Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Marking time..

From Brother Ivo:

So what is it about the historic figure of Thomas Cranmer that makes him "the greatest Archbishop of Canterbury" in the eyes of the Peter Broadbent the Bishop of Willesden for the time being?

Well it plainly wasn't his human perfection.

Cranmer lived in interesting times and found himself bobbing like a cork though the maelstrom of Reformation politics and being overwhelmed by the wills of monarchs un-constrained by the Human Rights Act.

It took him eight years to complete his first degree. He served a monarch and church predecessor who were as vain as they were educated. He broke his vow of chastity by a secret marriage and his vow of obedience to the Pope and the Roman Church by consorting with heretics.

He allowed himself to become the tool of Thomas Boleyn in his quest to put his daughter on the throne, using her undoubted sexual allure with which she drew the King and herself into adultery.

When she was unable to provide the male heir, Cranmer was enough of a conservative to never consider the possibility that the princess Elizabeth, whom he had baptised, should become the Monarch, though happily she did, becoming arguably England's greatest ruler.

He took her mother's confession before her execution but continued to serve a King who was becoming increasingly monstrous in his person and his pride.

He was complicit in the destruction of the Public Services (aka the Monasteries) to which his master brought destructive zeal. Had Arthur Scargill and Peter Broadbent been living at the time they would have considered Cranmer the Lord Tebbitt to Henry's Margaret Thatcher. Both would probably have perished as leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace – and Cranmer would still have stayed loyal to the increasingly powerful king.

With the accession of Edward VI he accepted a theological lurch towards the radical which he had previously struggled to moderate, and when the sickly king gave way to Mary, he attempted to reach accommodation with her, by recanting certain views. When he failed to avoid the martyr's fate, he redeemed his vacillations with a bravery that secures his reputation.

Despite this all, his writings offered an expression of theology that manages to draw those of different traditions into a degree of accord which epitomises English inclusiveness focused upon tradition.

The mantle of Cranmer's use of language and shaping of ideas passed to William Shakespeare. Through his historical plays, this writer also rose from modest beginnings and attempted to give form to complex ideas and to offer a commentary on contemporary politics, while saying something about our essential selves. He recognised that fallible rulers often have a "Project" – in the case of the Tudors, to bring peace to the realm whose dynasty, for all its faults, put an end to the Wars of the Roses which had devastated the country for decades, to the detriment of the ordinary subject.

In the exercise of his dramatic art, Shakespeare gave voice to deeper truths by putting his words into the mouths of an array of historical characters supplemented by fictional ones. When we contemplate the characters of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Henry IV or Richard II, we are more likely than not to allow ourselves to be influenced by the imagination of a theatrical chancer who was part poet, part Arthur Daley.

Brother Ivo wonders if Bishop Pete boycotts Shakespeare?

The Bard puts his own thoughts, words, philosophies and analyses into the mouths of sundry characters for his own purposes. All of us "know" that the characters are expressing the author's views but we place ourselves into his hands so that through the temporary suspension of our belief, we may be drawn to a better understanding of contemporary issues.

Bishop Pete has now opened his twitter account to His Grace. That is a welcome olive branch. Brother Ivo hopes that His Grace will accept it.

The writing of this blog has been a huge labour of love, sacrifice and Christian witness. We know from time to time His Grace's ashes have cooled, and it has been in recognition of this that Brother Ivo has offered his own modest efforts to ease the load.

His Grace may need his time of reflection, and his communicants must pray for him whilst he does so.

There may be good and proper reasons why His Grace needs to reduce his labours. The opinions of him who may or may not be the greatest Bishop of Willesden cannot be one of them.

(Posted by Brother Ivo)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bishop Pete of Willesden and the arrogant 'Tory Right'

This week His Grace tried to 'follow' the Rt Rev'd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, on Twitter, only to discover that he had been blocked.

On enquiring politely as to the reason, His Grace was told that he was blocked 'years ago for (his) arrogance in taking the name of our greatest ever Archbishop for party political purposes'.

This came as something of a surprise.

Not least because Bishop Pete is a reportedly a card-carrying member of the Labour Party, as well as being a rather vociferous republican, and isn't entirely averse to using his position within the Church of England to advance his own party political purposes.

And neither is His Grace opposed to Bishop Pete doing so.

Even when, as Martin Sewell pointed out, he appropriates the name of Spurs for his own religio-political ends.

Bishop Pete's riposte was that 'Thomas Cranmer belongs to all Reformed Catholics and evangelicals, and shaped the CofE for good'.

His Grace has no problem with that: he agrees with Bishop Pete that the Church of England transcends party politics. But what is wrong with a bishop advocating a particular political worldview? Doesn't Bishop Pete effectively do that? Does the name of Spurs belong only to lefty Anglicans?

Bishop Pete is apparently all in favour of people of faith engaging in the political process, but his objection to His Grace is that his 'Tory Right approach is it's OK for Church to be in politics, provided it's their politics'.

His Grace has never, ever articulated any such thing: he is very much in favour of Socialist Christians and Liberal Democrat Christians and UKIP Christians and Green Christians and Communist Christians and BNP Christians and Monster Raving Loony Christians - provided that their religious beliefs and political praxes may be scrutinised, challenged and robustly debated. It is not a sin to remonstrate in church in order to discover a deeper political truth.

But Bishop Pete is of the view that His Grace believes 'it's OK for Church to be in politics, provided it's (his) politics'.

And he is blocked.

Which is a shame, because His Grace enjoys good-humoured and very congenial relations with other prominent lefty clerics, namely south-London priest Giles Fraser; the Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson; and the Bishop of Bradford Nick Baines. And he is permitted to follow dozens of bishops and archbishops with whom he has never exchanged a word.

But not Bishop Pete.


His Grace is going to ponder this matter very carefully, and go silent for a few days.. or weeks.. or permanently. For he never intended to besmirch the sacred memory of 'our greatest ever Archbishop'. Indeed, he is of the view that some of the thousands upon thousands (indeed two million) people who have read this blog since its inception seven years ago may have been inspired to discover more about the complex life and nuanced beliefs of the man; or to consider Anglican moral theology a little more deeply; or to reflect upon the murky and muddled Erastian doctrine of the supremacy of the state in ecclesiastical causes; or to have heard the gospel of salvation for the first time and learned a little bit more about Jesus.

But if all he has conveyed over these years is that the 'Tory Right approach is it's OK for Church to be in politics, provided it's their politics', then something has gone wrong. Not least because His Grace is ever so slightly more Whig than Tory.

And he has grievously offended a gracious bishop of the Church of England, and he didn't even know that he had done so.

Please bear with His Grace while he meditates and prays.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dr Kermit Gosnell – the silence of the mainstream media


Human beings seem to have a fascination with what might be called ‘the edges of humanity’.

Observed behaviours in the animal kingdom generate theories of how we came to be as we are: we are intrigued by stories or theories about Neanderthals or Bigfoot, and we are often invited to consider that animals are ‘just like us’. Many in the animal rights movement want to blur the distinction between the human and non-human, even to the extent of conferring legal rights upon other creatures of varying degrees of sentience.

There is a similar darker fascination at the other end of the spectrum.

We devour stories about inhuman ‘monsters’ like the Moors Murderers, Jeffrey Dahmer and Dr Joseph Mengele. And when there is insufficient news of the known, we are attracted to speculative accounts of Jack the Ripper, or fictionalise human depravity, thrilling ourselves with characters like Hannibal Lecter.

With such widespread appetite and market for the cruel, the bestial, the chilling and the macabre, it is all the more remarkable that the mainstream media in both the USA and the United Kingdom have passed up on one of the most horrifying criminal cases in recent history. It is the Philadelphia trial of Dr Kermit Gosnell.

It is a story more gruesome than that of Dr Harold Shipman or Mick Philpott, and has so many aspects of shock and horror that it seems almost inconceivable that it has not attracted the attention of the tabloid press which normally falls into a feeding-frenzy when offered such widespread evidence of greed, professional malpractice, illegality, exploitation, ghoulishness and moral vacuity.

According to the Grand Jury Report in The Atlantic the doctor earned over $1.5 million a year running a clinic whose hygienic standards would shame that of a third world slum doctor.

When the FBI entered the premises in 2010, they were shocked to find it had cat faeces on the floor, blood stains on the operating couches and unsterile instruments. He routinely infected patients during operations, some with venereal disease, because he used the same instruments on multiple patients without sterilising them between operations.

There was no tested oxygen machine, the key to the emergency exit had been lost, and the resuscitation equipment did not function.


The unqualified staff he employed have given first-hand evidence of how he set them work with inadequate training to anaesthetise his patients while he wasn't present. His drugs were often out-of-date and his staff, some as young as 15, had to manage with poor or no supervision. One of his staff described the way in which she delivered drugs and anaesthetic on a trial-and-error basis.

One of his patients died and over the years emergency treatment was needed as a result of errors that should not be made by any competent doctor. He had perforated bowels, bladders and wombs with his dirty instruments, leading to serious infection and complications. Despite a steady stream of grossly damaged women to the local hospitals, there appears to have been a conspiracy of silence among medical professionals, public health officials and, now, journalists in print and broadcast media alike.

His clinic had not been visited by health regulators for 17 years. Had they done so, his ‘house of horror’ would have been discovered earlier.

He segregated his waiting rooms, so that the white patients were marginally better managed. That, in today's world, would normally guarantee front-page news.

He photographed his women patients’ genitals on his camera phone, ostensibly for ‘research purposes’ which he never published, and for which he had not received authorisation. He had a particular interest in third-world women who had suffered female genital mutilation: his staff heard him admiring the skill of those whose who had stitched the women's labia together. That kind of thing normally excites the sub-editors, but even that did not have sufficient news-value to bring Dr Gosnell into the mainstream press.

Not even his cavalier management of medical waste shocked the mainstream media. Human tissue was found sealed in plastic bags, refrigerators and jars for no medical or scientific reason.

His staff were corrupted by his standards and callousness. Employee abuse would ordinarily excite some media interest, comment, and inquiry as to how ordinary citizens can be drawn into the kind of blind compliance and moral degeneracy that was once seen in places like Auschwitz and Dachau.

Yet, knowing the facts which were coming in a steady stream of matter-of-fact evidence – much of it admitted by the defendant – the news rooms of America and Britain looked the other way. All of them, including our own national broadcaster, have consistently failed to do their job of reporting the facts and exploring the issues surrounding this case.

Journalists are charged with reporting such stories and then considering what questions of importance arise from them. Sadly, the victims were not celebrities, but mainly poor people of ethnic minority; people of no importance; voiceless because the media refuses to give them a voice.

The greatest victims were babies: 47 human foetuses were found in his clinic stored in refrigerators and household containers in vary stages of decomposition, together with a bizarre collection of babies’ feet.

Dr Gosnell’s specialism explains completely the reason for the media silence: he is an abortionist, and this fact alone accounts for why he enjoyed immunity on both sides of the Atlantic from press attention for much of his trial.

In the news rooms of the western world, the staff have become as indifferent to killing babies as Dr Gosnell's de-sensitised workers and the Kapos of Belsen. They have been recruited into a culture shaped by the ‘woman's right to choose’, so that now they never see an abortion they don't like.

As US commentator Ann Coulter has pointed out, abortion is the one constitutional right that ‘can never’ be shown on national television. We have seen actual executions, and sexual intercourse graphically depicted. Postmortems have been shown, and become the central event of programmes like Silent Witness. Often the malefactors will be deranged Christians.

Brother Ivo is confident that no TV or film executive is planning Dr Gosnell – the Movie.

The pro-abortion lobby has so closed the minds of the shapers of our culture to the facts of abortion that they are utterly incurious when cases like this occur. The BBC is less competent at its job than Dr Gosnell was at his – and he has a collection of babies' feet to prove it.

Fortunately, largely thanks to Twitter, the matter came to the attention of US Congress men and the matter has begun to emerge.

Brother Ivo has read the distressing material so you don't have to, but if you wish to study it, the Grand Jury Report should be found HERE. (Unaccountably this link does not always work). The first British newspaper report came out last Friday in the Daily Telegraph.

Five weeks into the trial the BBC has yet to broadcast on the subject, although on 15 April 2013 an anodyne report appeared on its website.

This low-key response is almost certainly because Dr Gosnell's case takes us to the question of what it means to be human and humane, and this is why it is so important. What he was doing crossed a fundamental line in law and morality between abortion and infanticide.

Abortion prioritises the health of the mother. Dr Gosnell is accused of killing babies after the child was outside of the mother, at a time when the risks of childbirth were passed, though they were now entering the risk-laden world of Dr Gosnell's post-operative care.

These were babies well into the third trimester. They were needy, vulnerable independent human beings, more capable of life (if offered the same care) than many younger premature wanted children. That was the only ‘rational’ distinction between them and other children who have survived birth at 26 weeks and beyond.

Some were born crying and independently breathing: instead of offering care to these new patients to whom he owed an independent physician’s duty, Dr Gosnell cut the backs of their necks, plunged his scissors into the wound, and cut the child's spinal cord. He taught staff to conduct this procedure which he termed ‘snipping’. Some nights, he needed others’ help because he had so many children being born at the same time that one of his staff giving evidence, described the scene of carnage as ‘raining foetuses’.

His defence team are denying the live births. They will doubtless explain the purpose of ‘snipping’ a dead one in due course.

There is a political reason behind the silence amongst a media that subjected President Obama to as little scrutiny as Dr Gosnell. There have been efforts to legislate for doctors to be required to provide full medical treatment to babies who survive abortion procedures. Three times the President has voted against it, imperiously ignoring the possibility that men like Dr Gosnell exist. The US Federal Government provides 45% of the $1billion budget of Planned Parenthood, the US major abortion provider.

They, like the President, are very equivocal about this issue of infanticide as this video demonstrates. The lady struggling to answer the clear and direct questions is Alisa Lapolt Snow, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood giving evidence to a committee of Florida legislators.

Dr Gosnell's trial puts the inconvenient truth of abortion and infanticide plainly into the public domain. It puts the brutal bloody facts to the sanitised language and could prove to be the tipping point in the public debate as ordinary people see for the first time how far the pro-abortion lobby are prepared to go in defending their industry.

There is a reason we talk about the ‘slippery slope’.

There are advocates of late abortion in the UK. Ann Furedi of the largest British Abortion provider BPAS has addressed the issue plainly. His Grace has explored this already.

Secular philosophers like Richard Dawkins are comfortable to champion the Dr Gosnell's infanticide morality, if not his clinical practices. He may limit this to children with incurable disease or disability, but he is clearly closer to Dr Gosnell when it comes to crossing the Judaeo-Christian line that all human life is sacred.

Once the new born may be ‘snipped’, there is no great moral distance to the wider eugenic destruction of the disabled, the elderly or anyone else considered inconvenient.

Dr Gosnell faces capital charges. Under Pennsylvania law, if convicted, he will be kept in humane conditions while his right to life is painstakingly examined by the Courts. He might then be respectfully strapped to a clean gurney, given a pre-med to send him to sleep, and then quietly sent by lethal injection to meet his Maker.

Imagine if he were to be ‘snipped’. Do you think the BBC, Dr Dawkins and the mainstream media would comfortably ignore that, too?

(Posted by Brother Ivo).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Well done, thou good and faithful servant

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Margaret Thatcher funeral Order of Service

Lady Thatcher's body lies tonight in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft

Boston bombs reverberate around the world

It happened live on Twitter: the flames of coordinated bombs and clouds of debris were shared instantly by iPhone; people's horror in streams of tweets. The screams echoed around the world; the pools of blood; the sirens of the firefighters; the instant response of the National Guard; the picture of a young man in a wheelchair with half a leg blown away, bone protruding, flesh hanging. Three dead; at least 140 injured; some scarred and maimed for life. Awful. Absolutely awful.

The President was briefed by his Homeland Security team and the FBI: they 'continue to monitor and respond to the situation'. He directed the full resources of the Federal Government to help state and local authorities protect his people - the American people, who were asked to say prayers. The President and First Lady sent their deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss.

In situations like this, there are no Republicans or Democrats: they are Americans, united in concern for their fellow citizens. The priority is care for the victims and counselling for their families. America is united in grief with the people of Boston. The free world is united in shock with the people of America.

We still do not know who did this or why. The President has warned against jumping to conclusions before we have all the facts. "But make no mistake," he assured, "we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we'll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice."

It is difficult to assure the wounded and grieving what 'the full weight of justice' may mean in cases of terrorism: political killing is only rendered illegitimate by the target; the perpetrator justifies tyrannicide as legitimate if low-level warfare. The principles of the Just War are not universal to all religions and cultures: harmless civilians can be as culpable as responsible politicians. The crimes of the elected are shared by the electorate, and unilateralism - the terrorists' political philosophy - justifies the aversion of a greater evil. Deontologically, the innocents of Boston are members of the oppressor group, or they just got in the way: they are 'collateral damage'. Either way, the objectives of the terrorist are justified because they deny they are terrorists: they are freedom fighters, in which paradigm terrorism and political violence against the state is always justified.

We don't yet know the grievance of these murderous criminals, but we can know that they rail against a perceived injustice and are motivated by a higher moral code. There is no easy distinction between terrorism and the ostensibly legitimate use of military force which may be called into question if the actions of some end up terrorising people into submission. Freedom is constrained, rights are infringed, and virtues are relativised.

At least 31 people were killed and more than 200 maimed and wounded in Baghdad yesterday, too.

But nobody cares very much about that.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Margaret Thatcher - cold-blooded, callous and cantankerous?

Margaret Thatcher was as hard as nails. Harder, even. She was a callous witch; brutal, indifferent, unfriendly and unemotional. Often merciless, cantankerous and obdurate. Ruthless, heartless and unfeeling, too. Her blood was cold; her tears were ice. In fact, she is warmer in death than she ever was in life.

Such is real myth surrounding the character of the late Baroness Thatcher. Her opponents crafted this caricature, spurred on by Spitting Image, and it endures still in the popular consciousness propagated by the BBC-Guardian, and in the narrow worldview of certain left-wing bishops. Any appreciation of her politics is dimissed as a 'tide of eulogy and propaganda'. Any exposition of her economics is viewed as morally deficient or sociologically warped. Sincere expressions of grief and mourning are 'hysteria'.

John Whittingdale MP, her former political aide, said those who worked for Baroness Thatcher saw a different side to the public figure. He said she was kind and compassionate, and inspired huge loyalty. Sir John Major spoke of her humanity and generosity of spirit. Matthew Parris, her correspondence secretary from 1977-79 wrote in this week's Spectator: was her attitude to what we called ‘the poorlies’, members of the public who had turned to her in their personal troubles, that was unlike any other leader’s I’ve known.

Mrs T (as we all called her) insisted we show her anything we thought needed her personal touch; she was meticulous and unsparing in dealing with these, even when we ourselves felt she had better things to do than sit up late, her blue felt-tip in hand, penning sympathy, advice and reassurance.

I’ll never forget one such: her reply to a lady who, grief-stricken by the loss of her husband, wanted the comfort of knowing that the Conservative leader believed in heaven. In Mrs T’s otherwise consoling letter, her answer to this question itself stood bleakly out as oddly tortured, almost legalistic: ‘Christians believe in the Afterlife, and I am a Christian.’

I loved her for the trouble she took with people of no account...
And here is a letter from one troubled young boy 'of no account':

The story is recounted in the Mail. Here is Margaret Thatcher's personal response:

'However good we try to be, we can never be as kind, gentle and wise as Jesus,' she wrote. 'There will be times when we say or do something we wish we hadn’t done and we shall be sorry and try not to do it again! We do our best, but our best is not as good as his daily life. If you and I were to paint a picture it wouldn’t be as good as the picture of great artists. No our lives can’t be as good as the life of Jesus.'

She concluded: 'As Prime Minister, I try very hard to do things right and because Jesus gave us a perfect example I try even harder. But your father is right in saying that we can never be as perfect as He was.'

Margaret Thatcher may have made mistakes: God knows she was not perfect. But there is this letter, and in the kindness and compassion recalled by Matthew Parris, an undeniable capacity to reach out to those 'of no account'. She really cared about 'nobodies' and 'poorlies', and writing to a 9-year-old boy rather suggests that it wasn't always with one eye fixed on an imminent election. She took the trouble because it was the right thing to do. Her values were Christian virtues. She tried to do good because God is good. Her tenderness was inspired by Jesus's love.

Even after 30 years, those on the left may impugn her character and deride her motives. But the facts rather speak for themselves. Perhaps she was occasionally cold-blooded, callous and cantankerous. In our day-to-day dealings with irritating humanity, we all can be. But Margaret Thatcher was also charitable, humane, kindhearted, sympathetic and merciful. One or two Tories today might learn from her example.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Margaret Thatcher – a leader who brought hope and delivered change

From Brother Ivo:

The last few days have rightly and necessarily been devoted to tributes to, and evaluations of, the legacy of Lady Thatcher.

Her funeral on Wednesday will also capture our attention, although sadly there is a real possibility that this will be for the wrong reasons . Fortunately, nothing such people can do could dent a reputation that has already been well-burnished by every serious politician across the globe.

Lady Thatcher herself would be quietly content that the country she loved remains a society where people have the right to be wrong; and she rightly observed that when folk have been reduced to levels of puerile abuse, they are actually acknowledging the paucity of their own intellectual argument.

The nonsense over the Wizard of Oz song is hugely ironic in that her opponents are criticising her by adopting a free-market mechanism to express their views.

For Brother Ivo’s part, one of the most impressive illustrations of her courage, integrity and intellect is illustrated in her appearance on Soviet television towards the end of the Communist era in a groundbreaking conversation with three of the top Soviet journalists. They interviewed her live, expecting to be able to humble her. Years later, one of their number acknowledged that he was both proud of having taken part in the debate, and that they were collectively beaten by an opponent who demonstrated superior arguments and a better command of her brief. The interview transcript is well worth reading.

With such tributes from her ideological opponents, there is little risk that her legacy might be damaged at the hands of political pygmies.

The parliamentary tributes have been well quoted and, with a few exceptions, were finely judged. It is within that same respectful and fair tradition that many have acknowledged that the Leader of the Opposition acquitted himself with dignity on an occasion where he was undoubtedly conflicted by the need to be respectful, while being conscientiously unable to echo without qualification the fulsome praise from the benches in front of him.

The life of Margaret Thatcher presented in a clear form the question many politicians have to ask themselves, and none more than Ed Milliband: ‘What kind of politician am I?’

They come in a variety of forms. Some are braggarts and opportunists. There are the low-key servers of their local communities – and there is nothing wrong with that. There are those who bring life experiences and experience from local government, business, the professions, the armed forces, or the trade union movement. Often, they act as restrainers of ill-judged action, advising where practical problems may lurk in places unconsidered by those thinking on higher planes. Often the ‘poor bloody infantry’ know better than their superiors.

However, as the Iron Duke and the Iron Lady may well be discussing now, ‘victories are won by the led, but they are conceived in the minds of leaders’.

Some leaders achieve their status through a ruthless and planned ascent of the ladder of power, whilst others arrive by a more circuitous route. Those, like President Obama, arrive as unknown quantities, whilst others build their support with a clear set of well-articulated beliefs and policies which have convinced colleagues and electorate alike over a prolonged gestational period.

Ed Miliband appears to be in the Obama mold.

He, like the President, achieved power by overcoming a more experienced and seemingly natural successor to the outgoing leader. Having previously held significant office, he does not exactly arrive at his position as the ‘clean skin’ which helped Mr Obama avoid scrutiny of his record from a supine media. But Mr Miliband continues to hold his current policy cards very close to his chest, which is the very antithesis of Mrs Thatcher’s open approach. She used her time as Leader of the Opposition to ensure that none of us was in any doubt that things were about to change, and change drastically.

All this current examination of Lady Thatcher – much of it reaching younger voters who never knew her – is coming as a challenge from beyond the grave to Mr Miliband, highlighting the need for him to do the same.

He is being urged to develop his ideas into a coherent programme by Tony Blair, who is perhaps the nearest recent parallel to Lady Thatcher in the Labour ranks, not least in his record of electoral success, wartime experience, and removal from power by his ‘friends’.

Subsequent to Tony Blair’s intervention, we have seen Lord Mandelson and Alan Milburn sharing his concerns, which indicates that Mr Miliband’s failure to secure majorities either with his MPs or constituency parties has left him exposed to such critiques as he fails to demonstrate a significant platform of ideas based upon well-informed convictions.

Lady Thatcher deliberately confronted the post-war consensus, which held that the ‘commanding heights of the economy’ were state-owned; this was not, however, driven by a desire to exclude anyone.

Believing in home ownership, she wanted it extended; believing in a participatory capitalism, she wanted ‘Sid’ to have his share of the success. She was content to be linked to Europe but not to see her country subsumed to it. Ironically, the one area where conservatives do criticise her is in her mistaken acceptance of the comprehensive educational model rather than the grammar school model that had been the vehicle for her own meritocratic ascent.

When Mr Miliband criticised her in relation to South Africa, he might have been gracious enough to have acknowledged that her opposition to economic sanctions was founded on her concern for its effects on the ordinary African. She may or may not have been wrong in this, but if she hesitated to join the consensus for those reasons, it was not an ignoble consideration.

Few will deny The Lady respect for being authentic in her views. Hers was not an administration devoted to focus groups or overly interested in securing power through ‘triangulation’ of policy options to manoeuvre the party into a winning position at the cost of a policy capitulation.

Rightly or wrongly, she was a conviction politician who considered the way forward and led in that direction. Mr Miliband is not offering much evidence that he is of similar calibre, and the recent reminders of what a true leader looks like throws him into an especially poor light. He is beginning to try to distance himself from the Blair government (though perhaps significantly less so, the Brown responsibility) but not with any bold analysis.

He appears happy to provide sound-bites about ‘moving forwards not backwards’ and suggesting he has ‘new solutions’ on immigration. His style of interview technique, however, could not be more different from that of Lady Thatcher. Consider his answers HERE; we have the words of change but not the slightest indication what the new policy on immigration might look like. How will he reduce the numbers? By how many? What if the EU objects? Where is his ultimate red line? What price is he prepared to pay to win the argument?

Questions such as these were always thought through by Lady Thatcher. She brought in experts; she tested them and only gave ground or accepted their advice after a rigorous examination of the options. Like the late Lord Denning, her approach was ‘I may be right, I may be wrong – but I am never in doubt’.

Mr Miliband seems constantly in doubt. He is entitled to be.

He was a close adviser within the inner sanctum of Britain’s worst post-war prime minister. Unlike Mrs Thatcher, he has no experience of the world outside the Westminster bubble; neither does he have many close advisers to offer that wider perspective. He does not have the full confidence of his brother, his MPs, or his constituency associations, and one suspects that, if in doubt, the only consensus he will seek is that from the left. Policy seems to be shaped by his Trades Union backers like Len McLuskey and Mark Serwotka, or celebrity lightweights like Eddie Izzard or Hugh Grant.

The worst contrast with The Lady, however, is that his current priority seems to be not policy development but campaigning and marketing. Evidence for this comes from his appointment of a special adviser straight out of President Obama's Chicago Democrat machine, which is a byword for corruption and uncompromising class warfare.

Arnie Graf is a follower of Saul Alinski. If readers are unfamiliar with Saul Alinski's book Rules for Radicals , Brother Ivo suggests it is worth looking at.

Tony Blair has warned his successor against shaping his party into the party of protest instead of government. The appointment of Mr Graf suggests that, in contrast with how serious politicians like Lady Thatcher operated, Mr Miliband is attracted to the politics of the community organiser-in-chief, who, after four years in office, continues to operate in campaign mode, dividing by class and sectional appeal rather than argument and policy solution.

No admirer of Mrs Thatcher is entitled to feel very aggrieved by political polarization, and The Lady herself was happy to have a stand-up fight to test the strength of argument with anyone, friend or foe alike. Significantly, because she sought solutions based upon principles that challenged and benefitted all equally, she was able to draw into her consensus many who were of different background but were persuaded by her analysis and strength of conviction.

It is worth recalling that once convinced of the correctness of a course of action, she could and did offend her friends and presumed supporters. The old City of London, the legal profession and many comfortable businesses were shaken by her willingness to drag them where they did not want to go. She changed things forever for them, and many have found in retrospect that she was right.

These recent days have reminded us all that winning is good for a politician’s reputation but it is not enough. Once you have ignited the hope you have to deliver the change. Some can, some can’t. The Lady did.

(Posted by Brother Ivo)

Friday, April 12, 2013

'I'm in Love with Margaret Thatcher' for No1

Charles Moore pointed out on Question Time last night that it is the BBC which is 'bigging up' the campaign to make 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead' this week's Chart No1. His Grace understands that the song is currently topping the iTunes download chart, and that many wish to censor this because it is offensive or insensitive. That is the last thing Lady Thatcher would have wanted. She fought all her life against the meddling elites and aloof institutions which presumed to know what is best: she had no truck with political correctness, and was certainly not in favour of banning freedom of speech or freedom of expression.

That 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead' is currently at No1 is unsurprising (though His Grace is unsure, at 51 seconds, that it actually qualifies as a 'single' in BBC Chart terms). But Lady Thatcher would not have wanted this suppressed: she didn't devote a decade of her life to defeating Soviet propaganda and Eastern European oppression only to see Conservatives - Conservatives - demanding that the British state broadcaster censor 'Top of the Pops'. She would have confronted the competition head-on, believing that the victor should be freely determined through market forces.

His Grace isn't a particular fan of the song 'I'm in Love with Margaret Thatcher' (he would have chosen Rolf Harris's 'Two Little Boys' - it being one of her favourites and embodying, as it does, the core of her political philosophy). But the song has been chosen, and it is now down to the bloggers and tweeters and her millions of supporters to do their stuff, just as Jon and Tracy Morter did for Rage Against The Machine against the X-Factor in 2009. If the din of the rap metal 'Killing in the Name' can come out of nowhere to beat sugary Joe McElderry's 'The Climb' to top the Christmas Chart, there's no reason at all why the indie Notsensibles can't trounce Judy Garland and a bunch of Munchkins.

So, grasp the Thatcher essence: it's the market, not censorship; it's freedom, not suppression. If YOU find 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead' offensive, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

iTunes Download HERE.

Facebook Page HERE.


It's what she would have wanted (though probably preferring Rolf Harris's 'Two Little Boys'..)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lord Tebbit and Conor Burns pay moving tribute to Margaret Thatcher

Yesterday's tributes to Margaret Thatcher were moving in many respects. By and large, those in the House of Lords were more interesting and insightful than those in the House of Commons, not least because they were tales told by people who knew her well. The most memorable line of the day came from Lord Tebbit as he recalled the Brighton bomb and its tragic consequences for his wife. He said of Margaret Thatcher's compassion and kindness: "I cannot think of a precedent for a secretary of state remaining in office as Secretary of State although absent from the Cabinet for over three months. She allowed me to run my office from my hospital bed." But he was sorry for one thing: "She, of course, was brought down in the end, not by the electorate but by her colleagues," he said.

"Because of the commitments I made to my wife, I did not feel able either to continue in government in 1987 or to return to government when she asked me too, and I left her, I fear, to the mercy of her friends. That I do regret."

Two of these 'friends' were Geoffrey Howe, who sat silently throughout the tributes, and Michael Heseltine, who stayed away altogether.

In the Commons, it was her friend Conor Burns who mingled just the right amount of personal recollection with her international political accomplishments. He paid moving tribute to The Great Lady from the very seat in Parliament where she made her maiden speech, and the place to which she returned after leaving No10. He ended with her own account of attending Mass at the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw in 1993:
Every nook and cranny was packed, and the choral singing of unfamiliar Polish hymns was all the more uplifting because I could not understand the verses. It forced me to try to imagine what the congregation was asking of God. Foreign though this experience was, it also gave me a comforting feeling that I was but one soul among many, in a fellowship of believers that crossed nations and denominations. When the priest rose to give the sermon, however, I had the sense that I had suddenly become the centre of attention. Heads turned and people smiled at me. As the priest began, someone translated his words. He recalled that during the dark days of Communism, they had been aware of voices from the outside world offering hope of a different and better life. The voices were many, often eloquent, and all were welcome to a people starved so long of truth as well as freedom. But Poles had come to identify with one voice in particular - my own. Even when that voice had been relayed through the distorting loudspeaker of the Soviet propaganda, they had heard through the distortions the message of truth and hope. Well, Communism had fallen, and a new democratic order had replaced it. But they had not fully felt the change, nor truly believed in its reality, until today, when they finally saw me in their own church. The priest finished his sermon, and the service continued. But the kindness of the priest and the parishioners had not been exhausted. At the end of Mass I was invited to stand in front of the altar. When I did so, lines of children presented me with little bouquets while their mothers and fathers applauded.

...Of course, no human mind, nor any conceivable computer, can calculate the sum total of my career in politics in terms of happiness, achievement and virtue. Nor, indeed, of their opposites. It follows, therefore, that the full accounting of how my political work affected the lives of others is something we will only know on Judgment Day. It is an awesome and unsettling thought. But it comforts me, that when I stand up to hear the verdict, I will at least have the people of the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw in court as character witnesses.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Margaret Thatcher renewed the relationship between Christianity and Conservatism

 In his excellent study The Religious Mind of Margaret Thatcher, Antonio E. Weiss observed in 2011:
Of all British Prime Ministers from Harold Macmillan to Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher was by far the most vocal about her faith whilst in office, and the only one to draw direct and explicit parallels between her personal beliefs and her political ones. Macmillan believed that ‘a nation can[not] live without religion’, and, more personally in his official biography, he claimed that ‘I go to Communion as long as I can...I reach for the Bible whenever I can...I still find religion a great help’. For Douglas-Home, ‘Christianity was of the heart, not of the pew, a matter of private witness and personal conduct’. Wilson was brought up very much in the Nonconformist manner as a Baptist, joined the evangelical Oxford Group at university and told an interviewer in 1963 that ‘I have religious beliefs and they very much affected my political views’. Heath’s attitude to religion was more similar to Home’s, in that he did not speak openly about it – as he told James Margach in 1965: ‘It’s not a thing one talks about very much but it has a secure hold’, but when reminiscing in his memoirs, he did also claim that: ‘My Christian faith also provided foundations for my political beliefs...I was influenced by the teaching of William Temple (former Archbishop of Canterbury)’. Callaghan’s mother was ‘deeply religious and fundamentalist’. He became a Sunday school teacher in the late 1920s and although he claimed to turn away from his Baptist upbringing when his activities in the Labour Party increasingly had the ‘first charge on my energies’, he also stated in his memoirs that he owed an ‘immense debt’ to his Christian upbringing and that he had never ‘escaped its influence’. Major, on the other hand, whilst professing belief in God – ‘I do believe. I don’t pretend to understand all the complex parts of Christian theology, but I simply accept it...[I pray] in all circumstances’ – seemed to be uncomfortable with the whole issue: ‘I was mortally embarrassed to be interviewed about my religious faith on Radio 4’s Sunday programme’. And of course Tony Blair famously admitted to praying to God for guidance when preparing for the Iraq war of 2003.
It is easy to reduce Thatcherism to liberal economics or 'Monetarism', and to portray Margaret Thatcher herself as the divisive apostle of an evil creed. But it is nothing more than a 'Spitting Image' caricature. Like all reformers, Margaret Thatcher revolutionised society because she believed passionately in what she was doing, and her mission was inspired by the spirit of truth and justice. She was fully aware of her party's heritage and political history, noting: ‘Tories became Tories well before the modern concept of a free market economy meant anything, well before it became a matter of political controversy.’

Her Conservatism was deeply rooted in Christianity - the faith which 'kept alight the flickering flame of hope' during the dark nights of Europe's secular tyranny, she wrote in the preface to the 1990 book Christianity and Conservatism. She didn't hide her faith under a bushel, and neither did it come and go like Magic FM in the Chilterns. Christ, for her, was intrinsic to all of social and political life, and His eradication from society was not possible 'without a terrible consequence'. She knew perfectly well how to distinguish between that which belonged to Caesar and that which belonged to God, but she was never afraid to engage and wrestle in debate with both. There was, quite simply, truth and error; right and wrong; good and evil. If you were not for her, you were against her.

It was never her intention to belittle Christianity by partisanship, or to exalt Conservatism by some whisper of the transcendent. But she realised, as far back as 1990, that 'a historical turning point has been reached for our nation, and the way ahead must be carefully and judiciously charted'. She was of the view that the eradication of Christ from society would result in 'terrible consequence': many Conservatives are of the view that the eradication of Thatcher from Conservatism cannot be achieved without similar terrible consequence - for both the party and the country.    

For centuries preceding Margaret Thatcher, the Church of England had been 'the Conservative Party at prayer'. The maxim endured until the mid-80s, during which decade the tensions between the Church and the Conservative Party were considered to have buried the whole notion. The Tory-Anglican relationship undoubtedly reached its nadir during her premiership, but she never gave up on it; she never used religious pluralism or advancing secularism as excuses for tampering with the Constitution or sidelining Christianity.

Margaret Thatcher was not the last Christian prime minister, but she was certainly the last who understood the divisive message of the Old Testament prophets, and that Christ came not only to bring a sword, but to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. She didn't 'do God' in a Songs of Praise kind of way, with pious platitudes and patronising nods at popes and archbishops. Margaret Thatcher did God with a sincere reflective and profoundly theological mindset: she read her Bible, preached in pulpits and applied her theology to her programme of government.

You may not have agreed with her, but reformers always attract the ire of the divinely-appointed established hierarchy: the Whig will always irritate the Tory. Thatcherism is first and foremost a creed of values: like Christianity, it sometimes needs reinterpreting for a new age. But it seeks fundamentally to inspire individuals, assist families, revive communities and renew the country towards a glorious vision of freedom, fellowship and service:
The primary principle of Christian ethics and Christian politics must be respect for every person simply as a person. If each man and woman is a child of God, whom God loves and for whom Christ died, then there is in each a worth absolutely independent of all usefulness to society. The person is primary, not the society; the State exists for the citizen, not the citizen for the State. The first aim of social progress must be to give the fullest possible scope for the exercise of all powers and qualities which are distinctly personal; and of these the most fundamental is deliberate choice.
Not the words of Margaret Thatcher, but those of Archbishop William Temple in 1942. And he went on to expound the theology of Thatcherism while Margaret Roberts was still an undergraduate at Oxford. But why let the truth of the religious inspiration of Thatcherism get in the way of a soulless, unfeeling, uncompassionate anti-Christian caricature?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Margaret Thatcher dies - the world responds

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