Posts Tagged ‘Britian’

Justin Welby depressed at Greenbelt about Gay Marriage: 2 September

September 2, 2016

Justin Welby is depressed about gay marriage. On Saturday, at Greenbelt, he was interviewed by Kate Botley. He was delightful, engaging, humorous, positive. He talked about himself, when asked, honestly and humbly. He talked about the Church with love and hope. He emphasised the church being filled with the Holy Spirit. He talked about Jesus and how he, Justin, has to, and delights in, talk about Jesus. In South Sudan in a Cathedral with the dead bodies of some of the staff in plastic bodies outside, he talked about Jesus. What else can you do?

Then a question was asked about gay marriage. As Justin answered a dark cloud seemed to grow and grow over him. He was no longer expressing hope and love, but heaviness, anxiety, depression. He didn’t seem to see or have much faith for a way forward. He talked at length about how homophobia is not on and what the Church has been doing and how hard the issue is. Very hard. Very very hard. Gloom.

Justin seemed to forget his guiding principle of talking about Jesus. Yes! Talk about Jesus and gay marriage. That’s part of the way forward. We’ve talked enough about Leviticus and Romans and how we all feel about gay marriage. We’re Christians, for God sake! We follow the Christ. Let’s talk about Jesus and gay marriage. When we read through the Gospels what light do they shed, about gay marriage? My reflection on doing this is at https://gaymarriagemaybe.wordpress.com/listening-to-jesus/ This is one view. Let’s all do it and see what comes.

Justin seemed to forget about being assured that the Holy Spirit is in the Church, leading us into all truth, including the truth about gay marriage. Let’s also listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church of England. Justin knows about guidance and prophecy and discernment. He just needs to bring out his knowledge and say ‘Let’s work out how to listen to the Spirit and then do it. Let’s aim to be people like those in Acts who came to being able to say “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us that…” Let’s all be open to the Spirit surprising us.‘ My reflection on this, for what it’s worth, is at https://gaymarriagemaybe.wordpress.com/listening-to-the-holy-spirit/

All Justin has to do is be true to himself, talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and smile and relax. Justin wants ‘good disagreement.’ On Saturday he was so taken up with saying what he thought needed to be said officially that he missed a lovely example of good disagreement.

The question at Greenbelt was ‘My partner and I will be married next year. I know God will be blessing our relationship. I know the Church won’t now be blessing us. When do you think the Church will be able to?’ All delivered in grace and good humour.

Justin could have said ‘Thank you for your gracious attitude. You’re not castigating the Church for being homophobic and unjust. You’re accepting, with regret, where the Church is now. You want the Church to move ahead on this. You envisage it taking some time yet. Your attitude is lovely. You have given us a great example of good disagreement. And no, I don’t know when (or if) the Church of England will move ahead as you want. Jesus doesn’t know when He’s going to come again. Only the Father knows. There are some things the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t know either! If we can all have your gracious patient attitude we may well come to agree sooner than if we castigate each other. Part of the trouble is that people get up on their high horses to discuss this. Let’s ban the high horses, listen to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit. Amen?’

Peace and joy be with you Justin.

Roger Harper

Government trying to kill off Sundays: 23 February

February 23, 2016

The UK Government is trying amend the current Enterprise Bill in order to increase Sunday Trading through devolving power to Local Authorities. This will kill off the small remaining space in the week for community rest. UK readers, please write to your MP, especially if they are Conservative, and ask them not to support this sick scheme.

Ill thought-through. The Government’s case is built on forecasts of possible economic benefit, surveys which show a substantial number of people would like their choice of when to shop widened, support for traditional rather than internet shopping, and a proclaimed need for London to compete internationally with other tourist destinations.

The Government give no detailed working of the economic forecasts. They do not demonstrate how the substantial increased salary and energy costs to retailers would be offset by increased sales. Rather, the findings of customer surveys indicate that people do not envisage spending more. People only envisage a wider choice of when to shop for the same amount of goods.

The Government quote no economic evidence. The most obvious such evidence would be from the extension of Sunday Trading for the Olympics. The Government do not mention this, probably because in that period there was a slight decrease in Sunday spending compared to the previous year. The slight decrease coupled with bigger overheads for retailers put pressure on retailers to raise prices. More widely the Government show no evidence that the extension of Sunday Trading so far in this country has led to more sales overall, rather than displacement of sales, or has created more jobs, or has lowered prices. These would be obvious figures for the Government to produce if they exist.

The Government give no evidence that increased Sunday Trading would reduce internet shopping. They could quote surveys of why people use internet shopping, which indicate that not being able to go to a shop before 10am and after 4pm on Sundays is a significant factor. The lack of such evidence probably indicates that Sunday shopping hours are an insignificant factor in people’s choice to shop online. The growth of internet shopping in the UK is much more due to the good, quick, delivery services possible in a nation more compact than others.

The Government take no account of proven economic success. Germany has the most successful economy in the world. Germany also has far less Sunday Trading than the UK at present. If our Government are, as they state, ‘committed to increasing the UK’s productivity’ they should learn from our most productive neighbour.

The Government are saying ‘We guess this will be good economically, but we are giving no evidence to support this view.’

The Government also give no indication of the administration costs of their scheme. Each Local Authority would have to spend valuable time and money consulting, debating and deciding their local rule. They would need to employ people to administer and enforce their policy. Some of these would already be employed, for instance in Trading Standards, but the added workload would be to the detriment of their existing work. The Government have given no costings for all this, hardly a business-minded approach to running our country. The probable reason for lack of costings is that their scheme would add to the administration costs of the country as a whole without bringing any assured benefits.

The Government also give no indication of the environmental costs of their scheme. Our international commitments mean that we must reduce carbon emissions, reduce energy consumption. All Government policies should have this in mind. The Government gives no assessment of the environmental impact of their scheme, while many businesses have to make such assessments for their expansion plans. The probable reason for lack of such assessment is that it would be very difficult to show how the increased fuel use for running shops for longer could be offset.

Hasty The lack of proper evidence and assessment shows that the Government’s scheme is being rushed. The amendment is being added to a Bill in its late stages to enable a quick decision and implementation. The Government are already saying that the changes ‘will’ take effect from the autumn of this year. They disregard the possibility that their scheme may not be accepted in the Commons. The Government state that there will be enough debate in Parliament, while also making sure that the Upper House has no opportunity for such debate.

Devious Before last year’s election, Conservative Central Office wrote clearly on behalf of David Cameron that the Party had no plans to change the existing good compromise on Sunday Trading. No apology has been issued for this misleading.

The Government’s explanation of their amendment begins by proclaiming that not allowing shops to open before 10am of after 4pm on Sundays is ‘stifling.’ This is a clear exaggeration. Their case continues with rhetorical language. and little substance.

The Government’s response to the Consultation last September quotes exact figures for people supporting their scheme and no figures for other views. These other views are dismissed in more general terms. They quote the number of Conservative Council Leaders and Members (misleadingly reported in the Press as Leaders alone) who wrote in support of their scheme, without indicating what proportion of Conservative Council Members this constitutes. 149 such people sound like a substantial number, but not when compared to the greater number of Conservative Council Members across England who declined to offer such support.

One example of such response is from South Oxfordshire District Council who indicated to the Government that they were in favour of the scheme. Their own consultation of local people showed 45% in favour and 56% against. (Their figures! http://www.southoxon.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Sunday%20trading%20hours%20-%20consultation%20summary%20-%20SEPT%202015.pdf ) Other Local Authorities may well have supported the Government Scheme more from Party loyalty than local opinion.

Extending Sunday Trading, in some Local Authorities, would have a greater, visible, impact on our communities than most other Government legislation. It would be a major and noticeable change. The Government should not be seeking to introduce such change through a late amendment in an unrelated Bill.

Harmful to our nation The Government highlight that they are trying to implement a request from shops in Knightsbridge and the West End of London. They make no mention of the rest of the country. As well as adding costs to every Local Authority, their scheme will lead to dissension and division within and between Local Authorities and to confusion as to which shop is open where. Such confusion is likely to put off shoppers.

The Government state that they want to give Local Authorities the ability to prioritise some sectors over others eg high street rather than out of town. The Government want to do this by giving the large retailers what they want and by disregarding the views of convenience store owners. There is a clear mismatch between what they state and what they are proposing. If the Government are concerned to support the high street and smaller traders, they should listen more to the representatives of these sectors and maintain the current compromise.

The Government make no mention of the impact to our society in any terms other than economic. They seem to be unconcerned about anything other than the economic theory of the free market. Sunday as a day of rest, including rest from shopping, is a significant marker in our national life that we humans are more than economic units. Our Government wants to remove this marker.

The detriment of longer Sunday Trading to shop workers and their families has been well expressed, not least by the Union USDAW. Thought should also be given to people who live on or near busy roads who at present relish the comparative quiet early and late on Sundays. If shop workers were working earlier and later, public transport to enable them to travel to and from work would also probably need to be increased, whether the transport workers want this or not. This would add to the overall cost of public transport. Of course this does not apply to London, where there is a full Sunday public transport service already, but the Government should think not only of London.

The Government indicate that they are siding with many large retailers and London shops. They are breaking a long established, well supported, national compromise to favour one interest group based in London.

The Government also seem to be in thrall to free market ideologues. In some ways having a complete Sunday of retailing will make little difference. This is only a matter of a very few hours in a whole week. It is not at all clear that shops would benefit economically. Yet the Government insist on bringing their scheme to the Commons, using up valuable Parliamentary time and energy. A few months ago the Government said, realistically, that they would not take their scheme any further. Now they are pushing it again. It seems that there are some people, connected to the Government, who find even a few hours of respite from retailing an affront to their free market ideology. They must be allowed to sell whenever they want. It is their right. The market, or more particularly the dominant market traders, must not be curtailed in any way.

Please urge your MP to vote against the Government amendment. Better for them to vote for family time on Sundays, for shop workers’ rest, for corner shops, for restricting the carbon output of big stores, for a clear national policy, for our current ‘classic British compromise,’ for national values other than those of the free market.

Roger Harper

UK Government plans to extend Sunday trading can be stopped: 24 August

August 24, 2015

The UK Government is asking people to give their views on its proposal to give local authorities the freedom to allow longer Sunday trading hours where they want. You can read the full Government rationale at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/451376/BIS-15-359-consultation-on-devolving-sunday-trading-rules.pdf 

Our Government quotes unsupported prediction that extended Sunday trading will bring economic benefit. Keep Sunday Special show how fabricated this claim is: http://www.keepsundayspecial.org.uk/evidence/mythbuster How can shops paying more for staff time, heating buildings for longer, mean that prices will be lower? How can local authorities take on this extra administrative role without diverting stretched resources from other areas? 

Our Government disregards the detriment of extended Sunday trading – social, environmental, spiritual. Allowing this proposal to go ahead means saying ‘Possible economic benefit is all that matters to us as a nation.’ More families will be unable to find time to meet when no-one is working. More carbon will be released into the atmosphere. More people will feel their only worth is economic.  

The present rules on Sunday trading are widely regarded as a good British compromise. The last attempt by Government and large retailers to break this compromise, in 2006, was defeated by a targeted campaign. This year’s attempt can also be defeated. We must not allow a good working compromise to be replaced by division and dissension between and within local authorities.

Please can I encourage UK readers to return the Response, by 16 September, with a clear ‘No?’ https://bisgovuk.citizenspace.com/ccp/devolving-sunday-trading-rules

Please encourage others also to respond. 

To write to you MP go to https://www.writetothem.com/

If you would like to do more, including going in person to the Minister concerned, please comment. 

Roger Harper

PS How strange that this consultation is taking place in holiday season when many UK Christians are already much involved countering the Bill in Parliament to allow Assisted Dying!

How British Leaders Ruined the 20th Century: 5 January

January 5, 2015

Two great myths shattered in front of me as I read the Church Times before Christmas.[i]

Myth One:    The Christmas truce of 1914 was only day-long, a spontaneous idyllic but impossibly unrealistic moment in contrast to the real world of warring nations.

Myth Two:     The British have reason to be proud about decently fighting and winning two 20th Century world wars into which they were dragged by other more violent nations.

The Christmas truce of 1914 lasted, in some places, for weeks. One British soldier swapped a tin of bully beef for a German soldier’s spiked helmet. The German soldier then explained that he was on parade next day and would give it to his new mate afterwards, which he did. ‘In some cases … troops contrived to shoot over the heads of their opposite, or simply managed not to engage in warfare at all for considerable lengths of time. Major Buchanan-Dunlop, in a letter to his wife on 3 February 1915, mentions that the fighting where he was based had only just resumed. Captain F. E. Packe, in a letter on 19 March 1915, mentions an “absurdly quiet” time in a spot they had relieved where a truce had taken place.’

Each time the fighting resumed, the British started firing. Sgt George Ashurst, 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, recalled chatting with his ‘oppos’ until British artillery started shelling German lines, endangering him and his mates.

The Christmas truce was not entirely a spontaneous outbreak, but part of a serious effort to return to negotiation instead of fighting. Pope Benedict XV, and others, had asked the warring nations to agree to a truce. The Germans and Austrians had agreed. The British, and presumably the French and Russians, had refused. General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien had issued an order explicitly prohibiting Christmas ceasefires. He, and other Generals, knew that ceasefires were a distinct possibility, which they needed to countermand.

The German soldiers who put up Christmas trees for their enemy to see and shouted Christmas greetings and sang Silent Night for their enemies to hear, and were the first to step into no-man’s land, were South German, Bavarian, Catholics. (One German soldier told his new British friend that they were being replaced by North German, Prussian, Protestants, and asked the Brits to give the Prussians hell, because they hated the Prussians too.) It is probable that the German Catholic soldiers’ initiative was an attempt to support the serious diplomatic initiative of the Papacy, most likely with support, or at least acquiescence, by the local German officers and maybe by some of their High Command. One British subaltern drank champagne at the local German HQ, well behind the trenches before returning safely to his own lines.

The Christmas truce was a ‘real world’ initiative. This was a serious opportunity for the nations to negotiate for a while, always able to return to fighting should they consider it necessary. There was a serious, even if slim, opportunity for a negotiated German withdrawal from Belgium. If the Germans were not willing to make compromises, they would not have agreed to the Pope’s initiative. The Crowned Heads of Europe, so interrelated, could have come into their own as natural mediators. The First World War could have finished in December 1914. It could have been all over at Christmas, in the real world.

No Battles of the Somme and the Marne. No Gallipoli. No Russian Revolution. The Communist Bolsheviks took advantage of a Russian population desperate to end the war which the new democratic government was committed to continue. No Stalin. No Hitler. No Second War. It is generally agreed that the humiliation of the ending of the First World War and the punitive demand for Germany to make reparations created the conditions for Hitler to grow Nazism. No Holocaust…

The 20th Century could and should have been hugely different, a Century of evolution towards widening democracy and negotiation of disputes. It would not have been perfect. There may well have been wars, battles, as the old Empires learnt slowly to allow smaller and newer nations to grow strong. But it is unlikely that there would have been slaughter on the scale seen in the First and Second World Wars, in the Soviet forced collectivisation, in the Holocaust.

The German leaders in 1914 were willing to at least talk about the possibility of resolving the dispute by negotiation. The British leaders in 1914 were unwilling. They insisted on fighting. They deliberately re-started the war after Christmas 1914. Far from being the 20th Century’s reluctant, decent, warriors, the British were the original violent militarists, creating the conditions for other aggressive militarists. British leaders ruined the 20th Century for everyone.

[i] Church Times 19/26 Dec 2014 The day the war stood still by Andii Bowsher and Nick Megoran with material from Silent Night: The remarkable Christmas truce of 1914 by Stanley Weintraub

Parliament Endangering British Security: 29 September

September 29, 2014

Bombing IS in their own territory will inspire more bombs on UK territory. Our Government now count IS as enemy combatants, a rival to Great Britain. Our Government thereby makes them heroes in some people’s eyes. More young men will want to join this IS army which is proving a challenge and a match for the UK and the US.

We will have more airport security, more expensive surveillance equipment, more taxes spent on people to monitor the threat of terrorism, more detention without trial. The defence and security budget will grow like a cancer, while social care is cut back inexorably.

‘But we can’t just do nothing! We have to challenge IS and try to stop them from expelling, kidnapping, beheading more people!’ Yes indeed we need to challenge IS but bombing them will not work. Bombing may subdue them for a while, but, when they later come out of hiding, they will be fiercer than ever. Bombing will destroy too many homes, roads, farms. Decent ordinary people will have no resources to stand up to the militants. (The UK Government is not committed to repairing our bomb damage should IS go into hiding for a while.) Bombing has made society worse in Iraq and in Libya. Bombing IS will, in the long run, make things much worse, not only in Iraq and Syria, but also in the UK.

We need to challenge IS through the Law. Bring cases to the International Court of Justice against the IS leaders and all who support them substantially. Issue arrest warrants against IS leaders and their supporters, especially those who supply their weapons. Strengthen Interpol and give them new powers to search for weapons trails and weapons payments across countries and within banks. Track down and close all bank accounts with any connection to IS. Arrest the account holders. Search for the ideological supporters of IS, arrest them and bring them trial. Treat IS as a criminal gang not as an enemy army.

‘But this will take too long.’ Yes it is not a quick, knee jerk response. It is an effective long term strategy. Immediately we care for the victims of IS. We give them new homes and new livelihoods.

‘But this will never be 100% effective. Some weapons and money will still get through.’ Bombs also will never be 100% effective. IS will go into hiding and wait for the bombs to stop. In the end the Law will be more effective.

‘But we are only doing what the Iraqi Government are asking us to do.’ The Iraqi Government were installed through UK and US bombs and troops. Of course they think they need UK and US bombs. We need to work with them to find a better way.

Challenging IS through the Law will take as much, if not more, commitment from a range of countries than bombing IS. Countries will need to invest money and people in the legal battle. Countries will have to forge new agreements, maybe new institutions. With this long term commitment to challenging and containing militant extremism, the world will become more united, more civilised, more secure.

Great Britain needs to take a lead. We have experience of challenging the IRA through the Law. We did not bomb IRA bases in Eire or IRA leaders in Northern Ireland. We did not dignify the terrorists as enemy soldiers but imprisoned them as criminals. We need to return to the same, effective, tactics. Stop the international bombing. Send in the international police.

Roger Harper

Help Syria: 27 October

October 27, 2013

Could we do something to help bring an end to the murderous mess in Syria? A good petition is at http://www.barnabasfund.org/UK/Act/Campaign/The-church-in-Syria/Syria-petition/ This calls on the UK government to make it a priority to work towards a peace in Syria, in which all Syrians, especially Christians, can be secure.

Our government must not base policy on their understanding of ‘British interest.’ It is deemed in the British interest that we maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia, who are supporting the Syrian rebels. It is deemed in the British interest to support the Americans in their opposition to Iran, who is supporting the Syrian government. Therefore we tacitly support the rebels and do nothing to weaken them. No matter than the outcome of a rebel victory is likely to be a strict Islamic government who will oppress Christians and others. No matter that the country needs peace now. It can even be argued to be in the British interest that Saudi Arabia and Iran fight each other, in Syria, weakening each other in the process. If more British weapons are used and sold, this is clearly in British interest.

Our government must base policy on the well being of Syrians, especially the minorities. Our government must base policy on upholding internationally recognised human rights. Our government must base policy on strengthening international cooperation, especially through the UN. Our government must lead a firm boycott of all arms to Syria, including to the allies of both sides. Our government must simply think of what is decent and right for the people Syria, doing for them what we hope someone would do for us..

How will our government take the unusual stance of making British interests secondary? When public opinion pushes them. Public opinion stopped Britain supporting military action in Syria earlier this year. Public opinion needs now to keep up the pressure. You and me and our friends… Please sign http://www.barnabasfund.org/UK/Act/Campaign/The-church-in-Syria/Syria-petition/ and any other similar petition you know.

I have been reading up on the 1930s for book research. The British interest was to maintain the Empire, especially India and commerce with China. The British interest was to oppose the Communists, who were making worrying ground in both India and China. The British interest was to oppose and weaken Communist Russia and the Communists in China. A strong anti-Communist Nazi Germany, allied to a strong anti-Communist Japan, was in the British interest. Nazi Germany was on a collision course with Communist Russia, over both ideology and Nazi colonial ambition in Eastern Europe. Imperial Japan was on a collision course with the Communists in China. The British interest was for the collisions to happen, with Britain watching from the sidelines.

The British interest was more important than securing the future of a democratic Czechoslovakia. If Nazi Germany took over Western Czechoslovakia, Germany would become stronger and more of a threat to Communist Russia. No matter that the Czech and Slovak peoples would be tyrannised and enslaved. Hitler was given what he wanted in the Munich Agreement of September 1938 not only to avoid war, but because the British interest was paramount. We must not think and act the same with Syria.

British policy changed dramatically on March 17 1939. The Prime Minister, Joseph Chamberlain, made a speech in Birmingham. He was scheduled to speak on domestic matters with special emphasis on social services. On the train to Birmingham he had no Foreign Office minders. He abandoned his prepared speech and jotted down notes for a very different one, broadcast across Britain and the world. He pointed out Hitler’s lies, manipulation and aggression against Czechoslovakia. He committed Britain to resisting any further aggression. For the Foreign Office, it was not in British interest to fight for Poland. But for Chamberlain, eventually, it was simply the right thing to do. If British policy had been different earlier, Hitler would have been halted without war.

What caused Macmillan to change policy? Public opinion. MPs were being pressed to abandon Britain’s tacit support for Nazi Germany. MP’s, even senior Conservatives, were angry that Britain was conniving in blatant evil. The British interest was secondary. Doing the right thing, throwing our weight on the side of fairness, standing by the weak, who were threatened by the strong pursuing their interests, was primary.

Let us at least try to put our weight, such as it is, on the side of the weak in Syria. As we do this firmly, with other nations, we won’t need military action, but we will need to be prepared to be swayed less by Saudi Arabia, America and Iran.

Roger Harper