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.