Tag Archives: Politics

Around the web this week

A few things that have got me thinking and musing this week.

Justice and phones
What’s your phone got to do with a war?

Via Robin Peake

One of a few helpful pieces from Tearfund Rhythms on phones and conflict minerals. One of the reasons why I bought a Fairphone – topic of a future blog!


Breaking news: Fifa say Hell will host 2026 World Cup

Via Gary Lineker

Great piece from the Telegraph on the farce that is FIFA.


Experiments show this is the best way to win campaigns. But is anyone actually doing it?

Via Tom Baker

From the US – What is the most effective form of political campaigning and why is it not used as it should be? I resonated with this in terms of my likelihood to vote for candidates I have the opportunity to engage with on the doorstep.

Thank heavens for Justin Welby

Via Pete Greig

How Lambeth Palace is worth listening to again and Justin Welby’s taking on of Wonga and payday loan companies by providing an alternative.

Sweden’s Prostitution Solution: Why Hasn’t Anyone Tried This Before?

How the Swedes have tackled traficking with incredible results.


Young people, riots and character
The New Politics of Character

Via Robin Peake

The results of a study into young people participating in riots in London revealed that the key factor was not lack of money or lack of morality but lack of character. What follows is an interesting discussion on defining and developing character in young people.

For the sake of our cities, it’s time to make town planning cool again

On the need for visionary planner more passionate about flourishing than bowing to the whims of developers.

Leadership, change and church
“The Top Ten Reasons This will Never Work”: On Leading Change in the Church

Via David Fitch

Despite my not being a fan of numbered lists there is some helpful stuff in here on  leading change in churches and some of the many objections…

A quote

And finally a couple of tunes for the weekend…

Leonard Cohen – Did I Ever Love You?

And Springsteen from Dublin back in 2006 – When the Saints Go Marching In




Is prison the answer? Time for a more creative justice system?

“Picture by picture, the criminals are being identified and arrested”

So said David Cameron today of the rioters and looters. They will be arrested and charged and then jailed? Alan Sugar is leading a campaign from his twitter account to name, shame and identify all those involved. Fair enough. The reasons why this has happened are complex, and we need a justice system, people need to be punished. But is the answer simply to send people to prison? Does a prison sentence prevent someone from re-offending?

A study by the British Ministry of Justice seemed to suggest that short sentences aren’t particularly effective in reducing re-offending rates. Admittedly the difference in this study between community sevice and jail terms isn’t that significant, but surely it is a start.

Britain and Ireland’s jails are bursting at the seams. Is it time to rethink how we punish criminals? It seems to me especially with the current riots that throwing rioters in jail although retributive isn’t going to be effective in reforming their characters. I guess only God can ultimately do that. Do we need more of a restorative justice system? With the rioters and looters should they be put to work in repairing what they have destroyed, or put to work in serving communities, in restoring vandalised and damaged parks, playgrounds, gardens and estates?

I realise there is no simple answer and even to change the justice system slowly is difficult but surely it is time to think carefully about how much it is possible to reform and punish people without simply resorting to jail.

One week until election day

With public confidence in our government and politicians at a record low it would be easy to give up on voting. “Sure what’s the point, they’re all the same” is a frequently heard comment. The recent events in Egypt, and spreading throughout the Middle East remind us that living in a democracy, albeit a flawed one, does give us the opportunity to influence how our nation is governed. As followers of Jesus we want to ‘seek the good of the city’ and be good neighbours. Voting is one way of pursuing God’s agenda of justice and ensuring that the ‘least’ in our communities are treated fairly.

To that end Sean Mullan (EAI) and Patrick Mitchel (IBI) have written a helpful article looking at 10 areas for Christians to consider when voting such as justice, generosity, money and work, power and accountability.

The Elections Ireland website provides a helpful overview of who is standing in your constituency and links to their websites and policies.

Another interesting site is The People’s Economy set up by David McWilliams, Brian Lucey and others who have long been predicting what the government seemed oblivious to. It has some helpful FAQs and the odd satirical video…

As we approach the election, the challenge for all of us, and especially followers of Jesus is not just to stand idly by but but to use our votes wisely. That means voting for something, not just against things, it means looking at a broad range of issues – not just being single issue voters. It means no matter who is elected holding our political representatives to account, not just complaining but being willing to write, call and meet our politicians to ask them the difficult questions and agitate in a peacefully persuasive manner.

One thing is certain in my mind – it is time for a change. Fianna Fail have for too long had a monopoly on  power and from my perspective have been steeped in corruption from the days of Charlie Haughey’s brown envelopes to Bertie and Brian being in bed with the bankers and developers.  As the Vanity Fair article noted:

Ireland was the first European country to watch its entire banking system fail, and yet its business-friendly conservative party, Fianna Fáil (pronounced “Feena Foil”), would remain in office into 2011. There’s been no Tea Party movement, no Glenn Beck, no serious protests of any kind.

At least with this election maybe we can register a protest vote to say it’s time for change…

Is a snap election a good idea?

So Brian has gone. Not the best person to lead the party but still the one to lead the country.

For the next 7 weeks at the least -in his eyes. Within minutes the opposition were calling for a snap election and Brian Cowen to dissovle the Dail. a day later Fianna Fail’s coalition partners the Greens pulled out of the government leaving it likely we’ll have an election within four weeks. Now I’m not sorry to see Fianna Fail out of government and from some of the polls it looks like a while before they’ll be back. Their previous leaders such as Bertie Ahern and Charlie Haughey have not exactly covered themselves in glory, being more likely to be associated with brown bags of cash and corruption. Ireland desperately needs some leaders who will demonstrate integrity and the best interests of the people ahead of their own party or wealth of their cronies.

But is a snap election the best way? Do any of the other parties have solid policies to lead us out of the mess we are in? Would it be better to wait another few weeks, or is it best just to get another coalition in who will struggle along? Do we have any other options?

Irish politics certainly isn’t going to be dull over the next few weeks…

Fidel where does all the money go?

For any cigar fan the ultimate cigar is a Cuban. The Dominican ones just aren’t quite the same and don’t quite have the same kudos. So when on honymoon in cuba a few weeks ago we made sure to visit the Partagas Cigar Factory in Havana. For a geek like me it was fascinating – learning how cigars are made, the leaves are selected and watching a couple of hundred people in a room all rolling cigars. The quality control was impressive, with all the cigars made by new employees checked, and even around 70% of those made by longer term employees checked. The Partagas factory makes most types – Partagas (obviously), Romeo & Juliet, Montecristo, Cohiba and lots of others. We saw some new Cohibas been made that sell at around €50 each.

Now that’s where the experience started to turn a little sour. The workers in the factory get paid around €30 a month. Most of them make 100-200 cigars a day. If they don’t meet their quota or produce too many rejects they have to work longer to make it up. It transpired from conversations with a few locals that the factory workers aren’t so happy that what they get paid a pittance for gets sold for such large sums. Say each cigar you make sells for €5 each and you make 150 a day, 5 days a week that’s a retail value of €3750. And the person who makes it gets less than 1%.

When you remember that Cohiba, Romeo & Juliet, Montecristo etc are all state owned, that means the profits go to the state. Yet so many people in Cube live in such poverty. People are earning very little across the board – doctors included – as this great article in the Irish times highlights. We saw so many families living in cramped conditions in Havana in buildings that were literally crumbling. Back at the time of the revolution Fidel said:

“we are fighting to do away with dictatorship in Cuba and to establish the foundations of genuine representative government”

Fidel what happened to your ideals? Where is all the money going?

Probably the biggest thing tourists are warned about in Havana isn’t safety. For a city with little street lighting Emily and I felt pretty safe walking around at night. The thing tourists are warned about is buying ‘fake cigars’. I assumed this meant you had people making them at home – which in some cases is true – people who have worked in cigar factories and know how to make them. It turns out that everyone who works in a cigar factory gets an allowance of a couple of cigars a day – often ones that aren’t quite perfect. so many of the ‘fakes’ are simply these ones that people sell on. However I also realised in a factory making tens of thousands of cigars a day it must be pretty easy for a few to be slipped into a bag. It made me think maybe the reason the government is so worried about ‘fake’ cigars sold on the streets is that the money is going t the workers and not to them…

Politics in Ireland – morally bankrupt?

I’ve been horrified to learn the depths of corruption in Ireland over the last few decades. How politicians, bankers and the business elite have colluded in ripping off the country to grease their own pockets. This blog has been brewing as I’ve been reading Fintan O’Toole’s Ship of Fools. It is staggering how Fianna Fail politicians in particular as exemplified by ‘teflon’ Bertie Ahern steered the country towards financial disaster by refusing to regulate spending or the banks in order to ensure they and their cronies in business and banking laughed all the way to the proverbial bank. Even more shocking is the avoidance of tax by the ultra rich – many of whom appear to have paid around 15% tax through cosy avoidance arrangements and politicians and banks turning a blind eye. The lowest tax band is 20%. Ireland is one of the worst countries in Europe for broadband access – something Bertie promised to sort out (but didn’t) and something that could easily be very different had his cronies paid their taxes and that money been used for IT infastructure, let alone health or education. My hatred of Ryanair was tempered slightly by the discovery that Michael O’Leary is one of the few rich in Ireland who actually does pay his taxes and doesn’t pretend to live elsewhere. The complicity of the banks and frightening regularity that those seemingly invovled in ‘Financial Regulation’ ended up on the boards of banks is criminal. But the worst thing is that they got away with it, and continue to.

A recent poll suggested 22% of people interviewed don’t have confidence in any of the party leaders to lead the country, but yet no-one seems prepared to take up the mantle and fight a long hard fight for integrity and ethics in the political sphere. It seems to be accepted. Charlie Haughey, one of the most corrupt premiers Ireland has seen was spared the results of an inquiry until after his death, and his protege Bertie (who successfully portrays a likeable ordinary chap image – while lining his mattress with wads of cash) elevated him to the status of patriot at his funeral. Leaving the country in a mess while you get rich is a strange sort of patriotism to me…

The wanton extravagance and largesse of the Celtic Tiger era was amply demonstrated today by revelations that Transport Minister Noel Dempsey (pictured) used a government jet to fly him from Dublin to Derry, and then from Derry the next morning to London – for a breakfast meeting. The Department of Transport claims the estimated cost of the trip as €100,ooo by the media (and Ryaniar) is grossly exaggerated. The farce of it is that his driver drove his ministerial Mercedes from Dublin to Derry to meet him at the airport – why of why could he at least not have driven to Derry? The irony continues given the topic of the MacGill summer school – ‘Reforming the republic—issues of politics, economics and accountability.’ Maybe he should have stayed on for the next round of talks that evening on the subject of ‘We Need Higher Standards of Leadership, and of Governance.’

More than ever before Ireland needs leaders of integrity who will serve the electorate, not their own agendas.

The soapbox – considering pulling a Wyclif Jean…

Reforming the republic—issues of politics, economics and accountability

Bloody Sunday

38 years on after a £195 million 12 year inquiry, Lord Saville’s results were finally published today finding that:

“None of the casualties shot by soldiers of Support Company was armed with a firearm or (with the probable exception of Gerald Donaghey) a bomb of any description. None was posing any threat of causing death or serious injury. In no case was any warning given before soldiers opened fire.

“None of the casualties was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, or indeed was doing anything else that could on any view justify their shooting.”

David Cameron has called the killings “unjustified and unjustifiable”. Much will be written, many opinions are now being given by those more eloquent than this child of the troubles, and by those who suffered loss on both ‘sides’. Perhaps today will mark another watershed in the complex history of Northern Ireland. Our only hope for the future is one of forgiveness, or at least a willingness to draw a line and choose to work together for a shared future. Much in the way one relative of one of those killed bravely said that he was happy it was finally over, and that he wasn’t interested in seeing any of the soldiers involved go to prison.

Watching one version of events tonight, Bloody Sunday with U2’s song as its theme reminded me of the poignant version of the song from Rattle and Hum on the day of the Enniskillen Bomb, a song that finishes with the hope of the resurrection.

UPDATE – Bono gives his view on events  in a New York Times Op-Ed.

Right Wing Media and the UK Election

Even though I’m now living in Ireland the UK election continues to fascinate me. The leaders debates for politics geeks like me have been fascinating – which doesn’t mean to say some of the content has been pretty dull.

Last year I was really impressed by Cameron and the Conservative party – it really did seem that they were changing, but over the last few months that impression has faded quickly as I’ve heard more about Lord Ashcroft, and as it has become obvious that they still are a party of the elite.  I know I’ve always had a left lean which to me is to do with a book that I read that talks about justice and equality so I may be slightly biased but I do feel increasing affinity for the Lib Dems. Especially after the very obvious Murdoch Media Tory supporting papers launching a series of smears against Nick Clegg, and James Murdoch bursting into the office of the Independent editor outraged at the “Rupert Murdoch won’t decide this election – You will” ad.

Then I read this article from Johann Hari suggesting that the UK electorate is more left than the governments we tend to elect. Obviously there is some of his spin on it but it does make you think:

Britain is a country with a large liberal-left majority. Eighty-five per cent of us say the gap between rich and poor should be “much smaller”, and a majority would get there by introducing a maximum wage that caps the incomes of the rich at £135,000 a year.

Fifty-eight per cent support a dramatic increase in the minimum wage. Fifty-eight per cent want to ditch Trident – an act of unilateral nuclear disarmament. Seventy-seven per cent want to bring the troops home from Afghanistan now, or within a year at the latest. Fifty-three per cent say people come out of prison worse than they go in, and would rather spend money on more youth clubs than on more prison places.

Across most policies, our views are to the left of all three parties. (These statistics are all from Mori, Ipsos or YouGov polls.)

A liberal playing the statistics. Maybe. but then there is the Vote for Policies not Personalities website, which gives you a variety of policy areas and the policies from 6 parties without telling you which is which, until you’ve chosen in all the categories you select. their results so far would back up Hari’s assertion:

Even more fascinating is the Vote for Policies vote breakdown on policy areas:

Sky News spinning of the results giving Cameron the debate does make you wonder if Sky is becoming a UK Fox as Murdoch manipulates the press – even the Sun suppressed poll data showing people polled feared a Lib Dem government less than Labour or Tory. Will this be the election when the freedom of the internet and social media lands a blow to the big boys who traditionally spin elections?

Is the UK population more left than we’re led to believe or is this just a ploy by the left wing media?

Just so you know, having never really considered Liberal Democrats before I came out 66.6% Liberal Democrat, 33.3% Green… so maybe I’m just spinning it my way…