Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Pope in Britain: How do you think the world sees us?

I suppose it is part of being an Imperial power that you do not care how others see you.

In this sense, the State Visit of the Pope shows that Britain is still an Imperial power. Our political establishment simply don't care how others will perceive this bizarre display. Nor do they care that they might have found better ways to spend their time and taxpayers' money this past week.

The biggest insensitivity implied by this red carpet visit is probably that directed towards the Republic of Ireland. Here is a small country, our neighbour, which has struggled to free itself from the burden of its past. It has turned away from its own history in order to co-operate with the UK in seeking a solution to the Northern Ireland conflict. To join the modern world, it has fought hard to put the priests back in their box. The Irish government still has a long struggle ahead to bring a vicious and devious church to account. For the UK government to flaunt the Pope is sticking two fingers up to the Republic of Ireland, a country the Pope cannot visit.

Goodness knows what the rest of Europe thinks. The Pope's visit puts us down there with Malta and Portugal, not up there with France or Germany or Spain. All our politicians who filled up their diaries this week with Popey events would have done better to sit down with their opposite numbers in mainstream Europe for a few hours. It would have been to our advantage, economic and political.

On a wider stage, one can only imagine the despair of those working to combat HIV in Africa to watch this suck-up visit unfold.

Whose fault? Blair and Brown. They pleaded with the Pope to grace us with a visit - it can even be a State Visit, Your Holiness. It was Brown who grovelled for the eventual Yes from the Vatican. This visit is part of his Legacy.

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