Darling of the Blairite right, Louise Mensch, made several remarkable public outbursts in her strange political career. One such moment was famously documented on ‘Have I Got News For You’. Whilst discussing Occupy London, Mensch lamented the hypocrisy of the Occupants for buying Starbucks coffee. “You can’t say ‘capitalism is crisis’, and then enjoy everything that capitalism offers”. Her opinion was rightly laughed at for its utter emptiness, since you can clearly hate capitalism and like coffee at the same time, and not be a hypocrite. Or, as another panelist put it, someone on death row can enjoy their last meal. Mensch does, nonetheless, raise an interesting topic: how can an anti-capitalist live ethically?
“We’re all in this together” was without doubt the most horrible slogan at the last election, given how disingenuous it sounded when uttered by George Osborne and other frontbench Conservatives. It was, according to one author, “grotesquely implausible”. It suggests that the costs of the “necessary” austerity measures would be borne by all, and that everyone would pay their fair share. One would imagine that this means those responsible for the financial crisis itself – that is, those who got rich and benefited disproportionately in the bubble years – would bear the brunt of what would euphemistically be called “structural reform”. We now know that was not the case.
The Resolution Foundation recently found that inequality in the UK has increased over the past 15 years, just as it grew in the 1980s. The top 1% of earners now absorbs 10p in every pound of income, while the bottom half take home just 18p.
Today a Chamber of the Fourth Section of the European Court of Human Rights released its judgment in the much-anticipated cluster of cases, Eweida and Others v. the United Kingdom. These cases courted controversy in the domestic courts due to what many on both sides of the debate saw as an important and apparently irresoluble conflict between the rights to manifest religious belief and the rights to non-discrimination held by, in these cases, homosexual individuals. Put into legal terms: the cases were about the alleged conflict between the rights of the applicants under Articles 9 and 14 of the Convention and the rights of others (broadly speaking – though never explicitly defined as – falling under Articles 8 and 14).
Four applicants meant four distinct groups of facts, although a number of common threads.
by Kevin Smith
The Government’s intention to use the legislature to intervene in some matters relating to the Church of England but not others is not only worrying for the Church, but ill-advised for the Government too.
The Church of England has been unusually talked about in the past few weeks, even for the Christmas season. The hot-button issues of the General Synod’s rejection of female bishops, and the Church’s response to the Government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage, have thrust the UK’s national religious institution and its leaders into something of a political maelstrom.
By Sam Hawke
The crisis between Iran, the US, and Israel has been long boiling. With the impending Presidential elections of the world’s lone superpower – one whose involvement in the Middle East has been longstanding and massive – we may wonder where we’re currently headed. The final round of Presidential debates demonstrated, once more, the US’s naked bellicosity: as a vote-winning strategy, it’s a stance to which each candidate seeks to outdo the other. Predictably a major topic in Monday’s debate, Iran was presented by both candidates as a ‘major threat’ to US interests in the region. Neither questioned their own country’s right to reshape the region to further those interests, and to do whatever is necessary to stop a nuclear Iran.
Hopefully, we approach the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis with a deeper and renewed sense of the need for two things: the end of nuclear proliferation, and a cautious, considered, diplomatic strategy to achieve that goal. In reality, we have neither. Instead, we have a variety of nuclear-armed states keen to maintain their dominance by military and economic aggression. This is an appalling, hypocritical approach to ensuring the world’s safety from nuclear threat, and one that will anyway fail to achieve its goals.
By Sam Tomlin
‘The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it…’
‘I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say: ”We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”’ – Rev Dr. Martin Luther King
The history of non-violent resistance to oppression and injustice is a long one. As a Christian, the greatest expression of this, in my opinion, was of course Jesus himself, living under a brutal Roman occupation and speaking clearly of love for one’s enemy and the turning of the other cheek (which, as we will see, is not simply a passive resignation to oppression). There are surely many further examples long before Jesus’ time.
In recent times, Dr King, in the American civil rights movement, is perhaps the highest profile exponent of this philosophy or attitude, but there are almost endless examples of contemporary activists who peacefully risk their lives for justice and peace. His life and the quotes above, illustrate that there is a viable alternative, which not only exposes the myth of redemptive violence, but also seeks to win the oppressor back into relationship as a part of the justice for the wrong done. Read More
What kind of standards do we expect from the leaders who shape the way our businesses and social institutions function?
A little while ago my friend and colleague Sam Bright wrote an article for this site in the aftermath of erstwhile Barclays boss Bob Diamond’s resignation due to the unfolding LIBOR scandal. In it, Sam asked where the responsibility for such scandals should fall, and whether it’s appropriate in such instances to assign – or conversely, to restrict – blame to the shoulders of the “people at the top.”
Both the article and the issue itself raise challenging questions about accountability to the public. Ignoring for a moment the specificities of the Barclays scenario, there’s the broader question in any such instances of whether it is really reasonable to expect the resignation of an individual who might have had no idea about ongoing improprieties in his or her organisation. At the same time, holding accountable only the person or few people directly responsible for various misdeeds might see a handful of low-level “bad apples” out of their jobs, but is this enough to maintain or restore the public’s trust in the organisation as a whole? And what about, as Sam asks, the wider group of enablers – the legislators who created a legal framework where such scandals could take place, the regulators who turned a blind or even colluding eye, or the wilfully-ignorant shareholders who collectively had the power to demand better but failed to? Should any culpability rest with them? Read More
A complement to: Financial Suicide: Lessons From Economic Demography
“…if large portions of your population suddenly emigrate, or suicide rates markedly increase, it might be time for a Plan B.”
Now, as a lawyer, I am of a more vindictive and backwards looking sort. When the proverbial substance hits the fan I want to know who to blame and why. Mellors points to a study in the British Medical Journal, which indicates that around one thousand people in England have committed suicide as a result of the recession, due to a combination of rising unemployment and the devaluation of savings. Intuitively, it is clear who is to blame: those that made the choices giving rise to the conditions that prompted these unfortunate individuals to end their lives. This is commonly assumed to be politicians (by imposing austerity measures) and bankers (by prioritising short term profit over sustainability).
By Sam Hawke
Thousands are killed each year as they attempt to reach the shores of the European Union, amidst a forced migration crisis suffered by the global poor and tragically exacerbated by last years’ uprisings across the Arab world. This comes as the EU increasingly militarises its borders and spreads the reach of its enforcement system wider and deeper. But has the EU any right to defend its frontiers against those who demand a share of its privilege?
By Sam Tomlin
This morning saw Conservative MP Louise Mensch publicly declare her resignation from her position as MP of Corby and East Northamptonshire. In a welcome change, no MP-scandal was behind this decision but simply the pressure of balancing the demands of a public life and prioritising her young family. She said she was “devastated by the necessary decision” amid reports that Conservatives in the constituency are worried about potential defeat in the by-election.
I, for one, have the utmost respect and admiration for Ms Mensch for making this decision, not primarily as an act of sacrifice for her party (and the possibility of the Conservatives losing a seat!), but for the message it sends to our ‘output’ and ‘productivity’ obsessed society. In a West driven by rampant materialism and unquestioning economic output, personal career progression and advancement can frequently trump dedication to family and community and Ms Mensch is certainly to be commended for taking this self-sacrificial decision.
There are of course questions around the decision for her husband to be based in the USA and the decision for the woman (again) to quit work ahead of the husband to care for children. However, we do not know the details of the family situation and consequently judgement must be suspended on this front. Read More