This Christmas send the gift of understanding to your nearest and dearest by exposing the vilest of our political establishment. This Christmas card, created by Cold War Steve, casts the likes of Farage, Rees-Mogg and my own MP, Mark Jenkinson in their true, narrow-minded and mean-spirited colours. Even better, 100% of the profits from sale of the cards goes to the charity ‘Refugee action’ whose work supports those desperate individuals who so many of our politicians would abandon despite our international commitments and legal obligations.
I’ll be off to pop one in the post to my local constituency tory club shortly. I’m sure many of them will enjoy the joke just as much as the rest of us will.
After the end of World War 1, as countries across the globe took stock of the calamity that had befallen them, nation after nation made a commitment to honour the dream that so many serving soldiers, sailors and airmen had given their lives for.
As the reasons for the conflict became clearer to ordinary people the phrase ‘Lest we forget’ came to signify not only the millions of lives cut short but also the motivations and political ambitions of those who brought them to war in the first place. Nationalistic pride, a belief in our own mythical, almost mystical superiority and contempt for ‘Johnny foreigner’ bred an arrogance that was at once both isolationist and entitled.
Coupled with the unbridled political ambition of a few key players both in and out of government, the stage was (is) set for a conflict of gargantuan, of epic proportions.
Such was the situation in the run up to August 1914.
After the end of World War 1, as countries across the globe took stock of the calamity that had befallen them, nation after nation made a commitment to honour the dream that so many serving soldiers, sailors and airmen had given their lives for. As the reasons for the conflict became clearer to ordinary people the phrase ‘Lest we forget’ came to signify not only the millions of lives cut short but also the motivations and political ambitions of those who brought them to war in the first place.
To forget the hateful, profiteering, nationalistic tactics of war mongering politicians and investors is to risk repeating the same mistakes again.
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If you want to spend money on flowers and train fares to pay your respects to this particular old lady then go ahead. I have no issue with that, even though I don’t pretend to understand why. But I’d like to ask that you do something else – something more practical and meaningful.
Please give the same amount as a donation to your local foodbank (they my ask you to give food rather than money), a homeless charity or some other organisation dedicated to helping those whose state funded benefits don’t quite go so far as her late majesty’s did.
Almost 370 years ago, in 1653, Oliver Cromwell dissolved the Long parliament – a corrupt cabal of wealthy, self-serving villains who, – far from working for the good of the people chose only to further their own interests. The MPs of the time dishonoured the lofty ideals of parliamentary democracy with their greed and their utter contempt for the needs of those whom they were elected to serve.
This is what he said…
“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; you are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; you are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.
“Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? You have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?
“You sordid prostitutes ,have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? You are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, get yourselves gone! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.
We all have our pet peeves – the things that stir us up, that light that ‘fire in the belly’ and get us going. For some it’s about family, for others it’s about a particular belief, mindset or ideology. For me it’s about ‘justice’.
For some justice is synonymous with vengeance. They follow, to some degree or another, the old ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’ standard of the bronze age shepherd. For them justice is both simplistic and obvious. Theirs is the ‘two wrongs make a right’ approach that most of us grow out of before we leave the schoolyard. That’s not my type of justice.
Others acknowledge the complexity of determining right from wrong in a world that contains so much more grey than simple ‘black and white’. They accept that justice is complex and often difficult to define. I have to admit, that seems like a very good starting place. But then they go and spoil things by demanding that the victims of crime, the very people least likely to be objective, get to determine the most appropriate punishments. They’re the same people whose only real (and particularly unimaginative) contribution to debates about crime is to state….
“You wouldn’t say that if it was your…. (mother, father, son, daughter, home, money etc.)”
And of course, they’re right. I’d most probably want someone’s head on a plate, not because that’d be the right thing to do but because I’m human, I’m emotionally driven (as are we all) and sometimes I can be irrational (as can we all). But I still shouldn’t be able to mete out judgement or take the law into my own hands.
The hallmark of a civilised society is that punishment is taken out of the hands of the individual and placed into the hands of the state.
Still others seem happy with the idea of a state controlled judiciary until it comes to the sentencing of offenders. Then their true colours tend to show. Then they become so similar to the ‘let the victims decide’ contingent that it’s hard to tell them apart.
These are the people who, with little or no knowledge of the often complex court proceedings and mitigating factors insist, as though through automatic reflex, that the sentence is too lenient. These are the people who complain loudly and incessantly that the convicted murderer ‘could be out in ten years’ without ever pausing to imagine just what ten years incarceration might be like. They’re the people who prefer emotional vengeance to rational justice and their lack of a sense of proportion shows all too well. They’re not interested in positive intervention to effect positive change. They simply want another person to suffer. In that respect, despite the apparent veneer of social awareness, they’re no more advanced than the ‘eye for an eye’ brigade.
These are the unthinking, uncaring individuals, the vengeful defenders of people they’ll never meet against people they’ll never understand. These are the easily led, the tories target voters who faithfully fail to notice the damage that ‘Boris’ bastards’ are doing to our country so long as they can be distracted by a juicy crime story or a made up threat from foreigners fleeing persecution or warfare in distant lands. These are the people who think populist emotionality can substitute for paying political attention and the likes of Patel, Gove and Sunak are more than happy to play along. Let’s face it, Johnson and his cronies will play any game at all if it’ll let them hang on to a little bit more power for a little bit more time.
By pandering to the lowest common denominator of our basest instincts, of tribalism and of vengeful hatred they can persuade the people to give away all their rights under the pretence of stealing them from someone else. It’s not me they’re after, it’s them others!
But the changes to our justice system that made it into law last week in Parliament affect us all – not just the few foreigners and criminals targeted by the populists.
Ironically enough, populist fervour leads to a government so buoyed up by nastiness that it can literally do anything it likes. So last week we lost the right to protest, the right to free expression and even the right to save drowning people without facing prison if they happen not to be British.
We lost the right to fair trial with several crimes being defined and people found guilty and sentenced not by judicial process, not by a court or a jury but by the Home Secretary, personally.
We lost the right to scrutinise and censure politicians when they break the law. Judicial review can now only go ahead with the consent of the very government the system aims to scrutinise. In short, they can now do pretty much whatever they like and, short of revolution or some other form of insurrection, there’s very little we can do to prevent it.
This crop of tories – the truly nasty party representatives – have taken principles of fairness, of justice, of democracy and of hope and turned them into rules intended to benefit themselves and their cronies at the top of the financial tree at our expense. They allow energy companies to make vast profits while many Brits are unable to heat their homes. They allow sewage companies to dump raw effluent into our waterways – waterways only recently clean again thanks to EU regulations – you know – the ‘red tape’ we were all told to dislike so much. That’s the same red tape that’s been removed as we lose employment protections with no effective recourse to law and extremely limited access to legal aid. And all because decent people were conned into voting for a pack of vicious hyenas.
Personally I tend to lean toward utilitarianism – the philosophical approach that seeks to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. That doesn’t make me ‘soft’ or ‘naive’, by the way. I absolutely believe that society has both the right and the duty to protect itself. Sometimes that means long sentences – even life and that’s OK by me. But often it means something quite different. Often it means understanding, compassion and education. Often it means rehabilitation. What it most certainly does not mean and cannot, must not mean is the gratuitous inflicting of suffering. Justice must be purposeful and devoid of emotional bias. And it can never be right that the person under scrutiny is the very person deciding whether or not the trial can go ahead. Guilt and sentencing should never be decided by a politician with an axe to grind and nobody should ever be sent to prison for saving a human being from drowning. What inhuman monster came up with that idea?
However the real purpose of this post is to make one, simple point. Justice, as determined by the state, must be in response to actions and behaviours. It has nothing to do with prejudicial assumptions about nationality, heritage, skin colour, sexual orientation, poverty, dependency, political affiliation, wealth or place of birth.
Perhaps some of those unthinking supporters of our far right, nationalist government would do well to remember that.
This is Linton on Ouse. It’s a beautiful, even idyllic little village just North of York on the site of the once magnificent Galtres forest – a royal hunting forest established by the Normans that once covered over 100,000 acres and contained as many as 60 villages, the main settlement being Easingwold a few miles North East of here.
The modern village is part of the Parish of Newton-on-Ouse. It’s enclosed by the River Ouse to the West and on the Eastern side, the River Kyle. There’s a feeling of tradition here, of hushed reverence for the past with all its pomp and sterile conservatism. And it’s that attitude of tradition, of adherence to someone else’s rules that makes the current drama unfolding here in the Vale of York so ironic.
Among the mansions, the cottages, the barges and the blossom… right in the centre of Linton lies a RAF base. Or at least it used to. The base has been empty since 2020 when the MoD decommissioned it. Now it stands quiet and barren, complete with runways, offices and, crucially… around 150 on site houses.
What do you do with 150 houses on a disused air base? Well, if your name’s Priti Patel you commandeer them to house immigrants. 500 to start with, beginning sometime in June but potentially rising to 1,500 middle Eastern immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. Here, in the heart of this quaint Yorkshire village with its population of less than 1,000 souls, miles from anywhere with a public transport service that absolutely no-one in their right mind would describe as adequate.
Personally I don’t care if the NIMBYs get a taste of the reality of life, of mixing with and having to get along with people who aren’t just as privileged as they are. I really couldn’t care less if people too myopic to see that people are simply people end up staying indoors rather than meet folks who might broaden their horizons. Society might just be better off for their absence anyway.
I am concerned that newly arrived immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers deserve more than to be dumped out of sight where they can be prevented from acclimatizing themselves to their new surroundings and from where they will find it difficult to access advice and assistance related to their particular needs as newcomers to a strange country.
I’m also more than a little perturbed that so many of their first English neighbours will be this contemptuous of these desperate and often traumatized individuals.
My friend and former colleague, Fran Marr really is an all round good egg. She’s the sort of person you just know would never turn her back if you needed her. Hers is the sort of compassion that never seems to tire and that has the amazing ability to inspire others to help too.
Right now she’s turning her attention to helping Ukranian refugees fleeing the war in their homeland. Have a look at what she’s up to.
While you’re here – click the link below and send a few quid to help out. It needn’t be much and it really is a damn good cause!
My MP, Mark Jenkinson MP is a bit of a smart-arse when it comes to trans rights. I’ve blogged about his anti-trans bigotry before.
As usual, “Jenky” as he’s not so affectionately known here in Workington is going around pretending to know stuff that he really doesn’t have the first clue about. This is quite normal behaviour for him. He uses his spectacular lack of understanding to whip up dog-whistles to inspire his ever-dwindling band of ‘true-believers’ to support him as he attacks minority after minority from travellers to refugees, Asylum-seekers to hungry children.
Recently he had a go at trans people, claiming that science determines that there are only two sexes and absolutely missing the point that gender and sex are different.
“Responding, Mark Jenkinson said he has never said anything transphobic, and rejects the term, choosing to call himself ‘gender critical’.
He said he does not recognise the identities of trans men and trans women, pushing favour of biological sex over gender identity to be the salient factor.”
But hey ho – he isn’t very well educated so we might forgive him for not understanding that gender is a fluid, social construct that changes dramatically from place to place and era to era. What isn’t so forgivable is the way he misprepresents scientific understanding. This video should put him right though.
Fortunately for Jenky there are people like Forrest Valkai in the world. He’s an evolutionary biologist and science educator who really can tell Jenky a thing or two – not that this bigoted and wilfully ignorant MP would listen. He’s far too interested in being right or, as we say in West Cumbria…
This morning’s announcement from Her Majesty’s government, if indeed we can still call it ‘Her Majesty’s’ will shock the country and shake our system of representative democracy and constitutional monarchy to its very core. For centuries now the reigning monarch has been the head of the Church of England, a Protestant organisation respected the world over and fully in-keeping with the character of Anglicanism worldwide as well as the prevailing culture across these fair Isles.
It was the tolerance and fair-mindedness of Anglicanism that brought an end to the religious wars that once so blighted our country. Even in N. Ireland, where the struggle is as much about national identity and exploitation as it is about religion per se, the Anglican church has called for peace, along with its Roman Catholic brethren.
We don’t have separation of church and state in this country as they do in the US. We still have Bishops and Archbishops in the House of Lords making laws for example, but those clergymen tend to act as much in a secular capacity as in a religious one. Such has it been for longer than any of us have been alive. And such, we imagined, it would remain. Until today.
As we know, early in this parliamentary term of office Boris used his overwhelming majority to push through an enabling act allowing him and his ministers the right to make law related both to Brexit and to Covid without reference to parliament and without notice to the populous. We saw this with the many announcements and U-turns regarding lockdowns and negotiations with Europe. One piece of legislation was announced late one evening after most people had gone to bed and resulted in arrests and prosecutions the very next morning as people went about their business completely oblivious to the fact that the law had changed while they slept.
And now they’ve done it again – under cover of the recent explosion in Covid19 infections Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the house and a vociferous Roman Catholic has single-handedly swept away the very basis both of our constitutional monarchy and our traditional political and religious structure. He has done so by claiming that only divine intervention can truly defeat covid and so we need, as a nation, to get right with God.
As of one minute past midnight this morning the official religion of England and Wales is no longer Anglicanism. It is, in fact, Roman Catholicism. The justification for this is ancient. It harks back to a deal made in the 13th century by King John (disparagingly known at the time as John Lackland) who gave this country to the Pope as a Papal serfdom in return for help in raising funds to wage war with France. The deal was struck in 1213 and annual payments of 1,000 marks were made in tribute to the Pope every year until 1290. After that they were irregularly offered until the final tribute was given by Edward III in 1333 in the hope that this would secure Papal favours on the international stage.
It did not and so the tribute was never paid again and although the English parliament eventually ruled the ‘sale’ of UK invalid, the Vatican has never formally relinquished its hold over the nation. Consequently, Brexit or no Brexit, England belongs to the Roman Catholic church and has done for over 800 years. Scotland was never part of the agreement in 1213 and so it remains to be seen how our brothers North of the border will fare.
It may be that the next big building project will involve a restoration not only of monasteries but of Hadrian’s wall as well. We’ll have to wait and see about that. What we do know is that there are few tory voters in Scotland so this particular incarnation of the ‘Conservative and Unionist party’ will have few qualms in letting our Northern neighbours adrift if it suits their short-term goals.
This is the backdrop behind Rees-Mogg’s modern religious coup. Relying upon ancient documents detailing the transfer of ownership from the crown to the Pope he has declared UK a fiefdom once again. This is possible because of recent legislation disempowering our domestic judges who are no longer in a position to overrule or even question the work of government. Further, the Roman Catholic backbench committee, ‘Opus Hominem’ has declared the acquisition of Catholic property during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries unlawful and empowered Rees-Mogg to order a return of all Anglican properties to the English branch of the Roman Catholic church with immediate effect. Any clergyman or lay-congregant maintaining possession of such properties after midnight this morning will be guilty not only of theft but of heresy.
The new law goes further. Since there was no Anglican church in the 14th century, King John’s pact was made from the perspective of Roman Catholicism and as such, only Roman Catholic law can repeal it. At that time, and subsequently, failure to observe the tenets of the Roman church constituted heresy. Even if not originally baptised into Roman Catholicism, anyone professing to be Christian was covered by the Papal inquisition and punishable under its auspices.
This was the basis of the Albigensian crusades against the Cathars of Southern France. They were Christians whose ‘crime’, among other things, was to argue that they didn’t need a Priest to speak with God – they could do so directly. Very much like the Anglican position, as it happens.
Anglicans are Protestants and as such are equally liable to accusations of Heresy from ‘mother church’.
Of course, nobody will be getting burned at the stake or hanged as they did in centuries past but Rees-Mogg has identified his own, modern approach to undermining ecumenical relations in UK. Beginning this Sunday all citizens of England and Wales will be expected to attend Mass and give confession. Those not properly baptised have been given one month to do so after which they too will be expected to take communion in this newly Catholicised state. Those who fail to do so will face imprisonment and sequestration of funds to pay for the repair of church buildings destroyed since the dissolution.
This account of Draconian legislation is, of course, an April Fool’s day joke. But take a look at what’s really going on. Click the link here. These genuine new laws, taken together really will undermine our rights, our citizenship and our democracy. And there’s nothing funny about that.
April or not, the government really is taking us all for fools!