Monday, February 28, 2011

The Government are NOT about to force ‘gay marriage’ on the Church of England

Before this media-manufactured spat blows up into a full Church v State crisis – the likes of which Europe has seen quite regularly over two millennia, though increasingly less in England since the Erastian settlement by which the state has been supreme in matters ecclesiastical – His Grace would like to clarify a few things.

A few months before the 2010 General Election, David Cameron jumped in with both feet and presumed to lecture the Archbishop of Canterbury on gay rights. Mr Cameron said: “I don't want to get into a huge row with the Archbishop here, but the Church has to do some of the things that the Conservative Party has been through. Sorting this issue out and recognising that full equality is a bottom-line, full essential.”

And he didn’t get into a huge row with the Archbishop because the absoluteness of ‘full equality’ and the unequivocal ‘bottom line’ were quietly dropped after the election.

And yet, on the face of it, the Prime Minister appears fully to support ‘gay marriage’, for nothing else could be meant by ‘full equality’.

This, coupled with the (untrue) announcement a few weeks ago that the Government are intent on permitting ‘gay marriage’ to be performed in churches (and other religious buildings), has apparently led to some frantic meetings between MPs and bishops to find a typically Anglican via media solution to the issue.

Firstly, let us dispel the whole ‘gay marriage’ canard. The Government has made no proposals to redefine marriage. Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone is preparing a Bill to allow all religious venues – churches, synagogues, mandirs, gurdwaras and mosques to perform some kind of blessing upon homosexual unions if they wish, and to permit sacred scriptures and religious paraphernalia to be used in civil partnership ceremonies. There is no compulsion or coercion of anyone: the state is not redefining marriage, for it cannot.

As His Grace has said, the prohibition on the use of pseudo-spiritual poems in civil ceremonies is absurd: it amounts to state censorship and an enforced division between the private realm of spiritual belief and the public realm of political policy. If consenting adults wish to read the Bible, the Qur’an, the Gita, the Upinishads or a divine piece of Shakespeare as they make their vows, that should be a matter for them. We do not have a tradition of laïcité in this country, and the fundamentalist secularisation of society amounts to the systematic elimination of all religion from public life. Conservatives should see such a violation of conscience and property rights as utterly abhorrent.

If two consenting adult Muslims wish to trundle off to their local mosque to get their gay-friendly imam to pray Allah’s blessing upon their happy civil partnership, what business is that of the state? Having legislated for same-sex civil partnerships, it is bizarre to permit ceremonies to be performed in the Palace of Westminster whilst barring them from Finsbury Park Mosque. The state should have no interest other than in the licence of partnership by which property rights may be determined in law.

Notwithstanding this, Jonathan Wynn-Jones reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury ‘is not prepared for the Coalition to tell the Church how to behave’ and ‘would not be dictated to by the Government’.

Apparently, he had no fewer than four sources for this article, so it must be true.

While we may quibble over the use of the terms ‘Coalition’ and ‘Government’ in this context, His Grace would like to point out to His Grace (if accurately reported, by four sources) that it is indeed for Parliament ‘to tell the Church how to behave’, just as it is for Parliament to license the Church’s Prayer Book and choose its Supreme Governor.

Mr Wynn-Jones informs us that Dr Williams ‘told a private meeting of influential politicians that the Church of England would not bow to public pressure to allow its buildings to be used to conduct same-sex civil partnerships’ and that the Church ‘held a clear position that marriage is between a man and a woman and would not consider changing this stance’.

And so the Archbishop has been accused of ‘alienating homosexuals’ and rendering the Church ‘out of touch with society’. According to Simon Kirby, the Conservative MP for Brighton Kempton: “Public opinion is moving faster than the Church on this issue and it is increasingly in danger of getting left behind.”

Well, thank God for that.

It is not for the Church of Jesus Christ to accommodate every passing fad and societal obsession: sometimes, being ‘left behind’ is very much the best place to be.

But The Daily Mail (which has plagiarised Mr Wynn-Jones’ article verbatim) quotes Dr Williams as saying: “Gay weddings will never take place in church buildings.”

Again, His Grace would like to point out to His Grace (if accurately quoted) that a Church of England building has already been used to conduct a ‘gay marriage’.

So ‘never’ is already negated.

Perhaps Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone has this sort of marriage liturgy in mind when she talks of ‘gay marriage’:
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God to join these men in a holy covenant of love and fidelity. Such a covenant shows us the mystery of the union between God and God's people and between Christ and the Church... As David and Jonathan's souls were knit together, so these men may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made."
But getting this form of Nuptial Mass through Parliament is fraught with so many complexities that they would be easier for a camel to pass through St Stephen's Gate.

It should be evident to politicians of all political persuasions and faiths that marriage is not an exclusively Judaeo-Christian institution; it is a union observed in all cultures, and seems, according to Aristotle, to exist by nature. Marriage in the Bible is essential for the functioning of society, and is the model used to explain the mystery of Christ’s relationship to the church (Eph 5:25-32). The Church of England ‘affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman’. This has its basis in the Old Testament, where YHWH says: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’ (Gen 2:18). It continues: ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (v24). Although these verses do not purport to define marriage, they do describe its origin, and are therefore crucial for understanding the Bible’s teaching on marriage.

There are three principal purposes for marriage arising out of v24: (i) the procreation of children; (ii) companionship, and (iii) sexual union. Marriage is a covenant before God, which Jesus confirms with the phrase ‘God has joined together’ (Mt 19:26); when a person ‘leaves’ and ‘cleaves’. Iain Duncan Smith (at least) has realised that it is the erosion of this foundation which has contributed to ‘Breakdown Britain’.

While the Church in England is subject to Parliament, Parliament is not so omnipotent that it may alter the Word of God. But the Government is not proposing to do so. Permitting religious buildings to be used for the blessing of civil partnerships is not the same as imposing a redefinition of marriage upon the Established Church. So let us stop all this hype, for the Prime Minister is rather busy and can do without such disinformation.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ireland’s new puppet government emerges

They’re still counting (ah, the joys of STV; it won’t be much better under AV). But it is now looking certain that Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny will be the next Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, bringing to a close Fianna Fáil’s 70-year dominance over the nation’s politics and ending their 14-year unbroken period of governance.

All the favourite politico clichés are being rolled out: it’s a ‘landslide’; a ‘sea change’ in Irish politics; a ‘revolution’; a ‘fracturing’ of the Irish body politic, etc., etc. And it is all of those. The people of Ireland have just delivered at the ballot box what the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have to die to achieve: regime change.

But His Grace feels really quite sorry for Mr Kenny, for he cannot quite deliver the regime change the people desire. Fine Gael have been swept to power on the back of a promise to renegotiate the terms of Ireland’s €80bn bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Did His Grace say ‘swept to power’?

He apologises.

Gael or Fáil – it doesn’t matter which centre-right(ish) party is in office, their sovereignty has been removed: they have no power. What they have is an electoral mandate from the people to renegotiate, which is nice. But a new marriage of convenience doesn’t negate a bankruptcy order on the divorcée; it doesn’t absolve them of their contractual responsibilities: only death can liberate them from the burden. The Irish people really ought to have learned by now that they can scream and scream and scream – and even reject an EU treaty – but it makes not one iota of difference in Brussels: the EU juggernaut rolls on inexorably.

And the same is true of the IMF and the ECB: unaccountability means the same austerity measures will still be imposed, exactly as they are across the eurozone.

The puppets may have changed but the same puppet master is pulling the strings. This election will not diminish Ireland’s debt by one euro; it will not reduce the interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point; it will not diminish the burden of the deficit by so much as an old Irish pund: it will hang around their necks for decades, and rest upon the shoulders of their children and their children’s children.

Why can they not see that he who pays the piper calls the tune? You’d think, in Ireland of all places, that they’d understand the significance of pipe playing.

These tedious days of vote counting will now be followed by further days of backroom deals and coalition forming: Ireland is familiar with the process. It looks as though Fine Gael will govern with Labour, whose vote has also increased significantly. That will leave Fianna Fáil in opposition along with Sinn Féin.

Enda Kenny’s manifesto for government will then be some fusion of Labour/Fine Gael policies and programmes, no permutation of which will be put to the people. And those who purport to lead the country will be as much on the EU/IMF payroll as their predecessors were on the on the payroll of the banks and financial services sector. And so the money merry-go-round of corruption continues.

As in all democracies, the Irish people have elected the government they deserve. While His Grace is grateful that they have re-adopted Gaddafi Adams, he genuinely feels quite sorry for them. Politicians seem to win elections by promising heaven on earth, and when, a decade later, the electorate realises that they are still in purgatory, another swathe of disaffected voters views the democratic process with cynicism and disdain, declaring a plague on all their houses. This leads to voter apathy and alienation, a deterioration in democratic participation and a declining turnout in elections, especially among the young.

If our democratic leaders do not wake up soon to the inevitable consequences of this, then Tripoli and Cairo will come to Dublin, Lisbon and London, just as it has already come to Athens. You can’t buck the people.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Egyptian Army fires on Coptic Christians in monastery

There has been much speculation what might happen to Egypt's Coptic Christians following the downflall of Mubarak. Would they be persecuted and murdered, like the Christians in post-Saddam Iraq? This video and report is a fine example of the Islamic pogroms against Christians in the Middle East - Assyrian, Coptic, Catholic, Protestant and Chaldean. It comes from the Assyrian International News Agency:
(AINA) -- For the second time in as many days, Egyptian armed force stormed the 5th century old St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi el-Natroun, 110 kilometers from Cairo. Live ammunition was fired, wounding two monks and six Coptic monastery workers. Several sources confirmed the army's use of RPG ammunition. Four people have been arrested including three monks and a Coptic lawyer who was at the monastery investigating yesterday's army attack.

Monk Aksios Ava Bishoy told activist Nader Shoukry of Freecopts the armed forces stormed the main entrance gate to the monastery in the morning using five tanks, armored vehicles and a bulldozer to demolish the fence built by the monastery last month to protect themselves and the monastery from the lawlessness which prevailed in Egypt during the January 25 Uprising.

"When we tried to address them, the army fired live bullets, wounding Father Feltaows in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen," said Monk Ava Bishoy. "Six Coptic workers in the monastery were also injured, some with serious injuries to the chest."

The injured were rushed to the nearby Sadat Hospital, the ones in serious condition were transferred to the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo.

Father Hemanot Ava Bishoy said the army fired live ammunition and RPGs continuously for 30 minutes, which hit part of the ancient fence inside the monastery. "The army was shocked to see the monks standing there praying 'Lord have mercy' without running away. This is what really upset them," he said. "As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting 'Allahu Akbar' and 'Victory, Victory'."

He also added that the army prevented the monastery's car from taking the injured to hospital.

The army also attacked the Monastery of St. Makarios of Alexandria in Wady el-Rayan, Fayoum, 100 km from Cairo. It stormed the monastery and fired live ammunition on the monks. Father Mina said that one monk was shot and more than ten have injuries caused by being beaten with batons. The army demolished the newly erected fence and one room from the actual monastery and confiscated building materials. The monastery had also built a fence to protect itself after January 25 and after being attacked by armed Arabs and robbers leading to the injury of six monks, including one monk in critical condition who is still hospitalized.

The army had given on February 21 an ultimatum to this monastery that if the fence was not demolished within 48 hours by the monks, the army would remove it themselves (AINA 2-23-2011).

The Egyptian Armed Forces issued a statement on their Facebook page denying that any attack took place on St. Bishoy Monastery in Wady el-Natroun, "Reflecting our belief in the freedom and chastity of places of worship of all Egyptians." The statement went on to say that the army just demolished some fences built on State property and that it has no intention of demolishing the monastery itself (video of army shooting at Monastery).

Father Hedra Ava Bishoy said they are in possession of whole carton of empty bullet shells besides the people who are presently in hospital to prove otherwise.

The army attack came after the monks built a fence for their protection after the police guards left their posts and fled post the January 25th Uprising and after being attacked by prisoners who were at large, having escaped from their prisons during that period.

"We contacted state security and they said there was no police available for protection," said Father Bemwa," So we called the Egyptian TV dozens of times to appeal for help and then we were put in touch with the military personnel who told us to protect ourselves until they reach us." He added that the monks have built a low fence on the borders of one side of the monastery which is vulnerable to attacks, on land which belongs to the monastery, with the monks and monastery laborers keeping watch over it 24 hours a day.

The monks of St. Bishoy are now holding a sit-in in front of monastery in protest against the abuse of the army by using live bullets against civilians

Nearly 7000 Copts staged a peaceful rally in front of the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, where Pope Shenouda III was giving his weekly lecture (video), after which they marched towards Tahrir Square to protest the armed forces attacks on Coptic monasteries.

In this fraught and unstable context of revolutionary zeal which is sweeping throughout Arabia - in which Christians are being persecuted, tortured, raped and murdered - would it not be wise for HM Government to focus on bringing stability, peace and democracy to the region - a democracy based on the basic human rights of freedom of expression, association and religion - instead of procuring defence contracts, and thereby risking the arming of those very forces which seek to cleanse the region of Christians and purge it of the most ancient expressions of Christianity?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Is Gerry Adams about to pay the price for his long association with Gaddafi?

There is a sense in which every Irish general election is a replay of the nation’s troubled past. If it’s not about the centuries-old British-Irish Protestant-Catholic sectarianism, it’s about the 90-year-old civil war of partition and the Anglo-Irish Treaty by which the Irish Free State was created. The resentment still festers; unforgiveness runs deep; the wounds are still open.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have dominated the politics of the Republic since its inception. They were born out of the civil war: Fianna Fáil, the present party of government, opposed partition; Fine Gael, which looks set to win today’s election, supported the treaty.

But Ireland’s accession to euro achieved something quite remarkable. The old tribal loyalties have melted away beneath the frustration, humiliation and anger caused by the country’s economic collapse. Those families which have religiously voted Fianna Fáil for the best part of a century are abandoning their political heritage, betrayed, they believe, by criminal bankers and corrupt politicians.

Of course, we know that little will change no matter who wins today’s general election: the Government of Ireland is the EU Commission; the economy of Ireland is controlled by the EU Central Bank. Fine Gael can tinker at the edges, but the macro stuff – the conditions of the bailout and crippling interest charges – is an inviolable obligation upon whichever party wins.

But the real story of the day is the extent to which Sinn Féin have not made the breakthrough they desired, or, indeed, expected, given the political and economic turmoil. Gerry Adams resigned his seat at Westminster to focus on the Dáil. Yes, he’ll probably win. But this election is looking to be a humiliation for Sinn Féin. If they can’t capitalise on the insecurity of a second potato famine, depression, soaring unemployment or the groundswell of resentment and Nationalist fervour in the midst of an EU plot to take over their beloved Éire, they will never be the all-Ireland party they profess to be.

But in the civil war leitmotif, the IRA has an awful lot to answer for. Their murderous campaign was waged indiscriminately, such that it alienated even their own natural supporters. Gerry Adams is inextricably linked to the IRA; he has so much blood on his hands that all great Neptune's Irish Sea could not wash it away. No; his hands will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.

As the people of Ireland go to the polls today, Gerry Adams’ problem is that he is inextricably linked to Colonel Gaddafi, whose murderous regime supplied the IRA with as much Semtex explosives and as many handguns, AK-47 assault rifles, heavy machine guns and RPG-7 rocket launchers as they required. Each day that Gaddafi is in the news is a reminder for the relatives of IRA victims that he and Gerry Adams were bedfellows. And not only bedfellows, but soul-mates and brothers in arms. While Gaddafi was blowing up planes over Lockerbie, Adams was busy blowing up Belfast and Enniskillen, not to mention Manchester, Canary Wharf and the entire British Cabinet in Brighton.

This is the most important Irish general election in decades. But it will change nothing. Irish sovereignty has been surrendered. The Fianna Fáil-Green coalition will fall and Fine Gael may win outright. And if they do not, they won’t be coming to Gerry Adams to form a coalition. No. He is the Republic’s very own Colonel Gaddafi; the former Commanding Officer of the IRA. As we watch the turmoil in Libya, and join our hearts with a people longing for freedom from oppression, terrorism and torture, let the people of Ireland never forget the proven links between the IRA and the Libyan dictator. Let them never forget the tons of weapons he has shipped to the Republic to maim and murder their compatriots. And let them remember today that Muammar Gaddafi and Gerry Adams are just different faces of same evil.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Big Brother Watch endorses Census Campaign to remove the 'religion question'

It happened a few weeks ago, but since the departure of BBW's excellent Alex Deane, things have been a little quiet.

When a group like Big Brother Watch put their weight behind a campaign for privacy, it means that it is a question of protecting our civil liberties and personal freedoms. They observe that the British state has accumulated unprecedented power and the instinct of politicians and bureaucrats is to expand their power base even further into areas unknown in peace time.

Big Brother Watch campaigns to re-establish the balance of power between the state and individuals and families. They look for the sly, slow seizure of control by the state - of power, of information and of our lives.

They have judged that the 'Religion question' in the imminent Census (just four weeks to go) is one of those 'sly seizures'. It is His Grace's view that one's religious adherence is no business of the state at all, and the state is hardly in a position to ask questions about it when they have not defined what they mean by 'religion'.

The 'Mind Your Own *%$#@!! Business' Campaign is a perfectly legitimiate and legal protest to tell the Government that enough is enough. It is time to stop this ever-encroaching data gathering. The Campaign raised a few questions, the most frequent relating to its optional status: the assertion that non-response constitutes a protest.

It does not. Some 4 million people left the question blank in 2001, and they were simply discounted. Non-response is not a protest: it constitutes passive assent to being asked again, and communicates indifference. Today's individual indifference will become tomorrow's state compulsion, with all the requisite fines and threats for non-compliance.

The campaign of the British Humanist Association is one of the most disingenuous and hypocritical they have ever conceived. They began well: with a desire to have the religion question abolished altogether, not least because the data elicited was profoundly flawed. On that point, they agreed with His Grace. But this has turned into a concerted campaign costing thousands of pounds which can only have to effect of skewing the data even more: no other group is campaigning to increase their census showing, and it smacks of desperation. It is apparently their contention that if you are not 'practising' a religion, you are not religious, so you should tick the 'No Religion' box. For them, 'belief' doesn't come into it.

It is quite astonishing that a small pack of atheist-secular-humanists should presume to define religion in terms of what they are not; what they are antithetical to. You cannot trust their definition of 'No Religion' any more than you can trust Richard Dawkins on the efficacy of ancient Daoist philosophical and religious conceptions of yin and yang.

The 'religion question' is profoundly flawed; it can only yield flawed data and so needs to be consigned to the bureaucratic dustbin of the outmoded big state.

When you receive your 2011 Census form, to the religion question, please respond ‘Other’. And then write in: 'MIND YOUR OWN…'.

The Campaign is on Facebook. Please spread the word. And, unlike the BHA, His Grace is not appealing for thousands of pounds to 'raise awareness'.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Labour now almost wholly dependent on Unions

New donation figures released today by the Electoral Commission show that since Ed Miliband became Labour leader the Party has become even more reliant on the trade unions for funding, with almost nine of every ten pounds of donations now coming from them.

Under Ed Miliband Labour has become more reliant on the trade unions, who now provide nearly 90 per cent of the party’s donations. Figures for the first quarter since Ed Miliband became Labour leader (Q4 2010) show that Labour received £2,545,610.10 in donations. £2,231,741.90 or 88 per cent of these came from trade unions, a massive increase on the same quarter the previous year (Q4 2009), when 36 per cent of their funding came from the trade unions.

Commenting on the latest figures, Deputy Conservative Party Chairman Michael Fallon said: “Ed Miliband was elected by the unions, now almost every pound his party receives in donations comes from the unions. So much for a fresh start.

“With private donations to the Party shrivelled, the Labour party now looks like a wholly owned subsidiary of the trade unions. Unions who oppose any public service modernisation and deny the deficit. Labour under Ed Miliband are abandoning the centre ground of British politics.”

Labour is clearly losing the support of individuals:

Under Ed Miliband, the central party has received no money from private individuals. Figures covering the first quarter since Ed Miliband became Labour leader (Q4 2010) show that the central Labour Party received no donations from private individuals. Across the country, just 15 individuals donated to CLPs, totalling £39,286 (Calculations from Electoral Commission Website).

Labour’s trade union reliance:

Last year 62 per cent per cent of Labour’s funding came from the trade unions. In 2010 Labour received a total of £20,251,827.81 in donations, of which £12,562,086.40 came from trade unions. Therefore 62 per cent of Labour’s donations last year came from the unions (ibid.).

Under Ed Miliband Labour has become more reliant on the trade unions, who now provide 88 per cent of the party’s donations. Figures for the first quarter since Ed Miliband became Labour leader (Q4 2010) show that Labour received £2,545,610.10 in donations. £2,231,741.90 or 88 per cent of these came from trade unions, a massive increase on the same quarter the previous year (Q4 2009), when 36 per cent of their funding came from the trade unions.

Labour’s reliance on the Unite trade union:

Last year almost a quarter of Labour’s union funding came from Unite. In 2010 Unite gave £4,703,381.09 to Labour. In the same period Labour received a total of £12,562,086.40 donations from trade unions. Therefore 23 per cent of Labour’s trade union donations last year came from Unite (ibid.).

Labour has admitted the influence of the trade unions:

Labour has defended its funding relationship with the unions. Speaking to the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s inquiry on party funding Ray Collins, Labour’s General Secretary, said that affiliation fees paid by members to the party was not a ‘commercial transaction’ and supported the unions’ role in policy making, saying that he was glad that ‘millions of people’ were engaged with the party. He admitted that the trade unions were engaged in the Party’s policy making ‘at every level’ (Oral evidence to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, 15 February 2011).

What Labour have given to the unions:

The Labour Government’s Warwick Agreement gave significant concessions to the unions. At its National Policy Forum in July 2004 Labour struck a deal to secure funding from trade unions in the run-up to the 2005 general election. In return, the Labour leadership granted unions wide-ranging concessions. These included:

Guaranteed real terms increases in the Trade Union Learning Fund each year until at least 2008 (Britain is Working, NPF Report, September 2004, p.129);

An extension of the eight-week rule on strike action to 12 weeks with no limit for employers who do not fully comply with conciliation moves (TGWU Press Release, 25 July 2004);

Moving towards pensions becoming a collective bargaining issue (TGWU Press Release, 25 July 2004);

The promise of a training levy if employers fail to meet the challenge of improving the skills of working people (Amicus Press Release, 25 July 2004);

Making the charitable status of private schools dependent upon demonstrating clear public benefit (Britain is Working, National Policy Forum Report, 26-30 September 2004, p.159);

Review the right of specialist technology schools to admit some of their intake by aptitude (Britain is Working, National Policy Forum Report, p.159);

New sector forums bringing together unions and employers in low-paid sectors (TGWU Press Release, 25 July 2004);

A threefold increase in the number of trade union ‘learning representatives’ to 20,000 (TGWU Press Release, 25 July 2004);

Working with the TUC to develop the concept of a trade union academy (Britain is Working, NPF Report, September 2004, p.129);

UK Government backing for the Agency Workers’ European Directive (TGWU Press Release, 25 July 2004);

A whole host of safeguards to ensure equality of funding between PFI and conventional public spending (TGWU Press Release, 25 July 2004);

The strengthening and development of the European social dimension (Britain is Working, NPF Report, September 2004, p.21);

Making it easier and more attractive for local authorities to gain greater control over local bus networks (Ibid, p.78);

A commitment to work in partnership with strong, modern trade unions to help unions such [sic] grow’ (TULO guide to the Warwick Agreement, 24 April 2006).

In all, 108 pledges were made to the unions. As of 2008, the Unite union reported that 65 per cent of these had been implemented or seen significant progress (Unite, Report to Unite Executive Committee, July 2008).

The Union Modernisation Fund provides state funding to the trade unions. In 2004, the Labour Government announced a plan to create a new fund of taxpayers’ money to give money to the trade unions. The Union Modernisation Fund (UMF) was created through the Employment Relations Act 2004.

Over £5.5 million of taxpayers’ money has been given to the unions. As of July 2010, the unions had received £5,737,624 of government funding though the UMF (Hansard, 21 July 2010, col. 411W).

Unions are free to spend this money as they wish. Under Section 55 of the Act, the unions can spend money channelled through the fund on almost anything:

‘The Secretary of State may provide money to a trade union to enable or assist it to do any or all of the following -

(a) improve the carrying out of any of its existing functions;

(b) prepare to carry out any new function;

(c) increase the range of services it offers to persons who are or may become members of it;

(d) prepare for an amalgamation or the transfer of any or all of its engagements;

(e) ballot its members (whether as a result of a requirement imposed by this Act or otherwise)’ (Employment Relations Act 2004, Section 55, Article 1).

In round one almost £1 million was used to fund unions’ websites. Grants made under Round One of the fund were announced in 2006. £3 million of taxpayers money was distributed to the unions, with around a third of the money (£947,000) given to projects to develop trade union websites (DTI Press Release, 21 March 2006; UMF: Interim Evaluation of First Round, DTI, September 2006).

In round two state money funded migrant worker projects and websites. The second round of funding was launched in November 2006. Speaking at the TUC Annual Congress in September 2007, then Employment Relations Minister Pat McFadden announced that 28 projects had been awarded grants worth a total of £2.8 million (TUC, Briefing on the Union Modernisation Fund, October 2007).

In round three £3 million was used to fund membership databases and IT systems. According to the then Employments Relations Minister Pat McFadden, £3 million was allocated for the third round of the UMF in 2009 (Hansard, 25 March 2009, col. 528W).

The National Policy Forum gives the unions influence over Labour Party policy. Labour’s National Policy Forum was set up in 1997 as the as the party’s sovereign policy-making body. The Forum is made up of 194 representatives, including 30 trade unions (Labour Party Website, National Policy Forum.

What Ed Miliband says about the trade unions:

Ed Miliband supports greater links between Labour and the unions. ‘I think the unions do play a very important role in our party...They provide us with, as well as Labour Party members, a clear link to the lives of ordinary people, and I think that’s the way that their influence should be felt in our policy making.’ (Progress Magazine, 1 December 2009).

And thinks we need more people in trade unions. ‘We need more people in trade unions and we need trade unions to rise to the challenge that they can make a difference to their member’s lives’ (Daily Mail, 27 July 2010).

How the trade unions got Ed Miliband elected:

Backed by Unite. Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley urged Unite members to back Ed Miliband: ‘Getting the Labour Leadership issue right is important in fighting these threats. That is why we are asking you to vote for Ed Miliband’ (Unite4Labour Website, accessed on 25 September 2010).

Ed Miliband has personally thanked Unite for their help in getting him elected. Ed Miliband has reportedly personally thanked Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley: ‘EdMili just put an arm around Unite’s Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson and said simply: “Thank you”’ (Paul Waugh’s Twitter, 25 September 2010).

Charlie Whelan boasts of Unite’s influence. Just after the result was announced, Charlie Whelan tweeted that over half of Unite’s votes went to Ed Miliband: ‘53% of unite members voted for Ed Miliband’ (Charlie Whelan’s Twitter, 25 September 2010).

Ed Miliband received £100,000 from Unite last year. Ed Miliband received £100,000 in donations from Unite last year (Electoral Commission, Register of Donations to Regulated Donees, 2010).

Nearly two thirds of the donations registered by Ed Miliband came from trade unions. Ed Miliband’s campaign received £100,000 from Unite, £28,000 from the GMB and £5,000 from UCATT – equivalent to 62 per cent of all the donations registered on the Electoral Commission website. In comparison, David Miliband only received £35,000 from trade unions – 8 per cent of the total donations he received (Analysis of the Electoral Commission Website).

And nearly one third of the donations registered by Ed Miliband came from Unite. Ed Miliband’s campaign received £100,000 from Unite – equivalent to 32 per cent of all the donations registered on the Electoral Commission website (Analysis of the Electoral Commission Website).

Unite break spirit of rules to aid Ed Miliband. Britain’s biggest trade union, Unite, included a leaflet pledging its support for Mr Miliband along with the ballot papers for the contest it sent to its 950,000 members eligible to vote. Party rules say you cannot include in the ballot envelope any literature backing a candidate (The Independent, 10 September 2010).

Charlie Whelan says Ed Miliband only won because of the unions. 'We said vote for Ed Miliband because he more fits in with our was clear that the union vote turned out for Ed Miliband’ (The Times, 18 November 2010).

Meanwhile, Conservatives continue to widen their base. The Conservative Party received 106 small value (£0-£25,000) donations in Q4 2010 totalling £666,177 (Calculations from Electoral Commission Website).


His Grace has been asked (challenged) by James Mills ('Labour Party stooge') and Tom Harris MP (Labour Party conscience) to point out that a union membership fee is a political levy: one has the option to pay it or not. His Grace responded that this option is given only on joining, and so inertia determines perpetual support for Labour. Mr Harris ignored the intertia point, reiterating that 'you can opt out subsequently if you wish'. Mr Mills prejudicially asserted: 'Let me guess, your (sic) not going to correct ur highly miss leading (sic) blog post now you have this new information??'. His Grace is always happy to clarify as necessary.

A million Egyptians in Tahrir Square chant "To Jerusalem we are heading, Martyrs in the millions."

Briefly, this morning, let us consider this inspiring video as millions of Egyptians return to Tahrir Square and sing the praises (and religio-political objectives) of their newly-won freedoms.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cameron in Egypt – the statesman emerges

It is usually the prerogative of the President of the United States, as the democratically-elected leader of the free world, to be the first to visit a nation emerging from oppression through revolution towards liberty. Failing that, one might expect the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, unelected and accountable to no-one, to strut her stuff and pontificate hypocritically about the importance of democracy and human rights.

But yesterday David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, stole the show and became the first world leader to visit Egypt and nudge the revolution towards democracy and civilian rule. The Spectator termed it the Prime Minister’s ‘Garibaldi moment’, noting that the Italian military leader is one of his great heroes, and that he admires Garibaldi’s ‘romantic nationalism'.

While His Grace prefers muscular patriotism, the Prime Minister is to be credited with putting his foreign policy where his Munich speech was, for he pointedly snubbed the Muslim Brotherhood, saying he wanted young people to see there was an alternative to ‘extreme Islamist opposition’. Which is just as well, considering the Brotherhood’s new-found messiah Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi yesterday called for the immediate assassination of Colonel Gaddafi.

Fatwa foreign policy doesn’t augur well for an Egypt under the aegis of the Brotherhood.

Mr Cameron’s leadership in the Middle East is that of the statesman, not the salesman; it is born of democratic conviction, not superficial sophistry. So let us today thank God that someone is answering the prayers of President Obama, ‘...that violence in Egypt will end, and the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realised’.

Because Baroness Ashton isn’t listening to the still small voice.

But she probably wouldn’t notice the hurricane either.

We must pray for the rulers and people of Egypt, and of Bahrain, and of Libya. And hope that David Cameron’s new-found ethical foreign policy shines a little light into the region’s troubled darkness and despair.

It’s just a great pity - a truly (and literally) great shame - that he has allowed his righteous mission to be muddled with mutterings of murky arms sales. There’s no point planning a coup de théâtre if you’re going to allow your climactic moment of soliloquy to be upstaged by spear carriers: it is a poor director who allows the bit-part players to steal the spotlight from the protagonist.

For all the talk of a much-strengthened and more-focused backroom team at No10 of political movers and strategic shakers, where is the stage manager? Where is the mise-en-scène? Where is the intuitive communication? Where is the conceptual coherence?

Sell arms, if you have to, on the back of promises not to repress a population.

But remember that such promises are regularly broken with impunity: when you sell bombs and bullets to Middle East dictators, Arab autocrats and military juntas, they have a habit of being used to snuff out the lives of those who yearn for democracy and dream of liberty. And so the hopes of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of association are sacrificed on the altar of national trade interests. If the price of job creation back home is a few martyrs to shari’a and executions under Islamic blasphemy laws, it seems to be a price worth paying.

Michael Burleigh in the Mail quotes Edmund Burke, who warned that ‘very plausible schemes, with very pleasing commencements, have often shameful and lamentable consequences’.

He who lives by the sword, and all that.

Blessed are the peacemakers, certainly.

But it is more blessed to give democracy than to receive defence procurement contracts.

And even more blessed to have the nous not to permit the one to be conflated or confused with the other.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cut the Royals - literally

These disgusting posters have been appearing on bus shelters and payphones across North London. Prince William and Katherine Middleton are depicted beneath a guillotine dripping blood under the the heading "Cut the Royals, Not Public Services". No group has (yet) claimed responsibility, but this anti-Government campaign is not only the most shocking example of 'anti-cuts' activism yet seen in Britain; it must constitute a clear incitment to violence or murder.

Local resident Justin Hinchcliffe, Deputy Chairman of Tottenham Conservatives, said: "I saw these posters as I walked past Seven Sisters tube station today. I just could not believe them at first. I did a double-take, then tried to check who had published them--they look professionally printed. But there was no clue on the posters themselves who had distributed them."

Mr Hinchcliffe added: "This is just sick. Most people round here are looking forward to the Royal Wedding like everyone else. BT and Haringey Council should urgently remove these posters and the Police should track down whoever is responsible. It just proves how the anti-cuts lobby is being infiltrated by dangerous extremists."

Al-Qaradawi returns to Cairo

After a 50-year exile, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has returned to Cairo to preach his particular bloody interpretation of Islam to more than a million followers. He is a Muslim Brotherhood cleric who advocates the slaughter of Jews, supports wife-beating and female genital mutilation, and is positively effusive about the execution of apostates and homosexuals. He is also the spiritual adviser for the Palestinian Authority terrorist group, Hamas.

He has been banned from Egypt since 1961, but found refuge in the UK and was welcomed with open arms by Ken Livingstone.

The Sheikh’s message to his adoring faithful was foreboding: “Don't fight history,” he exhorted. “You can't delay the day when it starts.”

And he means a little more by ‘it’ than the revolutionary movement for democracy which has toppled the governments of Tunisia and Egypt, and now threatens those of Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Algeria. Indeed, he doesn’t hope for democracy at all, except as a means to sharia. For those who have ears, ‘it’ is a hope that the revolutionary spirit is more contiguous with the 1979 Shi’a triumph in Iran. “The Arab world has changed,” he proclaimed. This is the Sunni moment.

While al-Qaradawi was a guest in the UK, he founded the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), of which he is still president. Its aim is world conquest and ‘the manifestation of Allah's infinite mercy, knowledge and wisdom’.

“What remains, then, is to conquer Rome,” he strategised in 1995. “The second part of the omen. ‘The city of Hiraq (Constantinople) will be conquered first’, so what remains is to conquer Rome. This means that Islam will come back to Europe for the third time, after it was expelled from it twice… Conquest through Da'wa (proselytising), that is what we hope for. We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America! Not through sword but through Da'wa.”

Understandably, this has been greeted with a little alarm in Israel. Mindful of 1979 Iran, The Jerusalem Post observes: ‘Egypt gets its Khomeni’:
There is no doubt. Qaradawi, not bin Laden, is the most dangerous revolutionary Islamist in the world, and he is about to unleash the full force of his persuasion on Egypt.
Taking Egypt out of the hands of President Mubarak and putting it under the motherly gaze of the military has permitted the Islamist forces to return. All the West (and Israel) can do is stand by passively as a pro-Islamist chairman presides over the committee to write the new constitution.

Cairo has found its charismatic cleric; the long-prophesied saviour has returned to his homeland to lead Egypt to the Promised Land flowing with the blood of Jews and the persecution of non-believers. Only the Muslim Brotherhood practise ‘true’ Islam. Only they understand the final revelation of Allah to Mohammed, and it does not involve peace treaties with Israel or two-state solutions. The theo-political line is clear: ‘anti-American, anti-Western, wipe Israel off the map, foment jihad, stone short, the works’.

Sheikh al-Qaradawi has seen how democracy has won for Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and he has every reason to believe that it will do the same for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

He contends that the three major threats Muslims face are Zionism, internal integration and globalisation. To survive, he argues, Muslims must fight the Zionists, Crusaders, idolators and Communists.

The Jerusalem Post concludes: ‘Make no mistake, Qaradawi is not some fossilized Islamic ideologue. He is brilliant and innovative, tactically flexible and strategically sophisticated. He is subtle enough to sell himself as a moderate to those who don’t understand the implications of his words or able to look beneath the surface of his presentation.’

Well, he fooled Ken Livingstone.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gordon Brown attacks ‘holier than thou’ politicians who claim religious sanction for their actions

It is not often that His Grace’s ashes roll on the floor laughing their ass off, or whatever the idiom is, but if reports of Gordon Brown’s sermon at Lambeth Palace are true, then Tony Blair was quite wrong to talk of Gordon Brown as merely lacking in ‘emotional intelligence’: he is has profound mental problems and suffers from psychotic delusions and thought disorders which suggest a degree of schizophrenia.

Apparently, Mr Brown delivered a sermon in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he poured scorn upon political types who have the audacity to make an appeal to sacred Scripture as the divine inspiration for political philosophy and praxis.

His Grace is honoured. An entire sermon, all crafted for him. Bless you, Mr Brown. Bless you.

The full speech may be found here. Highlights include:
"We know here in the West that what may begin as a benign attempt by a politician to explain their religious motivation too often ends with the spectacle of them hinting that God has sanctioned or ordained a course of action..."

"Whether in foreign affairs – perhaps hinting at a justification for weapons or a war – or in domestic affairs – perhaps justifying intrusive laws in deeply personal matters best resolved in the privacy of conscience and family. To claim or imply divine sanction for a political cause is wrong not just because it is politically unacceptable: it is wrong to me because it is religiously unacceptable too. We cannot claim that God is on our side: the most we can do is hope that we are on God's side."
There is, of course, some truth in this: despite how His Grace’s blog may sometimes appear, he does not believe that the creator of the universe is a eurosceptic Anglican Tory.

But what is the point of having a faith if it may not be invoked to justify political decisions?

If one is a Christian in politics, should one not try to do the right thing according to one’s conscience? And is that conscience not seared by the Word of God and illuminated by the Holy Spirit?

Abortion? Embryo research? Poverty alleviation? Housing the homeless? Fair taxation? Justice for the oppressed?

Alastair Campbell may have declared ‘We don't do God’. But, on leaving office, Tony Blair not only swiftly converted to Roman Catholicism; he admitted that his faith was ‘hugely important’ in influencing his decisions.

And so it should have been. The shame was that he chose to dissemble and deny; hide his light under a bushel, as it were; cram Jesus into a dark corner, for fear of being thought a ‘nutter’.

Perhaps with his predecessor in mind, Gordon Brown criticised those ‘pious politicians’ who assume an attitude of moral superiority:
"There is a genuine worry that people have about involving faith in politics; the dangers of an attitude of moral superiority, born of a 'holier than thou' stance or conviction.

"The suggestion that somebody is a more moral person simply by virtue of having faith or having a particular faith is, I believe, a perversion of the religious idea itself."

This is the man who 'did God' quite a few times when it suited him, with appeals to a 'Christian country', or appearances on Songs of Praise. And let us not forget the real reason (here, here, here and here) he invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit the UK during a general election year.

The Christian in politics is commanded to be salt and light; to live out his faith and witness for the truth in season and out. They can expect persecution, ridicule and scorn, including allegations of being ‘holier than thou’ and of perverting the faith.

It is bizarre that Gordon Brown, the son of a Presbyterian minister, should align himself with the aggressive secularists in censoring the Christian inspiration of morality and virtue in the political realm. At the very time when some minority faiths are flexing their muscles with impunity (indeed, being encouraged to do so), the Christians are manifesting shame, under the guise of humility, for fear of being accused of being a ‘nutter’ or of claiming ‘moral superiority’.

His Grace would like to remind Mr Brown that the Bible is the living Word of God and that Jesus is alive. If you wish to equate the greed of the bankers with the money changers in the temple, that is your prerogative as a believer. If you wish to talk of the markets or the environment with references to man’s stewardship over creation, that is your charge. If you wish to take the country to war to guard against the oppressor with references to the liberation of captives, that is your moral principle. If you wish to alleviate poverty, strengthen marriage and talk of the rearing of children with reference to your faith, that is your duty. If you wish to talk of sin, it is your obligation.

Appeals to the Christian inspiration of political philosophy and the formulation of political policy does not negate reason or circumvent the need for rational deliberation.

It is only the aggressive secularists and other anti-Christians who seek to persuade us otherwise.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

John Strafford, Conservatives4AV and Conservative Party democracy

There is an excellent article in today's Guardian about the internal tensions within both the main political parties on the question of AV. His Grace's readers and communicants know very well where he stands on the proposed reform (if not, see here and here). But he does respect the principle of free speech and foundation of democracy, and David Cameron has said that the AV referendum is effectively a matter of conscience: there is a soft party line, but members are free to vote either way.

It is baffling, therefore, why stalwarts of Conservative Party democracy have been barred by CCHQ from manifesting a Yes2AV presence at the forthcoming Spring Conference. If it is a free vote, both sides need to be provided with a platform to expound their views. Or is this censorship more a case of the Party Chairman/men/woman 'having issues' with the messenger? If John Strafford - who virtually single-handedly spread Party democracy to embrace the Conservatives of Northern Ireland - is not permitted conference floor space (he isn't requesting a speaking slot) to debate a legitimate issue on which there is no consensus or whip, what hope is there for frank debate on any matter of official policy? Such a heavy-handed, top-down approach does not augur well for the newly-(re-)launched Conservative Party Forum.

What is it which makes the Conservative Party exempt from the Prime Minister's commitment to localism, devolution, subsidiarity and democracy? While the Leader preaches the gospel of demos, the Party practises kratos.

Surely the Leader is not a centralising control-freak. Surely he is not a hypocrite. Surely he would not talk of shifting power from the state to the citizens and from Whitehall to town halls while centralising his own bureaucracy. Surely he would not preach the liberating mantra of ‘let the people decide’ while actually empowering his party’s unaccountable technocrats to thwart the popular will.

If the flourishing, literate, mature, responsible and civil local Conservative associations are not ready for democracy, what makes the Prime Minister believe the town halls are?

It gives His Grace no pleasure at all to ask these questions. But how can one persuade the electorate that one stands for something out of conviction if one’s instinct is to practise the contrary? Is a man not better judged by his actions than by his words?

Come on, CCHQ. Trust a little. Risk a little. Permit a little open, honest and frank debate in the Spring Forum. You might even find that John Strafford talks a little sense - though not on AV ;o)

Tough on Islamism; tough on the causes of Islamism

A guest post by LibertyPhile

ENGAGE says it is dedicated to promoting the involvement of British Muslims in politics and the media. That might well be the case but it is half the story. ENGAGE has its own political agenda that it wants to push.

Over a recent six month period ENGAGE published on the top page of its website 236 news items.

A quarter concerned British policy in the Middle East, Israel, Zionism or Jews, of a critical or negative nature; 12% concerned British anti-terror policies and actions (e.g., body scanners at airports are a bad idea, they interfere with freedom of religion!) and 8% concerned attacks or criticism of other Muslims especially those who show they are integrated in any way in British society, such as Yasmin Alibhai Brown (she doesn’t like the Burqa or veiling), the Quilliam Foundation, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, and Taj Hargey.

This is nearly half their news coverage. Typical headlines are shown below.

ENGAGE can say what it likes about British foreign policy and even Ms Alibhai Brown but it most certainly cannot claim to bring impartiality to the secretariat of the recently formed All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia. Its appointment to that position is causing astonishment.

And what about people who don’t agree with stoning? Shenaz Bunglawala, Head of Research of ENGAGE now has a parliamentary pass. Mr Inayat Bunglawala, an ENGAGE Advisor on Research and Policy, and a former spokesperson of the Muslim Council of Britain, is on public record as saying that stoning (torturing someone to death) for adultery (yes, for adultery) is OK if that is what people want for their legal system.

Do we now have the possibility that any criticism of stoning will be considered Islamophobic?

It is not clear from the ENGAGE website if Mr Bunglawala is still formally connected with the organisation. In fact there is nothing on the website about the people behind ENGAGE.

Typical ENGAGE headlines:
Liberty warn Tory MP of legal action if he refuses to meet veiled constituents

Alibhai-Brown continues her shrill crusade against Burqa and Niqab-wearers

Tories promise pro-Israel groups that war crimes legislation will be amended

A look at Britain 's Abu Ghraib

'Archly conservative' group accuses EU of undermining Israeli democracy

ENGAGE writes to Home Secretary Theresa May on Dr Zakir Naik’s exclusion order

The relevance of the burqa to stabbing of Stephen Timms MP? (it isn’t)

Conservatives reiterate support for Zionist goals in desperate bid for votes

ENGAGE Consultation Response: Use of advanced imaging technology in an aviation security environment (it interferes with freedom of religion)

Conservatives reiterate support for Zionist goals in desperate bid for votes

ENGAGE writes to OSCT about Quilliam's attack on Islam Channel

Special Branch accused of intimidating Scottish Muslims into spying for them

ENGAGE critique of Quilliam report: 'Re-programming British Muslims'

Cameron pledges support for Zionist goals in Jewish Chronicle interview

Surprise, surprise: Taj Hargey condemns mosque application in Surrey

UK Government conspires to grant immunity to Israeli war criminals

Tory MP mocks burqa-wearers in parliament

UK Government was briefed beforehand by Israeli Mossad of fake passport use

Daily Telegraph columnist confuses UK 's interests with Israel 's interests

For Israel , a reckoning

Government faces widespread criticism for 'futile' ban on Islam4UK but gains support of Quilliam and British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD)

UK Stop & Search policy ruled illegal

UK Government factsheet shows clear bias towards Israel

Khalid Mahmood MP and BMSD voice support for profiling Muslim passengers

His Grace woud like to add that Harry's Place makes rather concerning reading on the issues surrounding iEngage. And His Grace is rather confused (actually, quite sincerely) as to how the Prime Minister can, on the one head, pledge himself to the eradication of Islamism and the causes of Islsamism, and, on the other, say absolutely nothing about the appointment of iEngage as the Secretariat for the APPG on Islamophobia. As is observed:
There is a real danger that iEngage will seek to prevent non or anti-Islamist Muslims from participating fully in the APPG, and will use it as a platform to attack, not those who hate Muslims, but those who are critical of Islamist political parties. The potentially important findings and recommendations of the APPG will be undermined by the involvement of iEngage.
Frankly, His Grace wonders why there is as yet no APPG to examine Christianophobia. He can hardly wait to see which Christian extremists are appointed to its secretariat.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Parliament is accountable not only to the electorate but to God"

According to Johann Hari in The Independent, that is the defence of the Rt Rev Lord Harries of Prentregarth for the retention of 26 Church of England bishops in the House of Lords.

He pours scorn upon it, of course, as one might expect of someone of his political disposition and liberal inclination with a whole packet of chips on each shoulder. But he discloses for the first time what His Grace has long expected: that Nick Clegg's reforms to the Upper House will not remove the bishops, but will instead halve their number and 'complement' them with a multifaith mishmash of unelected religious types, including an imam, a rabbi and a couple of enlightened pundits. It cannot include a cardinal, unless by special papal dispensation, and it remains to be seen if the Jedi Master will be treated equally.

Throughout his secularist rant, Johann Hari mentions (again and again) that only Iran and the UK have unelected clerics in their legislatures, as though the benign Anglican theocracy were equivalent to the malignant Islamic theocracy of the ayatollahs. To Hari, defending the religious conscience against aggressive expressions of homosexualism is tantamount to hanging homosexuals by the neck until they are dead.

The Church of England has defended the role of bishops in the Lords saying it helps 'connect the second chamber with the people, parishes and regions of England, not just their own worshippers. In an age where the role of religion in shaping social and moral attitudes is increasingly recognised to be highly significant, the idea of shaping the second chamber on a purely secular model would be a retrograde step'.

Prayers before each session of Parliament to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ are not some anachronistic absurdity in need of relegation to the private realm: they remind politicians that they are not omnipotent. Prayer moves us to the spiritual realm, and encourages politicians to reflect on their transience and relative insignificance: in short, it keeps them humble.

To tamper with the Anglican bishops or to grant other faiths an equivalent privilege in the House of Lords is a further step on the road of disestablishment: there will be a plethora of unintended consequences. Yet it is ironic that an atheist deputy prime minister, instead of secularising the Chamber, is intent on making it even more religious in its expression.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Andrew Cooper moves in to No10 to eradicate the 'vile' Tory instinct

Tim Montgomerie is an honourable sort of chap. He is nothing but decent, scrupulously fair, and as a primary source of information he would be impeccable. So when he tweets that Andrew Cooper, the Prime Minister’s new Director of Strategy, has said that the Conservative Party’s grass roots are ‘vile’, there is no reason to disbelieve that it was said.

And when Mr Cooper denies it, insisting that Mr Montgomerie has ‘attributed views to me that I do not hold and have never held’, it is for the historian to discern the more reliable source.

He can't be much of a strategist if he is so free with his derogatory opinions of that which he is now employed to guard, disseminate and propagate.

This may not be of little interest to many, but politics is so lacking in honour, integrity and trust that an injection of openness, transparency and honesty can only be a good thing: light, disinfectant and all that. And if, as reported, Mr Cooper is so disparaging of the Conservative Party’s rank and file – their dedication, loyalty, instincts and political priorities – one has to wonder what strategic direction he will be advising the Prime Minister to take.

The Daily Mail reports that Tim Montgomerie also said he had been told by an 'impeccable source' that Mr Cooper argued in 2000 that the 'ultimate modernisation' would be for the Tories to become pro-euro: 'Not because it was morally right, not because it was economically sensible, not because the euro was popular with voters but because it would show that the Conservative Party had changed,' Mr Montgomerie said.

‘Change’ is the vacuous Obama mantra. And look where it got him. The nation is crying out for moral integrity and political conviction, not sophistry and salesmanship. One glimpses something of the Cooper view of the Cameron project in an article he wrote on the run-up to the 2010 General Election. He spoke of:
David Cameron striving to substantiate his assertion that he is a ‘modern, compassionate Conservative’ committed to the NHS, in touch with ordinary working people and caring about the vulnerable...
as though it were a lost cause. Tim Montgomerie also said Mr Cooper, a former member of the SDP, had attacked William Hague's pro-family policies as 'outdated, exclusive and wrong' and claimed the party showed 'no respect for minorities'.

If it is true that he believes pro-family policies to be ‘outdated, exclusive and wrong’, God knows what he must think of Iain Duncan Smith’s mission. He appears to be convinced that the Conservatives really are the ‘nasty party’.

According to ConservativeHome, Andrew Cooper’s decontamination priorities are all about race, gender and sexuality. He argues for ‘whatever it takes’ to get more women and ethnic minority candidates. And his views on the EU, tax and immigration are manifestly antithetical to those of mainstream Conservatives.

And so a picture begins to emerge of a Prime Minister ill at ease with his party’s right wing, and a Parliamentary Party ill at ease with its voluntary wing. For it is not only the Downing Street Director of Strategy who thinks Conservative Party members are ‘vile’: the Party Chairman Baroness Warsi has made it clear that she has little time for the Tory right (and so the vast majority of members). And this revelation follows hard upon those recently made; that the Party faithful are made up of ‘dinosaurs’, ‘backwoodsmen’ and the ‘Turnip Taliban’.

It is one thing to wish to ‘decontaminate’ and reach out to the ‘middle ground’. But it is quite another to do it at the expense of one’s core vote. The Conservative Party leadership might just consider that these vile turnips, dinosaurs and backwoodsmen are not all out-of-touch, anachronistic eccentrics, but often intelligent and discerning individuals possessing of more conservative philosophy in their little fingers than some of the Party’s key strategists appear to manifest in their entire beings.

Those who have consistently and unwaveringly voted for the Conservative Party have done so because they are conservatives. The trudge from door to door; spend hours on the phone; and hold their coffee mornings and bridge evenings because they are convinced of the rightness of their cause. They have the innate intelligence to see beyond the superficial, anodyne and banal. Their notion of diversity is more than skin deep: it is not dependent on gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability, but on profession, achievement, religion, philosophy and worldview. The shifting sands of a nebulous and platitudinous ecumenical ‘broad appeal’ are no substitute for the rock of the ‘broad church’ laity.

Irritating we may be; 'vile' we are not.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Niall Ferguson tells it like it is on Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood

Is it not a cause of great rejoicing that this brilliant Harvard scholar is advising Michael Gove on reforms to the history curriculum? The Guardian, naturally, thinks not. And it is exceedingly unlikely that he will ever be asked back by MSNBC.

"Hindus drink their own piss" - an unregulated curriculum for a faith-based academy

"The disbelievers, they are the worst of all people. The Hindus drink piss, I've told you this. Do they have any intellect? No."
Welcome to this morning's assembly, boys and girls. In accordance with our statutory obligations in our daily act of collective worship, we are going to talk of something that is 'broadly Christian': the filth that is those who do not believe in Islam; the fact that Hindus drink their own piss; and the belief that idolators have no intellect. Do we all know the difference between fact and belief? No? Well, when I say what I believe, it is a fact. And if you disrespect that, I'll hit you. Hard. Understand? Good.

Anyone who saw last night's C4 Dispatches 'Lessons in Hate and Violence' on the 'Muslim Eton' must be wondering today how the LibDem MP John Hemming can possibly defend this school and assert that it is 'doing its job properly' (yes, a professing liberal defending 'hate speech', social segregation, religious apartheid and the beating of children).

The accusations that C4 'distorted the truth' and took quotations 'out of context' are exactly the sort of knee-jerk defence offered against their previous documentary 'Undercover Mosque'. The school has apparently closed early for half-term, out of fear of attacks by the English Defence League.


Does the EDL have a history of violent action against schools or threats against children? Have specific ones been received? If so, investigations must be immediate and arrests made. But His Grace is of the view that the school's premature closure is nothing to do with the C4 documentary being 'ideal fodder for the EDL'. It has closed because of the truth, and it is a truth which has been long-known: in some sharia schools, children are beaten and abused, and the authorities - police, social services, LEA, MPs - have turned a blind eye for the sake of multicultural sensitivites.

If corporal punishment is prohibited in all state and independent schools – as the 1998 School Standards and Framework Act clearly intended – then it is difficult to see why madrasahs are exempt.

Do not Muslim children have an equal right under the law as those of other faiths to be protected from abuse? Why are we tolerating a culture of violence and physical oppression in some Islamic schools while all the others are constrained by law to encourage, uplift, edify and generally mollycoddle and wrap in cotton wool? Good grief, pupils are not now even permitted to come last in a sporting event or fail an exam lest their fragile egos be deflated and their delicate sense of self-worth be damaged, causing life-long developmental trauma and irreparable emotional retardation.

The Prime Minister has pledged to cease the toleration of this malignant manifestation of religio-political poison: all children must be equal under the law, and Muslim children in Britain should expect to be protected against this sort of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical abuse. To teach that the non-Muslim is dirty, that Hindus 'drink their own piss' and that they 'have no intellect' is the very genesis of the Islamist supremacist ideology. The Prime Minister has signalled that he understands this. We would not tolerate a school teaching such things against Jews, so why does the Education Secretary not order an immediate investigation and invasive Ofsted inspection?

Ah, there's the problem: 'invasive Ofsted inspection' is something of an oxymoron, for schools like this are given a clean bill of health by HM Inspectorate of Education every year. Ofsted obligingly send headteachers days of notice - ample time to stow away the sharia textbooks; encourage problem pupils to take a few days off; prime the staff with the right things to say and hand-pick the most favoured children to sing the school's praises. And the headteacher has at least two days to rehearse a jolly nice show of social cohesion and inter-faith respect.

The tragedy is not that C4 have misrepresented the school, as ludicrously asserted by John Hemming MP (mindful of his electorate), but that all faith schools, and, in particular, all Muslim schools, will be tarnished with the same brush and viewed with the same suspicion. This is 'ideal fodder' not for the EDL, but for the aggressive secularists at the BHA and the NSS, whose song sheet is tediously monotone in calling for the abolition of all faith-based education.

Thank God the Coalition is not taking us down that desert path. It is a fundamentally Conservative principle that parents must be free to educate their children as they wish. But this must be in accordance with the customs and traditions of the country, in particular with the foundational tenets of liberal democracy. It is for this reason that we must maintain the 'broadly Christian' dimension of state-based education - in the curriculum and in the daily assembly, for that which is 'broadly Christian' can be offensive to no-one. Clearly, some extremist schools are failing to fulfil their statutory obligations. A few week ago, Michael Gove announced: "A due diligence unit will monitor applications for new schools and arrangements in existing schools so there's no risk of extremism taking hold."

This is long overdue. And still we await the details.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gay marriage in church?

It has been reported all over the media that the Government is intent on permitting ‘gay marriage’ to be performed in churches.

This is untrue.

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone is preparing a Bill to allow all religious venues – churches, synagogues, mandirs, gurdwaras and mosques to perform homosexual unions if they wish, and to permit sacred scriptures and religious paraphernalia to be used in civil partnership ceremonies. There is no compulsion or coercion of anyone, and the state is not redefining marriage, for it cannot.

His Grace will now horrify and disappoint the vast majority of his readers and communicants and declare that he fully endorses this development.

The prohibition on the use of pseudo-spiritual poems in civil ceremonies is absurd: it amounts to state censorship and an enforced division between the private realm of spiritual belief and the public realm of political policy. If consenting adults wish to read the Bible, the Qur’an, the Gita, the Upinishads or a divine piece of Shakespeare as they make their vows, that should be a matter for them. We do not have a tradition of laïcité in the country, and the fundamentalist secularisation of society amounts to the systematic elimination of all religion from public life. Conservatives should see such a violation of conscience and property rights as utterly abhorrent.

And if two consenting adult Muslims wish to trundle off to their local mosque to get their gay-friendly imam to pray Allah’s blessing upon their happy union whilst facing towards Mecca and declaring the greatness of God and the eternal prophethood of Mohammed, that really ought to be a matter for the contracting parties and the president of the ceremony. In the pantheon of gods amidst the plethora of religious manifestations, the state does not define what is religiously permissible and what is prohibited, unless it transgress the law of the land. Having legalised civil partnership, it is bizarre to permit ceremonies to be performed in the Palace of Westminster whilst barring them from Finsbury Park Mosque. The state should have no interest other than in the licence of partnership by which property rights may be determined in law.

This is not simply a matter for the Church: although, as the established faith of the nation, with 26 bishops sitting in the Upper House, it is overwhelmingly so. Yet the Labour peer, Waheed Alli, who is a gay Muslim, has been more vocal on this matter than most of the lord-bishops. His proposal to permit the introduction of religious texts and language into same-sex civil partnerships should be welcomed, for it is no business of the state to sanctify what many may consider profane: it is a matter of religious liberty.

But His Grace would like to make a few things clear:

There is perhaps a justifiable concern that this development will lead to demands by militant homosexuals – the homosexualists, who are intent on terrorising Christians and the destruction of the traditional family – to get ‘married’ in a church (perceived to be the weakest religious institution and so the most vulnerable to legal challenge). Such a request will be rejected by a local vicar with the support of his bishop, and the church will be embroiled in a plethora of anti-discrimination lawsuits.

The homosexualists will not, of course, take on their local mosque.

And they are also likely to leave the Roman Catholic Church well and truly alone.

It is the Established Church they are out to destroy, and so will be encouraged in their quest by the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association, whose aims and objectives happen to coincide with the homosexualist agenda. Parliament must address this head-on, and place an assurance in the Statute Book that the exercising of the religious conscience cannot be a violation of equality legislation. In short, Parliament must assert freedom of religion, not simply sustain freedom of worship.

Secondly, marriage cannot be redefined by a mere Act of Parliament, for it is God’s ordinance and not man’s. As Anglican Mainstream observe:
‘Civil partnerships are not marriage. The legal protections available to civil partnerships should not be confused with marriage. Marriage between a man and a woman is God's provision for human flourishing. Research has shown that it offers the best environment for the care and nurture of children and family stability which our society needs today.’
It is Parliament which has approved and licensed His Grace’s Prayer Book for common usage and this contains the marriage liturgy which clearly defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Unless Parliament is intent on foisting a whole new liturgy of marriage on the Church and redefining what has been orthodox Christian belief for millennia, there can be no move to reclassify civil partnership as marriage.

Thirdly, there are the unintended consequences of tampering with the traditional definition of marriage. Some of them may be known unknowns, like state-approved polygamy or heterosexual divorce versus civil partnership ‘dissolution’. In cases of non-consummation, a heterosexual couple may legitimately divorce. But civil partners do not consummate their union. If they are to become ‘married’, may they divorce on all terms equal with heterosexuals? If so, may non-consummation become an indisputable reason in the courts? The unknown unknowns will be even more interesting, and will undoubtedly give rise to insurmountable hurdles and unresolvable conflicts.

Johann Hari gives an glimpse into the future, of a time when consenting incestuous behaviour is no business of the state.

His Grace notes that his successor in the See of Canterbury has been decidedly trappist on this dog’s breakfast, leaving it to the Archbishop of York to articulate the Church’s view. He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr show: “I live in a liberal democracy and I want equality for everybody. I cannot say the Quakers shouldn’t do it. Nor do I want somebody to tell me the Church of England must do it or the Roman Catholic Church must do it because actually that is not what equality is about.”


Sunday, February 13, 2011

The ‘Big Society’ is to David Cameron what ‘Education, education, education’ was to Tony Blair

As Tony Blair ascended the political mountain, he proclaimed his core philosophy to be ‘Education. Education. Education’. David Cameron must be careful that his ‘Big Society’ does not prove to be as vacuous and disingenuous. After more than a decade of Blairite education reform and billions of pounds, we were assured time and again that things were getting better and results were improving. But objectively, we saw the calibre of the nation’s education quantitatively diminished: according to the OECD's comprehensive world education ranking report for 2010, by the end of the New Labour era the UK had fallen to 11th place in Science; sunk to 20th place in Reading; and plummeted to 22nd place in Maths.

Ergo Tony Blair failed.

In the Big Society, we glimpse David Cameron’s core philosophy. A few weeks ago His Grace observed that the Prime Minister was habitually negating a third of his Foundation-for-Government course, his Oxford PPE degree. We were getting lots of Politics, a manifest primacy of Economics, but zero Philosophy. What’s the point of a tripartite degree if you’re going to ditch cohesive element; the glue that binds; the rhythm which beats at the heart; the piece which makes sense of the whole?

By turning again to his ‘Big Society’ vision – which he should never have permitted to be hijacked by the ‘cuts’ narrative – the Prime Minister is undertaking a wholly necessary political pursuit, for it is the policy by which his premiership succeeds or fails. It is the mantra that people most remember from the time he became Party leader: his constant refrain was ‘Broken Britain’ and how he intended to fix it. Much more than the economy, the ‘Big Society’ entered the public consciousness as David Cameron’s political priority.

But he never expounded it. People had a sense of understanding of the meaning of ‘Education, education, education’. But the ‘Big Society’ remains undefined, nebulous and opaque. Certainly, the Conservative Party didn’t win the General Election, but the ‘Big Society’ idea was a perfect unifying policy for the Coalition; indeed, the formation of a Conservative-LibDem partnership augured well for the vision, because it is both liberal and democratic. David Cameron’s plans for free schools are both liberal and democratic; his plans for a ‘pupil premium’ for the most challenging pupils are both liberal and democratic; his desire to redistribute NHS funding to the areas with the lowest life expectancy is both liberal and democratic. His opposition to further taxes on jobs is both liberal and democratic; his desire for lower personal taxation is both liberal and democratic; his opposition to ID cards is both liberal and democratic. And what liberal and democrat could possibly resile from the Conservatives’ proposed reforms to Parliament – that of granting the electorate the right to recall their MP, and petition for a parliamentary debate?

What went wrong?

He allowed this Conservative-led Government to be tarnished (again) with the primacy of economics. Mammon, materialism and the market are perceived to be his primary concerns, such that any and every policy (even the proposal for forestry privatisation) is perceived to be about money, not about the size of the state.

You couldn’t actually be much more ‘Big Society’ than to implement the break-up of the self-regulating monolithic Forestry Commission, and place woodland into local ownership making it accountable to democratic bodies. But the policy appears now to have been placed in a swift reverse gear. Why?

A massive failure of communication.

The Prime Minister needs to remind us of his core conviction: that big government is a big part of the big problem, and that it exacerbates the nation’s social problems. He needs to talk about personal and social responsibility, liberated from state control, which fosters fraternity, strengthens families, inculcates respect and permits the application of common sense. He needs to remember that there is little point in making ‘free schools’ to improve social mobility if children are nurtured in a state-induced poverty trap which actively discriminates against married couples. He must bring some ‘joined-up’ thinking to his education reforms by actively supporting families and backing commitment. He must tackle drug abuse, alcohol abuse, family breakdown and the worst rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe not by pouring in more billions of pounds, but by liberating people from inhuman state interference, monolithic state surveillance and oppressive state control.

If David Cameron wants a ‘Big Society’, he must bring ‘We the people’ into his thinking. And to do that, he must devolve and trust. But if he will not do that within his own party, he is not likely to achieve it in the country. The ‘Big Society’ is about personal and collective responsibility – the Church has been doing it for centuries. And that irrefutable fact calls for humility on the part of the Prime Minister: instead of criticising and lecturing church leaders, he might just sit at their feet and learn about the church’s centuries of experience in educating children, feeding the poor, housing the homeless and ensuring justice for the oppressed.

The ‘Big Society’ is a true Conservative vision: it respects the individual, embraces diversity and empowers community. It shows faith, deep faith, in mankind as the vehicle of compassion, of neighbourliness, of love. It demands the bottom-up participation of the traditional institutions – family, church, charities, community and country. So any attack on the family, any negation of religious freedom and any denigration of our instinctive patriotism is an offence against the ‘Big Society’: you cannot force families or coerce charities or the church into doing what’s right when you pursue policies and issue diktats which are wrong.

There is a balance to be struck between liberalism and conservatism. And that ought to be at the heart of every policy. If David Cameron really believes that strong families lead to strong societies, he must put his policies where his heart is. If he believes that the church is indispensible to social cohesion, he must harness its strengths and build on its conservative values and roll back the immoral cultural revolution.

The ‘Big Society’ is to David Cameron what ‘Education. Education. Education’ was to Tony Blair, and the Prime Minister must make sure it does not go the same way. The concept is not only in need of urgent definition, but targets must be set in order that progress may be measured and data verified qualitatively and quantitatively. If there can be no empirical verification, we cannot know if David Cameron has succeeded in delivering. And if we cannot know if he has succeeded in implementing his vision, we cannot know what manner of prime minister he was: a great reforming one or just another sophist and salesman.
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