Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism


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Why do some parties think repealing human-rights legislation is a vote winner?

English Democrats: putting England back into the Dark Ages!

English Democrats: putting England back into the Dark Ages!

Leafy Twickenham is all aquiet as volcanic ash has cleared Heathrow’s flight path. Political banners are beginning to bristle from box hedges, although most of them proclaim the incumbent Vince Cable as the choice vote.

When it comes to human rights, the fundamental underpinning of liberal democracy, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have a consistently positive track record (although neither party has been in a position where they have had to live with the consequences of their stance). Labour are often thought of having a poor record, yet, despite New Labour’s increasingly authoritarian approach, it introduced the Human Rights Act, the most comprehensive legislation on human rights in the UK (among many other things, the act totally abolished the death penalty in the UK, which was still available for certain military offenses). Conversely, the Tories have consistently challenged the act, and now wish to replace it with a watered down bill of rights.

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British jobs because of migrant workers

British jobs for British workersLast year, the slogan British jobs for British workers became popular, even spoken by the Prime Minister. And what’s not to like about a catchy slogan like that? Keep unemployment down! New job creation! However, it seems that a lot of people were brandishing the slogan to say ‘kick the immigrants out’.

If one takes a very simplistic view of supply-and-demand economics, one might paint a picture like this: there are x British workers employed in British jobs, y immigrants come along and work for lower pay, knocking y British workers out of jobs. When you look behind the rhetoric of the anti-immigration campaigners, the maths is no more developed than that over-simplistic little picture.

The maths is wrong for a number of reasons, partly because employers don’t buy and sell employees like football mangers, but mainly because the total number of jobs at any one time is not constant. And all the evidence points to immigration increasing the number of jobs in this country. Yes, they come over here and they make more jobs (not take our jobs)!

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On Englishness and English nationalism

Essay warning: this is a long article in three parts.

All Hallows

The flag of St George flying from my church's tower.

Recently, I wrote an article here on POWER2010 and the People’s Charter. In passing I mentioned how I didn’t support the proposed policy for POWER2010 of ‘English votes on English laws’, something I now realise is a bit of a mantra among English nationalists, with its own camel-case acronym EVoEL (deliver us from…?)!

There were a lot of important ideas in that post, but was surprised by the complete focus on English nationalism in the comments. I was even more surprised by the poor quality of their argument, much of which was ad hominem (‘you are trash’ said one, another found me a traitor, another suggested that I was being anti-English and thus racist!). Then there was the misquoting and misrepresentation of my thoughts. For instance, I had written ‘In general, the promotion of English nationalism by a few fringe groups is very dodgy’. I should have been clearer about what I meant: that English identity and the nationalism based on it, promoted by a few fringe groups, is a minefield of problems that should be treated with care rather than emotional flag waving. However, the nationalists tweeted this as my saying ‘the English are dodgy’ (hmm, nice misquote there)! Aside from this there was demonstrable lack of understanding of our political constitution (I had to direct a commenter to read the 1911 Parliament Act). However, overall, I was shocked by the need to depict the English as persecuted, restricted and disempowered within a UK in which we make up around 83% of the population. If nationalism is about national liberation, nationalists feel the obvious need to conjure up an imagined captivity from which to liberate us.

I am English and proud to be English. I own an English football shirt (somewhere), but I’m not the flag waving type. Many of my friends are not English, and I find their perspective on Englishness very useful. I believe that it’s important to approach the issue dispassionately and practically, against the surging romanticism that can leave one delusional.

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The hills are alive with the sound of adhan!

Steeple and minaret

Steeple and minaret in Wangen bei Olten, Solothurn, 7 August 2009 by Michael Buholzer

This coming Sunday, 29 November, the citizens of the Swiss Confederation vote in referendum whether to ban the building of minarets. The referendum was constitutionally triggered by a successful public petition launched by the Schweizerische Volkspartei (SVP), a right-wing party with around 23% of the Swiss popular vote and the largest party in the Nationalrat. However, the ‘no’ vote is being urged by the three other main parties and the leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups across the country.

A major plank of SVP domestic policy is a belief that the country is experiencing Überfremdung, and become ‘overly foreign’. Quite similar claims are trolleyed out by British tabloids on a regular basis, and it is now the general policy of the BNP, becoming that of Ukip and has some resonance in Tory rhetoric. The SVP’s public platform on Überfremdung won them a surge of votes and a new raft of seats in the Nationalrat in the general election two years ago.

Switzerland’s Muslim population is surprising large, around 4% of the population. Back in 1980, their number was less than 1%. Such rapid demographic change is clearly a shock to a small, conservative country. Some have taken Swiss citizenship and other naturalised. Turkish, Albanian and Bosniak migrants are the largest Muslim ethnic groups, the latter two groups a result of Balkan civil wars during the 90s. Concentrations of the Muslim population are found in the large cities of Zürich, Geneva and Basel, but, unlike the UK, the Muslim population of Switzerland is fairly evenly distributed throughout the country. Continue reading


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Ukip adds islamophobia to its official policy

Today, the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) announced the election of Malcolm Pearson (who goes by Lord Pearson of Rannoch due to the feudal nature of our political system) to replace Nigel Farage as its leader.

Farage resigned in order to focus on his personal campaign to win election to the House of Commons. I find this entirely in keeping with the self-serving nature of many key figures in Ukip. Farage had been entirely successful in making Ukip appear a single-issue party focused on pure, unadulterated euroscepticism. Although personally a europhile, I see the vital need for a new beginning, a rethinking, of the European project, that it embody the best principles of our continental commonality. Farage is a slippery character, wanting his party not to be seen as unduly right wing. When Ukip members were bigoted, racist or sexist, Farage would say that were merely acting in their personal capacity and not speaking for the party. This included Pearson’s invitation to Geert Wilders to show his islamophobic shock-doc at the House of Lords (first time round improperly blocked by Jaqui Smith, then Home Secretary). Continue reading


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Right, it’s me next!

I spent some time at the British Library today, and popped into The Sound and the Fury exhibition (free entrance; turn right after coming through the main doors). The exhibition is a show case of the British Library’s sound archives, mostly speeches and debates. You can sit yourself at a computer screen, put on the headphones and listen away to whatever takes your fancy.

I was most moved by the retelling of the memories of a not-so-well known speaker, 101 year old Lou Kenton. Born in Stepney to Jewish parents who had fled Ukraine during the tsarist pogroms, Kenton joined the Communist Party of Great Britain after noticing the widespread antisemitism in London. In 1937, when right-wing general Franco staged a coup against the democratically elected government of Spain, Lou Kenton joined the International Brigades and headed to Spain to fight fascism. Continue reading


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Is Britain Christian?

All HallowsYes, no, maybe? If you think Britain is Christian, perhaps you’re a patriotic Christian, but you have an uncomfortable bed fellow in racist Nick Griffin. In Thursday night’s Question Time, the BNP leader mentioned ‘Christian Britain’ three times, most prominently in the midst of a homophobic rant. If you think Britain is not Christian, perhaps you’re missing the many subtle and not-so-subtle influences of Christendom in this country’s past. Perhaps it’s maybe: Britain was Christian, but we’re not sure now.

Since Henry Tudor jr, England has dealt in caesaropapism: the ruler’s religion is the nation’s religion. So, the answer used to be easier, as we could point to a Christian monarch as a sign of out Christian nation. Gradually, though, we have secularised state power, so where is our sceptred signpost of national faith, and does it matter? Perhaps modern democracies can no longer be assigned a religion, especially one based on a ruler’s personal belief or constitutional obligation to have one. Continue reading