All entries for Sunday 02 July 2006

July 02, 2006

Very Jeremy Clarkson…

Eating a supermarket strawberry is a bit like making love to the most beautiful girl in the world and finding out she’s got bird flu.

Sorry, just found that very funny.

Do you really want a local MP?

Nick Cohen wrote in the Observer today:

The 'pavement politics' revolution the Liberals began in the Sixties now means we have MPs who know nothing about foreign or domestic politics, but their ignorance doesn't matter. What matters is that they're 'local'.

He makes a good point.

But a problem also presents an opportunity. With reform of the House of Lords likely to create a partially–elected second chamber, why not split the responsibility of the two houses more explicitly?

The House of Commons can 'run the country' and make important decisions about foreign and most domestic affairs while the new House of Lords serves mainly to represent the views of the common people. It makes the names of the chambers slightly confusing, but I think it could work, especially if the New Lords is given enough power to hold the New Commons to account.

Perhaps spending projects over £1bn can be made in the New Commons while smaller spending can be fought over in the New Lords where the Members are more acutely concerned with their constituents interests.

It would make for an interesting democratic experiment and could well result in higher levels of democratic representation. It could also hint at a new consensus–based politics, as it would be more than likely to have Labour leading one house and the Conservatives leading the other, and might, just might, create a need for a specific President and Prime Minister when he have such figures already, albeit under different name–plates. And such a system would also make proportional representation an imperative in one house at least, if not both.

It sounds to me like the Lib Dems might – through their negative campaign in Bromley and Chislehurst – inadvertantly have found a solution to Britain's democratic deficit. The Lords should be built on new foundations – locally concerned ones.

Multiculturalism won't work in this country until…

…Christianity gives up its privileged position.

Flicking between TV and radio stations today made me realise something: the Church still has a massive influence over British life despite being far less relevant than it used to be. On Radio 4, for instance, Sunday Worship blared out of my alarm clock, even though I had no inclination to listen to a religious service.

This alone wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't for the fact that Christian services are given much higher priority than any other religion. Now I don't expect there to be 'atheist' programmes, because – let's face it – Big Brother alone makes that section of society very well catered for. But I don't understand why one religion seems to defy the pluralist tendencies that this country is built on now more than ever before.

The House of Lords has (I think twelve) Lords Spiritual, all of whom are Church of England and can – and do – influence policy by rejecting things which they find to be out of kilter with Christian beliefs. There doesn't seem to be a particularly good explanation for why this is the case in the 21st century, when there are no specifically chosen Muslim, Sikh, Hindu or even Catholic leaders in the House of Lords.

I'm not against religion in public life, but it seems to be that there is a specific elite which consists almost solely of one faith, who not only wield influence, but do so disproportionately.

And the larger problem is that if this country wants multiculturalism to succeed – which everyone in the mainstream does – then the priority given to one minority over all others is completely ridiculous and untenable.

For a society based on equal representation (in theory at least), non–Christians are grossly under–represented because of structures that have been in place for centuries when immigration from non–Christian countries was unheard of.

Yes, the UK is still (again in theory) based largely on Christian values, but I think we face a choice: we can either retain those values, keep the Church at the heart of the state, allow Christian voices to dominate discussions of public policy and shun the beliefs of those who aren't Christian. Or we can put the Church on a level footing with other religions while still bearing in mind that there are more Christians in the UK than there are people of any other religion. These two choices present different policy outcomes with different degrees of realism about the people who live in the UK.

At the moment, I think we still seem to be stuck in the former position when the latter choice would be a far more sensible approach to tackling the problems of integrating non–Christians into our supposedly pluralist country.

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