When unfriending is the friendly thing to do

I’m not a great social media junkie; I think I have a Tumblr account, somewhere.  I don’t have an Instagram account or use Reddit, and whilst Blackberry Messenger is (apparently) installed and available on my Blackberry I don’t have anyone to talk to on it except charming young ladies who seem to be short of friends and clothes.

I DO, however, use Facebook extensively, and to a lesser degree Twitter.

The rules of the game for me is that Twitter is for following companies, folks I do business with, magazines, websites, etc. Anyone or anything that I’m interested in but wouldn’t necessarily want to discuss my favorite films, the weird dream I had last night, politics or religion. I.e. – contacts, colleagues and comrades.

Now Facebook is rather different – that’s family and friends and some friends of friends – on the whole people that I care about in terms of their day to day lives – their ups, downs, successes and failures.  Folks who at some level or another I like or love, and who I’d happily spend time with in the pub or around the dinner table. Facebook is also where I am who I am – the unadulterated me. You’ll get me on bad days, good days, I’ll talk about cats, blog posts, state of the garden, food, my faith, and occasionally my politics. I’ll bitch about work, go ga-ga over a new TV show, share cat videos and generally project an online presence that, for better or worse, is similar to what folks get from me on a daily basis.

Facebook is, for me, the world of and according to, Joe.

Every now and again I do Facebook Purges.  These may sound quite Stalinist, and I guess at one level they are. I’m getting rid of folks who no longer belong in the filtered society of my Facebook friends list.  I’ve read all the articles about creating closed worlds of people that you agree with, and the problems that that can cause when interacting with wider society.

And I’m not bothered. The different view points I get from Twitter or trips to discussion boards.

Facebook is where I don’t mind my views being challenged, but I expect the challenging to be in a respectful way.  Facebook is my online living room; I don’t mind intense discussions around the dinner table at home; I would object if someone came in and started ranting at me for my politics or religious views.  In fact, I’d not expect such people to come and visit me at all if that was all they were going to do….they’d come over rather like the bods on the High Street with the placards proclaiming that the Second Coming is nigh and that Socialist Worker is the answer to everything.

Being a God-bothering man means that I will and I expect to get my faith questioned; I don’t proselytise too much on Facebook, and I think that most folks I know respect my views (though they may disagree with my belief in sky-pixies).  My political views are quite a hotch-potch, though, and this has caused increasing amounts of friction, especially with regard to Brexit.

The automatic response of some folks that everyone who voted to leave the EU was a racist bigot was quite hurtful – I’m a leaver and can walk and breathe at the same time, don’t drag my knuckles, and don’t believe that ‘they should all go home’.  I believe in giving home to genuine refugees. I also believe that we should have some degree of control of borders, and that international trade deals are not always good. And that building in a transnational super state in Europe may not be the best way to world peace.

Some folks I know have debated these issues with me and we’ve agreed to disagree. I may have moved closer to them, they may have moved closer to me. Others just called me names and I’m afraid I unfriended them.

And that was probably the kindest thing to do; unfriend on Facebook, keep on Twitter, keep contact to some degree in the ‘real world’ if necessary but avoid that risk of either person saying something that they will regret online in the heat of the moment.

At the moment another purge is in the offing; there are some folks who I rarely seem to engage with on Facebook and all I see from them are shared statements – often politics of one sort or another – or anti-faith posts of varying types.  Nothing ‘original’, lots of viral stuff.  It feels like having the folks with the ‘Jesus is nigh’ and ‘Socialist Worker’ placards simply turning up at your house and standing in the living room, waving the placards and shouting slogans.

No thanks.

Come and be my friend when you have something more to offer me than slogans.


The JAMs

A new set of initials entered the language of British politics this week – JAM.  They stand for ‘Just About Managing’ and refer to families or individuals who are just about getting by in the current financial climate, but who, by implication, might feel the pinch hard if the economic situation in the UK worsens.


I realised that I’d been a JAM for about twenty years, – in fact, I was a JAM WELL before it was trendy and had it’s own set of initials. I think I entered JAMness in the late 1990s and have meandered around the edges of it since.

So, leaving the political commentaries aside, what has being a JAM meant to me and mine?  I should add that we’re a single income household,  don’t have children, and to be honest I chose a career path that whilst it’s given me flexibility, hasn’t given me a load of cash!

So…what might new JAMmies start to realise after being on the JAMline for a few months.

Financial planning is something of a joke.  The idea of putting a portion of my income away in to savings. I manage to contribute to a pension because it’s taken at source.

You reach the end of the money before the end of the month.  Having said that, I do have the option of doing a little more freelance work to take up the slack; at least I have something sellable.  Of course, time is an issue.

Socialising, holidays, buying folks you love nice gifts – forget it. These are things that require planning to generate the spare money. Christmas planning for us starts 2-3 months ahead of the start of shopping in order to work out how to get the money together.

Decisions as to whether to eat or heat. When you have ‘pay as you go’ electricity and gas it genuinely can boil down to feeding the meters before feeding yourself.  You realise how expensive energy is and end up running the house at a lower temperature and wearing more clothes.

One unexpected expenditure – dental work, unexpected vet’s bill, new shoes, etc. will knock the carefully planned weekly expenditure totally off kilter. You can try creating a ‘rainy day’ fund but trust me, unless you can top it up regularly, it soon runs dry.

Spur of the moment spending is not possible.

Having said that, what advice do I have for new JAMmies?  Of course, many of you are there already but now you have a name for yourselves.  For those who may become JAMmies in the near future….

Well, welcome to the club. It’s a bit of a pain in the arse, but these days it’s no longer the perceived refuge of the  the idle and feckless that it used to be.  After all, we’re here. 🙂

As soon as possible, work out your spending and income – do a budget and attempt wholeheartedly to stick to it.  In fact, most people don’t have a grip on where there money goes – if you can get a handle on that then you’re already ahead of the game.  Saving money on occasional, small things that you really enjoy is pointless – you don’t actually save that much and you make yourself miserable. Factor some ‘me money’ in to your budget.

If you feel JAMminess approaching, get to work on reducing credit card debt as soon as you can; that credit card may well be the thing that keeps you fed some months, assuming it’s not maxed out with computer games and handbags.

Prepare family and friends for the new regime. Explain that whilst you love them dearly, you can no longer afford the big presents, the frequent (and mainly expensive) nights out.  You may find that they too are approaching the JAM status and can see where you’re coming from.

Be prepared to swallow pride; if you need help from friends, food-banks, etc. go for it.  State help is, as you’ll be aware, a decreasingly common option (and of decreasing value) so don’t assume that ‘the Government’ will help you out.  They won’t; they only help you IN to the JAM Today club.

I don’t expect this situation to change; for me it’s so much a part of day to day life that I forget the shock to the system that it can be for people when they find their life changed in this way.

It will be tough; but you will survive. After 20 years at it, trust me; it’s possible. Just don’t expect your view of the world to stay the same!

You’ve not walked in my shoes but we use the same shoe-shop

There’s an old story that goes something like “Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes; you’ll have his shoes and you’re a mile away from him!”

OK, that’s not the real version – the original stops at the semi-colon and is a call to empathy with others. Don’t judge until you’re where they are.

I used to be quite a believer in this saying, but in recent years I’ve come to the conclusion that the world and the people in it – even my patch of the UK, here in Sheffield – is so diverse that this saying can come come over as a bit patronising and platitudinous even if it means well.

The recent US election and the previous Brexit referendum have brought this to my thoughts. In each case the ‘blame’ for the outcome has been placed squarely on (depending upon who you listen to) racists, xenophobes and bigots or the classic ‘blue collar’ working class who feel increasingly alienated and disenfranchised form the modern world, the political process,  and those who run it.

I was born and raised in a small town in Nottinghamshire called Warsop. I left to go to university when I was 18, returned for a few months when I was 21, and haven’t been back for longer than a few hours at a time in the last 30 years.  My initial world view was moulded there; when I was a child I could see 5 collieries from my bedroom window, and the career prospects for most young men seemed to be ‘go down the pit – there are plenty to choose from’.

Of course, that all changed in the 1980s and I saw Warsop change like many small villages and towns; the pits closed, to be replaced (nowadays) by large warehousing or light industrial or agri-business at a minimum wage.  The recent furore over the Shirebook facility of JB Sports (just a couple of miles form Warsop) sums up a lot of what’s happened in such places.

Closer to home there are places like the Dearne Valley, where the steel works and collieries are now closed, and again a similar pattern of low skill, low wage business has taken root, with a larger number of unskilled and semi-skilled workers coming in from the EU to do some of the work.

In the Brexit vote, Mansfield, the nearest town to Warsop, voted 70% for Brexit.   The ‘Dearne Valley’ has parts that border on Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham – all of which voted for Brexit with an ‘out’ vote of above 65% in each place.

This is one of those very unscientific analyses that would get me kicked out of the political statisticians club, but would seem to reflect that feeling that those who feel that they’ve been let down in recent years voted for Brexit.  Whether as a slap in the face to the political elites, a wish for change or a genuine feeling that the EU was to blame for their predicament isn’t so certain.  And in the US, people in the ‘rust belt’ states supported Trump because he offered the prospect of change. I remember years ago hearing many states away from either coast and the Chicago area referred to as the ‘flyover states’ by people who’d probably describe themselves as liberals.  They were the states you flew over when you were going to somewhere that mattered.

I’m a middle class professional but have seen rates in my line of work ‘chased to the bottom’ as people cut their rates to win business away from low price contract bids from places like India, Eastern Europe and Russia and China. The true impact of globalization is not just that Christmas comes on 3 container ships from China; it’s that a lot of our jobs in manufacturing and increasingly service based businesses go to other parts of the world as well.

I’ve not walked a mile in the shoes of someone I grew up with in Warsop, but I have been shod in the same shoe-shop. I know what it’s like to feel your way of life and professional life threatened by ‘market forces’ that you can’t compete with, and that the major political parties seem unable or unwilling to acknowledge such fears and changes.

Lots of folks are drawing comparisons with the years of the great Depression and the rise of Fascism in Europe; I beg to differ; the EU already has many aspects of a corporatist state and it may well be that isolationism may be the best way for the UK to actually avoid being drawn closer in to it.

I can empathise with those who feel disenfranchised and alienated. I can empathise with the desire for change. It’s now up to politicians of all colours to realise that the model of the last 30 years is now broken here in the west, and that we need new solutions – a few new shoe-shops, please.

Hope springs eternal…

One of my favourite films is ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. There are a number of reasons for this – one is that I’m a big fan of the novella it’s based on – ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ by Stephen King.

The story was originally published in a book of 4 stories called ‘Different Seasons’. Each story had a subtitle based on a season.  If you’re interested, the other stories were ‘Apt Pupil’ – subtitled ‘Summer of Corruption’, ‘The Body’ – eventually filmed as ‘Stand By Me’, with the subtitle ‘Fall from Innocence’ and the final story was ‘the Breathing Method’, subtitled ‘A Winter’s Tale.

And ‘Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption’?  That was the story for spring, with the subtitle ‘Hope Springs Eternal’.  And that is another reason why I love this film – because it is about hope in a major way. Indeed, one of my favourite quotations about hope comes from this film:

“hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

I’m a Christian, and in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, there’s the lovely line ‘These three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’.  Well, I sometimes beg to disagree with Paul – sometimes I think the greatest thing we can have is hope, especially in times like the ones we’re living through right now.

This is the closest thing you’ll get from me to a comment about the Paris terror attacks.  I’m not a soldier, not an intelligence operative, policeman, counter-insurgency specialist or witness. Anything I say about the attacks would be second hand – gleaned from mainstream or social media – and I have no answers.

I want to comment more about the reaction of people; I think it was barely 24 hours after the attacks when someone pointed me at a video someone had put together as to why the whole thing was somehow related to the Illuminati and the Knights Templars. (King Phillip IV of France suppressed the Templars – to whom he owed money – on Friday 13th October 1307)  As Saturday unfolded, I was regaled with ‘the truth’ from all and sundry on the wilder regions of social media – it was an inside job, it was the Jews / CIA / NSA / Boy Scouts (one of those was made up…), it was fault of the refugees in Calais, like Charlie Hebdot the attacks were stage managed (I assume the dead bodies are all some sort of dummies, or is the french government now slaughtering it’s own people?) There’s also the expected reaction from the bigots of ‘Throw out all the refugees and close the borders’, which is interestingly counterpointed by the conspiracy theorists with ‘Ahhh…the EU WANTS the refugees coming in to allow them to blame them for terrorist attacks and hence bring in more totalitarian measures…’  Oh, and it’s all been done to start WW3.

My take on this whole thing right now is that people are dead – and this week it’s been Beirut and Baghdad as well (whether those attacks were part of the same conspiracy or not I don’t know)  – and that the rest of us need to have some sort of hope that things will get better.  Does the whole conspiracy thing – with it’s endless proselytizing of unproveable ‘truths’ – give hope to anyone? I don’t think it does.  I’ve written on this blog before about this issue – 3 years ago – and it’s sad that nothing changes – here’s the previous posts, and I don’t intend to re-hash my thinking….

Oops Apocalypse – or get a fricking grip
Whoops! No Apocalypse!
Seven of Nine and the Illuminati

I think that it causes despair. I think the active conspiracy theorists are at best overly imaginative or suffering from problems with fact finding and elucidating cause and effect. At worst they’re just plain evil, and a major problem.  There are undoubtedly some conspiracies around – but sometimes, most of the time, Occam’s Razor Rules.

A friend put it well today “the thoughts and attitudes of people that I like and love even more scarey than the awful things that are happening in the world“.  When folks you regard as good, intelligent people start spouting this crap, or start becoming bigoted fascists, or start losing their common humanity – what do you do?

On Facebook today I posted:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

Today is a day to be a helper for humanity. Be compassionate, hug your friends, bury a few grudges, share food with family, pray, meditate, kill your hate.

Be good to yourself. I’m engaging with the world for a while as social media is going to be full of anger, hate, conspiracy theories and bigots, and I just don’t need that right now.


I think I should have added…be a hoper. Keep that good thing alive. Don’t succumb to despair.

This morning as I pondered this stuff, I looked out of my study window and to my great pleasure saw a rainbow arcing across the sky.  That was a hopeful sign.


Michael Meacher – another of the old school leaves us

I was sad today to hear of the death of Michael Meacher, left wing Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton. He was one of the last of the ‘old school’ Labour politicians who showed true Socialist conviction, having been first elected in 1970 and serving under Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan and Tony Blair, and was once even suggested as a possible Labour Leader.

I remember Neil Kinnock referring to Mr Meacher as ‘Tony Benn’s Vicar on Earth’, such was the latter’s support for the left wing firebrand. He was also a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, being one of the Labour MPs who nominated and supported JC at the start of his campaign to become leader of the Labour Party.

That he died so soon after the election of a party Leader that he admired and supported wholeheartedly is a great and sad irony, but it isn’t the only irony around the timing of his death…

In late 1985, the BBC broadcast one of the finest thrillers they ever produced ‘Edge of Darkness’.  If you’ve never seen it, treat yourself and try and find it online or on a DVD – well worth 6 hours of anyone’s life, and still astonishingly relevant.  In it, a detective investigates the death of his daughter, murdered when she finds out that Plutonium is being stockpiled illegally in an underground facility in Yorkshire owned by a massive US energy company.

Meacher plays himself at a political meeting, speaking on environmental issues. And I’m sure he’d appreciate the irony of his death on the day on which the British Government allowed a foreign power to take a substantial degree of control over parts of our nuclear industry…



Back in to the fold

From the mid-1980s until 1995 I was a card carrying member of the Labour Party.

Not NEW Labour – old Labour – the Red Flag singing, Socialist leaning, nationalising party that I grew up with as a child in the 1960s and a teenager in the 1970s.  Warts and all.

I joined Labour in about 1986, after the Miner’s Strike and after I;d come to live in Sheffield. I did stints as Ward Chair, Constituency Vice Chair, District Labour Party delegate as well as learning the valuable skills associated with leafletting and typing Gestetner stencils to produce the Ward Newsletter.  this was in the pre-email, pre-social media days when agendas were delivered by volunteers through the letter box… I was proud to belong to one of the more Left wing Wards in Sheffield – which considering how left-wing Sheffield was in those days was quite an achievement.

I left when Tony Blair took over the Party and never expected to return, but have done so since the election of Jeremy Corbyn to be leader of the Party again. Actually, I signed up as a supporter so I could vote for him, so felt honour bound to join properly when he won.  I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t ‘blackballed’ as several colleagues from Occupy and other grass-roots groups were – I clearly haven’t been a bad enough boy in recent years…

I saw Billy Bragg on TV today commenting that he too had recently re-joined the Party after a similar long absence.

It’s nice to be back in the fold…I wonder if the protocols in meetings have changed much? Do people still call each other comrade? Or is that something I’ll have to try and initiate?

…the laughter of our children

As an regular readers of my Blog know, I’m an irregular and typically infrequent poster.  But, I concluded that I really need to pull my finger out again and on entry to my Blog was greeted by a reminder of an unfinished post from earlier this year, about the late and frequently unlamented Margaret Thatcher.  It seems appropriate to finish it, with the benefit of hindsight.  So…here’s the start:

Margaret Thatcher died today.  I came of age in July 1979, just after she became Prime Minister, and spent my 20s dealing with the onslaught of her policies.  I was born in a small town in Nottinghamshire called Warsop; from my bedroom window as a child I could see the winding gear of 5 collieries.  By 1990 I think maybe one was still operational.  My family were striking Notts miners.  To anyone unaware of the relevance of this, most of the Nottinghamshire coalfields were strike-breakers.  My family showed loyalty to the Union and stayed out on strike.  They experienced police harassment, abuse, discrimination.  Those of us who supported them found ourselves on the wrong end of things like phone taps.  If 2 or 3 men were travelling from Yorkshire in to Nottinghamshire by car, there was a very good chance you would be waved down by the Police and questioned as to why you were  travelling.  It happened to me more than once; the Police were basically flagging anyone down who they suspected of being pickets.  It was a strange time; 1984 looked like being a documentary rather than a dystopia.  I was self employed in ‘new technology’, so didn’t feel a lot of the deep impact of the financial policies, but the social change was massive and permanent.  The big storm of 1987 seemed to reflect that changes wrought; whatever we did, things would take years to change back or would never be the same again…

And no she’s gone. ‘Ding, dong, the witch is dead’.  All the folks who said they’d call a party when she went are doing so.  So, why don’t I feel terribly like partying?

I’m what an older generation would have called a God-fearing man.  As a Christian, I try to take on board the part of my doctrine that says that it is not by job to judge; ‘before you point out the speck in someone else’s eye, deal with the clod of earth in your own’ or words to that effect. She did some evil things, and I reflect on that and have actively fought against her policies, but I don’t feel comfortable about celebrating the death of anyone.

Now, that’s where I stopped writing.  So, the following is written with a little distance between the death and my words…

Her death has changed nothing; she stopped being a political force in the early 1990s, and her legacy was first seen in Blair’s New Labour – a magnificent subversion of true Labour values by ‘red’ Thatcherites – and we see it continuing today in an even stronger form under Cameron.  We’ve seen policies introduced in the 20 years since Thatcher left power that would have seemed unthinkable back then.  The popular left’s response of partying and celebrating the death of an old woman who was probably so senile that she knew little of what was happening anymore leaves a nasty taste.

Because, ultimately, the responsibility for what Thatcher did lies with the people of the UK. Whilst it’s true that she never had a majority of the popular vote (the figures for the Tories in 79, 83 and 87 were 40%, 42% and 42%) more people activeley supported her than didn’t.  Her vote INCREASED even after she’d shown the true harshness of the policies. Many people either voted for her or couldn’t care enough to vote against her; “the fault lies not with the stars, but with ourselves”. We created the monster of ‘Thatcherism’.

‘Thatcherism’ always reminded me of the way in which some Communists used to call Nazism ‘Hitlerism’.  They knew the power of the cult of personality, having experienced it with Stalin; they also knew that once you attach a name to a set of policies, it gives them the appearance of being the ideological child of an individual, who can be reviled and hated in life and death – Thatcher became the Goldstein in our real life version of 1984 for most of the left, whereas the true enemy of the people was the apathetic or Tory voting British Voter who basically put her populist policies in to power.

And for that reason, ‘Thatcherism’, like the poor, will always be with us.  We’ll call it something else, but ultimately the form of Reactionary Populist governance that she pioneered where safety nets were removed and an emphasis was put on private enterprise and achievement over public good is still with us. Celebrating her death did nothing to remove it; in fact it simply allowed ‘closure’ for some people of a still raw and bleeding wound.

The true victory over this sort of political movement is rarely won by the death of one of it’s proponents.  The idea lives on – and that’s what needs to be dealt with, and we still don’t do it.  Today, the force of Populsim that she and her party developed is more prominent than ever, because it has continued to reflect the simple fact that many people are selfish and see no further than their own personal well-being.  And that is going to be a hard nut to crack.

I will celebrate the death of Thatcher’s Government’s ideas when they finally die, not before.  And my celebration will be of the positive change that will come when we finally get back to the idea that we need a social contract, we need to help those less fortunate in society and those blessed by society should help those who’re afflicted.  My celebration will be best summed up by the words of Bobby Sands:

“Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.”

Single Sex Marriage….

Well, you know what they say about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread….here I go.  Normally I don’t post too much on social issues, but this grew out of a Facebook post I made on a friend’s wall, and it seemed to be sensible just to put it here as well.

On the practical side, this is a badly thought out piece of legislation (next up will need to be changes in the law on divorce, (the current definitions of adultery and non-consummation as grounds are meaningless, for example, with regard to gay couples). I’m also concerned that the area protecting vicars / priests against possibly being sued for not wishing to conduct a same sex marriage is not watertight. And until the ‘civil partnership’ arrangement is made available to straight couples, we don’t have true equality – just a change in the law. As an aside, equality does not necessarily mean identity. I believe in fairness, but believe that being fair in society doesn’t mean everything has to be the
same for everybody. That ends up in a form of totalitarianism.

On a personal side, and from my Godbothering perspective, I’m one of these folks who believe that the ‘New Covenant’ between Christ and mankind superseded quite a bit of the ‘lifestyle’ sections of the Old testament, particularly Leviticus, so I have less hangups than some of my bretheren about homosexuality. I’ve pondered this issue for a long time, using the three pillars of the Church of England; scripture, faith and reason. And PLEASE don’t conflate this argument with women Bishops, as many have done. Different issues. I’m a big supporter on all levels of Women Bishops, less so of the way that the SSM issue has been handled….

My faith, based on a loving God and the redemption offered by faith in His son, is not affected on a personal level by this.

Scripturally, ‘the jury’s out’ and will be forever and a day. As is often pointed out we shouldn’t necessarily be using a text written in the Bronze Age (OT) and Roman times (NT) to determine the in depth rules of society today; we’re not a theocracy, after all. However, for those of us who do have faith the books are there and we take on board what’s in there as central to our beliefs. Unfortunately, as someone said the other day, ‘Jesus didn’t say anything about same sex marriage; then again, he didn’t comment on space travel either….’

My reasoning powers try and make some sense of this. As I’ve said, it’s a half arsed piece of legislation that will need some tuning before it’s put in place. Years ago there was a significant difference in society’s attitude to Church and Civil weddings – to the degree that many people didn’t regard people married in Civil Ceremonies as married. The issues here are going to be similar. Whatever is said in the eyes of the law, it may be decades before many people in society regard SSM Cermonies as ‘proper’ marriages.

The ‘straw man’ arguments about divorce rates, celebrity marriages, etc. are not an issue. Saying that a social and cultural institution is invalid to force a change to it that does nothing to address those problems is not an argument in favour of change. The religious argument here in the UK is purely because of the interconnected nature of Church and State; if the Anglican Church wasn’t the established religion, I doubt that there would have been a lot of the outcry. As it is, I personally feel that there are likely to be wider repercussions from this apparently civil legal change that will impact on the position of the Church in ecumenical terms with other Christian faith groups.

Bottom line is that I’m in favour of fairness and equality, but not in favour of the way that this whole thing has been done. It’s poorly formulated law, put in to being at a time when there are massive social problems on the horizon that really need to engage our body politic rather than this. The question of ensuring that those churches who do not wish to conduct SSM don’t have to is wide open; someone, somewhere, will push the case, I’m sure. It will have an impact on the relationship between the Anglican Church and State (I’m in favour of reducing ties, btw) and with the position of the Anglican Church with its relationships with other Churches, purely due to it being the Established Religion.
On a religious / scriptural level I can’t yet determine a view point, but on a social and cultural level – bad move at this time, in this way.

The word ‘marriage’ is a culturally loaded word, and the nature of the institution harks back to a time when it was effectively a means of ensuring property rights, inheritance rights, child care and social cohesion. These issues are less significant today in the West. This whole business seems to have been fought over the use of a word.

I have no intention of getting in to a debate / argument about this as I think that no words I say will change other minds, and other folks won’t change my mind as I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and study in recent months. I appreciate that some folks may regard me as a bigoted homophobe, and if so, well, just un-friend me in the most appropriate manner and I won’t be upset.

So…congratulations to all who’ve fought hard for this change, and to anyone whose life will be enriched by it. But on a personal level, I think it ill-advised and potentially massively divisive, and my conscience prevents me from embracing it.

As Martin Luther said “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. ” I think that sort of sums me up on this issue.



He’s not the Messiah….

And so the Left and progressive movement in the UK and further afield rip themselves apart over Julian Assange.  I’d repeatedly said to myself ‘Don’t blog on this, you’ll annoy people, get your blood pressure up, and waste a good hour of your life’.  But, I can’t help it, after seeing ‘old heroes’ of the left supporting a bloke who has taken residence in a foreign embassy to avoid answering allegations of serious sexual assault, and hearing on the TV news people cheering him as if he’s some sort of hero.

Wikileaks started off with some good ideas, but I started falling out with it big time when it made some serious errors of judgement or process and ended up publishing secret information that made it more likely for folks who’d acted as interpreters or informers to Western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to be identified.  All of a sudden the business of providing ‘Heat magazine for the chattering political classes’ was also making it possible for folks to be shot, bombed or tortured to death for giving information to Western forces.  Whether some folks on the left actually applauded this accidental release I don’t know – but any blood spilt because of these leaks has to lie at the door of Wikileaks and it’s team.

When Assange got himself in to trouble with allegations of sexual assault in Sweden, it was immediately leapt upon by many of the left as a set up of some sort.  Stories abounded about whether the events had happened, whether the women were CIA agents, all sorts of stuff.  the bottom line, though, was that Assange was wanted for questioning about these allegations in Sweden, ended up in London, then went to the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden as he and his supporters felt that he would be extradited to the US to answer potential espionage charges.  Which is ironic in itself, given that a journalist in Ecuador picked up 3 years in jail for ‘defamation’ of the Government of that country…. http://www.hrw.org/americas/ecuador

Which is where we are today, with long time doyens of the left like Tariq Ali, Ken Loach and John Pilger bending over backwards in support, and the progressive and left movement in the UK tearing itself apart over the whole issue.  I hate being able to say ‘I told you so…’ but I’m afraid that I’ve been warning anyone who will listen about the dangers from Assange for at least 3 years.  Here are a few points for my left wing friends supporting Assange to bear in mind.

If the US wanted Assange, I’m quite sure that between 2010 and now, it defies belief that the evil US Government wouldn’t have snatched him off the streets of wherever he happened to be.  The fact that they haven’t means that either they don’t want him badly enough, they don’t want him at all, or the US Government isn’t quite that evil….

It would be easier for the US to request extradition directly from the UK than go through this malarkey of asking Sweden to extradite first.  In recent years the UK has agreed to extradite bankers, alleged terrorists and computer hackers at the drop of a hat.  Are you genuinely trying to tell me that the UK Government wouldn’t agree, if asked, to extradite someone who the US want to talk to over leaks that may have impacted on UK military and diplomatic issues?

The likelihood of Assange being extradited from Sweden is low; why won’t he answer questions about the alleged allegations?

The whole issue looks like it reinforces a lot of rumours about just how mysoginistic the British left and it’s supporters can be when ‘the cause’ is viewed to be under threat.  By refusing to even consider whether or not the sexual assault allegations have any ground to them at all, supporters are denigrating the stories of women who have been assaulted.

Is the blind support of Assange and Wikileaks worth the massive rift that is being caused in the left and progressive movement?  Or is it a traditional knee jerk reaction as described by Nick Cohen in ‘What’s Left’ in which anything that gives the opportunity to hit at the US or UK must be right?

Come on folks, think this out – the Wikileaks material is what I’d expect to see in secret documents.  There’s little, if anything, in there that hasn’t been brought to the attention of journalists through other means. Just how many of the supporters of Assange have read the Wikileaks stuff?  Did it enlighten you about anything?  Is it worth the risk that by splitting the progressive movement around Assange and Wikileaks we damage the chances of change in the future?

Think carefully – the folks who’re suffering hard under Government policies in the UK right now may be very unforgiving if this demonstration of how ‘right on’ the left can be wrecks the chance of change.

How Danny Boyle accidentally saved the Coalition

On Friday, 16th November, 2012 the General Election results reflected what had been the mood of much of the country since July of that year; increased support and continued mandate for the Coalition Government of David Cameron.  The early election had been called in early September by the 2/3 majority in the House of Commons required by the Fixed term Parliaments Act, with both the Coalition and Opposition generally feeling that they had it in the bag.

As Ed Miliband prepared to step down as leader of the Labour Party, and hence kick off a further period of in-fighting and introspection, he must have wondered how it had all gone so badly wrong.  As did ex-Chancellor George Osborne, who had been fired from his post in early October – quite a daring step for Prime Minister David Cameron but later regarded as a cost that that party had to pay.  New Chancellor Danny Alexander had spoken with the IMF and agreed that the stringent austerity policies of his predecessor would be slackened off.  The Coalition had some how survived – the next election set for 2017.

How had this come to pass?  The answer lay with a peculiarity of the British Electorate and the astonishing Olympic Opening Ceremony that the world had witnessed on July 27th.  It may also have been slightly helped by the antics of US Presidential Mitt Romney who, on the 26th July when visiting the UK, had managed to insult his hosts in quite a public manner.  And it certainly wasn’t hindered by a reasonable sporting performance during the games and the publication of a set of financial results in August that suggested that things were possibly coming along, even if many people in country were suffering badly.  And a couple of highly public firings of Tory MPs with extremist views, and their replacement with ‘party liners’ was highly regarded in the press.

The Games gave Cameron his Falklands moment; just as his predecessor Margaret Thatcher had been able to return to power on an increased majority on the back of a successful patriotic war, Cameron had been able to marshal the hype around the Olympics to his own advantage, making good use of the Olympic ‘feel good’ factor and taking a massive chance that the slight improvement of published financials and the October reshuffle would bring him votes.  Labour had failed to get traction as an opposition party; their own leaders realized that they would be forced to make some unpalatable decisions themselves and appeared to be almost paralysed by their honesty, as spokesmen repeated that ‘things  were not going to be easy’.

But that Friday morning, as Cameron started to plan for this new Cabinet, he knew that his victory started the instant that the spectacular Opening Ceremony hit the screens and fired up in the watching public that very peculiar form of national pride that has carried more than one Prime Minister to election victory by the ‘feel good’ factor.  Even the pointedly critical  ‘NHS’ segment was put to good use when, in late August, Cameron gave a speech in which he stated that he and his Government would take on board the Olympic Spirit and start by listening to the people; the outpouring of public support for the NHS triggered by the ceremony had made him rethink policy and in a massive U-Turn the NHS reforms would be reversed.

In the weeks up to and during the election campaign, Cameron deftly reflected on the Olympic ideal in virtually every speech he made; the fact that Britain had once again managed to produce a wonderful event in a time of austerity; that once again we had shown our abilities to the world.  Some early orders to business based on the Olympic Business Summit in the week before the games were heavily publicised, and various pundits of the left and ‘progessive’ movements in the UK were indirectly bought in to the campaign, as positive comments they had made about the Olympics were re-used widely in the media.

As the time approached for him to visit the Palace, he took time out to write a memo to his Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood.  It was short: “Would it be too wicked to offer Danny Boyle a knighthood for ‘Services to the Conservative Party’?”  Cameron smirked and started thinking that some of those NHS reforms were pretty damn good and would have to be reintroduced….