08 August 2008

Devastation and despair - there is hope

20 teenagers have been stabbed in London this year.

In The Saturday Times Faith Register, Sir Jonathan Sachs recalls George Orwell's comment in the 1940's that 'The gentleness of the English civilisation is perhaps its most marked characteristic'. What has gone wrong with us since then?

In recent years, we have seen family breakdown, loss of community and 'an almost total collapse of respect for authority'. And sometimes it is hard to see how we can get out of this mess. What hope is there of moving from this grey and desolate landscape of devastation and despair?

But we have been here before.

In the 1820's, the streets of London were so dangerous that Sir Robert Peel set up the Metropolitan Police. Gang culture, murder, theft and drunken violence were rampant. The percentage of children born out of marriage was rising dramatically.

And yet, by 1940, George Orwell was painting a picture of gentle civility. What happened?

This radical change was the combined effect of new institutions such as temperance societies, state schools, youth groups like the YMCA, voluntary groups, charities, friendly societies and, above all, Sunday schools. All of these changed the people who attended them, from the inside out, and so put in place the foundations for a law-abiding society.

And underpinning all these initiatives? Christianity - a relationship with the living God who created every one of us and whose heart's desire is for us to know Him and so to be all that we are created to be.

So, there IS hope.

As we see the Church rising, stepping up to her responsibility and her authority; as Christians come to know the heart of God and begin to work with Him to reach those around them, those He loves so much.

As we do this, we will see this nation transformed.

07 August 2008

Ryanair CEO so refreshing

It is so refreshing to learn that Ryanair's Chief Executive, Michael O'Leary is not retreating in the face of rising oil prices and talk of recession. On the contrary, he plans to cut his prices and expects a rise in passenger numbers this year. He reasons that, offering the cheapest flights, 'We are the perfect airline for the recession'.

His recent interview with Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester was a delight to read. Direct, confident, wonderfully politically incorrect, it is like a fresh wind blowing away the dust of depression and doubt.

Go for it, Michael!

06 August 2008

Times investigates family court system

So good to see The Times taking up the cause of parents who have their children taken into care against their wishes, with a Leading article as well as a 2-page spread by Camilla Cavendish in last Saturday's paper. The media gets a bad press very often, what with paparazzi becoming ever more aggressive in their pursuit of celebrities, and the propagation of what is essentially gossip with the flimsiest connection to reality.

But this is the proper arena for investigative journalism - bringing into the open the secretive world of the family court system. My heart goes out to those parents who have lost their children. I know that sometimes unspeakable things are done to children by those closest to them. But I also know that to remove children from their parents, their roots, their security and their very identity can be the worst crime of all.

Well done, The Times. May your actions result in a radical overhaul of this archaic and oppressive system.

01 August 2008

Police force needs to be national

I was asked to complete a survey recently, asking whether I thought the Primary Care Trust and the Police should be run by the local Council. My response was that the two were so different that we should not be contemplating the same solution for both.

In my opinion, the non-acute work of the PCT should, indeed, be combined with social care and run by the (county or unitary) council. But the police are completely different. Their job is to enforce the law. The law is set nationally. The same law applies to all citizens throughout the nation. This is vital, as has been expressed in recent responses to the suggestion that 'sharia law' should apply to certain people in certain places.

And this is why the proposal, in the government's recent green police paper, to have a majority of directly elected representatives on local police authorities is so misguided. By all means, improve the awareness and responsiveness of the local police force to local issues and priorities. But do not make them a locally elected, and therefore political, entity. This would set them up in direct competition to the council, which is the local body with a democratic mandate and responsibility for the well-being of the local area. It would make the police vulnerable to control by extremism and pressure groups rather than being the objective upholders of the rule of law.