Thursday, 11 April 2013

KOREA, WAR WITHOUT END...



by Gareth Wallace

History is a funny thing, it is amazing how quickly we forget, or we simply don’t learn our past. 

Watching the news this evening (Tuesday 9th April) South Koreans were telling a British TV journalist that they wanted the British to come and help them with North Korea. Maybe they were old enough to remember the British contribution to the American lead UN force that defended the South against North Korean Communist Aggression all those years ago.

HMS Belfast moored on the Thames and famously recently restored by the Russians for her brave Arctic Convoy service also fired her guns in anger against the Russian backed Communist forces of North Korea and China.

The venerable Spitfire in navalised “Seafire” form flew some of its last missions in the Korean War.

The British Army Soldiers and Tank Crews of 1 Rifles, Queen’s Royal Hussars, The Royal Irish Regiment and The Royal Regiment of Scotland are serving in regiments whose antecedent units fought in Korea. But all of that seems ancient history….until a few weeks ago. North Korean rhetoric of impending nuclear war has now reached a level not seen for many years.

The outlandish threats of Armageddon seem designed to bolster the internal credibility of Kim Jung Un. If you can prove you have enemies outside the regime walls it might help boost his fledgling autocratic inherited leadership inside the world’s premier secret state.

Due to the frankly bizarre and irrational way North Korea is governed, unless these threats are handled with the utmost diplomatic care the US, and South Korea (with missile defence ally Japan) fear that some kind of conflict could take place.

However if the unthinkable happened, war would not have taken place by accident. Let me be as clear as I believe a certain former female Prime Minister would be in these circumstances. The responsibility would lie entirely with a reprehensible, evil and frankly absurd regime in North Korea which has blackmailed the world into relative silence with its aggressive nuclear weapons programme and frankly deliberately irrational behaviour designed to encourage appeasement.

This time around if there was a war, it would to misquote a famous philosopher, be nasty brutish and short. Today the ROK (South Korean) armed forces are large and well equipped. Alongside their US allies they are best placed to defend their homeland. The nation that builds the ships, cars and TV’s and mobile phones that we love in the West could match even the UK in the quantity and quality of its defences.

High tech US and South Korean weapons would be used to blunt any WMD threat while the world held its breath to see if North Korea’s vast Army could reach out the short distance and capture South Korea’s capital Seoul.  

In the 1950’s South Korea was poor and had a weak army. It relied on the UN to defend it, with the UK sending powerful forces to stand alongside mainly US but also other UN units fighting under a UN mandate. Hero of the US Pacific Campaign in WW2 General MacArthur was also the initial commander in Korea.  His mistake in the Korean War was to actually go for regime change in the North by invasion. That was when China counter invaded and the war was both prolonged and nearly lost.

This was a war that cost over 1 million lives, which seems even more shocking when some of the soldiers fighting it has taken part in World War Two only five years before, a war to end all thought of war if ever there was one.

This was the clearest example of the Cold War turning ‘Hot’ where with the backing of Stalin and the USSR, Communist China under Mao took on the might of the USA. The end result was bloody stalemate.

MacArthur wanted to use nuclear weapons against China to win a victory. He was removed by the US President for his insubordination. The UN fought the Chinese to a standstill on the 38th parallel and the uneasy ‘peace’ that lasts to this day was the end result. US President Truman perhaps wisely though that in a world were more than one nation had nuclear weapons an uneasy peace was preferable to a risk of a nuclear war. The two Koreas settled down to an unsettled freeze-framed existence where the rival communist and capitalist philosophies were granted free rein to reach their ‘peaceful’ zenith.

North Korea has thus turned into the most extreme Communist closed state, even surviving the fall of the USSR and the coming of capitalism to ‘Communist’ China.

Meanwhile South Korea is now democratic, has a thriving Christian Church, and is one of the most advanced economies in the world producing not just heavy industry such as ships and cars, but also advanced consumer electronics that are the equal of anything produced in the USA or Japan.

Gareth Wallace
Political lobbyist for a
for a major UK charity
Twitter @garethrwallace

The uneasy peace might have allowed the conflict on the Korean peninsula to escape serious public understanding for decades no peace treaty has been signed, and the North Korean regime has been allowed to build up WMD’s behind a cloak of relative secrecy for many years.

In the North the citizens live in poverty and even famine conditions. They are educated that the Kim dynasty is to be worshipped and that scientific development and progress have come from the regime.

Decades of brainwashing and mis-education has left the people of North Korea seemingly unable to resist either practically or even intellectually the totalitarianism of their leaders. They simply don’t know what truth is.

The future looks unstable, the current crisis is unnerving. The only certainty is that unless we seek to address the Korean question with more vigour and focus, it may once again rear its ugly head as it did back on the 25th June 1950.

Will the world be as unprepared now as it was then? We must not let our current problems blind us to the geopolitical realities of Korea, the greatest unresolved war left on this earth. 

From time to time, friends will be leaving articles on this blog. It's my site, so you can be sure that I agree with most, if not all what my contributing friends say. If you would like to contribute something, feel free to contact me.

Gareth Wallace is a political lobbyist for a major UK based charity. He has worked in public affairs for over 10 years including for the leader of the Conservative Party. His professional interests are mainly concerned with UK social policy. His private political interests are focused on defence and foreign affairs.The views in this article are his alone. He tweets his own views on politics and culture at @garethrwallace

Monday, 8 April 2013

MARGARET THATCHER 1925 - 2013

By Colin Bloom


Passing of Baroness Thatcher

Statement from Colin Bloom, Executive Director, Conservative Christian Fellowship 8th April 2013

“The Conservative Christian Fellowship started whilst Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and she will forever have a special place in our hearts.

It has been said of her that whilst many Prime Ministers were weathervanes, she was a signpost. Her legacy for both the United kingdom and the world is incalculable; history will show that she, more than any other British Prime Minister of the past sixty years, changed our Nation for the better.

Her Methodist upbringing shone through her; she was particularly fond of a quotation from John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, "Earn all you can; save all you can; give all you can.” Something which we think might be a fitting epitaph for her. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.”


WHERE IS THE HEART IN THE WELFARE DEBATE?


by Joseph Colman

Over the past few weeks we have witnessed a condensed version over the debate which has rumbled on for decades. It is an argument that always makes me feel uneasy, it never satisfies and I have never felt a home in either ‘camp’.

No matter where you stand politically you cannot deny that for the vast majority the welfare payments received are a serious assistance in helping go towards the day-to-day cost of living in Britain.

Because of this the debate focuses around the question ‘how much is enough’ vs ‘how long is enough’ – both are about securing a system which provides ‘enough’ to those receiving the state welfare. But this, to me, seems such an uninspired place to focus the debate.

This weeks Spectator (6 April) issued an impassioned call to recognise the fact that ‘at no point were fewer than five million working-age people on out-of-work benefits. This was not just a waste of money, but a criminal waste of human potential’.

Something that the Welfare debate misses so often is that many of those talked about abjectly on the copy churning out from Fleet Street and on the paragraphs in hansard is that these are men and women, children and families, who have aspirations and dreams.

For most they are full and brimming with life but for others trapped on welfare there is real genuine need – not just for sustenance but also for relationship. Our needs are more than food to eat and shelter from a storm (no matter how important they are!) we are created for relationship

Joseph Colman

Scion of the famous mustard dynasty,
ice cream salesman, political anorak
Twitter @JosephColman
The relationship we have been created for cannot be filled by ‘stuff’. This is why the church is uniquely placed to breathe truth and life into this dead carcass of a debate. It can say that this is not about money or wealth. It is not about how much you have and how much is enough. It transcends ‘stuff’ and is uniquely about the relationships you hold and the worth that you feel through these relationships. It is about feeling a sense of ownership and belonging to your community and society at large.

What breaks my heart is that waste of human potential.

Human potential can be found in being gainfully employed, accepted in your community and knowing you bring something uniquely valuable and positive to the society you belong to. However I am yet to see the welfare debate couched in these terms.

Perhaps, no matter what party or politics you side with, we can share this common ground of the debate and bring a little bit of perspective and see about an end to this waste of potential.

From time to time, friends will be leaving articles on this blog. It's my site, so you can be sure that I agree with most, if not all what my contributing friends say. If you would like to contribute something, feel free to contact me.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

CHECK WHAT FUEL WE ARE PUTTING IN

by Colin Bloom

On Good Friday, a friend of mine went to the service station to fill his wife's car up with fuel. He'd just squeezed in the last drop, the tank was trimmed to the brim and he was feeling pleased with himself at this act of marital kindness. His satisfaction was short lived, because as he looked down he saw he was holding a green unleaded petrol nozzle. His wife's car is a what Ringo Starr would call a Diseasal.

It cost my friend nearly £300 to get his mistake fixed. It would have cost him a great deal more if he had attempted to drive the car away. It could have been terminal. For the car that is; his marriage would probably have survived.

This little story made me think about the sort of fuel we put into ourselves. It reminded me of the Old Testament Israelite character Daniel. He was a Royal or a Noble from the  tribe of Judah and along with his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego he was dragooned into the Babylonian King's court, where he eventually became the highest ranking Official across the land.

The first thing we are told about Daniel and his friends is that they were extraordinarily discriminating about what they fuelled themselves with. During their early training, Daniel refused to eat the fine foods and wine from the King's table, but rather chose a simple, rather plain, vegetarian diet. The only drink they took, we are told, was water. Perhaps unsurprisingly these four young men ended up looking healthier, fitter, stronger and more productive than the cohort they came with.

What does this have to say to us? What can we learn from Daniel's rather picky diet?

For me, the lesson isn't actually about food, it's about culture. It's about the cultural fuel we nourish ourselves with. Our four friends allowed themselves to be culturally assimilated into Babylonian life in almost every way; these Israelites allowed their names to be changed, they changed their language and the clothes they wore. They became very much part of the culture of their age, but in so doing they did not defile themselves by what they filled their tanks with. They were deliberate about what they took into themselves.

So should we be. We need to be careful not to defile ourselves with what we take in; what we furnish our minds with. If we fill our eyes, ears and minds with the wrong fuel isn't that the same as my friend filling his wife's car with the wrong fuel? We might get as far as the end of the road, but it would be slow, smelly and we might not make it much further.

So if we want to be like Daniel, we need to be extraordinarily discriminating about what we fuel our lives with too.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

JACKSON MIDDLE SCHOOL - A LESSON FOR US ALL

by Colin Bloom

Yesterday I wrote about why when it comes to religious freedom we should never, ever relax. We should certainly never give in to the aggressive secularists, whether here in the United Kingdom or the United States or elsewhere, we must stand and defend what is ours and reclaim that which has been taken.

Let me give you an example that I came across in the United States last week. It is the sad story of Jackson Middle School, Ohio, where for the past 66 years a portrait of Jesus has been hanging in their entrance hall. 
The picture of Jesus that was
hanging in Jackson Middles School

The portrait didn't belong to the school, but to one of the student clubs. However, some radical and aggressive secularists from the FFRF (Freedom from Religion Foundation) and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) decided to take the school to court for their unconstitutional promotion of religion in a public school. As if there weren't more pressing matters to deal with in American schools...

It is worth noting that between the FFRF and the ACLU they have an annual budget of more than $100m to fight these cases.

Despite nobody complaining, despite it harming nobody, despite this picture hanging there benignly since the 1940's, the School's board took down the picture of Jesus because their insurance company declined to cover litigation expenses.

The school Superintendent said, "At the end of the day, we just couldn't roll the dice with taxpayer money, when you get into these kinds of legal battles, you're not talking about money you can raise with bake sales and car washes. It's not fair to take those resources from our kids' education."

It's often said that when America sneezes the UK catches a cold. I happen to think we are fighting this disease of aggressive secularism together. The time has already come when people need to decide what side of the argument they want to be on. It's not a question of whether we want the debate or not; these well funded organisations are going to be bringing the fight to a school, home or shop near you. 

Jackson Middle School thought it would be teaching lessons to a small community in South Ohio. They can take some small comfort in the knowledge that because of what they've been through there is a lesson for us all.

Friday, 5 April 2013

DON'T LOSE HOPE

by Colin Bloom

Earlier today I received a Tweet asking me how, in the face of such liberal totalitarianism, I don't lose hope. The Tweeter sent me the question after I posted this article on Religious Freedom. It's a good question, but one that can't be answered in just 140 characters. So this is might slightly more considered response.

There are three points I would make, although I'm sure there is a lot more to say on  the subject.

The first is that, most people, indeed most Christians don't seem to care about the rising tide of aggressive secularism. It totally passes them by, maybe because seeing beyond the busyness and priorities of their own lives would require too much effort. Even though we are all guilty of doing that; guilty of making our own momentary concerns seemingly of far greater importance than the bigger issues, I see many people who are rising to the challenge. From my vantage point I am optimistic that the number of people who are 'getting it' is growing.

The second point is one that I would be a bit stronger on; as Christians we need to get more comfortable wearing the full armour of God. That armour is to be used in both defense and offense, but the more we wear the armour, the more comfortable it becomes. Whilst never forgetting that we follow the Prince of Peace, we need to remember that He was also the Lion of Judah!  So long as we model ourselves on Jesus, remembering grace, mercy and love, we wont go too far wrong.

Finally, I don't lose hope because rightly or wrongly I take tremendous encouragement from the following scripture: 2 Chronicles 20: This is what the Lord says to you: "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s."

So we won't lose hope, not now, not ever. We have it as an anchor for our souls, firm and secure.

5,000 IN TWENTY DAYS

by Colin Bloom

My Blog is less nearly 20 days old, and has just ratcheted up its 5000th visitor. Thank you for looking, please keep the comments coming in.

The most read piece was:

THE PRIME MINISTER'S EASTER MESSAGE 2013


The second most read was:

ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM


The third most read was:

CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES CAN BE PROUD OF THIS COALITION'S RECORD BUT A LOT MORE STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE


70% of you are from the United Kingdom, 25% from the United States and 5% from everywhere else.

WHEN IT COMES TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, WE MUST NEVER, EVER RELAX

St Mary Undercroft, the servants' chapel beneath Parliament
by Colin Bloom

When it comes to religious freedom in the UK, the US and around the world, we must never, ever relax. David Cameron calls them aggressive secularists, he's right, but they are so much worse than that. They will never stop, never grow tired, never give up, never give in until they reach their goal of what they call 'ending religious privilege'. They won't be satisfied until God and all his followers are ultimately driven out of public consciousness.

Nearly a millennia years ago the Kings of England lived in the Palace of Westminster and the Royal court worshipped in St. Stephen's Chapel. Nowadays St Stephen's is the main entrance into Central Lobby, where written into the tiled floor are the opening lines from Psalm 127. "Unless the Lord builds the House, the workers labour in vain."

Deep in the bowels of Parliament is one of the most beautiful Christian chapels in the country. Called St Mary Undercroft, it was originally the chapel for the Palace servants and staff, whilst the Royalty used St Stephen's Chapel, it was the King's servants who went down into the Undercroft. Fittingly, it's still the case today that servants of the King, Christ the King, can still meet for Christian worship, prayer and services. It is still the case that Parliamentarians and their families, with permission, can have a Church of England marriage in the Chapel.

Recently there has been much furore because of a threat by a Labour MP to try and get St Mary Undercroft turned into a multi faith, or non faith room. An attempt that we are soothingly assured will not get very far because the status of the chapel is that of a 'Royal Peculiar' meaning that only the Queen can change its designation. We've been here before, we've had soothing words and reassurances but the relentless tide of secularism still comes in.

Let me describe what a Secular United kingdom will look like:

No Chaplains in Military bases, hospitals, schools, police stations or prisons. No faith schools. No prayers before Council Meetings and before Parliament. No Lords Spiritual. No Church of England as the 'Established Church'. No state occasions that included anything spiritual; if the Royal Family survived (and they probably wouldn't under these liberal totalitarianists) but if they did, Royal Weddings would have to be in a Registry Office, the next coronation would be held in Windsor's Civic Centre. No charitable status for faith groups (why should we give tax breaks to people that believe in fairies). No funding going to World Vision, Tear Fund, the Red Cross, Cafod, Save the Children, Christian Aid etc etc. No Easter March of Witness in your Town Centre, no public plays of the Passion. If you believe in anything supernatural, you would have to do it in your own buildings with the doors and windows shut! A Secular UK would be a soulless, grey and ultimately harsh place.

I've written about being an antidisestablishmentarianist before, and I am more convinced than ever that we need to do more than just stand our ground, we need to start taking back the ground that has been lost. We do not want to create a theocracy, we live comfortably with differences of opinion, but when we see acts of cultural and religious vandalism brought into our spaces, we cannot be neutral, we must wear what the Apostle Paul calls the 'Full Armour of God' and fight back.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

AMERICAN PATRIOTS

by Colin Bloom

Recently during a short trip to the US, I met up with some friends, who are also friends of 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum. They gave me a copy of his latest book, American Patriots - Answering the Call to Freedom.

It is a fantastic read, detailing the lives of some unsung heroes who helped build the architecture of the American Dream. Santorum divides the book into three parts; Life, Love and The Pursuit of Happiness; but he also adds his own essays on each of these three key values. These essays give a real insight into his personal values and worldview; and gives the reader a ringside seat into how this titan of GOP politics boxes clever.

Rick Santorum came deliciously close to getting the GOP Nomination for Presidential Candidate. I hope he runs again, he is young enough and popular enough He certainly has 'Wilberforce' values, and if this book is anything to go by, has got his 2016 campaign off to a great start.

TRADING STANDARDS - I NOW HAVE TWO JOKES!

by Colin Bloom

For many years I was the political lead for Public Protection & Safety in a large Unitary Authority. Apart from trying to get the Council, Police, Fire and Ambulance Service and others to work together, I was also the lead on less well known but hugely important teams such as Trading Standards, Youth Offending and Drug & Alcohol. For the most part, all good people doing a difficult job in challenging circumstances.

During this period, my feelings for our Trading Standards Officers went from disinterest to huge respect and admiration. In particular was their dogged determination to hunt down and get convictions on what have been euphemistically called 'Rogue Traders'.

'Rogue Traders' are the sort of people who typically pick on an older person and pretend that they were 'just passing' and happened to notice a missing tile from their roof. The fact that they had just knocked it off with a stone propelled from a catapult only briefly explains the sort of people we are talking about. Once they have fixed the tile, they then 'notice' that the whole roof, needs 'repairing'. The modus-operandi then follows that they'll convince the frail and confused homeowner to allow them to fix it (they usually bodge it) before they march them down to their bank and force them to withdraw tens of thousands of pounds for these bogus repairs. So no, not 'Rogue Traders' but utterly rotten vile exploitative villainous hateful moral bankrupts. 

The tactics deployed by our teams were amazing, and yielded many convictions, none of which in my opinion got the sentences deserved; I would throw away the key... The area was affluent with an ageing population, so for us it was always a challenge to contain the problem. Moreover, I have to give praise to our local Police Commander and his team who all did a huge amount in partnership to make our area as safe as possible against this nasty kind of crime. 

I used to point out to the Trading Standards team that God was on their side too! Reminding them that the Bible says in the book of Proverbs, "The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favour with him." 

During my time in this role, I learned one joke about Trading Standards Officers from one of the best. It goes something like this:

A Trading Standards Officer goes to his local bakers; looking in the window he sees a lovely array of cakes and buns and a sign that says "EVERYTHING £1".

He goes inside and points to the delicious looking vanilla sponge, "I'll have that please."

The baker says, "That'll be £2 please." 

The Trading Standards Officer splutters, "But the sign says, EVERYTHING £1!"

"Ah," said the baker, "That's madeira cake!"

Boom boom. Nevertheless, with my allegiances nailed clearly to the mast; that I have deep affection for Trading Standards officers, I must point out something that I saw recently which now means I have two jokes about this honourable profession.

On a market stall somewhere in South London, a street trader is selling vinyl records. Remember those things we used to listen to before iTunes and Compact Discs. Box after box of singles, EP's and LP's - I was in heaven! Original Pink Floyd, complete with posters, Luther Vandross, even some early Bowie. It was a nostalgic trip back to the mid Seventies and to Our Price Records with a crisp £1 note in my hand!

However, the signs around the stall didn't say 7" or 12", what you and I know as the gold standard for vinyl record sizes, but 178mm and 305mm records! The stall holder claims that they were told by a Trading Standards officer (from a different Local Authority) that describing their second hand, ancient discs using Imperial Lengths meant they were liable to prosecution under the 'Weights and Measures Act of 1985'.

All I can say is I am glad this neither happened on my watch nor on my patch, but if you can find a more ludicrous example of jaw droppingly ridiculous pettifogging bureaucracy I would love to hear about it. 

Whilst where I live our Trading Standards teams are out hunting down villainous vermin, the rest of us can lean back, pour ourselves 568 ml of beer and listen to a 305mm remix of anything by Madness.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

LET'S BE THE TRUST WE WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD


by Ian Baxter

It's often said trust in our institutions has hit rock bottom. Scandals in Parliament, at the BBC, in the tabloid press, in our banks and even in the NHS have rocked our confidence in once respected organisations. Every time we turn on the TV it feels like another pillar of our society has fallen. Is this what the irreversible decline of a once great nation looks like?

I don't agree that broken trust can never be repaired. I've no wish to live in a society where people don’t trust their neighbours, colleagues, doctors or even the police. So I won't accept our current state is permanent. I'm hoping the raft of scandals will usher in a new period of transparency and straight dealings which will go some way towards repairing the damage done.


Ian Baxter
Logistics entrepreneur,
columnist, public speaker.
twitter @ianbaxter66
But if we genuinely want change, we have to make it happen ourselves not wait for others to do the work. So if like me you want to rebuild trust in our society let's make a start in our own spheres of influence today. While holding public figures to account do we give them credit when that's what's due? Are we expecting more of others than we demand of ourselves? Do people have confidence we'll always do the things we say we're going to do? Are our motives clear for all to see?

Mahatma Gandhi challenged people to "be the change you want to see in the world". Unless we're prepared to rise to this call we'll have to accept today's deficit of trust is here to stay.

But if those who have expressed dismay at what's gone wrong are prepared to do things differently themselves I'm really confident a better future is within our grasp.

From time to time, friends will be leaving articles on this blog. It's my site, so you can be sure that I agree with most, if not all what my contributing friends say. If you would like to contribute something, feel free to contact me.

I'M A DOUBLE DIP DENIER


by Colin Bloom (with help)

Forget triple dip, personally I'm sceptical if we ever even had a double dip!  Lies, damn lies and Orwellian politicians you all scream, the statistics say otherwise!  But do they?

Anyone who is a keen runner, will tell you that having a 'running mate', in the physical exercise sense, is better than running alone. Most runners find the co-dependancy of forcing each other to go that bit further or that bit faster is almost as good as having a dose of whatever Lance Armstrong kept in his medicine cabinet. The other advantage of a running mate is that you have hours with someone to stress test ideas with whilst you stress test your already exhausted knees and feet.
My running partner is Mr Taylor, a man who unlike me has a brain the size of Belgium and a much stronger grasp of all things economic. If the ball should ever come loose out the back of the scrum, and I should ever find myself as Prime Minister; it would be Mr Taylor who would be my Chancellor.

Last night we were well into our third mile when we agreed that far from believing there will be a 'triple dip', there was every chance that the 'double dip' never happened after all! You see Gross Domestic Product (GDP) “statistics” are like Liberal Democrats, they are unusual; you read them and believe them but for months and even years after they’re published, they can be changed. Here’s what the Office for National Statistics ONS have said about GDP recently.

I. The ONS calculated their “preliminary estimate” of the GDP for Q4 2011 as a -0.2% fall and published this in January 2012.

II. The following quarter, the ONS calculated their “preliminary estimate” of GDP for Q1 2012 as a -0.2% fall thus technically completing the definition of a recession as two quarters of declining GDP. At the same time they also announced that they had “revised” their previous estimate of the Q4 2011 GDP as -0.3%.

III. In July 2012, the ONS published their preliminary estimate of GDP for the next quarter, Q2 2012. This was the big one as GDP was estimated to have fallen significantly in that quarter with a published change of -0.7%, this also completed three successive quarters of GDP decline and seems to put the nail in the coffin of George Osborne’s fiscal rectitude.  At the same time though both of the previous 'quarters' “estimates”' were revised, Q4 2011 was revised downwards to -0.4% and Q1 2012 was also revised downwards to -0.3%.

Now at the time there was significant commentary from various esteemed economists who didn’t believe these figures (other than that David Blanchflower fella who screamed schadenfreude); the general consensus was that the economy was growing marginally and was flat at worst.  But the point to note is that those statistics keep changing and so the intelligent question to ask is where are they now?

IV. The latest GDP figures were published last week, they can be read here (table A2 on page 45, Chained Volume Measures). The BBC provided a helpful commentary and chart on them which can be found here.

There are two key points to note:

I. The latest revision of the GDP figures has them as:

Q4 2011:               -0.1%
Q1 2012:               -0.1%
Q2 2012:               -0.4%

II. These figures were revised versus the previous publication three months earlier which showed:

Q4 2011:               -0.3%
Q1 2012:               -0.2%
Q2 2012:               -0.4%

So all that is needed for George Osborne’s “double dip recession” to be erased from history is for one number to change. If Q1 2012 is revised to 0% then bingo - no double dip.

That isn't to say all things in the economic race track are going as fast as want, but like Mr Taylor and I, we're headed in the right direction.

Obvious credit to some of the technical data here goes to Mr. Taylor.

TEVEZ - 250 HOURS COMMUNITY SERVICE.

by Colin Bloom

Today, Carlos Tevez, the controversial Manchester City player has been found guilty of a driving offence and he has been sentenced to 250 hours community service.

For the average full time working person that is about seven weeks work.

Tevez reportedly earns £170,000 per week.

So, wouldn't it have been better to give Tevez the choice of 250 hours of Community Service or a £1.2 million fine? That £1.2 million could go to employ six people on £20,000 per year for 10 years! Those six people could be dredging canals, removing graffiti and clearing overgrown railway sidings.

Wouldn't that be better for everyone?

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

CONSERVATIVES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD - RONALD REAGAN


From time to time, I will be writing about different Conservatives that have changed the world for the better. There are people that are more expert than I on the lives and times of these amazing people, so whilst you won't find an exhaustive biography here, you will find a small, colourful vignette or two from the tapestry of their extraordinary lives. If you have an anecdote, story or picture that you would like me to add, I will be pleased to consider your submissions via the comment section.

by Colin Bloom

Like many people in the UK who are now north of 40 years old, I recall with massive fondness the latex puppetry of Luck and Flaw in the riotous Sunday night comedy Spitting Image. Like all politicians, left or right, Ronald Reagan's every foible was exaggerated to make him a grotesque of comic brilliance. 


Such is my admiration for 'the Gipper' that amongst the Reagan memorabilia in my possession, I have hanging somewhere in Bloom towers my cherished and original 1984 Reagan re-election poster. A piece of political hardware that helped propel my hero to a landslide victory, winning 49 of the 50 States, with 59% of the popular vote. Compare that to Barack Obama, who managed 28 states and 53% and 26 states and 51% in 2008 and 2012 respectively. In fact there hasn't been a President as popular since Richard Nixon's re-election in 1972. Yes, we often forget just how popular Tricky Dicky was during his second term, and I suspect that he may well, in time, find his way into this series before long.

There are many things that set Reagan apart for me, such as his 1987 Berlin Wall speech to Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!" Or the fact that shortly after being shot, (the bullet ending up just an inch from the President's heart), and despite being 70 years young, despite the pain he insisted on walking unaided into the hospital before collapsing in the emergency room. In fact I think it was Reagan who quipped in one the 1984 televised debates that he '...would not be making age an issue in this election, not wanting to exploit for political purposes the youth and inexperience of his opponent.' 

From start to finish Reagan was a consummate performer, from his years as a Hollywood actor, he was a man who knew the power of using his environment to create theatre, to create a narrative out of what he did or how he appeared rather than by just what he said. This was the man who met Gorbachev at a summit in Switzerland on a freezing day, looking tanned and with no overcoat, he bounced down the steps warmly greeted his Russian counterpart who was wearing a thick grey coat and hat and in front of the world's media, he made the younger Russian look like he was the 70 year old and Reagan the spritley 50 year old. Genius.

There is much more to say about the 40th President of the United States, and I'll be posting more in the near future. In the meantime please send me your ideas for other Conservatives that changed the world, and your Ronald Reagan stories.

POLITICS OR THE WORK OF GOD - I HUMBLY SUBMIT YOU CAN DO BOTH

by Colin Bloom

One of my favourite films is Amazing Grace, the story of how my political hero, William Wilberforce worked with others to make the slave trade illegal. Last night, as a family we watched it together. I never get bored of seeing it.

There is a powerful scene where Wilberforce, Pitt the Younger, Hannah More, Thomas Clarkson and Olaudah Equiano and a few others from the Clapham Sect are dining together; Wilberforce is graphically shown how the slaves are chained and transported to the plantations across the Atlantic.


Mr Clarkson turns to Wilberforce and says, "Mr Wilberforce we understand that you are having problems choosing to do the work of God or the work of a political activist."

Hannah More then says, "We humbly suggest that you can do both."

How many thousands of other 'Wilberforces' have asked themselves the same question and were advised to do one or the other? As if politics and faith operate as completely separate entities. What would our world look like if we had more Hannah Mores that encouraged them to do both?

So, if you are passionate about politics and are what Wilberforce would call a 'Real Christian' then consider joining a political party, get involved and perhaps even consider standing as a Local Councillor, MEP or Member of Parliament. You could be the next William Wilberforce!

I humbly suggest you can do both!

Monday, 1 April 2013

EASTER PART III. BE A DOUBTING THOMAS

by Colin Bloom

This is the third and final part of my Easter Trilogy. For Pete's sake, on Easter Sunday we looked at Saint Peter the rock who became the denier who became the rock again. For crying out loud, on Holy Saturday we read about Jesus's supreme act of love on the Cross, and the fact that the Cross is centre-point of all history.

Today I want to briefly look at the man most of us know as Doubting Thomas. I think it is healthy for us all to be a bit like Doubting Thomas. I'm not sure God requires us to be unthinking people with blind faith. He designed us to have a brain, He gave us the power of inquiry, so I suspect that He has no problem with us asking the big questions that we all have or had. Where did we come from? What happens to us when we die? Was Jesus who He said He was? It would be a pretty odd person that never wondered about such things.

So who was this doubty Thomas fellow? In the Gospel of John (Chapter 20:24-29) we read the following:

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”


But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Here Thomas is like so many people, the kind of people who say that unless they can feel the presence of Jesus then they won't believe in his existence. But unlike most people, Thomas put himself in the position where he could have his doubts answered. He at least went and tried it out.

How many people say, things like, "the Bible has nothing to say to me" and yet have never picked it up; or say, "Church isn't for me" but have never gone. 
Perhaps the crime is not the doubt, the crime is not asking the questions or ignoring the answers.

Christians don't have all the answers to everything, we are meant to have faith, and we are meant to put our faith to the test. The challenge to us all is can we be more like Thomas, by putting ourselves in the position of having our doubts answered?