Friday, 29 July 2011

Watergate Unveiled?

Based on a response to this Washington Post article.

Judge orders Nixon grand jury testimony unsealed

As one who followed the Watergate Crisis from the other side of the pond at the time  I think this will be fascinating. Just as the Abdication Crisis in Britain lifted a veil on the previously secret inward workings of the Royal Family so Watergate began to define the secret world of what was then the most powerful office in the world. 

Did Watergate begin the process of confining the office and (so far) the man to more scrutiny? Is the British Prime Minister now the least controlled leader of a democratic country (Coalitions not withstanding)?

Before Watergate it was unknown in modern history for a President to "abdicate" just as a generation or two earlier would be horrified that a King of England could be forced to go, another "first".

Its worth reflecting that Watergate and the Abdication of Edward the Eighth had another thing in common. The public did not at the time receive all of the information. 

My mother for many years referred to the Duke of Windsor (as Edward became) as a man who had given up his throne for love. That was the official line and the Windsor's were allowed to promote the idea that the Church and Commonwealth could not accept a divorcee on the throne. Not withstanding the fact that Henry the Eighth had set a precedent hundreds of years earlier by not only having divorced women on the throne but also murdering them when it suited him. I remember during the early 1970's coming across that brilliant historian Brian Inglis and beginning to get a sense that I had not quite got the true story when I read his analysis of the crisis.  It was not until much later that Edward and Mrs Simpson emerged as people very sympathetic to Hitler. 

This shocked a British public who so admired the Royal Family, led by George the Fifth who had remained in London with Churchill throughout the Blitz and who were bombed alongside the many Londoners, Liverpudlians and others who drew inspiration from them. Luckily that splendid example was replaced by the present Queen admired even by republicans. British statesman and radical Tony Benn once said to me "If The Queen stood for election I would vote for her". Many people now believe that then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin acted with remarkable sagacity in removing such a serious security threat. The Duke went on to leak secrets to the enemy during the War, something an ordinary "Tommy" would have been shot for, and was rewarded with the Governorship of the Bahamas for the rest of the War to keep him out of the way. 
Interestingly the office of Prime Minister trumped a constitutional monarchy that had become a threat. Even when the office of Prime Minster passed to  Churchill, who had innocently championed Edwards cause unaware of his leanings before the Commons, there was little forgiveness for Edward and after the War he was effectively banished.  

Is this the point then when we get closer to the truth on Watergate? More importantly, do we discover how the office of President, the leader of the worlds most powerful nation was forever altered and by how much?   

Economy still scares Lincolnshire businesses

In an excellent article that we should all take note of here it is argued by local business in Lincolnshire that the low level of economic activity is scary. In Lincolnshire where the majority of jobs come from the public sector we are seeing huge losses already from the County Council and knock on effects from that.

Lincoln Rush Hour traffic

According to the Lincolnshire Observatory almost 8000 positions will be lost over this four year period. The Government has admitted that it has pinned its hopes on economic recovery on businesses. It has not understood that its own cuts to local government spending also undermines business particularly in areas like Lincolnshire. The Observatory Report describes a 7.1% loss in construction alone as a further consequence. Business & service sectors would also face a 3.3% hit. At the General Election Labour warned that Conservative planned spending cuts (denied by them) would cause a double wammey. This would seem to have been confirmed by the business response in Patrick White's article. I think Government needs to review its position, while whoever was elected would have to have taken measures to deal with the effects of the hedge fund banking collapses I think in their inexperience Government is cutting too deep and too fast.

Opening of a new kick-about for young people in Lincoln

My concern is that this will hit services that effect our most vulnerable children and young people. Services to house and assist the 16 to 25 year old groups have resulted in a considerable fall in youth crime and has saved young lives from heroin addiction and other equally lethal cycles of behaviour. Some cuts have already occurred which local services have absorbed, largely successfully, to take up the slack by cutting salaries or staff numbers, often both. Further cuts would lead to an increase in youth crime and loss of young lives, another consequence of a regressive artificially created economic downturn. While the Government  hides behind the previous one using a blame culture approach this is neither accurate or helpful in finding a solution. It needs to take account of the emerging and forecast consequences of its policies and behave in a rational manner that assists our Lincolnshire community.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Christian Socialism

I came to Labour from a Christian socialist perspective. I am fascinated by the impact we have had and continue to have on British politics. The Methodist Church was a founder of the party and I think battle commenced from there. One of the great Victorian Trade Union victories, the London Dock Strike was assisted by the intervention of Cardinal Newman. Lord Soper (a Methodist minister and Labour Party activist whom I met) was another major influence on the Party for four decades. 

On the TUC London March opposing Coalition Government cuts 
with a strong Lincoln contingent 2011

Eric Heffer, a friend, was a very committed socialist and a strong Christian as is (in his own way) Tony Benn both very influential via Parliament. Tony has since continued to campaign as a citizen and feels a greater freedom of action. He once said to me and others that if voting made any difference they wouldn't let us do it ;-). I don't subscribe quite to that but its a good point, all the major freedoms we have gained have been the result of strong campaigns and sacrifices with some people losing their lives. I am reminded of Emily Davison who died after she tried to throw a suffragette banner over the King's horse, Anmer at the Epsom Derby of June 5 1913. A story first told to me on the knee of my uncle, Jimmy Brind, a strong supported of civil rights. Its worth remembering that we failed to become a democracy until the granting of full voting rights to women as late as 1928.

 I have long seen the sermon on the mount as a defining text for me politically along with the social justice teaching common to both the Catholic & Anglican Churches. 

Cllr Norman Haigh, Me, Cllr Paul Kenny, Tony Benn MP, Cllr Paul Goodale 
Tony was on a visit to Boston here in Lincolnshire in 1998.

Alongside all this there are the strong value based rich contributions from atheists like HG Wells and JB Priestley and in the modern day Ed Milliband (I met his father quite a few times and was very impressed).

Ralph Milliband 1958

Eric Heffer MP for Walton, Liverpool 1964 - 1991 RIP

I feel that we need as Christians to make a stronger public contribution to politics but in a way that builds unity and persuades those tempted by the secular movement mutual respect is a better approach.

Michele Bachman & The Sermon on The Mount

A really good article about the American Salem Church in relation to its one time member Michele Bachman puzzled me. Ms Bachman is, rightly distancing herself from the Salem view that Pope Benedict, in addition to his many other achievements is also the Anti-Christ. This related to the text indicating that "the Roman Catholic Church insisted that faith alone was insufficient and that good works dictated and overseen by the church were necessary for salvation".

 I am unaware that the Church has ever insisted that good works had to be dictated and overseen to be valid. A more accurate depiction of the Churches position in my view would be "By their acts shall ye know them" Mathew 7;20. or "by their fruits". These are the results of the Holy Spirit at work in partnership with an informed conscience.  That said if I were an American rather than British I would want to know what Michele Bachman is saying now about her spirituality and how Christian teaching like that espoused in the Sermon on The Mount will figure in her approach if elected to high officer. What will she do about the poor and dispossessed of one of the world's richest and most powerful nations. Is this nation that has twice intervened in Europe in two world wars to oppose tyranny and oppression going to practise this "charity" at home? True Christianity is a very radical concept even for us Catholics ;-).
No, in terms of this debate it is the biblical context that the Salem Church holds its view about not the translation of the Greek per se. If you want to hold a grown up conversation with Catholics you might want to understand, if not agree with, Catholic teaching. The Pope does not replace Christ however we Catholics believe he is the successor of Peter whom Jesus appointed head of the Church and a representative of Christ "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it".
The biblical definition of the AntiChrist is "

1 John 4:1-3 says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world."

Change & The Church June 2011 following Hans Kung statement on the need for change.

Change & The Church June 2011 following Hans Kung statement on the need for change.

I wonder about this fear thing. Hans Kung was right to say that the Vatican is very powerful. The Pope's power, already considerable was further enhanced by the 1870 "Vatican 1" Council where Papal Infallibility was defined and formally promulgated although the tradition had existed long before. Pope Benedict is arguably the last reigning absolute monarch. How does this sit with Christian teaching in any scriptural sense? Those who hold power in this way usually become part of an unaccountable oligarchy unless supported by a wider structure such as existed among the Royal families of the pre-reformation period. Yet too strong a reaction towards say, the Anglican or Episcopalian tradition is also fraught with consequences for the authentic teaching and leadership responsibilities of the Church. Ensuring lay involvement without losing the plot that is scripturally indicated. There is no question however, the Church hierarchy (not just the Pope) is convinced that there can be no doctrinally authentic acceptance of women into the full priesthood even though the majority of the Church including, I suspect, the majority of priests, wishes it. Is the Church just another structure? an unreformed potential democracy or is it something much more? 

 If it is something more, and I believe firmly that it is, where do we go from here? This is an issue which has a far deeper dimension than that of priestly celibacy which the Church could revoke tomorrow in its current absolute form. This raises a question about scriptural interpretation, a primary role of the Church. Can the Church decide it got it wrong? Hans Kung thinks so but he has never been flavour of the month in Rome. In a Church which elevates the sacramental in every sense a male priesthood lies at the heart of things, at the heart of the sacrament we call the Eucharist, the real presence of a male Christ, the daily miracle of transubstantiation where bread becomes God. 

Does it have to be this way?     

I'm not sure that this is the last word somehow. 

Intriguingly the answer may be with us already as part of another piece of Christian teaching, a teaching that nobody disputes. The Church accepts the guidance of the Holy Spirit and this is a crucial thing that protects the Church and the Pope from error. It is the thing that informs conscience, the thing that enables personal faith. Are we listening though?