ‘In your opinion or not do people like yourselves have enough say or not in the way the government runs the country? (68 per cent not enough), the services provided by the nationalised industries (67 per cent not enough), the way local authorities handle things (64 per cent not enough—note this rather high figure; people don't like remote local authorities any more than they like remote governments).’

Recently more and more feature articles have been written and speeches made about involving people more closely with decisions of the government and enabling them to participate in some of those decisions.

But the way to get personal involvement and participation is not for people to take part in more and more government decisions but to make the government reduce the area of decision over which it presides and consequently leave the private citizen to ‘participate’, if that be the fashionable word, by making more of his own decisions. What we need now is a far greater degree of personal responsibility and decision, far more independence from the government, and a comparative reduction in the role of government.

These beliefs have important implications for policy.

Prices and incomes

First, Prices and Incomes policy. The most effective prices policy has not come by controlling prices by the government, through the Prices and Incomes Board, but through the Conservative way of seeing that competition flourishes. There have been far more price cuts in the supermarkets than in the nationalised industries. This shows the difference between the government doing the job itself and the government creating the conditions under which prices will be kept down through effective competition.
On the Incomes side, there seemed to be some confusion in the minds of the electorate about where the parties stood. This was not surprising in the early days because a number of speeches and documents from both sides of the House showed a certain similarity. For example, here are four separate quotations—two from the Labour Government and two from our period of office. They are almost indistinguishable.

1. ‘Increases in the general level of wage rates must be related to increased productivity due to increased efficiency and effort.’ (White Paper on Employment Policy, 1944)

2. ‘It is essential therefore that there should be no further general increase in the level of personal incomes without at least a corresponding increase in the volume of production.’ (Sir Stafford Cripps, 1948)

3. ‘The Government's policy is to promote a faster rate of economic growth ... But the policy will be put in jeopardy if money incomes rise faster than the volume of national production.’ (Para. 1 of Incomes Policy, The Next Step, Cmnd 1626, February 1962)

4. ‘... the major objectives of national policy must be ... to raise productivity and efficiency so that real national output can increase and so keep increases in wages, salaries and other forms of income in line with this increase.’ (Schedule 2, Prices and Incomes Act, 1966)

All of these quotes express general economic propositions, but the policies which flowed from those propositions were very different. We rejected from the outset the use of compulsion. This was absolutely right. The role of the government is not to control each and every salary that is paid. It has no means of measuring the correct amount. Moreover, having to secure the state's approval before one increases the pay of an employee is repugnant to most of us.

There is another aspect of the way in which Incomes policy is now operated to which I must draw attention. We now put so much emphasis on the control of incomes that we have too little regard for the essential role of government which is the control of money supply and management of demand. Greater attention to this role and less to the outward detailed control would have achieved more for the economy. It would mean, of course, that the government had to exercise itself some of the disciplines on expenditure it is so anxious to impose on others. It would mean that expenditure in the vast public sector would not have to be greater than the amount which could be financed out of taxation plus genuine saving. For a number of years some expenditure has been financed by what amounts to printing the money. There is nothing laissez-faire or old-fashioned about the views I have expressed. It is a modern view of the role the government should play now, arising from the mistakes of the past, the results of which we are experiencing today.

Tax and the social services

The second policy implication concerns taxation and the social services. It is no accident that the Conservative Party has been one which has reduced the rates of taxation. The decisions have not been a haphazard set of expediencies, or merely economic decisions to meet the needs of the moment. They have stemmed from the real belief that government intervention and control tends to reduce the role of the individual, his importance and the desirability that he should be primarily responsible for his own future. When it comes to the development of the social services, the policy must mean that people should be encouraged if necessary by taxation incentives to make increasing provision for themselves out of their own resources. The basic standards through the state would remain as a foundation for extra private provision. Such a policy would have the advantage that the government could concentrate on providing things which the citizen can't. Hospitals are one specific example.

The other day I came across a quotation which you will find difficult to place:

‘Such a plan as this was bound to be drastic and to express nothing less than a new pattern ... (for the hospitals of this country) ... Now that we have it, we must see that it lives. As I have said before it is a plan which has hands and feet. It walks and it works. It is not a static conception stated once and for all but something which is intended to live and to be dynamic ... My Ministry will constantly be carrying this review forward so that there will always be ten years work definitely projected ahead.’ (Hansard, 4th June 1962, Col. 153.)

No, it doesn't come from Harold Wilson. It is not about our enormous overall plan, but a very limited plan in a small area in which the government could make a distinctive contribution. It was Enoch Powell introducing his ten-year hospital plan in the House of Commons on 4th June 1962.

Independence from the state

To return to the personal theme, if we accept the need for increasing responsibility for self and family it means that we must stop approaching things in an atmosphere of restriction. There is nothing wrong in people wanting larger incomes. It would seem a worthy objective for men and women to wish to raise the standard of living for their families and to give them greater opportunities than they themselves had. I wish more people would do it. We should then have fewer saying ‘the state must do it.’ What is wrong is that people should want more without giving anything in return. The condition precedent to high wages and high salaries is hard work. This is a quite different and much more stimulating approach than one of keeping down incomes.

Doubtless there will be accusers that we are only interested in more money. This just is not so. Money is not an end in itself. It enables one to live the kind of life of one's own choosing. Some will prefer to put a large amount to raising material standards, others will pursue music, the arts, the cultures, others will use their money to help those here and overseas about whose needs they feel strongly and do not let us underestimate the amount of hard earned cash that this nation gives voluntarily to worthy causes. The point is that even the Good Samaritan had to have the money to help, otherwise he too would have had to pass on the other side. In choice of way of life J. S. Mill's views are as relevant as ever:

‘The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way so long as we do not deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it ... Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.’

These policies have one further important implication. Together they succeed at the same time in giving people a measure of independence from the state — and who wants a people dependent on the state and turning to the state for their every need — also they succeed in drawing power away from governments and diffusing it more widely among people and non-governmented institutions.

The problem of size

The second mistake politics have made at present is in some ways related to the first one. We have become bewitched with the idea of size.

As a result people no longer feel important in the scheme of things. They have the impression that everything has become so big, so organised, so standardised and governmentalised that there is no room for the individual, his talents, his requirements or his wishes. He no longer counts.

It is not difficult to see how this feeling has come about. In industry the merits of size have been extolled for some years now and too little attention given to its demerits. Size brings great problems. One of the most important is the problem of making and communicating decisions. The task of decision tends to be concentrated at the top, and fewer people get used to weighing up a problem, taking a decision, sticking to it and carrying the consequences. The buck is passed. But even after a decision has been made, there is the problem of communicating it to those who have to carry it out in such a way that it is understood, and they are made to feel a part of the team. In a large-scale organisation, whether government, local government or industry, failure to do this can lead to large-scale mistakes, large-scale confusion and large-scale resentment. These problems, can, and must be, overcome, but all too often they are not.

Government agencies and the public

The third mistake is that people feel they don't count when they try to get something done through government agencies.

Consider our relations with government departments. We start as a birth certificate; attract a maternity grant; give rise to a tax allowance and possibly a family allowance; receive a national health number when registered with a doctor; go to one or more schools where educational records are kept; apply for an educational grant; get a job; start paying national insurance and tax; take out a television and a driving licence; buy a house with a mortgage; pay rates; buy a few premium bonds; take out life assurance; purchase some shares; get married; start the whole thing over again; receive a pension and become a death certificate and death grant, and the subject of a file in the Estate Duty Office!

Every one of these incidents will require a form or give rise to some questions, or be recorded in some local or national government office. The amount of information collected in the various departments must be fabulous. Small wonder that life really does seem like ‘one damned form after another.’

A good deal of this form-filling will have to continue but I think it time to reassert a right to privacy. Ministers will have to look at this aspect in deciding how to administer their policies. There is a tendency on the part of some politicians to suggest that with the advent of computers all this information should be centralised and stored on magnetic tape. They argue that this would be time-saving and more efficient. Possibly it would; but other and more important things would be at stake.

There would be produced for the first time a personal dossier about each person, on which everything would be recorded. In my view this would place far too much power in the hands of the state over the individual. In the USA there is a Congressional enquiry sitting on this very point because politicians there have recognised the far-reaching dangers of such a record.

Too much reliance on statistics, too little on judgment

Fourthly, I believe that there is too great a reliance on statistical forecasts; too little on judgment.
We all know the old one about lies, damned lies and statistics, and I do not wish to condemn statistics out of hand. Those who prepare them are well aware of their limitations. Those who use them are not so scrupulous.

Recently the economic forecasts have been far more optimistic than the events which happened. The balance of payments predictions have been wrong again and again.

For example, in February this year the National Institute of Economic and Social Research forecast predicted a surplus of £100m. in the second half of this year. In August they predicted a deficit of £600m. for the whole of this year, but a surplus of £250m. next year.

They commented, ‘The balance of payments forecast taken year by year look a lot worse than previously estimated, but the difference is largely one of timing — with the movement into surplus coming later, and with a still large rate of improvement.’

The truth is that statistical results do not displace the need for judgment, they increase it. The figures can be no better than the assumptions on which they are based and these could vary greatly. In addition, the unknown factor which, by its very nature is incapable of evaluation, may well be the determining one.

The party political system

Fifthly, we have not yet appreciated or used fully the virtues of our party political system. The essential characteristic of the British Constitutional system is not that there is an alternative personality but that there is an alternative policy and a whole alternative government ready to take office. As a result we have always had an Opposition to act as a focus of criticism against the government. We have therefore not suffered the fate of countries which have had a ‘consensus’ or central government, without an official opposition. This was one of the causes of trouble in Germany. Nor do we have the American system, which as far as Presidential campaigns go, appears to have become almost completely one of personalities.

There are dangers in consensus; it could be an attempt to satisfy people holding no particular views about anything. It seems more important to have a philosophy and policy which because they are good appeal to sufficient people to secure a majority.

A short time ago when speaking to a university audience and stressing the theme of second responsibility and independence a young undergraduate came to me and said ‘I had no idea there was such a clear alternative.’ He found the idea challenging and infinitely more effective than one in which everyone virtually expects their MP or the government to solve their problems. The Conservative creed has never offered a life of ease without effort. Democracy is not for such people. Self-government is for those men and women who have learned to govern themselves.

No great party can survive except on the basis of firm beliefs about what it wants to do. It is not enough to have reluctant support. We want people's enthusiasm as well.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Parliament for England

Two thirds of voters (68%) in England believe England should have its own Parliament with similar powers to those of the Scottish Parliament, according to a new ICM poll for the Rowntree-backed democracy campaign group POWER2010 published on St George’s Day.

The findings come as POWER2010 stage a huge guerrilla-style projection of the St George’s flag with the words ‘Home Rule’ onto the Palace of Westminster to brand it English for a day.

The ICM poll shows a large majority (70%) of voters say that laws for England should be made by the House of Commons but only MPs representing English constituencies should be able to vote on them. English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL) is one of the five changes to fix politics backed by over 100,000 votes which now forms the POWER Pledge being put to all candidates standing in the General Election.

The poll of 1033 people across England also shows that less than a quarter (23%) of people in England feels either “more English than British” or “English not British”. Almost half – or 46% - of those questioned in the poll say they feel “equally British and English”. 24% of those questioned said they feel either “British not English” or “more British than English”, according to the poll. POWER2010 says this means that the fairness of decision-making matters more to people than Englishness.

Director of POWER2010, Pam Giddy, said today:

England was not mentioned once in the leaders’ debate and has not featured at all during this campaign so far. Yet we now know people want a fairer way of making decisions that affect England.

It suddenly feels like we are on the cusp of seismic changes to the way our politics is done. But so long as the unfair system we have at the moment persists it can only play into the hands of undemocratic voices like the BNP. With all the talk of reform in the air politicians should not duck the English question, but use the opportunity of St George’s day to say where they stand.
Cranmer would like to wish all of his readers and communicants a happy St George's Day, and a day of reflection, appreciation and gratitude for the Bard, who was born (and died) today.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

This General Election has become a by-election opportunity for a protest vote


To mark tonight’s Sky News Debate, Sky News projected the faces of the main party leaders - Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg - onto the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, echoing the famous American landmark Mount Rushmore. The Sky News Debate will be shown live on Sky channel 501 and, in high definition, on 517 tonight from 8pm.

The incongruity, of course, is that the colossi at Mount Rushmore are made up of the United States’ modern political greats: the postmodern shadows projected onto the White Cliffs of Dover are but reflections of mediocrity.

When David Cameron decided to run with the ‘change’ agenda, he could have had no idea that the people would take him quite literally so extremely: the pendulum swing should have been between red and blue; the resulting purple would have been a temporary infusion as the nation watched dozens of seats vote Cameron.

But yellow has entered the mix, and the murky grey is making an indelible stain.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise.

When every party decides to focus on the ‘middle ground’, preaching banal and generic identical mantras of ‘change’ and ‘fairness’ in the ‘future’; offering almost identical programmes for government; focusing more on the personality of postmodernity than the philosophy of modern political philosophy, it ought to come as no surprise that the electorate fancies all three slices of the cake in almost identical 30% portions.

What is there between New Labour and the Liberal Democrats? What divides the Liberal Democrats from Cameron’s liberal Conservatives?

Sure, the anoraks know: the ‘Westminster bubble’; the journalists, the bloggers, the politicos; those who hear the nuances of philosophy and can see the subtle shades of policy. But the majority of the electorate taste the flavours in the wind; they are blind and deaf to neo-classical economics, hundreds of billions of debt and the issue of European Union. Their antennae are attuned to personal taxation, education, health and the integrity and authenticity of the leader.

And so, after years of being fleeced by corrupt MPs, after the expenses scandal, after debasing the nation’s politics, it looks as though the 65 year-old Conservative-Labour hegemony of vested interests and a ruling élite is over.

The people are having an almost-glorious revolution as they cry a plague on all their houses in roughly equal proportions: 34%-30%-29%.

The lack of a decisive majority might push the UK into a Greek-style fiscal maelstrom, but voters are too disillusioned to care. The more anti-politics the message is, the more attractive it sounds. The more liberating from the status quo a message sounds, the more inspiring it seems.

In the mind’s eye.

Which can be more easily deceived; confused by illusions and fooled by the ghosts of imagined experience.

To want to treat this General Election as a by-election opportunity to cast a protest vote is understandable. But when the people wake up to the reality, they will yearn for the era when politics was about ideas and philosophy was debated.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nick Clegg does God


What a pity.

When Nick Clegg came out as an atheist back in 2007, Cranmer was full of admiration.

His Grace said at the time that he would prefer to engage with an honest, self-confessed atheist than with a duplicitous hypocrite who professes to be Christian.

Mr Clegg appeared to be honest about what he believed.

Or, rather, what he didn’t believe.

But he seems to have an encounter with Jesus on the road to New Malden.

He was not quite blinded with scales over his eyes (except, of course, for the usual blindness which besets all Liberal Democrats). But according to The Daily Telegraph, he has written an article for The Church of England Newspaper in which he claims that Christian values are ‘central’ to his policies.

Unfortunately, the article is behind a pay-wall, so Cranmer is unable to fisk. If any readers or communicants are able to forward it, His Grace would be most appreciative (he is not prepared to waste a penny of his meagre stipend on a subscription to this rag).

Extracts quoted by The Telegraph include:

My objective is to make space in society for every individual to pursue their [sic] own beliefs, and to achieve their potential.
Unless, of course, they happen to want a Christian education for their children.

They point out that Mr Clegg’s wife is a Roman Catholic. Mr Clegg has previously said: "I have enormous respect for people who have religious faith, I'm married to a Catholic and am committed to bringing my children up as Catholics. However, I myself am not an active believer, but the last thing I would do when talking or thinking about religion is approach it with a closed heart or a closed mind."

This is such a fair, reasonable and balanced perspective that it is something of a wonder that he did not reiterate this point in the article.

Mr Clegg further writes:

We are proud to support specific campaigns organised by Christian groups. We are in no doubt that these are policies that will make our country fairer.
What campaigns are these? The right to life? Defence of the unborn? Protection of the elderly and vulnerable from encroaching state-sponsored suicide?

Despite voting in 2008 for abortions to continue to be allowed up to six months into pregnancy, Mr Clegg makes the quite astonishing claim that the Liberal Democrats could help right-to-life campaigners:

On 'conscience' issues like abortion and stem cell research, where no party has a united view, it will be possible for every elector to have their say about these questions by supporting candidates who share their views.
Given that he has Dr Death Evan Harris on his benches - who is the most rabid abortion-promoting, embryo-experimenting and euthanasia-inducing secularist in the House of Commons - it is difficult to see how Mr Clegg has the front to attempt to enlist the pro-lifers to the Liberal Democrat cause.

Apparently, Mr Clegg did not find space anywhere in the article to mention that he does not believe in God.

He is simply doing what Liberal Democrats do best: saying whatever you want to hear, U-turning and flip-flopping all over the shop, with no ideology, no conviction, and no core principles.

Take their policy on the euro. Before the global financial meltdown, they were vehemently in favour of UK membership. Now they appear unwilling to say anything on the matter.

On defence, they wish to abolish Trident on the grounds of cost, but refuse to say explain how the abolition of the nuclear deterrent will strengthen the defence of the realm.

On university tuition fees, they have back-tracked on the abolition, preferring now to phase them out ‘over six years’. Setting aside the inconvenient fact that a parliament lasts for five years, he has yet to say where the £7.5 billion cost of this would come from.

On economic matters, Nick Clegg said we need bold and even ‘savage’ cuts in government spending, which will be necessary to bring the public deficit (standing at £168 billion) under control. More recently, he warned of ‘Greek style’ unrest and ‘serious social strife’ if tax increases and cuts in spending were enacted.

Despite the fact we face a £168 billion budget deficit, Mr Clegg has only identified £10 billion in savings. And he says he is being honest with you?

On property tax – the Liberal Democrats wanted to abolish the Council Tax in favour of a ‘local income tax’. In 2009, they made a calculation that meant they now supported tax on property in the form of their ‘mansion tax’. Within a month, they had already fallen into disarray on the policy, and doubled the threshold for property to be affected by the tax. Such indecision is hardly a ringing endorsement for a party to wield significant power in Westminster.

On party donations, Mr Clegg likes to pretend that he is whiter than white. Their 2005 campaign was supported with a £2.4 million donation (at a time they said no party should take donations of more than £50,000) from a man later convicted of fraud.

On MPs’ expenses – in one four month period, Nick Clegg claimed a staggering £1,657.32 on groceries. When he was an MEP, he travelled economy class, but claimed for Business class, claiming the difference for ‘office expenses’. Not to mention the four Lib Dem MPs that were ordered to repay £16,500 for over claiming on expensive rent for Dolphin Square apartments near Parliament.

On immigration – they want to ‘naturalise’ around 600,000 illegal immigrants with British citizenship, and want no limit on inward migration. Instead, they simply want to move them around to different regions. There is no inconsistency or flip-flopping on this matter: Cranmer has included simply as an illustration of Liberal Democrat stupidity.

One would hope that no readers of The Church of England Newspaper are duped by Nick Clegg’s appeal to them as the party of ‘Christian values’.

Even as Anglicans are themselves enduring a time of crisis and uncertainty and without serious leadership, Cranmer wishes to point out that Nick Clegg is no anchor; the Liberal Democrat house is built on nothing but sand.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ann Widdecombe joins Bucks Fizz



Cranmer has been asked to post this video in order to 'spread the message about the importance of using your democratic right to vote.'

Right.

Somehow, it seems to encapsulate this election campaign. His Grace is immensely disappointed that he was not invited to take part.
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