Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Whiff of More Tory Election Corruption

So we are being told by Channel 4 News tonight that the Conservative Party
allegedly paid for a call centre to canvas people afar and wide with Tory party slogans and naming their candidates by telephone, using people on zero hours contracts from a company that concealed its real name and pretended to do research.

Let's take this a bit further. Imagine you are a jobless person in Neath. You are told by the Job Centre to work for this call centre. No choice. Suppose you are a socialist or liberal or nationalist. You have to go on the phones, call people and recycle Conservative Party election cliches to recipients, many of whom are on the list to avoid nuisance calls - only genuine researchers can telephone such people. This is an abuse of political liberty. And it is alleged that this call centre was spending money for the election, for named candidates, to 'buy votes' and - if so - acting illegally.

Plus the fact that by being undeclared a call centre acting in this way intentionally calling people with and gathering data breaks Data Protection Laws.

The Information Commissioner says if wrongdoing has taken place, action will be taken. Would it not also be a police matter?

This may well find its way into the pot that could stink and add to the shaking that puts Theresa May out of office. After Thanet and all that, we have this prospect of more potential corruption, expenses for candidates undeclared, criminal offence activity. Surely she knew that a call centre was being exceptionally busy on Tory Party worked money. Her phrases were repeated by these telephone calls as soon as they were given. Something has to be done.

Strategy Latest for Staying In the EU

This blog is written from the standpoint of someone who wants to stay in the European Union .

I don't know if David Lammy MP has changed his view; perhaps like Kenneth Clarke MP he expects removal from the EU and so has adjusted to a near EU position. Perhaps he will change his mind: perhaps he's a dreamer and is not the only one. David Lammy enjoys the biggest proportion of an MPs vote: 80% of voters in his constituency voted for him.

However, I'm a stay in the EU without variation, and it is always a question of ongoing strategy.

Whilst I think there is social and safety legislation which calls for the House of Commons and House of Lords to co-operate, leaving the European Union is not one of them. Assuming the majority is for the single market an customs union or as close as can be, there are clearly going to be votes to stop the government doing worse.

My view is this. We should let the government 'own' whatever it is they are doing in Brussels. The government is divided, and David Davis cannot have it all his own way. Also people should leave Theresa May where she is, probably for two years. Both factions of her party box her in.

The expectation is that the government will make a mess of it through its own indecision-making and lack of resources. The clock ticks and the offer from the fed-up 27 is not extended negotiations for Britain's benefit but the EEA or stay in the EU. No one will let the cliff edge happen, and both houses will go ballistic over this.

However, there is a big problem coming along if the Scottish Parliament needs to pass a legislative consent. It may well not on any basis other than full single market and customs union (i.e. EEA) basis as its compromise, given the good majority in Scotland to stay in. Even ther Scottish Tories are 'soft' on leaving the EU.

This could scupper the government, and given its performance regarding the Democratic Unionist Party negotiations, it could leave the government up the creek without a paddle. It could itself short-circuit everyone to a quick General Election.

Let's just look at the DUP situation. It shows how inept this government is regarding negotiation, and indeed the television BBC Newsnight biography on Theresa May on the night before the voting stated that she is not transactional and cannot negotiate.

It is inept because Cameron as Prime Minister (and indeed even Gordon Brown under Labour) spoke to the DUP. Because the DUP warm to the Tories, Cameron never had to make his DUP talking public. He did not because of its effect on the Good Friday Agreement and because they have a different social ethos.

Had Theresa May possessed political skills at a level of her office, she would have known this. Someone advised her, or she thought it necessary, to purchase a House of Commons majority by making a potential deal public. Immediately the warnings about Ireland were mentioned, plus that these people are "dinosaurs" (and, by the way Mr Speaker, dinosaurs did not just last millions of years, but our birds are pretty much evolved dinosaurs...). Now it may be that there is no deal, that it cannot be purchased, and it makes May look even more foolish.

So there is a bit of a dilemma in the strategy for a pro-European. One is not to co-operate with legislation - letting them stew in their own juice and own it - whilst the other is to leave he in power.

But if factions arise and repeal bills (reversing 1972) do not get passed, the government is in a mess. There may well be a fall in the government. It would as likely end in another Tory taking the leadership, say David Davis himself. No one else wants it. No leader wants to prepare for an election that might put them into opposition.

If that happens, see what he says and see them still in the juice. Labour will be as unlikely to manage the House of Commons as any other party, with such low voting numbers and now the DUP definitely against. It would have to fail to get through its radical social and economic programme. It would have to plan to fail and want an election, and only a vote of no confidence would get to an election (because of the Fixed Term Parliament Act - no plans now to repeal it).

Meanwhile Farage will be exercising his efforts through Tory MPs in the hard faction. Their options are now considerably reduced. At the moment they get the same sympathetic rhetoric from government.

Just a note on this as well. I have never believed that Theresa May would go ahead with a 'hard Brexit' and the fact that she 'lost' on this basis is another of her errors. She was a remainer and went 'hard' to get UKIP votes. They have destroyed UKIP, like they almost destroyed the Liberal Democrats in 2015, but the ex-Labour voters who went UKIP returned only two thirds of this UKIP vote to the Tories, and with the rise in the youth vote the Tory 'success' with this strategy failed. The First Past the Post tipping points actually went in Labour's favour.

So she is rubbish on that basis as well. Note that on Day 1 David Davis capitulated to the EU timetable after all the bluster on how the government would negotiate. The outcome, if we leave, is likely to be soft anyway, and Theresa May is as likely to accept that as any other, simply because she believed in staying in.

Her political skills was to believe in staying in, saying nothing, and expect Cameron to be so bruised by the referendum that he soon would fall to a less convinced remainer like her and all continue on. However, she sat back and watched the other leadership candidates knife each other in the front and back and took the reins as handed to her. Then she became as insincere in government leadership by rhetoric.

Anyway, everyone has seen through her but may as well leave her where she is. She won't last more than two years, but it's best if she does. She may not, because the legislation can get snarled up and even stopped. Labour. the SNP and the Liberal Democrats should let the government get into its own stew and let legislation stall. (And surely the Liberal Democrats will not be as stupid to bale the Tories out again?) - I mean it is one thing to be punished by the electorate, another to be destroyed.

The object of the exercise, for the Liberal Democrats and others, is to stay in the European Union. The Article 50 clock is ticking. Let it. The mess the government gets into regarding leaving the EU is entirely of its own making, and must be. The Liberal Democrats especially must now start making the argument for sharing sovereignty and saying that a General Election always trumps a referendum. All the EEA option amounts to is being virtually the same as the EU but without political input to decision making. And this is what we should retain.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

On Biblical Emotional Dependency Today

This is a further reflection not so much on Tim Farron as on the faith of the 'committed Christian' and 'biblical Christian' with reference to sexuality.

What is such a faith, such a belief and its response? It is a relationship of dependence. It is to say that there is in one collection of books a revelation of salvation faith, that in our time must be in contrast with a different general reality; thus it is a kind of gnosis - special knowledge.

Much as I might engage presently in some church tourism, and thus participate in some of what Tim Farron experiences, I cannot get away from the fact that the Bible is a human construction in particular places and times.

It is impossible to escape from the work of biblical critics and the limitations of doing history. It is impossible to reject the reality of science. So a number of things follow in relationship with evangelical (and other post-Nicea and post-Chalcedon forms of) Christianity.

This summarises like this, pushing history: that Jesus was an end-time rabbi, not particularly unique in his ethic, and did not preach his own divinity and probably was unsure (changed his mind?) on the matter of messiahship. He could have regarded himself as a conduit with God to bring about another Messiah after Jesus's own understanding of the suffering servant. Of course once he was dead, he either was something large or nothing at all for those energised with belief, as Paul put it in similar fashion.

Even saying this is to say more than history can provide. In pure terms he was a Galilean, who followed the Baptist's eschatology, widened out his appeal somewhat, went to Jerusalem, was arrested and was put to death by crucifixion.

The synoptic gospels are faith documents of early believers in his messiahship, a human man who was appointed by God. Pauline theology is all over these as part-interpretation. Many of Jesus's sayings are put on to him, but some might be his own words. John's Gospel has a resistance and pull regarding Gnosticism, and is a Greek-philosophical Gospel of pre-existence with all sorts of sayings put on to Jesus's lips. The Gospel of Thomas (excluded from the canon but must be included as serious) is a limited form of Gnostic Gospel with sayings and no biographical picture, some of which could be historical and many are not.

Whatever one thinks of the resurrection appearances and empty tomb, if these were in any sense continuations of the perception of Jesus then we will be looking at Nobel prizes for biology, physics and even chemistry. The 'appearances' are statements of theology, liturgy and authority. The tomb says to me why there is no tomb worship, and witnesses to explain the anonymity of burial, if burial it was. Paul is no witness when he makes a bland statement regarding burial. In any case, if Jesus is human (and what else is he?) then dead people do not return to life after actual death. The brain rots very quickly. Who rolled away the stone. If there was a stone, no one needed to do it because the resurrected Jesus went to hell and rose up again. It is picture-book stuff.

Indeed for someone like me, the Rabbi Jesus is an evolved human like anyone else, and nothing special, living in the Bronze Age (as we categorise it), and whose thought forms were within the supernaturalism mistaken age of rabbinical Judaism with a messianic expectation. So were the excited early followers, Jews and more, told that he had returned to the leaders and a symbolic congregation (500 or 120) and gone off again (so these followers would not see him) with a directing Spirit instead and a likely rapid return. He would come again, establish the close Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and would (unlike what the Creed says) give it back to the Father at the very end.

It's not how I think, or anyone else, who thinks of the universe as billions of light years in inner circumference and expanding, and of evolving life (a chaotic method of development by comparative death plus systemic interaction). It gets a bit daft to think of a God being interested in an edge of one galaxy planet to direct history. The thought forms do not meet. They only work if one of them is a mythology, and a mythology as true as doing art and working the imagination. The mythology explains nothing except, perhaps, as an illustration that sometimes we have to give something up in order to move on to something fresh. Dying and rising is a common theme in many a myth, and in nature's renewal.

But the committed Christian, the evangelical believer, seems to live inside that specific thought world with Reformation adjustment. It becomes a kind of fizzy reality. I do worry if a political leader shows that sort of dependency. What is missing that such emotional diversion needs such to block the plughole? Now I am well aware that life is shit, but I am not going to fill that gap with mythology and self-deception.

What then is it to have that imagining for yourself and friends, but then have this "liberal to my fingertips" stance that others should follow their own truths? Now, I know about Radical Orthodoxy, which hates Karl Barth because he accepted the opposite of atheism from being inside the inner circle. For a Radical Orthodox, there is the postmodern bubble, but you live within the bubble and it must be the interpreter of all else. Atheism is no more. One can understand this form of traditionalism, but it is rubbish because any research shows that the 'secular theology' of Sociology produces returns of the real whether you want them or not. Science does other. Life is not a novel to be made up however you want: thus my argument against the extent of non-realism in the Cupitt camp: and Cupitt then says he follows common narratives and not the Radical Orthodox imaginings. Why not? Why not, when all is imagined? Because, in the end, some things are true, however hard truth is to discover, and some are not. It is not just that some things 'work better' and others don't. Yes, great schemes of explanations change, and so can ours of General Relativity and the Quantum, but they will change because of research that supports or undermines the mathematics.

I don't understand Tim Farron. On the other hand, I have met many Christians who seem to have a remarkable ability to use the light switch method for one minute being in the Christian world of explaining and then in the ordinary world of technology and human enquiry, the 'common narratives' recognised by Don Cupitt.

For example, there is a binary aspect to Genesis in reproductive relationships. There is also a binary basis worked out (from many other forms) into the New Testament for marriage - marriage that becomes angelic in the Kingdom of Heaven when it comes. Eh? Divorce is thus not allowed. However, there is also rabbinic experience of foreskin removal that reveals eunuchs and something in between. We now know that intersex comes in many guises, and related and unrelated is the transexual, and desire for coupling (and more) on a same sex basis comes throughout evolved animals (including us) as well as across the sexes. Genesis and being a biblical Christian just won't do as an explanation. The sociology of social stability suggests recognition and doorway rituals for same sex as well as different sex coupling, and more in fact, anything indeed that involves pleasure and informed consent together.

Tim Farron as a 'biblical Christian' must feel constrained, as will his fellowship of Evangelical Christian co-worshippers, regarding anything beyond the limited biblical insights. Thanks to him for allowing others to pursue their own: but on what basis? Allowing others to sin, due to being liberal to his fingertips? Is that not participation in the sin of others, when surely they should be persuaded to get inside the bubble.

Very odd. It makes no sense to me. I am liberal to my fingertips too, but this is because I think knowledge is only darkly found in conditions of free enquiry. I am liberal in religion and liberal is sociology and liberal in politics, a liberal view that has plenty for the collective sense. After all, we evolve to be collective in many species.

I am sorry for the emotionally dependent, but the Bible is no longer a source of essential knowledge. We get it elsewhere. It is only one of the providers of mythology. It was created and collected by a Church institutional arrangement and helps maintain that arrangement in many breakout forms.

All religion is like this: Arabia in the seventh century is a mystery and took about century to write another mythic history. Scriptures are full of all sorts of errors. Ancient religions in the east were always about mythology and no one thought any worse for it (life was a story). But the grounds of 'being historical' have changed, and I worry about politicians dependent on an emotional fill-up every Sunday and perhaps more often.

Thank God He Has Gone?

The politics of the Grenfell Tower fire in London was summarised for me in Channel 4 News, and in later, similar comments on BBC 2 Newsnight. This was the claim, however true or not, that the cladding on the tower that went on fire so rapidly was to beautify the tower for the wealthy nearby residents, and this is why a recent upgrade could include such absences of fire protection and combustible material for the actual, poor, residents. And with legal aid provision withdrawn, these residents lacked the ability to challenge what was taking place around them. We forget that in cities people in poverty can live right next to the wealthy, especially so in London, and the fear now is that when this tower block is knocked down the replacement will not be social housing.

As well as this event, I want to mention also another programme on TV tonight, again on BBC 2 between 9 and 10 pm. It was an attempt to see if a group of travellers on a terrible rail franchise south east of London could meet the conditions for a bid. All along the way, the Department of Transport put traps in their way: and they found the fifty million pounds suddenly required of them, and even then they were rejected. The fact is we have railway companies subsidised to make a profit for lousy rented services (trains etc.) that don't work, many of the profits going abroad to State owned railways to subsidise their social fares. Not once did this programme mention the most obvious thing to do: either nationalise the whole thing and make it credible again (e.g. ticketing) or so arrange the finances so that the whole thing is one functioning private company with full flexibility of ticketing.

Two issues in this country that matter: poverty, inequality and absence of basic standards, and a "not fit for purpose" (House of Commons pre-election) system by which the corporate pals of government can arrange finance and set-ups to milk the railways.

Was it wise during a very tragic and politically charged fire in London for Tim Farron to announce his resignation? Was he going quietly so no one would notice, or did he just carry on as normal? I'm not sure. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, and hard-hearted as it may seem activities do continue.

There is more than a hint in his resignation speech that being a biblical Christian and “remaining faithful to Christ” was incompatible with being his party’s leader. He is liberal to his fingertips about the rights of others to live as they will, but clearly he was implying that being a biblical Christian doesn't allow that for him or others like him. Indeed, just a little earlier, Lord Paddick resigned from his position citing Tim Farron's views, but also a regret that he felt that Farron could not be a committed Christian and leader of the Liberal Democrats.

This raises a question whether he was lying in the election when he said he does not regard gay sex as a sin. It raises the question what exactly does he regard as incompatible between living as a biblical Christian and running a liberal party in 2017. Perhaps he thinks the Bible thinks gay sex is a sin and he does not. But that raises another question about him as this committed Christian.

Who cares, once he is no longer a leader? Of course many would want to question his assumptions about being a committed Christian and regarding gay sex as sinful. There is the whole question of context. Does Tim Farron approve, for example, of recent decisions by the United Reformed Church and the Scottish Episcopal Church? Presumably he approves of the opt outs in liberal fashion, but what about church marriages with same sex couples who will shortly go to bed with each other and sexually?

I don't wish to overdo my criticism. Theresa May is an Anglican Christian, known to have made anti-lesbian statements in Merton, London, and is socially conservative. She would press a nuclear button and when a nurse in the General Election campaign almost wept that her pay was falling back in real terms year by year, all that May could say was that there is no money tree. No comassion there then. Tim Farron is the far better example of Christian, as both Christian and politician.

I suggest something else, too, regarding his resignation. Early on I had a sense that Farron just was not up to the job. I could have been wrong, and he might have become a Charles Kennedy. The election campaign might throw up some positive surprises. This is what Jeremy Corbyn did, after all, who was transformed from someone who could not run his office to someone who could campaign and run his office. Farron was overshadowed, as well as lacked traction on the European argument before the negotiations began, before the economy started to go seriously wrong. In two years it would have been different.

But he was just crap. He was also robotic, like Theresa May, in voice and presentation even if he did answer questions. He was not a leader. He might have been all they had, given that he voted against the Bedroom Tax and kept his promise regarding tuition fees. Nevertheless, in a time when government competence will be in short supply, the Liberal Democrats need to rebuild with a leader with gravistas. The Tory voter will be looking for somewhere to go soon, and the fact is that a Labour government will only have a majority if the third party recovers. Votes that went to a two party system (and allows the Tories to crow about their vote numbers) have to return to a three or even four party system. That way Labour wins: it is how it won (except perhaps the first time) under Blair.

If Vince becomes leader (say) then the party will be seen to have a heavyweight leader and attractive to Tories fed up with incompetence, narrow interests and lack of direction in the government neither restored nor refreshed. Vince will have instant appeal, because he can talk about competence in the coalition even if it annoys lefties who voted Liberal Democrat. After all, the lefties and young will now be voting Labour, and Vince will be appealing to those who have a better view of the coalition than I did, for example.

So goodbye Tim and it never did happen. A Calvinist in me says it was never going to happen under you so it is wise to have stood down, even if the day is unfortunate timing when others reflect on tragedy and the wider causes of tragedy.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Church Tourism Derails Somewhat

My plan for today was to visit, for the first time, a 'Cafe Church' Fresh Expressions held by a Hull URC church. I arrived before time, to discover that it had been cancelled because "Everyone had gone home" after a previous service. The previous service was a youth one, because this church is connected to some young people's organisations.

The minister told me it was cancelled for this reason; the woman alongside said I had attended the previous week. He told me it would start up again.

However, he did not ask for contact details. So what would I do? Turn up again only to find it cancelled again? In my Unitarian experience, ha ha, if one person turns up you run the service. I have been there with three plus a minister.

I don't think it was likely but there was an outside chance I might find a place there. Parking is awkward, indeed takes time in The Avenues. Well, I won't return now.

So I wondered what I would do. Instead of going home I knew that Holy Trinity (Hull Minster) ran its 'traditional' service at 11:15, and I was back at the car at 11:01. I didn't much fancy it, but there might be something else to learn.

I arrived 2 minutes late in the church itself. I just could not participate and even the final blood-curdling hymn caused me to close the book. I counted about 50 plus in the space including 18 in the robed choir. I was told by this woman afterwards that some from the choir and a few were at this decaon's ordination in York; indeed she would preside at her first Eucharist in the evening service.

The service was taken by the main fairly folksy priest. The woman I spoke with mentioned above said about the URC no attendance that it is secularisation, and she had just written an essay on it for the Open University. Sociologist? No, historian. She said about pre-First World War so I said oh yes that 1913 was the high point for church attendance but in fact it only kept pace with the rise in the general population. I told her I had a speciality in Presbyterian and Unitarian history, indeed how Presbyterians and Independents worshipped in the Nave at Holy Trinity before being kicked out after the Restoration.

This woman had trained as a midwife in Ipswich when she knew a Unitarian family. She said that they are Quakers now. I said each are like 'cousins', neither containing demands for doctrine.

Now the preacher was only training to be a Lay Reader. Quite elderly I thought (!) but when does one become a Lay Reader? His sermon had been on Rublev's Trinity ikon inviting us in, plus references to the 1 Corinthians and the read-out Matthew Trinity-like statements. I said to him that these are not doctrine of the Trinity statements. He didn't disagree, although I could tell he wanted to disagree. He agreed Matthew is a late insertion. I said that the early Christians were not trinitarians, and Paul certainly was not. I could see here too that he wanted to disagree, but could not. I said the gospels are trying to say that Jesus was appointed, chosen as Messiah by God, and I said John's gospel is closer to Arian. He agreed! I said there was no inevitability that it would end up as Trinitarian, and indeed at the Reformation the proof of this was when some retained the Church doctrines they were trinitarian, but those who read the Bible alone in Eastern Europe were not. So he said if Jesus was only (at best) Arian, it affects salvation. So I asked why? I said if you take John's Gospel, it says In the beginning and in Arianism Jesus is the first born of all creation. He said yes but Jesus says 'Before Abraham was I am' so I asked how that changes anything and, of course, he could not say.

I did point out that I was not Arian myself, and also that the Trinitarian was a construction in the context of Roman Empire. "Oh you think that?" he said. "Yes."

For me the service was full of clutter. OK, there is a surface appreciation of choir-sung bits, but they may as well sing forms of nonsense. I know I rather like being an argumentative sod unpicking assumptions in sermons, but there is no future in it. Like the last time I visited (and I was remembered), I just detected that people are well aware of all the arguments but just go along with it. I call it self-deception and I am no longer interested in pursuing that. The liturgy struck me as so much clutter and I won't be going back there either.

In fact I'm not sure if I am going anywhere in future. I can think of one or two places to visit but that will conclude my travels. After than I shall enjoy my Sundays like most people do.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

For Remainers: Why the H of C Should Sit On Its Hands

I forget his name but a Tory strategist said he would have preferred a coalition, even a loose one, with the Liberal Democrats than rely on the Democratic Unionist Party with its cultural backwards stance.

Of course, it's hard luck. It could even be payback time, in the sense that the Tory reward for the Liberal Democrat prop from 2010 to 2015 was to massacre the Liberal Democrats in the pursuit of a majority. Had the Liberal Democrats been considered for such a coalition offer now and accepted, they would have lost my vote and a great many more forever. However, we know from Theresa May's past that her values, in so much as she has shown them, are more in keeping with the DUP than the Lib Dems.

It is time for Theresa May and the Conservatives to stew in their own juice. Theirs is the worst of all worlds now, because they have to continue to govern, but have lost authority to do it and will stagger on in weakness and with confusion of intentions.

I don't wish to be unkind to Labour, but the fact is that in conditions of a two party system the Labour Party has to be fantastically popular to win a majority. Whereas the Conservatives need about 317 to govern (no Sinn Fein plus usual DUP support), Labour needs 322. Labour also needs to get these seats in England, which is tougher for them than for the Tories.

Labour will get a majority if it holds and builds its support, gets the young out again (crucial), and yet sees a return to a three party system where the Liberal Democrats can take fed-up Tory voters. It will be the decay of the Tories and Liberal Democrats taking Tory votes that will let Labour in.

Now the Remain in the EU strategy WAS to wait for the negotiations to start to fail (cost, complication, arguing about lack of representation reducing sovereignty) and then persuade people to change their minds via a General Election or Referendum. The Tory factions either side would have undermined any result for negotiating, but the assumption was some result to withdraw.

Then Theresa May pulled a fast one, so that the Liberal Democrats failed to make traction (but also the leadership was rubbish). The prospect was that the remain side was stuffed by this clever General Election call by Theresa May's two advisors. Her majority would have overcome various Tory factions.

Now their/ her gamble has failed, the position is worse than ever. I am not a remainer seeking a soft exit; I am a remainer seeking to stay in the EU.

The strategy should now be different and work in two directions.

First is the argument that we could now be heading for the rights and costs of being in the EU - even in the single market and customs union - but we won't be able to affect policy. We therefore need to retain sovereignty by staying in, that is in the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and providing personnel into the Commission. We argue that to leave the EU is to lose sovereignty, because others will make decisions without us. Staying in is the simplest and most cost-effective option.

Secondly, do not help the Tories. There is the idea that the House of Commons should be 'responsible' and 'constructive'. No it should not. Let the leavers and the turncoats (Remainers actively taking us out, like May) own the policy and carry it through. If they can. Let them and no one else pass The Great European Communities Repeal Bill

They do not possess the intellectual or person-power resources to do it. They are also politically tired: the body politic was not refreshed by this general election (as it usually is). They will have fifteen months of a lame duck leader and factions both sides working on this leave project.

The clock ticks to the point that Article 50 will be invoked. When that comes, it is a cliff edge. We will have to appeal to a unanimity of the twenty seven to stop the clock for a period. The 27, or one or more of them, may well decide that, yes, they will pause the clock but that the negotiations are so tiresome, so troublesome, so muddled, that the clock can only be stopped for good. There are more pressing things in the world.

In other words, the choice will be the cliff edge or staying in. And then the EU may offer a looser outer circle membership, a bit like Cameron wanted, that requires adjustment and little more. All the complications of extraction will be avoided. And then the people who voted to stay in, and some more, and who realise the benefits of sharing politically and economically with others, will be happy.

Meanwhile, do not underestimate UKIP and Farage. They will operate with a threat to take Tory votes again (from a low UKIP base where this works) but, more importantly, via Tory MPs of their persuasion. There will be UK Independence Tories. No problem. They will just add to the chaos in a House of Commons more sympathetic to a softer exit or none, and which will hopefully sit on its hands and watch the Tories sink in their own juices.

A General Election in two or three years will be one that finishes all this and we carry on as before, hopefully with a socially progressive Labour government or progressive alliance.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Propped Up for What Domestically?

A long time ago David Cameron had a wheeze. Because the SNP and Labour sent MPs from Scotland, and yet had a devolved Parliament, then on domestic legislation only English MPs should vote on domestic legislation at the critical committee revising stage with vetos. The same applies to things the Welsh do, and the things the Northern Irish do. The Speaker declares when legislation is only for English or English and Welsh MPs. Look up English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) for how it works.

Suddenly, times have changed. The Scottish Conservatives have bailed out Theresa May's English and Welsh disaster. But, hang on, when it comes to the NHS or social care and education, what exactly is Theresa May's majority? These cannot be used. Nor can any Northern Irish MPs.

It suggests that anything beyond The Budget and Foreign Affairs is going to come under an even further diminished minority.

Meanwhile, the whole point of a General Election is a refreshment of the body politic, either via a new government or its renewal with lots of changes to the cabinet.

Not this time. It carries on as if the government just had a short break. But something did happen. A majority of some seventeen or so in effect fell to a deficit of three. And what was going on anyway, quiet reference by the previous Prime Minister David Cameron to the Democratic Unionist Party, is made explicit. Did it have to be made explicit? Cameron was talking to the DUP anyway, but he didn't make a song and dance about it because of the needs of Ireland and their nasty social exclusion. But now, in another mistake, May makes explicit her dependence on them just as she seems to have returned to office as if nothing has happened.

DUP a Disaster & Govt. Cannot Get an EU Exit Deal

The closest parallel I think with recent politics now is with the John Major government in 1992. He had a majority that was weakened slowly through by-elections. It was economically incompetent. It ruined the railways. But for passing the Maastricht Treaty Major had a 'nuclear' option, a sort of Tory self-destruct. May does not have a nuclear button.

The first mistake is to rely on the Democratic Unionist Party. To hold Northern Ireland/ North of Ireland together needs the British government to be an honest broker without strategic interest in the province. To couple up with the DUP just in order to prop up a minority government is threatening a far bigger and delicate prize of long-term stability in the north. The DUP could have a shopping list in terms of the troubles memory and form of politics in the future that upsets the balance in Ireland.

The second mistake is to assume the government can have a 'stable' position regarding leaving the European Union. The problem for the EU side is that the negotiating partner in the British Government cannot deliver on its own deal.

Once again UKIP will be a very short tail wagging the Tory nutjob hard exit faction. So a deal that keeps the UK in the single market and customs union (that thus dissolves the border question in Ireland) will not satisfy these nutjobbers.

Yet a hard exit from the EU would not get past the vast majority of the House of Commons.

The clock is ticking and in two years the UK could fall out of the European Union. The Article 50 time limit and the cliff edge can only be prevented if all 27 in the EU agree - and the price may well be to stay in the European Union and no further 'time', no more Article 50, in order to prevent an economic disaster.

It is not clear either that a European Communities (Union?) Grand Repeal Act would get through and may be delayed until nearer an apparent deal.


The government, in other words, is heading for disaster, as it always was, but now doing so having lost political authority.

On anything else 318 or 319 is enough to run the House of Commons (the real majority line is 322 with the Irish abstentions) but always subject to Tory factions.

In the opposition Tim Farron should resign in favour of a more competent heavyweight and Jeremy Corbyn with authority but no power will be frustrated. It is quite possible after a time period to see a centre party realignment - the nearest to a grand coalition.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act should survive. The former prerogative is dead, and cannot be revived (otherwise monarchail prerogative is never removable and is superior to statute) so if the FTPA is repealed then some other democratic means to call a General Election is needed, not a Prime Minister who can dissolve a House of Commons as if the monarch did.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Intended to Vote Liberal Democrat

Late last night I decided to vote Liberal Democrat. Wasn't quite as certain as that, even then. However, I re-read the leaflets and there was enough in public services intentions for me to vote for the pro-EU party. I cannot vote even for a more competent team (Labour) to take us out of the European Union despite my annoyance that the Liberal Democrat manifesto on Europe is one for an opposition.

I came into a report on BBC 2 Newsnight that I followed up online to get it all. It was by Matthew Parris and was a biography of Theresa May. I said to my podiatrist today that I know he cannot talk politics or religion, but I can. I said this broadcast item went back to May's university years and throughout, including especially during the coalition government. It found that May has no vision, or no one knows what it may be. She does not 'form gangs' like politicians do. She faces people across the table, may say 'No' and follows with silence. It said too that she is, unlike most politicians, not transactional and "she cannot negotiate": she cannot make quick decisions.

Hang on. She cannot negotiate. This means that throughout this whole 'Powerpoint' (bullet points) election campaign we have been sold a pup. The media construction of Theresa May and all her robotic answers (her interview with Jon Snow earlier on Channel 4 News was her most robotic) hid the fact that she actually cannot negotiate.

I knew from the off it was all a lie, simply through the U turns and her absence of anything she believes in, other than presumably Tory privilege.

So when I went to the polling booth after podiatry I was going to vote Liberal Democrat. However, I allowed myself to look down the ballot paper. And then I was paused: not should I vote Labour or Liberal Democrat but should I vote Green? Labour never even featured in my consideration. No, I thought, I'll vote Liberal Democrat on the basis that someone has to hold them up when on the slide as they are, knowing that they will probably have to change leader and firm up their stance in favour of staying in the European Union.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

I'm a Voting Uncertain

I was asked by a friend, why in a recent posting did I picture Theresa May in a "boob tube"? Do I fancy her ore something? No. Hardly, and not my intention! The picture is based on her wearing a dress at one of these lavish dinners she attended before adopting the mushroom-top hairstyle. I have added that recent hairy innovation and made the dress Tory blue. Presumably May adopted the Mushroom-bob to emphasise her willingness to press the nuclear button.

Beyond such utter trivia I approach this General Election in a condition of uncertainty. I said I firmed up towards the Liberal Democrats, but I am in a real dilemma.

It was Thursday last week that Jeremy Corbyn introduced his team to take us out of the European Union, and I said to myself that I cannot support a policy with a positive vote to take us out of the European Union.

The assumption here is that the Liberal Democrats would not take us out of the European Union, if forming the government. However, their manifesto is for opposition, having a 'destination referendum' at the end. And so it has to be said that one of the contenders for government will be removing us from the EU, with Labour at least offering the vague possibility of staying in at the end.

The argument is simple. Whatever we do, Europe is still there, and we will still have to obey trading rules. All we lose is the ability to shape those rules by removing from the political processes of decision making. We therefore lose not gain sovereignty.

However, I am impressed by the rest of the Labour programme and, having been a critic of Corbyn's ability to run his office, he has come on a bundle with the campaign. It is the manifesto that matters: all governments receive Civil Service support.

Corbyn himself responds and communicates, compared with the robotic May and the staccato Farron.

Farron is such a disappointment. He does not have a good wicket - the election argument he presents comes in nearly two years. But he is not much cop anyway. I would vote Liberal Democrat despite him, even despite the manifesto. The manifesto should say that a General Election trumps a referendum and a Liberal Democrat government would not take us out of the European Union. Instead, he has given the same sacred badge to an advisory referendum with a narrow vote to remove.

The Labour presentation is far more positive. This week unmediated coverage has shown Labour at its best, including on security. Corbyn is right to say resources for anti-terrorism must be under judicial review and preserving liberties. But then I am forced to vote for Karl Turner in East Hull. He did not reply to my correspondence. He has acted among MPs against Corbyn, and showed his own variability on such lack of principles. If I voted for him, I cannot know that I have voted positively for the Corbyn led government that will not suddenly have most of its MPs try and rebel including the sheepish Karl Turner, who follows the flock.

I think if I lived in West Hull and Hessle I would vote Labour. The candidate there is untested, and seems also non-Corbyn, but it is a Labour-Tory marginal and Labour (ex-Alan Johnson) is under threat. In East Hull, however, Turner sits on a pile and it allows me to vote first choice.

Trouble is, I do not know what my first choice is any more. I don't want to punish the Liberal Democrats twice for their part in the coalitition, as I did in 2015, but Farron has simply failed to make the case. In effect, two years only on, they are going to be punished twice. it's not clear they will even advance: they could lose seats. I hope they do not, and people in their Tory marginals support the Liberal Democrats despite Farron and the weak manifesto.

However, the positive thrust is with Labour at the national level. And it could be that I make my mind up staring at the ballot paper.

It is not a boob-tube but based on a dress she wore at one of these dinners before she changed her hairstyle to a mushroom. Presumably the mushroom bob is to reflect her commitment to hitting the nuclear button.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Church Tourism 4: the URC

The one place I wanted to visit now that I have started my 'church tourism' was the URC church at Chanterlands Avenue in Hull.

The delay has been because of perceived inaccessibility (parking on Chanterlands Avenue is limited and over a bicycle lane: I ended up at the end of Victoria Avenue and walked down St. Ninian's Walk (after whom the church is partly named) and because it is so early at 9:30 am, a characteristic of shared ministry.

This minister is soon retiring and it won't be in the mode of Frank Sinatra. He made a joke in the service about being overruled regarding a difficult hymn tune and said it was time he retired.

A website (not theirs) claimed an attendance of 56 and 118 with children. I thought to myself, if this is so it will be remarkable. Of course it was not. I was the nineteenth person there. There were 7 men among us (I'm also including the minister) and no children. There is an associated scout group.

I shall go again next week, all being well, because it is a Fresh Expressions type service: Cafe Church. And it is at 11 am and with the other minister. It is also in a gathering area, not in the main church.

The church can seat 140 (I counted, roughly) on comfy enough chairs but with nineteen people the hall looks fairly empty. But also the roof is reflective and the hymn singing got absorbed into the echo. The organ has to be loud to overcome these acoustics.

The other surprise was poor light. There are plenty of windows but they are not getting the light to come in. The situation is helped by the whitewash throughout but the internal ceiling lights were needed.

Now I am 58 and was probably the youngest there. I thought the minister might be younger but he is retiring. His sermon reflected Pentecost and was fairly standard regarding the biblical account and its intention. The sermon included a dig at those who call themselves 'Bible-based Christians' when, he said, all are Bible-based. I prefer and even need to sit through hymns and did, but I stood at the first when requested and the Bible was brought in. I'd rather not stand to the Bible!

The service had its opening and a hymn, to then went to the notices (read by an elder?) plus collection, and the sermon came before a hymn and an intercession that merged into the Eucharist preparation. Interestingly the wafers were brought by the woman (elder?) mentioned and another woman to the people in the seats, and everyone then ate at the same time, and the same happened with the little glasses of wine. I did not partake.

To me the notices should be at the beginning or the end. However, I always disliked the collection following a sermon, because it appears like a payment for the effort or even agreement.

Some features were familiar with the Unitarians at Park Street! I'm talking here ten years ago and previously. Obviously the hymn sandwich was familiar. But a surprise was the sung Lord's Prayer to exactly the same tune as at Park Street. Also 'Come Down O Love Divine' was often sung at Park Street, this time for Pentecost.

It's always a bit of fun to turn up somewhere unknown. People think it could be someone new, for me then to declare it's church tourism. It was also odd perhaps that I knew their history rather well, able to refer to Dagger Lane restart origins and that their Cottingham church gets money from the same source as the Unitarians [Leonard Chamberlain as a Presbyterian]. I also said how the reconstituted Presbyterians moved to Spring Bank (suburbs then) in 1875 and Unitarians to Park Street in 1881, that the Presbyterians moved outward again but the Unitarians did not.

But I was also able to praise the place, in conversation with the minister, for its pro-LGBT stance - "Oh yes," he affirmed, and said I nearly attended when Jeremy Pemberton came and gave a talk. I don't think the minister recalled who he is. I said I am not gay myself but I just think it is the obvious right thing to do.

Now the obvious point is that ten years from now this place will be struggling to stay alive. I note that since the joint ministry started, Holderness Road URC closed in 2014. The other URC church in East Hull has stayed out on its own; I noted with the minister that the URC is necessarily loose since the 1972 merger.

The problem is I just see no future in that standard Protestant service. I'll see if the discussion/ activity service next week is an alternative. However, a church member keen to see me go admitted that it is the people who already attend who keep the Fresh Expressions going. The sermon referred to "our growth" in the context of Pentecost, but growth is not the reality.

In some ways the nineteen is better than might be expected. After all, it is better than the Quakers and better than the Unitarians. And the URC does have a church in Cottingham and in Swanland, both of which should be larger. However, when you think of the population of these areas (it seems most at Chanterlands Avenue church are relatively local folk), nineteen (however many are missing) is a pathetic number, as is the number attending all the other churches I have visited so far. In terms of the population and interest, these churches are already dead.

At least, though, the United Reformed Church realises its condition and is discussing what the future holds. And although its churches may seem to be fragile, the fact is that, say, a Methodist church just as top heavy goes down at the same rate. If people really believe in an active Holy Spirit (I doubt it; people don't think like this habitually any more: I definitely do not) then the real question would be why such an active Holy Spirit is breathing its effort into reducing and closing churches.

General Election Outcomes

It may well be that we have to go to the polls in a jittery state regarding terrorist and suspected terrorist incidents. How this might affect the election is unclear: whether people run to nurse or think it is time for a longer-term fresh approach along with security resources.

So this blog entry is a 'carrying on' as indeed people must do. We have to have the election, of course, because at present all the ministers of government are operating under the monarch and need a legislature to make policy.

The polls are narrowing and the election is not the foregone conclusion once expected. The BBC Question Time non-debate showed Theresa May more continuous in talk than before and Jeremy Corbyn under intense fire, but any review of what they said finds Corbyn engaging and Theresa May almost robotic and heartless with her stock answers. And the day after the Tories were in another mess over taxation, and even if they were promising no tax rises at the top end that was only ever of appeal to the core vote, and rather confirmed what Jeremy Corbyn had been saying.

The Guardian has decided for Labour but with other oppositions to the Conservatives on a constituency by constituency basis; The Economist has decided for The Liberal Democrats. However, the popular press is entirely predictable.

There are a number of possible outcomes, especially considering the collapse of UKIP and the move to a two party system, but sometimes a different two parties in constituencies.

1. CONSERVATIVE LARGE MAJORITY


This was the intention of Theresa May calling the election so that she could overcome factions in her own party either for the single market/ customs union or for a complete break with the EU. I have never taken the view that she wants a 'hard exit' but the large majority would allow her to get beyond the rhetoric (UKIP might revive).

We might see some of her more social side policies, the legacy of Jospeph Chamberlain, but I wouldn't bet on it. She has already U turned on matters like workers on the boards of companies.

In this situation Jeremy Corbyn would probably have to resign but the membership is still there to find someone else similar.

2. CONSERVATIVE SMALL MAJORITY

This would be a Major dent in Theresa May's authority, having gone to the country to pick up a large majority and ending up with the same problem of factions that she had before. The knives might even be out for her. This would also expose her weakness in negotiating, because her own party is the problem.

Jeremy Corbyn might set up a defence of doing better than expected, but the parliamentary party might see a time window to act against him. Again their problem is the membership.

3. CONSERVATIVE LARGEST PARTY

The Conservatives would have been deemed to have lost despite a greater number of seats than any other party. A support system from other parties might put Labour in, but not led by Jeremy Corbyn. The others and many in Labour won't accept him. Theresa May would have to resign, her gamble as bad as Cameron's with the referendum. If she or replacement formed a government it would be hamstrung or sensitive to others for negotiating with the EU, leading almost certainly to staying in the single market and customs union and possibly a second 'destination' referendum.

In opposition Jeremy Corbyn might well stay in leadership as he had improved Labour's performance. He would be able to choose the left wing replacement: it might matter if Labour provides the Prime Minister in the context of the still existing Fixed Term Parliament Act whilst needing other parties to make the majority.

A lot of tails would try to wag the dog, however.

4. LABOUR LARGEST PARTY


Despite a fantastic result given all the expectations, the problem for Labour is that it would have to govern when some other parties will not accept Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. If Labour plus Scottish Nationalists, SDLP and Welsh Nationalists form a majority, he might be acceptable.

In any case, he can produce a legislative package and challenge others to support it or ditch it, and many may well support some of it for a time.

Nevertheless Jeremy Corbyn would have acquired authority. Theresa May will resign instantly of course. Her gamble will have been thoroughly lost.

Again the effect would be to moderate the exit from the EU.

5. LABOUR MAJORITY

Jeremy Corbyn would have instant authority and there could be favourable comparisons with Clement Atlee with legislation to transform society. However, centrist Labour MPs could still give indiscipline regarding more radical legislation.

The effort would be made to have tariff free trade with the EU if not in the single market and customs union. It may well not work.

Theresa May would resign immediately with her infill Amber Rudd likely to stand in even temporarily if not to take over. The Conservatives would be in turmoil.

Friday, 2 June 2017

A Week to Go...

A week to go and counting, and suddenly today I firm up considerably in voting for the Liberal Democrats.

This is despite Tim Farron's weaknesses and lack of impact: but then, there is always a team.

It is also despite the Liberal Democrats having a manifesto for being in the opposition, demanding another referendum after someone else has negotiated.

It is also despite Jeremy Corbyn having a very good campaign and me agreeing with many of his policies. The manifesto is good and positive.

However, on Thursday Jeremy Corbyn introduced his team to negotiate to take us out of the European Union. As a team, they are considerably better than the Tory team and its potentially reckless result.

But I asked myself a question. Can I vote for a party - give a positive vote - for a government that will negotiate to take us out of the political European Union? The answer is simply no.

Now, let's be clear. If I lived in Cambridge, a Labour - Liberal Democrat  marginal, I would vote Liberal Democrat. But if I lived in a Labour - Tory marginal, I would hold my nose a little and vote Labour, realising that there are still positives to be had.

Where I live is a monolith Labour seat. I do not like the Labour candidate, who never even replied to acknowledge my letter sent to him. He is also anti-Corbyn in past behaviour, although a weakling version. In our rotten electoral system, my vote for Labour stacks up a given vote already, and I don't want that particularly. I can vote for my first choice, and it is Liberal Democrat.

As I say, in a marginal, and there are more of these, these days, whether Labour held last time or Tory held, I would vote Labour.

If we had proportional representation we could all vote for our first choice. In some marginals and some heap constituencies, we can vote for first choice. In 'two-party' marginals however we cannot. But mine is a heap constituency and I cannot vote first choice for a party that would vote for leaving the EU.

Now the argument is that in la la land, if the Liberal Democrats won, they would be having to argue to leave. I don't believe it. I don't believe that their manifesto is anything other than an opposition manifesto. If it was for government, they'd be more explicit.

However, there is still a week to go, and events can happen.

What is clear is Theresa May has been found out. She is wooden and we haven't a clue what she'll really do. She seems to have contempt for people and animals in equal measure. The arrogant and disastrous election campaign follows uncertain government that still picked on the poorest. They are trying to put the wheels back on the election wagon, and of course they may do so. The press may be very ugly on the final night, and we expect that, to try and prop up the Tories. However, this bunch was never going to get my vote. The question was who should and I'm firming up to my first choice.

If I lived in New Holland still, I'd vote Labour. I did in 1997 when the Tories had to be removed, and I did here in East Hull to punish the Liberal Democrats for their actions in coalition. Where I live now, still in East Hull, I'll vote for them this time. I think.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

After the Debate

As I suspected beforehand, little will have changed as a result of the debate on BBC 1 this evening. I think Jeremy Corbyn by appearing will consolidate what has been a good campaign so far. He used his time well and wasn't 'pushy'. Tim Farron at last was heard and made a good final attack on Theresa May's absence, but otherwise had an absence of punch and of course there is his odd staccato robotic style (although is coherent). Perhaps Amber Rudd ought to be the Tory leader; some of her defences were fairly pathetic. The best of them was probably Caroline Lucas, in that she had clarity and attack and, of course, policy. The SNP leader also did well, with his promotion of Scotland along with how they'd act in the House of Commons. The Plaid Cymru leader was a little out of it. And as for the UKIP leader, he was the nasty joke-turn, full of bluster, but at the end made the simplistic appeal on the basis of being "proved right" - which, of course, is not the case. So I am not changing my analysis as regards my previous entry seen below here.


Corbyn, Jeremy (Labour) B [Restrained, consolidating]
Farron, Tim (Liberal Democrat) C+ [Good at the end]
Lucas, Caroline (Green) A [Expressive]
Nuttall, Paul (UKIP) C [Dislike but bluster gets heard]
Robertson, Angus (Scottish Naional Party) B+ [Solid]
Rudd, Amber D [Defensive]
Wood, Leanne (Plaid Cymru) D+ [Little impact]

Before the Debate

In 455 CE, after only two and a half months into his reign, the Western Roman emperor Petronius Maximus, a wealthy senator and a prominent aristocrat, was fleeing the Vandal assault on Rome abandoned by his bodyguard, and then (probably) a mob overtook him, stoned him, chopped up his body, and threw the remains into the River Tiber. [Thanks to Rev. James Ishmael Ford]

He had come into power after the violent death of Valentinian III. There was no obvious successor, and the army was divided regarding its support for three main candidates. Maximus had the support of the Roman Senate and by distributing some of his wealth to officials of the imperial palace he secured power on 17 March.

Genseric managed to capture Empress Licinia Eudoxia, Valentinian III's widow, and her daughters, Eudocia and Placidia as they tried to escape. Rome was sacked with little violence and murder. Eudoxia and her children were the last of Rome's imperial family.

It is the last day of May. Can it be the last day of Theresa May? Can she be sacked on June 9th?

Let's look at the General Election campaign at this point. I'm writing before the debate that will feature now Genseric - sorry Jeremy Corbyn.

First of all, as a dyed in the wool Liberal Democrat supporter I am sad to report the complete lack of traction of the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.
If there is anyone who ought to resign after this election, beyond Theresa May we hope, it is him. Now much of it is not his fault in that the General Election was called too early for people to realise the sheer cost and stupidity of the exit from the European Union and for enough of them to change their minds.

Compromised early on by his evangelical Christianity in a setting of social equality, he has also appeared to be robotic in manner and lost in an unbelievable mantra that he provides the only opposition. He accepted Theresa May's assertion that this was and is a 'Brexit' General Election and then produced a manifesto for an opposition leader.

The proper assertion would be to say that as a political party can do so and as a General Election trumps any (advisory) referendum, this party would be elected to stay in the European Union. Does anyone seriously believe that the Liberal Democrats would negotiate to exit the European Union? No. So the argument for a second referendum is from a minority position in the House of Commons: in other words, after they lost. Even if unrealistic, a manifesto sets out a position to be had in government. You stand by your principles. The tactic for the second referendum 'on the destination' works during a parliament but not in a manifesto.

I knew from the off that Theresa May's 'strong and stable' repetition was rubbish, but it took her U turn (and denial of it) on social care to remind everyone of the U turns, helped by an otherwise lousy interview by 'Stuffing' Jeremy Paxman. He had her running down his interview narrative, only to bottle out when he could have used the 'weak and wobbly' alliterative response. Indeed he failed to follow up the consequences of a 'no deal' exit via his repetitive questioning.

She also appeared wooden against Brillo Pad's questioning (Andrew Neill). Indeed she was wooden on BBC 1 The One Show, especially when contrasted against Jeremy Corbyn's warmth and normality.

Indeed, now we have no policy detail on just about anything, except the continuation of the bust mantra. But the reality is the cuts already in health, education and social services, and of course the police.

This has been a disaster of a campaign for the Conservatives. She wasn't even mentioning their name much at one point, leaving a problem that many half-ignorant voters would be looking for her name on the ballot paper and not finding it. The only evidence of a relaunch in any sense a few days ago was using the Conservative name again.

On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn took a risk to campaign on social and economic issues, with an agenda that makes a difference. He viewed exiting the EU as a given, but one to maintain as much status quo for the functioning economy as possible, and maintenance of libertarian and social conditions as well. His main thrust was to put right what has been going wrong in a definite inclusive and collective manner.

And this gamble (that Tim Farron did not make) has worked. The agenda has shifted.

Then we have the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is confident in himself, despite his recent memory loss and lack of instant notes, and has actually campaigned in front of people openly instead of using television tricks as May has done (the equivalent of doughnutting).

There is also the marginal point but could be significant in one or two places that more young people have registered to vote and, under his leadership, may just might go and vote.

The Greens haven't got a look-in because Jeremy Corbyn has stolen most of their ground, except perhaps more radical environmental concerns, and UKIP led by the daft Paul Nuttall have had Theresa May's 'nasty talk' steal their territory. However, taking from Labour and giving to the Conservatives that UKIP have served may now change as Jeremy Corbyn becomes more credible.

Now of all the outcomes, the possibility that Theresa May could end up with a similar majority to the one she had would be a disaster for her. Would she even survive such an outcome.

My thesis is that she went to the country (after repeatedly saying she would not) to grab the huge majority predicted. She did this, even with all the hard core talk regarding exiting the EU, on the basis that she could defeat both her single market faction in the Tories and the hard exit faction in the Tories. It was never about the naughty opposition parties she blamed for not being her sychophants. It was, yet again, the problem in the Tory party, the problem that backfired for Cameron when he hoped a referendum would defeat the Tory nut jobs once and for all, only to receive a backlash from so many people who could in ignorance blame their economic woes on immigration and had a silly view of Brussels ruling us rather than sharing sovereignty.

Should the election prove that each faction can defeat her negotiating, then she is bust politically. She will have lost her gamble, as Cameron lost his.

Let's be clear. The only track record of Theresa May is one of indecision and changing her mind. She was uncommitted to make a stance to remain, beyond a few demonstrations, because what she really wanted was to slip into power. Apparently she looks to Joseph Chamberlain for a social and economic outlook - or an advisor does - but we don't really know. All we know is what she has done, and it has been pretty negative for our social institutions and will be more so for the full costs of leaving the European Union.

She might still get the majority she wants. Then we will see how she just used the General Election. She probably wants a close relationship with Europe and all this hard talk is pure baloney. Why should anyone believe what she says when no one actually knows - other than continuing Tory privilege of course.

So really we ought to vote for something more positive. And let's not have this bullshit about Corbyn and his incapabilities etc.. He will be as supported by the Civil Service as any Prime Minister and he will grow into the job. He would 'look at the evidence' for matters of peace, war and security, but most of all he would set us on a compassionate and inclusive growth path. It matters that there are universal benefits for everyone, even millionaires, because that's why there is progressive taxation. It is the only way to remove the heart attack - don't lose but dementia - do lose lottery when it comes to social care, plus social care can become as developed as the NHS. We stop losing the NHS. We get back our railways, and essential utilities. We get back a proper political process too: party democracy.

I don't buy some sort of selective grand coalition stitch up to freeze him out. Even in proportional representation, parties lose and win elections. Labour lost in 2010 and that's why there was never a stitch up with the Liberal Democrats, SNP and Greens. Even a small Tory win would be a kind of losing for them.

Now let's see what happens in this debate tonight, where wisely Jeremy Corbyn turns up and Theresa May still does not, depsite having her own 'Presidential' campaign. A President who sends along her number something instead?

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Visit the Society of Friends (Quakers)

The thing is, if you have tinnitus, like I do, is it a good idea to go to a Quaker Meeting? This is what I did today. The answer is yes, because funnily enough a Quaker Meeting is not silent. A chap afterwards agreed with my suggestion that Quaker Meetings are not meditations but "waiting". There is a theological difference.

There were twelve present, and I was told it is sometimes more and sometimes fewer. The quip is that this is still more than the Unitarians.
They had more when the Quakers met closer to the centre of Hull in Percy Street. I was told that it was a busy Meeting then and there were children who could have run straight out into the road. After they moved, the numbers went right down. This isn't the reason, of course, but the reason why the numbers have been so fewer is shared with many religious bodies including the Unitarian meeting place.

It is not silent and not meditation, because a clock ticks (I'd like to have seen a large wooden clock!), people read and shuffle pages, and people get up and talk. The main inspired message by one individual was from Advices and Queries that we should share the burden of each others' failings. This was followed up. Mention was made of lessening conflict and thus reducing the impetus for terrorist outrages as with earlier this week. I "ministered" as well; I wasn't going to say anything but got to a point where I would. I said that I'd been on my travels looking in various places and that numbers were lower than expected, and I do want to get to the URC - it meets so very early! - and this is a body puzzling now over its very existence. But then as long as each group is authentic to itself then that's where it will find truth.

I didn't know they have afterthoughts. This is where, after finishing, and a quick greeting and chat, everyone sits down again for some more!

But the real surprise came in the coffee period. Here I have to mention the local Unitarians and my own opinion. I was in the Quaker building and told it was expensive to run. To me, it was fit for purpose, but I said to this person that the Hull Unitarian building, in my opinion, is not fit for purpose, and in my view doesn't have the space to make usable rooms, which this Quaker building enjoys. So I quipped that I would sell the Hull Unitarian building and move into this one, except for the difference in worship styles. On the other hand, the Unitarians might meet in the afternoon... The person spoke to said this would be really great to share ministry and witness from the one base.

The other point made there by this person was a 'so what' if the numbers are so low. The building serves community groups and this includes local health needs, so close is it to the main hospital. A chap said he used to use the Unitarian building in a yoga group, but this group now meets in the Quaker building. This just shows how daft is the inability to share, because the provision of building resources is useful to the same people.

I was always in a minority about this and of course I am not a Unitarian member and indeed have ceased to attend on Sundays. But as someone who was interested, I'd not improve the Hull Unitarian building, with the cost involved, but sell it to someone who'd find it useful and use the income to invest elsewhere. I would create some guaranteeing covenant for putting much of that money into the Society of Friends' building to be beneficial for both parties. I would not do it without the Unitarian name added to the front of the building, a notices area added and putting audio-visual equipment into the meeting room. If the Unitarians set up the equipment and the screen, the Quakers could use the same for business meetings, and other groups (with care) could use the equipment for whatever their purposes. Then do without books (put the lyrics, readings and images on screen) like they do at the Hull Community Church.

As for my tinnitus, it was noisy enough in there that I didn't notice it. But my dry throat and its tickle spot did demand repeated attention to avoid descending into coughing. That would have been a great nuisance in there.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Looking towards a Positive Islamic Future

Paul Nuttall, leader of UKIP, in a return to the General Election, says that he's not afraid to blame radical Islam as a cancer to be rooted out.

What is radical Islam? Radical Islam might just be Islam. It is like referring to 'fundamentalist Muslims'. When the claim is that the Qur'an was recited directly from an angel of God, then all Muslims are fundamentalist.

It's about terrorism? The IRA did terrorism. It drew from Catholics, it had Catholic clergy who ought to have known better, but there was also the legal seal of the confessional. But then the difference between IRA terrorism and Islamic State (ISIS) terrorism is that the IRA never did its terrorism in the name of Roman Catholicism or the Pope.

However, it is quite possible to have a violent Christian terrorism in an unknown future, say one that wants to bring about the last days perhaps on the basis that secular society 'oppresses' them. Anabaptists were deemed to be violent and as terrorists, and the response of the authorities in Munster was harsh. Times moved on.

Some say that extreme terrorists, like the one who struck in Manchester on 22nd May 2017, and killed children at a pop concert, are mentally ill. This includes being psychopathic. They are not of a community who would retain empathy.

I don't buy it for a minute. I have met Christian fundamentalists (I do try to avoid them) but even less than fundamentalists seem to trigger a switch that goes from ordinary discourse to some sort of internal logic contradictory to ordinary narratives: 'from the perspective of faith' it is called, and it is quite normal. It does not take much for people inside cults and sects, in tight-knit groups, to take this kind of thinking to a detached level and start losing an empathetic perspective.

Let's face it, if you join the military you are trained to kill. Many who retain and regain empathy after military service then become traumatised. Even having to think for themselves in arranging life outside the military can send some on to the streets. So the right immediate community can send people with extreme religious ideology into killers.

People do leave sects and cults and return to more connected (or less disconnected) thought. This is not mental illness towards recovery; it is forms of extreme rationality that return to the muddle and ambiguities of the everyday. The Nazis were a warning in history because people could and did operate the gas chambers, and yet somehow gained moderated empathy after the War. Nazism was a culture of cruelty, and people found themselves in a supporting environment being viciously cruel, all in the name of order and even national culture.

I have never believed that Islam is problem free (or any religion for that matter: even Buddhists can be tribal and engage in civil war). Islam is about the tribe; the tribe might be intended for all humanity, but then all humanity would be Islamic. Islam promotes itself as the one, final, original, true, unadulterated religion. Its first prophet, it says, is Adam. His message was corrupted, as was Abraham's, Moses', Jesus' - until Muhammad recited the Qur'an and preserved it because it was given in the divine language of Arabic.

It isn't pure, and that's where the first clash comes. Jesus simply never wrote a Qur'an to start with, or any other record; nor is the Islamic view of his crucifixion the most likely historical. The Qur'an completely misunderstands Christianity and the Trinity doctrine because it relied on information from a non-mainline group that itself didn't understand the doctrine. Far from being divinely recited, it shows cultural setting in time and place.

But of course it does not follow that Islam necessarily encourages violence. After all, Islam tolerated when some other religions did not. But it was toleration from a position of superiority, and a limited toleration. What it does is assists States demanding uniformity, and serves that uniformity as the one superior, original and final unadulterated religion, and what it often gets in modern times is a pluralistic setting that allows it to grow or shrink, and this it appreciates (because it thinks it will succeed).

On the other hand, look at Christian writings and actions about the one and only Incarnation of God. And - my speciality - look at Unitarian writings in the nineteenth century. This was the evolved, superior, rationalistic, approach to religion, Christianity made even better. Darwin and religion added together to produce the highest form: liberal Protestantism. It's all about: "I'm better than you."

But there is a complicated history of religions and violence. Think of the Crusades and the Popes who blessed the warriors.

In modern times, questions have been asked of the Muslim communities (plural because there are different strands).

First question must be, why did it take so long for Muslims in general to condemn the violence and threats at the time of the Satanic Verses controversy, when Shia Iran condemned literature? Why was nothing done to see the corrosive effects, the price tag, on Wahabi Islam exported to so many Western mosques by Saudi funding? Why has Islam and its clerical cliques been so suspicious of Western Islamic scholarship about origins and how the faith developed?

What is wrong with the kind of scholarship that Christianity has handled for some three hundred years? The answer may be because it threatens to undermine the supposed directness of the recite command, the apparent perfection of the Qur'anic Book.

The other problem is the relationship between expansion and violence: that either Islam spread initially as a kind of Holy War with territorial expansion, or (due to no archaeological evidence for its Arabian origins) it had its beginnings in the Near East after violent Arabian expansion.

Using the stories of origins in Arabia, the early Islamic community fought the declared 'disloyal' opposition of Jews in Madina. It also continued to raid camel trains across the desert. However, contemporary anti-Jewish Islamic sentiment has followed the rise and actions of Israel, and when it appears it (like others) fails to make the distinction between the Israeli State and the ethnic Jew.

As for development, if the Qur'an is rearranged into time order, it starts with general visions and develops into communal rules. (That gives the book and its visions credibility.) But it isn't arranged in time order, but in chapter (Sura) size order. Children who learn to recite it by memory often do not know what it is about, even though they can recite as it was apparently first recited. Does this matter? I think it does, because of the Christian child and teenager who, on reading the Bible for themselves, and not having it constantly interpreted for them by some approved person, can start to say, 'What does this actually  mean?' or, 'Hang on, this bit isn't quite like they say it is!'

At one time there were about six Qur'ans in the early Islamic empire until the one version was arranged by insisting on the one language, by having it once in its peculiar order of size of Suras.

Of course there is resistance to such a critical, liberal view of the material. For example, in Christianity many a believer will say that the Christian nativity is myth and unhistorical. I would argue that the same can be said of Abraham setting up the Ka'ba that was apparently later lost to Paganism - with a water miracle too; the same can be said of the Night Journey.

I'm not a Muslim and will state these things. Can a Muslim say them? No, but this is what a pluralistic world means: where people can make these arguments and be able to do so freely. In turn, Islam has every right to establish itself, expand, recruit (and lose) people and flourish. This is the deal.

Let's give Islam its due. Islam preserved and developed Greek and Hindu knowledge. From Hinduism and through Islam came a number system that worked and has lasted into the computer age of binary and hexadecimal. From the Greeks came a naturalistic philosophy that Islam learnt about and put in its libraries for only later incorporation into Christianity. Thomas Aquinas depended on Islam's work. Islam developed science.

A significant additional reason why Eastern Europe was able to pluralise early in the 1500s and early 1600s, and show a vision of later Western society, was because of the influence and impact of Islam at its south-eastern borders. When tolerance receded it was because Catholic Christian intolerance was restored. Unitarianism in Hungary was crushed; Socinians had to get out of Poland (in 1660).

Yet, as the West would come to a Renaisance, the Islamic ulama clericalised even further. And the religion that was supposed to be superior among its neighbours found itself at second fiddle. Thus a chip started to appear on the Islamic shoulder.

That chip on the shoulder has been intensified by Western intellectual development from the Renaissance and Enlightenment (almost like superior revelation), by Western power and imperialism, by the Islamic States backing the wrong side during the First World War and the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire, by imperialists drawing up silly boundary lines cutting across tribal areas (notably Saudi Arabia and Iraq), by nationalist and nationalist-socialist leaders and monarchs turning into oppressors, and a failure of democracy (most notably in the recent short-lived Arab Spring). The 2003 intervenion in Iraq was an act of partial Western stupidity at at time when intervention in Afghanistan could be justified and did have support within.

But at the same time Islam has always contained a tendency to violence. It did at the divide between Sunni and Shia at the time of the third Caliph. 1844 is a good example, with the killings in Karbala and later on over the expected coming of the Hidden Twelfth Imam. I have some knowledge of this in the context of the  Babi expression of that and Baha'i Faith born in the faction fighting of the two groups exiled to Palestine and Cyprus in order to keep the peace. Once again claims to final and perfect written revelations have a part to play, this time in the context of emerging into the West in the nineteenth century. The Baha'i Faith later did spiritualise and Westernise and even bureaucratise.

So if you are colonised, pick the losers in international conflicts, have insensitive borders created for you, and end up with a succession of secular, corrupt and violent tinpot dictators, it's no wonder that violence can emerge, but that violence has an internal dynamic.

This superiority has become a death-cult ideology among a few, younger hotheads influenced by radical preachers wanting to force a Caliphate upon others. People become killers of the outsiders: those who like dance, music and show a bit of flesh.

And in Indonesia comes the shocking public caning of people doing no more than being as they are: gay and loving.

It is up to Muslims to rescue the failing reputation of their religion. Something has however begun in the UK with open days and public explanations. People will respond. Faith communities must break their own boundaries and include others: a multi-two-way process. We start in a better place than on the European continent.

But Islam also needs reformation: a self-critical reformation (using itijad), beginning from the Western university.

This is not about Muslims saying sorry. No one is asking Muslims to take responsibility for these wayward killers. However, when the radicalisation takes place in Western mosques, then explanation is needed.

In the end, terrorism is always political. It arises because of politics, even going back hundreds of years, and although it needs opposing and reducing, it dies off with politics. Put the lid on it, yes, but reduce the fire under the pot. There is no Bader Meinhoff terrorism, for example, now, but at one time they were a group attacking the basis of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Profiles matter. The Manchester terrorist was radicalised partly with his father fighting in Libya and going to Syria. He grew the distinctive large beard, stopped his smoking, read the Qur'an assiduously, and absorbed extremist islamicist propaganda. He clashed with his moderate mosque in Didsbury especially when an Imam there criticised happenings in London. People noticed him but nothing happened; he was known to the authorities but not rated.

So he was an educated young male of a home-grown partly secularised base, but of immigrant parents, and he changed rapidly after international experience and identifying with violent Islamic material.

So, although it is international, Islam has to ground its worshippers in their home culture and communities. It has to watch its youth because of these international events.

At the same time, other communities have to cut the racism, and tackle the isolationism (the multi-culturalism that leaves people knowing their own and not the other). The government has to think further and longer before it jumps into foreign aggression. However, none of the UK Muslims are oppressed and are much freer than, say, Christian counterparts in many a Muslim State.

In the end, though, this is about 'society in a person' (that kind of mentality): the immediate society, the ideology, and the way individuals in their chosen collective can lose all sense of balance.

The future will be better when Islam undergoes a Reformation; meanwhile, the task of Islam and the mosque on the ground via its worship and social work is to keep their people connected beyond the tribe and develop their sense of broadest communal empathy. For example, be like the Sikhs: which is to nurture a spirit of welcome, practical service and openness from one group to others. It is quite practical.