Friday, 5 April 2013

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.