Friday, 27 February 2015

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Britain’s Many Wars of Choice


Marc Champion bemoans the shrinking U.K. military budget:
Perhaps this rapid British retrenchment was inevitable given the severity of the financial crisis and the still raw memory of overreach in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet defense budgets should be determined by security needs, not the other way around [bold mine-DL].

With no political party arguing for U.K. defense ahead of May’s election, the outcome is likely to be a weaker, more insular Britain [bold mine-DL], increasingly undeserving of its permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.

It’s true that military budgets should be determined by security needs, but then the British military hasn’t needed to be involved in any of the fights it has been in over the last fifteen years.

British security wasn’t actually threatened by Iraq, but that didn’t stop its government from more than a decade-long involvement in the “no-fly zones” and its participation in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Likewise, it didn’t need to aid in the overthrow of the Libyan government, but Cameron pushed for intervention there.

Once again, Britain is involved in a new war in Iraq, this time against ISIS, that it doesn’t need to be fighting.

The problem here isn’t that its contribution is a token one, but that there is no reason for Britain to be participating in the first place.

All of Britain’s wars over the last two decades have been wars of choice that it could have avoided, but which it chose to fight for what were usually dubious or bad reasons.

That has understandably made the British public sick of military action overseas, and has made it much easier politically to cut funding for the military.

If Britain were interested in improving its conventional capabilities, the first thing it ought to do is to scrap a costly nuclear arsenal that it also doesn’t really need, but which it hangs on to for reasons of prestige and status.

Of course, this is the last thing that British hawks would ever consider doing, and so the cuts come at the expense of Britain’s conventional forces.

Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics


Despite not being published until Saturday.

"#1 Best Seller," according to Amazon. Quite right, too. All the usual suspects, all on fine form.

The circle with the most intellectual influence on Ed Miliband promises to make his one of the great Premierships.

Read it.

Not Nat

Have you ever seen an interview with Iain Duncan Smith? They are extremely rare, because he is so bad at them.

Even when they occur, such as some months ago on Newsnight, he is never asked about his own area of responsibility.

The same was true when he was on Question Time last year. There were no questions on his supposedly popular benefits policies. Not one.

Come to that, it is clear, on the rare occasions that Prime Minister's Questions is still held, that David Cameron cannot even go through the motions of defending what is in any case his indefensible record.

That is why he, too, almost never gives interviews, and is running scared of the Leaders' Debates.

No one from his party would appear on this afternoon's Daily Politics to answer Andrew Neil's questions about immigration.

But we are told that Natalie Bennett is the one with the problem? Of course she is. Of course.

The End of Thatcher, The End of Thatcherism

After today, she ought to have no remaining reputation whatever.

The story is being underplayed in order to protect every official and unofficial Tory club in the land from having to burn its picture of her.

But then, the owner-occupying majority of households has turned out to be a single-generation aberration.

More than anything else, this is the end of Thatcherism.

If even that can fall, then there is no reason to fight shy of the reversal of any other aspect.

Let the Counterrevolution begin.

No Ifs, No Buts

The reduction of net immigration per year "to the tens of thousands" was David Cameron's own choice of ground.

On that ground, he has been beaten to a pulp.

There is no other way of looking at this. None.

Clean As A Whistle


Whistle-blowers are worth their weight in gold, though governments certainly don’t think so.

Some of the most important things we’ve learnt about the nature of the societies we live in have come exclusively from whistle-blowers, without whose help the democratic holding of governments to account in critical areas of policy would have been impossible.

The Wikileaks release of classified diplomatic and military data, mass surveillance of Western populations, systemic tax evasion via establishment banks, the MPs’ expenses scam, and now the leaking of hundreds of dossiers and cables from the world’s major intelligence services – let alone dozens of smaller leaks by principled individuals scandalised by the behaviour of superiors – have all exposed a shocking misconduct by State institutions which would have gone unaddressed but for the bravery of a few honest persons who are then rewarded for their pains by being hounded out of a job, threatened, and even prosecuted.

Since whistle-blowers are far more effective than parliaments at exposing serious misconduct in State or quasi-State fora, let alone in a wide variety of private workplaces,assuring whistle-blowers of full protection becomes a crucial part of the democratic audit.

The relevant UK law today, the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) 1998, brought about a 11-fold increase in public interest disclosures to 1,761 by 2009, but at the same time employees lodged over 9,000 claims alleging victimisation for whistle-blowing.

That suggests that victimisation against genuine whistle-blowers should be made a criminal offence.

A series of recent cases illustrates this.

A lawyer at HMRC found that his boss, David Hartnett, was having ‘sweetheart’ sessions with Goldman Sachs allowing the bank to be relieved of £10m in tax and using PIDA wrote privately to the National Audit Office.

But when HMRC found out they went berserk and using the anti-terrorist Regulation of Investigatory Powers act (yes!) had his belongings, emails and phone calls searched, suspended him from his job and left him a broken man.

When the PAC chair then asked Lin Homer, head of HMRC, never again to use anti-terror laws against whistle-blowers, she refused.

It’s not just HMRC or the gagging clauses in the NHS.

The policeman who blew the whistle in March last year on the Met police’s massaging of crime figures was driven to resign, citing his ‘treatment as a result of making disclosures in good faith and in the public interest’.

He had been placed under police investigation for ‘misconduct’.

Or take the case of the Mid-Staffs whistle-blower, Julie Bailey, who had to move home after being insulted, threatened and attacked as a liar.

Her dead mother’s grave was desecrated because she had ‘brought shame on the town’.

A Failed, Pariah State

Henry Williams takes apart the notion that IS is going to invade Europe through Libya, while Brendan O'Neill writes:

There are many good reasons to boot David Cameron out of Downing Street in May. Here’s one of the best: Libya.

In September 2011, Cameron, flanked by then French president Nicholas Sarkozy, gave a speech in Benghazi at which he congratulated both himself and the Libyan people — but mainly himself — for liberating Libya.

NATO airstrikes, which had started six months earlier, had helped rid Libya of Gaddafi and created the conditions for ‘building democracy’, said Cameron.

Where Gaddafi had threatened to turn Libya ‘into a hell’ and a ‘failed pariah state festering on Europe’s southern border’, our airstrikes saved it, unleashing a ‘new era’, Cameron trilled — to the cheering not only of Gaddafi-hating rebel groups, but of the British press, too.

The Guardian congratulated Cameron for ‘changing the course of history’. ‘It is [now] difficult to argue with the stance Britain and France took on Libya back in March [2011]’, said its chief political correspondent.

And now?

Three-and-a-half years on, how’s life in the nation which, according to Conservative Party insiders, the PM thought of as his ‘happy place’, the one unquestionably good thing he did in power?

It isn’t happy, that’s for sure. It’s a disaster zone, a deeply divided, collapsing state in which vast swathes of territory are controlled by Islamists and even groups with links to the Islamic State.

It is, in short, the very thing Cameron said he’d prevent it from becoming: ‘a hell’, a ‘failed pariah state festering on Europe’s southern border’.

The recent beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by a Libyan group claiming links with the Islamic State, and the subsequent Egyptian airstrikes, have focused global eyes on ‘liberated Libya’.

The same narrative is being pushed in much of the Western media and by Western politicians: a story of the spread of the Islamic State, its leaking from Iraq across the Middle East and north Africa, as if it were a Crusades-in-reverse, marching, black flag in hand, across the Muslim world towards the top of Libya and the Mediterranean, eyeing Europe.

Such a narrative misses the real dynamic here, which is not the strength of the Islamic State but rather the vacuum-generating interventionism of the West, the gaping absences of power left by strategy-free Western action, most recently in Libya, into which Islamist forces gratefully and opportunistically move.

The hell of Libya isn’t a story of an IS takeover, but one of the West’s evacuation of the one solid source of authority in Libya, which acted as a green light to all kinds of divergent actors to make a stab for influence.

If IS is now active in Libya, this represents merely a mutation of a situation that’s been brewing in the three years since Cameron’s ‘liberation’, rather than signifying any dramatic new development.

The new era in Libya is one of vicious factionalism, war and a massive exodus — it’s estimated that, incredibly, almost a third of the country’s population has fled to Tunisia over the past 18 months.

Libya now has two governments, with a third possibly emerging.

Libya Dawn, an Islamist-dominated outfit, rules in Tripoli, the capital, and considers itself the legitimate government.

Dignity, a largely secular grouping, is based in the eastern port city of Tobruk, and claims to govern the country from there. Dignity is recognised as the legitimate government by the international community.

This despite the fact that the June 2014 election that it won had a turnout of 18 per cent, down from the 60 per cent of the first post-Gaddafi elections of 2012 (‘reflecting growing disgust with the authorities’ failure to govern’, said The Economist), and despite the fact that many Libyans were prevented from voting in that election for ‘security reasons’: conveniently enough, these were mainly Libyans based in unstable Islamist strongholds, very unlikely to vote for Dignity.

As of May 2014, these two ‘governments’ have been at war, with an incredible patchwork of armies and militias pitched against each other.

Everything you need to know about the West’s favoured government, Dignity, and about the West’s creation of a ‘new era’ in Libya, is contained in the fact that Dignity now meets in a heavily guarded former Greek car ferry in Tobruk harbour.

It’s far from dignified.

Then there’s the third ‘government’, the radical Islamist one.

Based in Benghazi, this is a self-styled emirate, declared by the jihadists of Ansar al-Sharia after they seized Benghazi last summer.

Elements of Ansar al-Sharia now swear loyalty to the Islamic State and control some important zones, including the eastern coastal city of Derna — hence this development being more a mutation of the post-2011 disarray rather than an IS takeover.

As of summer last year, the West’s favoured, ferry-dwelling government of Dignity has been locked in a brutal conflict with both the Islamist-leaning Libya Dawn ‘government’ in Tripoli and with the emirate of Benghazi and numerous other jihadist forces in the east.

Three thousand people have died; millions have fled.

All of this is a direct consequence of the West’s bombing campaign.

In sweeping aside the one force that had, for better or worse (worse, in spiked’s view), demonstrated a capacity over 40 years for holding together the various tribes and groupings of Libya under a system of three-pronged federalism — that is, the Gaddafi regime — without giving a moment’s thought to what system might replace it, Britain, France and the US turned Libya from a functioning authoritarian state into a gaping hole in north Africa, bereft of the old institutions and open for power grabs of an inevitably violent nature.

This was entirely predictable.

Indeed, we at spiked, on the very day the bombing started in 2011, described this act of Western intervention as ‘the barbarism of buffoons’ and said it would be ‘bad for the Libyan people and for global stability’.

This is not because we held a candle for Gaddafi — far from it — but because we recognised that external powers’ overnight removal from power of a man and a system that influenced every aspect of politics and public life in Libya, with no devotion of resources to the cultivation of any convincing alternative, was a recipe for profound disarray.

The intervention in Libya exposed the extent to which Western foreign policy has become unanchored, cut adrift from any clear strategies or aims on the part of Western governments or from any cool calculation of what is in their best geopolitical interests - hence the Libya venture benefitted neither the Libyan people nor Western powers.

But it’s even worse than the West creating the ground for war: the West has also exacerbated the war now ripping Libya in two.

The Dignity ‘government’ on its ferry is cajoled both directly and indirectly by Western forces.

When it launched Operation Dignity in May last year — its large-scale assault on Islamist groups, primarily the ones in Benghazi — the US ambassador to Libya said ‘[Dignity’s] enemies are our enemies’.

Dignity also receives weapons and air back-up from America’s allies of Egypt and the UAE, most likely with America’s approval.

Having created the conditions for instability, outside forces now deepen that instability through pushing their preferred Libyan element to push into Benghazi and then after than onwards to Tripoli.

So, this is Cameron’s ‘happy place’.

This is the humanitarian interventionists’ latest humanitarian achievement: a torn-assunder nation in which thousands are dying and millions are fleeing.

If your ‘humanitarianism’ creates such spectacular humanitarian crises, you need urgently to rethink everything about your life.

And it isn’t only Cameron: 557 MPs voted for his Libya campaign, with only 13 rejecting it - so all the parties backed the bombing.

Both the right-wing and liberal media backed him, too — the former hoping this would be the Tories’ ‘Blair in Kosovo’ moment, the latter believing we were seeing a return to what they view as the pre-Iraq, pre-Bush ‘good wars’ which, in the words of the Guardian, mean it is often ‘right to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign state’.

All these people, all these nodding MPs and iPad imperialists, have big, bloody questions to answer.

But they aren’t answering them. Or even asking them.

This is perhaps the most shocking thing about the Libya disaster: the lack of debate, its glaring absence from the pre-election discussion.

To plummet a country into a nightmare of war and exodus is bad enough — to fail to take responsibility for having done so is worse.

This unwillingness to reckon, to discuss, to admit, cuts to the immoral heart of ‘humanitarian interventionism’.

Such meddling is driven, not by realpolitik or clear, self-interested geopolitical aims, but by narcissism, a need among both Western politicians and observers for some momentum in this era of otherwise flat politics and unstable public life.

With domestic public life increasingly bereft of the old certainties, and even of any accepted view of what’s right and wrong, many in the West seek to perform big, meaningful politics on the rubble-strewn stage of other people’s conflicts — ‘we intervene not to save others, but to save ourselves’, as Michael Ignatieff put it.

And when that’s the driving force — the short-term need for a moral thrill among at-sea Western observers, not any longer-term plan for reorganising foreign affairs to old-style Western interests — then no reckoning is necessary, or even possible.

For in terms of providing the iPad imperialists of the West with some momentary meaning, a brief ‘happy place’, the attack on Libya was, perversely, a success.

For spiked, the problem with such ‘humanitarianism’ is that it’s the polar opposite of humanism.

Humanism recognises that people, being conscious agents of change, subjective actors, have it within their power to transform their circumstances and create new, better, democratic nations; indeed, democracy is precisely something that a people creates for itself, in the very act of fighting for and designing it.

‘Humanitarianism’, in stark, bloody contrast, treats people not as the subjects of history but as the objects of misfortune, battered beings in need of saving by outsiders.

It reduces them to the geopolitical equivalent of those white-furred seals requiring rescue from the hunter’s club.

It’s paternalistic, anti-human, and far from saving the objects of its globe-trotting pity it condemns them to yet more war and illiberalism, as in Libya.

It has dire, barbaric consequences that we should be talking about.

Forget the NHS [steady on, now], the tax-dodging controversy, and all the small-fry stuff — if you want to punish Cameron, punish him for this, for destroying a country, condemning its inhabitants to live in chaos, and then not even having the moral backbone to talk about it.

Most Labour MPs voted for this war. But Labour did not actually do it, just as the Conservatives, most of whom voted for the Iraq War that would not have passed without them, did not actually do it.

Saint Porphyry of Gaza

"Quod Scripsi, Scripsi"?

Manuscript amendments are necessarily rare, but yesterday saw what looked like a textbook example of one.

That was the attempt to insert into the proposed ban on MPs' paid directorships and consultancies, a ban on MPs' working as paid trade union officials.

In point of fact, no MP is a paid trade union official. On that one, David Cameron is living in the fairly distant past.

But the Speaker refused to accept a manuscript amendment by the proposer in order to give the Prime Minister his stated price for his support.

Why?

A Burning Issue

You probably did not see on television yesterday's huge demonstration against the Government's theft of the firemen's pensions and against Penny Mordaunt's flagrant lying to Parliament about it. You would have had to have watched RT.

But it happened. Kate Hoey addressed the rally and called for Labour to make a manifesto commitment to right the wrong. Quite right.

The FBU, like the RMT not affiliated to Labour since the Blair Dark Age but affiliated to the LRC that is constitutionally committed to the election of a Labour Government, ought to promise to fund any Labour candidate who made that commitment in his or her Election Address.

As should the RMT, on the renationalisation of the railways and on various matters of dispute with, especially, Transport for London, at least in that latter case with regard to those seeking election in London.

Now, when are the unions going to buy the Telegraph?

"A Friend In Need"?

How is Ukraine any such thing? She last did anything much, if at all, for us 70 years ago. When, for fairly obvious reasons, so did Russia.

But, unlike the Russians, there were an awful lot of Ukrainians on the other side. In recent weeks, those who revere that memory have marched to our Cenotaph and laid a wreath at it in honour of their heroes. Give that a moment to sink in.

If anything, Russia's support for the war in Afghanistan (whatever one might think of that in itself), and for the general struggle against the Islamist terrorism of which she is a major target but which in its Crimean Tatar form actively supports the coup in Ukraine, makes Russia a far more recent, and arguably an ongoing, ally.

In 1945, it mattered to us whether the swastika or the hammer and sickle, both of which flags have been dug out by people who had clearly never stopped having them to hand, flew over the Donbass. But that is not at all our concern in 2015.

The coup-installed President of Ukraine has been to Abu Dhabi to see about buying weapons from the Emiratis who have given up bombing the IS that, with the other Sunni monarchies, they were so instrumental in creating.

A dozen years ago, certain newspapers, at least one of which is now fighting for its life, poured scorn on schoolboy demonstrators against the Iraq War very soon after having gleefully published pictures of tiny children waving placards in support of foxhunting.

But that, grave though it was and right though the youths were, was as nothing next to the prospect of everlasting involvement in The War Among The Wahhabi, or, without exaggeration, to World War Three against Russia.

We now see the emerging connections between those for whom we should be fighting in those two ostensibly distinct conflagrations.

We are already providing air support to one lot of the Wahhabi (while continuing to define as our enemies the Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese fighters on the ground in defence of Christians and others), and we are now, in time-honoured fashion, sending our troops to "train" the blackshirts who have taken power in Ukraine.

No one is more entitled than teenage boys to object most vigorously to these actual and putative developments. I am starting to wonder what is taking them so long to do so. I am even starting to wonder whether these follies would be considered at all if the voting age were to be lowered to 16.

BBC Trust

The television license fee should be made optional, with as many adults as wished to pay it at any given address free to do so, including those who did not own a television set but who greatly valued, for example, Radio Four.

The Trustees would then be elected by and from among the license-payers. Candidates would have to be sufficiently independent to qualify in principle for the remuneration panels of their local authorities. Each license-payer would vote for one, with the top two elected.

The electoral areas would be Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions. The Chairman would be appointed by the relevant Secretary of State, with the approval of the relevant Select Committee. And the term of office would be four years.

One would not need to be a member of the Trust (i.e., a license-payer) to listen to or watch the BBC, just as one does not need to be a member of the National Trust to visit its properties, or a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to be rescued by its boats.

The Quacks Are Showing

Since David Tredinnick believes in homoeopathy, he must also believe in astrology.

But then, Jeremy Hunt is another an enthusiast for homoeopathy, while support for it is also the formal policy of UKIP. So much so, that  Tredinnick, who was long ago one of the original cash-for-questions MPs, has openly worried in the past that the Conservative Party was being “outflanked” on this issue.

At least, in itself, homoeopathy usually does no harm, although of course harm can be and is done by a refusal to use real medicine in preference for plain water. But UKIP is also in favour of herbalism, which is a whole other story. And of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but that, as we shall see, is different.

There can be no such thing as “complementary medicine” or “alternative medicine”. If it works, then it is just medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is medicine, correctly so called. It has nothing to do with philosophical systems that, as set out below, are inimical to science and depend on the concepts the condemnation of which, by the Church as such, uniquely made possible the emergence of science.

Rather, it expresses a philosophical culture particularly open to completion by, in, through and as classical, historic, mainstream Christianity. Its ethos of treating the whole person used to be called “General Practice” not very long ago. Unlike quackery, it not only requires for public safety, but demands of its own merit, to be regulated by statute.

The current popularity of such things as homoeopathy and herbalism is, like so much else, the result of our culture’s having moved away from the uniquely Christian rejection of humanity’s otherwise universal concepts of eternalism (that the universe has always existed and always will), animism (that the universe is a living thing, an animal), pantheism (that the universe is itself the ultimate reality, God), cyclicism (that everything which happens has already happened in exactly the same form, and will happen again in exactly the same form, an infinite number of times) and astrology (that events on earth are controlled by the movements of celestial bodies).

Science cannot prove that these closely interrelated things are not the case; it simply has to presuppose their falseness, first established in thirteenth-century Paris when their Aristotelian expression was condemned at the Sorbonne specifically by ecclesial authority, and specifically by reference to the Biblical Revelation.

This is why science as we now understand the term never originated anywhere other than in Medieval Europe. And it is why science did not last, or flower as it might have done, in the Islamic world: whereas Christianity sees the rationally investigable order in the universe as reflecting and expressing the rationality of the Creator, the Qur’an repeatedly depicts the will of Allah as capricious.

Although Arab science led the world between the eighth and the thirteenth centuries (above all in astronomy, mathematics and medicine), it then went into sharp decline as Christian Europe surged ahead at the start of the process that is still going on, and which has now spread throughout the world, including to the Arabs. How and why did this happen?

In part, it was because the Catholic Church insisted on Her independence from the Sate, initially with regard to the appointment of bishops, but rapidly, once the principle had been established, in other areas as well. Under Her aegis, universities, cities and what we would now call professional bodies became legal entities in their own right, providing forums for free discussion. Islam simply did not, and does not, work like that.

But mostly, there was the impact of theological beliefs on the ability to do science. Many of the Arab scientists were in fact Christians, even if heterodox ones such as the translator ibn Masawagh of Baghdad, and his pupil Hunayan, who translated all the known Greek works into Arabic and Syriac, as well writing many medical treatises. The Christian physician ibn al-Quff of Damascus wrote one of the first treatises on surgery.

In Christianity, it is because God is both rational and free that His universe is both orderly and contingent.

Since God is free, the universe is not necessary, and could have been otherwise: He need not have created it, and He might have created it any other way that He chose.

If God were rational but not free, then His universe would be necessary and could not be other than it is, so that there would be no need to conduct experiments in order to understand it.

Or, if God were free but not rational, then His universe would be so chaotic that there would be no observable order within it, and so science would again be impossible.

In Islam, however, everything is directly dependent on the will of Allah, a view that weakens any expectation to observe rationality and order in the universe, even before considering how capricious that will is presented as being in several verses of the Qur’an.

Thus was science arrested in the Islamic world even as it soared away in Christendom. The contemporary resonance could not be clearer to and for those of us who care profoundly about science.

For the same reasons, there never really was all that much scientific progress in the Soviet Union.

No less ruinous than the capriciousness of the Qur’anic Creator was dialectical materialism. It begat Lysenkoism, Japheticism, and Kuznetsov’s 1952 attempt to enforce “the total renunciation of Einstein’s conception, without compromise or half-measure.”

It was practically impossible for Soviet scientists to communicate or interact with those from several major countries. There was a heavy dependence on Western equipment. Even the atomic bomb and the space programme relied greatly on previous American and German work. We all know about Soviet computers, and about Soviet attempts to copy Concorde.

When British scientists were at work on penicillin, their Soviet counterparts were actually boasting that they were close to perfecting a synthetic drug “likely to have curative properties not inferior to those of Peruvian balsam.” Balsam of Peru was introduced to Europe by Nicholas Monardes of Seville. In 1560.

Forget the earth’s being flat. No one ever believed that, at least until the rise of modern Flat Earth Societies. The suggestion that this was the Medieval view can be dated precisely to January 1828, which saw the publication of The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.

That was as highly fictionalised an account as one would expect from its author, Washington Irving, who also gave the world those noted works of historical realism, Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as well as popularising the use of “Gotham” to refer to the City of New York.

Forget Galileo, who was never imprisoned, who was never excommunicated, who died professing the Faith, the daughter who cared for whom in his last days became a nun, and so on.

His error was not to say that the earth moved around the sun (although he could not prove that scientifically at the time - we happen to know, centuries later, that he was right, but that is not the same thing), but that the Church should teach heliocentrism as proved out of Scripture, which is in fact silent on the subject.

His was not an erroneously low, but an erroneously high, doctrine of Biblical and ecclesial authority.

In the absence of scientific proof in his own age, he wanted his theory, which turns out to have been scientifically correct but which neither he nor anyone else could have known to have been so in those days, to be taught and believed on that authority, the authority of the Bible as interpreted by the Catholic Church.

That, the Church refused to do. Who was on the side of science in that dispute? I think that we can all see the answer to that one. As, in the end, did he, dying as he did a Catholic in good standing.

Whereas the abuses of the Soviet system really did happen. Well within living memory.

By turning away from ecclesial authority’s articulation and protection of the Biblical Revelation, and by turning away from the Biblical Revelation itself, the civilisation that these things called into being has turned away from science and towards eternalism, animism, pantheism, cyclicism and astrology, to the extent that a few years ago a Doctorate of Science was awarded to François Mitterand’s astrologer by, of all institutions, the Sorbonne.

Furthermore, eternalism, animism, pantheism, cyclicism and astrology, inseparable from each other, underlie, among so very much else, each and every form of “alternative medicine” or “complementary medicine”, contradictions in terms that these are.

But homeopathy, at least, is still being funded by the NHS. Allegedly, we cannot afford various actual medicines. Yet somehow we can afford this.

And IVF, women on which very occasionally become pregnant for no other reason than that they would have done anyway, just as people taking homoeopathic very occasionally get better for no other reason than that they would have done anyway.

And embryonic stem cell “research”, which has never yielded the slightest thing, whereas ethically unproblematic adult and cord blood stem cell research is working wonders, and would work who knows how many more if it did not struggle so hard to secure funding.

And Ritalin, the definition of simple maleness as a medicable condition to match the definition of simple femaleness as a medicable condition to be treated by means of the Pill, which on any objective analysis is a poison rather a medicine, since it stops health body parts from doing exactly what they are supposed to do.

It does so, moreover, purely so that women might be permanently available for the sexual gratification of men, a level of misogyny matched only by the definition of the preborn child as simultaneously insentient and “part of a woman’s body”.

Is it the whole of a woman’s body that is insentient? Or it is only the parts most directly connected with reproduction?

Jeremy Hunt is manifestly happy with all of these, too. As is David Tredinnick. No doubt, so is UKIP.

The  position of all of them is that of Islamic fundamentalism avant et après la lettre; the position of the Soviet Union: the exaltation of ideology, in this case that “the market” must have what ever “the market” wants, over science.

That exaltation is always and everywhere the ruin of the latter. Since it rejects the only intellectual and cultural framework within which science has ever been possible. Or ever can be.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Something To Mill Over

George Galloway was promised what amounted to a clear run at Bradford West if he stayed out of the London Mayoral Election. 

In return, the braderi, almost certainly in the patient person of Imran Hussein, would have been given the seat via the local Labour Party when Galloway retired, probably in 2020.

But somehow, mostly by means of an all-women shortlist, a London Somali ally of Oona King's was selected instead.

Wheels have turned at the speed of light, and she has withdrawn within a couple of days of selection.

The National Executive Committee of the Labour Party will now put things back in their allotted place.

But if any of this sounds murky, then check out what is going on in the Conservative Association in Kensington.

And remember, or even just try to comprehend, that Bradford West was a Conservative target seat as recently as 2010.

Greater?

The integration of health and social care is an excellent idea. It has existed in Northern Ireland for decades. What I find difficult to understand is why this, and its wholesale devolution to local government, is being pioneered in Greater Manchester.

The Conservative Party runs one of the 10 metropolitan boroughs there. Manchester itself has been Lib Dem, although Labour currently holds 95 of its 96 seats, with the only other member being an Independent. Most of the other eight are permanently Labour, and none is currently controlled by any other party.

Surely the same number of people, albeit spread over a larger area, could have been found in, say, the Thames Valley?

But in the course of the present Parliament, "the North", like "the old working class" and "the traditional Labour vote", has been elevated to the status of the Soul of the Nation, despite the fact that that would mean that Labour ought properly to have won every General Election since the War.

However, the only place in "the North" that they can name is Manchester.

Unlike the little more than ceremonial office of Mayor of London, which is so part-time and apolitical that even Boris Johnson can do it, the proposed Mayor of Greater Manchester, who in practice would be bound to be Labour, would be the Prince of his City-State, and one of the most powerful individual politicians in Europe, since ultimately answerable to no one between elections.

Even the big city mayors of the United States do not run healthcare. There are EU member-states with considerably fewer inhabitants than Greater Manchester.

Ponder these things.

"Already Illegal", Again

And "hardly exists in this country", again.

This time, FGM, as raised by Sir Bill Cash at Prime Minister's Questions.

This time, there is no possible room for doubt. Of course cutting bits off children is already illegal.

So, let's see some action, then.

"Paid Trade Union Officials"?

Has there been any such person sitting as an MP in the present century?

Likewise, trade union sponsorship is nothing more than a donation to the relevant Constituency Labour Party. A tiny little donation, at that. It is not a payment to the MP.

Not that I am a big fan of this war on outside work. But it is clever politics. Very clever, considering that there were two MPs involved this week, and one of them was one of Labour's most senior. Very clever, indeed.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Robust

Rob Flello has asked me to point out that it was a clerking error, and that he did in fact vote in favour of the anti-gendercide amendment. I am delighted to do so.

It was not the only clerking error. That'll teach them to leave these things to the American Religious Right trying, however ridiculously, to establish itself as a force in this country of which it knows nothing.

(Of course, nor is it any longer a force in its country, of which it also knows nothing. Mitt Romney, anyone?)

Mercifully, an amendment worded identically, apart from the one little thing that made all the difference, will be back very soon, when it will receive the negligible opposition that gestures in this cause have encountered in the past.

This is a job for Rob Flello and for the rest of the one to two dozen Labour MPs who are practically Bishops' Conference members.

As for the Bishops' Conference, this very day, straight after last night's vote, it is also keeping things in the family. A religious duty to vote for "a robust National Health Service," indeed.

Yes, that is a link to the Catholic Herald. Just to rub it in. And while we still can. For when the Telegraph goes down, then the Herald will go down with it.

Terminus

I am weeping at the fall of the man who privatised the railways.

Weeping, I tell you.

Weeping.

Cui Bono?

I admit to the possibility that I am over-thinking this.

But the Telegraph has the closest possible ties to the intelligence services, not only of this country.

Who wanted Sir Malcolm Rifkind out of the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee?

And who wants Jack Straw's departure from the Commons to be his departure from Parliament altogether?

Steppes Must Be Taken

The issue of MPs' outside earnings is important, although it is funny how there is always a financial scandal in the run-up to a General Election, lest we find ourselves talking about policy instead.

But the matter that most urgently needs to be brought to the floor of the House of Commons, and forced to a Division, is that of the deployment of our troops to Ukraine.

Trial and Error

On 21st April, Andy Coulson will stand trail again, this time for perjury.

On 7th May, there will be a General Election.

David Cameron is a poor judge of character, to an extent that is incompatible with being Prime Minister.

It is as simple as that.

Gadzooks

Have you ever seen or heard an interview with Boris Johnson? Any will do.

Compare and contrast the reaction to those with the treatment being meted out to Natalie Bennett.

Verdant?

Greens do not care that Natalie Bennett interviews badly.

They see that as the wrong question.

Or as a badge of honour.

Either way, it never makes any difference to their poll ratings.

Bad Company, Indeed

These girls are probably the second generation to have been born in Britain. They are no more (or, I suppose, less) Bangladeshi than the Queen is German.

The Royal Family maintains a number of German customs in private, and the Queen is old enough to remember elderly relatives who spoke English, if at all, with the very heavy German accent of Queen Victoria. That accent is still not depicted when she is portrayed on screen.

If girls in their mid-teens attached themselves to street gangs and thus became at least complicit in drug-related violence of what have you, then would we indulge them as having had little or no agency of their own?

Nor should we do so in this case.

If they prefer one lot of the Wahhabi to another, then that is up to them. But their brothers and their male classmates are not being called up to fight for the other lot of the Wahhabi against that one. Any more than to fight for Svoboda and Pravy Sektor against Vladimir Putin.

Arise, Go Unto Nineveh?

In Syria, the protector of the Assyrians, as of all the Christian and other minorities, is President Assad.

Egypt is right to act over the Copts, who were Egyptian citizens. Churches do not wage wars. That is for states, if anything.

Likewise, it is for the Government of Syria to act over the kidnap, not to say a lot worse than that, of the citizens of Syria.

It has been doing so for some years now.

Kickabout

I am laughing almost uncontrollably at the possibility of a World Cup Final the day before Christmas Eve.

Qatar was a protectorate of the British Empire until as recently as 1972. Today, the Qatari sovereign wealth fund (effectively, the Qatari Royal Family) owns Harrods.

I hope that a big banner is hanging across its famous frontage, reading "We Are The Masters Now".

On football in general, well, we told you so.

Public school-educated City boys who can afford Premier League season tickets, and to be on jollies to Paris in the middle of a normal working week, are, of course, dead common.

As are retired Police Officers on the boards of international human rights charities. Who, again, can afford Premier League season tickets, and to be on jollies to Paris in the middle of a normal working week.

If football were a working-class interest, then it would receive as much media coverage as darts. It would certainly not be the only thing for which the primetime television schedules were routinely torn up.

Going to the theatre has always been cheaper than going to football matches, and going to libraries has always been free.

The football boys were always richer than we were. Think back to the kind of nights out that they were able to afford twice or three times every week, and to how they were arrayed for them.

None of that has changed, or ever will.

"Get A Job"

Entitlement upon divorce should be fixed by Statute at one per cent of the other party’s estate for each year of marriage, up to 50 per cent, with no entitlement for the petitioning party unless the other party’s fault were proved.

Furthermore, any marrying couple should be entitled to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 with regard to grounds and procedures for divorce, and any religious organisation should be enabled to specify that any marriage that it conducted should be so bound, requiring it to counsel couples accordingly.

Statute should specify that the Church of England and the Church in Wales each be such a body unless, respectively, the General Synod and the Governing Body specifically resolved the contrary by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses.

There should be similar provision relating to the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament, as well as by amendment to the legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy.

Never having needed to be consummated, civil partnerships ought not to be confined to unrelated same-sex couples, or even to unrelated couples generally.

That would be a start, anyway.

Shadows

Sir Cliff Richard was named by the Police in the media before he had been, as he never was, arrested. Not charged. Arrested. Think on.

The heavily orchestrated front page lynching of Sir Cliff not only made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial, but was possibly the greatest act of playground bullying that this country had ever seen. The cool kids in Fleet Street, on the BBC and on Sky had waited a very long time for that. Longer, in fact, than most of them could remember, or than well over half of them had been alive.

There is a strict canonical text of the history of this country's ubiquitous popular music. To be honest, I generally prefer the canonical acts to the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal ones. But that Authorised Version is incomplete to the point of falsehood.

Look at the charts in any week, month or year since pop music can reasonably be said to have begun. The apostles and prophets of the given period are all there, of course. But so are all sorts of other people, and not as novelty acts: they took themselves entirely seriously, as did the fans who bought their records by the bucket load.

Cliff was originally so cool that when my father, as a curate in 1950s Leicester, was deputed to take the church youth club to see him, they became so excited that they smashed up the theatre and broke my father's arm, which was never right again.

But for most of British pop's history, Cliff has been the towering, the supreme, the definitive uncool act. Even stations dedicated to oldies have written policies of not playing him, bizarrely describing the long-dead as more enduring than a man who still performs live and who continues to record.

His response is to be the single biggest-selling British solo artist ever, and the third biggest-selling act in British chart history, beaten only by the Beatles and by Elvis Presley. He has had more Top 20 hits than any other artist. Only he and Elvis had hits in all six of the first decades of the UK Singles Chart. Only he has had a Number One single in each of five consecutive decades.

In this country, he has sold twice as many records as, say, David Bowie, and well over twice as many as the Rolling Stones. Now, give me Bowie or the Stones any day. But the numbers don't lie.

Moreover, he is only three years older than Paul McCartney, he is only two years older than Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and he was born in the same year as John Lennon. Yet he has been famous since well before any of them ever was. Let's face it, we are talking about being seriously famous here. Seriously rich with it, too. All as, and by being, something approaching an unperson to Everyone Who Matters.

Look how a Billy Graham Crusade was dragged into this long-predictable attempt at a takedown. And look how that event, already too ghastly in itself, has managed to surpass even that by being held in Sheffield.

No wonder that  it was played out on television. Anyone would assume that it were the script for a work of fiction. One of those ones which are not as clever as they think they are, and which are only about laughing at the common people.

If Sir Cliff had been  guilty, then he would deserved whatever he got from the courts. At least the same is deserved by Bill Wyman. He was 47 when he repeatedly and flagrantly had sex with a girl who, at 13, was probably younger than the alleged victim in this single instance.

Notice how, while the man who had the effrontery to have a hit with Stairway to Heaven featuring a wobble board is now in prison and ruined, Jimmy Page himself has never faced any action whatever in relation to his 14-year-old girlfriend of yesteryear. Rolf Harris has rightly been stripped of his CBE; Page was awarded his OBE long after everyone knew about him.

I have often had cause, in relation to a wide range of artists, to wonder if I can love the music while hating the drugs. I have decided that I probably can. But I am starting to doubt that. The elevation of Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll into a kind of national and global substitute for politics, patriotism and religion has led both to the worship of idols and to the persecution of heretics.

First

Prosecute HSBC

Our Friends In The Middle East


And here.

God help us all.

In Principle

Is Labour proud of having been outflanked on the Left by David Cameron over the principle of universality?

Let the Balls drop.

"Already Illegal"

Let's see the colour of that one, then.

Many of the votes against the Bruce Amendment, even by some people who had signed it and even by Rob Flello who had published a Labour List article in support of it only hours earlier, do indicate that undertakings have been given. Those undertakings must now be honoured.

If the Bruce Amendment had only said "fetus" rather than "unborn child", then it would have passed with as few votes against it as there the last time that the House of Commons divided on banning gendercide. On that occasion, there was precisely one such vote.

But this is the work of the Tea Party, Fox News, Sarah Palin collection of transatlantic teenage interns that is the Stop Gendercide operation, a fully formed and fully funded apparition out of nowhere in the preposterous cause of creating a British Religious Right.

It would rather be semantically pure than win, and in any case it actively wants to lose in order to identify as many enemies as possible against whom to define itself. As a result, something has been kept legal, or at least it has not been formally and materially declared illegal, that almost everybody had wanted to make explicitly illegal.

Stop Gendercide's Twitter account is now claiming that there was a Labour Whip against the Bruce Amendment, with little or no understanding of how that system works, and on the assumption that no one else has much, if any, either. A look at the Division Lists makes that assertion so hilarious that it is almost cruel to ridicule these, after all, well-meaning children. Almost. But not quite.

Like the same-sex marriage that the Blair and Brown Governments repeatedly ruled out from the Despatch Boxes of both Houses and which Gordon Brown explicitly ruled out in the course of the 2010 General Election campaign, and like three-parent babies if they ever come to pass, this is all supposed to be Labour's fault. It doubt that they can even spell "Labour" with a letter u in it.

They are also trying to pretend, and it is possible that they even believe, that 91 is a huge majority, since in either House of the United States Congress it would be.

Oh, well. Pat Glass voted to outlaw gendercide. And I shall be voting for Pat Glass.

All Leftfooters Now

Doctrinal orthodoxy in the higher echelons of the Church of England is more uniform than at any point in living memory, and possibly ever.

Bishops are vastly more like that than are clergy in general either across the board or, especially, of the same age as themselves. There, the doubts about basic credal articles, and the outright denial of them, reflect what was or was not taught in the institutions that formed those clergy between the late 1960s and the early 1990s.

Cradle Catholics who whine about liberals need to know a bit more that they are born. Atheist, Deist or Unitarian Catholic priests, never mind bishops or archbishops, simply do not exist. But in the generation that was until recently in its pomp in the Church of England, such views were and are routine.

David Jenkins, a textbook English Modernist who did therefore believe in a personal God and in the immortality of the soul, was in fact quite conservative for the period. Thus, as we shall see, he was unusually radical. But Robert Runcie had no such convictions.

Within that context, consider the existence of precisely one serving bishop who is openly in favour of same-sex marriage, and of no serving bishop who expresses Dr Jenkins's doctrinal position or anything resembling it.

Consider the opposition to three-parent babies, and the intention of the bishops in the Lords (to the utter bemusement of Lord Carey) to vote in favour of an amendment proposed by the former John Selwyn Gummer. One is tempted to add, "of all people".

Consider the relatively high chance of being made a bishop if one belongs to the small minority that is Anglo-Catholic opponents of women priests, and the far higher than average chance of being so raised to the purple directly from parochial ministry.

Consider that the Archbishop of Canterbury's Suffragan See of Maidstone has been kept vacant for six years in order to fill it with a Conservative Evangelical opponent once women had become bishops. There is talk of a similar appointment in the North sooner rather than later.

All of this is a consequence of having ceased to be a very English institution at all. When the Church of England was terribly, terribly English, then it was light on doctrine and in many ways, as an institution, positively injurious to classical Christian morality.

But the sections of the Church of England that now pay the bills and make up the numbers take their lead from overseas provinces that are themselves products of Anglo-Catholic or Evangelical missionary activity. Those products never resembled the dear old C of E very much, having been founded by figures who disliked it intensely.

Moreover, the Church of England's own congregations are increasingly made up of immigrants from those provinces, of other immigrants from Africa and elsewhere who attach themselves to the nearest convenient Protestant church, and of converts to Evangelical Protestantism via what are sometimes little more than nominally Anglican parishes or other ministries (although they are more obviously of their denomination now than perhaps they were 15 or 20 years ago, but that is mostly because they have so successfully conformed the Church of England to themselves).

Those last, together with others who grew up in that milieu, constitute a very high proportion indeed of the candidates who are now presenting themselves for ordination. The present Archbishop of Canterbury is an Evangelical convert, and one whose rise through the ranks has been stellar. The present Archbishop of York is an African immigrant.

The fourth largest party in the House of Commons is a direct expression of Evangelical Protestantism. It is openly willing to work with Labour in the next Parliament and openly sympathetic to the agenda of Ed Miliband. On last week's Any Questions, one of its MPs, the bearer of the very name of Ian Paisley, pointed out that he had voted with Labour 78 per cent of the time since the 2010 Election, and that both the Conservative Party and UKIP would be fielding candidates against him this year.

If the Church of England had continued on what once seemed to be its only possible path, then it would have changed its mind on assisted suicide, as Carey has, and it would not have changed, either its implicit mind on what has become same-sex marriage, or its explicit mind on what has become mitochondrial donation. Carey's hurt, and that of those for whom he speaks, is as profound as their bewilderment. "What happened?"

When it comes to bioethiocal questions, rather than do the kind of heavy lifting for which their own tradition is simply unequipped, the Anglican bishops now seem to look up the Roman position and then give it a form of presentation acceptable to the House of Lords and to the BBC. They take that position off the shelf, fully formed. They play no role whatever in forming or formulating it. They are certainly adopting that approach this week.

Much the same, if not quite to the same extent, is true of their approach to issues of social justice (a term of Papal origin, like the Living Wage) and of peace.

Catholic bishops never were liberals in any Anglican sense, so they were always capable of criticising capitalism and its wars with the robustness that only orthodoxy makes possible. It is also worth remembering quite how Catholic were numerous communities, such as Consett or Liverpool or Glasgow, that bore the brunt of Thatcherism.

Funnily enough, those areas, ancestrally unwilling to vote for the party of the pit owners and of the Anglo-Irish landowners before them, have not become any more sympathetic towards that party with the passage of time. Check the colour of the constituency map against the centres of Catholic population before and after this or any other General Election.

Behind Thatcherism was the strong contention that Christianity had no political implications, by those who did not like the political implications that Christianity had. Thatcherism removed the churches, and more than any other the Church of England, from their originally and previously unchallenged position of something approaching centrality in and to the National Health Service, the state schools, the publicly funded universities, the heavily regulated broadcasters, and all the other aspects of the Attlee Settlement. The dismantlement of that Settlement was the most secularising force that this country had ever, or has ever, experienced.

Increasing overseas control, immigration from the developing word, a heavy reliance on Evangelical conversion that is in no traditionally English (if any) sense culturally Anglican, and a willingness to lift the teachings of the Pope or of the English Catholic bishops rather than go through the rigmarole of writing its own: these have given the institutional Church of England an unprecedented bottom-line orthodoxy, inevitably issuing both in a pro-life position that was never previously evident, and therefore in a fierce critique of capitalism and of its wars, not least including the entire principle of its weapons of mass destruction.

A Profound Contribution, An Act of Leadership

Following on from Will Hutton and David Mitchell (both of whom are agnostics), the practising Catholic Jon Cruddas writes this, which is effectively the official position of the Labour Party as a policy-making body:

I welcome the pastoral letter by the bishops of the Church of England at many levels.

It expresses concern about the condition of our country and its public institutions, so it is by definition political; but it is not party political – and is all the better for it.

It is as much a challenge to the left, and our commitment to the state and centralisation, as it is to the right with its unquestioning embrace of the market.

Its roots are far deeper than 20th-century ideologies, drawing upon Aristotle and Catholic social thought every bit as much as the English commonwealth tradition of federal democracy.

It is a profound, complex letter, as brutal as it is tender, as Catholic as it is reformed, as conservative as it is radical.

It draws upon ideas of virtue and vocation in the economy that are out of fashion, but necessary for our country as we defend ourselves from a repetition of the vices that led to the financial crash and its subsequent debt and deficit.

It invites us to move away from grievance, disenchantment and blame, and towards the pursuit of the common good.

It cannot be the case that any criticism of capitalism is received as leftwing Keynesian welfarism, and any public sector reform as an attack on the poor.

This is precisely what the letter warns against, and it is a dismal reality of our public conversation that it has been received in that way.

I also welcome the letter as a profound contribution by the church to the political life of our nation. Christianity and the church have always been part of that story.

Not as a dominant voice, but bringing an important perspective from an ancient institution that is present in every part of our country as a witness and participant.

From the introduction of a legal order and the development of education, the church has been part of our body politic, so it is incorrect to say that the church should stay out of politics: it is morally committed to participation and democracy as a means, and the common good as the end.

One of the great things about faith traditions is that they do not think that the free market created the world.

They have a concept of a person that is neither just a commodity nor an administrative unit, but a relational being capable of power and responsibility and of living with others in civic peace and prosperity.

They also do not view the natural environment as a commodity, but an inheritance that requires careful stewardship.

Conservatives and socialists have shared these assumptions and they could be the basis of a new consensus.

The bishops have said that the two big postwar political dreams – the collectivism of 1945 with its nationalisation and centralised universal welfare state, and the 1979 dream of a free-market revolution – have both failed and we need to develop an alternative vision.

As we know, 1997 was not the answer either.

The financial markets and the administrative state are too strong and society is too weak.

The bishops are right to say that the “big society” was a good idea that dissolved into an aspiration, by turns pious and cynical.

The answer is not to return to the old certainties, but to ask why things failed and how society could be made stronger.

I think that Labour’s policy review has made a strong start in this direction.

The letter has a lot of interesting things to say about character and virtue and how these are best supported in human-scale institutions; how the family is a school of love and sacrifice, and how we can support relationships in a world that encourages immediate gratification and is in danger of losing the precious art of negotiation and accommodation.

There is not enough love in the economic or political system, and the bishops are right to bring this to our attention.

In another expression of the generosity of thought in this letter, the lead taken by Pope Francis in addressing economic issues has been embraced.

When the banks are borrowing at 2% and lending to payday lenders at 7%, which lend to the poor at 5,500%, the bishops are right to call this usury and to say that it is wrong.

They are also right to say that there needs to be a decentralisation of economic as well as political power. They are right to say that there are incentives to vice when there should be incentives to virtue.

They are right to say that work is a noble calling, that good work generates value, and that workers should be treated with dignity.

They are right to value work and support a living wage, and to build up credit unions as an alternative to payday lenders.

They are also right to point out that competition is opposed to monopoly and not cooperation, which is necessary for a successful economy: an isolated individual can never become an autonomous person.

They are also right to remind us of the importance of place and to warn us against a carelessness to its wellbeing.

That is why decentralisation and subsidiarity are vital for our country, so that we do not become a society of strangers, but can build bonds of solidarity and mutual obligation.

Above all, the bishops are right to assert that autonomous self-governing institutions that mediate between the state and the market are a vital part of our national renewal.

The BBC, our great universities and schools, city governments and the church are our civic inheritance, and vital to the wellbeing of the nation.

All are threatened by the centralised control of the market and state.

We cannot do this alone, and that is why politics – doing things together – is important; and that is why the body politic and not just the state is important.

Our cities and towns cannot take responsibility unless they have power.

As the election approaches there will be a tendency to turn everything into a party political conflict.

That is understandable, but there is also a place for us to engage in a longer-term conversation, a covenantal conversation, about how we renew our inheritance and rise to the challenge of living together for the good.

I have read the letter and learned a great deal from it.

I will read it again and reflect on its teaching because the issues it raises will endure beyond May.

Issues of how to build a common life under conditions of pluralism, how to engage people in political participation and self-government, how to decentralise political and economic power, how to resist the domination of the rich and the powerful, how to renew love and work so that life can be meaningful and fulfilling.

These are the right questions to be asking.

I am grateful to the bishops for challenging us to develop a better and more generous politics and public conversation.

It is an act of leadership.