Monday 27 June 2016

Call this advice?...

There is an organisation that calls itself the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.  I wonder what sort of advice they give?...



I am in a relationship with a man whom I love, but who is somewhat controlling. He has always made clear it is up to me not to get pregnant, and that he will throw me out if I do, as he doesn't want to be tied down. Unfortunately, due to contraceptive failure, I am pregnant. What should I do?

Sincerely, A

Dear A,

Abortion is a quick and easy procedure, which will solve all your problems.



I was raped at a party. Now I am scared to socialise, I suffer from flashbacks, I am pregnant, and I feel suicidal.

Despairingly, B

Dear B,

Abortion is a quick and easy procedure, which will solve all your problems.



I am so worried. The tests show that my little boy, who I've wanted for so long, has Down Syndrome.

Yours, C

Dear C,

Abortion is a quick and easy procedure, which will solve all your problems.



I am pregnant by my dad. He says Mum must never know, nor the Social Worker.

Yours, Frightened

Dear Frightened,

Abortion is a quick and easy procedure, which will solve all your problems.



As they say, to a man with a hammer, every problem is a nail... BPAS have a particularly bloody, and lucrative, hammer.

I am not, perhaps, being wholly fair: they also offer vasectomies - the other crucial piece of advice with regard to pregnancy.

Their site is, in fact, completely chilling. From the notion of  'click and collect' abortion, through to the euphemistic language: 'Removes the pregnancy by gentle suction' and The pregnancy is removed using narrow forceps through the neck of the womb (cervix).
They know precisely what they are doing, but it is better if potential clients don't dwell on it.


Orare et laborare!

Sunday 19 June 2016

Why Catholics should vote to remain in the EU - according to Dr Rupert Beale

Dr Rupert Beale has asked me to post this article by him in favour of remaining in the EU on my blog. I am happy to do so: he clearly feels passionately about it, and is a clever chap, whose honesty and good intentions are beyond question.

I only preface it by saying that I am not convinced (I find that the more remain stuff I read, the more I am minded to vote to leave - and vice versa....) . However, you will judge for yourself.


Our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us, the swords of scorn divide.

I had intended this to be a riposte to the various arguments with a Catholic flavour in favour of the UK leaving the EU, but the words of G.K. Chestertons hymn have been swirling round my brain of late. I fear that what I might have written would have been scornful. Theres been quite enough of that. 

What I ask of all people of good conscience who believe that the EU is not a good thing is this: please do not vote for us to leave.

Many people were upset by the death of Jo Cox despite never having met her. I cannot imagine the shock and anguish that her husband must be feeling. Somehow he found the strength to issue a very dignified and fitting tribute to his wife. One poignant sentence stands out for me: “She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.”

It is love for one another that defines us as Christians. A love that imitates Christs universal and self-sacrificial love. That is why we defend all human lives, and why we do not try to make different categories of worth between persons – all are infinitely loved by an infinite God. Value to us is the dignity and flourishing of persons; it is not a number of pounds in a bank, even if its the Bank of England.  People to us are equal: born or unborn, young and vigorous or old and dying. They are not different in value for being British or French, Romanian or Bangladeshi.

We can have a debate about the European Union. Its a human political institution, with all the usual faults. I have argued that Britain benefits from membership (it certainly does in narrow monetary terms). I have also argued that British political influence has been a good thing in the EU as regards an area thats personally important to me: scientific research. This scientific excellence fostered by the EU promotes economic growth, as well as the health and wellbeing of Britons, Europeans and all humanity. These, we should agree, are good things. Furthermore, its very hard to see how the UK could get a better deal outside the EU.

The EU is not an unalloyed ode to joy. There is a point of view that the loss of sovereignty entailed by (for example) allowing an international court primacy over a British court is intolerable. Some believe that the EU is remote and less accountable than it should be. The original noble ideals of the predecessor to the EU – which were couched in rather specifically Christian terms – have to some extent been betrayed.

Personally, I do not see that voluntary submission to the judgements of international courts (not confined to the EU of course) is a regrettable loss of sovereignty, but I think you can have a reasonable debate about it.  There is also a very uncomfortable argument that it is in fact Britain that's bad for the EU (our influence is by no means always for the best).

The EU is a collection of 28 separate nation states, one of which is our own decidedly imperfect one. I agree that the EU has done and continues to do things which go against the high ideals of its founders – but imperfection is to be expected, whatever mechanisms are in place to help smooth relationships between our different countries.

Whatever you think about the EU, it cannot be emphasised enough that the merits or otherwise of the EU are not on the ballot paper. Whats on the ballot paper is leaving the EU. The wider context of this vote is not the impassioned but usually polite discourse between committed Christians. The context is fear of immigrants, lies about money, distrust of foreigners, distrust of economists, distrust of politicians, distrust of journalists, distrust of ‘experts’ – distrust of everybody. 

The context is also a national political debate in which we have the love of money played off against the fear of immigrants. Across continental Europe, the context is many national parties that wish their particular country to break off from the EU (and most of those parties make our own Far Right seem pretty tame). 

The context is also the recent horrible killing of an MP doing her job. The suspect has given his name in court as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. Inevitably, the motives and state of mind of the suspect have been subject to speculation, and that speculation has varied depending on the particular views of the speculator.

Its illustrative of the poverty of the national debate that this terrible tragedy is being used to score points. Its Jo Coxs husbands words that we should take to heart, and not give way to hatred. That means no hatred of foreigners, and it means no hatred of politicians either – even if they are guilty of rabble-rousing and xenophobia (as some most assuredly are). 

The secular debate around the EU referendum has been conducted in terms which are too often bound by entombing walls of gold and the love of money. They are also being conducted in a way that suggests people – some people at any rate – can be cast adrift.

From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men;
From sale and profanation of honour and the sword;
From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord!

In a sea of lies and half-truths there is one particular depth of mendacity that I wish to plunge into: the claim that £350m a week can be spent on the NHS if we leave. It is worse than a deliberate lie. It is specially designed to be a lie, because the Leave camps spin-doctors have realised that if they lie about it, it will be talked about a lot.

The counter-argument is that the real figure is lower: £136m. This is great for the Leave camp: it still sounds like a large number, and cements the broader untruth that the EU costs us money in the minds of voters. The demographic they are especially targeting – older Labour voters – is tickled by the promise to spend all that money on the NHS. They have told us a small lie to make us believe a bigger one – what clever fellows those spin-doctors are!

Mendacity is not the special vice of the Leave campaign. It has long ago infected our whole political discourse. If all truth is relative, a lie can surely be a legitimate tool used in pursuit of a political goal. In those circumstances, where to tell a lie is neither considered wicked nor shameful – and is in fact admired for its ability to shift public opinion – it is little wonder that people have lost trust.

Truth and truth-telling are essential to Christian values. Of course, there is nowadays little or no reference to Christianity in public life. But truth-telling is important to secular humanists and people of other faiths too. Can we not replace Christian values with ‘Enlightenmentvalues? I dont see much evidence of that happening.

The secular debate – even if conducted in terms that dont abandon the concept of truth altogether – is dominated by narrow self-interest. Will Britain be better off? Will I be better off? Will we be able to keep the foreigners out? Its not exactly the universal brotherhood of man. The Enlightenment owes far more of a debt to Christianity than is generally admitted. The philosopher that atheists dont much like to talk about is Nietzsche. Right now, its his abyss thats staring into us.
I could see myself voting for Brexit under certain circumstances. For example, if it became a condition of our continued membership that we join the Euro (this would by law be subject to a referendum). The procedure there would be for an elected government to carefully build global alliances and put us in a position to negotiate an orderly withdrawal (we have no such alliance in place, and all our trading partners, allies and EU neighbours are against us leaving). We would need to ensure that any exit did not produce a severe economic shock.

At present, we have no credible scenario to achieve a successful negotiated settlement, and a substantial economic shock is certain if we leave. (I accept that some economists believe we could recover in a decade or so, while others dont – but that there will be an initial shock is agreed by all.) A severe economic shock to Britain and to the EU at this time would give rise to the perfect conditions for bigotry and hatred to flourish. This we must not allow.

If you, like me, believe on balance that Britain is good for the EU and the EU is good for Britain I expect you will vote to remain. If we do vote to leave, we give succour to the very worst elements of our national politics and the national politics of the other EU members, and we must endure the national humiliation that will follow as best we can.

Take not thy thunder from us, but take away our pride.

Monday 13 June 2016

Grumpy about the referendum...

I realise that I am feeling very grumpy about this whole referendum.

I remember when Wilson called a referendum, my father remarked what a stupid thing it was to do - not part of the way we ran the country. At the time I didn't really understand what he was on about. Today I think I do rather better.

This referendum is costing £142.4m of taxpayers' money. It was called to help Cameron win the last election. It will resolve little - on present showing, about half the population will think it has delivered the wrong answer. It has promoted argument of the worst political kind: demagogues have flourished, and the politics of self-interest and economic benefit have been the dominant lenses through which the debate is framed.

When the vote is cast, vast numbers will be voting on the basis of large swathes of ignorance - my children told me recently they thought it was a vote on whether you were racist or not...

What it conceals, or perhaps reveals, is how broken our parliamentary democracy is. The Tories no longer stand for traditional conservative values - witness Cameron's destruction of traditional marriage, for example. Traditional Labour voters likewise feel that their party does not represent the best traditions of the Labour party. The Lib Dems are a joke in rather poor taste... Again, that opens the path to demagogues of the Farage kind.

The common ground seems to be that the EU is desperately in need of reform - the CAP being a glaring example - yet few seriously believe that we can achieve substantial reform. 

My own professional life would be very much easier if we were out, (it is untrue that the 'red-tape on small business' problem is a fiction) but that seems a very poor reason to cast a vote.

My preferred solution would be for an effectively functioning parliament to make a wise and principled decision. Given that is not going to happen anytime soon, why should I believe that our influence on the EU will be either effective or principled?

I am deeply and profoundly disillusioned with the whole political process.

And I still don't know which way I am going to vote.

Friday 10 June 2016

Still undecided

I envy so many of my friends. They are clear and resolute in their decision about the forthcoming referendum.  Many, like Rupert Beale, are convinced that we would be mad to leave the EU.  Rupert argues the case here, for example. Others, like Mark Lambert, are equally clear that we are better out; see Mark's facebook page for many arguments. (See Update below!)

And then there are the politicians...

I have found the paucity of the political debate particularly depressing, if I am honest. It is almost all predicated on economics and self interest, as though these are the most important things. 

Rupert Beale, to his credit, makes some appeal to the common good, but I am not wholly convinced.

For me, the choice is difficult, but I see the issues at stake differently. (It's all the others who are wrong, of course, as the mother watching the parade said, when her son was marching out of step...)

But for me, the main reason to consider voting to leave the EU is the relentless ambition to construct a European Empire. I think this an ill-founded and dangerous ambition. I also dislike the profligate waste (typified by the Strasbourg -Brussels-Strasbourg move every month at vast expense - but there are many other examples, and all beyond hope of reform, as far as I can see) and the contempt for tax-payer implicit in that. And I have a natural preference for smaller and more local power structures.

On the other hand, the thought of giving succour to the Little England (and sometimes racist) views of so many on the Out side is wholly repugnant. More serious still is the fear that a UK exit would lead others to seek to leave, and the potential balkanisation of Europe with all the risks implicit in that.

My preference is for a reformed EU - a reversion to a trading group, shedding the ambitions to political and fiscal union. But that seems a pipe dream - and certainly a vote to remain seems to me to be in practice a vote for the direction of travel.

But on the other hand, would a vote to leave give us any influence? It is conceivable that it would: that both the British political establishment and the EU would be so shocked that they would work to cobble together some real reform... But I doubt it.

So what to do?

I really don't know...



I have clearly misrepresented Mark (albeit inadvertently) - see his comment below.