Monday, April 27, 2009

PC World

Seeing as one of my recent posts was taken up on Shiraz Socialist, it's time to repay the compliment.

Over at the Torygraph Mary Kenny's son, occasional Catholic Herald columnist Ed West blogged on the contentious theme "Is Britain the world's first politically correct totalitarian state", to which the enfant terrible of Militant Secularism, Max Dunbar typed out a response which may as well be entitled Political Correctness isn't what it's cracked up to be.

Yes as we all know, this-is-political-correctness-gone-mad is indeed a well-worn press release and tabloid copy cliché, so much so in fact, that it's given birth to yet another well-worn broadsheet cliché: political-correctness-is-a-tabloid-invention. Indeed some BBC broadcaster or another wrote a book exploring that theme which was serialised in ... The Catholic Herald recently.

But where was I? Is Britain the world's first totalitarian PC dictatorship or even a PC dictatorship of any kind?

Er no, that would be Canada where penning a nutty letter to a local newspaper gets you hauled in to a Human Rights Tribunal which isn't conducted according to common law principles governing presumption of innocence, rules of evidence and public trial and orders that you cease expressing your opinion in private email.

That said, there have been some disturbing examples in the recent past of British citizens being made to feel that their rights to freedom of speech were less than wholly respected.

West wrote: [T]here are just too many cases of people being arrested for homophobia, racism or other thought crimes for this to be treated as anything other than state policy. Of course Britain isn’t Orwell’s Oceania or Bolshevik Russia yet, but it is a tyranny nonetheless.

To which Dunbar replied:

Do you know anyone who’s been arrested on such a charge?

Given that the legal offences of homophobia or racism don't exist, one might think he had a point.
One might.

But, laydeez and gentlemen of the blogosphere jury, let me present to you the cases of George Staunton and Harry Hammond.

In 1999 George Staunton daubed the slogans 'Free Speech for England' and 'Remember the 1945 War' on a Toxteth building for which he was arrested and charged with racially-aggravated criminal damage, though the charges were eventually dropped.

Harry Hammond was an Evangelical Christian with Aspergers Syndrome who was given to taking the biblical injuction to spreading the good news rather literally, parking himself in The Square in Bournemouth and evangelising away to anyone who happened to be passing. One day in October 2001 he hoisted aloft a double-sided placard bearing the legends, Stop Immorality, Stop homosexuality and Stop Lesbianism. A crowd of onlookers gathered around him which included a number of people who took such exception to Hammond's message that they subjected to him a number of assaults. Fistfuls of soil were hurled at him, someone poured a bottle of water over his head and another person tried to pull the placard from him with such force that he fell to the ground.

However, as Peter Hitchens noted, when two police officers turned up, it was Hammond they arrested, though they disagreed with each other about whether this was the right thing to do.

Hitchens continued:

A more experienced male constable, Wayne Elliott, thought that Mr Hammond should be protected. His younger female colleague, Nicola Gandy, thought that he should be taken in. Her view prevailed, but at the trial the two officers - incredibly -- gave evidence on opposite sides, PC Elliott appearing for the defence, while PC Gandy spoke for the prosecution.
PC Gandy has since defended her actions by saying, 'He was provoking and inciting violence with highly inappropriate behaviour. My agenda was to try to maintain the peace. I was not very impressed with Mr Hammond's conduct. I don't think he is a very good representative of the Christian faith.'

Hammond was charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act and in 2002 was convicted, fined £300 and charged £365 in costs. He died before he could appeal the judgement. However a posthumous appeal on the basis of the Human Rights Act failed. And a further appeal to the European Court of Human Rights was dismissed.

I might also mention the cases of Mr and Mrs Roberts a retired Lancashire couple who in 2005 were interrogated by police for 80 minutes for their "homophobic views" after they'd rather dottily asked their local council if their Christian literature could be displayed next to literature for gay people, or of Lynette Burrows who was contacted by police after she'd made some nasty comments suggesting that boy children would at risk if placed with same-sex adoptive couples on a Radio Five Live phone-in debate. Her expressed opinions are ugly, bigoted and plain wrong but should she be visited by the plod for making them? Of course not.

Ok, let's get a sense of proportion here; the UK doesn't qualify as a politically-correct tyranny but ... but ... but the examples I have cited demonstrate that well-meaning socially-liberal values have come into conflict with the very liberties which should be their natural bedfellows. Sniggering at ritual denunciations of political correctness in tabloids should not blind us to this fact.

Quick everybody, duck, Brett's getting a little heated on Harry's Place

Shut all the doors and windows, draw the curtains and hide under the table!

Brett Lock's in a baaaad mood.

Guns. It's the only way.

Forget the lawyers. Forget the money. It’s only guns that will have any success in stopping them. They cannot be reasoned with, they cannot be bought off. They won’t stop til they’re dead, and if we don’t kill them, they will kill us and anyone else who stands in their way. There are no limits to their ambitions, only new frontiers. When one goal is achieved, it’s on to the next. If ever there was a contemporary reason to warn “if you tolerate this, then your children will be next”, this is it.

Is he talking about:

a) Monetarists?
b) Carriers of Swine Flu?
c) Hoodies?

Actually in this case, it's the Taliban but what with Brett's seemingly unstoppable authoritarian drift, in due course it could well be any one of the above.

One other thing - does anyone know if the Lucy Lips occasionally found fulminating from the Harry's Place pulpit is high priest of decentism, David T in disguise?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What you won't read on Shiraz Socialist, New Humanist blog and Harry's Place

Religion brings peace, says new research

Religion can help to reconcile hostile communities and bring about democracy, according to new research presented to the British Sociological Association's annual conference in Cardiff.
The paper, "Religion and peace processes: a conceptualisation", challenges the view that religion is an obstacle to peace between divided communities, or a cause of the problem. "If not portryaed as a benigh irrelevance, religion is depicted as a malign force," wrote authors Professor John Brewer and Dr Francis Teeney, both from the University of Aberdeen and Dr Gareth Higgins from the University of North Carolina.
The academics maintained that some social scientists believed religion "provokes governments, ethno-religious groups and various warlords to believe God is on their side in war". Examples where Churches have not helped include the Dutch Reformed Church, which supported apartheid in South Africa.
However, they observed that the Catholic Church was seen as a constructive influence, for example, when it supported the end of Communism* in Poland and and supported human rights in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Religious groups, they said, offered new ideas, acted as role models and negotiated and campaigned for peace.
(The Tablet 18 April 2009)
Erratum *The word "Communism" was of course incorrect since the neither the state, nor capitalism were abolished in post war Poland. We did of course mean to say "State Capitalism" or "Stalinism". We apologise for any distress we may have caused - Catherine Pepinster, Old Cliffite, London W6.

Letters to the editor

Your news report "Religion brings peace" was a typical example of the kind of heterodox neo-Protestant bitching about the Magisterium in which your flaccid organ periodically indulges. The principle Extra Ecclessiam Nulla Sallus which no Pope has yet abrogated means we must wage ceaseless war on all heretics, apostates, schismatics and ciabatta-chomping fancy-pants Tablet readers who live in Hampstead and picket churches celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass even while they ... cont for 94 paragraphs
Paul Priest

I read your report on religion and peace with much interest. I have worked for over a decade in conflict resolution between members of Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice and the Bishops Conference and have found that inviting both parties to consider their differences in the context of a pillow fight most helpful. We give pillows names like "kumbaya" and "Mother Angelica live on EWTN" and allow Daphne McLeod and Bishop Kieran Conry to bash the living daylights out of each other. Feathers fly, the air is turned distinctly blue with swearwords and everyone feels so much the better for it!
(Fr) B Dotty SJ

What kind of world is it where law abiding citizens can't thwack anyone with a frying pan who terrifyingly threatens them a cup of tea and a slice of cake? Retrograde concepts like peace were invented by the religious to prevent us from bringing enlightened Western values to farthest corners of blogosphere.
Brett Lock
Harry's Place

Did anyone say inclusive?
Joanna Bogle
Thatcher's Bottom

Friday, April 24, 2009

Francis Davis on why the cardinal must not become a peer


The real sign of a great leader is the focus and self discipline with which they exit from their previous roles, showing grace and independence and leaving their successors to get on with the job in hand. In the case of great churchmen, this is often combined with a plan to serve where they started, namely in parishes which are supposed to be the true heart of Catholicism.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Memo to Rome - Don't let Cormac Accept a Peerage

Every once in a while rare things of a snow in the Sahara type probability happen; cows fly over the moon, Labour governments raise the top rate of income tax and I find myself in agreement with secularists. This is one of those occasions.

The plan to give Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor a peerage is one of the most atrocious ideas I have heard of in, ooh, years.

Where to begin with the list of objections, since there are so many of them? First, it goes against the spirit of Canon 284: "Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power” .

There is much wisdom in this canon which I hope Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor will bear in mind. It militates against worldliness in the clergy who ought to be primarily concerned with the salvation of souls for the hereafter, not the vanities of the present world. It also tells us something about the dignity inherent in the Catholic priesthood which emphatically should not be compromised by dabbling in politics.

The pastors of the Church have a duty to speak out, forcefully on occasion, on matters of faith and morals, this should not be confused with politicking. Politics is what the laity does. A bishop of the Church taking up a peerage confuses the distinction between clergy and laity to no good end at all.

Then there's the matter of how this would go down with the new Archbishop of Westminster. It would be entirely within reason for Vincent Nichols to object to his predecessor being ensconced in the House of Lords. It would be like a king over the water maintaining a rival court.

Has anyone at Eccleston Square thought this crazy idea through? The first complaint of secularists is of a politicised clergy interfering in democratic politics; the first argument anti-Catholics reach for in defending their indefensible bigotry is that the Church brings it on itself by involving itself in politics. Consider the ravings of Mary Honeyball, who claims that the Church "has a grip on parliament". For God's sake, sticking a cleric in the Lords adds grist to the irrational secularist mill.

Cardinal Cormac has said that he is in two minds about the proposal, for which read he's absolutely enamoured of it and is just waiting for Rome to give the go-ahead. My friend Austen Ivereigh, who as Cardinal's former director of public affairs knows his mind as much as anyone, writes:

"Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor loves the idea. A life peerage, he thinks, would give him a platform with which to combat the shrinking of the Church's voice in public life ."

This must be put plainly. If His Eminence imagines that a seat in the upper house would enable him to fight the good fight against the forces of secularism he is succumbing to delusional vanity. What does he think he would be able to say or do in the Lords which the combined forces of the Anglican Lords Spiritual, and lay Catholic, Protestant, frum Jewish and devout Moslem peers have not done already? They haven't been able to counter the crushing forces of secularism for a very good reason: they have no democratic credentials. We don't need another Catholic representative in the Lords, indeed some of us are so wedded to the notion of democratic politics that we find the very idea of an unelected second chamber quite obscene enough as it is. At best a Lord Cormac would be nothing more than an irrelevant bauble adorning British political life, at worst he could be an impediment to the cause of religious liberty.

... And he would relish the further recognition of Catholicism by the British establishment which began under his predecessor, Cardinal Hume -- something that is very important to him. (He was thrilled to be nominated to join Claridge's, one of London's more exclusive clubs.)"

At last. The real reason Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor desires a peerage is less a matter of countering secularist influence in public life, even though he flatters himself that he would succeed in pressing the Catholic cause where so many others have failed and much more about him indulging himself. For if Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor has any weakness it is this: rampant, inferiority complex-driven, cap-doffing, forlock-tugging snobbism of the most antiquated, obsequious kind. I imagine that as a child he enjoyed games and toys with regal themes, loved dressing up as a nursery kinglet with paper crown balanced on his head, blanket draped around his childish shoulders and holding a rolling pin in one hand and an orange in the other in imitation of sceptre and orb thrilled to the sound of his siblings addressing him as "your majesty". These are harmless pastimes for children to be sure but as Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, such fixations with establishment pomp led him to making some screamingly bad judgments, chief among them the appointment of Sir Stephen Wall, a man so publically unsympathetic to the Church as to be actively hostile to it, as his principal adviser. This man's considerable salary was ultimately paid by ordinary Catholics but he proved to be an expensive liablity and I for one want my money back. Never were the Cardinal's political advisers' hopeless comic incompetence more evident than in the bungled campaign against the SORs, at which point excuse me while I expostulate - Cardinal, you couldn't even save the Catholic adoption agencies, what reasonable basis do you have for thinking you could face down secularism in the Lords? And even more to the point, precisely why does the Cardinal desire establishment recognition of Catholicism anyway? He's got it the the wrong way up; Catholicism is counter-cultural, a sign of contradiction in the world. Catholics don't want establishment recognition, neither do we need it.

Of course the Cardinal thinks that a peerage shows that the establishment accepts Catholicism in public life and of course he's deluding himself once again. The base political calculation behind the proposal must be obvious to everyone except him. Quite simply it's intended as a sop to Labour Catholics who are rightly disgusted by the anti-Catholicism which has been allowed to run unchecked in the party. The people who dreamt up the idea of a peerage are astute judges of character, they correctly reasoned that there's nothing like appealing to an old man's vanity for smoothing over ruffled feathers but it's a sorry thing to see the Cardinal being made such a fool of in this fashion.

Every way you look at it the idea of a Lord Cormac is cringe-inducingly awful. Please, please don't let it happen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jack Jones 1913-2009

Jack Jones, one of the most influential trade-union leaders of our times has died aged 96.

Once voted the most powerful man in Britain, he had a very good innings by any standard. Under his leadership the Transport and General Workers Union reached a membership of 2.2 million. He saw it all; the General Strike, The Spanish Civil War when he fought with the International Brigades and Beer 'n' Sandwiches at No 10.

He had strong views on the way to do things, once saying, "I regarded every trade unionist as my brother or sister, unless they acted in an unco-operative way."

Obituaries of Jack Jones here, here, here and here.

Former KGB colonel, Oleg Gordievsky has popped up claiming that he paid Jones the princely sum of £200 for information. Jack Jones vigorously denied such charges in his lifetime, calling them a "slur and an outrage". I'm not sure that he needed to bother, those who spent time in the KGB's employ were notoriously prone to poor mental health outcomes; among other things Gordievsky has described the BBC as "The Red Service", arguing perhaps more optimistically than factually thus:

"Just listen with attention to the ideological nuances on Radio 4, BBC Television and the BBC World Service and you will realise that communism is not a dying creed."

Bonkers but a good note to end it on nonetheless. Let's raise the red flag to Jack Jones.

The Budget

Fags and booze up 2%. Damnit.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hmm, Spooky

Someone using a computer with a Conservative Central Office ISP has landed on this 'ere blog having googled the names, "Tom Watson" and "Barckley Sumner".

Why on earth would anyone at Conservative Central Office be interested in those names?

Even spookier still, someone from Birmingham landed here after having googled "Dolphinarium" and "Peter Jennings". They seemed interested in the Catholic Herald issues grovelling apology to Austen Ivereigh post. Mildly curious, I suppose.

Listen Pete old boy, if that's you ((waves)) don't take the Vin Nichols post the wrong way, you know how it goes with spinning, you win some, you lose some ... But hey! you were pretty good on that Godawful beeb programme on Sunday, seriously you were. So let's have more telly apologetics from you and less of the throwing hacks out of the club you invited them to, ok?

Don't mention the Hitler Diaries!

Hoax Alert: If you were one of the people invited to the Papal Nuncio's not-to-be-missed shindig (Dolphinarium has some very distinguished readers) but failed to attend because you got a message telling you the event had been cancelled due to him having been taken ill, you fell for the same hoax which fooled Ruth "Legs" Gledhill.

Apologies for my inaccurate report here earlier today. In it I said that tonight's reception for the Papal Nuncio had been canceled due to a sudden illness. I am afraid this turned out to be a hoax. I had received a call from a plausible informant, claiming to be Monsignor Vincent Brady, the Nuncio's private secretary. The caller was no such thing, but a fraud; a clever fraud too, I have to admit, who must have known that in order to check such information the person whom I would have rung was none other than Father Brady.

But that's not the only hoax story to have fooled The Thunderer on 20 April. So did this one which reported that Pope Benedict was going to present a "luxury facsimile" of the 1530 appeal by English peers to Pope Clement VII asking for the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Infuriated Vatican spin-meister, Father Frederico Lombardi SJ fired off a letter to The Times, declaring that the story is "completely untrue and has no basis in fact whatsoever", and asking for the paper to issue "an immediate and unambiguous denial".

According to Damian Thompson, the conspiracy-theory doing the rounds is that "a mad hoaxer is trying to punish the Times for the anti-Catholic tone of some of its recent reporting."

Feeling a touch red-faced, on Facebook Legs Gledhill admitted to feeling "a total twit," saying wonderingly, "Honestly, this religious world we live in - who would do a thing like that? But I still think this lot r better than the world of the Damian McBride's."

By mentioning McBride, I have a hunch that she may have inadvertantly stumbled on a clue about the hoaxer's identity. This looks like an inside-job.

Could it be ...

Ruth-less Kelly up to her dastardly tricks again?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dollygate - the Kelly Connection

We're now in the eye of Dollygate, the greatest storm to rock the Westminster Village since the last one. Acres of print have been used up discussing the critical issues of this drama, to wit, what is the embarrassing illness the emails said David Cameron had - my guess is haemorrhoids, either that or chronic flatulence, how come a cluster of New Labour meeja geniuses were dumb enough to discuss their nefarious plans on email and is Damian McBride a lot older than the press seem to think he is? However, one aspect of this story has hitherto remained unexamined. I speak of course about Ruth Kelly. Did she hack into Damian McBride's Number 10 email account and forward the incriminating emails to Guido Fawkes?

After McBride knifed her in September she would certainly have had a motive and this card-carrying hellraiser, who as often as not is to be found propping up the bar at the Sports and Social intriguing with Westminster's finest and later in the evening brawling with anyone who dares dispute her forecasts for long-term GDP growth has form when it comes to grudge matches.

Vital questions about her role in the affair remain unanswered. Why, exactly, did she give up her seat on public transport to Mrs Guido Fawkes a few years ago? Has she used Jack Valero to act as a go-between in her dealings with Guido Fawkes? Where was she the night Charlie Whelan appeared as Widow Twankey at the South Mimms Empire?

For now Ruth Kelly is silent but we can be sure that there's a lot more to this than meets the eye.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Vin Nichols Gets Westminster

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has today appointed the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, who has been Archbishop of Birmingham since March 2000, as the next Archbishop of Westminster.

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor as Archbishop of Westminster. The Cardinal will now become the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Westminster until Archbishop Nichols is installed at Westminster Cathedral on Thursday, 21 May 2009. Until then, Archbishop Nichols will remain in Birmingham.

Archbishop Nichols will succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who has been Archbishop of Westminster since March 2000, becoming the 11th Archbishop of Westminster since the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850, when the diocesan structure was re-established.

Vin gets the prize despite a campaign being run against him from the very highest quarters indeed. You see, Nichols is not as popular as he could be in the Bishops' Conference. One Eccleston Square insider described him as "undoubtedly very bright but not very collegial", saying that he had "an unmistakeably contemptuous air to his fellow bishops" and is "very much a loner, not a team-player".

Still, even his detractors recognise that the outspoken Nichols is an effective fighter against militant secularism; he won plaudits for facing down Alan Johnson's lunatic plans to introduce quotas for non-Catholic pupils at Catholic schools as well as for sharply criticising a sensationalist beeb documentary called Sex crimes and the Vatican as being "false and misleading".

If Nichols does have a problem, however, it comes in the form of his sleazy press secretary, Peter Jennings. The Jekyll and Hyde-like Jennings really is unpopular not least because of his propensity to pulling such bizarre stunts as inviting journalists to his club (the East India) then making a public scene of ordering them to leave at the top of his voice and manhandling them out of the door. Nichols may be thinking of bringing Jennings down to Westminster with him. That would be a very bad idea.