This video interview by TheDissenter with Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute is very interesting…and rather a breath of fresh air…on the day when The First and Deputy First Minister went on the well trodden path (with begging bowl) to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Archive for September, 2010
Tags: David Cameron, David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Primrose Hill
With Ed Milband’s election as Labour leader we now have a full complement of political leaders in the UK that put populism much higher up the pecking order of political attributes than substance, ideology or inalienable values.
Miliband, yet another Oxford PPE graduate, and yet another political leader who has been isolated from any real work or any real hardship, has been propelled to Labour leadership, usurping his own brother in the process.
Now the Primrose Hill set is complete – and the only thing that makes them different is the nature of the dinner party conversations and guests. The wine, no doubt, is equally fine.
British politics has been reduced to the esoteric and the hypothetical. Ed Miliband is only hypothetically socialist – just as David Cameron and Nick Clegg are hypothetically Conservative and Liberal. But what unites them is a focus on the peripheral argument, the nuanced debate, the incremental improvement. Politics, these days, is the politics of argumentative geekdom, devoid of any passion or belief.
One exchange between the brothers Miliband illustrates this wonderfully. During the leadership campaign Ed apparently said to David, “How can you possibly say you’re going to stand on every aspect of our manifesto? We lost the election.” A fair point? Well, no, because Ed wrote that manifesto.
In short, Ed Miliband will dump even his own manifesto commitments, his own articulated policy logic, if they prove to be unpopular.
Unlike his own father who refused to have anything to do with the Labour Party when it apparently dumped any commitment to socialism, Ed Miliband is a breed apart from the voting public. He is the creation of the political mould that regards ideological commitment as a form of intellectual slavery.
PS – I know this is childish and rather barrel-scraping, but is it me or does Ed bear a striking resemblance to Gromit from Wallace and Gromit fame?
- Ed Miliband Elected U.K. Labour Party Leader, Beating Brother (businessweek.com)
- Ed Miliband: profile of the new Labour leader (guardian.co.uk)
- Ed Miliband: Self-confessed Maths ‘geek’ with a talent for diplomacy (telegraph.co.uk)
One of the encouraging things about the election of yet another political fossil to the leadership of the UUP (by a bunch of deadwood members) is that a few commentators have noted the emergence of a more liberal, non-sectarian media in Northern Ireland.
The Belfast Telegraph – for decades the protector of the sectarian consensus – is at the vanguard of this development. Younger blood at both the Irish News and Newsletter is beginning to question the status quo of a Northern Ireland continually at the fringe of everything political (and at the centre of nothing).
As more ex-pats have been attracted home, bearing gifts of more open-mindedness and liberal attitudes, a wider debate has opened up outside the bland confines of yawn-inducing “Unionist people” this and “Nationalist people” that.
All this is good but yet the political stuctures and parties are stubbornly resistant to change. Thankfully, however, last night the geriatric Unionists of Fermanagh & South Tyrone succeeded in erasing the UUP from the political map. The party is now utterly irrelevant. Now with an incoherent farmer at its head, who never seems far from an Orange field in terms of his political thinking, the UUP will sink into oblivion. Good riddance.
My hope, of course, is that the runt of the political class left behind will realise that the writing is on the wall. My hope is that the Alliance Party might get real and start thinking about coherent policies that might sustain themselves outside the sectarian swamp. Perhaps it might start ridding itself of homophobes within its midst – and the politically deranged who believe that the basis of ideology is niceness.
There’s a big world of political thought that the people of Northern Ireland are ready to seize. Even Trevor Ringland, formerly a shiny new-boy candidate of UCUNF, seems to have had enough of the UUP. The blogs are full of East of the Bann UUP disgruntlement.
I have no idea what the outcome will be. Perhaps the Shinners will start dropping incessant references to Oyrland at every op. Perhaps the DUPs will start attending GAA matches (incidentally, I won’t, thanks – like watching paint dry in my view, worse even than rugby) and might start doing their shoppin’ on Sundays. Who knows?
But all I know is that change is happening. The worm is turning.
- Tom Elliot Elected Leader of Ulster Unionist Party (politics.ie)
- Tom Elliott wins Ulster Unionist party leadership (guardian.co.uk)
Eamonn Malley is on rare form this evening – tweeting about the assembled “masses” arriving at the Waterfront Hall to elect a new Ulster Unionist Party leader.
Here’s a selection of Eamonn’s tweets:
Fred Cobain reminds me of an expectant father. He looks very unsettled. Now I know…his wee friend David McNarry isn’t about!
“I have promised nobody anything.” Tom Elliott response when asked would he reciprocate and accept Basil as deputy?
One wag watching Ulster Unionists alight from a Fermanagh bus said, “it looks like a nursing home outing.”
Ulster Unionist delegates predominantly male are filing into the Waterfront to decide who will be the next leader of the UUP.
No matter what way the question is put to aspiring UUP leader Tom Elliott he will not say he would accept M/McGuinnes as First Minister.
- Ulster Unionists elect new leader (bbc.co.uk)
- One Quarter of Entire UUP Membership Belong to Fermanagh & South Tyrone Association (politics.ie)
- Elliott & McCrea – odds are that one of them will be elected (sluggerotoole.com)
Tags: Catholic Church, Catholicism, Christianity, Northern Ireland, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion and Spirituality
Brian McClinton, Chairman of the Humanist Association of Northern Ireland, had an article in today’s Belfast Telegraph re. the Pope and his visit to Britain. However, the article was not published in full. The full text is below.
By Brian McClinton, Humanist Association of Northern Ireland
Much of the criticism of the papal visit to Britain has focused on the pope’s alleged involvement in cover-ups of widespread sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. Certainly, these cases are scandalous and deserve all the media attention they have received. But they also serve to cast a light on the more general failings of an organisation to which the majority of the world’s Christian belong.
I would like to address these failings, without personalisation and accepting that there are millions of good Catholics, and argue that they are endemic to the Catholic Church per se and not just about the failings of Joseph Ratzinger, bad though they obviously are. So, here is a charge sheet.
In the first place, it is a highly institutionalised church, with a rigid hierarchy, set doctrines and habitual rituals. And as such it provides the classic case of what happens to a system of beliefs once they become structured and powerful. The institution loses sight of the basic message which it was established to promote and instead becomes preoccupied with its own preservation at all costs. Instead of the Church serving the people, it is the people who become servants of the Church.
Two illustrations serve to demonstrate this fundamental weakness. The first is central to its supposed raison d’etre. The Jesus of the Gospels lived a simple life of poverty and powerlessness. The Pope, by contrast, lives in imperial panoply in a 72-room palace, is attended hand and foot, has declared himself a head of state and demands the attention of political leaders throughout the world. He is manifestly more akin to a roman emperor than to the ‘Vicar of Christ’.
Again, in the child abuse scandals, the Church clearly placed its own reputation above that of the children it was meant to nourish and protect. It was prepared to indulge in massive and widespread cover-up of the abuse and even allow it to continue in order to protect itself from any hint of criticism. A religion which places great emphasis on safeguarding ‘little children’ betrayed them in its own interest.
A second failing is that it is still essentially a medieval autocracy persisting into a democratic age. It is a pyramidal hierarchy in which the Pope is not only held to be infallible when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals, but also, as with any autocracy, his opinion on almost anything tends to be taken as Gospel. He stamps his authority and his views firmly on the whole organisation. The Church itself strengthens papal power by proclaiming itself as the one, true Church of God, and treating the pope as his representative on earth.
Let’s put it bluntly. There is nothing in the Gospels which remotely justifies such a totalitarian religion as the Catholic Church. Hitler recognised its real power: “So far there has been nothing more imposing on earth than the hierarchical organisation of the Catholic Church. A good part of that organisation I have transported directly to my own party”. Hitler recognised its strength and used it for his own purposes.
A further weakness is that it is patriarchal. It is completely dominated by middle-aged and elderly males exercising authority over the young as well as women. It prohibits contraceptives, the marriage of priests and the ordination of women. For centuries the church justified the exclusion of women from the priesthood on the grounds that they were inferior to men. Even though this view can no longer be sustained in the modern world, the Catholic Church clearly continues on the assumption that it is true.
The Catholic Church is also bigoted. It insists that ‘outside the Church, there is no salvation’. Under the present pope it has shown intolerance towards atheism, Protestantism and Islam. Benedict has declared atheism to be the cause of the ‘greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice’ in history, thus ignoring the Church’s own part in the Crusades, the Inquisition, the witch hunts, the persecutions of heretics, the censorship of art and literature, as well as the more recent clerical sex scandals.
He has also declared that Protestant and other Christian denominations are not true churches but merely ecclesial communities without the ‘means of salvation’, and implied that Islam is unreasonable because it deems as acceptable spreading the faith through violence.
The Catholic Church itself can be accused of being irrational because it thrives on superstition and mumbo-jumbo. Apart from blind obedience to popes and priests, it fosters fear, ignorance and superstition. In a supposedly humane era it still preaches the horrors of hell, the pains of purgatory and the loss of the beatific vision in limbo. In a supposedly rational world it is still infused with a bric-a-brac of relics and rosary beads, medals and shrines, wine and wafers, incantations and exorcisms, saints and statues, miracles and holy water. All of these rituals and superstitions can be seen as part of a deliberate fostering of credulity and an attack on rationality.
A final charge is that the Catholic Church is a reactionary faith and has been throughout its history. All the great movements of western progress, enlightenment and freedom have occurred not only outside its influence but usually also in the teeth of its vehement opposition. And its obsolete and loveless morality persists into the modern world. Its reactionary stance on many issues, such as abortion, homosexuality, women’s rights and attitudes to other Christian faiths, hinders the development of a genuinely pluralist and liberal democracy.
So, let’s not blame it all on Ratzinger. The criticisms extend deep into the very heart of Catholicism.
- What kind of Pope is Ratzinger? (bbc.co.uk)
- Welcome to Britain, Pope Benedict! (humanistlife.org.uk)
- Pope travels to Britain amid indifference, outrage (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
Tags: Basil McCrea, Conservatives, David McNarry, Henry McDonald, Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, Politics, Ulster Unionist
Basil McCrea, one of the hapless ones who wishes to “lead” the rudderless UUP, has made clear that he wants to distance the UUP from the Conservatives. According to Henry McDonald, writing in the Guardian on Monday, McCrea has vowed to break the “disastrous” link with the Conservatives if elected leader.
It’s rather unlikely that the rag-bag membership of the UUP will elect Mr McCrea leader - if indeed the Party can actually muster the organisational skills to hold an election.
But, ignoring that point for the minute, Mr McCrea’s position is markedly different from the position he held re. the Conservative merger prior to the disastrous general election outcome for “UCUNF.” He has performed a remarkable U-turn.
The fact is that McCrea once considered a partnership with the Conservatives to be an absolute necessity for the UUP. McCrea made clear to me – and Owen Paterson, Conservative spokesman on Northern Ireland at the time – that he may even defect to the Conservatives if the UUP was not prepared to do the deal.
Indeed, prior to a crucial vote on the matter by the UUP Council, on September 18, 2008, Mr McCrea requested a meeting with Owen Paterson to brief the Shadow Secretary of State on how to handle the Council meeting. The two met to agree the correct form of words to appeal to the old die-hards like David McNarry and other Tory-sceptics.
At that meeting, that I attended, McCrea made it clear that acceptance of the deal with the Conservatives was essential. The meeting took place at The Plough pub/restaurant in Hillsborough.
Now hindsight is a wonderful thing. And I’d agree with McCrea that the deal between the two parties was utterly hopeless and useless – but I saw the writing on the wall a year before the general election was called. UCUNF failed spectacularly because of the UUP’s fossilised membership and sectarian intransigence – coupled with dithering and incoherent ‘leadership’ (and general Conservative Party capitulation on every point of political principle).
McCrea’s insistence that the UUP distances itself from a “London party” is to be applauded – as it will put the UUP’s little Ulster mentality into sharp relief and will seal its final demise.
But, then again, he’s unlikely to be elected. Never mind, I’m sure Mr Elliott will succeed in making the party equally irrelevant.
- If Basil wins will the last one to leave the UUP please turn out the lights (sluggerotoole.com)
- Thoughts on the UUP leadership: Part 2 (sluggerotoole.com)
- Ulster Unionist leadership candidate vows to break ‘disastrous’ link with Tories (guardian.co.uk)
- UUP establishment worried about Basil McCrea? (sluggerotoole.com)
- McCrea enters UUP leadership fray (bbc.co.uk)
I had breakfast, this morning, in a nice little restaurant on the Lisburn Road. Despite the early hour there was a veritable sea of Chelsea tractors parked outside, and lots of yummy mummies inside – all sinew and botox.
It’s the thing about Northern Ireland that never ceases to amaze me – the extent and visibility of the South Belfast middle class and the degree to which it is separated and enervated in the context of Northern Ireland politics.
The conversations at adjoining tables were about kids, schools, property and sex. And not even in that order. I heard no mention of anything even faintly political. And, as I was by myself, killing time while my son played rugby, I had a good opportunity to eavesdrop.
Which brings me to my point. The middle class is still, largely, outside of our political process. Why? 1) Because there is nothing appealing about Northern politics. 2) Because it’s not sexy to get involved in sectarianism.
It’s well known that type-a middle class types are driven by a strange, euphoric and addictive cocktail of wealth, power hungriness and sex.
That’s why so many members of the middle class are attracted to politics in Britain. Politics is a handy route to all of these things for people who may either be too ugly for show business, too talentless for sport or too stupid for business. Just get a PPE from Oxford and Bob’s your uncle – instant entry to the most exclusive private member’s club in the world.
Unless of course one happens to live in Northern Ireland. Here the middle classes have no other option than to try to make a few quid, pretend they don’t live here and spend as much of their disposable incomes as possible on trivia. These days, they don’t even bother to vote.
As repeatedly trailed, I’m turning my attention to David Gordon’s chronicling of the demise of the Paisley family: The Fall of the House of Paisley.
The book was completed and published prior to Junior’s election as an MP – but the version I read had an extra chapter detailing the downfall of the Robinsons. However it was published too early to document the (wonderful) defeat in the general election of Peter Robinson – in East Belfast – by Naomi Long. The returning officer’s announcement of Robinson’s defeat was a moment to be cherished in the wee small hours on election night.
Gordon, however, meticulously documents other choice moments in revisionist DUP politicking and moralising over the last decades. He shines a very bright light on the bizarre definitions that both Paisley Senior and Junior have developed – in the absence of any real-world experience of doing anything other than sectarian politics, Ulster-style.
For example the Paisley definition of ‘entrepreneur’ seems to that of ‘property developer’. Instead of warning against the excesses and greed that were evident as Northern Ireland’s property market went wild – the Paisleys seemed to prefer rubbing shoulders with property developers like Seymour Sweeney whose ambitions knew no bounds. They seemed to believe that building shops and retail premises and pubs was what Northern Ireland’s economy really needed. In short, forget the need for skills development, innovation, or entire root-and-branch restructuring of our public sector dependent economy.
Property developers were seen by the Paisleys as in some way representative of the new Northern Ireland. They had the attributes of alchemist about them. And the Paisleys turned a blind eye to the fact that many of the most successful property developers (cum DUP supporters) often dabbled in the booze business.
From the pulpit Paisley Senior warned of the perils of the devil’s vomit. However, Junior appeared to want nothing to stand in the way of his favourite property developer’s grandest plans – even if they did revolve around the opening of licensed premises in the unlikeliest of places on Ulster’s North Coast.
The Sweeney shenanigans are detailed at length in Gordon’s book. When laid back to back they seem all the more remarkable. Moreover, I must admit, I hadn’t fully appreciated at the time just to what extent Sweeney was involved in the palatial Ballymena constituency office debacle – where public money was squandered to provide ludicrously over-the-top premises to the entire Paisley ego-machine.
Gordon also does a great job examining the dramatic conversion of Paisley Snr from the fire and brimstone, Papist-loathing ranter, to Chuckle Brother. Gordon admits that he can offer no satisfactory explanation as to why the conversion took place. Perhaps it was an attempt by the ‘big man’ to secure a place in heaven. And perhaps that explanation is a correct one – given Paisley Senior’s continued references to a biblical rationale for his public chuckling with Martin McGuinness. In effect, he was smiling and chuckling in the face of his critics – all of whom, he claimed, were doing the devil’s work.
This book does a great job in articulating how family Paisley has manipulated public opinion, and even the word of the Lord, to suit itself. The book also shows Northern Ireland as little more than a Banana Republic without bananas. Gordon chronicles just how stunted and ridiculous Northern Ireland’s politics and politicians have become in the sectarian back-water that they have helped create.
Then I went and promised David earlier this week that I was going to write a review by end of week – and yet I still haven’t got round to doing so.
However, I’m going to do it over the weekend.
But, in the meantime, if you haven’t got yourself a copy I’d recommend it.