Posts Tagged ‘Conservative Party’
Well, if you mean 50 years, Woolas commented:
“Disestablishment – I think it will happen because it’s the way things are going. Once you open debate about reform of the House of Lords you open up debate about the make-up of the House,” he told the newspaper.”
“It will probably take 50 years, but a modern society is multi faith.”
So who is in the way of allowing people to choose their faith or none without the state privledging one over another?
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “The Church of England is by law established as the Church in England and the Monarch is its Supreme Governor.
“The government remains committed to this position and values the establishment of the Church of England.” [BBC]
Woolas’ point – which along with a Sunday Times interview have come to haunt him in his new role as Immigration Minister – was that reform of the House of Lords was needed. Once that happens you cannot ignore the unelected Bishops of the Church of England there. Nor the role the monarch plays as head of an established church to which the majority of subjects are not actively a part of.
The reason why this is not a government priority:
The Government has reassured the Church of England that it will not embark on any move towards disestablishment unless the Church asks it to do so. With the Church bogged down in disputes over gays and women clergy, the last thing that it wants is a row over disestablishment. In Lambeth Palace and Whitehall the issue is considered political dynamite. [The Times]
It has the hallmarks of passions being stirred on all sides of the debate. The thing is that the best arguments are not on Lambeth or Westminster’s side. Citizens should be free to pursue their religious belief without having one privileged over another. The question of belief is an entirely a private matter. You do not have to believe in hell to be a member of the Church of England. That is not a question of belief but a matter of law on the statute book by parliament.
There is however a danger that rather than going ahead with disestablishment, the Labour Government will actually try to have religion encouraged in the public sphere. Sharia Law is already being practised for civil cases via Sharia Councils in Britain:
The councils do not involve themselves in criminal law or any aspects of civil law in which they would be in direct conflict with British civil codes. The vast majority of their cases cover marriage and divorce. By consent of all parties, they may also arbitrate issues of property, child custody, housing and employment disputes, though their rulings are not binding unless submitted to the civilian courts. [source]
The issue here is the nature of the consent by all parties, and whether all parties know about access to British civil codes and how to abject. This really must be stressed when you consider the number of women that may be subjected to Sharia Councils who do not speak English. By what token are we assured that they know their rights under English law?
Meanwhile the report Moral, But No Compass, backed by the Church of England suggestion is to have a Minister for Religion. As if 26 Bishops in the House of Lords was not enough representation. As one blogger commented:
the moment this minister sets foot in a church, the Muslims would demand visits to their mosques with increasingly-taller minarets, and then the Sikhs would want a visit to their shining new gurdwaras, and thence to mandirs, and viharas. And at some point the minister would have to make statements in the House about the status of Scientology, and feel obliged to celebrate Yoda’s birthday at the House of Commons with the Jedi Knight fraternity, if only to win their endorsement and votes. [Cranmer]
Hopefully the Conservative Humanist Association can ensure that the Minister for Religion idea is not one adopted as Conservative Policy – though it could be a move to gather back Anglicans feeling slighted by the Labour Government. Despite the fact that this government is very much in favour of faith based initiatives – signalling them out for special praise in the Goldsmith report.
The real reason is that the government sees the whole issue as a Gordian Knot where the monarchy, Church of England and House of Lords all intertwine. To sever one is to unravel them all, in a way that the government fears it could not control. A church that would be free to be political, rather than just a public servant. An elected head of state with executive power independent of the Cabinet. An elected House of Lords with legitimacy to take on the lower chamber more often.
It could also be one of those things that power is only ever given away when it is expedient too or the institution that has it cares not to have such exercise of authority. The political problem though remains. The issue is one that has to be advanced on a human rights front. The state cannot effectively favour all religions, nor should it use taxpayers money to privilege one over the other. Giving religious civil courts sanction to make rulings over citizens is a breach that all are the same under the law where legally unqualified people will render verdicts based on their interpretation of holy texts – which do not favour the equal treatment of people regardless of gender, and have a notion of property rights inconsistent with moder law.
The feminists should be burning Korans, and the government should be having an almighty headache over the dalliance with organised religion. Right now it bears the harlot upon it’s back – when will the beast shake itself free of the rider that feels secure debauched on the legitimacy of their union on the statue books? Some may say it would mark the end of the world, a new world order (a book on Revelation interpretations would be how many volumes?). What it should mean is the sovereignty of belief resides in the private minds of the citizens, and not a matter of the government who should protect the freedom of religion and speech by advocating those human rights values, rather than religion being able take them away and make them their own, with the complicit government allowing it’s citizens to be unequally treated in civil cases.
The newly formed Conservative Humanist Association means that now all three main political parties have a humanist society for members to be part of. Though that did not go down completely well with everyone; John Gummer MP, former Agriculture Minister, on seeing them at the party conference denounced them saying the Conservative Party was God’s party. Still, I did not like the man when he fed his infant child beef in front of the press when we had our first BSE scare, and this does nothing to mend his image. The irony is that on Gummer’s website he talks about representing people in his constituency irrespective of party. It seems when it comes to his own party, God is a dividing line.
Richard Dawkins spoke at the launch event (YouTube video) in Birmingham during the party conference. Secular values cross party lines, so while I may not trust that the Conservatives on social justice and free markets benefiting all and not the few, this is something that can only help in making the case for Britain to be more secular when it comes to faith schools, Sharia Law or Bishops in the House of Lords.
Mind you I am in good company – Richard Dawkins has not voted Tory in his life.
At the Council of Ex Muslims of Britain (CEMB) I met up with two people (far right of photo) involved with the Conservative Humanist Association, and we went to a nearby pub to talk about the association. They also referred to the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group – which hopefully will grow; a number of atheist MPs (especially Conservative) tend to keep a low profile. However, a number of prospective parliamentary candidates from the Conservatives are humanist – so if the polls are anything to go by their number on the benches of the Commons will increase.
The Conservatives are having their conference in Birmingham this week, and despite Brown’s speech last week closing the gap the Labour Party is still on course for the worse drumming in an election since Michael Foot was leader in the 1980s with a manifesto described as the longest suicide note in history.
However, it is easy to be popular when you tap into people’s resentment. The real question is what policy alternatives do you have? Whether this is just a gimmick to engage the public or they really do not have a clue on this is unclear. They have opened up policy discussion on their blog to make suggestions for what policy might be on the Conservative Website. Just as Gordon Brown borrowed from America his wife introducing him before his speech, this idea comes from Obama’s website.
George Osbourne (Conservative Shadow Chancellor) made the point in 2006 on blogs:
In politics and in the media we’ve both assumed that we do the talking and the people listen. Now the people are talking back.
It’s exciting, liberating, challenging and frightening too.
There are 57 million blogs and the number increases by 100,000 every single day.
Over 125 million people have created their own MySpace page – and 250,000 new people do so each week.
This is not quite virtual democracy, uniting the world. The majority of the world’s inhabitants do not have access to global communications. In 2006 only 57% of UK households had access to the internet. The other point is the impact by which using this medium has on the political process. Organising could not be easier – just start a facebook group, send some chain e mails around. Contacting elected representatives is as easy as a few key strokes. You can write a blog, with no one to edit your content. Political parties are encouraging people to target blogs with comments.
I can see where this is heading. Regime change by blogging, and commenting. It could even be used to encourage dissent, rather than by supplying money or arms, by positive comments to a blogger to keep on undermining a government with their criticism. Or creating blog accounts to coordinate rumour mills in the digital internet age to shape events in the real world through cyberspace. Blogs written by covert agents of the state to influence people both foreign and domestic.
On the one hand a force for good, but also one for conspiracy. Just another medium for the propaganda war. The real significance of what the Conservative Party is doing is making existing activists feel more motivated to take part, and garnering publicity. They can perhaps dream of the website contributing to party funds the way it did for Obama. Cameron lacks the inspiring qualities that make people jump up from their seats and extend their wallets to be part of a movement for change.
Are we too cynical to think change is ever going to happen, or do we just lack a charismatic leader that could inspire us that way here in the UK? Well we did have such a politician that knew how to raise the roof, and in many ways it made me a political activist because I could see the things that needed change. That was Tony Blair, and in many ways I think it is easy for us to forget how popular he was when first elected as we remember him now for Iraq and unfounded public loyalty to George Bush defending the indefensible.
In a world full of bloggers you will not please them all, but you will get widespread opinion out there. But the person busy typing away is still a human being. One motivated to get their message across to people, or vain enough to think people will read and take notice of what is said. The internet offers new opportunities – it does not however change the nature of the political animal.
If politics has taught us anything though, it is that governments have their own agendas often shaped by things beyond the public’s control. It is not so much us the people that influence policy as legitimise a group to formulate and enact them on our behalf. We have the power of veto by removing a government for a particular bad policy. However, with George W Bush and Tony Blair reelected after sending troops to Iraq and the incompetence and human rights violations that entailed I do not have the confidence in the electorate being relied on to exercise that veto. But if it is business as usual when you change the faces then what real power do you have?
If you want change it is not enough to just change the people in office:
‘Those who have changed the universe have never done it by changing officials, but always by inspiring the people.’ (Napoleon)
It is often said that power ultimately rests with the citizen if only we exercised it. Perhaps that is where blogging may work in communicating ideas. The change it gives birth too though may be as effective as writing down your frustrations and grievances in a notebook which you keep under your pillow. It makes you feel better having got it off your chest – but are you actually using it as a call to action on others, to inspire others to change the universe?
It is a battle of ideas, with cynicism being the barricade on the way to progress. But that cynicism is not just other people, but what we can have ourselves. Because sometimes we may think even a small thing will not make the difference, and that a blog is no more an instrument for change then a notebook under a pillow. Yet we can do more then dream on them:
Each time a person stands up for an ideal,
or acts to improve the lot of others…
he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope,
and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring,
those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. (Robert Kennedy)
I suppose the real secret if you can inspire people is not to get killed for doing it.
In Britain we are not faced with an immediate election contest. Rather with the death by a thousand cuts of Gordon Brown, where rumours keep circulating of Labour MPs wanting him to either change his leadership or step down. The latest being MPs seeking nomination papers to change the Labour leader prior to the party conference.
Not quite up there the Obama/McCain campaign. This is whispers and murmurs, and stories recycling themselves into fresh intrigues in dark corridors. Discipline seems lacking (not surprising when your own whips turn against you) as backbench MPs challenge on issues ranging from stamp duty on houses, fuel allowance payments and the recent demands for a windfall tax on energy companies. On these issues it seems that Number Ten is being led rather than providing the leadership – and MPs feel like Brown has his hand on the tiler of the Titanic.
Once he was thought as a sure winner for Labour – much was made at the last General Election that he would succeed Blair. There was even suggestions that Blair would only win with Brown. Now, it seems the only person that would do better than Brown is Blair (though as he is not an MP highly unlikely). Though that poll reflects that anyone replacing Brown would not shift party fortunes with the iceberg of a Cameron revived Conservative Party taking over. The once thought unsinkable Brown appears very vulnerable.
If some MPs believe that Labour will be out of government then part of their behaviour which seems disloyal and undermining can be seen as trying to influence the government to have a radical socialist agenda which would be impossible under a Conservative Government. Another way of looking at it is that with the election lost, lets do what grass root activists would like. They may even hope that such policies may genuinely improve opinion polls, or at least save their seats at the next election.
Where Brown went wrong was to give the impression he would call a General Election soon after being nominated unopposed to the Labour leadership – to receive a symbolic mandate from the people (which constitutionally comes from his MPs). In many ways appearing chicken by not calling it having allowed the rumours for several months made him loose the bounce he had when becoming Prime Minister.
How can Gordon improve things? He needs to rally the troops – if he cannot unite the party on common
ground, or inspire natural supporters h will continue to look weak. He has to look like he is in charge of the agenda. Writing and editing books while Prime Minister, despite his work ethic, is not helping his image. He is not a natural orator (unlike Tony Blair) – but he needs to play to his strength as a man of details who knows what is going on, and leadership that he knows what he is doing rather then reacting to events.
Above all he has to realise that he has to earn the right to be Prime Minister every moment. He had no natural right to it as a successor to Tony Blair. Nor have Labour MPs been elected with him as their leader. The moment to call an early election is over. Right now the government has to show that when it comes to economic turmoil their social justice agenda and economic competence of the past means they are treid and tested, and with current policies a new Conservative Government lacking experience is not worth the risk.
It is a tall order. Perhaps Gordon Brown does not want to take the risks involved, or even believe that he can do this. In answer he has to fake it till he makes it. Past glories as Chancellor, bringing in the minimum wage and independence are not enough now with Northern Rock going bankrupt and a faltering economy.
As the whispers show, even his own MPs are beginning to voice that he cannot make the grade. The media, lacking anything of real significance and lusting after the US election campaign, go for intrigue and machinations. Where survival depends on Turkey’s not voting for Christmas, Brown needs to hush his critics, or do what John Major did with a put up or shut up challenge which showed balls inviting a leadership challenge after winning a General Election – which he won.
The fact that I am suggesting that John Major showed better leadership qualities than Gordon Brown is in itself a testament to the hole Gordon Brown has dug himself in. He needs to climb out, and he needs to reassert his leadership. The fact that no one else can improve the fortunes of the party gives him the cover to be bold. Otherwise the cuts will at some point draw enough blood to bring him down.