Sunday, May 31, 2009

ComRes: British Christians suffer discrimination, rejection and persecution

Last week, Conservative MP Julian Brazier called for a debate in Parliament on prejudice against Christians in the Public Sector (Hansard, 21 May 2009: Column 1646):

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): On the last day of term, may I appeal for a debate during the forthcoming term on prejudice against Christians in a growing proportion of the public services? On top of a string of incidents involving health service and local authority workers being penalised for offering to pray for people, for saying “God bless” to them and so on, the worst case of all must be that of the foster mother who had fostered a large number of children in care and provided a loving home for them, but who lost her job and with it her house because a 16-year-old girl she was fostering chose to convert to Christianity. May I urge the Leader of the House to consider this a worthy subject for a debate in the House?

Ms Harman: I shall refer the hon. Gentleman’s point to the relevant Minister in the Department for Children, Schools and Families. This is really just a matter of basic good practice and common sense. There is nothing in any law or guidance that requires people to act daft.

So there you have it. There is nothing in any law or guidance that requires people to act daft, and so Mr Brazier’s request for a debate was denied. Perhaps Parliament might consider enacting a law which penalises politicians who act daft, or other public sector workers who do.

But it is not the compulsion to ‘act daft’ which ought to concern Ms Harperson, but the pervasive politically-correct self-censorship and intolerance manifest towards Christians which come as a direct consequence of Labour’s equality agenda. It is this which challenges the nation’s long tradition of religious tolerance, which was not easily won (and in some corners has still not been).

The Sunday Telegraph carries the results of a poll of the UK’s churchgoers, and its results are alarming. Indeed, if these were the findings of a poll of mosque-goers, the Government would not only throw millions of pounds at the problem, it would legislate for a programme of further positive discrimination to ensure that Muslims were being given ‘fair treatment’.

75 per cent said that there is now less religious freedom in the UK than there was 20 years ago.
50 per cent of British Christians revealed that they had suffered some sort of persecution for their faith.
44 per cent said they had been mocked by friends, neighbours or colleagues for daring to be Christian.
20 per cent said that they had faced opposition at work because of their beliefs.
19 per cent said they had been ‘ignored’ or ‘excluded’ for the same reason.
10 per cent said they have been rejected by family members.
5 per cent said they had been turned down for promotion because of their faith.
5 per cent also declared that they had been reprimanded or cautioned at work for sharing their faith.

Cranmer has a few observations on these results:

Firstly, he wonders at the perception of those 25 per cent of Christians who believe that religious freedom in the UK has not been diminished under New Labour. He does not understand how any discerning believer cannot be persuaded that a decade of ‘equality’ legislation has not created a hierarchy of rights in the UK, in which those of the church are increasingly subject to the superior rights of minority groups. The Equality Bill currently passing through Parliament is just the latest and potentially most oppressive attempt to impose politically-correct attitudes and eradicate all that fall foul of Labour’s acceptability criteria. This is an ideological agenda to destroy Britain’s foundational Christian ethical principles and replace them with an ‘anything goes’ secular nihilism.

Secondly, if a colossal 56 have never even been mocked for their faith, and 50 per cent have not ever endured some sort of persecution for their faith, he wonders what sort of Christian they are and what sort of witness they manifest.

And of the 5 per cent who profess to have been turned down for promotion because of their faith, while not doubting that some may have been, it must be observed that it is easy to put one’s deficiencies down to one’s faith. If a Christian be genuinely persuaded that their lack of promotion is purely because of their faith, there is remedy in law for this to be challenged.

These caveats aside, Cranmer has covered some of the more high-profile instances of Christian persecution. But it appears that things are about to get a whole lot worse. New guidelines have been drawn up by the tolerant and enlightened British Humanist Association (with the generous assistance of a £35,000 grant from the taxpayer-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission) to discourage evangelism in the workplace. Christians who seek to share their faith with their colleagues are ‘highly likely’ to be accused of harassment, and consequently suspended or dismissed.

Andrew Copson, director of education at the BHA, claimed that attempts to convert colleagues could amount to harassment under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. He said: "The law specifically protects people from being intimidated or confronted with a hostile environment in the workplace. Systematically undermining someone's beliefs or persistently attempting to convert someone would lead to the creation of a hostile environment.”

It has been observed by church leaders, politicians and churchgoers that there is an increasing intolerance towards Christianity in Britain. It appears to be the one faith which Parliament refuses to debate, and the one faith with which the EHRC declines to concern itself.

It must be the lesson of history that the primary foundational tenet of a liberal society is that it grants religious groups the freedom to practise their religious faith and live by their precepts. Preventing them from doing so is profoundly illiberal and oppressive. But how can one preserve religious tolerance in a country which is becoming increasingly intolerant of the faith by which that tolerance developed? For how much longer should Christians tolerate the intolerant?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

BBC offers apology and £30,000 to Muslim Council of Britain

Is not political debate supposed to be provocative? Does it not consist of the vigorous exchange of ideas, conflicting perspectives and contrary views? And may not the articulation of some of these offend?

It would appear not. For the BBC has officially abolished freedom of speech on its political flagship - Question Time. No longer will they broadcast an opinion with which they happen to disagree. No longer will political commentators be able to criticise the proclamations of Stonewall; no longer will they be permitted to criticise their beloved Labour Party or the minority Liberal Democrats. Political debate now falls under the totalitarian aegis of political correctness, and with true Newspeak censorship, ‘unacceptable’ arguments must be filtered out. And what cannot be said dare not be thought.

In a appalling capitulation to a vacuous ‘threat’ from the Muslim Council of Britain, the state broadcaster has not only apologised for comments made by Charles Moore, they have offered £30,000 of taxpayers’ money by way of compensation.

Cranmer is so incensed by this, he is considering joining Charles Moore’s campaign of non-payment of the TV licence.

The apology and offer of a financial settlement amount to an admission of error on the part of the BBC. And the error, it appears, was their decision to broadcast a comment made by Mr Moore on the conduct of the MCB in relation to their reluctance to condemn the behaviour and words of some of their co-religionists. Thus is Mr Moore guilty of a ‘thought-crime’ for an unacceptable ‘slur’ the good name and impeccable reputation of the MCB, which evidently amounts to blasphemy: Mohammed is insulted and Allah defamed.

But instead of defending the right of Mr Moore to hold or express such views, the BBC loyally pays its jizya (or, rather, pays it on our behalf), and offers material proof of the kafir’s acceptance of subjection to the shari’a state.

The row dates back to 12th March when Question Time chose to debate the protests in Luton of a group of Islamic extremists during a homecoming parade by the Royal Anglian Regiment. These professing Muslims heckled the troops and waved placards which read 'Butchers of Basra' and 'British Government: Terrorist Government'. Charles Moore simply criticised the leadership of MCB for failing to condemn the killing and kidnapping of British soldiers overseas: thus, he averred, do they tacitly support such atrocity. The reason is manifest; the logic impeccable.

The BBC’s cowardly compliance with the divine will of the MCB is in marked contrast to the refusal of Communities Secretary Hazel Blears to settle a similar defamation claim.

While the ‘chipmunk’ bares her teeth to militant Islam, Mr Moore has effectively had his removed by the BBC. He has been humiliated; left sucking with his gums that religio-political cancer which needs biting off, chewing and spewing out.

This is not a matter for censorship: it is one for freedom of speech. The BBC had better never invite His Grace on to the show. Setting aside the manifest inconvenience of his having no corporeal presence, the state broadcaster might find itself having to edit out all the manifest common sense he would spout, all the truth he would articulate, and all the enlightenment he would bring.

And we can’t have licence-fee payers subject to such that sort of corrosive diet, can we?

Friday, May 29, 2009

How should MPs address ‘dishonourable’ members?

It appears that, for financial reasons, disgraced and discredited members of the House of Commons intend to retain their seats until the next General Election – which may be a up to a year away. In the meantime, in accordance with parliamentary convention, they shall continue to be styled ‘honourable’ and ‘right honourable’ members, despite their sullied reputations, despite having brought Parliament into disrepute, and despite their manifest unworthiness of being accorded such distinction and respect.

There has been an attempt on the ‘Number 10’ website to create a petition to address the issue of having to refer to thieves and liars as ‘honourable’ members. It was worded: ‘We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to request Parliament to instruct The Speaker to stop referring to MPs as "The Honourable Member for" and start calling them "The Current Member for".

The reason, says the petitioner, is that: ‘The age old tradition of assuming all MPs to be "Honourable" is clearly outdated and incorrect. Calling them "The Current Member for" would remind them that their position is dependent on their electorate.’

But the petition has been rejected on the grounds that it is ‘outside the remit or power of the Prime Minister and Government.’

Cranmer is puzzled by this.

Surely it is within the power of the Prime Minister to ask Parliament to debate any matter. And, since the Speaker is a servant of the House, surely Parliament may instruct the Speaker to alter convention, otherwise the Speaker would be accountable to no-one. God knows, New Labour has meddled in far more serious traditions and conventions than the relatively trivial issue of how MPs address one another. This being the case, what is it which places Mr Webber’s petition ‘outside the remit or power of the Prime Minister’?

Over at Three Line Whip, James Kirkup draws our attention to a little recent history.

In 1947, one Garry Allighan MP was found guilty of breaking privilege, and the House debated his punishment. During the debate, Herbert Morrison (grandfather of Lord Mandelson) argued that Mr Allighan should be suspended for six months. But other members felt that this ‘would leave his constituents disenfranchised and they should be given the immediate right to chose another MP at a by-election’. An amendment demanding expulsion was moved by Quintin Hogg (father of Douglas Hogg).

Yet Douglas Hogg is one of those MPs now insisting on remaining an MP for the next 12 months despite accepting that public anger of his moat-cleaning claims is such that he must resign.

During the debate, Sir Winston Churchill argued that having been declared ‘dishonourable’, it would be impossible for Mr Allighan to resume his place as an ‘honourable’ member without being re-elected. The outcome was that the Commons passed a motion: ‘That Mr. Allighan, for his gross contempts of the House and for his misconduct, be expelled from this House.’

Mr Kirkup is right to ask: ‘Any resonance for current members, who have tacitly admitted unacceptable conduct but plan to remain in the House?’

Perhaps petitioners ought to petition Number 10 to admit Mr Webber's petition.

52 Labour MPs beg Gordon Brown for a Peerage

Like rats scurrying to abandon a sinking ship, it appears that the political crisis of confidence at the heart of New Labour has persuaded a record 52 members of the Parliamentary Party that they wish to continue claiming their expenses from the House of Lords.

It is a safer option, you see, not being subject to the wrath of the peasants or the disturbing inconveniences of democracy – like elections. It is also a clear indication that at least 15 per cent of Labour MPs expect to lose their seats in a Conservative landslide at the next general election, and the atmosphere of doom and gloom is causing them to reassess their traditional doctrinal antipathy towards the upper house, like hypocritical Socialists tend to. It has never ceased to amaze Cranmer that those who spend their political careers as commoners lambasting the Lords invariably end up becoming one.

But back to the rats.

The disclosure that 52 Labour MPs are praying for a political afterlife in the Lords is precisely the sort of abhorrent spectacle which sickens an already-vomiting electorate. After Tony Blair’s dog’s breakfast of reform to purge the House of Lords of its hereditary peers, Labour presently has 214 peers to the Conservative Party’s 196. Of these, 210 are Labour life peers to the Conservatives’ 148. If all 52 deserting Labour MPs are granted seats in the Lords, it will provide them with a massive 266 peers – 70 more than the Conservatives – with which they can frustrate the will of David Cameron’s government for years to come (or at least until the upper house reform is completed to some sort of logical conclusion).

Like Gordon Brown’s present scorched-earth economic policy, he might find this sabotage irresistible.

One cannot really blame Labour MPs for throwing themselves a lifeline: it is, after all, perfectly natural to want to save oneself from catastrophe. But Cranmer wishes to apologise to rats. He meant no offence when he ascribed rodent-like characteristics to the blood-sucking parasites which make up the Parliamentary Labour Party. He has nothing but respect for those of you who bravely dwell aboard nautical vessels, for you would probably help to rescue the ship’s passengers and crew before jumping overboard yourselves. Labour’s vermin, however, have ceased to be concerned for the unemployed, the homeless, the suffering or the deprived. They simply need to ensure a method by which they can continue to claim their expenses. And if they can simultaneously scupper David Cameron’s first period in government, so much the better.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Baroness Thatcher grants an audience to Pope Benedict XVI

The world’s greatest living Conservative politician has met with one of the world’s greatest conservative theologians. Not, Cranmer hastens to add, as a prelude to conversion: indeed, Carla Powell, who organised the meeting, said: “I think there is more chance of Pope Benedict becoming a Methodist than Baroness Thatcher converting to Rome.”

Margaret Thatcher remains as devout a Methodist as John and Charles Wesley were dedicated Tories. And, unlike Tony Blair, she did not presume to proffer advice on how His Holiness ought to run The Vatican or adapt his theology to accommodate the tastes and fashions of the modern era. From reports, the principal topic of conversation appears to have been her endorsement of a Gordon Brown policy.

No, Baroness Thatcher has not lost her marbles. She simply reiterated the Prime Minister’s invitation for His Holiness to visit the United Kingdom. In an election year, this would be very useful to him, if only so he could bask in a little reflected (though quite undeserved) glory. The ‘feel-good’ effects of a Papal visit coinciding with the imminent beatification of Cardinal Newman may persuade thousands of disaffected and disillusioned Roman Catholics to return to the Labour fold.

One hopes and prays their discernment might be greater.

Being female and heretic ‘separated brethren’, the Baroness wore the customary black, just as she did when, as Leader of the Opposition, she met Pope Paul VI in 1977 and, later as Prime Minister, with Pope John Paul II in 1980. In the latter, she found an anti-Communist soul-mate who also sought political and economic liberation for Eastern Europe. With Ronald Reagan, they constituted the Western triumvirate responsible for the reunification of Europe and the era of glasnost and perestroika. And so the Baroness paid homage, laying a wreath of white roses on the tomb of John Paul II with a card which said: ‘To a man of faith and courage’.

For without faith, nothing is attainable in the religio-political realm. And without courage, there is no leadership to political enlightenment or spiritual salvation.

The world needs more of such as these, for ‘greatness’ has faded in the tediously interminable age of theological compromise and political mediocrity.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Derek Draper ‘is now a practising Christian’

That is according to The Guardian, which insists that Mr Draper is ‘excitable, not evil’. And so, having found salvation, he excitedly trumpets his sheer incredulity that anyone could possibly have believed that he ever for one moment contemplated ‘doing anything with those emails’. He also excitedly enlightens us: “There is a difference between contemplating something and actually doing it – and I didn't do it."

And so he has no need to repent.

The Guardian asked him ‘whether God went Awol when he was online’. His response was: "God doesn't disappear ... my connection to God disappeared the moment I received an email contemplating smearing people and I didn't say no."

So he does have need to repent.

Far be it from Cranmer to judge, but there is something... well, a little convenient about this conversion: it appears to be not so much an ineffable and transcendent experience along the road to Damascus as a distinctly effable and elementary awareness in the cul-de-sac of Derek Draper’s mind.

There is more than a whiff of sulphur surrounding the likes of Peter Mandelson, Damian McBride and Derek Draper. None is of sufficient intellectual stature to be in league with Satan (well, perhaps Lord Mandelson may be), but all would be cognizant of the prince of the power of the air who controls much of the media. One is left wondering about the nature of this god which Mr Draper has found. Is it the one which Tony Blair also now professes; one who accommodatingly blots out sin while conveniently embracing Mammon and bending his orthodoxy to conform to the doctrine of New Labour?

Scripture warns us that wolves masquerade as sheep. It instructs us that we may know believers by their fruits (Mt 7:16), for grapes are not harvested from thorns any more than figs are from thistles.

So perhaps Mr Draper might pay His Grace a visit, and tell his readers and communicants:

1) Are you a real psychotherapist?

2) Did you in any way falsify or misrepresent your qualifications?

3) If you did not intend ever to do anything with ‘those emails’, why did you set up ‘Red Rag’?

4) Why would ‘those emails’ fall into your inbox out of the blue?

5) Who is ‘Ollie Cromwell’, the name to which the domain ‘Red Rag’ is registered, apparently in breach of Nominet’s terms and conditions?

A few truthful answers, please, Mr Draper. For that is the Christian way.

Bless you.

And Cranmer is sincerely delighted that you have found God. At least now you can be certain that someone listens to you.

David Cameron plans a revolution to restore power to the people

One may act like a leader, but it is not the same as being one: Tony Blair did the former supremely; Margaret Thatcher was the latter completely.

It is easy to be cynical about politics and disbelieving of politicians after a decade of New Labour’s empty rhetoric and broken promises. In 1997 Tony Blair promised to renew Britain by focusing on ‘education, education, education’. By 2007 we had a deeply disillusioned nation fattened to the point of lethargy and sickened to the depths of apathy after being force-fed a diet of ‘spin, spin, spin’ for a seemingly interminable decade. And two further years of Gordon Brown have done nothing but induce a certifiable neurosis in a suspicious electorate – a pathological psychosis of confusion, depression and breakdown, the ultimate symptom of which is politicophobia.

As with most modern phobias, politicophobia is not remotely concerned with fear of a thing but with some sort of antipathy towards whatever prefixes the word. People now appear to loathe politicians more than they have ever despised traffic wardens or second-hand car salesmen. And we are witnessing politicophobic attacks every bit as ugly as those reported for Islamophobia or homophobia, the perpetrators of which rarely fear either Muslims or homosexuals, but happen to simply disagree with their theology and life-style respectively.

It is tempting, though wholly understandable, to perceive David Cameron as the heir to Blair. Indeed, after a decade in opposition, he is positively Obama-esque with his agenda for change and his feint solutions to the ‘credit crunch’, the recession, ‘breakdown Britain’, a nuclear Iran, Israel-Palestine tensions, poverty in Africa, civil war in Pakistan, etc., etc.

David Cameron incarnates the spirit and vocalise the words written by inter alia Sam Coates. But Mr Coates is known to mean what he says. Mr Cameron is widely perceived to be the sort of man who will say whatever he has to say in order to get whatever he needs and go wherever he wants. He has spent recent years talking about how he intends to fix our ‘broken Britain’, though he has frequently been criticised for failing to outline the details of his policies.

But now he is promising to fix our broken Parliament along with our broken democracy. And the details of his intended policies have been disclosed in revolutionary detail.

The whole speech can be read HERE. Some key ideas, indeed vast tranches could have been lifted straight out of The Plan. Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell have shown themselves to be politically prophetic. One wants to believe, to hope, to trust that David Cameron can deliver on his proposals. But this requires that the man means what he says, is convicted by his rhetoric and intends to dedicate every fibre of his being to the most radical parliamentary reformation since that of 1832. If this be so, we may once again be at another watershed moment at which the sovereignty of the people is further (or re-) established in law; at which Parliament is forced to become more susceptible to the influence of public opinion and more secure in the confidence of the people.

The ‘further’ or ‘re-' establishment of the sovereignty of the people is not a pedantic point. In a true democracy, it is the people who decide which powers to lend to their leaders. In a false democracy, it is the leaders who decide which freedoms to lend to the people. One can be in no doubt that successive EU treaties have ‘pooled’ sovereignty to the extent that it has been negated. A pledge to restore it constitutes an assurance that UK law shall once again be superior to EU law, which would require abrogation of the EU treaties and reversal of the acquis communautaire.

Much of what Mr Cameron is promising is very easy to deliver. Fixed-term parliaments, the ability to recall our MPs, committees elected by back-benchers and more scrutiny of legislation are straightforward and relatively minor developments. But his central thesis was a demand for ‘a massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power’. This, he said, had to be:

‘From the state to citizens; from the government to parliament; from Whitehall to communities. From Brussels to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. Through decentralisation, transparency and accountability we must take power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street.’

A ‘massive, sweeping, radical redistribution of power...from the EU to Britain’ would require a demand (yes, a full-bloodied, handbag-swinging demand) that the EU implement the subsidiarity clause for which the Treaty of Maastricht provided. This ‘negotiation’ could only really be demanded on pain of withdrawal. And the only way to wrest power from the judges and restore it to the people would be to withdraw from the ECHR, reject the supremacy of EU court judgements and restore the people’s Parliament as the sole fount of our laws.

If this were ever to find its way into the next Conservative Party manifesto, and the Conservative Party were to win the general election on such a programme of reform, the implications for the UK’s relationship with the EU are seismic. We shall either need to withdraw from the Union, or witness the formation of a ‘two-speed’ or ‘two-tier’ bloc with an ‘inner core’ dedicated to political union while the peripheral members are free to trade in the manner of EFTA.

The second option is most likely to be what Mr Cameron has in mind, though it amounts to the first. Certainly, it is consonant with his pledge to withdraw his MEPs from the EPP (which, although it did not take place ‘within months, not years’, is now but weeks away from being fulfilled). It is also consistent with the Party’s intention to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Even if it be in force when the Conservative Party forms a government, they have said that they ‘will not let matters rest there’.

David Cameron has political antennae every bit as attuned to the mood of the nation as those of Tony Blair. He observes that people are ‘deprived of opportunities to shape the world around them, and at the mercy of powerful elites that preside over them’. Yet he knows that rhetoric and spin no longer fool any of the people any of the time. He knows that the traditions of Parliament are perfectly workable because they have stood the test of time. The problem, he realises, is that of perfidious politicians conspiring with a jesuitical judiciary to diminish democracy and paralyse the people. The solution he has articulated is profoundly important for the Conservative Party because it is crucial for the nation. And it has come from his heart.

When you cease speaking to people hearts, you cease communicating at all. In this speech, David Cameron has shown that he understands that the modern world has moved on, and that it became postmodern. He grasps that political debate should move on because context moves on. There is no point reading the old texts through the lens of modernity when they long since ceased to resonate, not because the essential truths changed, but because the context did.

Avoiding the political challenges posed by postmodernity for fear of philosophical relativism, or accusation of inconsistency or (God forbid) spin, is simply to build a wall around Conservative Campaign Headquarters. This may create a monument to a great tradition, but it ceases to be a dynamic movement capable of articulating the nation’s natural conservatism.

The new era demands engagement with the world at all levels and with the British people at theirs. The balance is difficult, but David Cameron has eloquently articulated a possible postmodern Conservatism: a fractured, deregulated, devolved and diverse Conservatism for a new age. And for doing so, he deserves praise and admiration for the hope and optimism he has engendered.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Speaker’s electoral immunity must end

Amidst the cries for major reform and the tinkering with procedures being mooted as potential solutions to the present political crisis, there is one tradition which has not been questioned. Yet the practice is so anachronistic and archaic that it offends against both Christian revelation and the Enlightenment foundation that all men are created equal; ‘that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights’. There has perhaps been no more succinct or more memorable rebuttal than these words to the religio-political absolutism of the Divine Right of Kings, which sustained the belief that the king was not subject to the will of the people or, indeed, to any earthly body.

Yet this belief is perpetuated for one, and only one, of our members of the House of Commons.

In general elections, it is convention that opposition parties do not field candidates against The Speaker – the First Commoner of the Land - ostensibly because he (or she) is non-partisan. It is as if to do so were perceived as an attempt to depose God’s anointed or to restrict his (or her) powers over Parliament. To challenge this is to run contrary to the will of God and manifestly constitutes heresy. The Speaker presides over the House's debates, determines which members may speak and which may not, and has the power to punish members who break the rules of the House. The Speaker thereby becomes a monarch in his realm. While members may depose him, the people cannot.

It may have been the case that the aspirant Welsh of Cardiff West had nothing to complain of to Speaker Thomas; the white-collared workers of Croydon North-East were happy to revel in yuppiedom during the reign of Speaker Weatherill; and the middle-classes of West Bromwich West were content to be charmed by Speaker Boothroyd. But in Glasgow North East, the constituency of the manifestly partisan Speaker Martin, a scandalous 30 per cent are unemployed and claiming benefits; life expectancy in the poorest areas is just 60.2 years – worse than Bangledesh, Iraq and Uzbekistan. Several primary schools are facing closure, healthcare is manifestly deficient, and poverty abounds.

And yet for the past decade the people have been denied their right to vote for change.

Quite how this fundamentally undemocratic tradition has endured to the modern era and survived the invasive and unforgiving scrutiny of a baying postmodern media is bemusing. How can it be justified in a free and democratic nation that the people who have the misfortune to live in the constituency of The Speaker are deprived of their democratic rights? How otherwise are they able to protest against the party of The Speaker? How can these people have any confidence in a political system or the institutions of government which conspires to deprive them of a voice? How is it that this tradition has never been challenged in the House of Lords, pleaded to the Monarch, or even appealed to our ultimate court of appeal – the European Court of Human Rights?

Interestingly, Article 39 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrines in law the right of all EU citizens ‘to vote and to stand as a candidate at elections to the European Parliament’, and Article 40 guarantees their right ‘to vote and to stand as a candidate at municipal elections. There is no reference at all to the people’s right to vote in national general elections. The European notion of democratic rights progresses from the municipal level directly to the European: there is no nation state; national elections are subsumed to the regional agenda.

The immunity of The Speaker is an anomaly which Parliament itself must address. Michael Gove observes: ‘In the past Speakers have been chosen to "reflect the mood of the House", the next Speaker has to reflect the needs of the country and that is why the candidates should be making their case to the nation, so we can vote in accordance with popular demands, not parliamentary currents of opinion.

There is no better way for The Speaker to reflect the needs of the country than for him (or her) to be made directly accountable to the people of the country. Those who live in The Speaker’s constituency are invisible at a general election, and so their cries need not be heeded and their concerns need not be addressed either before or after. They are disenfranchised, divorced from democracy, deprived of their human rights.

Parliamentary reform cannot be a spring clean; it needs now to thoroughly disinfect and disinfest. And procedures need to be put in place to ensure that infection and infestation cannot recur. As one small part of this, surely it is time to end this modern-day Rotten Borough and make The Speaker accountable not only to Parliament but to the people.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nadine Dorries censored by the Barclay Brothers

Cranmer has commented before on the over-sensitive censoriousness of the Barclay brothers – the billionaire owners of The Daily Telegraph. They do not like criticism, have often been accused of abusing their power, and have turned what used to be a national journalistic jewel into their personal religio-political mouthpiece. They have dispensed with the paper's traditional Toryism; they permit their religious correspondents to denigrate the Church of England with impunity and perpetuate the bigoted myth that all Muslims are fascists. They have been described as ‘creepy and anti-democratic’ by a former British ambassador, and a whole lot worse by the residents of Sark where the brothers directly intervened during the island’s first democratic election.

It is reported that lawyers acting on their behalf appear to have silenced the blog of Nadine Dorries MP (cached here), who dared to speculate upon the brothers’ motives for drip-feeding to the nation the sometimes scandalous and often sordid details of MPs’ expenses – to which she referred as a ‘witch hunt’ – all on the run-up to the Euro elections.

Cui bono?

The tortuously slow execution of Conservative and Labour MPs amounts to death by a thousand cuts. Mrs Dorries surmised that the beneficiaries of this would be the BNP and UKIP – pretty much what the Archbishops of Canterbury and York said yesterday. With a plain-speaking rant quite antithetical to the subtle art of politics, Mrs Dorries put two and two together, and accused the brothers of having political sympathies for one or both of these parties.

Libel, opinion or fair comment?

Well, the Barclay brothers believe it to constitute libel, so the blog of Nadine Dorries is no more. Dizzy explains the sequence of events.

But before commenting upon this absurd over-reaction and overtly anti-democratic move, Cranmer would like to take issue with Mrs Dorries’ assertion that this is a ‘witch hunt’.

These ugly manifestations of moral hysteria reached their peak during the 15th-17th centuries, during which hundreds of thousands of (mainly) women were (usually) drowned or burned at the stake. Ms Dorries needs to reflect upon the fact that the victims were largely innocent of the sorcery and Satan worship of which they were accused, and frequently were guilty of nothing more than ‘heresy’ against either the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church or of Martin Luther. When the Reformers and the Counter-Reformers appropriated the punishments for sorcery and witchcraft, all manner of evil and grotesque torture was perpetrated in the name of Jesus.

Of course, Mrs Dorries deploys the term in a non-literal sense, but she fails to understand that the metaphor is concerned with panic-induced searches for perceived wrong-doers.

Many of the MPs who have been named and shamed by The Daily Telegraph are not merely perceived to have done wrong, but have been proven to have done so. Ergo, this is no ‘witch hunt’, but a wholly justified and justifiable Inquisition.

And one which stretches right to the front door of the true location of Mrs Dorries’ main residence. By attempting to blame The Daily Telegraph for the undermining of Parliament, she displays a spectacular lack of judgement and gross insensitivity. Some MPs have so defrauded the public purse that prosecutions must ensue. For Mrs Dorries to have sympathy for the ‘tortured’ honourable members rather than the impoverished taxpayer is contemptible.

But this post is concerned not so much with what Nadine Dorries wrote as with the consequent over-zealous action of the Barclay brothers. Politicians who expose sinister plots invariably find themselves accused of being ‘conspiracy theorists’ and certainly tend to find themselves accused of all manner of mental and moral deficiencies. That is an occupational hazard. The Telegraph would be perfectly free to express its forthright views about Mrs Dorries in exactly the same way as they do about the Church of England and Muslims. But to move litigiously and succeed in the eradication of a blog is the sort of intimidatory or bullying action one might associate with the regimes of Iran, North Korea or China. We are in the United Kingdom in the 21st century – a liberal democracy which upholds freedom of the media a permits freedom of speech, guaranteed further by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It must be observed that no court of law has found Mrs Dorries guilty of libel. Yet the law permits the mere accusation to impinge upon her freedom of speech. And so her entire blog – not merely the putative offending article – has been taken down. She has been silenced by the state, denied the very medium by which she might have made her defence.

Cranmer has much admired some of the work of Nadine Dorries – particularly her spirited attempt to limit the scandalous number of abortions performed in the UK. When Cranmer won an award from ConservativeHome, having no corporeal presence he donated his bottle of champagne to Mrs Dorries, who publicly expressed her appreciation. While His Grace has some concerns over what Mrs Dorries alleged, the severity of the subsequent action brought by the Barclay brothers only serves as further evidence of their illiberal dogmatism, their obdurate zealotry and their obsessive resistance to criticism.

By assaulting opinion, they challenge the freedom by which they propagate their own. By waging war against a blog, they display a propensity for censoriousness which has no place in a free society.

Cranmer thinks Nadine Dorries was unwise, and even ill-informed. If she is intent on publishing such allegations, she must open her blog to permit her views to be challenged. Her total withdrawal of comments is not acceptable, and certainly not in the spirit of blogging. But Cranmer is standing with her on this for the sake of liberty. John Stuart Mill argued that ‘there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered’. Cranmer shares his view that the fullest liberty of expression must be permitted by the state in order to advance arguments to their logical limits, rather than to the limits of a politically-correct social acceptability. Mill’s ‘harm principle’, which places limitations on this liberty, was specifically articulated to prevent harm to others.

But it was never intended to limit the expression of reasoned opinion or to prevent speculation upon the political or religious motives of the rich and powerful.

Parliament is in chaos, politicians are impotent and the public are angry. The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, has increased its circulation and the billionaire Barclay brothers have further enriched themselves. UKIP and the BNP are widely expected to benefit from the sorry saga.

‘Cui bono?’ indeed.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Archbishop of Canterbury: 'Stop humiliating our MPs'

Your Grace, they have humiliated themselves.

Rowan Williams is right to observe that the controversy over MPs' expenses is ‘as grave as could be for our parliamentary democracy, and urgent action is needed to restore trust’. After more than two weeks of the Telegraph’s daily dripping of scandal, innuendo and tittle-tattle, Dr Williams asks ‘whether the point has not been adequately made’ because the ‘continuing systematic humiliation of politicians itself threatens to carry a heavy price in terms of our ability to salvage some confidence in our democracy’.

He then enters one of his usual labyrinths of obfuscational discourse, from which all but the most longsuffering politico-religionist invariably turns off, and that is not the congregation to which he must minister: he might as well be talking Panjabi in Golders Green.

On the issue of MPs’ expenses, most people do not care about ‘underlying attitudes’; they care even less about ‘a basic problem in our moral thinking’, the ‘moral defects of culture’ or the etymology of ‘integrity’. When the Archbishop talks of such things, it begins to sounds like a defence: the scurvy politicians’ mantra that ‘no rules were broken’ is simply symptomatic of a broken society. But these extravagant expense claims – from kit-kats and duck islands to champagne, caviar and entire houses – were not mistakes. Despite the plethora of pathetic protestations, they were not instances of forgetfulness or momentary aberrations. And neither were they just unfortunate manifestations of a flawed system in need of reform. They were a deliberate and systematic contrivance to suck the teat of the taxpayer and extract every last drop of ‘what’s owed to them’.

One wonders why the Archbishop is not preaching against their greed, for that sin is mentioned among those which may exclude one from the Kingdom of God (2Cor 6:9f). Doubtless some of the worst offenders make a very public display of occupying the Archbishops’ pews Sunday by Sunday, yet there is no rebuke, even for the salvation of their souls. And why has no Roman Catholic leader expressed his disappointment at the performance of the first Roman Catholic Speaker since the Reformation? And why have no Imams condemned Mohammad Sarwar or Shahid Malik, whose avarice has surely thwarted his prediction of the total Islamification of Britain and a Muslim prime minister, ‘Allah willing’, within the next thirty years?

Members of Parliament are not only supposed to be pillars of temporal society, but they are ex officio elders within their churches, synagogues, mosques and gurdwaras. They are respected for their status, their inner moral integrity; by their fruits they make disciples and evangelise them to their political cause. Yet as they have eaten meat and drunk wine and caused the weak to stumble, not one of their religious leaders has spoken of hypocrites, whited sepulchres or broods of vipers.

Instead, we get the etymology of ‘integrity’.

And a little advice (actually, a direct instruction) that we must not vote for ‘extremist’ parties on 4th June.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have combined their mitres in appealing to voters to exercise ‘great vigilance’ in making their decision on who to vote for. They do this as their spokesman, bizarrely, is quoted as saying 'the Church should stay out of politics’.

The Archbishops are of the view that, rather than caving in to anger, the elections present an opportunity to display higher ideals, ‘for renewing the vision of a community united by mutual respect, high ethical standards and the pursuit of justice and peace’.

They continue: “It is crucial to elect those who wish to uphold the democratic values and who wish to work for the common good in a spirit of public service, which urgently needs to be reaffirmed in these difficult days."

And which party is promising to uphold the democratic values of the EU?

It is curious advice from the archbishops and bishops of the Church of England that voters should use their EU vote ‘with care’. As the Bishop of Lichfield expresses his ‘distaste’ for any political platform that destabilised communities through ‘misinformation, scare stories and inflammatory rhetoric’, Cranmer wonders if the Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill understands what politics is about. And if one is to reject the divisive policies and corrosive agenda of the BNP on 4th June (as one must), then a fortiori must the bishops of the Church of England exhort the faithful not to vote Labour, for their anti-Christian extremism is antithetical to the common good. It is just as subversive and every bit as destructive of the traditions and foundations of the nation. And their insidious ‘equality’ agenda also threatens to destabilise the communities in which we live, work and worship.

Perhaps the Church of England might speak simply and plainly for once. Why not just exhort the faithful to vote Conservative?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Andrew MacKay to step down at next general election

Cranmer is deeply distressed. It is with a heavy heart indeed that he hears that Andrew MacKay is to step down at the next general election. Last night Mr MacKay was boasting that his constituents supported him 3:1, and only this morning he was adamant that he would be standing in Bracknell once again at the next general election. He has been David Cameron's eyes and ears (or ' mine-sweeper') ever since Mr Cameron became the Party Leader.

In an age of gender equality, it is difficult now to see how Julie Kirkbride can survive.

Mr MacKay's statement read:

Following a conversation with David Cameron this morning I have decided to step down as candidate for Bracknell at the next general election. I believe I could be a distraction at a time when he is working to get elected as prime minister with the good working majority necessary to take the tough decisions to turn this country around. I hope my decision to step down goes some way to showing my constituents how sorry I am about my own situation. I would never forgive myself if my candidature distracted voters from the key issues and particularly David's rousing call for change. It has been both a privilege and huge fun to represent the people of Bracknell for 26 years. I understand why people are angry. I hope my decision to step down goes some way to showing my constituents how sorry I am about my own situation.

How sorry he is about his own situation?

What contrition it is which maintains an egocentric obsession with one's own plight! Where is the humility or the thought of others? One wonders about the situation of the impoverished taxpayer, which is not ameliorated by this decision one bit. Does he not even now give a thought to the situation of his deceived constituents? Or to the situation of his loyal and trusting local members? After all, £300,000 isn't a bad scam. And by stepping down down now, he avoids having to repay a penny.

The Conservative Party needs honest men and women; good people, noble and true. Cranmer agrees with the Archbishop of Canterbury that the mantra 'no rules were broken', deployed by many MPs and by Andrew MacKay up to the last, is a mentality which represents a 'basic problem' in contemporary moral thinking. While the departure of Mr MacKay is the very fulfilment of Enoch Powell's maxim that all political careers end in failure, it has to be observed that this particular failure is a deeply personal one, the fount of which was Andrew MacKay's own arrogance, deceit, duplicity, and his disgraceful delusional belief in his own omnipotent infallibility.

One hopes there is not the remotest possibility of Lord MacKay of Bracknell...

Andrew MacKay: ‘a thief, a crook, a scamster, a dishonest man with no sense of moral judgement and no sense of right and wrong’

How can an MP give a moral lead to the nation when he is so deficient in his personal morality? This BBC report is compulsive viewing – not only because in its spectacle it is pure theatre in the Aristotelian sense (lacking only in music, though Beau Bo D’Or could easily rectify that). But it is also both tragedy and comedy: tragic for the Conservative Party which has to endure – on the eve of a crucial election – the demoralising consequences of Sky accusing David Cameron’s erstwhile ‘Senior Parliamentary Adviser’ of being ‘disingenuous’ while the voters of Bracknell accuse him of ‘misrepresenting’ his constituency meeting; and comic in the extent to which Mr Mackay sustains the absurd (and utterly unscientific) assertion that each time he was criticised ‘a quarter of the audience applauded’, and each time there were expressions of support ‘three quarters of the audience applauded’. It is astonishingly poor judgement evidencing complete insensitivity to the anger and mood of the nation.

Andrew MacKay dismisses criticism and patronises the people. In the interview he even contradicts himself, insisting twice that this was a ‘straw poll’, and then saying this ‘wasn’t a straw poll’ (does he understand the term?). Significantly, the Association chairman did not permit a vote, simply leaving Mr MacKay to communicate his feelings and subjective perception of how the meeting went.

Straw poll or not, this embarrassing interview really ought to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. In today’s Daily Mail Lord Tebbit warns David Cameron about perceived double standards in his dealing with Conservative MPs. The axe has fallen swiftly on some Tory grandees of the old school, with their knighthoods, mansions and duck islands. But Mr Cameron’s modernising friends and fellow Old Etonians have been spared such summary judgement. Sir Peter Viggers was sacked for claiming £30,000 on ‘gardening expenses’; Anthony Steen was sacked for claiming £88,000 on ‘property maintenance’. But Andrew MacKay and his wife Julie Kirkbride have fleeced the taxpayer of a whopping £282,731 in an audacious and utterly immoral scam.

Their expense claims were neither within the letter nor the spirit of the rules. The claim for their two houses was fraudulent because in the eyes of the law Andrew Mackay and Julie Kirkbride are one. The religious marriage service became a state contract precisely for the purposes of defining property ownership and such matters as financial inheritance rights.

When the two became one, their properties became co-owned and they became mutual beneficiaries of each others’ estates and mutually liable. Yet Mr MacKay nominated the family home in Ms Kirkbride’s constituency as his second home, while she nominated their London property as her second home. Thus neither of them had a primary residence: they lived in both homes wholly at the taxpayers’ expense. In short, Andrew Mackay and Julie Kirkbride sought to defraud the taxpayer by pretending that their properties were separately owned by separate people. They were not because they are not.

The 'advice' of the Fees Office in this scam is immaterial. The claim was immoral, deceitful, and quite possibly illegal. They have brought the Conservative Party into disrepute, and they should be deselected. If they are not, the Party risks losing two 'safe' seats to high-profile 'anti-sleaze' Jury Team candidates.

This Sky interview is damning. The good that Andrew MacKay has done for the people of Bracknell has, in the words of one constituent, been ‘swept away by greed’

Yet incredibly, manifesting his disdain for the voters and showing utter contempt for the taxpayers, he is not volunteering to pay back any of the £282,731 he and his wife have fraudulently claimed. He dismissively says: “I will naturally abide by the decision of those who are looking into these affairs who will make recommendations on what if any money to return.”

What if any money to return?

This beggars belief.

Andrew MacKay is obviously banking (literally) on the fact that membership of the Conservative Party's scrutiny committee consists of:

• David Gold, senior partner at Herbert Smith
• Patrick McLoughlin MP, Chief Whip
• John Randall MP, Assistant Chief Whip
• Ed Llewellyn, DC's Chief of Staff
• Ian McIsaac, Head of Compliance at CCHQ
• Jeremy Middleton, Chairman of National Conservative Convention

And whips doubtless stand by each other like Freemasons (that is if they are not all Masons anyway).

Bracknell (and Bromsgrove) 2010 are in danger of becoming a replay of Tatton 1997. Andrew Mackay and Julie Kirkbride are recontaminating the Conservative brand. They must both step down for the good of the Party: they both need to spend more time with their families in their respective second homes.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Churches will be forced to employ homosexual youth workers

That is the alarmist claim in The Daily Telegraph. No high-profile mention of synagogues, mosques, gurdwaras, mandirs or viharas. Not that the viharas would mind much. But the focus of the effects of Labour’s Equality Bill is very much on its incompatibility with Christian orthodoxy and Church tradition. One wonders why, when the headline ‘Mosques will be forced to employ homosexual youth workers’ would have clarified the absurdity of the Government’s agenda, and doubtless sold more copy.

Before Cranmer continues, he seeks the advice of his communicants: may one use the word ‘homosexual’ any longer? Or is it, like the term ‘Roman Catholic’, considered by some practitioners to be derogatory or pejorative? Is ‘gay’ more gay-friendly?

Maria Eagle is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Government Equalities Office. She is the twin sister of Angela Eagle, who holds the distinction of being Parliament's first, and thus far only, openly lesbian member. Nothing whatsoever wrong with that: where Ms Eagle soars in her own time, and whither she ducks and dives in the privacy of her own home, is absolutely nothing to do with the State.

Unless, perhaps, Maria Eagle’s equalities agenda be influenced my sensitivities to familial loyalties.

The Equalities Bill does not go as far as forcing churches to employ homosexual priests, vicars or pastors: the State will graciously continue to permit those who preach the Word to live it. But churches may no longer discriminate against homosexuals youth workers, secretaries and other staff, even if their tradition holds same-sex relationships to be sinful.

It has been observed in recent years that that Christians are being disproportionately affected and unfairly targeted by discrimination laws. Christian leaders had hoped that churches would be exempt from the provisions of the Equality Bill, but Maria Eagle has stated that it will cover almost all church employees. She addressed delegates at a London conference for ‘Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia (that’s a new one) and Human Rights’, and told them:

‘The circumstances in which religious institutions can practise anything less than full equality are few and far between. While the state would not intervene in narrowly ritual or doctrinal matters within faith groups, these communities cannot claim that everything they run is outside the scope of anti-discrimination law. Members of faith groups have a role in making the argument in their own communities for greater LGBT acceptance, but in the meantime the state has a duty to protect people from unfair treatment.’

What about protecting Christians from ‘unfair treatment’? Or is it ‘fair’ that church adoption agencies may be forced to prefer homosexual adoptive parents; or Christian unions may be led by non-believers; or Christians lose their jobs for merely offering to pray with someone, or suspended for daring to oppose ‘gay marriage’?

'Organised religion’ is no longer to be exempt from the homosexual equality agenda: the Equality Bill specifies exemptions only for those who lead the liturgy or spend the majority of the time teaching doctrine. ‘Diversity’ in all other aspects of church life is to be enforced, and this constitutes an undoubted threat to orthodoxy and distinct religious identity. If churches may no longer discriminate against practising homosexuals ‘in the provision of good and services’, will it be lawful to bar them from taking bread and wine? The Eucharist is manifestly a ‘service’: is the State presuming to determine whom the Church may or may not excommunicate?

It is, however, somewhat puzzling that the Government is of the opinion that church youth workers do not spend the majority of their time teaching doctrine. But that point has already been tested, and the church lost.

Why are political parties exempt from discrimination legislation? Why is a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party not permitted to work for the Labour Party? How can such an unjust discrimination be tolerated?

Or is this yet another shameful example of politicians imposing regulations upon the electorate while simultaneously exempting themselves? Do they never learn?

And Cranmer still yearns to know why Ms Eagle did not make it clear in her address to the ‘Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia and Human Rights’ conference that this Bill will oblige mosques to employ homosexual youth workers, secretaries, architects, builders, window cleaners, etc., etc.

Perhaps it is too near an election to disclose the plan of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Joanna Lumley for PM?

Cranmer jests, but (frankly) any celebrity could stand as a candidate in just about any parliamentary constituency at the moment, and they would be likely to be elected with resounding majorities. Esther Rantzen is rumoured to be toying with the idea, just as Martin Bell did and Delia Smith threatened to in 1997; and Rosemary Scallon (Dana) and Michael Cashman did in 1999.

Call it the Reagan, Eastwood or Schwarzenegger effect. Celebrities by definition possess a face and name recognition which the vast majority of politicians fail to attain throughout their entire lives. If, as Enoch Powell observed, all political careers end in failure, it is equally true that all bar a few in each generation end in utter and thankless obscurity. The only real celebrity politician at the moment is Boris. The name recognition is instant.

And let us not be discriminatory or unkindly career-ist in trashing the intellectual capabilities or political acumen of members of the entertainment profession. One is as likely to be able to form a government from the diverse members of Equity as one may find chancellors, ministers and secretaries of state among the myriad of one-legged Asian lesbians we shall doubtless have in the next Parliament by virtue of positive discrimination.

Joanna Lumley MP?

Her campaign for the Gurkhas has been inspirational, and the outcome a euphoric victory. The Home Secretary has announced today that all Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997 with at least four years' service will be allowed to settle in the UK. Joanna Lumley has rectified a manifest injustice and shamed the Government. Politicians on all sides ought to fear the independent and very real threat of potential 'Jury Team' candidates.

Peter Hitchens: The importance of being Roman and Catholic

Peter Hitchens writes today upon a matter of nomenclature for the use of which Cranmer is not infrequently chided. He observes:

More religiously-related matters: I am chided for using the term 'Roman Catholic'. I really cannot see that this is so terrible. Its use in England (I cannot speak for elsewhere, hence my use of the word 'Catholic' above to describe the German Edith Stein) is designed to make the point that the Church of England regards itself as both Catholic and Reformed, and many Anglicans, though not members of the Roman Church, regard themselves as Catholics. I know this comes as a surprise to many English Roman Catholics, who are often strikingly ill-informed about the Church of England. But it is so. I could take them to some C of E churches where the worship and doctrine were considerably more Catholic than anything to be found readily in a modern RC Church. A Roman Catholic colleague of mine, unable to get to his usual church a few Christmases ago, found his way in emergency into a rather 'High' Anglican church instead, and was barely able to tell them apart. This doesn't happen to be my tradition. I am to be found in the Latitudinarian middle. But it is very strong, and not to be ignored.

What's more, the expression 'Roman Catholic' does not strike me as specially wounding ,or meant to be (though I suspect the description of the Pope as 'Bishop of Rome' in the Thirty Nine Articles was deliberately intended as a snub). The Roman Catholic church is after all headquartered in Rome, uses Latin as its language of business (and until recently as its language of worship) and was for many generations greatly dominated by Italian clergy. Were I to use expressions such as ‘Romish’ or ‘Papist’, I could see that this might be taken as rude. But ‘Roman Catholic?’ No.

On the day that the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols is installed in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Westminser as the 11th Roman Catholic Archbishop of that diocese, Cranmer hopes that Mr Hitchens' gracious exposition of the importance of being Roman and Catholic is clear and understood.

English Democrats - putting England first

This is the sort of moderate, reasonable English nationalism which ought to consign the BNP to Gehenna, where they belong.

The English Democrats note the injustices caused by having a Scottish parliament and a Welsh assembly, but no equivalent legislative body for England. They want 'fair play' in immigration; a reconsideration of the Barnett formula; an English national day and a parliament for what is, after all, the largest country in the United Kingdom. They embrace the diverse races and creeds which now make up England, and wonder why the British establishment proposes no solution to the constitutional imbalance. According to the English Democrats, England 'gets a raw deal'.

Well, it does. But there is nothing in this party political broadcast to which the Conservative Party ought not to be applying its finest minds. It is profoundly saddening when the only solution to chronic political grievances is to found yet another political party to address them. There is nothing to be gained by fracturing and fragmentation, to which there is no logical end.

Is not the Conservative Party the national party? If the Party were truly a 'broad church', it would embrace such as these. For they are manifestly disenfranchised English Conservatives who simply want this blessed plot to be recognised, and the realm acknowledged. And there is no shame in that.

Anglicans, Israel and Zionism – they just don’t get it

Anglican Friends of Israel are dismayed at the Resolution on the Middle East passed by the Anglican Consultative Committee in the name of all Anglicans last weekend. The Anglican Journal reports the dismay at the original Resolution prepared by Anglican Peace and Justice Network amongst some of the VIP delegates. According to the Anglican Journal, Claire Amos, the Anglican Communion’s Director of Theological Studies, feared that if passed, the Resolution would prove ‘deeply detrimental’ to Anglican-Jewish dialogue and would even appear to be ‘bad faith’ on the part of the Anglican Communion. Archbishop Rowan Williams baulked at a clause demanding a reversal what the AJPN called ‘the judaization of the city (of Jerusalem) by the government of Israel …’. According to the Journal, the Archbishop felt that using the word ‘Judaization’ equated religious Israeli Jews with what he termed ‘the political machinations of the Israeli government’.

That the Archbishop of Canterbury and others succeeded in suppressing a resolution which the Bishop of Bristol described as approaching ‘pretty angry’ in tone and volume, comes as some relief. However, the resulting Resolution still indicates that the leadership of the Church of England has not really grasped the roots of the conflict in the Middle East where they seem incapable of looking beyond the misleading paradigm of Israeli oppression and Palestinian victimhood.

For instance, the Resolution now adopted ‘deplores violence wherever it is used’ but identifies only Israeli use of force. Are ACC delegates really unaware of the 10,000 rockets which have rained down on Israel’s cities and villages from Gaza since September 2000? Or of the arms and explosives bound for terrorist operations against Israelis that are regularly intercepted at checkpoints in the Palestinian territories and at Israel’s security barrier?

Poverty exists in both Israel and the Palestinian territories, but the Resolution mentions only Palestinian poverty, and Israeli policies alone are blamed for it. Are Anglican leaders not even a little troubled by the billions of dollars of aid which are squandered on propping up corrupt Palestinian leaders and nourishing terrorism instead of being channelled into Palestinian infrastructure, education or jobs? Are they perturbed by UN-funded Palestinian schools which teach children to hate Jews and dedicate their lives to Israel’s destruction?

If they are, they are not telling.

The long history of Arab aggression towards Israel’s Jews, and the very real determination among many Arab leaders to witness Israel’s eradication, is consistently ignored for it cannot be forced into the current Anglican framework of Palestinians as victims of Israel. So, ignoring oft-repeated Arab statements calling for the end of Israel as a Jewish state and the string of failures by Palestinian leaders to honour any of their responsibilities under existing treaties, such as the dismantling of their terrorist infrastructure, the Resolution ‘calls on the Israeli government to respond favourably’ to Arab peace proposals.

Coincidentally, only two days before the Resolution was passed, Abbas Zaki, Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, expressed the hope that the two-state solution would result not in the Anglican dream of two states living side by side in peace and prosperity, but in Israel’s collapse.

Zaki continued: “...when the ideology of Israel collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem... Allah willing, and drive them out of all of Palestine.”

This was just the latest statement in a long line from Arab leaders from Hamas to Hezbollah and from Iran to Libya. When have Anglican leaders even acknowledged such statements, let alone responded to them?

No-one suggests that all Israeli government policies are just or righteous. But it is manifestly unjust that so many official Anglican pronouncements reference Israeli security measures only in the context of Palestinian inconvenience and humiliation, divorcing them from the context of the widespread Arab refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist and the continuing threat of Arab terrorism.

This imbalance in the Anglican response is both unhelpful for Palestinians who need friends to be honest about the root causes of their suffering, and unjust to Israel which has repeatedly demonstrated willingness to make concessions for peace, but nevertheless refuses to leave her citizens to the mercy of Arab leaders, at the behest of a deeply hostile UN.

It is heartening to learn that the Archbishop of Canterbury is overseeing ongoing dialogue between Anglicans and Jews. The refusal of Anglican leaders to allow the ACC meeting to be used by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network to platform their fury against Israel is a relief. But more is needed.

Anglican leaders need to confront the uncomfortable fact that they have adopted a narrative framework of the conflict that is historically flawed and ideologically skewed. That is why it is imperative that Claire Amos’ suggestion that the Anglican Church explore its understanding of Zionism should be taken up very soon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Douglas Carswell for Speaker

The name Douglas Carswell will go down in history as the man who changed the course of British democracy by initiating the Great Reform of Parliament in 2009. By nailing his 95 theses to the door posting his motion upon his blog, he confronted Parliament’s indulgences and disputed the erroneous claim of MPs that freedom from punishment by the gods of the electorate could be purchased with patio sets, bathplugs, plasma televisions or mock-Tudor beams.

It is only because of his dogged determination, his noble tenacity, his self-sacrificial campaign for accountability and his desire to restore honour and integrity to Parliament that we have witnessed the ejection of only the second Speaker of the House of Commons in Parliament’s long history. Any who reflect upon the first occasion in 1695 will hear the name of Speaker Trevor, but those who exposed and deposed him are long-forgotten; shrouded in the remoteness of yesteryear. But Douglas Carswell will long be remembered as a true Whig who sought to restore the sovereignty of Parliament; a noble Roundhead who confronted the courtly fashions of a cavalier rump of self-serving politicians; and a radical reformer with the virtue and zeal of Josiah.

Douglas Carswell has only been in Parliament since 2005. In just four years he has achieved more than the vast majority achieve in forty. His passion to restore honour and integrity to Parliament has not been pursued for selfish ends: indeed, David Cameron informed him that, as a consequence of his political beliefs on European Union, he would never serve on the Conservative Party’s front bench. And neither has Mr Carswell pursued his quests for party political purposes: he defies the party whip when he needs to, preferring to prioritise the interests of his constituents. In short, Douglas Carswell is an independently-minded democrat and a true servant of the people. He may be a ‘maverick’ or a whip’s nightmare, but he is a politician of conviction and Parliament needs more of them.

So Cranmer is bemused that all the emerging lists being drawn up of those who may succeed Speaker Martin exclude the name of Douglas Carswell. It is unthinkable that any politician who has indulged in excess or supped with the devil in defrauding the taxpayer could possibly be elected to the Speaker’s Chair. And that rules out many of those names presently being bandied about. Most are utter dullards in any case. The thought of Alans Beith or Haselhurst becoming Speaker will only perpetuate the appearance of a parliament on mogadon. John Bercow is utterly sullied, not to mention odious, and Sir Menzies Campbell could never embody what can only be achieved by a generational paradigm shift. Cranmer would be delighted to see Frank Field installed, but it is unlikely that a third successive Labour MP might be elected to the Chair, and the Prime Minister loathes him in any case.

So Cranmer wonders why no-one has thought of Speaker Carswell. He is a manifest moderniser and a man of action, scrupulous in his expenses, untainted by scandal, untarnished by excess, liberated from partisan squabbles, unblemished in record, distinguished in service, and is a man of unimpeachable integrity, honesty and conviction.

Cranmer would have only two conditions: firstly, that Speaker Carswell restore the wig to the pate. One then ceases to talk to the man, or chat with a mate, but instead addresses the office which possesses a visible authority. And secondly, he must assert the sovereignty of Parliament. The solution to the present crisis is not to create yet a further quango to dictate regulations to which Parliament would be subject: one might as well go the whole hog and delegate the task to Brussels. Such a body could only serve to further emasculate the Mother of Parliaments. It is unacceptable that a prime minister as weak as Gordon Brown should be making proposals which would be binding upon all future parliaments, for that itself would be unconstitutional.

If Speaker Carswell were to embrace these caveats (and Cranmer has no doubt about the second), then there is no doubting he is the man for the job. And when one remembers how David Cameron emerged as leader of the Conservative Party completely out of the blue, while the ‘big names’ were the principal focus of the media (pace ‘The Spectator’), one might consider that Mr Carswell has every chance of achieving a similar coup. Cranmer shall be writing to him with this proposal, and shall let communicants and readers know of his response.

UPDATE (25 May 2009)

Cranmer has received an email from Mr Carswell. It reads:

Your Grace,

Thanks so much for your email and your kind blog - I really do value your support.

I hope that the fall of Mr Speaker will give rise to reform; we urgently need to change the way Parliament holds those with power to account. Even more important, we need to change the way we decide who gets to sit in Parliament in the first place.

This is an agenda for radical change that I'm keen to push forward.

While flattered by your suggestion that I should be Speaker, I don't think it would be good for either me or Parliament for me to hold such a post.

I'd not be able to drive through the full range of reforms that I'd like to see if I was to sit in the Speaker's chair. (In addition, I'd almost certainly have to stop blogging!)

There are other candidates for the role of Speaker who would be able to push through some of the much needed reforms. Watch this space, but I suspect we might see some interesting candidates for the role who have yet to emerge.

Change is coming to Westminster - and the election of a new Speaker is only the beginning of the changes we need to make.

Keep up the good work!

Warm regards,


PS. I should mention that my real political ambition is to be Britain's last Minister for Europe.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Speaker to resign

There are rumours hither and thither that Speaker Martin is about to announce his resignation.

As we await confirmation, Cranmer has decided to pass away the hours with a little commemorative verse. It is fitting that such occasions of national celebration be immortalised in the fashion of 'Remember, remember the Fifth of November'.

His Grace is happy to versify his words earlier today:

If the Early Day Motion
never becomes a Substantive Motion,
then Andrew Motion
must pen an ode to the Brownian motion
by which Parliament was reduced to a bowel motion.

TS Eliot might have observed:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together.
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

And the new Poet Laureate Carol Duffy has offered:

What did we do with the trust of your vote?
Hired a flunky to flush out the moat.

His Grace looks forward to the literary creativity of his communicants.

Early Day Motion? Substantive Motion?

Oh, for God’s sake! Does the Speaker not realise that the people do not care about the minutiae of a myriad of motions or piddling parliamentary procedures? A motion was proposed by Douglas Carswell, and it was clearly the express will of Parliament that it be debated. But because it was not ‘substantive’, it could not be. Well, Mr Speaker, the motion was substantive in the eyes of the Deputy Leader of the House, Chris Bryant; it was substantive in the eyes of Parliament and in the eyes of the people. It had substance, basis, existence: it was substantive in every sense except within the trivial confines of your muddled mind. But you had to bend forward to confirm the status of the motion with the Clerk. And he had to repeat it twice as you appeared either to be hard of hearing or (more likely) slow of apprehending. And each and every awkward question which was put to you was embarrassingly referred to your advisers. You were ill-prepared and ill-advised.

Mr Speaker, how can you know so little after nine years in the Chair?

Michael Martin read his prepared speech like an inarticulate pupil stammers his way through a paragraph of The Catcher in the Rye; and was just as ignorant of its social importance, as unaware of the meaning, and as oblivious to the eternal significance of the opus. He bumbled and blundered in a fashion quite unbecoming of his office. He was barracked and heckled from the floor, and responded like a petty tyrant. He looked inadequate, sounded weak, and gave the impression of being way out of his depth. Despite calls for his resignation from all sides of the House, he just did not get the message.

As Mr Speaker has refused to address the issues and appears oblivious of the need to restore the standing of Parliament (what little there remains of it), it is now down to the party leaders who meet with him today to tell him it is time to go. And David Cameron should tell him candidly, irrespective of constitutional niceties, that it is all over. Speaker Martin is not the only sinner in the disgraceful episode of dodgy expenses, but he is manifestly the principal obstruction to reform.

Yet Cranmer would like to remind his readers and communicants that, as incompetent and inadequate as Speaker Martin is, he should not become the sacrificial lamb to cleanse the other reprobates from their heinous sins. The offering is, in any case, not without blemish or flawless, and cannot therefore appease the electoral gods. He may have been responsible for the system, but it predated his speakership and has been immorally and wilfully abused by the likes of Elliot Morley, Andrew Mackay, Julie Kirkbride, Fraser Kemp, David Chaytor, and sundry others. If Speaker Martin is to go, as he must, then so should all of those who defrauded the public purse for their own personal gain.

The party leaders must reject the Speaker’s insistence that we must wait for the Kelly report in the autumn: it is inconceivable that Parliament should be paralysed in this purgatory for a further six months while a report is compiled which will do nothing but confirm that which is already known. Leadership is not merely about the exercising of authority; it is also about the assertion of morality. The the Mother of Parliaments has been reduced to a debauched whorehouse of filchers and frauds is a cause of deep shame, but it is not remotely credible that those who have perpetuated and profited from the system are the right people to reform it.

David Cameron should listen to the people and set aside parliamentary convention. Reformers have to confront the establishment and challenge the status quo, even at the risk of accusations of heresy and on pain of excommunication. He must understand that the Speaker is supposed to symbolise parliamentary unification; his role is to facilitate consensus. But he is now the embodiment of the disconnection that exists between Parliament and the people. This is not a party political issue. Mr Cameron must consider granting formal Opposition support for Douglas Carswell’s motion. If the Government will not place this on the Order Papers, it is for Her Majesty’s Opposition to dedicate its next allotted day to a debate on the issue.

And if the Early Day Motion never becomes a Substantive Motion, then Andrew Motion must pen an ode to the Brownian motion by which Parliament was reduced to a bowel motion.
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