Shifting centre ground
Ed Miliband and Mitt Romney could have a mutually sympathetic conversation about the difficulties of political opposition. Labour’s leader is coming under attack from his left – mainly leaders of the large public-sector trade union who accuse him of being too New Labour; the Republican front-runner’s main problems come from his right, who find him insufficiently illiberal.
The fact that he is also a Mormon is guaranteed to upset die-hard Evangelicals. Both men, therefore, are faced with a form of political fundamentalism which demands undeviating adherence to traditional certainties. Both are trimming their sails to acknowledge the direction the wind is coming from, but not so much as to blow them off the course they have set.
They know that ideological rigidity does not go down well with the more pragmatic electoral middle. They also know that in British and American politics, the incumbent possesses the high ground. David Cameron has proved adept at stealing Mr Miliband’s clothes, not least by expressing disapproval of some of the excesses of free-market capitalism. The Prime Minister has largely succeeded in persuading the public that extravagant public spending by the previous Labour Government was responsible for running up a huge national deficit, which is the source, say the Tories, of most of the nation’s current troubles.
Mr Miliband has yet to trump that with his counter-argument that those troubles are being made much worse by public-spending cuts that are “too fast and too far”. The implicit assumption that some cuts are necessary, and furthermore will not be reversed if and when Labour returns to power, has offended Labour’s trade-union allies who are the source of 90 per cent of the party’s funding. This at least gives Mr Miliband the chance to sound brave and tough. But not being the creature of the unions is not enough of a narrative to explain why Labour should be running ...
Gaps in child protection Free
The eight solicitors who wrote to The Times this week demanding a public inquiry into sexual abuse by members of the clergy may have weakened their case by overstating it. They say they have seen “clear evidence of cover-ups in some of our cases” involving the Catholic Church, which is undoubtedly – and scandalously – true. But they believe these are “the tip of the iceberg”, which is more contentious.
The evidence for the existence of this iceberg turns on the alleged existence of secret archives in every diocese, in which are hidden, they maintain, details of many cases which have never been publicly disclosed. That is supposition, weakened by the fact that cases more than 10 years old are supposed to be weeded out from the archives every year, and they relate to trials under canon law by diocesan tribunals, which are rare.
These considerations do paradoxically strengthen the case for an inquiry. That would offer the Church a fair forum in which to demonstrate whether or not at least some of the allegations against it are exaggerated. More importantly, it would allow the full light of day to fall upon an area beset by both public misunderstanding and public unease.
The Church has put in place public-protection measures which ought to make any further cover-ups impossible. So why not let a public spotlight fall on those measures? Indeed, it is part of the Church’s standard answer to its critics that its processes are as good as any elsewhere in the world, or elsewhere in the whole field of child protection. Why not let that claim be tested?
The Catholic Church, along with the Church of England, which the solicitors also impugned, could reasonably ask why such an inquiry should be limited to religious institutions. Child-protection measures are just as necessary in secular institutions which deal with children. The head of the General Social Care Council was sacked two years ago after a report to Parliament ...
Cuts must not harm children
Britain’s welfare agencies have been both unanimous and vociferous in their opposition to the Government’s Welfare Reform Bill now before Parliament. The Government’s own commissioner for children’s rights, Dr Maggie Atkinson, has listed numerous threats to children’s well-being in the draft legislation, many of which have been echoed by other responsible voices.
Last autumn, ...
Thank God for immigrants Free
A striking contrast exists between the mean-spirited political and media row over immigration which caught fire again this week, and the celebration tomorrow throughout the Catholic Church of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees. The generosity of the latter is summed up by the statement to mark the Day by Bishop Patrick Lynch of Southwark, who leads on immigration issues in the Bishops’ Conference of England ...
Steps towards racial justice
Convicting and sentencing two men for the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence in south-east London 18 years ago has stirred conflicting feelings. In part, it is cathartic: at last, some justice has been done. But there is cause for shame at the length of time it took and at the reasons for the delay. Justice still demands that other members of the same gang should also pay the penalty.
New light on the Reformation Free
The news that the Lutheran and Catholic Churches are to embark on a joint review of their shared history sets an example that others could usefully follow. Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has announced that both Churches have agreed to collaborate in their preparations to mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the Ninety-Five Theses in 1517.
Truth unto power Free
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas sermon was an excursion into the minefield where religion and politics overlap. Dr Rowan Williams caught the headlines with his critique of the way British society was developing, and he was promptly told by his political critics to mind his own business. But he had staked out his theological pitch to give them his answer in advance. In its collective worship, exemplified ...
Sweet singing in the choir Free
Britain's economic woes are deepening, with 2.64 million people out of work this Christmas. In many high streets there has been little sign of festive cheer, with plenty of shops boarded up. Mary Portas, commissioned by the Prime Minister to study the retail habits of the nation of shopkeepers, reported this week that many of Britain's high streets are dull, uninspiring and stuck in the 1970s ...