Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 will be a year of constitutional reform

Just as the Conservative Party is having to deal with the economic mess bequeathed (again) by Labour, so too will they begin to grapple with the constitutional dog’s breakfast they inherited.

There will be a referendum on changing the voting system from FPTP to AV. No party proposed it in their manifestos, and almost no-one wants it: it is no more proportionate than FPTP and solves none of the irregularities thrown up by that system. It does not address the disconnect between the electorate and the elected, and neither does it address the crisis in our democracy.

The whole exercise will be a complete waste of money as everyone will be distracted by the Royal Wedding, which is a constitutional development of sorts, providing, as it does, the stable foundation for further royal progeny to inherit the Throne and lead the Church.

The House of Lords cannot be left as it is: having abolished the vast majority of hereditary peers, neither Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown were able to persuade Parliament towards a logical end-game. To leave it as it is would be bizarre, not to say a constitutional outrage: there is simply no rationale for retaining an ‘hereditary element’ when previous reforms were predicated upon the abolition of that principle on democratic grounds.

2011 sees the centenary of the 1911 Parliament Act by which the Liberal Government ended the power of the House of Lords to block the annual budget. The Liberal dimension is not lost on some, so it is conjectured that, having failed to convert the country to AV, and in order to sustain the Coalition, Nick Clegg will be given carte blanche to lead reform of the Upper Chamber.

Whether it is wholly elected (by PR) or some elected/appointed hybrid is sustained will determine the extent of Nick Clegg’s success, and even his continuing position as Liberal Democrat leader, for the hybrid would please neither his backbenchers nor his (rapidly-diminishing) supporters.

The thorny question of bishops in the House of Lords will need to be addressed, and Jim Hacker explains why. Again, Labour began a reform by insisting that the Prime Minister should no longer use the royal prerogative ‘to exercise choice in recommending appointments of senior ecclesiastical posts, including diocesan bishops, to the Queen’. This was one of the most significant (though underreported) changes to the relationship between Church and State for generations. Now the Church’s Crown Nominations Commission proposes just one name to the Prime Minister, who then conveys that recommendation to the Queen.

That, in itself, was a step towards disestablishment, which (atheist) Nick Clegg will be keen to build upon: he finds it unacceptable that the Church of England alone should be privileged to have 26 representatives in the Upper House. He wants all faiths represented (doubtless disproportionately), and unless there is some further fudge, this will lead to an almighty constitutional row involving even the Supreme Governor, for the privilege of the Bishops to sit in the Legislature is inherently part of the Establishment settlement, which she swore at her Coronation to preserve and sustain.

Will A Conservative-led coalition really move to disestablish the Church of England?

For if the Bishops be ejected from the Lords, why should the Head of State continue to be Supreme Governor of the Church of England?

There will be other constitutional tinkering, but the House of Lords and Church of England will be quite enough for the Coalition to chew on over the next year.

His Grace will now turn to his (metaphorical) crystal ball and make a few predictions for 2011:

The Coalition will survive, despite a LibDem meltdown in May.

There will be more wars and rumours of war, especially in North/South Korea.

Israel will continue to be portrayed as a pariah state.

There will be terrorist atrocities.

Taxes will rise, people will die.

Jesus will not return, so the Coalition can't dump the Government upon His shoulder.

This last prediction His Grace makes with a high degree of certainty, for there is no sign (yet) of the Tribulation or Rapture, even though the Antichrist is undoubtedly skulking around. There is a slight disclaimer on this prediction, for His Grace is not infallible. But it seems to him that 2011 is a fairly innocuous number which does not draw people to gather under the sky dressed in their Sunday best carrying their Bibles. The number 11 does not equal ‘atonement’ (that is 5), and 20 does not equal ‘completeness’ (that is 10). 2011 does not mean heaven (that is 17), and since Christ was executed on 1st April 33, the interval from that date to 2011 is exactly 1,978 years. If you multiply 1,978 by 365.2422 days (the average number of days in each solar year), you get 722,449 days. Add then an arbitrary 51 days we get the total days since Jesus' execution to 722,500. Now this means the Second Coming will not occur any time during 2011. Further, (5x10x17) x (5x10x17) = 722,500, which is (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven) squared. Unfortunately, the date of Jesus' execution by the Roman occupation army is not precisely known, though it was almost certainly between 29 to 33. If you take the cube root of the year of his death (cubed because he was a Trinity), and multiply it by the years his successor (Elizabeth II) has occupied the Throne of David (Stone of Destiny), you don’t get 2011.

His Grace wishes all of his readers and communicants a happy and blessed New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mohammed was a Liberal Democrat

Is that blasphemous?

Or a compliment?

What if the title had read ‘Mohammed was a Nazi’?

Or a member of the BNP?

Does anachronistic politicising serve any purpose?

Mehdi Hasan, the New Statesman’s Senior Editor (politics), certainly thinks so: to him, Jesus was ‘much more left-wing than the religious right likes to believe’.

Yet, as a Muslim (a particularly devout one), one wonders what he would make of the ascribing to his prophet the confines of a modern political narrative.

His is a crass and superficial piece, manifesting a caricature grasp of ‘the left’ and ‘the right’, quite ignorant of Christian theology and oblivious of 2000 years of socio-political history.

It is not appropriate to apply the terms ‘left-wing’ or ‘right-wing’ to a religio-political discourse on the complex relationship between Jesus and conservatism as the terms did not exist before they were coined based on the seating plan of the pro- and anti-reform groupings in the French Assembly in 1789. But since ‘the right’ has come to mean essentially the thesis of the individual, and ‘the left’ the thesis of the state, to posit that Jesus was ‘much more left-wing’ is absurd.

The ‘Jesus was a Socialist’ arguments are well worn. Over the past 60 years or so, the Labour Party has been seen to eclipse the Conservative Party in such recurrent themes as compassion, social justice and social responsibility. Much has been written on the Christian inspiration and moral purity of the Labour Party and that it ‘owes more to Methodism than Marxism’: the notions of loving one’s neighbour, caring for the poor, housing the homeless and healing the sick have been the great themes which have given the Labour Party its raison d’être. The Christian Socialist Movement in particular has been at the forefront of asserting that socialism is inherent to Christianity, and that a cursory reading of the Bible would confirm this and even that Jesus might vote Labour.

This is the essence of Mehdi Hasan’s thesis.

But he adds nothing new, and it is not remotely original.

Just the same old polemical left-wing tosh, but coming this time from a particularly divisive Muslim.

An obvious problem which Mr Hasan ignores (like all socialists) is that many ‘right-wing’ Christians have derived quite different social, economic and political implications from the same source. As Samuel Beer once observed: ‘Liberals, Radicals, Conservatives, and indeed in their days old Tories and old Whigs had relied on some version of the Biblical message.’

He does not engage with this heritage, but simply chooses to caricature modern expressions of it (like the American ‘religious right’).

But this suits his own ‘Muslim world’ narrative: his is forever a clash of civilisations; good versus evil; left versus right.

The Conservative Party (which presumably Mr Hasan classifies as ‘right-wing’) has always had a strong tradition of social concern and action which is rooted in Protestant Christianity and fused with the establishment of the Church of England. Some of the greatest movements for social reform have been led by Conservatives and their Whig and Tory forebears: Toryism has been as much a public theology as a political creed.

Does Mehdi Hasan have any idea what social projects the US ‘religious right’ are involved in? What they spend millions of dollars on?

Does he know how much they feed the poor, house the homeless or raise money for overseas aid?

Ah, no. Mr Hasan sees only the media narrative of ‘the left’: the American ‘religious right’ is obsessed with homosexuality and abortion.

And Jesus didn’t have an awful lot to say about either: he was busy being a good socialist.

Is ‘One-Nation Conservatism’ left or right? Is ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ left or right? Is David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ vision left or right?

Community is a fundamental human good because commitments and values are shared; the good life demands participation in a political community, and this requires communal participation in a political organisation of the widest scope, such as the nation state. The first of these claims is uncontroversial, and so, to a lesser extent, is the second, since it is concerned with the pursuit of the good through the assertion or acceptance of authority. But the third may be deemed to be incongruous with Mehdi Hasan’s Jesus, who is anti-state, anti-nationalist and anti-dogma.

There has been a sense in which the Church of England has been ‘the glue that binds’ and has furnished a distinct religious identity. The Conservative Party has traditionally embraced this religious dynamic, not least because any institution in a democracy around which the majority may be found to coalesce is a useful mechanism in the public sphere for the formulation of moral unity and the communication or subtle imposition of a notion of the common good. The challenge now for politicians is precisely that of church leaders – to forge a polity and a practical theology in a context in which there is no unity of culture, no unified morality and no shared religious worldview; to grasp the ephemeral spiritual ‘mood’ and the incoherence of the conflicting socio-cultural forces. It is for the Conservative Party under David Cameron to find its via media mode of government – the equilibrium between resistance and adaptation, between assimilation and confrontation, and between ‘neutrality’ and the articulation of confessional Anglican conservatism.

One might think this ought to be a laudable pursuit of ‘the left’ as well.

But they are busy with their clash of civilisations.

And with caricatures of those of us on ‘the right’.

And with worshipping ‘another Jesus’.

In Christ (that is, in the Jesus of the New Testament, which Mr Hasan believes to be corrupt), there is neither political left nor right, but the consistent exhortation to all to recognise the rule of God in their lives and exalt righteousness in the nation.

That, Mr Hasan, may be the honest, sincere and noble pursuit of all believers, however they cast their vote.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

EU abolishes Christmas

You might think this to be one of the ‘Euromyths’ – rights up there with straight bananas, the re-classification as the carrot as a fruit and the EU-wide harmonisation of condom size.

Except that the European Commission really have produced a new religiously-correct daily planner (aimed, naturally, at school children) in which it really is always winter but never Christmas.

Or always Diwali, Hanukkah and Eid but never Christmas, to be precise.

His Grace is loath to exaggerate or distort this story in any way, lest it be classified as just another Euromyth.

These daily planners, of which three million have produced (courtesy of the taxpayer), include the holidays of Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, but there is not one mention of Christian holidays.

Despite Christians manifestly constituting the vast majority of the European Union.

You might expect them to omit Ascension Sunday, Lent and the Feast Day of the Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman.

But Christmas and Easter?

The page for December 25th is completely empty, and at the bottom is the following message:
"A true friend is someone who shares your worries and your joy.”
That’s nice.

And evidence, if any were needed, that Christians have no true friends in the inner sanctuaries of the European Union.

It is even more astonishing that this planner not only includes the holy days of just about every religion except Christianity: it also mentions the secular key dates of significance to the European Union, like ‘Europe Day’.

Johanna Touzel, spokesperson for COMECE (the pathologically-federalist Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union) found the planner ‘unbelievable’.

It is even more incroyable when you consider that our President is a devout Roman Catholic who sees the EU as a ‘Christian club’.

Doubtless he will gloss over this a typo.

To omit one Christian festival may be regarded as an error; to omit two looks like carelessness.

But to omit all of them looks like conspiracy.

Or at least incontrovertible corroborative evidence that the EU is a God-less, Marxist, secular, religiously and politically-correct, totalitarian, omnipotent beast quite antithetical to Christians, Christianity and the message of Christ.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Government by petition will exacerbate the disconnect between the people and their elected representatives

It was a very brave manifesto pledge, but undeniable and irrefutable evidence of David Cameron's democratic credentials.

When the Conservative Party unveiled plans to ensure that any petition of 100,000 people would be eligible for debate in Parliament, few thought it would happen. But it is.

It was also announced that any petition with 1 million signatures would result in a bill being tabled in Parliament. We don't yet have the details, but Sir George Young, Leader of the House, has indicated that the necessary legislation will be introduced in the New Year.

Sounds like innovative, direct democracy.

But what if the public back issues that are either distinctly un-Cameroonian or potentially divisive for the Coalition?

There is the return of capital punishment (surely that would easily get 100,000 signatures?), and also a referendum on our membership of the European Union.

This initiative could be the fulfilment of the vision of Sir James Goldsmith to 'Let the People Decide': imagine a simple "In or Out of Europe" Referendum Bill. Despite Mr Cameron's enthusiasm for more 'power to the people', the party business managers may suddenly find that there is not a lot of parliamentary time for such an inconvenient debate.

Even with a three-line whip to vote against, many Tory backbenchers (and a few Labour MPs) would be tempted to back such a Bill.

EU Referendum and Capital Punishment aside (though the latter could not happen unless the former preceded it and resulted in an 'out' vote), it strikes His Grace that this is a petard by which the Coalition may be hoist throughout its entire period of government, for every Government Bill may be challenged with an equal and opposite Bill: Labour would easily be able to muster 100,000 supporters to confront and counter any Coalition proposal. Of course, the tabling of a motion for debate does not mean that it would become an Act of Parliament, but where is the parliamentary time going to be found to slot in all these debates, draft all the consequent Bills and give them a First Reading, steer them through Committee Stage, give them a Second Reading, etc, etc?

It is an opportunity to filibuster and jam up the entire working of government.

On the face of it, the proposal is a God-send for proponents of direct democracy, but it is a parliamentary nightmare which could undermine centuries of evolution of our system of representative democracy (if it is not already fatally undermined). What if 100,000 signatures were found for a 'David Cameron Must Resign' debate, or a million signatures for a draft Bill?

Does not this proposal effectively give the people the right to demand a vote of No Confidence?

Or what about a 'We Want an Immediate Dissolution of Parliament Bill'?

Or an 'Abolish the Monarchy Bill'?

The last example would be interesting, insofar as there would be a Bill before Parliament the very debating of which would cause every MP to contravene their Oath of Allegiance. It is not clear at all what would happen to Bills which would contravene EU law which is superior to national law.

So what Bills can we look forward to?

An in/out EU Referendum Bill

A John Bercow ought to be ousted as Speaker Bill

A Capital Punishment Re-introduction Bill

An Immediate Cessation of Immigration Bill

An Introduction of Sharia Law Bill

A Scotland Indepedence Bill (with a very easy million signatures)

A United Ireland Bill (again, with a very easy million signatures)

A Disestablish the Church of England Bill

A Removal of the Vote from Guests of Her Majesty Bill

A Ban on Mosque-building Bill

The clumsy wording of many of these is quite purposeful, for who will determine the best wording of each petition, and will that wording be retained for the parliamentary debate, the green/white paper or the final Bill?

And the possibilities for embarrassment are considerable. Imagine Parliament being obliged to debate a Dawkins-initiated 'Ban the Pope's State Visit Bill' on the eve of his scheduled arrival.

Laudable for localism as this initiative may be, the reality is that the device will only serve to magnify the disconnect between the people and their elected representatives. As the mob-rule e-petitions flood in, who in the first instance will decide whether or not a proposal is 'frivolous'? For surely some such test must be made, lest Parliament find itself debating whether the Jedi ought to be recognised as the official state religion. But if the Jedi agenda is deemed frivolous, why should a proposal to introduce Sharia Law be taken any more seriously? So a parliamentary committee will be required to adjudicate and determine the 'seriousness' of a proposal. And then someone must determine that the 100,000 (or million) signatures (and addresses) are all genuine, for the old No10 Petition website had no such check. And then someone (the Leader of the House?) will have the nightmare job of finding the time in a packed parliamentary timetable to schedule dozens (scores?) of e-petition debates. And then MPs must attend these tedious debates, and will be keen to be seen attending them, for these are the people's concerns. And then there will be a division, and our representatives will vote exactly as we have come to expect that they will.

They will vote against an EU Referendum Bill, against Capital Punishment, against the banning of immigration, against a ban on mosque building, etc., etc.

And the people will eventually notice this disconnect between their clearly-expressed concerns and the voting patterns of their representatives, pretty much as they already do.

And they will do nothing about.

Pretty much as they already don't.

This is about seeming and feeling: politicians seeming to share the primary concerns of the people, and the people feeling that they are being listened to.

For a petition to abolish a rotten Parliament will be deemed 'frivolous' by some self-serving committee.

How many vacuous debates will be held before party managers select one which will succeed?

And what is the betting that the odd one they select for a smooth passage and assured success will be contiguous with the stated aims of the Government, consistent with our membership of the EU, and fully cognisant of our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is not X-Factor politics, for in the real-life X-Factor, a malignant Rage Against The Machine rebellion was able to defeat the divine right of Simon Cowell: the little man conquered the Goliath that is the modern music machine.

But in the proposed people's petition, Parliament remains sovereign because the petitions will be benign. Procedures and processes will be rigged, just as Mr Cowell learned to do.

The divine right of experts can be a dashed awkward thing to shift.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Teaching the Coalition about poverty

The Christmas message of the Archbishop of Canterbury was a partially eclipsed this year by the BBC’s gimmick (and undoubted coup) of securing the Pope to deliver Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. So much has been written about that (with as many column inches also disproportionately devoted to the absurd reaction of Keith Porteus Wood and his National Secular Society) that His Grace can add nothing more.

Except to say, in terms of nuanced theology and practical politics, the Pope’s message is eclipsed by the written and spoken words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who spent his Christmas reflecting upon the politics of poverty.

But not in a 1980s Lambeth Palace / No10 kind of clash, in which Margaret Thatcher must have felt besieged by a hostile Church of England; where every Conservative manifesto pledge seemed to have an equal and opposite pamphlet issued by the Archbishop’s Commission.

Archbishop Rowan is rather more subtle than that.

So subtle, in fact, that Tim Montgomerie tweeted that the Archbishop ‘misses his best opportunity of the year to talk about Jesus Christ’, and today the increasingly two-dimensional Melanie Phillips accuses him of failing to distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor.

His Grace refutes both of these crass allegations.

One might expect a polemic Jewess to be ignorant of the depths of Christian theology. But it is a little surprising that Tim Montgomerie misrepresents the leader of the Established Church (though he appears to be commenting upon [and links to] a Daily Mail caricature), and failed to notice that Jesus is mentioned no fewer than six times in the Archbishop’s sermon, three of which came in the opening paragraph.

It is not, in any case, the number of times the name is mentioned which is important: ‘Jesus’ will have been used, abused, sung and blasphemed in thousands of churches and professing churches over this season. What is important is the authenticity and relevance of the message.

And in this the Archbishop of Canterbury was four-square at the heart of the gospel.

His Christmas sermon touched on all of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ themes of social justice; our need for mutual dependence on our fellow human beings; our need for a spirit of fellowship and loyalty to each other in sharing the burdens of adversity in difficult economic times:
"Faced with the hardship that quite clearly lies ahead for so many in the wake of financial crisis and public spending cuts, how far are we able to sustain a living sense of loyalty to each other, a real willingness to bear the load together? How eager are we to find some spot where we feel safe from the pressures that are crippling and terrifying others? As has more than once been said, we can and will as a society bear hardship if we are confident that it is being fairly shared; and we shall have that confidence only if there are signs that everyone is committed to their neighbour, that no-one is just forgotten, that no interest group or pressure group is able to opt out."
And he points to the need for us to work positively together in order to rebuild trust:
"That confidence isn't in huge supply at the moment, given the massive crises of trust that have shaken us all in the last couple of years and the lasting sense that the most prosperous have yet to shoulder their load. If we are ready, if we are all ready, to meet the challenge represented by the language of the 'big society', we may yet restore some mutual trust. It's no use being cynical about this; whatever we call the enterprise, the challenge is the same – creating confidence by sharing the burden of constructive work together."
In the same way, the Archbishop also urges us to embrace the meaning of the forthcoming Royal Wedding, to recognise the significance of the Christian bond of marriage as a symbol of hope for humanity:
"Next year, we shall be joining in the celebration of what we hope will be a profoundly joyful event in the royal wedding. It is certainly cause for celebration that any couple, let alone this particular couple, should want to embark on the adventure of Christian marriage, because any and every Christian marriage is a sign of hope, since it is a sign and sacrament of God's own committed love. And it would be good to think that I this coming year, we, as a society, might want to think through, carefully and imaginatively, why lifelong faithfulness and the mutual surrender of selfishness are such great gifts."
And in comparing Christian marriage with our covenantal relationship with God, the Archbishop reflects on - not only the trials of marriage - but also the inspirational examples of some marriages which he has seen:
"There will be times when we may feel stupid or helpless; when we don't feel we have the energy or resource to forgive and rebuild after a crisis or a quarrel; when we don't want our freedom limited by the commitments we've made to someone else. Yet many of us will know marriages where something extraordinary has happened because of the persistence of one of the parties, or where faithfulness has survived the tests of severe illness or disability or trauma. I admit, find myself deeply moved at times when I speak with the families of servicemen and women, where this sense of solidarity is often so deeply marked, so generous and costly. As the Prince and his fiancée get ready for their new step into solidarity together, they will have plenty of inspiration around, more than you might sometimes guess from the chatter of our culture.”
And finally, Dr Williams asked us to remember during this time of Christian celebration our brothers and sisters in many lands who suffer repression and persecution for their Christian faith:
"I remind you of our Zimbabwean friends, still suffering harassment, beatings and arrests, legal pressures and lockouts from their churches; of the dwindling Christian population in Iraq, facing more and more extreme violence from fanatics – and it is a great grace that both Christians and Muslims in this country have joined in expressing their solidarity with this beleaguered minority. Our prayers continue for Asia Bib in Pakistan and others from minority groups who suffer from the abuse of the law by certain groups there. We may feel powerless to help; yet we should also know that people in such circumstances are strengthened simply by knowing they have not been forgotten. And if we find we have time to spare for joining in letter-writing campaigns for all prisoners of conscience, Amnesty International and Christian Solidarity worldwide will have plenty of opportunities for us to make use of."
In this sermon there is no absence of Jesus: it is infused with the Lord’s concern for our eternal salvation and replete with His love and compassion.

The Archbishop followed this up with an article in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday on Good King Wenceslas looking out on the Feast of Stephen.

Continuing his ‘Big Society’ theme, he observes that the good King was motivated by the alleviation of poverty. It is easy, Dr Williams says, to start making political points of one kind or another:
“The Government is being heartless and oppressive, say some; poverty is mostly people’s own fault, say others, and it is none of the Government’s business.”
And he praises Iain Duncan Smith for his ‘clear intention to put things in place that will actually reduce poverty and help people out of the traps of dependency’.

And he warns:
“But – before we relax too much – however good the intention, life at the grass roots is always going to be less black and white, and it is not surprising if a lot of people, already pretty insecure, start feeling even more insecure. At the very least, there is a job of communication to do.”
Less black and white, that is, to everyone but Melanie Phillips (or is it The Daily Mail in general?)

There are very many thousands in this country and millions across the world whose life of poverty is not of their making, and they are impotent to escape it. And so the Archbishop talks of ‘the Victorian distinction between the deserving poor and the rest’:
“Hard-working and honest people who do their best really do face problems; so do people with disabilities, with mental health issues or limited mobility. There are doubtless some who make the most out of the benefits culture (just as there are some who have made the most out of other kinds of perks available to bankers or MPs).”
And then comes the paragraph which so offends Ms Phillips:
“But even if there are those who are where they are because of their own bad or foolish choices in the past, that doesn’t mean they are any less in need in the present. And it can’t be said often enough that most people in poverty – and we should be thinking of children in particular – haven’t chosen it.”
Like Job’s comforters, she clings to the simplistic cause and effect of bad and foolish choices, insisting that the poor who make these poor life decisions thoroughly deserve their resulting penury and have no-one but themselves to blame.

She shows ignorance not only of Jesus’ privileged message to the poor but also surprisingly of her own Scriptures: for every proverb which is concerned with God’s punishment for sin, the Wisdom Literature contains whole paragraphs dedicated to the fact that it rains upon the righteous as well as the unrighteous, and the reason is something of a mystery.

And it is shameful that Ms Phillips fails to distinguish even between the ‘deserving poor’ and ‘the children in particular’.

The alleviation of poverty was foundational to the ministry of Jesus: he preached more about money than he did about eternal salvation. When examining what he said about the poor, consideration has to be given to context and audience, and the nuances of Greek vocabulary also need examining.

What does Luke mean by ‘the poor’ (6:20)? The peasants who possessed little material wealth were not called ‘poor’ (‘ptochos’) if they possessed what was sufficient (ie subsistence) - they were termed ‘penes’. Jesus was (and is) concerned with the literal, physical needs of men (ie not just the spiritual [cf Acts 10:38]). When Luke was addressing the ‘poor’, he meant those who had no money - the oppressed, miserable, dependent, humiliated - and this is translated by ‘ptochos’, indicating ‘poverty-stricken…to cower down or hide oneself for fear’ - the need to beg. The ‘penes’ has to work, but the ‘ptochos’ has to beg. Those addressed by Jesus are the destitute beggars, not ‘penes’ or the general peasant audience of few possessions.

This is an important distinction for the politician and the journalist, neither of which appear to be capable of grasping what the Archbishop is talking about. He insists:
"That is where the Church wants to be – where it has to be – in all this.
The Church isn’t a welfare agency and it isn’t a political party and it should never forget that. But the Church IS a body of people called by God to make a difference to how people see themselves and their world – called to help people towards greater confidence and fearlessness and generosity.

"Good King Wenceslas wasn’t writing a party manifesto but he did believe he had to try to make a difference because God was calling him to be generous – and that God had showed him how to be generous.

"The greatest resource of the churches is that they have people in them who have the confidence and the imagination to make a difference, people who are willing to be volunteers in the service of society.
Unlike his Episcopal predecessors of the 1980s, the Government has in Lambeth Palace an Archbishop with whom they can do business. He is not into formal receptions and long meetings for discussion, but has a passion for actively working to meet the needs of the poor, irrespective of the cause of their hardship. Like Jesus, he does not care how they became poor: he cares simply because they are poor.

This is an Archbishop who meets with destitute migrants, visits inner-city parishes with programmes of local relief, community education and holiday clubs for children. He wants to discuss the possibilities for expanding hospice care for the dying, and support groups for the unemployed.

And he wants to do all this without ‘carping or point-scoring’:
And the most important thing the Church has to say is that it is willing to help make things work for the good of the people most at risk in society – willing to encourage a few more folk to tread in the footsteps of Good King Wenceslas.
This is the Word of the Lord: a message not just for Christmas but one which chimes harmoniously with every stated social justice objective of the present Government.

So, instead of carping and point scoring, embrace him as a partner and a friend. You will not find it easy to 'use' him. But he is ready and willing to serve his Lord to mitigate the long-prophesied pain caused by the Government's policies.

Friday, December 24, 2010

O Holy Night

The birth of the Son of God was heralded by the Angel of the Lord, accompanied by the Shekinah, the Glory of God, and was followed by a multitude of the Heavenly Host singing praises. Hallelujah!

And for whose benefit was this magnificent display?

Kings? Presidents? Politicians? Religious leaders?

No, it was all for a few lowly shepherds – humble, poor, obscure and unnamed rustics of whom nothing more is heard in Scripture thereafter. While today’s puffed-up prelates court the wealthy, famous and influential, so today’s wealthy, famous and influential seek out the privileged counsel, private chapels and grand palaces of those same prelates for displays of religiosity.

But not these shepherds. No, the Lord deemed them worthy because they were lowly. They were not body-beautiful celebrities, gifted communicators, powerful decision makers or authoritative opinion formers; they were simply ordinary men, and the Lord chose them to be among the first to know that the Christ was born; that the Messiah had entered history; that the Son of God had come to redeem mankind - Immanuel.

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

And as we spend the coming months praying that our Coalition Government would govern wisely and compassionately, it is apposite to reflect that one day the Government will be upon His shoulder.

The real deliverer and the real fulfillment of the needs of humanity is human, one of us, flesh of our flesh. He is born to rule, born to be a king, conceived of the house and lineage of David. His name is Wonderful – a mystery of divinity in humanity; Counsellor – the oracle of wisdom; the mighty God – the Word was not just with God, but was God; the Everlasting Father – not the same person as the Father, but of one substance with the Father; the Prince of Peace – bringing a peace that passes understanding.

Cranmer wishes all of his readers and communicants a blessed, joyful and peaceful Christmas.

The BBC responds...

His Grace is delighted to say that he has received a very prompt response from the BBC to his complaint concerning the outrageous remarks made by David Baddiel and Alan Davies on The Freedom Association and the late great Norris McWhirter CBE. It reads:
Dear Dr Cranmer

Thank you for contacting us regarding remarks made by David Baddiel about Norris McWhirter and the Freedom Association on The Alan Davies Show on BBC Radio 5 Live broadcast on Saturday 18 December.

On the show David Baddiel was discussing a television film he has recently made entitled 'The Norris McWhirter Chronicles'. The film centres around a speech that Mr McWhirter made at David Baddiel's school in the 1970s. The young Baddiel had expected a talk about the then popular TV programme 'Record Breakers' and was disappointed that Mr McWhirter's speech was of a political nature. The comments made by David Baddiel were quite clearly his personal description of Mr McWhirter's political allegiances.

The Alan Davies Show is a live, light hearted, entertainment programme and in this context we are satisfied that no broadcasting guidelines were broken.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

BBC Audience Services
It was very kind of them to take the trouble. His Grace is indebted to some of his communicants who also wrote to the BBC about this matter. They, too, have received a response:
Dear Mr A-D

Thank you for contacting us regarding remarks made by David Baddiel about Norris McWhirter and the Freedom Association on The Alan Davies Show on BBC Radio 5 Live broadcast on Saturday 18 December.

On the show David Baddiel was discussing a television film he has recently made entitled 'The Norris McWhirter Chronicles'. The film centres around a speech that Mr McWhirter made at David Baddiel's school in the 1970s. The young Baddiel had expected a talk about the then popular TV programme 'Record Breakers' and was disappointed that Mr McWhirter's speech was of a political nature. The comments made by David Baddiel were quite clearly his personal description of Mr McWhirter's political allegiances.

The Alan Davies Show is a live, light hearted, entertainment programme and in this context we are satisfied that no broadcasting guidelines were broken.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

BBC Audience Services
And another:
Dear Mr N

Thank you for contacting us regarding remarks made by David Baddiel about Norris McWhirter and the Freedom Association on The Alan Davies Show on BBC Radio 5 Live broadcast on Saturday 18 December.

On the show David Baddiel was discussing a television film he has recently made entitled 'The Norris McWhirter Chronicles'. The film centres around a speech that Mr McWhirter made at David Baddiel's school in the 1970s. The young Baddiel had expected a talk about the then popular TV programme 'Record Breakers' and was disappointed that Mr McWhirter's speech was of a political nature. The comments made by David Baddiel were quite clearly his personal description of Mr McWhirter's political allegiances.

The Alan Davies Show is a live, light hearted, entertainment programme and in this context we are satisfied that no broadcasting guidelines were broken.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

BBC Audience Services
In their emails to His Grace, these communicants ask:

Mr A-D: 'I don't know what else to do at this point, except sigh at the entrenched bias in the BBC. What does a "personal description of Mr McWhirter's political allegiances" even mean? Baddiel is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.'

Mr N: 'I'm not surprised. Appalled, but not surprised.'

If the BBC thinks it can get away with simply cutting and pasting the same crass response to those who have complained on this matter, they show themselves to be quite contemptible in their attitide to those who fund the corporation. A monkey can cut 'n' paste; and this response is so lacking in adequate content that a monkey could have written it. What they are essentially saying is that any BBC employee or interviewee can give a 'personal description' of 'political allegiances' irrespective of the facts, and they may do so with impunity.

This being the case, why did the BBC apologise to the Muslim Council of Britain and pay them £30,000 of taxpayers' money in compensation for remarks made by Charles Moore on Question Time? Why was Mr Moore not permitted to articulate a 'personal description' of the behaviour of the MCB? Why does the BBC readily acknowledge 'injury to feelings' when it comes to some minority groups or organisations of 'the Left', but is evidently of the view that the family and friends of Norris McWhirter and members of The Freedom Association do not live with bread like them; do not feel want, taste grief, or need friends.

Truthfully, His Grace finds it difficult to understand why The Freedom Association has not received an immediate apology and £30,000 in compensation.

The is the British Broadcasting Corporation; a national institution with a Royal Charter. Surely one does not have to conspire in terrorism against the state; or treason against Her Majesty's Armed Forces; or threaten physical violence or criminal damage, in order to obtain justice from its hallowed chambers.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

One Last Christmas

Quite a few have asked why His Grace is remotely bothered who is ‘Top of Pops’ at Christmas: why raise money for Alzheimer’s Research by promoting Cliff Richard’s ‘Little Town’? Why create an open goal for The Guardian's predictable ball of scorn?

This video says it all.

It tells the story of a two year-old leukaemia patient named Dax Locke who inspired people all over the country to decorate early for Christmas before he passed away in December 2009.

And it would have been a much worthier Christmas No1 that Matt Cardle’s appalling cover which is enriching no-one more than Sir Simon Cowell (as he will be in the New Year).

It’s Christmas.

Do something for somebody else.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eric Pickles is 'committed to celebrating Christmas, including its Christian heritage'

There is no-one in Parliament who would make a better Father Christmas than Eric Pickles. And this little speech by Robert Neill, in response to a question by Caroline Flint, is a skilful riposte to Labour's attempt to criticise his department for presumed festive excess:

Hansard, 20 December 2010 : Column 942W

“Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many Christmas parties and drinks receptions his Department plans to host in December 2010.

Robert Neill: As the Secretary of State indicated in his departmental press notice of 29 November 2010, the new Administration is committed to celebrating Christmas, including its Christian heritage. We should not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christmas and the importance of the birth of Christ.

Ministers recognise that we live in frugal times due to the need to pay off the significant public deficit and national debt that the Government have inherited from the previous administration. But there is no need to play Scrooge.

In this context, a Christmas tree has been placed in the Department's reception at Eland house which has been provided at no cost to the taxpayer. This is in contrast to the previous cost of £1,037 for a Christmas tree outlined in the parliamentary answer of 12 November 2009, Official Report, column 849W.

Ministers plan to hold one small reception for senior DCLG staff to thank them for their hard work this year. Their work includes the abolition of bureaucratic Comprehensive Area Assessment and other local red tape, stopping the imposition of bin taxes and the unfair ports tax, and laying the ground for radical new powers for local authorities through the Localism Bill. The reception will be held in Eland House. Individual divisions within the Department may hold Christmas lunches paid for by staff.

A Christmas quiz and Christmas fair are being held for staff to raise funds for the Civil Service Benevolent Fund. The fair included Christmas carols sung by the Environment, Transport and Communities choir, ETCetera, and by Westminster Cathedral primary school children.

Last year, the Department spent £2,855 of taxpayers' money on Christmas cards. This year the departmental Christmas card, now with appropriate Christian imagery, has been produced at no cost to the taxpayer and will be sent electronically. Recognising the need to look after the vulnerable at this time of year, we are also supporting the homeless charity Shelter in the card. We will ensure that the right hon. Member is included on the distribution list.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pope Benedict: “The sun is setting over an entire world.”

As it was in the days of Noah, as it was at the fall of the Roman Empire, so is it today.

In his traditional Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict XVI expounded the parallels between the social upheaval, political chaos and moral vacuum which constitute the modern era, and those which precipitated the fall of the Roman Empire. He concluded as did the apocalyptic prophets of old: “The very future of the world is at stake.”

And he exhorts believers as the Psalmist did: “There was no power in sight that could put a stop to this decline. All the more insistent, then, was the invocation of the power of God: the plea that he might come and protect his people from all these threats.”

An impotent and absent God seems to have forsaken the world at the time of tribulation.

Describing the decline of the Roman Empire, the Pope noted: “The disintegration of the key principles of law and of the fundamental moral attitudes underpinning them burst open the dams which until that time had protected peaceful coexistence among peoples.

“The sun was setting over an entire world,” he continued. “Frequent natural disasters further increased this sense of insecurity. There was no power in sight that could put a stop to this decline.”

Comparing the empire of Rome to the modern of one of Europa, he said: “For all its new hopes and possibilities, our world is at the same time troubled by the sense that moral consensus is collapsing, consensus without which juridical and political structures cannot function. Consequently the forces mobilized for the defence of such structures seem doomed to failure.”

The leitmotif of the address was unavoidably the numerous incidences of priestly sexual abuse of children and their systematic cover-up, which he referred to as ‘the great tribulations to which we have been exposed during the past year’.

2010 was designated by the Pope as the ‘Year of the Priests’, and it certainly was, but for all the wrong reasons: “We were all the more dismayed, then, when in this year of all years and to a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime.”

In that dismay one senses a profound anger simmering beneath this pontificate. While the Pope spoke of the need for the Church to reflect upon its own inner workings to determine how such an evil could have become so endemic, he felt it was mitigated in the context of the moral disintegration of wider society, and he referred specifically to the ubiquity of child pornography, sex trafficking, drug abuse and ‘the tyranny of mammon’, saying, “No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart – and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man’s freedom and ultimately destroys it.”

And he recounted a vision which brings to mind that given to the Apostle John on Patmos:
In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 1170, I had been lying on my sick-bed for a long time when, fully conscious in body and in mind, I had a vision of a woman of such beauty that the human mind is unable to comprehend. She stretched in height from earth to heaven. Her face shone with exceeding brightness and her gaze was fixed on heaven. She was dressed in a dazzling robe of white silk and draped in a cloak, adorned with stones of great price. On her feet she wore shoes of onyx. But her face was stained with dust, her robe was ripped down the right side, her cloak had lost its sheen of beauty and her shoes had been blackened. And she herself, in a voice loud with sorrow, was calling to the heights of heaven, saying, ‘Hear, heaven, how my face is sullied; mourn, earth, that my robe is torn; tremble, abyss, because my shoes are blackened!’
Pope Benedict is clear: the stain of dust is the rape of innocence; the torn garments are the sins of priests.

The only solution, he avers, is to stand against relativism, and the warping of the idea of the conscience: “In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than’. Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today.”

Perhaps in the observation ‘even within the realm of Catholic theology’ is a swipe at the modernisers, the liberals, and the unintended consequences of Vatican II.

In talking of his visit to the UK, His Grace was struck by this quote from the Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman:
In January 1863 he wrote in his diary these distressing words: “As a Protestant, I felt my religion dreary, but not my life - but, as a Catholic, my life dreary, not my religion.”
It would appear that he never experienced the profound joy at the heart of the Anglican expression of Protestantism. And doubtless some of His Grace’s readers and communicants might also insist, if his life were ‘dreary’, that he never tasted Catholicism.

The Pope also called on political leaders to ‘put a stop to Christianophobia’.

But it is not clear how they may do so in the era of omnipotent ‘Human Rights’, in which all religions are equal and the mere offer of prayer may mean instant dismissal from one’s job, and the proclamation of Christian orthodoxy may lead to economic hardship, arrest, fines and even imprisonment.

In the final analysis, the Pope observed that ‘only if there is…a consensus on the essentials can constitutions and law function’.

So quite why he supports the emerging Empire of Europa, in which there is no consensus and no accountability to the demos, is a mystery. There may indeed be public agreement on essential truths which are ‘derived from the Christian heritage’, but in the secular and Godless EU this heritage is ignored and morality is subsumed in the pursuit of ever secular union.

He concluded: “To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake.”

Indeed it is.

Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pope Benedict surrenders Vatican sovereignty

Mammon seems to have become a bit of an issue in the Holy See.

Not content with the systematic cover-up of child rape and the sheltering of paedophile priests, it appears that there has been more than a little collusion with the Mafia in money-laundering.

The Vatican Bank (aka the Institute for Works of Religion) has been guarding Peter’s Pence (actually, €1,000,000,000s) since Mussolini cut a deal with the Lateran Pacts in 1929. Its chief exec is accountable to a committee of cardinals, and ultimately to the Pope.

But its inner workings are shrouded in mystery: it is not open to the public and its ATMs are in Latin.

It was reported a few months ago that the Bank was facing money-laundering allegations concerning €23m of its assets. While the Vatican referred to the seizure of assets as a ‘misunderstanding’ The Independent notes court documents which appear to indicate that the Vatican Bank deliberately flouted anti-laundering laws ‘with the aim of hiding the ownership, destination and origin of the capital’:
The documents also reveal investigators' suspicions that clergy may have acted as fronts for corrupt businessmen and the Mafia. The documents pinpoint two transactions that have not been reported: one in 2009 involving the use of a false name, and another in 2010 in which the Vatican Bank withdrew €650,000 from an Italian bank account but ignored bank requests to disclose where the money was headed.
Following the (still unresolved) Marcinkus-Calvi masonic murder mysteries of the 1980s, l'Istituto per le Opere di Religione seems to be Italian opera, Jacobean tragedy and The Godfather. all rolled into one.

The Vatican is a sovereign city-state and is not under the jurisdiction of the Godless, secular, anti-Christian, immoral and corrupt EU (despite fervently desiring to foist it upon all other European states). It is all a question of papal sovereignty: the Pontifex Maximus cannot simultaneously be Catholic and subject to a higher temporal authority, especially when that higher authority is somewhat antithetical to Canon Law. The Vatican Bank is not supervised by the IMF and hitherto has not been subject to EU regulations and controls on money-laundering, despite being a member of the eurozone.

Since the Holy See also has no border security, it is perhaps unsurprising that l'Istituto per le Opere di Religione has been a rather useful mechanism for money laundering and tax evasion.

But in a move which was barely noticed by the media, it was reported in October that Pope Benedict ‘will bind the Vatican to implementing European Union laws against money laundering and financial fraud’:
The Vatican is “fully committed” to putting relevant EU legislation into effect by the end of 2010, as stipulated by a monetary accord the Vatican signed with the commission Dec. 17 last year, Amadeu Altafaj, spokesman for EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, said in an interview in Brussels.
The interesting word is ‘bind’: the acquis is irreversible; it is sovereignty surrendered. By an ‘act of the pope’ the law will become applicable to ‘the institutions of the Holy See, including the Institute for Religious Works’. The Vatican agreed to set up a special authority as of 1 January 2011 to implement the new financial legislation ‘with the right to control the institutions of both the Vatican and the Holy See’. It is reported that the Authority’s head is likely to be Cardinal Attilio Nicora, who will become a sort of ‘central banker of the Vatican’.

One hopes he fares better than the last man to be known as ‘God’s Banker’.

Yet it is curious that the Vatican’s declaration of financial openness and transparency was delivered by ‘a high-ranking Vatican official, who declined to be identified’.

One might think that the toxic cocktail of money-laundering, financial fraud, corruption, murder, mafia, masons and secrecy would be enough to persuade Pope Benedict of the need to act swiftly.

But The Independent questions whether the Vatican intends to meet the 31 December deadline to implement the EU legislation. It observes: ‘Not complying with the deadline could nullify the monetary accord with the commission and lead to action by the European Court of Justice.’

Cardinals summoned to the highest court in the European Union?

That would be an interesting development.

Which possibly explains:
The prosecutors' office stated in court papers last month that while the bank has expressed a "generic and stated will" to conform to international standards, "there is no sign that the institutions of the Catholic Church are moving in that direction". It said its investigation had found "exactly the opposite".
The legal waters are indeed murky. Archbishop Paul Marcinkus was able to claim immunity from prosecution after the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano in 1982: it is one of the advantages of being a sovereign state.

Semper Eadem: His Grace might be forgiven for being a little sceptical about the Vatican being ‘bound’ by any superior jurisdiction.

Why submit to EU laws and directives on finance, but not 'Human Rights'?

It is not possible to serve two masters.

And this is not simply a question of God and Mammon.

Either Pope Benedict maintains Vatican sovereignty and upholds Canon Law, or he compromises both by opening the door to superior EU jurisdiction.

The Pope will never accede to the Treaty of Rome, but there is an emerging EU-Vatican 'Roman Question' which perhaps needs another Lateran Accord.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stamps and the Queen’s head

The Mail on Sunday carries a story today which discloses that the Government have omitted to ensure that the sell-off or Royal Mail is made on condition that whichever company wins the bidding war to run the institution organisation, the Monarch’s head will still feature upon every postage stamp, just as it has done since the 1840 penny black.

If you ignore the usual Mail hysteria of ‘anger’ and ‘frantic talks’ at Buckingham Palace, and the puerile speculation of delaying the sell-off until after the Diamond Jubilee to ensure that Her Majesty’s head features prominently (why would anyone not feature the Queen on stamps designed to commemorate her own jubilee?), the only substance to this story is that the Government have left a ‘loophole’ in the legislation which permits any new company to remove the Queen’s head should they so wish.

But His Grace is rather perturbed by the response of the Postal Affairs Minister Ed Davey to this. Mr Davey told the BBC: "Any company would be absolutely stark staring mad to decide not to have the Queen's head on its stamps… I'm extremely confident that the Queen's head will remain on our stamps."

His Grace would like to know why a foreign company should have the right to use the Queen’s image at all?

The Royal Mail has a long and distinguished history going back to to 1516, when Henry VIII established a ‘Master of the Posts’. Its Royal Charter is symbolic of its national importance and significance. The UK invented the postage stamp: we are therefore privileged by being the only country in the world not obliged to place the country’s name upon our postage stamps. The Royal Mail has a foundation of five centuries of English and British sovereignty fused with five centuries of Royal patronage.

It is a little disturbing to think that the Sovereign’s head is being traded like a worthless token amongst the postal companies of Europe. There was a time when the head of Caesar was symbolic of sovereign political authority.

But then it is reported that the frontrunners to buy Royal Mail are expected to be German and Dutch operators.

The Royal Family is both German (through Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) and Dutch (through William of Orange).

So perhaps the German mail operator Deutsche Post or the Dutch TNT would wish to retain the historic link as an assertion of their own sovereignty; a reclamation of their own royalty.

Either way, it is the end of another great sovereign British institution. But when the Queen is no longer sovereign in her realm, why persist with the façade of sovereignty? When national identity is so muddled, and murky multiculturalism has subsumed the traditions, culture and heritage of this once-great nation, perhaps a Royal Charter is as meaningless as a British Empire Medal.

Let us not forget that this Conservative-led Government is selling off Royal Mail because the EU has decreed that they must. The European Postal Services Directive (2002 and 2008), which was agreed by Labour, forces the liberalisation of European postal markets across the EU to permit EU nations to compete in national mail markets.

From Royal Mail to Europost: perhaps it is germane that Germany’s Deutche Post may finally place a vassal monarch upon an impotent throne.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

BBC: The Freedom Association is ‘a posher version of the BNP’

David Baddiel was interviewed earlier today by Alan Davies on BBC Radio 5, to talk about his new film The Norris McWhirter Chronicles, to be screened in the ‘Little Cracker’s season of festive films over the Christmas period.

The Norris McWhirter Chronicles covers a visit Norris made to David Baddiel’s school, the Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School in Elstree, in 1978. Roy Castle’s Record Breakers was at the height of its popularity, and the latest guest speaker at teenage David Baddiel’s school is none other than editor of the Guinness Book of Records, Norris McWhirter, played (by all accounts very creditably) by Alistair McGowan.

But during the Radio 5 interview is an appalling misrepresentation by Baddiel of The Freedom Association, which Norris established in 1975 with his twin brother Ross and Viscount De L'Isle. The Association is at the forefront of campaigning in defence of personal and political freedom.

Yet Baddiel refers to it as ‘a very, very right-wing, kind of sub-BNP, slightly posher version of the BNP organisation’ (Radio 5 1h 23m in).

Alan Davies then proceeds to conjecture if Norris McWhirter was ‘a brown shirt with Mosley’

‘Brown-shirt’ is neo-Nazi vocabulary: Mosley’s British Union of Fascists instituted a corps of black-uniformed paramilitary stewards, nicknamed blackshirts, which is probably what Alan Davies meant.

Nazi brown or Fascist black, this slander of Norris McWhirter is quite outrageous.

But maybe it is quite unsurprising coming from the BBC which even its own Director General admits is guilty of ‘massive’ left-wing bias.

Perhaps in Luvviedom, TFA is akin to the BNP.

But Norris was in showbiz through three decades, working tirelessly for the BBC on Record Breakers until the death of Roy Castle in 1994.

One might expect the BBC at least to honour his memory and respect his magnificent contribution to the programme, not to mention show a little respect for his remarkable achievement in co-founding the Guinness Book of Records.

But here we have Alan Davies and David Baddiel trashing the honour and reputation of one of the nation’s finest.

It is easy to speak ill of the dead.

When he passed away, The Freedom Association was inundated with messages of sympathy and tributes to the man, his life and his work:

Baroness Thatcher: “…He was a man who cherished freedom and was never afraid to speak out when he felt that it was in danger. He championed its cause throughout his life, taking up alone the challenge which he and Ross had shared. Whether it was in defying over-mighty Soviet Communism or in trimming the power of local bureaucrats, Norris was tireless. He saw the dangers to the individual whenever the state, or other large institutions, intruded further into peoples lives – eroding responsibility and fostering dependency. Above all he was always on his guard against systems, and their proponents, who sought to lessen freedom. Truly, he was a valiant warrior, and life is diminished with his passing.”

Andrew Roberts: “The great 19th century historian Lord Acton was going to write A History of Liberty, but died before he completed the research. One day it shall be written, and when it is a golden, glorious chapter will be devoted to what Norris McWhirter did for all of us.”

Christopher Gill: “…Norris was a man of great courage, enormous integrity and a fearless campaigner for individual freedom and national independence. He was a man of principle, a truly honourable man but above all else, a committed and sincere patriot. As a champion of freedom he was a beacon of hope whose sudden and unexpected extinguishment will be an irreplaceable loss to the the cause for which he gave so much.”

Gerald Howarth MP: “…Norris's determined, unwavering and principled stand in defence of the ancient liberties of Her Majesty's subjects was an inspiration to all who shared his love of freedom. His campaign to protect the rights of the British people against those who would hand power to others on the Continent played a part in shifting public opinion.”

Robert Halfon MP: “A great and kind man who did so much for the cause of freedom and fought so hard to stop Britain being submerged into a European superstate.”

Professor Patrick Minford CBE: “…Norris was one of the earliest to understand the threat to the interests of the UK and indeed those of ordinary Europeans from the European Union and its burgeoning bureaucracy. He worked with others in the early 1990s to spread understanding among MPs and the general public about the economic and political threat. He took the government to court for its actions in betraying British sovereignty. He was a pioneer in the ongoing endeavour to turn the tide against this dangerous project, once thought ‘inevitable’ but now increasingly seen as seriously damaging in the absence of a massive change of EU policies.”

Roger Foster OBE: “…As a founder member of the Freedom Association, working with Norris to set up our own charter I remember so well his determination that the Magna Carta had to be the basis of our charter for the rights of the British people to live their own lives in the way they wanted and not be controlled by rules and regulations. His equal determination through the Association, was to try to bring the government closer to and more understanding of the people who had elected them to govern….”

John Redwood MP: “…he will best be remembered for his courageous fight to maintain real democracy in Britain. Norris was never too busy to take up a cause. He fought against abuses of power here in Britain and for the rights of Soviet dissidents. He fought against the signing of the Maastricht Treaty and against subliminal advertising. As the head of the National Association for Freedom, he supported parents who were desperately trying to keep grammar schools going and he took up the cases of workers who were sacked because they refused to join a union. Norris richly deserved the CBE awarded to him when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister.”

And there are very many more tributes to Norris McWhirter on The Freedom Association website. He was not only a good man: he was tenacious for liberty, principled for freedom, a distinguished all-rounder; he was great.

Yet despite all this praise, respect and reverence, the BBC is content to broadcast an interview in which he is tarnished with neo-Nazi and fascist allusions, and in which The Freedom Association is portrayed as BNP-lite.

His Grace is really quite outraged, and would like to encourage his readers and communicants to make a formal complaint to the BBC, demanding a full apology for Alan Davies' slander of Norris McWhirter and David Baddiel's quite outrageous and unwarranted attack on The Freedom Association.

You may do so by clicking HERE.

Bless you.


Through the decision of the Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans to ‘come out’, His Grace has become aware of a new support group in Parliament.

It is being launched, courtesy of the taxpayer, at a reception in the Speaker’s official residence on Monday evening, where Mr Evans ‘will celebrate his decision to go public’.

His Grace is very much in favour of any initiative which alleviates the suffering, injustice, prejudice and irrational discrimination endured by any member of any minority group. It is incumbent upon all reasonable human beings to love their neighbour and to be Good Samaritans wherever they can and whenever the opportunity to do good presents itself.

But a tax-payer subsidised support group aimed specifically at the LGBT (that is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community really is at the extreme of inclusivity.

How many transgendered people work in Parliament?

Or is it unknown because they are not ‘out’?

Could someone please explain to His Grace why lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered need their own taxpayer-subsidised network in the Houses of Parliament?

And why the Speaker in particular is lending his support to this?

He is the network’s president. But to how many other minority support groups in Westminster has he bestowed his patronage?

His Grace is loath to ‘bang on’ about this (as he will doubtless be accused of doing), but whilst he is undoubtedly appalled by all manner of appalling persecution and discrimination against people because of their gender, disability, race, sexuality or waist size, he remains at a loss to know how forcing minority agendas down the throats of the majority is supposed to mitigate: indeed, it rather inflames resentment of other groups.

We appear to be developing a politico-philosophical phenomenon which would have engaged JS Mill no end: the tyranny of the minority.

And one dare not question this (actually, His Grace dares, but, unlike the SAS, does not therefore win). To question is taboo: to question is to be hateful, phobic, bigoted, etc., etc.

So, His Grace will not question too much: he will do as David Cameron has done and join with the national chorus of harmony on the matter…

But ParliOut?

Could they not have thought of something a little more… umm…, well, a little bit… better?

It doesn’t even make sense: Parliament is where one parleys with others: to parley is to talk, confer and debate: Parliament is the parlement, où l’on faire parler.

So ParliOut is to ‘talk out’.

But that is to filibuster.

As opposed to come out.

That would be VenirOut.

But then you lose the link with Parliament, which Mr Speaker is so keen to emphasise.

ParliGay would be more hip, but the emphasis is disproportionately on the homosexual male; the lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered might feel a little hard done by, which defeats the objective.






How many other minority groups have support networks in the Palace of Westminster?

Is there one for disabled people?


This is a genuine question.

Are there not more disabled people in Parliament than there are transgendered?

What other minorities might feel discriminated against?



And lumping the subcontinental karma-samsara traditions together, how about ParliHinBudSik?

Let’s not forget the adherents of most persecuted faith of all, who, although they outnumber both Jews and Sikhs in the UK, have no formal recognition on the 2011 Census Form.


Perhaps what exercises His Grace on this matter is that it is actually more difficult to be ‘out’ as a Christian in Parliament than it is to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.

And Christians in politics certainly get a much tougher deal from the media.

And His Grace does not mean ‘out’ in the sense of a ‘fairly classic Church of England faith (which) grows hotter and colder by moments’. He means ‘out’ as a devout and committed Christian who might wish to support the institution of marriage as a union between one man and one woman; who might define certain behaviour as 'sin'; who might wish to abolish abortion or at least mitigate the abuse by a reduction in the upper limit; who might wish to retain bishops in the House of Lords; who might wish to sustain the tradition of prayers to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob before each session of Parliament; who vigorously supports church schools and educational autonomy; who might defend the Establishment of the Church of England, and retain the XXXIX Articles of Religion and the Act of Settlement.

How hard is it to be ‘out’ in these beliefs?

Homophobia (as it is defined in the vernacular) is a hateful and unacceptable prejudice.

But Christianophobia (which has not even entered the vernacular) is as real as any irrational phobia, and Pope Benedict XVI is right to draw our attention to it during Advent.

Mainly because the Archbishop of Canterbury dare not speak out, for fear of being mocked and misrepresented by the media, or lectured to by the Prime Minister.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Digital Nativity

This is a bit of fun.

What a difference a few thousand years make.

It brings to mind that Tim Rice lyric of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar:
You'd have managed better
If you'd had it planned
Now why'd you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?

If you'd come today
You could have reached the whole nation
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication...

Have the British Government deployed the Army against civilian protestors?

His Grace has been sent a link to a very interesting series of photographs taken during the recent student protests against the rise in tuition fees.

They are stark and disturbing. But he was struck by the one featured above, which appears to show the police officer wearing army DPM combat trousers beneath his navy overalls (clearly visible at the top of his boot - click to enlarge).

Have Her Majesty's Government deployed Her Majesty's Armed Forces against civilian protestors?

Are police numbers 'supplemented' by soldiers where there is a threat to the Queen's Peace?

It is known that some police officers occasionally 'forget' to display their identification numbers in public order situations, such that their victims may not identify those officers who may be a little over-zealous with their truncheons.

His Grace wishes to stress that he neither opposes peaceful protest nor the response of Government to deploy all necessary resources to maintain the rule of law.

But if the military have been deployed to maintain order on the streets of London and mobilised to admonish hordes of stroppy children, ought this not to have been a matter of parliamentary debate?

Since the Iraq War, the Government is now bound to consult Parliament before engaging with an enemy. Is that same Government at liberty to invoke the Royal Prerogative to mobilise the Armed Forces against its own people?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Guardian: Cliff Richard fans ‘haven’t the foggiest when it comes to those computer things’

The Guardian’s Media Monkey has dismissed the campaign to get Sir Cliff’s ‘Little Town’ back into the charts, averring that his fans are too old for innovations like Facebook and iTunes.

Mr Monkey may have a point. The song is presently in Amazon’s Top 100 downloads, and has been as high as 69 (cue Hallelujah Chorus). But it is yet to appear in the iTunes chart, stubbornly displaced by such quality Christmas hits as ‘I Believe in Father Christmas’ and the perennially dreadful ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’.

With the news that the Blogosphere’s No1 Cliff Richard fan is (very sadly) departing the scene, there is consternation at Cliff HQ that Aunt Doris just can’t hack the New Meedja and is too senile to grasp ‘those computer things’.

Well, His Grace plods on.

And he is 521 years old.

He persists because he would like the Christmas No1 to be a Christmas carol. It is a time to remember that God became man; a baby born in a manger; a season of peace and good will.

He persists because Cliff is donating all of his download royalties to Alzheimer’s Research, and there is no loneliness quite like that you feel when your nearest and dearest does not even remember your name, let alone 50 years of joyous memories.

He persists because he is fed up of the Cowellisation of the nation’s popular music: not so much ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’ as ‘He who calls the tune is Simon Cowell who pays himself’.

He persists because he is fed up with the fabricated, plastic pop idols who are here today and gone tomorrow, because they delude the nation’s youth with perpetual hopes of instant fame and fortune.

He persists because Matt Cardle is simply one in a long line of here-today-gone-tomorrow Cowellian creations. Remember past winners? Steve Brookstein? Leon Jackson? Matt Cardle is the man of the moment; ephemeral and transient.

He persists because he was quite appalled at the sudden change of rules this year which kept Mary Byrne out of the final. Now that all voting statistics have been released, it is clear that she and not Cher would have been in the final had it not been for a last-minute ‘fix’.

He persists because X-Factor this year became sleazy: we had whores dancing on the stage, clad in leather and lace, in staging which would not have been out of place in a brothel.

He persists because, well… it’s Christmas. And he wants one just like the ones he used to know. Where the tree-tops glisten, and children listen…

So, please download it on iTunes or Amazon.

Go on. It's just a few pence.

Merry Cliffmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gerald Kaufman: The Coalition is complicit in Israeli war crimes – “God forgive them”

Yesterday, David Cameron made a speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel, at a dinner attended by the Israeli Ambassador His Excellency Ron Prosor. According to Jonathan Isaby’s report, the Prime Minister ‘commended the measures being taken by the Israeli Government to ensure success for its "modern, dynamic, enterprise economy" and also expressed his delight at how much a sense of history and country matters to Israeli people’.

Mr Cameron said that his and the Conservative Party's friendship with Israel ‘thrived in opposition... and will be strengthened in government’. He concluded: "You have a Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is indestructible."

As Mr Cameron was making this speech, Gerald Kauffman, the Hamas representative to the Labour Friends of Palestine, was speaking in the Chamber on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. As Robert Halfon observes, Mr Kauffman’s ‘hatred for Israel knows no bounds’:

7.16 pm
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): What my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) has said about the attacks on the strength of the police and about the cuts in police budgets particularly affects us in Greater Manchester, where we have an absolutely excellent local police service that will be severely damaged by what the Government propose.

I wish, however, to concentrate on clause 151, which has been smuggled in to fulfil a Conservative election pledge made in a full-page advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle during the general election, namely the change in the administration of universal jurisdiction in this country. There is no need whatsoever to change the law. To obtain an arrest warrant for a suspected war criminal, it is essential to surmount a high hurdle, and that rarely happens. Such applications are made rarely, and are granted even more rarely. This change in the law would never have been proposed if it were not for the case of Tzipi Livni, the war criminal daughter of a terrorist father, who was scared off coming to this country because of the danger of an arrest warrant being issued for her. She was jointly responsible for the slaughter in Gaza in Operation Cast Lead in which 1,400 people were killed, including 300 children, in a war in which 14 Israelis were killed, some by friendly fire. It is bizarre that a major change in our criminal justice system is being made at the demand of one of the most discredited regimes in the world.

Mr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman specifically identifies Tzipi Livni and talks about the accusations that have been levelled against her, but I am sure that he will agree that, as Foreign Minister, Livni would not have had either direct or ultimate command responsibility for any of the alleged atrocities. Will he concede that what he has just told the House is incorrect?

Sir Gerald Kaufman: Of course not. Tzipi Livni is a war criminal and, what is more, she issued a vocal and extreme statement in support of the attack on the Gaza flotilla. She is not wanted in this country —

Mr Offord: She is in my constituency.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: Without the change in the law she would not dare come here. The Israeli Administration are one of the most discredited regimes in the world, and have persisted in committing war crimes, right through to the lethal attack on the Gaza flotilla on 31 May.

Robert Halfon: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Gerald Kaufman: I shall give way in a moment. Israel breaches international law and the Geneva convention —[ Interruption. ]

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. Hon. Members should know better. I do not want a debate going on across the Chamber from sedentary positions. If Members want to intervene, they should do so in the correct manner.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: The fact is that Israel breaches international law and the Geneva convention every single day. It has just snubbed the President of the United States by refusing to halt the illegal building of settlements — that in itself is a contravention of international law.

Robert Halfon: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I must say that his hatred for Israel knows no bounds. He explains exactly why universal jurisdiction needs to be changed — it is being used as a political football by people such as him who have hidden agendas.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: There would have been no proposal to change the universal jurisdiction law if Tzipi Livni had not been scared away from this country after committing appalling war crimes against the people of Gaza. It is as simple and as plain as that.

As I said, the Israelis have just snubbed the President of the United States by refusing to halt the illegal building of settlements. The Israeli regime uses its powers of arrest without charge arbitrarily. Two Members of the Knesset, including the Deputy Prime Minister, were scared away by the law, but 30 members of the Palestine National Council are currently held by the Israelis without charge. That is not a threat of arrest, but an actual arrest.

Last month, when I was in Jerusalem, I visited three PNC members who are taking refuge from arbitrary arrest by the Israeli police with the international Red Cross. I met and heard the testimony of young Palestinian children who were assaulted by Israeli police — they showed us their scars and bruises — as a result of the arbitrary and illegal way in which the Israeli police treat Palestinians, including Palestinian children. When we met the Foreign Minister of Jordan in Amman, he told us that he had to offer diplomatic shelter to the President of Palestine because when they were driving along one after the other, the President was continually halted at Israeli checkpoints. For all those crimes and many more, the Israelis are answerable to no one. Now, one of the few sanctions on those crimes will be removed. As a result of the Bill, Israeli politicians will be literally allowed to get away with murder.

That comes at a time when the ground is shifting. As I said, the pledge on the measure was made in a full-page advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle in order to get Jewish votes in the recent general election, but there is an upheaval in the Jewish community, as a result of which the across-the-board support for anything an Israeli Government do is no longer available.

Chris Bryant: My right hon. Friend referred to what people said during the general election. Does he recall what position every single Liberal Democrat MP took before and during the general election?

Sir Gerald Kaufman: I am well aware what they said, because week after week, I sat in the Chamber at business questions, when the current Deputy Leader of the House rose without fail to say how heinous and unacceptable it would be for the Labour Government to change the law on universal jurisdiction, and how the Liberal Democrats would be totally opposed to any such change. We have an obligation to remind the electors of Oldham East and Saddleworth of the broken Liberal Democrat pledge of 3,000 more police on the streets, and of their broken pledge to oppose any change in the law on universal jurisdiction. Those things will not go by unnoticed.

As I said, an upheaval is taking place in the Jewish community. The attitudes of leading Jews who have been vocal champions of Israel are becoming deeply critical of the current Israeli Government. One of the most active and vocal supporters of Israel has accused them of being in the process of turning Israel into an “apartheid state”.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) pointed out, the hypocrisy of the Liberal Democrats on universal jurisdiction is unlimited, as on so many matters. Week after week, their spokesman rose and vehemently opposed a change in the law for which he will vote tonight, just as Liberal Democrats voted last week in blatant breach of their election pledges.

Whatever change in the law the Government introduce for the most craven reasons, Tzipi Livni and her ilk will remain unwelcome in this country. What worries me is that without a valid and operable legal sanction — one currently exists, but the Bill will repeal it — and without the legal deterrent that the Bill removes, disapproval of the presence in this country of Livni, Netanyahu and their cronies will take forms that I and many others deplore.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman is at the extreme in his views on Israel? Many of us consider them abhorrent, and Front Benchers on both sides of the House have expressed their support for clause 151. It is interesting that he has used the debate on the Bill as a vehicle to display his political views rather than to debate justice. Does he agree that arrest warrants should be issued when there is insufficient evidence to justify a prosecution, because that is at the heart of this matter of justice, not his political views?

Sir Gerald Kaufman: The hon. Gentleman may wish to behave like a creep to his Front Benchers — I was elected to Parliament not to creep to my Front Benchers, but to speak on behalf of my constituents. Indeed, I persuaded the previous Prime Minister to abandon his proposal to change the law on universal jurisdiction. I went to see him and persuaded him that the proposal was mistaken, and he did not proceed with it. If my Front Benchers do not want to agree with me, that is their business. I state a view that I have stated consistently in the House for very many years, and I shall continue to do so, because it is the Israelis who are in trouble, the Israelis who are turning Israel into a pariah state, and the Israelis who will be overcome by demographic changes — they will be outnumbered by the Palestinians — and this Government are an accomplice to what they are doing. God forgive them.
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