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.

31 July 2008

Courageous Conservatives To Celebrate Christian Great Britain

Interesting article by Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail this week, urging the Conservative Party to stand up and be counted, to stop kow-towing to prevailing opinion and to provide a 'clear and principled alternative'. She cites issues such as devolution, EU plans to reduce nations to mere sub-regions and massive and growing public debt. And she highlights the threat of a nationalist protest vote which. in the absence of a mainstream political party offering a real alternative to Labour's failed policies, may turn to a distinctly unpleasant tribalism.

I agree with all this and would go one step further. The issues we face as a nation ALL, without exception, stem from one thing. One fundamental thing. The loss of our sense of identity and cohesion as a nation, the disintegration of family life and the profound alienation of our young people, the rising level of crime, the falling standards of education, long-term dependency on the welfare state. All of these result from our rejection of our spiritual foundations.

This nation IS a Christian nation.

It just is. That is who we are.

And we need, we desperately need, to recognise this, to acknowledge this, to celebrate and declare this. And then, as we bring our policies, social and economic and environmental, in line with the worldview on which this nation is founded, the relationship with the living God which weaves through the very fabric of our nation, we will find that we thrive, we start to prosper and we remember who we are.

30 July 2008

Young people are part of a family

PC Griffin has got it right.

Explaining the introduction of a voluntary summer curfew in Redruth, Cornwall for all those under the age of 16, he says, 'Young people are allowed out. We are requesting that they have a purpose for being out. We are just trying to bring some common sense and structure back into what they are doing... In essence, this is simply about parents being aware of where their children are and, where necessary, taking responsibility for them.'

If young people are just hanging aroung on street corners, then PC Griffin and his team will ring their parents, or visit them. The aim is to 'put the responsibility back in the family home'

At a time when the latest Schott / Mori poll shows that 83% of us, across the age range, are worried about anti-social behaviour by young people, this is the approach that is so badly needed.

Yes, PC Griffin, absolutely yes.

29 July 2008

Mosley - privacy or integrity?

I am torn in my response to the recent High Court ruling that Mr Mosley's privacy was infringed by the News of the World reporting of his orgy.

On the one hand, I think that it is high time that the press got its come-uppance. In recent years, it has become judge and jury, self-appointed arbiter of what is right and what is wrong, wielding great influence but without the accompanying responsibility, and invading people's lives with neither respect nor compassion. So, good, that this unbridled bullying be brought to a shuddering halt.

But, on the other hand, I do wholeheartedly agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury that there is a clear link between private behaviour and public conduct. What a person does when he or she thinks no-one is looking is the most reliable indicator of their real character. And, if that person holds a position of power, accountable to the public, then we need to know what they are really like.

So, on balance, it is vital that the press be able to dig out those things which public figures would rather we didn't know. This need not give them carte blanche to persecute us all. Perhaps some definition of public figure would be helpful? I am actually not terribly interested in the private peccadillos of a motorsport executive but when it comes to our MPs, who have power to decide on the creation of animal-human embryos or to commit this nation to war, I desperately want to know what really makes them tick.

16 July 2008

got a lot; gives a lot

Frank McKinney - all respect to him. Apparently, this millionaire is celebrating his 45th birthday, not just with a lavishly extravagant party in a glitzy hotel but, as a second part of the celebration, took his guests to the slums of Haiti, where he has built more than 500 homes for about 4,000 people who live in extreme poverty.

Frank said, 'Here I am providing propery to the world's most wealthy; should I not be providing it to the world's poorest and homeless too' and
paraphrased Luke 12:48,

'To whom much is entrusted, much will be expected'.

15 July 2008

'Muslim Council' wants equal stake in Britain's future

Strange article in the Saturday Times Register this weekend by the Secretary General of the 'Muslim Council of Great Britain'. He bemoans what he perceives as the anti-muslim bias of the press and public in the UK, complaining that his efforts have been 'criticised as an attack on free speech or as ingratitude and disloyalty to Britain - even as a failure to understand what being British means'. I confess that he did not elicit much sympathy from me as I tend to agree with this criticism, certainly of the MCOGB.

But it was his final sentence that really took my breath away. 'All we are asking for is an equal stake in Britain's future'.

And from deep within me came a resounding 'No!'

No, you cannot have an equal stake in the future of a nation which has a long history rooted in Christianity, going back to Augustine and beyond; a nation whose very legal system is founded on biblical principles, whose most prominent leaders over centuries have found their inspiration and motivation from their relationship with God - the God of the Bible.

Yes, you can live here, freely, and follow your own conscience. We respect freedom of conscience because we understand that it is God who gives us free will, the right and responsibility to follow our own path, and we must honour that. But you do not have the right to attempt to shift the very foundations of the nation to which you freely chose to come. Because the reasons this nation is an attractive place to which to come - its respect for the individual, respect for the rule of law, its economic prosperity - are inextricably bound up with respect for God, a God who reveals Himself through the Bible and through Jesus Christ.

14 July 2008

Altruism wins over financial gain

'Out of the goodness of his heart' is a much mocked motivation for good deeds. But, according to research by the Stockholm School of Economics, it is often a more powerful incentive than financial gain. When Swedish women were asked to give blood, some voluntarily and some for a small sum of money, 52% were willing to do so for nothing, and only 30% for the money. And this echoes work by the University of Zurich with volunteers for political organisations: those who are not paid work more hours than those who are paid a little.

Apparently, the offer of money changes the nature of the action. What was the outworking of a desire to do good becomes a mere calculation of self-interest, as to whether the amount of money offered is sufficient to compensate for the inconvenience of doing good.

So, human nature - not so bad after all?