Art and MusicPosted by john sloboda Thu, December 05, 2013 21:11:16
2013 saw the 60th Spode Music Week take place, including special
celebrations for its Diamond anniversary.
Most English Catholics know nothing of this unsung success story. The week has never sought wide publicity,
but has just got on quietly with the business of enriching all who have come
into its orbit, over more than two generations. It is fitting
in its anniversary year that the spotlight falls briefly on it so that those
interested can get a sense of who is involved, what happens there, and what the
importance of this for the wider church might be.
[Note: an updated and slightly edited version of this article was published in the July 11th 2014 edition of The Catholic Herald, on page 8, under the title "English Catholicism's secret musical treasure"]
In August 2013 around 80 people, mainly
lay, ranging in age from 1 to 85, gathered in the Worcestershire countryside
for a week of intensive music making, much to a very high standard, with the
Catholic liturgy at its heart, but with much secular music in the mix.
Every day of the week, a full sung mass was
celebrated, and compline was sung: to different settings almost every day. This anniversary year was particularly
graced by two new commissions, an 8-part setting of the Mass by the composer
Matthew Martin, and a setting of Panis Angelicus for children’s choir by the
composer Alexander L’Estrange.
On the secular side, among other offerings the
week saw a spirited staged performance of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde (in honour of his centenary), a Prokofiev Symphony, and
a medley of light classics including the celebrated Knightsbridge March by Eric Coates, in an arrangement by one of the
many talented younger musicians that give their time and energies to the week.
And on top of all this came the multitude
of informal and out-of-hours opportunities for chamber music of all sorts,
amounting in total to what a former course chaplain, Fr Chris McCurry, once
described as “an orgy of music making”, one further enriched by food, wine, and
What is the secret of Spode Music Week’s
success, and what can Catholics learn from this?
The week was in fact the brainchild of the
late Conrad Pepler, OP, much loved Warden of Spode House, a Dominican
Conference and Retreat Centre in the grounds of Hawkesyard Priory,
Staffordshire, sadly long since closed.
His behind the scenes manifold self-effacing acts of nurturing, praying
for (and probably subsidizing) the week over nearly 30 years up until his
retirement in 1981 has proved one of the spiritual wellsprings of the
Pepler’s simple but brilliant idea was a
daily format which, with one or two minor adjustments, survives today. Rehearsals after breakfast, a mid
morning lecture by an invited guest, sung mass at noon, further late afternoon
rehearsals, a concert after dinner, and sung compline to end the formal
proceedings. Surrounding these
daily fixed points an atmosphere has been established which is incredibly
informal – more like an extended and somewhat chaotic (but warmhearted) family
than a more traditional residential course.
This durable but flexible format has been
filled with whatever music has enthused and inspired the dedicated and talented
musicians that have led the week’s activities at its different stages. Longest serving musical director
(1972-96) was the composer and pianist, the late Robert Sherlaw Johnson. Other distinguished musicians who have
had long associations with week include the conductor and harpsichordist the
late George Malcolm, CBE, who attended the very first week and was the course’s
principal conductor for many years; the opera singer Jeremy White, who has served
as Chair of the organizing committee since 1997; the conductor and singer Philip
Duffy (former Master of Music at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral); organist and
choral director David Bevan; and the early music specialist Dr Mary Remnant,
who currently serves as one of three patrons of the week, together with Sir
Nicholas Kenyon CBE, Director of the Barbican Arts Centre, and myself.
By the time that the closure of Spode House
was rather suddenly announced in 1987, there was such a commitment to the week
and to each other from the many attenders who came back year after year,
bringing first their friends, their spouses and children, and even – latterly
- their grandchildren, that there
could be no thought of the course folding (or even changing its name!). Its members decided to seek a new home,
committed if necessary to a peripatetic existence to ensure the survival of the
course. The course is in fact now
in its sixth location, a remarkable testament to the durability and sheer
commitment of its members as successive venues have fallen by the wayside.
Whilst the week has always retained (indeed
insisted on) a distinctive Catholic focus, one of its significant strengths has
been its ability to provide a broad welcome to all who share a love of and
commitment to music in the classical tradition, whether in or out of
church. Several of the most
loyal and longstanding members of the week are not Catholics, and its attenders
also include Catholics of many different shades. They are all embraced under the benign attention of
one or more course chaplains (who apart from their pastoral and liturgical
duties, contribute fully to the week as singers and players).
The current chaplain is Monsignor Philip Whitmore,
newly appointed Rector of the English College in Rome. He is assisted by Fr. Robert Verrill OP,
who keeps alive a welcome connection to the week’s Dominican roots. The ’grandfather’ of the week is
Fr. Michael Durand, currently a priest at Westminster Cathedral, who also
participates in the chaplaincy team.
He attended the very first week as a young man, and has been to most of
the weeks since. But while the
chaplains offer sterling and loyal support, the overall musical leadership,
administration, and stewardship of the week is very much in lay hands. In fact,
without the week-in-week-out quiet labour of a small, dedicated and largely
unsung committee, the week would never have flourished as it has, let alone
stayed solvent (without a penny of external subsidy).
Attendance is open to all. No formal level of musical
involvement or qualification is needed, beyond a commitment to upholding the
ethos of the course. There is a
particular welcome for families with children, and an enduring and much loved
feature of the week has been the provision of opportunities for the young and
very young to play and sing together.
Even finance need not be a
problem, as course fees are extremely modest, and there are some special funds
to support those in most need. In
these respects the week serves a very different but complementary function to
the excellent annual summer school of the Society of St Gregory, which is very
much designed to professionally support the work of those who have official
positions as liturgical or musical animateurs within parishes. Spode Music Week is simply about performing and listening to
the best music that those assembled can make, in and for itself, to the greater
glory of God. What happens outside
the week as a result is up to the participants.
Bookings for the course each year fill up
very quickly as enthusiastic repeat customers bag their places, but there are
always sufficient newcomers in every year to avoid the week becoming
cliqueish. There is a
where details about past and future courses may be found, as well as contact
details. In recent years,
communications have been enlivened by an ever more active Facebook page where
course members share memories, photographs, and video or audio clips of
treasured past moments, as well as plans and hopes for the future.
Catholics in England and Wales should be
rightly proud of this unique lay-led treasure in their midst. It is a musical and friendship
community rooted in the church, sustained by prayer and liturgy, but with open
doors, keeping faith with a considerable number of people (including a large
number of younger adults) for whom this may be the main, or even the only truly
meaningful, manifestation of the Catholic Church that they experience. Long may it continue to serve the
church and the wider world as it has done so fully and roundly in the last 60
War and peacePosted by john sloboda Sat, August 31, 2013 09:37:08
Below is my personal selection of 50 important (and quotable) statements made by MPs arguing against UK military involvement in Syria, extracted from Hansard (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130829/debtext/130829-0001.htm). They are listed in time order in which they appeared in the debate, with name and political affiliation of each speaker.
In the media hype that has followed this unprecedented vote, crude brush-stroke characterisations have by and large bypassed the careful and well-made contributions from so many sides of the house.
It is important that the detail of the debate is attended to, both for what was said, and for who said it. The debate was a profound turning point for British political life, and particularly our foreign and defence policy. For the first time in living memory, the House of Commons showed itself to be mature and thoughtful about issues which, in recent years, it has shown appallingly bad judgement.
For almost the first time since I took an interest in politics, I am proud of the British Parliament, and have hope that, at last, sufficient MPs have begun to take on board perspectives that they have ignored for so long, and that we may be witnessing the beginning of a profound re-alignment of the UK’s stance on what constitutes the appropriate use of its military forces.The 50 statements
1. In our minds should be this simple question: in upholding international law and legitimacy, how can we make the lives of the Syrian people better? Ed Milliband. (Lab)
2. It is incumbent on us to try to build the widest support among the 15 members of the Security Council, whatever the intentions of particular countries. The level of international support is vital, should we decide to take military action. It is vital in the eyes of the world. That is why it cannot be seen as some sideshow or some “moment”, but is an essential part of building the case, if intervention takes place. Ed Milliband (Lab).
3. Any proposed action to deter the use of chemical weapons must be judged against the consequences that will follow. Further work by the Government is necessary to set out what those consequences would be. Ed Milliband (Lab)
4. We all know that stability cannot be achieved by military means alone. The continued turmoil in the country and the region in recent months and years further demonstrates the need to ensure that we uphold the fate of innocent civilians, the national interest and the security and future prosperity of the whole region and the world. I know that the whole House recognises that this will not and cannot be achieved through a military solution. Ed Milliband (Lab)
5. Whatever the justification on 18 March 2003, the fact was that there was an egregious intelligence failure, and it has had profound consequences, not only across the middle east but in British politics, through the fraying of those bonds of trust between the electors and the elected that are so essential to a healthy democracy. Jack Straw (Lab).
6. This morning, we woke up to hear the President of the United States, Barack Obama, saying that by acting in “a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across”Assad’s bow. Let us pause and consider the metaphor that was chosen by the President, because it is revealing. A shot across the bow is a warning that causes no damage and no casualties—shells fired over the bridge of a naval vessel. In this case, it might be a Tomahawk missile that is targeted to fly over Damascus and land in the unoccupied deserts beyond. That cannot be what the President has in mind. We need to know what he really has in mind and what the consequences of that will be. There will be casualties from any military action—some military and almost certainly many civilian. Jack Straw (Lab).
7. This is not a choice between action and inaction; it is simply a choice of what action should be taken. Some of us worry that military action might exacerbate the situation, rather than make it better, and draw us into mission creep, over which we would have very little control. Chris Bryant (Lab)
8. To go to war with Assad—that is what it would be—without the sanction of a UN Security Council resolution would set a terrible precedent. After the mission creep of the Libyan operation, it would amount to nothing less than a clear statement by the US and its allies that we were the arbiters of international right and wrong when we felt that right was on our side. What could we do or say if, at some point, the Russians or Chinese adopted a similar argument? What could we say if they attacked a country without a UN resolution because they claimed it was right and cited our action as a precedent? Dame Tessa Jowell (Lab).
9. The US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff wrote to the Senate armed services committee last month….about having examined five options. He said that controlling chemical weapons would involve billions of dollars each month and involve risks that “not all chemical weapons would be controlled, extremists could gain better access to remaining weapons, similar risks to no-fly zone but with the added risk to…troops on the ground.” Dame Tessa Jowell (Lab)
10. It respectfully seems to me that we need to examine the matter not in response to the emotion that it undoubtedly engenders in all of us. Emotion is no substitution for judgment in matters of this kind. We must look beyond what might be achieved in the short term, to the medium term and the long term. Sir Menzies Campbell (Lib)
11. I urge the Government to renew their efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. Do we think that Tomahawk cruise missiles fired into Syria will make that easier or more difficult? It is clearly understood that this civil war is intractable and that there is little willingness to compromise. Earlier today, I heard an appeal by Sakhr al-Makhadhi, the London-based Syria expert and commentator. He said that the people of Syria, from all backgrounds, are crying out for help to resolve the civil war. Please can the UK Government focus their attention on working with the United States and the Russian Federation, and all others who have influence in the region, including Iran, to bring the different Syrian sides to the negotiating table? Angus Robertson (SNP)
12. There is no automatic approval of, or even trust in, a prime ministerial judgment on an issue such as this involving the country in military action without overwhelming justification, evidence and thorough debate. John McDonnell (Lab)
13. It must be objectively clear that there is no practical alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved. I do not believe that it has been demonstrated that all practical alternatives have been exhausted. In particular, discussions around the permanent stationing of UN weapons inspectors in Syria to prevent the use of these weapons have not been exhausted. That, linked to an insistence on the participation of all sides in a UN peace conference, has not been exhausted. John McDonnell (Lab)
14. Military intervention does not just cost lives; it undermines the credibility of the international institutions that we look to to secure peace in the world and, in the long run, it undermines peace settlements across the globe. Therefore, I believe that we should focus on conflict prevention and conflict resolution and not support military aggression. John McDonnell (Lab)
15. The conversations that have been had with the media over the past few days have talked about Syria not having impunity for the use of chemical weapons. The word “impunity” implies that there is a new doctrine of punishment as a reason for going to war—not deterrence, not self-defence, not protection, but punishment. I believe that, if that is a new doctrine, it needs considerably wider international consensus than currently exists. James Arbuthnot (C)
16. During my time in this House, chemical weapons have been used against the Kurds; they were used in the Iran-Iraq war; and they were used against the people in Gaza, in the form of phosphorous bombs—certainly a chemical bomb. Is not the real reason we are here today not the horror at these weapons—if that horror exists—but as a result of the American President having foolishly drawn a red line, so that he is now in the position of either having to attack or face humiliation? Is that not why we are being drawn into war? Paul Flynn (Lab)
17. The timing of the decision must also be questioned. If, as some of us believe, the decision on military action has already been made in Washington and agreed by the UK Government, that is the real reason why we are here: because Washington feels that there should be some bombs falling this weekend. Many atrocities have taken place in the two years since the conflict began. Surely those seeking to take military action could wait a few days longer, to ensure that their facts are straight. Elfyn Llwyd (PC).
18. From the leaked reports on the one hand we are getting stories that the attack was ordered by Assad’s brother in retaliation for a failed assassination attempt on the leadership, and on the other hand hearing that there is intercept evidence that somebody who was unauthorised was responsible and that there was a telephone conversation in which somebody said, “Why on earth did you do this?” and a panicked reaction to the unauthorised release of poison gas. The point is that it is very far from certain that the evidence stacks up. The Intelligence and Security Committee is cleared to see classified material well up to the level of the material that the JIC and the Prime Minister have seen. I see no reason why those of us who have been cleared for such access should not have it. Julian Lewis (C)
19. If Assad is behaving irrationally and if he is so desperate, what is to prevent him, if he is attacked militarily by us on the perceived basis of intelligence supplied by Israel, from retaliating with a chemical attack against Israel? What will Israel do? It will retaliate in turn. What will America, Iran and Russia do then? I began my speech by referring to the first world war. Next year, we will commemorate the centenary of the events of August 1914. Those events have a worrying parallel. At that time, a series of actions and reactions drew in, in an escalating fashion, one country after another. Nobody thought that the assassination of an obscure archduke would lead to a world conflagration. As Admiral Lord West has said, this is a powder keg, and we should not be lobbing weapons into the heart of such combustible material. Julian Lewis (C)
20. If action is taken, what would the action be? What would its impact be? How many casualties, including among civilians, would it cause? Would Assad say, “Oh, dearie me, I must be a nice boy now”? Anyone who has been in Syria, as I was when I was shadow Foreign Secretary and was trying to liberate our hostages in Lebanon, knows that this is not a nice regime that will behave as we want. The Foreign Secretary said he wanted to punish Assad, but an Assad punished would be worse than an Assad as he is now. Sir Gerald Kaufman (Lab)
21. There is plenty of forensic evidence that will come out of the UN investigation and out of other data that we can obtain by other methods. It is not a question of panic; it is a question of getting the facts right before we act. It is very simple: when we are going to do things which will lead to the death of people, civilians in particular, we should get our facts right first. David Davis (C).
22. On a practical level, we believe that any military activity will be counter-productive and will not save lives but in fact cost them. As was said earlier, it is no more pleasant for a person to be killed by a cruise missile than by gas—they are still dead. Our objective should be to be humanitarian and protect lives. Alasdair McDonnell (SDLP).
23. I wish also to pose the question of how the sight of a British and US-led attack is likely to be perceived across the middle east, not just in Syria, especially if it is carried out without credible UN backing or on the basis of uncertain or confused intelligence. That would risk handing the Syrian regime a major propaganda victory at a pivotal point, which its supporters could rally around. The impact on the wider region is even more uncertain and potentially volatile. Even if such action could ever be morally justified, which I and my colleagues do not accept, there surely needs to be a serious prospect of an endgame that has an outcome of success and of benefit in some shape or form. Alasdair McDonnell (SDLP).
24. I can only refer the hon. Gentleman to Iraq and its consequences. We have all been left scarred by Iraq. Many in this House and in Government will have convinced themselves of the courses of action that should be taken, but they have not convinced the public. I think the public know better. The public have long and bitter memories of Iraq and Afghanistan. All the promises and assurances issued then were not worth the paper they were written on. The public remember the contrived situation, the misleading of this House and the needless deaths of so many soldiers and countless civilians. While I would find it difficult, if not impossible, ever to tolerate or support military intervention, I believe that this House should contemplate such action against Syria only if it were UN approved and if we were convinced that it would improve the situation. Alasair McDonnell (SDLP)
25. I wish the Government well. If they really can come up with a way of stopping Assad murdering his own people, nobody will be happier than me. Everyone in the House would be extremely happy. But the Government have to understand the scepticism of the British people. Assad is mad and bad and it will not be easy to stop him. I fear that we will not be able to do it in a half-hearted manner with a few cruise missiles in the hope that he will not retaliate. John Redwood (C)
26. We are told that intervention could be legally justified without a Security Council resolution under the UN’s responsibility to protect, but the 2005 UN world summit outcome document, in which the Heads of State unanimously approved the new international norm of the responsibility to protect, subsequently approved by UN Security Council resolution 1674, states clearly that it is still subject to UN Security Council agreement. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who co-chaired a working group on the responsibility to protect, again stressed that it is to be implemented in accordance with the UN charter. That means that the central decision-making authority is the UN Security Council. The conclusion from all this is clearly, if inconveniently for the Government, that military action against a sovereign state, other than in self-defence, without the authority of the Security Council cannot be justified under the responsibility to protect. Caroline Lucas (Green)
27. The Government’s position would be far stronger if instead of coming here proposing military action, they had come here to tell us that they were having serious discussions with the new Government in Iran and a new round of talks with Russia, and that they were trying to build a consensus in the region to bring about what must happen at some point—a political solution to this crisis. Jeremy Corbyn (Lab)
28. We should have seen the Attorney-General’s full legal opinion….. this one-and-a-half-side summary is simply unacceptable. Caroline Lucas (Green).
29. We need to strain every sinew to get all relevant parties around the table for peace talks. On so many levels, as others have said, this is a proxy war, which is why we need China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and many others involved as well. Caroline Lucas (Green)
30. Are we going actively to degrade chemical weapons? There are hideous practical problems in attempting that, with the potential of awful collateral damage. If we go after the command and control structure in a way that is sufficiently active to degrade it, that plainly means going after Assad himself, thus actively intervening on one side in the conduct of the war. Cristpin Blunt (C)
31. This month, the Egyptian Government have, with malice aforethought, murdered well over 1,000 of their own citizens to suppress people who were supporting what had been previously an elected Government. What are they to think about the fact that we are getting ourselves into a position to intervene over Syria, and yet we have said precious little about a crime that is on the scale of five or 10 times what we are debating here? It has not been part of an insurgency yet, but the Egyptian Government have almost certainly kicked an insurgency off as a result of what they are doing. Crispin Blunt (C)
32. Legitimacy to go to war comes not from the UN, nor from international law or international lawyers, nor even from our own National Security Council. That sort of legitimacy comes only from below, not from above. It comes from the demos and those they elect. When the time comes for that second, crunch, vote, there can be no buck-passing, no deferring to a higher authority, no delegating. It will be our responsibility alone, and all the more weighty for that. Douglas Carswell (C)
33. Democracy and liberalism will one day seem as firmly rooted in the south and east of the Mediterranean as they do to the north, but if spreading democratic values is to be the cornerstone on which we are to build British foreign policy, let us do so consistently. We cannot act in defence of democratic values in Syria two months after we failed to speak out in defence of the democratically elected Government in Egypt. We cannot act when hundreds of civilians are murdered in Damascus, but continue to arm the Egyptian junta that slaughtered a thousand in Cairo. We cannot champion the right of self-determination in one part of the Arab world, yet ignore those who seek basic human rights in another, including the Gulf. I am unconvinced that the Government’s intended course of action in Syria is part of a coherent strategy, and I will not support military action until I am convinced that it is part of such a strategy. Douglas Carswell (C)
34. What are we going to do? Apparently we are going to send in a few Tomahawk land attack missiles to give Assad a bit of a spanking because he has used chemical weapons. That is nonsense and a ridiculous proposition that will lead us to the position that a lot of people have already begun to explain. We cannot write Assad a letter and say, “By the way, the TLAM missile was only to give you a spanking over chemical weapons. It didn’t mean that we were interfering in your conflict in any way, shape or form.” Frankly, that is nonsense. We cannot compartmentalise such activities in the way suggested, and there will be an effect. What will that effect be? Dai Havard (Lab)
35. Many accuse those of us who question the idea of military intervention by saying, “You believe that nothing should be done. You’re in that camp that says, ‘We should wash our hands of it and let them get on with it.’” Utter tosh! So much more could be done on the humanitarian front. The refugee camps are desperately short of basic amenities. Britain has a good record—we have done a lot of the heavy lifting—but we could do a lot more, as could the international community. Tens of thousands of women and children are living in extremely poor conditions, and yet the west is saying, “There’s very little more we can do to help the humanitarian situation,” which is utter nonsense. John Baron (C)
36. The west could also do a lot more on the diplomatic front. It makes no sense whatever to exclude Iran from the forthcoming peace talks, but that is what we currently intend to do. Iran is a key regional player and a participant in this conflict. Excluding Iran from the talks is utter nonsense. We need to go that extra diplomatic mile. This is a cliché, but it is true: you make peace with your enemies, not with your friends. We need to talk to the Iranians if we hope for a diplomatic solution. A political and diplomatic solution, and not a military one, is the only long-term solution to this vicious civil war. John Baron (C)
37. We must never under-estimate the cynicism that surrounds our motives and those of our allies. We must never under-estimate the fact that even the most humanitarian of objectives can be misconstrued as a nefarious attempt by the west to project its power. We must never under-estimate the fact that we must first win the battle of perception above all else. Any intervention needs to be demonstrably scrupulous, must involve more than just the usual suspects and must be the last resort of a process that has visibly exhausted all diplomatic means. The recent ratcheting up of rhetoric has come at the expense of reason and has eschewed responsibility. The cacophony of tough words and the insidious indication that attacks could take place as early as this weekend have not facilitated diplomacy or the forging of alliances. David Lammy (Lab)
38. Any military action will, as I said, lead to a completely different attitude among many of our Muslim communities in this country. It will be the catalyst for the build-up of all sorts of extremism. Kate Hoey (Lab)
39. Many of us are reluctant about matters involving peace and war because we previously sat here and listened to a Prime Minister tell us from the Dispatch Box what I now believe to have been a fabric of lies. I cannot sit here and be duped again by any Prime Minister, whether of my party or the Labour party.
My constituents’ instinct is also against any direct UK military action. Like, I am sure, all my colleagues throughout the House, I have received not just form e-mails sent by some lobbying organisation but individually composed e-mails showing the strength of feeling and fear that lie in the British population. Cheryl Gillan (C)
40. This is not the debate that the House expected to have, it is certainly not the debate that No. 10 was planning, and it is not the one that the media predicted would happen, but there have none the less been some excellent contributions. Despite the fact that there will be another debate and vote next week, this has been a useful exercise in testing the issues at stake. Jim Fitzpatrick (Lab)
41. There have been many contributions to the debate in which colleagues have said, “If we do this, that will happen. If we do not do that, this will happen.” Only one thing is absolutely guaranteed: nobody knows what will happen if we go down the road of military action. We have seen that too often in recent decades. The difficulty I have is the fact that we do not have an exit strategy. Jim Fitzpatrick (Lab)
42. In the run-up to the Iraq war, Colin Powell cited the Pottery Barn rule—Pottery Barn is a string of American china shops. The rule is, “You break it? You own it.” The notion that we can make a military intervention on the narrow point of chemical weapons is disingenuous to say the least. Were we to intervene militarily in Syria, we would take ownership of the outcome of the civil war. I see no endgame, no idea of what victory would look like in those circumstances. Diane Abbott (Lab)
43. Assad is lucky, of course, that we are having this debate not in 2002, but in 2013. The year 2003, which so many have referred to, intervened. We must not beat around the bush—Tony Blair and his Administration were dishonest. The result has been to injure our democracy to a degree that no other single action has done, I believe, in the 85 years since women gained full voting equality. And so we are in a position now where our decision now is being influenced by that failure in 2003, and we are asked to draw lessons from that. Ben Gummer (C)
44. What is the difference between an innocent child—a non-combatant—being killed by a conventional weapon and that child being killed with a chemical weapon? It does not much matter to them or their family, because it is still a horrendous death of an innocent. We therefore need to ask whether we are being consistent in saying that this is the red line and it is appropriate for us to take this action. Andrew George (Lib)
45. This has been a great two days for Parliament; I think we have won. This time yesterday morning, the motion would have been used to justify war, perhaps this very weekend. War is not going to happen. The Prime Minister has listened to his Back Benchers. We made it perfectly clear to our Whips yesterday afternoon that we were not prepared to vote for any motion that justified war, and so the Prime Minister has offered us another motion. This is not a motion for war. I will not vote for war. I would never vote for war against Syria. If there is a second vote, I will definitely vote against, but I do not believe there ever will be a second vote, because I do not believe that the parliamentary arithmetic stacks up. It does not stack up because MPs are doing their job and listening to what the public want, and the voice of the public is completely clear: they do not want war. They are scarred by what went on in Iraq. We were lied to in Parliament and we are not going to go down that route again. I voted against the Iraq war and I will vote against this one. Sir Edward Leigh (C)
46. What would it achieve? That is what we must ask ourselves. Why is it any of our business? Has Syria ever been a colony? Has it ever been in our sphere of interest? Has it ever posed the remotest threat to the British people? Our job in Parliament is to look after our own people. Our economy is not in very good shape. Neither are our social services, schools or hospitals. It is our job to think about problems here. If I am told that we are burying our heads in the sand, I would ask: are there anguished debates in other Parliaments all over Europe about whether to bomb Syria? No, they are getting on with running their own countries, and so should we. Sir Edward Leigh (C)
47. Although we have spoken with great moral certitude in this debate, the fact is that our contribution to an attack on Syria would be infinitesimal. Have we not degraded our own armed forces in the past three years, contrary to repeated warnings from myself and others? Do we have an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean? In reality, we would simply be hanging on to the coat tails of President Obama. He was foolish enough to issue a red line. His credibility is on the line, not the credibility of the British people or ourselves. We do not have to follow him in this foolish gesture. Sir Edward Leigh (C)
48. There are two occasions where military action can be justified. The first is where British interests are imminently threatened, and clearly that is not the case in this particular debate. The other is as part of a UN-sponsored humanitarian mission to prevent dictators from causing damage to their own people. I am not convinced that the Government have made that case this evening. The reality is this; there is an evil dictator, but the opposition to that evil dictator is even worse. These are people who will oppose the west at all costs and will cause damage to their own people. They are barbaric and inhuman and we should not support them in any shape or form. I would not support any regime change, or attempted regime change. Bob Blackman (C)
49. Syria is a satellite state of Russia. Do we think that the Russian Government will sit idly by and allow the US and Britain to bomb one of their satellite states? They will react in some way, shape or form. So we should be clear that, if we embark on military action, there will be direct military consequences for the whole region and for this country. We should send a message to President Assad, if we are convinced that he and his regime are responsible for the chemical attacks, to say, “Identify those who are responsible. Make them come before the criminal courts,” so that they can be punished in the best way possible, through due process of law. Bob Blackman (C)
Thank goodness we have a British parliamentary democracy. We MPs can come here and influence the decision of the Executive. Everybody knows that MPs from both sides of the House have influenced the Prime Minister to change the position of the Executive. In the States, there are 100 Congressmen begging the President to let them debate the issue. We are so much better off in this House. Peter Bone (C)
War and peacePosted by john sloboda Sat, August 31, 2013 00:03:06
This is the list of UK members of parliament who successfully voted against military action in Syria on 29th August 2013, thus ending a tradition of over 200 years whereby parliament has always supported military action advocated by a Prime Minister. According to some commentators, the last time Parliament voted down a Prime Minister in this way was in 1782, at the time of the American War of Independence.
Whatever one's position on the vote, all can agree that this is a remarkable moment in British politics, and one that could have far-reaching consequences.
Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob
Alexander, rh Mr Douglas
Allen, Mr Graham
Amess, Mr David
Anderson, Mr David
Bacon, Mr Richard
Bailey, Mr Adrian
Bain, Mr William
Balls, rh Ed
Baron, Mr John
Barron, rh Mr Kevin
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Dame Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr Joe
Betts, Mr Clive
Blunkett, rh Mr David
Blunt, Mr Crispin
Brown, rh Mr Nicholas
Brown, Mr Russell
Buck, Ms Karen
Burnham, rh Andy
Burstow, rh Paul
Byrne, rh Mr Liam
Campbell, Mr Alan
Campbell, Mr Gregory
Campbell, Mr Ronnie
Clarke, rh Mr Tom
Cooper, rh Yvette
Cunningham, Mr Jim
Cunningham, Sir Tony
Darling, rh Mr Alistair
Davies, David T. C.
Davis, rh Mr David
de Bois, Nick
De Piero, Gloria
Denham, rh Mr John
Dobson, rh Frank
Dodds, rh Mr Nigel
Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.
Donohoe, Mr Brian H.
Doran, Mr Frank
Eagle, Ms Angela
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Field, rh Mr Frank
Flint, rh Caroline
Francis, Dr Hywel
Glindon, Mrs Mary
Godsiff, Mr Roger
Goggins, rh Paul
Hamilton, Mr David
Hancock, Mr Mike
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr Tom
Havard, Mr Dai
Healey, rh John
Hepburn, Mr Stephen
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hollobone, Mr Philip
Holloway, Mr Adam
Hood, Mr Jim
Howarth, rh Mr George
Huppert, Dr Julian
James, Mrs Siân C.
Johnson, rh Alan
Jones, Mr Kevan
Jones, Susan Elan
Jowell, rh Dame Tessa
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Khan, rh Sadiq
Lammy, rh Mr David
Lee, Dr Phillip
Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma
Lewis, Mr Ivan
Lewis, Dr Julian
Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn
MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan
Mahmood, Mr Khalid
Marsden, Mr Gordon
McCann, Mr Michael
McDonnell, Dr Alasdair
McFadden, rh Mr Pat
McGuire, rh Mrs Anne
McKenzie, Mr Iain
Meacher, rh Mr Michael
Meale, Sir Alan
Miliband, rh Edward
Moon, Mrs Madeleine
Morris, Anne Marie
Morris, Grahame M.
Mudie, Mr George
Murphy, rh Mr Jim
Murphy, rh Paul
Raynsford, rh Mr Nick
Reed, Mr Jamie
Reed, Mr Steve
Riordan, Mrs Linda
Ritchie, Ms Margaret
Robinson, Mr Geoffrey
Roy, Mr Frank
Ruddock, rh Dame Joan
Sharma, Mr Virendra
Sheerman, Mr Barry
Shepherd, Sir Richard
Skinner, Mr Dennis
Slaughter, Mr Andy
Smith, rh Mr Andrew
Straw, rh Mr Jack
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, rh Sir Andrew
Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry
Tapsell, rh Sir Peter
Thomas, Mr Gareth
Timms, rh Stephen
Turner, Mr Andrew
Umunna, Mr Chuka
Vaz, rh Keith
Walker, Mr Charles
Ward, Mr David
Watson, Mr Tom
Watts, Mr Dave
Weir, Mr Mike
Whiteford, Dr Eilidh
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Winnick, Mr David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wollaston, Dr Sarah
Wright, Mr Iain
War and peacePosted by john sloboda Thu, August 08, 2013 11:13:03
When is a referendum not a referendum? Sleight of hand in the Falklands.
On March 11th 2013, some – but
not all – Falklands Islanders took part in a “referendum” whose widely publicised
results were that 99.8% of those who voted, answered YES to the question
you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current status as an Overseas
Territory of the United Kingdom?”
What is less well known is that (a) this
was not a referendum in the usually understood meaning of the term, and (b)
that the announced result was based onthe views of only 64% of the adult
population. 36% of them did not
participate in the vote.
I’ll explain why these are relevant, after outlining some international
reactions to the vote.
Minister David Cameron said Argentina should take "careful note" of the referendum result and that Britain
would always be there to defend the Falkland Islanders.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague
countries should accept the results of this referendum and support the Falkland
Islanders as they continue to develop their home and their economy"
Argentina's foreign minister, Hector
United Kingdom lacks any right at all to pretend to alter the juridical status
of these territories even with the disguise of a hypothetical referendum"
Castro, Argentina’s ambassador to London said
"This (referendum) is a ploy that has no legal value,"
said Alicia Castro. Negotiations are in the islanders' best interest. We don't
want to deny them their identity. They're British, we respect their identity
and their way of life and that they want to continue to be British. But the
territory they occupy is not British"
The Argentinian government has never
accepted British claims to sovereignty.
It believes that the territory belongs to Argentina. It will continue to hold to this position
until and unless Britain comes to the table and engages in serious
In 2012 a
poll to mark the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war indicated that 89% of
Argentinians support the sovereignty claims of Buenos Aires. Many believe the
timing of the 2013 referendum is linked to the discovery of extensive oil and
gas deposits, as well as growing interest in the Antarctic, which is likely to
become an important source of fresh water and other resources. Veterans say it is absurd that the small
community of islands should decide the fate of an strategically important area
of land and sea that is bigger than Argentina itself.
The International Community is hardly
enthusiastic about Britain’s claims. The United Nations has passed several
recent resolutions calling on Britain and Argentina to negotiate on a range of
issues concerned with the Falklands.
Britain has consistently refused.
Immediately after the referendum, only one
state, Sweden, announced public support for Britain’s position. Even the USA, supposedly the UK’s
most significant global ally, remained silent on the issue. On the other hand, Latin
America is vocal and united in support of Argentina’s historic claims of
4 June 2013, the organisation of American states (OAS) adopted a declaration
that calls for negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the
‘sovereignty’ of the Falkland / Malvinas Islands. The resolution was
passed as part of the 43rd annual OAS assembly in Guatemala. All
Latin American countries expressed their full support for the measure.
Canada was against the OAS final declaration, while the USA did not take
a position on the matter.
I’m not attempting an assessment of the
strengths of the opposing sovereignty claims here, other than to say that it is
clear that neither side possesses an overwhelmingly convincing and
unproblematic case. Otherwise
the dispute would not have rumbled on for 180 years, and have been the occasion
of a war between the two countries in 1982.
What I want to focus on here is the
“referendum” itself, and how Islanders (and British politicians and mainstream media)
have depicted this event in unsubtle ways which don’t fully reflect the reality.
Was this a valid referendum?
The term “referendum” is a technical term
for a kind of consultation that involves the entire electorate of a nation or
province. By custom and practice,
only a state can mount a referendum. The Falkands Islands is not a state. The British Government played no formal
part in the exercise.
This referendum was organised by the
Islanders themselves, with no official involvement of any government. They invited John Hollins, the former
Chief Electoral Officer of the Canadian province of Ontario and the current
Chair of the Board of Directors of The Delian Project, to act as an election
In general, for a referendum to be
considered valid, those posing the question need to assure the population (and
the international community) that all relevant individuals have received the
invitation to vote, have had a free and fair exposure to both sides of the
argument, and have been able to express their views freely – without fear of
pressure or coercion – at the ballot box.
Nowhere can I find any statement that the
Argentinian Government were able to put any proposals before the Falklands
voters for their consideration.
What proportion of the population actually voted?
In relation to who voted, I have been able
to piece together the following, mainly from information supplied by the
Guardian’s excellent data blog:
At last census (2012), the Falklands population was 2,841. This is a decline from the high of 3,053 in 2001. 16% of the population (454) identify as
Chilean or St Helenean, not British. The majority of people living on the
Falklands today were not born there. They are immigrants, many of whom presumably went
there for work. 1723 of the adult
population are in employment (75%).
485 of these work for the government (28% of all jobs). Other major sources of employment are
fishing-related and tourism. 25%
of adult Falklands residents are not in paid work.
Approximately 20% of the population are
under 18, so ineligible to vote. So the adult population is approx 2300.
Only 1649 of the Falklands population were deemed
eligible to vote in the 2013 referendum (adults who were born there or who are
long-term residents). Thus these 1649 eligible voters constituted 71% of the
adult population. This meant that 29%
of adult residents (650) were denied a vote.
Only 92% of the 1649 people eligible to
vote actually did so (1517), comprising 66% of adult residents. Thus 34% of adult residents did
not vote, most because they were denied the opportunity, and so the world does
not know their views.
These facts are largely unknown, and have not
been reported or further investigated by journalists, certainly not in
Britain. They seem to me to
tell a much more ambiguous and inconclusive story than most have cared to tell.
Why does this matter?
It matters because Falkland islanders deserve
security. Security can never
be guaranteed by Britain alone.
It has to involve some viable accommodation with the people and
politicians of the country and the continent where the Islands are, backed by
processes supported by the International community at large, through the
UN. Those in the British
political and media circles who paint the “referendum” as some kind of
black-and-white decisive moment, do the people of the Falklands no favours. We need to understand and grasp
the complexity and subtlety of the situation if Falklanders’ lives are ever to
be lived other than under the threat of further insecurity, whether political,
military or economic.
I’ll be coming back to this issue (and
similar issues facing Britain around the world, such as in Gibralter!) in
PoliticsPosted by john sloboda Wed, July 31, 2013 22:33:24
Tonight, the Planning Committee of Hackney Borough Council approved (by a 4:1 majority) plans to build a massive Sainsbury's Supermarket in a crammed plot between Stoke Newington Church Street and Abney Cemetary (a notable and historic nature reserve). This vote came in the face of massive local opposition, growing ever stronger in the face of repeated re-attempts by the developers, Newmark Properties, to bulldoze their way through local wishes. A selection of their ghastly developments can be seen on their web site at http://www.newmarkpi.com/.
Church Street is one of London's few remaining "village high streets" almost entirely given over to small independent local traders. It is one of the loveliest communities in London, and those who live near it and use it are passionately committed to keeping it that way. Last year I wrote my own pictorial "hymn of praise" to its multiple attractions, which can be found at http://storify.com/johnsloboda/supporting-stoke-newington-church-street.
A moving video of the last stages of the campaign can be found at http://vimeo.com/71331151 . This a real tribute to the broad support of ordinary people for the campaign, whose website at http://stokeylocal.org.uk/ tells the story of the long fight.
The chair of the Planning Committee is Labour Councillor Vincent Stops. His contact details are given at http://mginternet.hackney.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=152
Below is the letter I wrote to him tonight. I expect he and his colleagues will receive many similar letters. The campaign is not over - but sadly it will have to move to a less comfortable phase for those determined to continue to fight.
---------------------------------------------------------------------Wednesday 31st July 2013
Dear Councilor Stops,
I am one of the thousands of local residents who have been telling Hackney Council that we don't want a Sainsburys on Wilmer Place, ever since the idea was first mooted.
I don't know a single person in Stoke Newington who is anything other than passionately opposed to this.
You cannot imagine that the vote of your committee is going to suddenly make that opposition vanish.
Your committee's decision tonight was a travesty of democracy, and reminds me of the worst behaviour of New Labour while in power.
Tony Blair took Britain to war in Iraq against massive public opposition, and it was, eventually, the end of his political career, and the main reason why Labour no longer governs the country.
I predict that tonight's decision will be the beginning of the end of the Labour Party's far too long stranglehold on Hackney's politics. Many, if not most, of the people I know locally who oppose the development are Labour supporters. You will have strained their loyalty to breaking point.
(PS - although I am 20 yards outside the borough boundary, just into Islington, Church Street is the street I identify with and shop on, and will fight to the end of my days to keep it the preserve of small independent local traders, and the very special place that the likes of Sainsburys and Newmark Properties will never understand)
PoliticsPosted by john sloboda Sat, June 01, 2013 17:01:54
Lisa Morrow has lived in Istanbul for a number of years, and writes on daily life and customs in turkey, and her book "Inside Out in Istanbul was recently published.
http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/turkey-inside-out-in-istanbul. Today she sent a report by email to many of her friends and contacts, asking for it to be passed on widely, and to the media. The report is reproduced in full below. "Change has come: Istanbul June the 1st" by Lisa Morrow
By now most people around the world will be aware of the protests taking place in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and other cities around Turkey. Most likely the news reports are saying people are protesting against a new shopping centre and that the protests are violent. Both statements are half-truths that need to be explored.
For the last few months peaceful groups have been meeting on weekends in Gezi Park, the last green space in Taksim, central Istanbul. They are demonstrating against the planned destruction of the park, in order to build a shopping centre and a mosque. Taksim Square has long been associated with Ataturk, democracy and modernity. It is a busy place and popular with students, tourists and activists from both sides of the political spectrum. The Gezi Park demonstrators have been meditating, holding barbeques, doing yoga, or singing in an attempt to publicise the threat to the park. Things suddenly escalated in the last week when the bulldozers were moved in and a small group began to camp out in the park. On Friday morning about 5am, the police threw tear gas into the tents where people lay sleeping, and when they ran out police targeted them with water cannons. If this wasn’t enough the police then set fire to the tents.
By Friday night thousands had begun to gather in the square, despite the police building a barricade around the park to keep both them and the media out. Istıklal Street, a famous thoroughfare, was crammed with people, as was Cumhurriyet Boulevard. Police riot squads descended on them, forcing people to flee into nearby shops and cafes where others were just going about their normal day. When the water cannons were fired into Starbucks, tourists as well as Turks ran out screaming. Nearby side streets became battle fields and also sanctuaries, with chemists and other shops providing first aid and people hanging signs from their houses saying “Come to my apartment if you are injured”.
More police were sent to the scene with more tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons but nonetheless the momentum built quickly. This morning at 2am we were woken in our sleepy middle class suburb of Göztepe, on the Asian side of the city, by the sound of clapping and chanting. When we looked out the window we saw a group of people banging spoons against pots, slowly moving through the streets to Kadıköy. This group joined the estimated forty thousand people determined to walk across the Bosphorus Bridge to join the protests on the other side. By 10.30am they had made it to Besiktaş, about a kilometre from the square, where they were stopped by police. Throughout the day I have received texts from friends, telling me they were safe after being sprayed with pepper and tear gas. Others told me how people are being beaten up for no reason and that family members had been trapped on the metro when the police turned their focus there. Facebook is full of photos of bloodied people of all ages, some there to protest, others just passing by. Some of the images are from journalists but most are from people living in the area whose lives are affected regardless of their political beliefs.
Yes, things are now violent. One person is dead and hundreds have been injured However this is not because the demonstrators want violence. Peaceful actions have been met with violent over-reaction as water cannons are targeted at men’s genital regions, at people standing in submission with arms raised, at men, women and children who are fighting for their country. What began as a small action against a proposed shopping centre has catapulted into a popular movement for government change from people who have had enough.
In the last few years the ruling party has overstepped the mark by manipulating evidence and arresting scores of former army officers for supposedly plotting a coup, done for the greater good of the people, in the name of democracy. In the name of democracy they have changed the laws so that students from religious Imam Hatip schools can freely enter universities even though they lack the basic educational requirements expected from everyone else. The separation of religion and state has blurred more and more. Most recently new public transport ordinances were released requesting decorum on the metro in Ankara. A ‘kissing’ demonstration was curtailed by a heavy police presence and opponents wielding knives. Permission to celebrate May Day was denied on the grounds a gathering of 50,000 people in Taksim Square was unsafe, although about a million people pass through there every day. Just last week the sale of alcohol was severely restricted in order to protect Turkish youth although there is no data to suggest alcohol consumption is a problem here. These and other incidents are behind this spontaneous uprising and calls for the Prime Minister to resign.
To repeatedly say it started due to a protest in a park, as is happening on a lot of international media, is to belittle the political intelligence of those involved. To report violent protests without clearly stating the violence began with heavy handed police actions, is to cast the demonstrators’ actions in a sinister light. As I write this I am nearly being deafened by my neighbours, ordinary people, beating their saucepans and blowing whistles in support of the protestors. Thousands more are heading for Taksim square, seeking an end to government interference in their lives. The call for change has come to Turkey. Now it is up to the government to answer that call.
PoliticsPosted by john sloboda Sat, April 20, 2013 20:56:03
A lost generation: a parent's view of the experience of Young Adults in the UK.
(This was written in 2004 and circulated by email to friends and associates. This is its first on-line publication. Looking around today, I see much the same now, if not worse. The age range to be included would probably extend nearer to 40 than 30 now! Names* and details have been changed to protect anonymity.)
A lot of my friends and acquaintances have children aged between 18 and 30. Most times we meet, or
correspond, we tend to share information about our children, their friends, and
the circles in which they move.
back over these conversations, especially the ones which have taken place in
the last 5 years, I have begun to see a pattern, and it is quite a disturbing
one. It is even more disturbing when I take into
account that the vast majority of the people I talk to are highly educated
graduates, professionally successful, caring, liberal, and generally deeply
invested in their children in one way or another.
friend tells of his son Nick*, intelligent, talented, and popular. Nick went to University to read
Physics. Although he had a
great time socially, he found less and less to enthuse him in his University course,
despite being passionate about Physics at School. He struggled on to the end of his degree course, with less
and less motivation, eventually gaining a third class degree, far below his
ability. On graduating he decided
he wanted nothing to do with the subject again, moved back home, and has for
the past three years been living at home, surviving on a series of unrewarding
temping jobs, and feeling directionless.
left school at 16, convinced that education had nothing more to offer her. She found it hard to find work, and was
part of a set that encouraged her into drugs, casual sex, and petty crime. She eventually enrolled for A-levels at
a city college – but found the teaching uninspiring – she dropped out again
before finishing the course. Now,
at 20, she is embarked on a different set of A-levels at a different college,
still not sure what she wants out of life.
appeared to have everything going for him when he got his 2.1 in History at the
age of 21. But he couldn’t find a
job that truly satisfied him, and moved from one job to another over a period
of 6 years, moving also from city to city. Then, at the age of 27 he decided that he wanted to be an
architect. The only way to achieve
his ambition would be to start all over with another full-time degree
course. Now he is saving hard to
scrape together enough to allow him to re-enter University, which he might do,
if lucky, by the age of 30.
are not untypical stories.
Variants on them are as common, if not more common, than stories of
steady progression through education into stable careers.
we parents puzzle over the tortouus paths of our children, we find it hard to
relate their experience with ours of 30 years earlier, when a degree course
seemed to be a rapid passport to a career which, in one way or another, made
use of the skills and enthusiasms which we had developed before and during
University. By the age of 25 many,
if not most, of us were already drawing a full-time salary within the stable
career that would see us through the major part of our working lives. None of us were living with our
parents, few were financially dependent on them. We were, at least in career terms, “grown ups”.
pattern that emerges from the multiple stories of today’s young adults is very
different. Adult children
are far more often living in the parental home into their late 20s, they are
far more likely to be financially dependent on parents, they are less likely to
have found a career to which they can wholeheartedly commit, they are less
clear about the form and direction of their lives. So many of them seem lost.
course, our children do also sometimes have conventional successes. And we parents are happy and
proud for them. I greatly enjoy
hearing news of these
successes. But I have noticed
something about many of these reports: they are delivered in tones of surprised
relief. It is almost as if we
parents know that such success is by no means guaranteed, and that we have no
particular wisdom about, nor can we claim any particular credit for, the route
to success. We don’t truly
understand the causes of our children’s successes any more than we do their
failures. There is a sense that we
share in our children’s “lostness”, and we can no longer read the signs of the
times in ways which allow us to be reliable resources for them. We all have many experiences of being
told, in one way or another, by our children, that we just don’t understand how
things are now for them. Our
wisdom is dated.
of us might detect, in our children’s rejection of our wisdom, the so-called
“youthful rebellion” against advice which they will eventually learn to accept
as they “mature”. This is, I
think to misread the situation.
I think we should be prepared to accept that something very fundamental
has shifted in Society over the last 25 years, and that the rules we learned (or
pieced together) to enable us to create coherent lives, can no longer be a
reliable guide for our children.
The pressures on them are not only greater, they are different in their
form and contour; and conversely, the social instruments and institutions which
might be looked to for support and enlightenment have changed, sometimes beyond
discourse, contributed to by politicians and pundits, and rehearsed through the
media, offers far too little.
One primary tactic is to “problematise” young people and their
behaviour, so that solutions are focused on “changing the way they behave”,
either by superficial external controls, or through “education”. For instance recent public debates on
how to stop binge-drinking have focused on changes in licencing laws and
commercial restraints on town-centre drinking establishments; together with
attempts to publicise the negative health and social effects of alcohol
abuse. It is rarer to see analyses
that focus on the underlying causes of destructive cultures. People who are leading fulfilled lives
– with meaningful goals – and effective support to achieve those goals – don’t
have time or inclination for self-abuse.
common tactic is to apportion blame.
Variously, pundits blame parents (particularly those formed by the
“permissive” 60s”), schools, the media, multiculturalism and the
decline of “traditional” morality.
In general, these are seen as giving “too much freedom”, and the
proposed remedies involve, in one way or another, a return to “Victorian
values” of control and prohibition.
Changes in parenting, education, and the like are all indeed
manifestations of cultural change, but it is both simplistic and dangerous to
invoke the past. The past that is
generally invoked is not an active, subtle and complex lived past, but a
conveniently selective image of the past, a reinterpretable and subvertible
construction, onto which powerful elites can project their own current
interests, interests which are rarely take into account the true human needs of
those they seek to influence and control.
find a better way forward, we need to step back from the simple slogans of
politicians and newspaper editors, as well as ready made “answers” that might
be offered from belief systems that were shaped in different times and
and safety needs to be created for young adults to tell their stories, fully
and without interruption or criticism.
People of other generations need the resources to be able to hear these
stories, fully, respectfully and undefensively. Then, out of this “bottom-up” growing understanding, we may
have a chance to construct a positive agenda, whereby young people and adults,
working together, can create an agenda for the restoration of meaningful lives
for young people. There can be no
more important or urgent agenda.
we create a space in which the right kind of deep mutual listening and creative
problem solving can take place?
This may need a private dimension (to protect individuals and create trust)
but it must have a strongly public “front-end”. This work is not, primarily, about finding more effective
forms of therapy for distressed or
disabled individuals (although outcomes of the work may, practically, be very
therapeutic). It is about creating
an agenda for stimulating activity which could lead to real and practical
social change, an agenda that empowers young adults and their chosen allies,
and leads to practical and observable changes in the way that people live
together and support one another.
War and peacePosted by john sloboda Sat, April 13, 2013 08:56:03
MARGARET THATCHER, WEAPONS, AND WAR
April 13th 2013
I was 29 when Margaret Thatcher won her
first election in 1979 and served as Prime Minister for 11 years. Prior to her election, I
had little or no interest or involvement in politics. It was her eager and unprecedented agreement to allow
US nuclear weapons onto British soil (in Cruise Missiles at the US Military
Base in Greenham Common, Berkshire) which catapulted me (and many around me)
into political awareness and activism.
The early responses to Margaret Thatcher’s
death have given surprisingly little attention to this aspect of her premiership,
which was, at the time, one of the most controversial and contested. Indeed, only two of the many
tributes to her in the special session of the UK Parliament held on 10th
April 2013 even mentioned her deployment of Cruise missiles.
It is worth recalling that under the
inspirational leadership of former Catholic Priest Bruce Kent, the Campaign for
Nuclear Disarmament (CND) became one of the most formidable and effective foci
for opposition to Thatcher’s policies. In 1979, when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister,
CND membership nationally stood at 4,000. By 1984, under Kent’s leadership it had risen to
100,000, with another estimated 250,000 members of local branches around the
country. October 1983 saw 400,000 CND supporters
rally in London against Thatcher’s nuclear policies, one of the largest
anti-government rallies in modern history (only exceeded 20 years later by the
February 2003 rally against the Iraq invasion). So effective and articulate was
Kent’s CND in publicly opposing her policies that individuals and organisations
with close links to Thatcher and her government were spurred to mount a
well-funded propaganda and “dirty tricks” campaign against CND, which involved
such things as infiltration of their offices, and promotion of spurious claims
that CND was funded by the KGB.
The Falkands crisis was an extremely
fortunate opportunity for Thatcher to regain public support for British
militarism in the face of the extraordinary political successes of CND in
challenging the raison-d’etre of British defence policy and spending. Many within CND supported the Falklands
War and argued that CND should not oppose it, as a “distraction” from their
For me, however, the Falklands War was as
disturbing (perhaps even more so) as the nuclear issue. It re-established in the national
psyche the notion of Britain as a country of successful expeditionary war, sending
British troops to far-off places, against the odds, to kill and defeat odious
needs to be recalled that since the 2nd World War, the only major
expeditionary involvement of Britain was the disastrous Korean War of 1950-53,
which involved 100,000 British troops and ended in stalemate with more than 2
million people killed. The
equally disastrous British response to the Suez crisis, alongside the rapid
unravelling of the British Empire, meant that by the late 1960s it was no longer clear what the British military
(as a fighting force) was actually for.
The Falklands War was, in my estimation, the “touch paper” that prepared
national consciousness (and mood) for the far more consequential and ugly
British military involvements in Kosovo/Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
In one sense, I need to thank Margaret
Thatcher. It was her definite and
uncompromising policies, translated into equally definite action, that helped
me define my own stance on these issues in reaction, and motivated me to become
active in pursuing the goals that have developed into the specific peace-oriented
projects that now take up much of my time and energy. Perhaps sometimes one needs to become more sharply
aware of what one is against before one is able to work out what one is for and
what to do about it.
Margaret Thatcher was a towering and formidable force in British and
World affairs, who showed me very clearly a view of Britain’s role and place in
the world which is not the one I want for it, or for myself as one of its citizens. Britain maintains the
world’s fourth largest military budget. I hope I might live to see Britain move way down this
hierarchy, as a matter not of national disgrace, but of national pride and joy.
a more comprehensive account of the British anti-war movement, see Sloboda
& Doherty, 2007. The
Psychology of Anti-War Activism (1): The British Anti-War Movement
1956-2006. In R.Roberts (Ed.) Just War: Psychology, Terrorism, &
Iraq. Ross on Wye: PCS
books. Downloadable freely from