Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Attractions of the Church of England

I am one of those secularists who think that the Church of England should be disestablished but minus most of its assets which should remain in public hands for use, for renting out and for disposal. This would free up the Church of England to become a religious organisation.

But I can see the attractions when I visit a town like Chichester. There is a cathedral and next to it a Bishop’s Palace and then, clustered all around, some very desirable residences right in the centre of town but away from the traffic. You can’t buy them but I bet you can get a better deal than an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. There will be a pecking order, of course, and - for example - there is a very impressive Deanery which not everyone will qualify for.

The Palace Gardens are now public property or, at least, open to the public and maintained by the local authoirty and they are, indeed, a very pleasant place to sit and relax.

I think its properties are one of the few remaining attractions of the Church of England. How else can one explain the pull it has on those towards whom it has shown centuries of animosity? In heaven’s name, no woman or gay person would want to be a high up in this unpleasant organisation; but for purely material reasons, why on earth not? Those cottages in the Cathedral Close would cost a few hundred thousand each on the open market. If all you have to do is put on a collar to baptise, marry and bury – well, it’s a no brainer. People who work for high-paying corporations may have private doubts about the ethics; why should anyone worry too much about the ethics of a church which will give you a nice house in exchange  for some modest public duties?

Henry VIII isn’t looked down upon because he looted the monasteries. He counts as one of our more effective kings – I don’t think any of them count as virtuous so it’s as close as it gets. A government which decided to dispossess the Church of England could go a long way to solving many social problems. Who could possibly object?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Re-leavers? It's social psychology, innit?

Pollsters in the UK have discovered that in the forthcoming vote to elect a new Duma, many voters who were Remainers in last year's EU Referendum are now Re-leavers. They accept the Referendum verdict, and are willing to Move On and accept whatever the  Tsaritsa delivers. Many will vote for her. They don't feel they have much choice. Who wants the Liberal Democrats, fronted by an evangelical Christian also changing his mind about what he believes?

'Twas ever thus and a great many social psychology experiments are all about showing how people succumb to peer pressure, how they don't like to be the odd one out, and how in any case, opposition is just too emotionally tiring. Like the Vicar of Bray, they are falling into line, though in this case there is a great deal at stake and one might have expected some of them to last out in opposition for more than fifteen minutes. Such is the power of the Daily Mail and American money pouring into Vote Leave campaigns.

Part of the dynamic is that we try to persuade ourselves that we won't be personally affected by whatever happens or that we will be able to take steps to mitigate effects which will weight more heavily on those less intelligent or simply less affluent. The Re-leavers include people who are making quiet adjustments to their asset holdings, their health insurance policies, their purchases of things which can be kept for the future, like French wines. When the Referendum result was announced, the first thing I did was renew my passport ahead of its expiry date in order to have a maroon EU passport for the next ten years. It may lose the visa-free access to 27 countries which it currently provides, I know that, but I renewed it anyway as a sort of talisman against the worst which the National Conservatives can inflict.

Anyway, Remoaners are boring so I won't bore you any longer. The main thing is that the social psychologists for once have something to prove that they got it right first time - the time when they tried to explain the success of Fascism and Nazism.




Saturday, 6 May 2017

After the local government elections ....

In England, the National Conservatives have taken control of local government in several parts of what were once “Labour Party heartlands”. You might say, They are welcome to them. After all, what can the NCs  deliver that Labour can't?

The NCs are being rewarded in those Heartlands for the fact that they triggered Article 50 to take the UK out of the European Union. They have also benefited from the perceived disintegration of the Labour Party as a serious opposition force. But now comes the difficult bit: What can these new NC-dominated local governments offer?

They can’t ride on rising standards of living since those are off the agenda, thanks to Brexit. Output is going to fall, prices are going to go up, taxes likewise. So they will be serving populations in ever greater need of support of one kind or another. Younger people will be looking for jobs, housing and food banks and older ones looking for health and social care. But local authorities will not be in a position to help. Their budgets will not increase and nor will their powers. They can’t by themselves do very much to get rid of the Romanians or the Remoaners: that is in the hands of the national government.

In all likelihood, the NC councils and mayors will be driven to flag-waving of one kind or another: the Union Jack everywhere, lots of prayers before council meetings, crackdowns on things ( rough sleepers, street drinking) which irritate but don’t cost much to crack down on (at least, for long enough to get a headline).


The expectations of voters in the Labour heartlands aren’t very high and are probably falling. Whether they will fall fast enough to keep pace with the National Conservatives’ likely inability to deliver any kind of regeneration is another question. In fairness, one should add that local government in the UK has for a long time been a weak and ineffectual thing. That has been central government policy - and I don't see that changing very much under the authoritarian regime of our Tsaritsa Theresa.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Why Wales Should Vote Conservative

All the forecasts I have read suggest that the Welsh economy will be hit badly by Brexit, largely because it relies on the single market for exports. However, the good people of Wales voted for Brexit, despite the warnings. If they now continue to vote Labour, they can expect no favours from a National Conservative government when the Welsh economy goes over the cliff. But if they vote Conservative, then subsidies will no doubt be forthcoming. One of the great things about Brexit is that it will allow British governments to discriminate as they wish. So a Conservative vote makes good sense if you expect in the near future to become a Welsh pauper overseen by a National Conservative government. Hat makers take note: I am sure Mrs May would appreciate it if the poor of Wales doffed their caps when granted their subsidies and handed their food packages. Now is the time to design a cap that fits.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Jeremy Corbyn wants to inflict on us FOUR new Bank Holiday Washouts



Jeremy Corbyn has today proposed new Bank Holidays on 1 March, 17 March, 23 April and 30 November: St David's Day, St Patrick's Day, St George's Day and St Andrew's Day. This is such a really deadbeat idea it makes you want to cry. This is what I wrote here back in April 2012:

Every year, the British government's Department of Business publishes a bizarre list of dates on which employers are advised to shut up shop and lock out their workers. These are what we call Public Holidays. It is not compulsory to close down on any of these days and, apparently, workers have no entitlement to demand the day off.

These arrangements are unfair, enormously costly and deny many workers the satisfaction of fixing their holiday times to suit their own needs.

The public sector is only too willing to shut up shop for public holidays. It doesn't much like being open anyway and, well, any excuse. Some public sector workers have a financial stake in the shut downs: refuse workers who can't work on the shut-down Monday can demand double or treble time to"catch up" the following Saturday. GP surgeries can close knowing that there is a lot of money to be made moonlighting for "Out of Hours" services: a recent investigation found that doctors are paid around £175 per hour for such work. That's a pretty good reason to shut your Surgery. When it comes to public sector scams, the UK is definitely up there with Greece.

So it is not the prospect of a day on the beach which lines up dustmen and doctors behind the present arrangements. This is fortunate: most of our public holiday dates are selected in anticipation that it will be cold or wet or both. Enter the phrase "Bank Holiday Washout" into Google and it returns a downpour of results.

The public sector shuts but much of the private sector stays open - retail and leisure - precisely in order to provide something to do for the lost souls who have been locked out.

The relationship is never reversed: there is never a day when Tesco is closed and the Town Hall open.Not one. It would be a nightmare! All those dreadful people who might try to access public services and all at once!

Of the actual days selected for public holidays only two hit dates when most workers would like a day off anyway: Christmas Day and New Year's Day. But few employers want to open on these days. First, they have read their Christmas Carol. Second, they don't want to pay staff to turn up with a hangover. In other words, an official public holiday is unnecessary to secure closures on these two popular dates. (That the official closures are designed by a public-sector Trades Union Committee is well demonstrated by the fact that when New Year's Day falls on a Sunday, Monday is a public holiday. This is not true in any other European country).

If it wasn't for public holidays, nothing would close on Good Friday or Easter Monday. Nor do any of the other dates have popular appeal, except perhaps August Bank Holiday - the annual opportunity to sit in traffic jams, have car accidents and - if you escape those - turn yourself into a sardine on Brighton beach.

Most genuinely popular celebrations proceed without benefit of Government endorsement. This is true of Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Halloween, Bonfire Night and the Cup Final.

If Trafalgar Day or whatever isn't already a day of popular celebration, that isn't going to change because some Tory geek has a wheeze that it should become one. It would become just another public sector shut down. Period.

The fair and efficient way forward is to abolish ALL these advisory public holidays and return to workers the dignity of negotiating their holidays with their employers. That is the only way to respect people's family needs, cultural preferences and personal tastes.

Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, has pointed out that the UK lost production in 2011 because of the Royal Wedding Day Orff and will lose it again for the Jubilee Days Orff.

The efficiency gains from abolishing public holidays would certainly justify adding a couple of days to every workers minimum holiday entitlement. Those who work five days a week should expect a minimum of thirty days holiday, which would provide a conventional week at Christmas, week at Easter and month in the summer. But some people don't want that and will keep the wheels of industry turning during those periods. Instead, they might take off thirty Fridays and enjoy thirty long weekends.

Sinn Fein Should Drop Its Boycott of Parliament for 2017 - 2022

I don’t usually vote in United Kingdom General Elections, mainly because the voting system is unfair and leaves most voters in the situation where they will never be on a winning side – for me, a lifetime experience. It's worse than the Lottery. I did vote in the 2016 Yes-No Referendum and I might vote this time just to contribute to the national pile of votes for  anti-Brexit candidates – it would be nice if across the UK, we could do a Hillary Clinton and out-perform the Big Winner.

My local Conservative MP is a decent, Christian chap and strong Remainer who turned out to be like all the other decent Christian chaps and found it very easy when push came to shove to betray his conscience and follow the Vicar of Bray’s daughter into the Brexit lobbies.

I will be more inclined to vote if my local Liberal Democrats and Greens agree that only one of them will stand. Even if the Labour candidate is a Remainer, I see little point in voting Labour which has proved itself so supine on the only thing which has really mattered for the past 12 months. I really do hope some noisy Remainer defeats that Old Labour hack in North Islington who has sat on his safe seat for 34 years.

I hope that the SNP wins every seat in Scotland and I think someone should try to persuade anti-Brexit Sinn Fein to drop its historic boycott of Westminster and allow its elected MPs to take their seats even if only for one Parliament only 2017 -2022. That would provide some counter-balance to the Tory side-kicks of the DUP/ UUP


So that’s my contribution to the Focus Group discussion.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

A Crisis of Falling Expectations

When nations go into decline, people don’t expect very much. Indeed, they rather expect things to get worse. The spasms which coalesced into a 52% Leave vote were triggered largely by hopelessness rather than hope. Since in Scotland they still had hope, they voted to Remain. In Wales, there was no hope and they voted to Leave reality.


Tsaritsa May will get her Mandate and her National Conservative majority in the new Duma simply because enough voters will accept that it is right things should get worse for them rather than better. You may say that is remarkably perverse. Maybe. But I think that’s the way things sometimes go, just as my mother living on £5 a week National Assistance thought it right to vote Conservative because, as she put it,  “You’ve got to have  the people with money”.

Mr Corbyn's idea that people will pile in to vote for Free School Dinners and £10 an hour is a pitiful delusion.