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Saturday, 11 September 2010

The slow death of the Roman Catholic church?

British Roman Catholics (as opposed to English Catholics, or CofE) are not much enamoured of this pope. He looks odd; his face is not that of a kindly and wise father but that of a feared judge, he doesn't exude warmth and love, as JPII did, but rather seems surrounded by a cold baleful shield. There's not much there to like, not much to get out of bed early for or waste an expensive rail fare on. Non-RCs are also unwilling to concede to him the informal status of holiest cleric, as they did for JPII. It may be poor Joseph Ratzinger's lot to be remembered as the least personable pope in modern history, untouched by the 'magic' of the papacy.

In its hunger for celibate priests, as John Cornwell puts it in the Guardian this morning, the church has recruited "men with unresolved sexual, social and psychological problems", with the consequent problems that dominate the news pages these days. Yet British Catholics retain a remarkable loyalty to the Church, one that doesn't extend to weekly mass-going, for sure, but is nonetheless an identity they won't give up. It's as though this vast quiet diaspora is waiting patiently for the Church to catch up with it, and it's looking increasingly like the Church is in error, and not its people.

For a young man to express an interest in the priestly vocation today is almost akin to declaring a mental aberration. Yet the priesthood is closed to men of mature years who may have achieved an elevated spirituality, who may have passed through marriage, family and children to arrive at a comfortable celibacy. I know three retired professional men, all under 60 and all well-endowed with priestly qualities. With maybe twenty years of service left in them, doesn't it make sense to allow them to give their gift to the Church, particularly when the average stay in the priesthood for those ordained in youth is just six years?

But I fear the Catholic Church is blind and deaf to change, and that over four million British Catholics will have to continue to wait, loyally and patiently, for the crook of a shepherd they trust to gather them into the fold.

Friday, 10 September 2010

East End Blitz myth? II

There's still a question mark at the end of the post title - this is very much work in progress, and your comments are extremely useful in prodding me into looking at the evidence.

Chris writes in response to the previous post;

"Your definition of the East End must be different from mine; I've always considered the East End to start at Aldgate East and extend to the docks area but not much further beyond (which would be East London but not the East End)."


"The East End had a much higher housing density than the City (bugger all housing), central London (again, pretty much bugger all). Further out, the housing density is lower. So any raid on the docks would be likely to damage more housing than elsewhere."

Hmmm. For the first, I've highlighted the old London boroughs that Chris may consider the East End - but I've included Hackney in the North, which some may dispute. Secondly, the civilian deaths figures for each of the old boroughs is from the CWGC. Now of course this includes deaths from V1s and V2s later in the war, but if Chris' point about housing density is correct, I'd expect the 'East End' totals to be much higher. In fact, Stepney and Westminster look like they were hit equally hard. And five out of the six boroughs with over 1,000 dead are South of the river.

I need the areas of each borough to present the data as deaths/km2, and correlate this with the total bomb tonnage to present a conclusive answer.


Scotland's Police merger plans

Scotland's police forces, under the malign influence of its ACPO-dominated chief ranks, seem to be drifting inexorably towards a single, merged, national force. The ACPO chiefs are using the opportunity of expenditure reductions to bring forward their cherished merger plans, despite there being little hard evidence that merging the forces will lead to any appreciable savings at all.

The Glasgow Herald suggests that because police officers can't be made redundant (is this true?) the only way to make real savings is to stop recruitment and wait for retiring or resigning officers to drop off the other end - a process that won't produce overnight reductions.

The option that police bosses are determined to ignore is one that will improve the standards of local policing even as force reductions are rolled out.

Scotland's coppers, like England's, spend 95% of their time on call-outs to disturbances, road accidents, dealing with drunks, domestic burglaries, drug offences, road traffic offences, patrolling city centre drinking hotspots, dealing with shoplifters and the like. There is absolutely no benefit to be had from national control of police doing this work, and many substantial disbenefits. The bulk of bread-and-butter police work can be better managed, controlled and directed locally by independent, small, local forces. Indeed, the increase in efficiency resulting from local control will outweigh any overall reduction in police numbers.

Anti-terrorist work, forensics, international intelligence and surveillance, serious and organised crime work and the like, on the other hand, is best organised and resourced at a Scotland-wide level by highly specialist police working closely with the security services, under the direction of the Scottish Government's Home Secretary equivalent.

These apparent truths, however, are simply denied and ignored by Scotland's police chiefs as antithetical to their own very selfish interests.

It's worth watching how this plays out in Scotland - for England will be next.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

If you're free this afternoon ...

If you're free this afternoon, and near Whitehall, you may want to go long to Admiralty House to hear Clegg speak at the Committee for Standards in Public Life's annual Open Meeting (2.30 - 4.00 pm, call Maureen Keane on 020 7276 2589)

Clegg will launch Kelly's review of party funding, for which the Committee will publish an issues paper and have signalled a final report by next Spring.

Although I'm utterly opposed to the corrupt proposals made by Hayden Phillips, proposals that would guarantee the incumbency of the current big three parties however small their memberships shrink, I am not completely opposed to a tax contribution to parties, so long as it fulfils the following two conditions;

1. Contributions must be made on the basis of a discrete decision by each individual voter (i.e. not tied to the vote they cast, not presumed, and with the individual option to make no contribution at all)

2. Contributions should be paid to local party associations active in the constituency only and not to central party offices (thus no individual contributions could be made to a party established solely at national level and with no grass-roots structure)

Clegg is reported to be set to announce today proposals for 1:1 tax-matching of small contributions made to parties; I would support this, but it's only one way of doing it. Alternatively, voters could return an additional slip at local elections listing all parties registered in the constituency and vote one of them around £3 a year of tax money, or tick the box for 'no contribution'. Both methods could satisfy my two conditions above.

What we can't have, what we must resist with every breath in our bodies, is any system that either leaves the decision to politicians themselves or links it in an automatic process to the number of votes gained in a national or local election.

Anyway, if any of you do go today, and want to blog about it, I'll gladly either post a link here or host a piece.

Labour filth and corruption agony for Britain

Let no one be in any doubt that the cuts to come from the October spending review will cause a world of agony to millions across Britain, will degrade our ability to protect our nation and people and leave us vulnerable, and will freeze millions of lives in a struggling stasis at subsistence level for a decade. And none of this will be the fault of this government.

And every time I see one of those smug, comfortable faces from Labour's last government enjoying the pain, I will want to string the bastard up from the nearest lamp post. For this is the real legacy of the filth and corruption of Labour's misgovernment, Brown's Ponzi economy that bribed silly and vulnerable voters, Labour's hollow and vacuous ideology that disguised nothing more than a naked lust for power and wealth amongst the Party's repellant godfathers.

Labour have turned Britain from a comfortable nation of communities that were if not wealthy then at least endowed with a sufficiency, where reasonable aspiration was a new mid-range Ford every few years, a fortnight's holiday and decent Christmas presents for the kids, into a fearful and unequal place, an atomised society, corrupt with the ordure of petty political power and where the route to wealth and place was Party loyalty and a fawning sycophancy that could secure a quango seat, a large grant of tax money, pretend jobs or unearned promotion.

Labour are an evil that soils and pollutes everything good and wholesome. They are a disease, a pestilence. They sour and destroy human goodness, abort the growing seed of mutual strength, blight the growth of national congruence and hide the Sun from the shoots of youth. May every Labour politician hang their heads in shame at the carrion foulness of the putrescence to which they gave spavined birth.

Our country has become a Hell of rottenness under Labour; political fraud, jobbery and nepotism from Westminster to every council chamber, podgy and bloated Labour fingers thrust into the national till, obscene rewards for Party-faithful clerks, funded from the exploitation of honest workers, by extortion from the responsible and the good.

We cannot cease the struggle until the last trace of this malevolent poison is eliminated from our nation, and for every manifestation of the agony to come let us never forget; Labour Did This.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Time to split Barclays in two

Barclay's appointment of Bob Diamond is a cogent reminder to the coalition that it's time to split the banks into a retail arm dealing with the nation's personal and business money transfers and balances, protected by the taxpayer, and a buccaneer arm that can risk its investors money any which way it likes but for which the taxpayer will pay not a single penny to save from failure. I suspect I know which arm Mr Diamond will stay with.

They really don't trust us, and it's mutual

Dan Hannan makes the point well in his launch of a cross-party EU Referendum campaign, that the political class really don't trust the British people, don't like democracy much but are infatuated with the idea of a European Superstate. In return the British public certainly don't trust the political class further than they can spit.

We still haven't forgotten or forgiven Cameron's betrayal, his backtracking, on a referendum on the Lisbon Constitution Treaty, and with the Cloggies in coalition there is less chance than ever of actually securing a referendum in the near future. Yet this is not as inappropriate a time as it seems to launch a new Referendum campaign; these things take time to reach critical mass, and politics is more fluid now than it has been for many years. There are realignments, mergers, pacts and arrangements more possible now than they have been for some time.

The aim must be to keep the words 'EU Referendum' constantly in the air, for the political class to see them everywhere they look, and for the public to become as familiar with them as breathing. They should be in every email signature, appended to every piece of paper we transfer, pencilled on every banknote that passes through our hands, written on junk-mail envelopes and posted back, scrawled on the wall above every urinal in the country.

Our time will come.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

What's Belgium for?

What's Belgium for? I'd always imagined its principal export was young princesses with lengthy entries in the Almanac du Gotha, bred to be married to obscure outbranches of the Euro Aristocracy, but apparently it's beer and chocolate.

The Flemings are a bit like Ulster unionists, slightly embarrassing in company with their ultra-patriotism and a bit gauche, and consequently the more sophisticated Dutch are not wholly enthusiastic over the prospect of absorbing them into a greater Netherlands. The Walloons are, well, poor. The French, already pouring millions of our taxes into the Nord Pas de Calais region, are also not keen on absorbing Wallonia with its high unemployment and low potential. France and Holland are really quite happy with Belgium the way it is. There is also a tiny German minority, a few tens of thousands, and Germany alone seems eager to expand its borders by half a mile to absorb them, but then I expect it's genetic.

Belgium is no closer now than it was in 2007 when this blog started to having a stable government. The more the recession bites, the greater the pressure for a split, and Europe will have a spare king and lots of spare princesses with no country to call their own. I suppose there's a vast hotel in the South of France somewhere where they all live, those ex-kings of Greece, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania and their retinues. I'm sure they'll find room for Albert.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Time to cull Bob Crow

Dinosaur Trade Union barons are almost an endangered species these days, particularly those who try to flex their muscles against a Tory Mayor and Tory government. Bob Crow is a veritable Diplodocus, but the Ice Age is here and he, too must crumble into fossil dust.

There is no 'right to strike'. Workers absent without permission can be dismissed for gross misconduct without pension payments, redundancy or lump sums. I suggest Boris takes this opportunity to thin out London Underground's bloated staffing by 15% pour encourager les autres. And Comrade Bob will fall.

Hope for Labour if it ditches Socialism - Daley

Janet Daley writing in the Telegraph this morning succinctly summarises about the only option Labour has to reinvent itself;
There is an honourable strand of Labour history which is not associated with the quasi-fascist Big State doctrine that has been its most recent incarnation – which, indeed, could be seen as antithetical to it. This is the mutualist, co-operative tradition, rooted in the idea of communal solidarity, which began with the friendly societies and the support systems that grew out of the Industrial Revolution and its hardships. There is an important lesson that this tradition has to offer to currently fashionable discussion: that self-help does not necessarily have to imply the individualistic, entrepreneurial ethic of Conservative doctrine. It can also mean mutual responsibility and community self-determination. There is more than one way to be free of government domination.
A sort of Localist - Communitarian axis, of the sort that defined the working class before the insidious effects of the 1911 National Insurance Act. But let's not forget that it was Labour and its Big State socialism, which Daley rightly tags 'quasi fascist', that quite deliberately destroyed the self-sufficiency of the working class; an independent, bloody-minded population cohort like this was antithetical to Labour's Rousseau-esque ideology of a direct relationship between the State and every individual without any intermediate institutions or competing loyalties.

Daley is therefore proposing a future for Labour without socialism; that is, without central Statism, State redistributionism and central State planning of the people's lives. You see, the problem lies in the first eight words of the paragraph above. This communitarian self-sufficiency was a strand of labour history, but not of Labour history; the Party always loathed it. When labour insured itself, when labour set up their own services and wholesalers, when labour founded their own banks, Labour did all it could to destroy this independence. State insurance replaced the industrial and provident societies, National Savings replaced the friendly societies and the NHS and State Education replaced nascent structures employing doctors and teachers at local and community level paid for by subscription.

Yet in Millipede Major Labour looks set to elect a leader committed to that very 'quasi fascist' brand of Statism that defines socialism, and with Balls as his Beria there will be little room for the grass-roots to experiment.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The East End Blitz myth?

The story is well established in the national historical memory. Even those who should know better, such as Corelli Barnett writing today in the Indie, repeat the story to some extent. Of how the Blitz was directed against the East End of London, the docks and industries, and of how the resilient cockneys flipped the bird to Herman Goering; of how the Queen and Churchill were filmed walking amongst the East End bomb rubble, of how it was 'business as usual', of the dome of St Paul's wreathed in smoke. The East End, the story goes, bore the brunt of the Blitz.

In fact we know now that morale in the East End was decidedly shaky and close to panic. I've also seen a captured Luftwaffe training film held by the IWM, viewed on one of their huge Steenbeck flatbeds at the film archive and as far as I know never otherwise released. The film shows an approach along the ribbon of the Thames, with intermediate targets of Barking, Dagenham and the Royal Arsenal to right and left, but the destination point for the navigator and bomb aimer was Tower Bridge; once reached, the area all about was fair game.

The bombing density map below, for the period up to October 1941, declassified in 1971, tells a story that supports the IWM's training film. That in fact it wasn't the East End, but the West End that bore the brunt of the bombing. The Arsenal appears as a blank, bomb damage there being even too secret for 'Most Secret' classification.

Until further information is found we can only speculate on the 'why' of this elaborate wartime disinformation, but be wary as you watch the slew of poorly researched TV pieces on the London Blitz this month, all of which will probably repeat the myth.

Violence BY the police as serious as violence TO the police

It is absolutely right that the law deals harshly with violence and assaults upon police officers. The Police are ourselves in uniform, and an attack upon a policeman is an attack upon the rule of law itself, an attack upon the order and mores of our society, and an attack upon every lawful one of us. Those who attack the police find themselves in the Crown Court charged with indictable offences and facing long prison sentences, and this is right and proper.

But we grant policemen very substantial powers which we deny to ourselves, and their privilege in the exercise of those powers must be always and absolutely above reproach. The shocking and brutal violence used by Mark Andrews on a helpless woman has quite rightly seen him charged with a criminal offence, but I can't be alone in wondering at the corrupt reasoning that has led the CPS to present the case in a Magistrate's Court, where maximum sentences are just six months imprisonment.

Violence by the police is every bit as serious as violence to the police, and must be dealt with equally; indictable offences heard by a jury in the Crown Court with powers of long sentences held by the judge. You can bet your last dollar that had Pamela Somerville been filmed doing to Mark Andrews what he did to her, she would be facing a sentence of at least two years.

I shall be looking for some explanation of this anomalous treatment - on the face of it, it stinks.