June 30, 2009
33 hours without sleep is too long, but I can never sleep on aircraft. On the delayed second leg from Istanbul to Astana I sat next to a very interesting Kazakh woman who teaches English at Almaty University and we talked for a long time. By the time we got to our hotel the day had begun and I didn’t dare sleep in case I wouldn’t wake up for my meetings.
But I spent the afternoon with a Kazakh friend who stayed with us for two months in Croydon a couple of years ago. We walked miles through Astana – the best way to see any city. But step off the kerb and you take your life in your hands! Traffic is heavy and it isn’t obvious whose rights to move have priority. But the weather was amazing. Because Astana is surrounded by a thousand miles of empty steppe, the horizon is very flat and the sky very big – which means that you can see the bad weather coming hours before it hits.
I have never seen such a sudden storm hit a place. The winds were so strong that fountains were turned off, trees were bent double and we had along coffee while we watched it pass. Not a great picture (taken through glass), but it gives a bit of an idea:
Back at the hotel I wrote my speech for tomorrow on The role of religious leaders in building peace based on tolerance, mutual respect and cooperation (which I will post later tomorrow once I have done it and know what I actually said…).
I then had a (for me, at least) really good interview with Jerome Taylor of the Independent who is here to cover the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. He had done his reading, knew his stuff, set the detail in a broad and informed hinterland and made the conversation at once enjoyable and informative for me. The main point for me was the importance of placing religious questions into the context set by wider geo-political and historico-cultural considerations: discussion of ‘religious’ questions makes no sense in isolation from the rest of the world.
It sounds obvious, but it is easily missed.
June 30, 2009
I left home at 8am on Monday morning, caught a delayed flight (with two colleagues) to Istanbul, missed the connection to Astana, got transferred to a later flight and got here just a couple of hours ago. Since then I have been dealing with administrative matters and now daren’t sleep for fear of skewering my constitution for the hard work of the next few days.
But here is the view from the 16th floor window of my hotel, overlooking a cityscape that didn’t exist when I first came here six years ago:
Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan. In 2003 a Congress was initiated by President Nursultan Nazarbayev and tomorrow the Third Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions begins in the remarkable Palace of Peace and Accord – which is a pyramid designed by Sir Norman Foster three years ago. I represented the Archbishop of Canterbury at the first (2003) and second (2006) Congresses and am filling the same shoes this time, too. However, this time I have two colleagues with me, so won’t feel like ‘Jonny No-mates’ when faced with the hordes from the Vatican.
This Congress brings together a remarkable array of top religious leaders from all over the globe. We are talking about the two Chief Rabbis from Israel, top Muslims from everywhere, the Ecumenical Patriarch, top Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and lots of others. If the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury were here, you’d have hit interreligious jackpot!
It is easy to dismiss what I have sometimes rudely called the ‘inter-faith circus’ where the same people meet in lots of exotic places around the world and say how good it is to talk. But it actually is remarkable that the Kazakhs can pull together the people they do … who are then compelled to sit in the same space and listen to things that make them uncomfortable. The final declarations of events such as this can easily be dismissed as ‘motherhood and apple pie’ resolutions, but they do then exist as agreed statements by religious leaders and this builds up over time a body of consent.
The hard task, however, is how to get this stuff down to the grassroots. Religious leaders can agree all they like, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to changes in attitude or behaviour closer to the ground where religious communities actually live and struggle and fight for daily bread. This challenge is one that I will be reiterating in my speech in tomorrow’s opening plenary session.
And today? I am meeting a friend for lunch, doing some sightseeing this afternoon, meeting a journalist for an interview this evening and then sleeping for ages so I can be fresh for tomorrow’s start. I will comment as we go and will also tackle some of the political questions around this sort of initiative later on.
June 28, 2009
Apparently some Christian doctors are fed up with the nonsense about health workers not being allowed to pray or offer spiritual care of patients. Or are we supposed to call them ‘clients’ now? Stories have emerged in the last few years of nurses getting into trouble for offering to pray with sick patients.
Well, according to the BBC website:
Doctors are demanding that NHS staff be given a right to discuss spiritual issues with patients as well as being allowed to offer to pray for them. Medics will tell the British Medical Association conference this week that staff should not be disciplined as long as they handle the issue sensitively. The doctors said recent cases where health workers had got into trouble were making people fearful.
The problem is, according to the doctors:
The General Medical Council code suggests that discussing religion can be part of care provided to patients – as long as the individual’s wishes are respected. But at the start of this year the Department of Health issued guidance warning about proselytising. It said that discussing religion could be interpreted as an attempt to convert which could be construed as a form of harassment.
The debate goes a bit further before (inevitably) the tiny National Secular Society gets invited to put its oar in:
We have to be very careful about how we tread on this issue. If we say it is ok for doctors and nurses to provide spiritual care and pray for patients it can all too quickly get out of hand and we will have staff preaching on the wards. The risk is that it makes patients feel uncomfortable. They may feel compelled to say ‘yes’ thinking their care will suffer. Really, it is an infringement of their privacy. I think we should be very clear that patients should have to ask for this, not offered it.
But Joyce Robins, co-director of Patient Concern said:
Most complaints from patients are about being on a conveyor belt of care. They don’t rate with staff as real people. Offering to say a prayer is a warm and kind thought. Most patients will accept it as such. It is no more offensive than being offered a sleeping pill. You can say thanks but that sort of thing isn’t my cup of tea. But if Christian doctors see this as an opportunity to promote their faith to people at a time when they are particularly vulnerable, that is totally unacceptable.
Two things spring to mind here. First, proselytism in such circumstances has never ever been advocated by any Christian with a shred of sensitivity or good theology. But for doctors or nurses to hold back from taking seriously the spiritual needs of patients is a nonsense of the first order. That is like treating a patient as ‘the cancer in bed one’ or the ‘broken leg in Ward C’ instead of a fully human being whose spirituality influences their mental and physical wellbeing.
Secondly, the NSS just doesn’t get the blindingly obvious fact that negation of a religious worldview does not leave some neutral territory occupied by atheists or secularists. This nonsense really needs to be knocked on the head. Take away a religious/Christian perspective and you are left with a particular perspective on life, death, illness, being human and so on that is positively shaped by particular assumptions – that are no more valid or invalid than Christian /theistic assumptions.
Of course doctors and nurses should be free to pray for patients where such is requested or where the appropriateness is evidenced by the case history and what is known about the patient. Of course no one should be forced to accept prayer inappropriately. Of course the patient should be protected from mad people – be they religious or atheist. And of course Terry Anderson and the NSS should realise how out of touch they are – speaking only with the authority of a few thousand people on their register.
I would love to see a National Secular Society response to the article by Paul Vallely in June 2009′s Third Way (which doesn’t seem to be available online just now) entitled Being Reasonable. In it he questions why bodies like the NSS ‘spend almost all their energy on rubbishing religion rather than telling us what distinctive insights humanism has to offer contemporary society.’ He decries the ‘false polarity between an intolerant rationalism and an oppressive religiosity.’ He concludes with an appeal for ‘an articulation from the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society of the distinct contribution that humanism can make to modern moral dilemmas.’ He goes on:
The challenge to them is to set out that vision in entirely positive terms which can be comprehended in common by those of all faiths and none. They must do it without constantly resorting to negatives, statements of what they are against or contrasts of the things their vision is free from.
June 27, 2009
Today we went to a wedding in a small Hampshire village. The groom’s mother conducted the service in the beautiful ancient church and the weather responded well to the glorious attire of many guests. I didn’t manage to get any pictures, though. Which, being translated, means: I forgot to take any.
As at many weddings the second Bible Reading was from chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the Christians at Corinth – the one about love. It was the last verse that got me thinking while we were waiting to leave the church for the reception. It reads:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I once heard the Charismatic translation of this:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is tongues.
And this memory got me to thinking about how many other words might illustrate our Christian preoccupations. For example:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is … sex.
Or ‘money’. Or ‘being more right about things than my neighbour’. Or ‘liturgy’. You probably get the idea.
So, any bright suggestions to fill a moment of vague curiosity? This could be interesting, revealing… or just a little bit worrying.
June 26, 2009
When Buddy Holly died in a plane crash on 3 February 1959 the young songwriter Don McLean wrote his searing and enigmatic tribute, American Pie. (This was one of the songs I was doing when I was arrested for busking on the Paris Metro when I was 20.) The death of Holly was the ‘day the music died’.
When John Lennon was shot on 8 December 1980 a part of my adolescent life closed down. I had grown up in Liverpool with the Beatles as the soundtrack companion and we were still hoping for some sort of reunion one day. The angry resentments of Lennon would never now mature into new avenues of musical creativity and poetry. Something died with Lennon.
Last night Michael Jackson died at 50 - 10 years older than Lennon and 28 years older than Buddy Holly was when he passed away. It is perhaps not surprising that the dominant mood in the media this morning is focused on the sadness of Jackson’s lonely life. It almost feels like a mercy that this troubled man has been released from a life that brought him a host of personal problems and public humiliations.
Michael Jackson was bullied by his father, propelled into stardom and fame before he even reached his teens and even seemed to spend the rest of his life trying to recover the phantom of a missed childhood. The wonder of his music and dancing was always overshadowed by the prurience of a public that loved to build up the artist and humiliate the man.
When Jackson announced his intention to attempt yet another career revival with fifty concerts in London, I wasn’t the only one to think this was ridiculous. No surprise, then, that they began to get cancelled before they even began. But the speed with which tickets were sold at least gave the hope that Jackson might be wanted more for his music than the stories of weirdness that always accompanied him.
Jackson won the spoils of stardom, but he also paid a heavy and miserable price. Despite all the weirdness and his complex inability to cope with the world as it is (to say nothing of his body as it was), he was a human being made in the image of God and infinitely valuable – regardless of the judgements of those whose miserable lives are spent trying to destroy those who achieve something in life.
May he rest in a peace he never knew in life. And may he be remembered above all else for his wonderful artistry and the gift he gave the world through his music.
June 25, 2009
‘Innovation’ isn’t always a welcome word in church circles. For some it simply means that to do anything new means selling out the past. In business, however, innovation is what fires the blood with new oxygen, enabling the company to put energy into its work – remaining true to its past and its ethos, but moving out into new areas and claiming some new ground. It means taking seriously the changing world and adapting to it in order to enrich it.
This week saw the Annual General Meetings of the Ecclesiastical Insurance Office and Group in Gloucester. For the last few years the company has been reassessing its work and structures, leading to a re-branding among other ‘innovations’. The Ecclesiastical, founded over 120 years ago and based in Gloucester, is wholly owned by the Allchurches Trust and ploughs back millions of pounds every year into the Church of England through Allchurches. The company (with ‘children’ in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland) is founded on a serious Christian (Anglican) ethical foundation and its ethos imbues its working practices as well as its handling of customers and products. The company’s employees also contribute time and money in supporting other local and national charities.
One of the innovations brought in by the CEO, Michael Tripp, has been a big fun event for the whole company on the evening before the AGMs. Last year saw a rounders competition when the Board/Executive Team (captained pathetically by me) lost under the weight of dubious refereeing decisions by an Australian colleague. Revenge for sending so many convicts to the colonies, I guess. Not that we were bitter, you understand…
This year we had a schools sports day at a university campus. Being unable to move quickly enough out of the line of fire, I found myself captaining what was known as The Bored Meeting. We put our energy, skill and graceful elegance into events such as the egg & spoon race, the skipping race, relay running, the sack race and other embarrassments. Leading from the front, I came in fourth in the first heat of the skipping race and secured a place in the final. This followed the company’s Transformation Director, Graham Johnson’s thrusting first-heat victory in the egg & spoon event. After that we plummetted into ignominious failure – the new Finance Director even going so far as to drop the baton in the relay race. Enough said, I think…
Anyway, we got into two finals – despite having an Australian, a Canadian and a Scot in the squad. Graham Johnson (in the sun glasses, above) lost his nerve and came in last in the egg & spoon fumble. Rather than repeat my skip to glory, we nominated the head of the UK work, Steve Wood (missing from the photo, but I’ll provide incriminating evidence in an update), to skip through the final for us. Er… he didn’t. Too tall for a short rope, he did the decent thing and let the other teams win.
Having lost everything (in the interests of company morale, of course), we challenged the overall winners to a tug of war. They began with a strong pull and seemed about to over-power The Bored Meeting when we decided to put down our drinks and pull with both hands. We tugged our way to triumph and got to the bar to celebrate a significant marker having been put down in the market: don’t mess with Ecclesiastical – we’ll pull the grass from under your feet. Or something like that.
Over 250 employees joined in the fun, the bar, the barbecue and the games. Wonderful for the company and just a good laugh. Do any other companies/businesses do things like this? Or do they have decorum, sobriety and dignity instead..?
June 22, 2009
Posted by nickbaines under media
| Tags: Aaqil Ahmed
, General Synod
, religious broadcasting
, Sandford St Martin Trust
|  Comments
Recently the BBC appointed Aaqil Ahmed to be its new Head of Religion and Ethics and Commissioning Editor for Religion TV. This appointment has provoked a good deal of heated response and debate, not least in the media. It seems now that a motion has been put down for the forthcoming meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England in which the appointment of Ahmed will be questioned as part of a wider complaint about the diminution of serious religious broadcasting in the UK.
According to reports in today’s newspapers (heralded in a fair piece on Friday by Jonathan Wynne-Jones of the Telegraph), the following seems to be the case:
1. The motion before the Synod calls on the BBC to explain the decline in its coverage of religion and its failure to provide enough programming during key Christian festivals.
2. The document accompanying the motion criticises the lack of regular religious programmes on BBC television and alleges that Mr Ahmed, a Muslim, displayed anti-Christian bias while in charge of commissioning at Channel 4. “The regular BBC Television coverage of religion consists of just two programmes… BBC 3 tackles religion rarely but does so from the angle of the freak show, and many of the Channel 4 programmes concerned with Christianity, in contrast to those featuring other faiths, seem to be of a sensationalist or unduly critical nature.”
3. Concern is then expressed that “from this point of view it is worrying that the Channel 4 religion and multicultural commissioning editor, Aaqil Ahmed, who is a Muslim, is soon to be responsible for all the religious output from the BBC.” Why? Read on…
4. Last summer, Channel 4 screened a week of special programmes on Islam including a feature-length documentary on the Quran, and a series of interviews with Muslims around the world talking about their beliefs. The main Christian documentary broadcast for Easter that year, called The Secrets of the 12 Disciples, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Pope’s leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.
5. This shows that traditional religious broadcasting is under threat and that ”the appointment of Aaqil Ahmed gives rise to an element of concern… He has been involved with programmes that have tended to look at the fringes of Christianity where it can be brought into disrepute.”
6. While the BBC’s total output of television hours has doubled over the past 20 years, the amount of religious coverage has fallen by nearly 15 per cent, from 177 hours in 1988 to 155 in 2008.
Well, I met Ahmed briefly after the Sandford St Martin Awards at Lambeth Palace recently. He was displeased with my lack of overwhelming welcome for his appointment during my keynote speech at the event and tried to leave without speaking to me. I can well understand his misery at the way his appointment has been received in some quarters, but I had actually gone out of my way to note his appointment (and the promotion of Christine Morgan in the same department), offer critical friendship and say the blindingly obvious: that I would be watching to see how things develop. This was heard negatively, but the petulence that followed was a bit sad. Ahmed needs friends and allies and won’t win them by responding the way he did.
But, the appointment of Ahmed as a Muslim is not the problem. It is entirely possible that a non-Christian theist will give better attention to Christianity than an atheist. What matters is that a good commissioning editor does his job properly, recognising that religion matters, that this country has a deeply Christian heritage, that most of the population have Christian roots (if not commitments) and that Christianity has to be taken seriously.
Indeed, according to the Telegraph report, Samir Shah, a non-executive director at the corporation, said that the programme-maker’s critics might be surprised to find that he raises the profile of religion at the BBC. “I think that they’ll find that ultimately it will be a Muslim who drives up the amount of Christianity on the schedules,” Mr Shah said.
But the real question is this: will Ahmed bring to coverage of Christianity the same intelligent and explanatory approach he has brought to coverage of Islam and the Quran at Channel 4? It seems to me that coverage of Islam assumes ignorance on the part of viewers and, therefore, seeks to explain before offering a critique. When it comes to Christianity, however, understanding is (mistakenly) assumed and the critique is almost always wholly negative – and frequently weak. Why, for example, does coverage of the Quran use sympathetic voices whereas the series on Christianity gives voice to critics – not to people from within the faith? A series on the Bible planned for 2011 (the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible – which shaped the English language and people) has now been ditched.
Even Don Maclean has joined in the fray. According to a report in the Mail on Sunday (!), he commented that “you don’t see any programmes on Anglicanism that don’t talk about homosexual clergy and you don’t see anything on Roman Catholicism that don’t talk about paedophiles… They seem to take the negative angle every time.”
A satirical take on this can be read on the Ship of Fools website in an article following the ‘sacking’ of Michael Wakelin from the job that Ahmed will now assume (in revised form):
For almost 70 years, the BBC played it far too safe when it came to religion. It’s hard to believe, but only people with a long-term commitment to religious broadcasting (and a devoted faith) were appointed head of BBC Religion. Canon David Winter, Rev Dr Colin Morris, Rev Ernie Rea… an endless procession of dog collars ran the show.
But the new millennium heralded a fresh, enlightened dawn. In 2001 Alan Bookbinder, avowedly agnostic and (refreshingly) with no particular commitment to religious broadcasting, was given the hot seat.
Some doubted the move, but the thinking of the BBC’s top brass was visionary. They took as their model Sir David Attenborough. He has absolutely no interest in wildlife and conservation, and that’s what makes his programmes so compelling. And Alan Titchmarsh is a self-confessed, feet under the desk, office type who can’t bear the outdoors. His highly popular programmes on gardening and the natural world are the result.
I hope the Synod will avoid silly scaremongering about religious broadcasting and that only people who know what they are talking about will be allowed to speak in the debate. The media world is changing rapidly and protected space will lead only to acquiescence to religious narrowcasting. It is not enough for the Synod to repeat well-meant mantras deploring falling standards without offering serious proposals for how religious broadcasting ought to be shaped in the new and emerging worlds of digital media.
June 21, 2009
A few days ago I commented on my concerns about the handling of the Bible in churches and the problems associated with merely displaying passages on a screen or notice sheet. An interesting conversation ensued, but with the usual ‘either-or’ assumptions about what I was querying. Yes, different people need different approaches, but questions remain about the use of the text itself in public worship and what effect the medium has on the message itself.
This morning I was with friends in an urban church in a tough area of South London – a church that has grown in just over three years from an average congregation of 15 to one of around 80. This morning the congregation was over 80 and multiethnic – a wonderful place in which the church is growing a worshipping and serving community. When I licensed the vicar there I had no idea if it would work or not – and I feared the challenge and stress might damage the vicar. This morning I felt very close to tears witnessing such an encouraging community worshipping and belonging together, reaching out in welcome to newcomers.
During the service I was reflecting further on the phrase I used in my earlier post: ‘liturgical osmosis’. I had questioned whether people learn the faith (and the Bible) merely by absorbing some of it during disconnected services, but without realising it. I was urging a more serious approach – after all, I would be rightly suspicious if my children went to school and the teacher simply hoped that something of a disconnected discourse might either accidentally or incidentally enable the child to learn – for example – to read or count or learn grammar. We expect teachers to take ‘learning’ seriously and teach in such a way as to make learning more rather than less likely.
However, I want to redress the balance a little by urging that ‘liturgical osmosis’ be taken as seriously as other forms of ‘deliberate’ learning/teaching. We are constantly absorbing not only sensations and feelings, but ideas and constructs that impact on and shape our mindset and, therefore, our behaviour.
For example, this morning we sang that unfortunate song, O let the love of God enfold you. Why unfortunate? The chorus line asks God to ‘come and fill your lambs’ – but doesn’t say what with. Sage and onion stuffing?! It is a very odd line to sing without feeling weird. So, why do we keep singing it – especially when the post-resurrection Jesus enjoins Peter to ‘feed’ and ‘tend my lambs/sheep (John 21), but not to ‘fill’ them?
Perhaps a better example of what I am saying can be seen in the great Easter song we used to sing a lot in my church when I was a vicar in Rothley, Leicestershire: Graham Kendrick‘s In the tomb so cold they laid him. The first verse goes like this:
In the tomb so cold they laid him, death its victim claimed; powers of hell, they could not hold him – back to life he came.
Nothing wrong with that, you might think. Except, of course, that Jesus did not come back to life. As Paul puts it, ‘God raised Christ from the dead’. But if you keep singing about ‘coming back to life’, it isn’t too long before you are thinking at a subliminal level that when we die we simply come back to life. We don’t. Christian hope/trust is rooted not in an outcome, but in a person: that if God raised Christ from death, so will he raise us also. The rest is detail.
As Tom Wright has noted many times, Christians are really confused about death, resurrection, heaven, ‘spirituality’ and the cosmos, etc and slightly dodgy songs don’t help. Wesley noted that we learn our theology from what we sing rather than from what we read or hear in a sermon. Or, to put it more bluntly: sing rubbish and you’ll believe rubbish.
So, those who are responsible for leading worship carry a great weight of responsibility in terms of both content (theology) and form (the choice of medium). Perhaps more is going on than sometimes the quick choice of songs or hymns might suggest.
In other words, the content of what we believe/assume is shaped by what we red/sing/hear/imbibe – which means that the message cannot be divorced from the various media in which it is represented.
June 20, 2009
I still haven’t read Oliver O’Donovan’s widely praised book, A Conversation Waiting to Begin, but I have read many reviews of it. But I have just read a review that marks the seriousness and grace with which the subject of homosexuality and the Church ought to be treated.
Have a look at More than a via media and see what you think.
June 20, 2009
Posted by nickbaines under politics
| Tags: Bruce Cockburn
|  Comments
Iran is in a turmoil that was inconceivable even a month ago. Today Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, was shouted down at Southwark Cathedral whilst urging expatriates to return to their homeland despite a lack of reassurance about their personal safety or prospects for the rule of law. In just over one week I will be back in Kazakhstan for a global inter-religious congress – a country that has moved in under two decades from being a disastrous republic of the Soviet Union into a successful and competitive world player – where admiration for British democracy might be a little tempered by the goings-on at Westminster in recent weeks. And the joyful humiliation of MPs continues in the UK, watched with incredulity from outside and embarrassment from within.
And here I am, at my desk, with Bruce Cockburn angrily singing his critique of western political and militarysupport for dodgy Central American regimes in the 1980s: They call it democracy.
Apparently, everybody in the UK is furiously angry with our profligate, dishonest and greedy politicians. That might be true – in the same way that everybody in the UK is a ‘loyal subject’ of Her Majesty. Maybe I just mix in the wrong circles (ordinary people in ordinary places – this morning with a group made up largely but not exclusively of pensioners), but I don’t see the anger we are being told we are feeling. I do hear expressions of wishing we could move on and wondering about who is doing the really important political stuff at Westminster while the feeding frenzy continues.
Now, I realise that I will be told (very firmly and without hint of possible contradiction) that I am out of step with the public mood. Again, that might be true – but who says? And how would they know? If I am out of step with the ‘public mood’, then I am not going to apologise. I hadn’t realised until recently that the ‘public mood’ was the ultimate arbiter of morality and public truth – that to dissent from the ‘public mood’ was to be, by definition, wrong and suspect.
The ‘public moood’ would have lynched suspected paedophiles in Portsmouth a couple of years ago. The ‘public mood’ voted Hitler into power in the 1930s. The ‘public mood’ is probably the least trustworthy guide to moral decision-making that could possibly be found. Ask a random sample of the public if they are angry with MPs and there is little alternative but to concur; ask what people think or feel about MPs and the answer might be a little bit more nuanced.
I am worried about all this, not because I think MPs have behaved well or deserve special treatment outside of normal financial ethics. Abuses of expenses are indefensible – but so is inaccurate and sensational pillorying of particular MPs without adequate explanation of the criteria being cited. For example, do we really expect to be well served by MPs without providing them with office back-up (PA, secretary, stationery, phones, etc)? Yet when these figures are deducted from some of the huge numbers featuring in reports, the figures look less offensive. I object to being told that an MP is ‘a scandal’ for claiming half a million pounds in ‘expenses’ over the last five years when the charge is made in complete ignorance of what is needed by way of office support for our elected representatives to do their job. This is mere sensationalism.
I said I was worried. I am. I am worried about the effects of all this on the sort of people who might now put themselves forward for public office. (There is an awful lot of smug self-righteousness around in propsective parliamentary candidates right now.) Are we going to get the best quality of people (of ability and integrity) to put themselves forward for an office that will evoke scorn, suspicion and potential humiliation?
Is now the time for MPs to have their expenses scrutinised by an independent body, be asked to repay any anomalies, commit to investigation by the police any criminal activity – and then let Parliament get back to doing what we need it to do: govern the country and have MPs scrutinising legislation rather than scrutinising their expenses sheets? Hasn’t the feeding frenzy now gone far enough?
Or is it just easier to be part of the baying mob, directing our imputed ‘anger’ at someone else, prolonging the embarrassment of ‘privileged’ people and ignoring the consequences to our democracy and its institutions?
Oh, and by the way, is there not something ‘morally dubious’ about my local ‘newspaper’, The Croydon Advertiser, standing on its moral superiority in relation to MPs while taking advertising money from pimps engaged in trafficking women and exploiting them for sex? Just asking…
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