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Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

I received my voting card for 15th November’s elections for the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner in the post a couple of weeks ago. Until last week, the only opinion I have had about this election is that using the acronym PCC for this new job will confuse both Anglicans and anyone who followed the Leveson inquiry.

Since we don’t watch local news on telly and don’t regularly get a local paper, we have had no idea about who is standing or what the job entails. So in my quest to have an informed vote, I duly googled and found a BBC website which gave me the lowdown on the candidates (there is also a national site that will enable you to see candidates).

There is the usual collection of political candidates and three independents, but the person who stood out for me is one of the independents. Derek Webley is a local guy (he’s based just up the road from our parish), who has excellent relevant experience (having already led the West Midlands Police Board – the first independent to do so) and he is a Christian. I don’t want to see policing politicised and a win for Derek Webley would keep policing out of party hands but not deliver it to someone inexperienced and unsuitable. I wonder if people’s dissatisfaction with politicians at the moment will deliver us any independent Police and Crime Commissioners, though? Or are we so stuck with the political system, with its teams of leafleting volunteers, that independents have no chance? I shall be encouraging people to vote, as usual, but I’m a little despairing about the outcome.

 

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Just read this in an interview in the Guardian with Jeremy Vine. I’m rather surprised that I agree with Tony Blair! But being faithful to the Lord is hardest in the small, everyday things, not in the grand visions. So I should get off the internet and put the shopping away…

You worked as a Westminster correspondent for a long time. And you were on the Blair battle-bus in 1997, weren’t you?

I interviewed Tony Blair five or six times, but it’s off-air conversations that matter. Once, on the bus, he said: “I like tea” and I said: “I like tea, too” and then he said something like: “I hear you’re a Christian, Jeremy” and I said: “I’m just struggling, you know” and he said: “It’s the most important thing in my life.” And then I said: “Don’t you feel that actually the big stuff like what you’re going to do when you get into power is much less important than the small stuff, which is how you treat your next-door neighbour?” I realised that was a bad analogy because his neighbour was Gordon Brown. But he said: “I completely agree.”

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George Osborne is apparently going to announce today that 260,000 2 year olds will be allocated nursery places, especially targetted at deprived areas. This sounds like it will result in children in poorer homes being given great education (a whole extra year at school!) and impoverished parents being able to get back into employment earlier.

But will it work? I can see there’ll be a benefit for parents already back at work – they’ll bear less of their childcare costs. And childcare may look more affordable for someone getting a full time job. But in our parish, I can’t see many full time jobs available and barely any of those part time jobs that someone could do in between dropping a child at nursery and returning to collect them 3 hours later. One friend would love to work during the school day (and year) but very few jobs are that flexible, unless they’re in a school. So perhaps that’s the government’s plan – employ all those unemployed parents in the nurseries that will be expanding.

It’ll be a good break for some knackered (mainly) mums but then it supplies the message that a 2 year old is better off in the hands of a government run nursery than at home and out and about with their family. I think that this was what the communists did. Aren’t we heading for the ultimate Nanny State? Am I missing something, or is this just something that the Chancellor is announcing to deflect attention from the horrors of the economy? I note that it’s been used as the headline in the online Telegraph site and doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the Guardian. Hmmmm.

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I’m still feeling somewhat spacey after a wonderful weekend in Eastbourne at Bible By The Beach. Terrific bible teaching, an amazing kids’ programme and lots of sunshine. We were sleeping in our new tent, which was lovely and spacious, but taking it down in the wind was like wrestling a team of octupuses (or octupi, if you prefer). Windy nights and sunny mornings don’t make for long lie-ins, so we’re now rather wasted.

So I’m not feeling up to thinking extensively about AV this morning (who is, tbh?) but I thought I’d point you to other Christian bloggers who’ve posted this weekend on the referendum options. Mark Meynell is torn but thinks that AV may not be the answer and Gareth Davies, at CARE, has posted in favour of AV today and will be posting on the opposing view tomorrow.

Later edit: Theos now has a posting with both arguments. And Andrew Goddard has posted very strongly for AV over at the Fulcrum site. Crimperman is pro-AV but gives a good outline of both positions and has some nifty diagrams. Vic the Vicar takes a look at things biblically and wishes the electorate would actually vote. Kneewax is against AV.

Sitting with a rather random bunch of people at the coffee shop during a break in Bible By The Beach, opinion was somewhat divided on AV, so it seems there are are lots of undecided Christians out there. It was great to meet Emma Scrivener, though, having been a big fan of her excellent blog for a while. Go there to think about image and the self, eating disorders and the gospel. I don’t think she’s posted on AV though!

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And I’m not talking about the King James bible, also known as the Authorised Version. I have to say that I’m struggling at the moment to decide whether to vote for or against the new voting system called Alternative Vote. And most people I speak to locally are completely indifferent.

I asked the Twitterverse which way a Christian should vote on the matter and the main response I got was that the bible’s only recommended system of election (apart from the Lord’s election of his people, obvs) is by lot (cf Acts 1v26 – for the selection of Matthias as an apostle to replace Judas). Selection by lottery is a system which leaves the choice to God and teaches his people to pray, although I’m not aware of any churches which use that system for selecting their church council these days.

The Christian Institute has a paper on AV which is fairly non-committal – it highlights the issues  and also links to Christians and others for and against.  Christian bloggers who have posted include John Richardson and Peter Kirk – both in the Yes camp.

My current concerns are fairness – is AV fairer than the existing First Past the Post system? And also cost – will a new system involve the country in extra expense for advertising, teaching and counting? And is anyone bothered enough about it to implement a new system? I’ve not met anyone locally yet who is passionately convinced that AV should be brought in for the good of the country.

Tonight I read a helpful article in the New Scientist which mentions a system that is claimed to be ‘an alternative, “perfect” system’, which actually sounds more like the biblical method I mentioned above:

Maclver’s system is identical to FPTP in all but one respect. Voters in each constituency choose a single candidate, but then one voter is picked at random from each constituency and their choice determines which candidate gets elected. The random element means the system isn’t covered by Arrow’s theorem.

It sounds horribly unfair but it would actually produce results that are more proportional to the views of the country as a whole, argues MacIver, as it is simply a random sampling of the population. So if a party has 20% of the national vote, it should end up with roughly 20% of the seats in parliament.

It turns out Maclver’s idea isn’t a new one – the system is known as a random ballot. But it isn’t one of the choices being offered to the UK public.

I liked the way the New Scientist summarises the dilemma for all of us who want to cast a vote in this referendum next week:

Do you want a system that picks a winner with strong support from a minority of voters (FPTP) or one where the leading candidate is vaguely liked by a majority of people (AV)? No amount of equations can help you reach an answer.

And as a Christian the response to the final dilemma has got to be prayer. So that’s what I’m planning to do. How about you?

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I did a quiz last night on my political views. It had 50 questions, and I found some of them a little hard to get my head around. Anyway, I thought I’d share my results. And also ask for reading suggestions so I can get a bit more up to speed on issues about how much the state should intervene in our lives. Nothing too long or too hard, please. I find my brain a little fried these days. I found it particularly difficult to answer political questions in an abstract way, as the fallenness of our world and the politicians available to us colour my views. An interesting exercise, though. I also suspect some of the questions to be tailored to US politics.

Anyway, according to the quiz I am a centrist moderate social authoritarian. I don’t think that sounds too inaccurate…

Left: 0.73, Authoritarian: 3.13

You can find where you fit in the grid at Political Spectrum Quiz

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Whilst searching for the YouTube link to the Daily Mail song for a friend I came across a new clip by Dan & Dan, entitled Dan/Dan Coalition. Cheer up your Monday morning by watching.

I think I’m Home Secretary in the Vicarage (definitely i/c loo rolls), but thankfully not Chancellor (although responsible for the tax returns…).

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Now that Gordon Brown has finally called the General Election, I thought I should share this with you. Grumpy Grandpa sent me a pic of a third candidate whom he thinks will be standing in our local constituency at the General Election. The decision about who to vote for is getting even more difficult.

The Remove Candidate (Bunter)


Watson (Labour Candidate) and supporters

Tory candidate (Thompson)

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Happy is our new lodger. He’s also the Vicar’s new apprentice (aka the ministry trainee). Yesterday he went to a training event about our area. It was laid on by diocesan missioners with input from speakers from the local council and other taxpayer funded bodies.

We live in Sandwell, one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. Happy came back with lots of bumf and today I thought I’d just share a few choice statistics on our area:

  • 8% of people in our borough are on Jobseekers Allowance – twice the national average.
  • House prices round here are below the national average by 35%.
  • There is not a single bookshop in the borough (though this does not include the W H Smith in our high street – I guess they mean independent booksellers or Waterstones and the like).
  • There is no cinema in the borough.
  • Most of the famous people from the area appear to be comedians (although the folk at the session kept on talking about Bishop Asbury, who neither Happy nor we had heard of before, but Wikipedia has enlightened me).
This place needs Jesus

Where we are

Happy came back with a lovely poster with photos of all the local councillors, including the three who represent the ward we live in. Sadly, when I contacted them by email more than a fortnight ago to ask about an issue that has been bugging me for a while, I received no acknowledgement and no reply. And not a single councillor showed up to a controversial meeting about a new local housing development last night. So I don’t think I’ll be putting the poster up any time soon.

But if you would like to start a business with an eager workforce, or commute to Birmingham City Centre in 15 minutes, you like to laugh a lot, you’re happy to use a library or The Book Depository for reading matter, you don’t mind watching your films on dvd a little after release, you want to buy a cheap house and get involved a local church which wants to make a difference, this is the place to be.

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We’ve been hit by the public sector strike here in deepest Wolverhampton. Our bins weren’t collected yesterday and, more disruptively, school is closed because the kitchen staff and caretaker are members of Unison.

Do you know why the strike was on Wednesday and Thursday? Apparently they couldn’t hold it on Thursday and Friday because if school staff don’t work on the last day of term they’re not paid for the holidays. If they’d been striking at the end of the week term could have finished properly on Wednesday.

As it is, we are off today and yesterday but back tomorrow. And because of all that goes on at the end of term (sports days, plays, trips out) the end-of-term service where all the Year Six leavers are farewelled has had to be postponed to Friday afternoon. Sadly for the Year Sixes, and the two teachers who are retiring, many children won’t return to school for the last day of term. A 2pm finish to the day means that parents are reluctant to disrupt holiday mode simply for a day of packing up. So the service will be much less of a send-off than it normally is.

I wonder if the Unison and Unite bosses took into consideration this important stage of children’s school careers when they made their plans? The move from primary to secondary school is a significant one. I can’t believe that they wanted to cause this upset to children by the timing of their strike. But they did think about the paypackets of their workers. Money, not memories, has driven them.

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