Monday, May 18, 2009

Has Peter Jennings Lost the Plot?

I only ask.

This time Archbishop Nichols' er, controversial spindoctor has landed in hot water for having treated a student to a "foul mouthed tirade" at a dinner organised by the Aquinas Institute at the college of Blackfriars which was attended by among others, Our Man in the Vatican, Francis Campbell.

According to the Telegraph, Jennings went beserk during the desert course, calling Matthew Tye, who is half Vietnamese "a low-life peasant", "a worthless piece of shit" and presumably to hammer the point home, "a shit" more than twenty times.

To be fair, that last bit's according to Tye who's sent a letter of complaint to Jennings' boss, Archbishop Nichols. For his part, Jennings has said that Tye's account is exaggerated, saying : "I may have called him a shit once or twice, I don't recollect how many times, but I think it's a storm in a tea cup. In fact, it is a typhoon in a tea spoon."

Jennings has written a letter of apology to Tye in which he claimed that he'd been provoked by overhearing the student referring to his dismissal as a spokesman for the Newman cause. Mr Tye denies he ever made such a comment and said he had not received a reply from the Archbishop Nichols.

Senior college officials have described Mr Jennings' behaviour as "a grave abuse of their hospitality".

This isn't the first time, Jennings has let his potty-mouthed temper get the better of him. Last month he called Telegraph journalist, Jonathan Wynne Jones "a total shit" after Wynne Jones' scooped the story about a pair of bishops opposing Nichols' candidacy for Westminster.

The Telegraph adds:

It is understood senior figures at Westminster Cathedral working for the previous Archbishop, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, had expressed serious concerns about the possibility of Mr Jennings taking up a permanent position with Archbishop Nichols.

I'm told that one of the senior figures who expressed his concerns about Jennings was the nuncio himself. Apparently he made his feelings clear to ++Vincent on informing him that he'd got Westminster. "Peter Jennings," he said "no way Jose Maria", or words to that effect.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Is the BNP targeting Catholic voters?

A couple of years ago, journalist Paul Donovan who writes for Catholic weekly, The Universe was sent some BNP literature clearly aimed at Catholics, which made prominent mention of the 19th Century social encyclical, Rerum Novarum.

A one off? Perhaps not.

Anyone reading The Universe's letters page over the last 12 months will have noticed the preponderance of pro-BNP letters appearing sometimes on a weekly basis.

In summer someone signing themselves as Frederick Weston claimed that voting for the BNP was not a sin but "a patriotic duty".

Another coincidence? I suggest not.

There are few people who have their fingers on the pulse of Catholic opinion more than the mighty Phyllis Bowman, executive director of Right to Life. In July scenting something in the air, she sent a communiqué to all her members and supporters warning them about the BNP and urging them to reject it at the polls. The Catholic Herald, Catholic Times and The Universe all ran the story. Not long after, Paul Donovan and John Battle MP used their Universe columns also to remind to remind Catholic readers what the BNP stands for and why they shouldn't vote for it.

A week or so later yet another Pro-BNP letter appeared in The Universe:

"I feel obliged to make a few comments regarding the campaign, which your paper has been conducting against the British National Party since July and shows no signs of abating. It appears to have originated with the ridiculous and unsubstantiated accusations in the article by Paul Donovan, which prompted letters by your readers, two of which, on August 24, pointed out the part played by New Labour in the moral and religious decline in this country, and the very real concerns of the indigenous population with regard to mass immigration and the consequences. As for John Battle's assertion that he is unable to 'engage with the BNP' because of violent reaction, he really should have taken his statement to its logical conclusion, giving details of the 'violence' which he has suffered. The British National Party is a legally constituted political party, recognised by the State. It participates in elections, abides by the rules of the Electoral Commission and now has a reasonable number of local councillors, as well as a member of the London Assembly.
As a Catholic newspaper, you should be more concerned with the terrible persecution of Catholics, particularly in Iraq, where before this country's involvement in the illegal invasion, Catholics enjoyed freedom to practice their faith.
Terrorist activities, violent crime and now murder are a daily occurence in this country, none of which are connnected with the BNP.
As for the issue of voting, or not voting for the BNP, your readers should not agonise too much; it should be obvious to all who have the power to reason that in a quasi-Marxist tyranny that this country is fast becoming, voting is irrelevant.
Finally certain anti-abortion groups should perhaps divert their spiteful and uncharitable allegations against Catholic MPs who support abortion, rather than criticise BNP policy, which I'm sure does not advocate the killings of disabled babies."

The author was a Margaret J Ballard of Carshalton and cross-checking that name with the BNP list published on the internet in November yields some interesting information.

That's just one example. The deluge of Pro BNP letters in The Universe has kept on and on. Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton condemned the BNP recently but still the letters flooded in. A startled Universe reader wrote in complaining about these infernal screeds but this resulted in just more of them.

What's the significance of The Universe and why haven't similar letters appeared in say, The Catholic Herald or The Catholic Times? The Universe's readership is typically drawn from traditionally Labour voting working class Catholics of Irish descent. It's the same old story; for one reason or another a lot of them have become disaffected with Labour which they perceive as dominated by metropolitan elites and deaf to the concerns of its traditional base. These are the people which the parasitic BNP preys upon with letter writing campaigns to The Universe and ten to one this initiative has passed under the radar of a lot of anti-fascists.

If by chance anyone from UAF happens to be reading this, might I suggest that it liaises with the Bishops' Conference about this, preferably before polling day. One thing Universe readers know is that Catholics are subject to their bishops and their guidance is unequivocal:

"Catholics should never support parties with racist policies."

Watch this right now

It takes a mere 9% of the vote for Nick Griffin to win a seat in the European Parliament.

Stop him from doing so.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

On Hannah's Deportation, The Strangers into Citizens Rally and finding patriotism in some very unexpected places

Bad news to start with, I'm afraid. Fiorella who blogs at The first blast of the Trumpet, as I call it has been battling away to save a woman called Hannah who'd been incarcerated in horrible Yarl's Wood from deportation. Sadly, Hannah was deported on Thursday. Fiorella writes:

"Hannah was deported this evening at 9:30 pm. We were able to contact a Christian family in Mumbai via a friend who offered to meet her at the airport and give her a temporary place to stay, and the parish got in touch with a convent in another region of India that has offered to take her in if she needs a safe place to stay whilst she considers her future. As you can imagine, the events of the last twelve hours have been absolutely devastating and we are struggling to come to terms with losing Hannah, when we had hoped that the deportation order would be cancelled and that she would be able to return to us. I am going to be out of circulation for the next week or so. I will be checking email every so often but blogging may be a little sporadic for the next few days. I can only hope that Hannah will eventually find refuge in a country more welcoming to strangers than Britain."

Fiorella's a good sort and the whole affair has clearly been very upsetting for her. Do post a comment on her blog expressing your sympathy and solidarity with her and Hannah against our cruel and inhumane asylum and immigration laws.

Right, time for a quick and very belated round up of comment and analysis of last Monday's Strangers into Citizens rally.

There was good coverage in Tribune and Socialist Worker and strong backing for the amnesty proposal from The Morning Star.

Respect partisan, Liam Maccuaid seems to have had a jolly good time, writing breathlessly:

"For my money this demo is the highlight of the political calendar. Once a year the voiceless and invisible hyper-exploited workers of London take to the streets and make themselves heard. They are a multitude drawn from every corner of the planet and maybe, just maybe, they are starting to get a sense of their power and numbers."

Green leftie Jim Jay also enjoyed himself, saying, "I thought it was a fantastic event and one of the few demonstrations I actually enjoy going on."

Over at Shiraz Socialist Voltaire's Priest was less impressed, arguing that while the campaign's arguments for a one-off amnesty seemed reasonable enough, there was a sting in the tail:

What happens after this amnesty? As it stands, the proposal would cover people who have been in the UK for more than 4 years. So, if someone has fled here from Afghanistan and is currently working in (say) a restaurant in Birmingham, and has been here for 2 1/2 years, then they are not covered. What happens to them, once either the current government (you know, the one that spent last week trying to stop a Commons amendment to allow retired Gurkha soldiers to settle in the UK) gets another term or (as seems likely) a Tory government is elected? Neither party has any cynical political gain to make from making immigration laws more liberal, and nobody that I am aware of is predicting that either party would break with public expectations if elected. And of course, if you’re anti-immigration then an amnesty gives you the perfect opportunity to shout “clean slate” and place walls of steel around the UK. I don’t believe that this is the intention of most supporters of Strangers Into Citizens. But neither is it antithetical to the campaign’s main aim, especially given the somewhat Uriah Heep-esque manner in which its arguments are posed, presumably to mollify perceived xenophobic sentiment. An one-off amnesty now leaves the door open for a clampdown at a later stage."

But on the Shiraz comments box, Bob from Brockley vigorously disagreed, declaring "I see SiC as the ONLY campaign in my memory that has really made any difference in shifting the debate away from the right-wing hegemony. The no borders/no one was illegal message was inserted into the demo quite successfully and got more of a public hearing than it has on any other occassion. And the concept of “strangers into citizens” is in itself a positive one, even if a one-off amnesty is a limited goal."

At The Commune, David Broder critiqued the campaign organisers as having "an extremely conservative stance" adding:

The ‘official’ message of the demo was furthermore encapsulated in the slogan “we want to be British” and, worst of all, the singing of ‘God Save the Queen‘, with migrant workers expected to demonstrate their loyalty to the state, “useful”, “industrious” subjects for Her Majesty’s Government. "

Broder's report was the subject of some mirth at the Strangers into Citizens after party as the indomitable Jacob Bard Rosenberg disapprovingly noted over on The Third Estate:

“He thinks we’re all bloody bourgeois” scoffed Austen Ivereigh, as he puffed on his Montecristo in a trendy bar in King’s Cross, whilst reading aloud David Broder’s response to yesterday's Strangers into Citizen's demonstration."

The politics of the organisers were flimsy Bard Rosenberg felt but he conceded that church-based groups work more effectively in communities than the left and that the left had "much to learn but also much to add to this movement."

Meanwhile over at the Strangers into Citizens blog, there's undiluted pleasure at the rally having made three front pages: The Express, Morning Star and now The Universe too. It notes that the other Catholic weeklies, including longstanding supporter The Tablet also gave it good coverage and so, would you Adam and Eve it, did the Catholic Herald:

"The Conservative Catholic Herald -- which first tried to ignore SiC, and last year spluttered its disapproval -- has an excellent piece on p. 2 by Mark Greaves using the Press Association angle: 'Avoid scapegoating migrants in the recession, urges bishop' is the headline. The piece, and an accompanying pic (seen here) of exuberant nuns leaving the Mass for Migrants, can be read here. According to the newspaper, Bishop Lynch 'strongly defended the idea of a one-off amnesty for illegal immigration' and 'said at the Mass on Monday that the human dignity of migrants was separate from their legal status and whether they had the right papers'."

There's also a post about Austen Ivereigh being interviewed by SunTalk radio shock-jock Jon Gaunt. Listen to all the fun here (select listen again, then Wednesday 6 May).

Still hungry for more? There's a rather diverting thread over at Socialist Unity, where the well-intentioned but ever so slightly priggish Andy Newman uses a book review as a springboard for launching into a prolonged bout of patriotic mysticism, apparently prompted by a walk in the countryside.

"Last weekend I took my four year old son for a walk on one of the iron-age hill-forts that surround Swindon, and as we stood at the top of those huge mud ramparts, buffeted by the wind, looking out over the green pastures of the Marlborough Downs, it was impossible not to feel moved by a sense of shared history with those others who have stood on that same spot over three thousand years. This is where we are from. This is, in a fleeting sense, who we are."


In the comments box, childrens' novelist and poet, Michael Rosen makes very thorough and funny mincemeat of it all. Worth a gander, so to speak.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants

Austen Ivereigh makes the case


Strangers Into Citizens Dismisses Migrationwatch's Claims as Bogus

Whenever that irritant Sir Andrew Green pops up in the meeja I close my eyes and while doing my breathing exercises think about the magnificent Julian Simon who, during his extraordinarily brilliant lifetime was the foremost exponent of the benefits of population growth. Then I feel better. Thinking about Julian Simon always makes me feel better.

Anyway, I digress. Migrationwatch has been bitching about immigration again. I know, I know, it's what it's there for.

But wait! In this Strangers Into Citizens press release my friend Austen Ivereigh really socks it to 'em.

Julian Simon would be proud.

Claims by the anti-immigration lobby MigrationWatch that allowing irregular migrants a way of becoming legal would cost the UK billions have been dismissed by the organisers of a major rally in central London on Monday.

“Neither Sir Andrew Green nor I are economists,” said Dr Austen Ivereigh, the campaign’s director of policy. “So we should defer to those who are. And they are agreed that a Spanish-style regularisation, as advocated by President Obama, has great economic benefits.”

Dr Ivereigh pointed to research published by the think-tank IPPR, which estimates the benefit of an amnesty in the billions, and to a 2007 Council of Europe report which concluded that regularisation was beneficial for both economic and humanitarian reasons.

Strangers into Citizens is a campaign by the Citizen Organising Foundation, the UK’s largest civic alliance.

He said: “Our case for a one-off, selective, earned regularisation for people who have been resident in the UK for six years and who can demonstrate good conduct and an English qualification is primarily about the social and human dividend. But regularisation has other benefits, too. Combined with border enforcement, it helps to shrink illegal immigration. And in the case of Spain in 2005, the measure paid for itself many times over in new social security and tax revenues.”

Sir Andrew Green claims that Strangers into Citizens has failed to consider the “hidden costs” in a regularisation, which would have “massive implications for public finances”.

But campaigners say the basis on which his figures are calculated are deeply flawed, and that the evidence in his research is selected to support his position.

“Sir Andrew tries to estimate the cost of a family where the earner stays on a minimum wage his whole life,” Dr Ivereigh said. “It assumes people are static, and stay in one place. Nor does he take into account the fact that immigrants are on the whole fit, young, and educated at other countries’ expense.”

“Study after study showed the immigrants were net contributors”, he said, adding:
“It is likely that Sir Andrew’s pension will be paid for by immigrants”. (Yes, yes, yes and don't let him forget it)

Dr Ivereigh went on:

“The real hidden costs are those of not regularising: not just the costs to the Treasury of uncollected tax revenue, but the day-to-day costs of supporting the destitute and exploited. These are costs are currently borne by our churches and community organisations, which is what gives them the right to call for regularisation on Monday.”

Dr Ivereigh also dismissed Sir Andrew’s claim that the 2005 Spanish amnesty led to more illegal immigration, pointing to Spanish government figures collected by Strangers into Citizens in a report available on its website

‘Popular, effective, and no “green-light effect”: the Spanish regularisation of 2005’ by Maria Alvarez quotes Spanish government figures showing that more people entered Spain between 2001 and 2004 than since the regularisation of 2005.

Dr Ivereigh said:

“Sir Andrew claims that the experience of Spain shows ‘conclusively’ that regularisation encourages more illegal immigration. It’s clear why he doesn’t offer any evidence for this -- because Spanish immigration figures show the opposite. What the Spanish experience shows is that, combined with border-enforcement measures, regularisation is effective at reducing illegal immigration. If Sir Andrew really wants to curb future illegal immigration he would join the growing ranks of those who back our proposal for a selective, earned amnesty that would allow about 450,000 long-term British residents to become legal.”

Strangers into Citizens is a coalition of faith leaders, NGOs, MPs and trade unions who are calling for long-term irregular migrants to be made UK citizens. The LSE estimates there to be 750,000 irregular migrants in the UK, of whom 450,000 would be eligible under the Strangers into Citizens criteria backed by the mayor, Boris Johnson.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Strangers Into Citizens Rally Monday 4 May

I'm a no-borders person myself but I like the Citizen Organising Foundation and its Strangers Into Citizens campaign.

Get involved : Rally on May 4th

Agenda for the Day View map 9am Cycle for Citizens sets off - join us

From 10am Various Services see below for details

11:30am Tothill Street rally starts

12pm Strangers into Citizens rally - Trafalgar Square
Performers include Asian Dub Foundation, ThePETEBOX, Ukrainian folksinger Ludwig. Jose Konda. MCs, speakers from our supporters who include: Bishop Eric Brown, Bishop Thomas McMahon, RC Bishop of Brentwood; Bishop Tom Butler, Anglican Bishop of Southwark; Rev Ermle Kirby, Methodist Church; Colonel William Cochrane, Salvation Army, Senior Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg. New North London Synagogue. Dr Md Abdul Bari (DG of The Muslim Council of Britain); Allam Rabbani Saab (Suffi). Jack Dromey, (UNITE the Union); Greg Thompson (UNISON); Wes Streeting (NUS). Grogan (MP/Selby, Labour); Chris Huhne (MP, Shadow Home Secretary, Lib Dem); Jean Lambert (Green MEP). Ms Christine Lee (Confed of Chinese Associations); Ibrahim Dogus (Kurdish Community); Pastor Marcos Ravelo (Christian Community London) and Issac Bigio (Iberian American Alliance), Okito Tongomo (Chair Congolese Support Group); Adam Komarnicki (Federation of Poles). Darren Johnson, Chair of London Assembly.

3.00 After Rally Party Join us at the Big Chill House - see the flyer

Religious services confirmed for May 4th
10.00 Free Church Gospel Service Methodist; Baptist; Salvation Army; Pentecostal Central Hall Westminster, Storey’s Gate, London SW1H 9NHmap of location download flyer
10.30 Roman Catholic“Mass for Migrants”Westminster Cathedral, London SW1P 1QW map of location
10.15 Chinese ServiceSoho Outreach Centre, 166A Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JB map of location download flyers
11.00 Strangers into Citizens Anglican serviceAnglican servicePreacher: Bishop Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark St. Margaret’s Church, Parliament Square, London SW1P 3PAmap of location download flyer
10.00 Latin American Service Christian Church London, Fusion Centre, 22 Elephant & Castle, London SE1 6S map of location

Friday, May 01, 2009

Happy May Day