Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

The Succession to the Crown Bill – What is at stake?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

The Government’s Succession to the Crown Bill received it’s second reading and completed its remaining stages in the House of Commons today.

My own knowledge of the Bill was limited to a vague understanding that it will end male primogeniture and permit the heir to marry a Roman Catholic.

So my aim here is to simply chart those articles that have been written today on this topic, which enhanced my understanding a little regarding the history, complexity, and possible ramifications of the bill.

The first I read (and this was the article that grabbed my attention on this issue) was written by Adrian Hilton in the Mail and was simultaneously informative and alarming: The Coalition rides roughshod over the Constitution.

Here’s a snippet:

This is an astonishing subversion of democracy, but wholly consistent with the oligarchical form of governance to which we are now routinely subject. As with the European Commission and 40 years of the incremental primacy of EU law over national legislation, so this Government invokes the presumed authority of the elite Commonwealth club over the sovereignty of Parliament. And to hear that No10 and the Palace have agreed this coup is even more unsettling. As Harold Macmillan stated: ‘We have not overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts.’

Next up Law and Religion UKSuccession to the Crown Bill: possible untoward effects? This concludes:

The relative complexity – emotional, political, legal, administrative – of these issues are no doubt glimpsed by government. Of course, the government does not wish to plunge into these deep waters. It wants a quick, limited fix without too much argument. Commentators are right that there has been too little public discussion, but not all the blame can be laid at the government’s door. What is needed is fresh, bound-breaking thinking and most of that can best come only from within the Church itself.

Cranmer wrote a piece with the provocative title: The Act of Settlement and constitutional terrorism:

Today, an amendment to the Act of Settlement is being rushed through the House of Commons by means usually reserved for emergency terrorism legislation. The imminent royal baby appears to represent a threat to the Coalition’s equality agenda every bit as serious as that posed by al-Qaeda to the safety and security of the free world. There will be minimal debate and negligible scrutiny; a Commons guillotine and wave at a committee.

It is, in fact, a constitutional stitch-up between Cameron and Clegg; No10 and Buckingham Palace; the Government and the Crown, with the connivance of the Heads of Commonwealth.

His Grace has written on this matter so many times that it feel like Groundhog Day (eg herehere and here).

It is not simply a matter of ending male primogeniture or permitting the Monarch to marry a Roman Catholic: the constitutional ripples will be felt for decades to come. Indeed, today’s apparently trivial ‘modernising’ amendments could lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England, the end of the Union, and even the demise of the Monarchy itself.

George Trefgarne in the Spectator:

The answer is that the Act, having been rushed through in Britain will be on the statute book, waiting for the Lord President to produce his pen to implement each clause in Britain as he sees fit.

This takes us to the essence of the criticism of the Bill. In the name of modernisation it risks introducing two entirely new concepts into the succession to the Crown: doubt, and executive discretion. At the same time, it removes another important convention: pragmatism. For if we were confronted with a brilliant elder daughter, married to a Catholic, we would probably find a way of allowing her to succeed without resorting to a doctrinare process fraught with legal difficulty.

Once you start to think of it like that, you realise that Mr Clegg may be opening yet another can of the constitutional worms he so enjoys feeding to us all, like the AV referendum.

As evidenced above, from my reading today, the rushed Bill doesn’t sound good. Having said that, the Church of England appear in favour of the bill:

This Government and the previous Government have consulted closely with senior Church of England figures throughout the long process which has led up to the introduction of this Bill.

In a speech in the House of Lords during debate on the Queen’s speech on 14thMay 2012, the then Bishop of Blackburn said: “the references in the humble Address to reform of the rules of royal succession are sensible and timely. I know I speak for all on these Benches when I say that we wish the Government well in their present consultations with the other Commonwealth realms. We look forward to and hope that it will then be possible for the necessary Bill to pass quickly through both Houses of Parliament.”

Feel free to post more links in the comments and of course let us know what you think on this issue.

UPDATE: David Lindsay comments from a Catholic perspective.

The Salvation Army and #Workfare Controversy

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

To be upfront, I didn’t know what the issue was with the government Workfare scheme. I’ve not really been interested in this until this morning, when I read Johnny Void’s provocatively entitled post: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness (unless thou is the Salvation Army fibbing about workfare).

Void’s post alleges the Salvation Army continuous to use Workfare workers and he links to a rather grim story in the Daily Record (Scotland). Void also links to a Jobcentre referral to Mandatory Work Activity letter (dated 17th Jan) which clearly cites the venue as an Salvation Army shop.

I spoke briefly with Void and he Tweeted:

So, where to start with finding out about Workfare; Wikipedia of course:

Workfare in the United Kingdom refers to government workfare policies whereby individuals must undertake work in return for their benefit payments or risk losing them. Workfare policies are politically controversial. Supporters argue that such policies help people move off of welfare and into employment (See welfare-to-work) whereas critics argue that they are analogous to slavery and counterproductive in decreasing unemployment.

OK, where too next, Twitter of course, and the link given by a couple of folk was on the Boycott Workfare website, which I’ll let you read, but I will cite their raison d’etre:

Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.

Bernadette Meaden kindly linked to Public Interest Lawyers who are challenging the government’s Workfare program in the courts on behalf of their clients.

BoycottWelfare Tweeted me directly:

The Boycott Workfare link is well worth reading; it very clearly sets out their objections to Charity Workfare. Here’s a quote:

By colluding with the government to increase the number of benefit sanctions charities are pushing vulnerable people further into poverty and destitution. Oxfam have refused to take part in workfare because they say it is incompatible with the goal of reducing poverty in the UK. When homelessness charity SHP left the Work Programme earlier this year they warned that sanctions were pushing vulnerable individuals further into poverty and leaving them with little option but to beg and steal. The increase in benefit sanctions is one of the reasons that we are seeing an increase in the use of food banks.

OK, so where are we?

Workfare is a highly controversial and contentious issue, so much so, that some big highstreet names and charities have very publicly suspended their involvement in the Workfare program.

The evidence suggests that the Salvation Army are involved in the scheme at some level, so what is the Sally Army’s formal response:

There is no mandatory voluntary work for the three sub contracts we deliver within the Work Programme. Anyone who volunteers their services to us does so in the knowledge that their benefits will not be affected.

We do not have any national agreements in place to provide mandatory 4-week work placements, but on a local level we are aware that our trading company has been approached by independent welfare to work providers which have been offering short-term work experience, locally, in some of our retail shops. We must stress that no placements are in place of paid work and we trust the decision of our local representatives to provide valuable professional experience.

We don’t take people in short-term placements for work that would otherwise be paid as we believe in empowering the person who is volunteering, by treating them with the respect that everyone in society is due. We believe strongly that every person has worth, irrespective of what they can offer society and it is our desire to help all who are willing to work, irrespective of their starting point. For some, the route to employment can be a long one with several milestones on the way.

Working in stages back into the workplace helps to build confidence as a lack of confidence is one of the overriding barriers to work. We believe that it is important that people on long term benefits ‘test’ themselves in the workplace, to gain work experience without any threat of losing benefit or having to start the process again.

It is sensible to partner with the private and voluntary sector to provide many of the programmes, not because the work will be done ‘on the cheap’ but because better value will be achieved by the flexibility of our sector to tailor programmes to individual need and achieve better results. We have the expertise and broad working base to help achieve effective outcomes.

How does this read to you? For me, I am left with absolutely no idea whether the Salvation Army participates in the Workfare scheme or not.

Whether you be for, or against, Workfare, it would strike me the prudent move as a Christian organisation, with such an morally explosive issue, would be to withdraw from the scheme and publicly state as much. Otherwise, you might just find yourself on the receiving end of responses such as this:

I have Tweeted the Salvation Army direct:

I’ll let you know if I receive a response.

UPDATE: Three Tweets received from BoycottWorkfare which really cast the Salvation Army in a poor light in regard to this issue:

 

 

Oh dear!

Only 7% view being Christian as important for being British

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

The 2013 ‘State of the Nation’ study has just been released and can be found here in PDF format.

Interestingly, only 7% cited “Being Christian” as important for being British. This finding flies in the face of the argument that the 59% of Brits who self-identified as Christian for the census, did so for cultural British identity reasons.

Respect for people’s right to free speech, even if you don’t agree with them 50%
Respect for the law 46%
Speaking English 41%
Treating men and women equally 38%
Respect for all ethnic backgrounds 29%
Respect for all faiths 26%
Being born here 26%
Voting in elections 21%
Being Christian 7%
Being white 6%
Other 1%
Nothing 3%
Don’t know 5%

Worryingly, it would appear that the media portrayal of ‘benefit scrounging scum’ is taking root in the British psyche, as 47% believe tension between tax payers and welfare claimants causes the most division in British society as a whole today:

Tension between immigrants and people born in Britain 57%
Tension between tax payers and welfare claimants 47%
Tension between rich and poor 35%
Tension between different ethnicities 33%
Tension between tax payers and tax avoiders 32%
Tension between different religions 26%
Tension between different political views 15%
Tension between different regions such as north and south 12%
Tension between old and young 7%
Tension between men and women 3%
Other 2%

Tensions in ‘local area’ threw up similar results.

There’s a mine of information but it’s interesting to note that the NHS is the number one reason for pride in being British and a whopping 72% agreed with the statement:

The NHS is a symbol of what is great about Britain and we must do everything we can to maintain it

Of all the anniversaries, the NHS 65th makes folk proudest to be British.

46% feel Britain is on ‘the wrong track’ which was the top response.

I’ll let you hop over for more and a big hat-tip to BRIN.

Why the struggle against ‘war on welfare’ really matters #WOWpetition

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

This is a cross-post written by Bernadette Meaden and first appeared on Ekklesia:

On the evening of Tuesday 18 December, the WOW petition was launched. WOW stands for War on Welfare, and behind the petition is a community of sick and disabled people, carers, friends and families, who have come together via social media to start a resistance.

Spearheaded by actor and comedian Francesca Martinez, the petition aims to get 100,000 signatures to end the ‘war on welfare’ being waged by the government.

“It’s a scary, dark time for disabled people,” says Francesca Martinez. “Already a third of disabled adults live in poverty. That’s disgraceful and with the new cuts, that figure can only rise. It breaks my heart that some of the most vulnerable people in society are being demonised and used as scapegoats. It’s something everybody needs to fight against.”

The propaganda which has been used to win public support for massive welfare cuts in Britain has left many people feeling frightened, unwanted, and in some cases, suicidal. Time after time, the Work Capability Assessments (WCA) carried out by private company ATOS have been shown to be a grotesque farce, as seriously ill people die shortly after being declared fit to work.

Growing numbers of poor, sick and disabled people are threatening to take their own lives, and in some cases actually doing so.

Just last week, @IanLaveryMP tweeted: “Very busy day ending in great sadness, reading a 54-year-old man’s suicide note blaming the #wca and zero score. Couldn’t face another year.”

Also last week, the New Statesman’s Laurie Penny penned an open letter to a reader, entitled, ‘You are not a scrounger’. She wrote: “A few days ago you wrote to me and told me you were planning to take your own life. You told me that your reasons for this are: because you are frightened about what will happen to you when you lose the disability living allowance you rely on to live independently, and because you want to take a stand against the government’s assault on welfare.”

The very next day, Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey announced in the House of Commons that when Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PiPs), more than 300,000 people will have their benefits cut or removed altogether.

Anybody who can walk more than 20 metres will not receive the mobility element of the new benefit.

Now, imagine you can only walk about 30 metres before pain or exhaustion means you can’t go any further. Would you be able to rely on public transport? I doubt it. Without the money to fund a car, or taxis, or a mobility scooter, you would become housebound, and this is what will happen to countless thousands of people under the government’s plans.

All of this indicates why the WOW petition initiative is so vital.

* Sign the petition (http://tinyurl.com/cgjwx5f ) and promote it on Twitter using the #WOWpetition hashtag.

* Help push the debate on the impact of cuts on the disabled - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17590

European Court of Human Rights (ECHR): Eweida, Chaplin, Ladele, McFarlane – Judgement Published

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Today (Tues 15th) at 9am GMT the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will announce its judgement on four applications that UK law has failed to adequately protect the applicants’ right to manifest their religion, contrary to Articles 9 (freedom of religion) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination).

I’ve blogged on each of these cases: Nadia EweidaShirley ChaplinLilian LadeleGary McFarlane

The National Secular Society and Equality and Human Rights Commission have both filed intervening submissions under Rule 44 §3.

Christian Concern made this comment in an email yesterday:

“These are landmark cases and we have waited a long time to get to this point. At stake is not only the future shape of Christian involvement in community life but the protection of important personal freedoms in a diverse society.”

Christian Concern are not the only group to consider this a landmark case, as we’ve already had the BHA and NSS publish their pre-ruling releases today.

In fact, these cases are viewed as so important even the Russian Orthodox Church has offered UK Christians moral support.

There’s one thing we can be assured of when this ruling is published, irrespective of the outcome. And that is there will be a flurry of ill-informed, polemic, alarmist headlines, and articles.

As with all things legal, it is often far more complex and nuanced than it first appears and that is why I won’t be personally attempting any analysis. I know my limitations and will await the experts in such matters.

I’m planning to create a list of links here on this post to opinion pieces and analysis. I know some bloggers have already begun formulating their posts and I will ensure they’re linked to here.

So perhaps bookmark this page and check back periodically over the next few days as the ruling is read, digested, blogged, and then linked to from here.

In the meantime, I’m out and about quite a bit today, so if you come across any good links on this matter, or if you write a piece yourself, let me know in the comments.

THE JUDGMENT HAS NOW BEEN PUBLISHED

CASE OF EWEIDA AND OTHERS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM

 

Back in September I said:

The case that I have most sympathy with is Nadia Eweida, the British Airways employee who was asked to stop wearing a cross at work. To me, this may be the most clear-cut case of religious discrimination and that is because of a potential disparity between the treatment of Eweida and other employees of different faiths.

The argument in Eweida’s case is that if other faiths are permitted to wear religious paraphernalia, as they were at BA, and this does not constitute a health and safety risk, then it is wrong to discriminate against one particular expression of faith.

We have to remember that in Eweida’s case the tribunal used the argument that there was no religious discrimination as “Christians generally” do not consider wearing a cross as a religious “requirement”. We have to watch for judgements using this reasoning, as it is secular courts pontificating on theological necessities. Complex and fraught indeed.

Also individual rights and freedoms do not depend on how many people agree with your conscience or speech.

Analysis and opinion Links

UK Human Rights Blog - Strasbourg rules against UK on BA crucifix issue

Cranmer - Victory for religious symbols; defeat for the religious conscience

Turtle Bay and beyond - Christian employees in the UK: A second class category

Unconfirmed Tweet:

This would be: Lilian LadeleGary McFarlane

Here’s a link to the NSS and BHA and whilst I’m at it Ekklesia: Here, here and here. All well chuffed with the result.

New piece on Ekklesia, written by Simon Barrow and comes complete with a quote from me!

Religion Law Blog (Barrister At Law – Neil Addison) - Eweida and Others – First Views

Religion Clause - European Court of Human Rights Vindicates Britain In 3 of 4 Cases Denying Accommodation of Christian Beliefs

Head of Legal - Strasbourg judgment: Eweida and others v UK

First Things - European Court’s Judgment in UK Religious Freedom Cases: A First Read

God and Politics - Letting employees wear a cross won’t destroy your business

Oxford Human Rights Hub - Religious Rights in the Balance: Eweida and Others v UK

Law and Lawyers - Eweida and others v UK ~ a look at what is being said?

Mrs Markleham - Eweida: what it all means

UK Constitutional Law Group – Ronan McCrea: Strasbourg Judgement in Eweida and Others v United Kingdom

A Range of Reasonable Responses – Eweida & Co: the Decision

Law and Religion UK - Chaplin, Eweida, Ladele and McFarlane: the judgment

Danny Webster - Legal right and religious wrongs

Co-belligerent Secularists and Christians force government to reform Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act

Monday, January 14th, 2013

An unlikely coalition of Christians and Secularists joining together in a rare act of unity has forced the government to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act to give more protection to free speech.

Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act says a person is guilty of an offence if:

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

It was the word “Insulting” that caused the consternation, confusion and subsequent abuse of the Public Order Act. It’s a very vague and subjective term that allowed too much discretion in application.

This Act had been used against Christians on quite a few occasions, most notably in the case of Jamie Murray, owner of the Salt & Light Coffee House.

This was a truly bizarre incident in which the displaying of Scripture on a video screen prompted a police visit following a complaint. The police notified Murray that he was displaying offensive or insulting words which breached Section 5 of the Public Order Act; in other words, the Biblical texts contravened the act.

The Christian Institute have been long campaigning for the removal of the word ”insulting” from the act, together with the National Secular Society, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and others.

website and Twitter account were set up.

Today the Christian Institute are declaring “Victory”:

The Government gave way tonight, and agreed to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act to give more protection to free speech.

Campaign group Reform Section 5 (RS5) has been pushing for the change, which has seen many controversial arrests.

Today, in the House of Commons, Home Secretary Theresa May said the word ‘insulting’ would be removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act, as part of the Crime and Courts Bill.

The amendment to the law was put forward by Lord Dear, a former HM Inspector of Constabulary, and when discussed in the House of Lords, peers voted by 150 to 54 in favour of the change.

The Government today announced that it would not overturn the amendment but will allow it to become law.

This is very good news for freedom of speech in this country.

A few good links

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

Hurriyet Daily News - Christianity no longer a religion, says Turkish minister

Haven - Myth and Stigma – Emotion vs. Intelligence: BPD & Rational Thought

British Religion in Numbers - Welcome to 2013

Psychology Today - How to Discover Our Core Gifts Within Our Wounds

Words on the Word - Keep ‘em coming back with the December Biblical Studies Carnival

Ekklesia - Another moral wrong from IDS on work and welfare

The Emotionally Sensitive Person - Loneliness: Additional Survey Results

Law and Religion UK - 2012 and 2013: retrospect and prospect

And finally The World of Mentalists 2012 Award Results:

Best Mood Disorder Blog
Purple Persuasion

Best Psychosis Blog
A Path With Heart

Best Eating Disorder Blog
Giant Fossilized Armadillo

Best Personality Disorder Blog
Beauty From Pain Blog

Best Anxiety, Stress or Trauma Blog
Conversations With My Head

Best Autistic Spectrum Disorder Blog
Aspergers & the Alien

Best Psychiatry, Psychology or Psychotherapy
Mind Hacks

Best Nursing, Social Work or Professions Allied to Medicine Blog
The Masked AMHP

Best Student or Academic Blog
World of Oid

Best Mental Health Not Otherwise Specified Blog
MentalHealthCop

Wildcard
Chaos and Control

A few good links

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

UK Human Rights Blog - High Court rejects Humanist Association’s challenge to faith school proposals in Richmond

Law and Religion UK - Charitable status, public benefit and “closed” congregations: an update on Preston Down

Protect the Pope - French government orders surveillance of Catholic pro-marriage groups it suspects of ‘religious pathology’

Pink News - UK: Primary school writes to parents to explain that their child’s teacher will be changing gender

Francis Sedgemore - RIP Intellectual Property UK

Islamophobia Watch – Advertising Islamophobia hits London railways

Martin Webber’s Blog - Blogging: An essential research engagement and dissemination tool?

Accepting Abundance - Eyna, Are You More Than A Body?

No more wriggling out of writing - On the darker side of the sparkle

Quote of the Day

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Funny old world. The Church of England gets it in the neck from politicians regarding women bishops and gay marriage. The Mother of Democracy makes space for people elected on a fraction of the electorate’s votes to threaten the Church that if we don’t change our polity they will do it for us. In other words, “we don’t like how your people voted, so change the system in such a way that they get it right next time – or we will force you to do it”.

Source: Bishop Nick Baines - Great piece, do hop over and read it all.

Be afraid David Cameron, be very afraid, the Catholics are on a war footing

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

St Jude

Shamelessly pilfered from: That the bones you have crushed may thrill

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