This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

So, the Olympics are over and the Paralympics are soon to begin. And I still find it odd to keep hearing the title “Tokyo 2020” in 2021. I know the reasons why, but it stops me every time.

It’s not the only thing that has been strange about these Olympics, either. I learned the other day that the Spanish national anthem doesn’t have any lyrics; they couldn’t agree what they should say, so they do without. Given the weirdness of some anthems, maybe that’s a good idea.

But, what’s amused me most about these Games was how the prophets of doom – “They should be cancelled because of the pandemic, etc.” – are now celebrating a brilliant couple of weeks of sport and competition … without a hint of memory or, even, irony.

It smacks of Arthur C Clarke’s observation about every revolutionary idea being filtered by critics through three phrases: first, “It’ll never work;” second, “It might work, but isn’t worth doing;” and, third, “I said all along it was a good idea.”

Well, I put my hand up to that one. I well remember questioning out loud why anyone would want a camera in their phone; a phone is a phone and a camera is a camera. That ended well.

 But, this is just how life is and how people are. If the Olympics are a test of many things – including stamina and determination – they certainly shine a light on character. You can’t just turn up in Tokyo, get off the settee and run a marathon. Some personalities are naturally optimistic and visionary; others need time and persuasion – like me and technology. A good society needs both early adopters and late developers: the former make things happen, the latter ask the hard questions.

One of the reasons I keep reading the Christian Gospels – apart from the fact that it’s my job – is that this diversity of character is taken seriously. The first followers of Jesus have their own distinctive personalities – which is why they often clash. Peter is impetuous and harbours illusions about how strong he is … until he discovers that he actually isn’t. Judas is impatient and wants to force Jesus’s hand into bringing the revolution now. At the cross, when the men do a runner, it’s the women who stay and attend to the painful detail of miserable death and surprising resurrection.

They all have their place and their role: early-adopting visionaries and hindsight-persuaded pessimists. The rash get slowed down and the slow get drawn along. Somehow it works.

Which is just as well, really. As the apostle Paul wrote and every athlete knows, the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you.”

Professor Lyndal Roper’s biography of Martin Luther was a brilliant read. Published in 2017, it looked at this remarkable,strange, brave and conflicted character from 500 years ago through a different, psychological, lens.

Now Roper has published a follow-up series of lectures and it is illuminating, disturbing, challenging and a great read. Like me (but for different reasons) she was present in Wittenberg in 2017 when Germany and the Church was celebrating the quincentenary of the birth of the Reformation in 1517 when Luther allegedly nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Schloßkirche.

So, she introduces the book with a glimpse into how this was celebrated – exhibitions, new studies and kitsch. The substance of the book is vivid. Roper digs deeply into the way Luther’s ‘brand’ was created and shaped in a way that looks terribly modern.

However, the chapter on Luther’s anti-Semitism is a hard read. I first went to Wittenberg with Rowan Williams in 2006 – it was freezing – and was shocked to be taken outside the Stadtkirche to see the depiction of the Judensau under the eaves. Luther’s anti-Semitism cannot be avoided, and Roper spares no mitigation.

If you thought Twitter invented the sheer nastiness of undisciplined and inhumane language in media, think again. What Luther published – and the language he used to attack his opponents – should surprise and shock, even today. The book gives lots of examples, but they are alarming, shaming and often very funny. Luther was not for the faint hearted.

Luther, like all of us, was complex and contradictory. Understanding him matters because his legacy – the theme of the book’s exploration – has made such an impact on the world. You can’t understand Europe, Germany, the development of world politics, Christianity or history without understanding Luther and his legacy.

This is a great, stimulating, illuminating and very accessible book.

And, if you put “Wittenberg” into the search on this blog, you’ll get a number of entries over the last decade or more and some photos. (You will also admire the fact that if you stand to one side of Luther’s statue outside the Marktkirche in Hannover and look back, it looks like he is doing Scottish country dancing.)

When I was preparing for ordination and studying theology at Trinity College, Bristol, a couple of friends set up a new society that met a number of times until enthusiasm ran out.

Although the teaching was mostly great, and the theology, etc. was engaging, no course can cover everything. Some of us were interested in stuff that couldn’t be covered by the curriculum. And it was to provide a forum for discussion of such themes that we set up the Eutychus Society.

Eutychus was the young man in Acts 20 who fell asleep while listening to the apostle Paul who, the text says, “talked still longer”. He fell out of the window and died. The joke was that he was bored with Pauline theology, and so were we. Well, the last bit wasn’t true (of course), but we did want to fill some gaps.

The society met once a month (I think) in the evening. It was formal. One of us would present a paper, there would then be a break, and then there would be a discussion. I would then type up the text of the paper on my new Amstrad word processor (Locoscript, if anyone remembers that), and I would then edit the ‘journal’ – including the discussion – and it would be distributed. And that’s where it got weird.

We decided to call the journal ‘The Window’. Our logo, front and centre on the front cover, was an open window. We felt we needed a Latin motto to complete our credibility. The problem was that none of us had learned any Latin. So, as the resident linguist, I made one up: “Nils fallem ex fenestra” – Let us not fall out of the window”.

It was a joke, OK? It was several months in before a tutor who did know Latin spotted it and was not happy. So he put it into correct Latin (which I have now forgotten) and the society didn’t last too much longer.

I still have a copy of one of the journals somewhere. I did a paper on ‘Babel re-visited: the use and abuse of language by Christians’. It was partly lighthearted; but, it’s serious questions still haunt me today.

This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Who’d have thought that the Summer Silly Season would begin with a social media debate about Latin?

The Education Secretary’s announcement that Latin will once again be taught in 40 more state schools ignited an explosion of opinions about its value. The cynics see it as a nod to conservative nostalgia, others see it as utterly pointless – teaching children a dead language. I have to confess, my first reaction was: if Latin can make you as happy as Mary Beard and Tom Holland, why not make everyone do it?

But, there is a serious argument to be had about learning ancient languages – and I speak as a former professional linguist who didn’t learn Latin or Greek at school and regrets it.

Yes, it’s understandable that some people think it a waste of time to learn something that has no economic development potential (unless, of course, you happen to have invented the Asterix franchise – to which I say hic, haec, hoc). But, despite current assumptions, economic value is not the ultimate goal of civilisation or the acme of human meaning. Character cannot be cashed out.

Educating a person is not the same thing as training her for a job. And isn’t it strange that the term ‘vocational courses’ – from the Latin vocare, of course – now usually refers to technical qualifications? Are our children really destined only to be cogs in an economic wheel – commodities in a competitive market? Or are they people whose mind and imagination need essentially to be teased and stretched and ignited and kindled – because, in Christian terms, they are made in the image of God … to be creative?

I well remember my first day at university – studying French and German, but not very good at either.  The professor told us bluntly that there is no point speaking a foreign language if you have nothing to say in it.

This goes to the heart of what is known as the Wisdom Literature in the Bible. The book of Proverbs nails it in its opening words when the writer extols “learning about wisdom and instruction, … understanding words of insight, … gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice and equity…” So, when his contemporaries marvel at the wisdom of the young Jesus, this is the tradition that explains what they meant.

So, the learning of Latin is, in and of itself, not a useful end. But, it is a means to an end – opening up the mind and imagination; giving access to the wisdom and follies of past civilisations; reminding us what education is really for.

Producat illum, I say: bring it on.

This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The Power of Words

“Actions speak louder than words”. I hear that quite a lot; but, although I know what is meant, I think it is wrong. To speak is to act. Language is performative – it does something, changes something. For example, it is the speaking of the vows in a wedding that makes the marriage.

The story goes that St Francis of Assisi told his friars to “Go out and preach the Gospel; use words, if you have to.” Well… if he did actually say it, was he right? We use words all the time to think and speak and make sense of the world; so, language matters – words matter. They do something. The fourth Gospel begins with: “In the beginning was the word…”. Go back to Genesis and the word is: “Let there be.”

A few weeks ago I convened an online conference led by scientists for a couple of hundred clergy about the current pandemic. We started off asking why we use particular metaphors as a lens through which to see or think about what is happening. In brief, why is it that in the UK we use language of conflict and combat – fighting, struggling, defeating, cowering, bravery, and so on – whereas in Germany, for example, they seem to have used imagery of “damming a flood” – particularly pertinent at the moment? An enemy is personalised, a flood isn’t.

We normally just accept the language presented as the frame through which we then interpret what is going on. But, like cancer and serious illness, words of combat and fight might not be the best. If your loved one dies, have they been defeated? Were they not up to it? You see what I mean? Words are never neutral and always carry consequences – think of the impact of blessing or cursing. They also have limits.

One of the metaphors I take from my reading of the Bible is that of “running the race that is before you” – and not just because the Olympics are on in Japan. This image insists on agency, seeing value in how I live and behave in whatever circumstances I find myself. Yet, racing conjures up different notions: a sprint is pure competition; a relay involves both competitiveness and cooperation.

At the heart of all this is an appreciation that we cannot control – or win – everything. Coming full circle, words matter because they unconsciously shape how we see and look and think and act. The question I am left with is: do I pay enough attention to the words and metaphors I use – and the way they shape the world?

This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on the morning after England beat Denmark in the Euros semi-final at Wembley.

“Stressful. Very, very stressful”. That’s what the commentator said during the England match last night. But, I wondered who he was referring to. The players looked OK – hard-working, disciplined and determined, but my heart was racing, my stomach felt rubbish, and (a bit like some recent dental treatment I had) I just wanted it to end. It isn’t easy being a spectator at times like this.

Powerful emotions all around the country as the seconds ticked away. But, isn’t it funny how those tense nervous headaches, the knots in the stomach, the sheer fear explodes so suddenly into joy and celebration and relief? All the angst gets forgotten in an instant. The pain evaporates in a blast of adrenalin. It’s just brilliant.

I remember the manager Gareth Southgate once saying: “We always have to believe in what is possible in life and not be hindered by history or expectations.” And, after 55 years of disappointment, his team managed both to ignore a history most of them can’t remember and not be over-awed by the expectations of a hungry nation. The key, he says, is character – character forged by absorbing all that’s thrown at them, but not being defeated by it. It’s quite an achievement – and we haven’t even won anything yet.

Yet, Gareth Southgate’s observation – and isn’t he the model of a confident humility? – triggered in my own mind a line uttered by an elderly German theologian who, referring to another crowd of hopeful, often-disappointed dreamers, said that “prophets don’t foresee realities; they anticipate possibilities.” In other words, there are no guarantees about the future, but it’s all there for the taking. To use two other words heard a lot last night, you can only approach the uncertain future with resilience and creativity. We absorb the wounds of past experience, but we don’t have to be defined by them.

I don’t know if football really is coming home – we have to wait until Sunday night and the Italians to know that. But, if football is about passion, love, hope, longing, struggling – physical and mental fight – then it’s already home. Because that’s what this week and last night have proved as the emotional rollercoaster has been ridden to breaking point. And there’s more to come.

I don’t know how I’m going to manage the final on Sunday. Probably with a copy of the Psalms on my knee – that wonderful collection of poems in which everything is given expression … from the depths of misery to the heights of promise.

On the other hand, I might just use the opportunity to learn to pray better.

This is the script of this morning’s Pause for Thought with Zoe Ball on BBC Radio 2.

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that if you make a film about a place, loads of people then want to go there to see with their own eyes. ‘The Dig’ is a case in point. I watched the film the day it came out and was captivated. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon burial ground at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk in 1939, and the movie – with Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes – explores how it nearly didn’t happen at all.

Visitor numbers have shot up since the film was launched – so, I do understand the draw to see the place. When I was a vicar in Leicestershire we had the shaft of a Saxon cross in the churchyard, dating back to the mid-800s. I baptised in a Norman font that had been there for a thousand years (Norman was the period, not its name). We drank wine out of an Elizabethan chalice. People through the ages in that village had seen and touched these objects as the world changed around them.

I guess there is something powerful about a physical connection with people in the past that makes us realise that Now is transient, and one day we will all be someone else’s past.

Next Saturday I’ll be ordaining 23 new clergy at Ripon Cathedral. I have encouraged them all to go down into the Saxon crypt, reputed to be the oldest stone-built place of Christian worship in England. The people who brought Christianity to these islands were brave and radical, giving up their lives for the sake of love and rejecting the brutal plays for power through violence that characterised much of life then. And they were here.

The past might be a foreign country in many ways, but we need physical things that connect us, that remind us of where we have come from, of who we are and what has shaped us. This should not come as a surprise to me: Christian faith is rooted in the conviction that God once took flesh, opting into the material world of stuff.

So, what is spiritual always needs a touching place.

This is the text of my Presidential Address to the Leeds Diocesan Synod this morning.

I am doing a run of Pause for Thoughts on Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 breakfast show at the moment. The first was last Tuesday. What happens with this slot is that I agree a theme with the editor the morning before, do the script, take on board any comments, then finalise before it gets “complied”. Sometimes I go rogue and write  two or three on different themes, so he has a choice – it all depends how fertile my imagination is on the day and how much headspace I have.

Last week I wrote a quick script about the Viking invasion of England and it’s impact on Whitby. Exactly! No surprise, then, when the editor texted me with words to the effect of: not a classic Baines script, not Radio 2 and could you try something else? One moral of this story is: never ever write for public media if you aren’t prepared to hear criticism, bin it and start again. Not bad advice for preaching, either, I think.

Anyway, what I had hoped to muse on in relation to Whitby and the Vikings was this. When we visited Whitby again a couple of months ago we spent some time in the ruins of the abbey. There is a plaque there that (rather blithely) says that the Vikings paid a visit in the late eighth century, after which there wasn’t a Christian community there until one returned two hundred years later. The Vikings sacked Lindisfarne in 793 and Whitby wasn’t far behind as the Scandinavians launched their first package tour to Britain.

Did you notice that timeframe? Two hundred years. Two centuries. Now, doesn’t that provide a bit of perspective on whatever is happening in the immediate present? (I was speaking – the same day as the Zoe Ball gig – with Imam Qari Asim at an online Common Purpose event for senior leaders in the north, and was asked about resilience in leaders. I responded with my own perspective-calibrator for when I hit major problems or challenges: in the context of the entire history of the known universe, will we survive this? The answer is usually ‘yes’.)

Now, I know I bang on about time and perspective a lot, but I make no apology for this. We cannot read the Scriptures unless we have a proper sense of how long time takes. The Exodus followed four hundred years of exile and growing oppression in Egypt – fine if you lived at the beginning or towards the end and, therefore, have a memory of ‘home’ to hold onto or some hope of resolution to inspire you; but, what if you were born two hundred years in and none of your preceding or succeeding three or four generations had known anything other than captivity? Following liberation from, the people spent a generation in the desert having to either die off or sort themselves out for what they had been freed for. Only then could they enter the land of promise and even begin to establish a different sort of society in which justice and mercy were the dominant contours of their common life.

So, we too easily read a plaque about two hundred years of defeated vacancy in Whitby and breeze over to the next bit of ‘interesting information’ without attempting to live into that experience and how it might have shaped our Christian ancestors in Yorkshire.

Why am I talking about this today? Well, I want to encourage us in this final Synod of the extended triennium to keep a sense of perspective as we look back at an extraordinary couple of years and look ahead to what the world – and the church – might look like in the next few years. We know in our heads that the only constant in this world is ‘change’, but we find it equally hard to navigate change (a) proactively and (b) where it is thrust upon us. Change is always changing: we either shape our future or we complain about being victims of other people’s decisions and choices. The former is healthier for both individuals and communities.

So, today I want to thank all of you who have given your time, attention, wisdom and gifts to the life of the Diocese of Leeds through its Diocesan Synod since 2017. Remember that in 2017 we were only three years old – a toddler Diocese in the grand scheme of things. We had begun to turn our synodical attention away from basic matters of constitutional detail onto a strategy for growth and development. I remember encouraging members of the synod to bring from deaneries the wider concerns of the Christian Church in a challenging society – not least in the wake of the extremely divisive Brexit referendum in 2016 and all that followed (and continues). Then the pandemic hit and we all entered uncharted territory, having to hold our ministry and mission in tension with government instruction, all with total uncertainty of how long this would last, what damage it might do, and what we might look like once we emerged at some point in the future.

So, my gratitude is neither superficial nor trivial. As the Bishop, I am so proud of the maturity, transparency and vision with which the Diocese and synod have navigated this strange land to this point. I hope many of you will stand again for the synod as we shape our future at a point when we cannot know what shape we are in (in terms of finances, congregations, demography, patterns of church life, and so on). Yes, we have learned a lot about how things can be done differently in a hybrid world, but we need all our collective energies, wisdom and discernment – to say nothing of courage and commitment – as we emerge into a new world.

I also hope you will encourage younger people to join us and get stuck in as, together in synod, we seek to be what Walter Brueggemann called “freshly faithful” in the next three years and beyond. We need to be a diocese of all the talents, so to speak.

But,speaking of talent, we also say farewell today to two of our number who have been integral to our development as a diocese. Canon Sam Corley, chair of the House of Clergy, is leaving us to go west of the Pennines (where the rain is wetter) to be the next Bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester. I know he will be greatly missed across the diocese in so many respects: vocations, synod, civic and business communities in Bradford and Leeds, and so on. Sam, you go with our love, gratitude and prayers as you begin episcopal ministry in a part of the world where the football is simply lamentable.

We also say good bye to Jerry Lepine, Dean of Bradford for the last seven years. Jerry came with no illusions about the size of the task, but has been positively integral to the essentially trinitarian innovation of working three cathedrals (and three deans) in one diocese. Jerry is notable for always being cheerful, whatever the challenge, and has brought a new shape and confidence to Bradford Cathedral. Civic representatives have expressed to me their misery that Jerry is to retire at the end of July. Jerry and Christine will be moving to Derby in retirement and they, too, go with our love and gratitude and prayers. (The process for identifying the next Dean has begun and final interviews are expected to take place in November, suggesting that we will have someone in place in the spring.)

Nothing stands still. Archdeacon Anne Dawtry has announced her retirement from 31 October, but this will not be her final synod; so, we won’t say farewell to her today.

Today we do have to attend to serious business. It is no secret that our Diocesan finances have been hit hard by the pandemic and its consequences. I am hugely grateful to Irving Warnett and the Finance, Assets and Investment Committee who work so hard on our behalf to ensure that our financial decision-making is strategic and not simply reactive. Geoff Park and Jonathan Wood are doing excellent work to manage money and other resources to best effect in extremely challenging circumstances. This synod will today hear more about this and how our Cost Review might develop further.

What is clear is that we will have serious decisions to make in the years ahead. We won’t always know whether we are making the right ones – life isn’t like that, and we don’t have the gift of knowing everything the future might hold that, had we known it, might have led to different decisions in the past. But, we honour the integrity of all involved as we wrestle with these hard questions about how to reduce cost and increase income across the board. Please pray for all involved.

Yet, as we know all too well, the world doesn’t stop while a pandemic runs its course. Today we will look at the Living in Love and Faith process as the Church of England – uniquely, I think – tries to navigate a course through questions of sexuality, gender and identity which are the subject of massive struggle and debate across society at the moment. Some people have assumed that LLF is aimed at smuggling in a decision to change the church’s teaching or to simply bolster the status quo. In fact, LLF is about bringing together Christians of different experience, conviction and perspective in order to place argument or discussion within relationship. It might be that no one changes their mind on these issues; but, it is hoped that their mind, attitude and thinking might at the very least be shaped by new relationships that allow honesty, integrity and faithful belief to be heard, witnessed and appreciated for what it is.

To this end, I am called back to Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi when he urges this divided community of young Christians to “have the same mind” – not, as you might think, the same opinion or view – which he goes on to say is “the mind of Christ” who laid aside his rights and claims, stepped down from a place of invulnerability, and opened himself to the complexities of a mucky world and complicated humanity. The focus here is on relationship and humility, not on uniformity. (I’ll resist the temptation to do another Bible study here.)

And all this is going on while we face the climate crisis and our responsibilities in it. The wider church is addressing governance, simplicity, emergence and effectiveness of our structures and processes. Some of us are involved deeply in some of these groups, and we need your prayers as well as your sympathy!

So, let me conclude. Earlier I quoted Walter Brueggemann when he speaks of us being “freshly faithful” as we emerge from the pandemic into an uncertain and different world and church. In another context he urges what he calls a “tenacious solidarity”. This tenacity is, of course, rooted in what the Czech philosopher Jan Patočka called a “solidarity of the broken”. We belong together and we are in this together. We need no reminder of our brokenness, for Christian faith starts with our brokenness as a reality (but moves on to redemption and renewal and resurrection). But, when I see the failure, blindness or weakness of my neighbour, I see through it to my own. Grace, generosity, mercy and love are what characterise Christians doing their business in and through the church, but always for the sake of the world we are called to serve in humility and confidence and with fragile faithfulness.

We turn to our business in this spirit. Even if the Vikings or a coronavirus do their damage, they do not have the final word. God does. And he who has called us is faithful.

This is the script of this morning’s Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show with Zoe Ball.

This has been a great last month for me with a new album by Imelda May and Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday (which doesn’t seem to have cheered him up at all). Then, this week one of my best bands, Crowded House, released ‘Dreamers are Waiting’. The problem with this album is that it makes me want to listen to the whole back catalogue stretching into the mid-1980s.

The title itself is evocative. Every generation needs dreamers – people who can see beyond the immediate challenges and imagine a different world in the future; people who  don’t agree that we just have to accept the way the world is now, but envisages something better. And, as the album title suggests, dreamers have to have the patience to wait and work for that future, not just stamp their feet when they don’t get immediate satisfaction.

One of the songs on the album goes even deeper. ‘Love isn’t hard at all’ is a beautiful song, but – and maybe this was the intention – the sentiment struck me as wrong. Love is hard. To love someone means to put them and their interests first. The Beatles knew that “you can’t buy me love” – it’s a relationship to be struck, not a commodity to be acquired.

Actually, the song goes on to get it right. “It feels like love isn’t hard at all” – I get that. When all is well or romance is high, loving feels easy. But, love demands more than sentiment or casual ease … as anyone who has ever loved another person knows all too well. Love is costly; love, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in a letter often read at weddings, “is patient, love is kind, … is not envious or boastful or arrogant, … it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

So, to go full circle, love lies at the heart of patient dreaming, too. Love draws us into a place of openness and vulnerability, a place where others might ridicule us or call us naive for our longing for mercy.

In other words, love hurts, but is worth the cost. So, I’m going to dream on and learn to wait.

This is the text of a speech in the House of Lords today in the debate on the Queen’s Speech, focusing on foreign policy and defence.

My Lords, I am grateful to follow the Noble Lord Campbell and for the Noble Lady the Minister’s comprehensive and ambitious speech introducing this debate. I welcomed the Government’s Integrated Review as a necessary attempt to hold together the diverse interests, challenges and opportunities facing the UK in the future.

One of the things I learned in my early career as a linguist at GCHQ was that words and assumptions need to be interrogated as they can be used to obscure reality. For example, in our context, an increased “cap” on nuclear weapons tells us nothing about numbers that might actually be intended or the rationale for them.

So, I think it was remarkable that reference in the Review to the European Union was almost completely missing. Now, this had been widely predicted as it seems that, for the Government, any such reference might be heard as an ideological Remainer capitulation. Yet, the rationale for a tilt towards the Indo-Pacific only makes sense to a point: it is not just what we are “tilting towards” that matters, but also what we are “tilting away from” that has to be considered.

Put the fractious and loaded politics of Brexit to one side for a moment: we are still going to need a strong common alliance with our European neighbours if, for example, China and Russia are to be rightly understood and handled by the democratic West. Pretending we can simply ignore the EU like a bad smell is ridiculous, and this ideological tilting at windmills needs to be challenged. To argue that we will engage with the EU by way of its member states – the Review singles out three: Germany, France and Ireland – is to impose our own understanding of how we think our European allies should organise themselves politically rather than engaging with them on their own terms. In so doing, we overlook the point that the EU is more than the sum of its parts and has agency in and of itself. To ignore this agency is to shrink the diplomatic networks that the Government has access to in support of its stated diplomatic objectives.

However, my Lords, as cuts to the Overseas Aid budget – and Yemen in particular – demonstrate, there is a potentially serious discrepancy between our rhetoric and our observed behaviour. We assert that we want to be a world leader in upholding the rule of law … having a number of times threatened in the last couple of years to abrogate our responsibilities under international law – not least in the recent Internal Market Bill and the Overseas Operations Bill. We might think we can simply move on, but that doesn’t mean that our damaged reputation and the obvious (to everyone else, that is) gap between our rhetoric and behaviour go unnoticed both internally and externally. It also reduces our credibility when we seek to hold other countries to the rule of law – and that impacts inevitably on global security in the longer term.

Ethical assumptions lie at the heart of our political and economic choices. Ethics matter.

My Lords, I come back to Russia. Chatham House published an immensely helpful paper this month addressing a number of myths and misconceptions about Russia. I commend it to the House. Basically, it urges a deep questioning of the assumptions that lie behind how we see, understand and strategise in relation to Russia. As we noted to our cost during the last five years negotiating our exit from the EU, any party to a relationship – especially a changing one – needs to develop an expertise in looking through the eyes of the other party, listening through their ears, hearing their language, and interpreting it in order to know where to begin in offering a language of proposition or proposal. Failure to learn the language of the other is both stupid and costly.

The Church has to do this work every day, not least because we have partnerships in parts of the world where the world looks very different and our behaviour is read very differently from our intention or expectation.

My Lords, my work as a Soviet specialist developed during the Cold War – for my children and grandchildren as remote as the English Civil War. But, for most of us here it has shaped our world and the way we see it. I am not convinced that the Integrated Review will lead us to a deeper understanding of why Russians see the world the way they do. Building back better demands looking more seriously at the foundations of history.

My Lords, the UK needs to see how we are seen and why. Can the Noble Lady the Minister assure us that the work of translation, interpretation and realism will be at the heart of implementation?