Transformers: The Last Night (2017)

TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (2017, 12, Amazon Prime). What professional critics often appear to fail to realise is that a technically good movie doesn’t actually make an audience-pleasing movie. The reasons that Michael Bay’s fifth Transformers movie works is actually all of its technical failures – overuse of McGuffins, for example. These audience-pleasing moments are why the film grossed $605.4million worldwide at the box office, comparable to its $217million budget. Don’t get me wrong. After the box office smashing successes of the previous two movies, each grossing in excess of $1billion, this highest budget of the entire series, grossing the least; is probably why its on hiatus as a series. 

It is definitely the weakest of the five prime movies, to date (we’ll talk about 2018s ‘Bumblebee’ in its own review). Certainly, it’s let down by its convoluted (though not entirely non-existent as some critics would have you believe) plot; as well as it’s jerry-rigging of WWII & Stonehenge; into that add in a dash of Arthurian legend; and the pointless inclusion of characters who barely serve the overly long plot – but ultimately have no real character development – take that teenage girl, Izabella, whose existence to the story is simply to be the ‘owner’s of an autonomy who is forced, by her, to save the day; in part. There’s no apparent individual agency in autobots. And the twelve knights are bystanders in a story that started with them; as in many ways is the last knight – whose one role is to save Optimus Prime from execution by the original 12 knights for treason. Also Optimus turning bad – has he been corrupted? Probably not considering Bumblebees voice (how’d he get that back for that moment?) was able to bring Optimus to his senses… Again gapping plot holes in a technically terrible movie. 

Not to mention the acting of the legendary Sir Anthony Hopkins, ably assisted by his steam-punk-esq Clockwork butler, Cogman, voiced by the esteemed ‘Downton Abbey’ actor Jim Carter. Even the underutilized drunk Merlin is well played by Stanley Tucci. And whilst a pointless character, Isabella (with a ‘z’) played by Nickelodeon alumni Isabela Moner, turns in a fair performance. Laura Haddock’s performance as Viviane is stable, whilst Mark Wahlberg is okay; it is unfortunately Josh Duhamel, Santiago Cabrera and Jerrod Carmichael who turn in passable but not good acting performances, probably because the underlying material is hardly Oscar winning. 

However; who cares? Not the audience, not really: These are escapism movies, audiences watch to enjoy the pure exhilaration of high-speed car chases, and things in good I’m comic book fashion going kaboom! And whilst the movie is NOT good, it has plenty of action sequences, things going bang, and cars rushing through cities streets; including London, UK. Add in the movies fantastic CGI, and we have a movie that will keep the fans and audience of the franchise engaged until the end. 

Rim of the world (2019)

RIM OF THE WORLD (2019, 15) is a teen science-fiction disaster come apocalypse melodrama with a tired and predictable plot, which adds little to nothing to an oversaturated genre. The premise being that four young teens face off against aliens – which are reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ (1979, 15). 

We have the typical characters: The hero – a science come sci-fi “nerd” whose father died in a fire (perhaps through our hero’s in-action, but whatever the cause we have our reluctant cowardly hero. Next up we meet our female heroine, Chinese and on a quest to the isolated kids titular summer camp, based in the mountains above Los Angeles, California. This camp of course comes with the tired typical counsellors – the over friendly counsellor; and the alcoholic womanizing counsellor – aside from the latter’s predictable toilet demise, the friendly and other counsellors aren’t seen again after the initial 10 minutes. She for some unknown reason becomes the ‘love interest’ of our need-hero – the inclusion of this romantic storyline detracts and morphs this filming places it doesn’t need to go – they’re thirteen not fifteen – girls are still a bit icky at that age to boys, and boys are to girls all The more for than teen stink – but the formula is followed even into these unnecessary divergences. 

The next of our teen protagonists is the spoilt sex-obsessed rich Lothario who has a heart and a sob-story. His sob-story is his families call from wealth, resulting in prison for Lothario-Snr. Added nicely to our quadruplet is the bad-boy “I escaped from Juvi” to hide in the mountains lad with a heart – who also adds one of the most original features of this movie – he appears to suffer from dyscalculia – dyslexia with numbers. But this is not a justice for dyscalculia sufferers, it’s to aid the plot and further the character development of our teen lothario. 

Added to this tired plot are the supporting characters – the fallen astronaut, whose final words are the “quest” and “objective”. Then there’s the unreformed murderer released by our nerd-hero from the local sheriff’s jail which not too long later backfires, though not so drastically as to prevent our heroes continuing, but does seen the unreformed murdered die, typically allowing our heroes escape. Then there’s the kindly soldier, who for all of these minutes relieves the burden of the astronaut’s only-way-to-save-the-world key – and yes, he dies, predictably. 

They arrive at their final destination only to find the military scientist they thought was alive (repeating of a Morse code signal), is dead, the signal is his blood drilling into the old-style telegraph sounder. Then in this dilapidated military building, where they find the dead scientist, they receive a video call, on electrical systems that don’t work, from a dismissive but kindly General. Cue rousing speech by our nerdy hero and the General is convinced: four tweens can save the world – eye-roll. 

Other moments and locations serve the typical genre issues of this movie: the deserted mall, the spooky fairground; the open highways; the L A River’s concrete channels (also filmed here: Grease; Terminator 2; Drive and a ton more). 

Once we get passed all this we then have to question the movies ad-hoc pacing, and times it’s a little too fast with moments of “what just happened “; and the next moment we have sickeningly slow lingering looks – why? 

So having thoroughly rubbished this movie, what redeems it – not much to be honest- our four principals start strong, but acting school did its job and bullied the genuine out of them before the final set-pieces. And our primary female did well when silent – only to have an American accent when she opened her mouth and spoke in English – so not Chinese, why the heck did she struggle at immigration. There are issues of type-casting with regards to race, and wealth – cause all black rich kids either where a suit, or as in this case, silk tracksuit – a speak like they’re from the hood. 

However, the films greatest strength is it’s length – 99 minutes: it’s just short enough to hold and engage your attention without to much of a drag. And whilst the plot is tired and predictable, it’s still a fun journey. So go in with very low expectations and don’t take the movie too seriously. 2/5 stars. 

Goodbye & Good-Riddance to the Jeremy Kyle Show


With the news that ITV has cancelled the Jeremy Kyle show, and that it is now implicated in the suicides of three people; whilst of course older news tells us its implicated and at least partially responsible (according to one Judge) for the murder on another person a few years back – and possible implicated in other murders.

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Then there is the issues surrounding Jeremy Kyle himself – accusations from his former wife of leaving them penniless (having gambled it all away) and generally not being a nice person.

And then there’s **that** jaw breaking incident with a former partner, and the jealousy and again the nastiness that surrounds that incident. Frankly I’ve never really liked Jeremy Kyle’s on-screen persona, he has a very hell-bent on being angry persona, whilst seemingly also being self-righteous, middle-class and arrogant – he never struck me, on screen at least, of being a caring individual, but rather a money-grabbing git. Maybe I am too harsh.

So it’s probably a good thing that Jeremy Kyle was cancelled, and you probably think these “exploitive” programmes of the “working classes” shouldn’t be allowed.

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But as a former two-time guest on The Trisha Goddard Show (Channel 5 – which now looks set to replace the Jeremy Kyle show), and biological family members having made a fair few visits to the Jeremy Kyle Show, I think I have a few thoughts around this.

There is nothing wrong with shows that support and help guests, but they shouldn’t aim for sensationalism. I was on Trisha for a complicated family reunion (twice) – and whilst that may not have, at the time, been the best or even the right way to have had the reunion, there was little long-term damage done to us as guests. It is true that I was hospitalised a few days after the first appearance, but that was primarily due to my own mental health issues at the time – and the environment I was living in at that time. Though one can never under-estimate the impact that a family reunion might have on a guest, especially one with the complex back story mine had, which of course was not discussed on the show at all, for legal reasons. And I would in hindsight suggest that an 18 year old me, was not properly equipped, despite everything, to deal with that, at that time. Admittedly I received maybe two follow up phone calls following my second appearance (a week after the first show) – but other than that there was no real after care. I appreciate my adoptive mum called the show to discuss my mental health and well-being after my first appearance, I am not sure they listened to her (almost certain they didn’t).

I should add there was no previous vetting of myself, I called up, told them what I was looking for, they called me back in a couple of days, and then they invited me onto the show to “make-an-appeal” – and in typical show fashion – they surprised me (despite the fact I figured they would try to surprise me – its how they disarm you) with a reunion with my birth father.

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What these shows should be is real, there is plenty of drama in real life without encouraging people to explode – these shows can provide real therapy and real care – they don’t but they can. And we should remember how many of these types of shows there have been, just here in the UK. From the top of my head we have Kilroy Silk, Vanessa, Trisha and Jeremy Kyle; then there’s Judge Rinder – there are probably more. In the USA we used to have Jerry Springer, Ricky Lake, Sally Jesse-Raphael; and Judge Judy. Don’t forget that Oprah essentially started in a similar-esq style.

So can these shows help people – well I think they do help some people – but the majority of these shows don’t have an effective pre- or post- show care package for everyone, though I believe they do try to help people, they will primarily use sign-posting – that is referring people to local support services, and primarily, I imagine, on the NHS (Mental Health services in the UK, as well as addiction support services generally have large waiting lists).

So how could they be better? I would say the current format, with a studio audience is the first problem – get rid of the audience – make this an intimate studio feel. Then make sure the primary third-party (i.e. the Trisha or Kyle character) is a trained therapist/psychologist/counsellor – then make sure they have at least three sessions before and 6 sessions after, perhaps if the show followed each individual through the course of their counselling, rather than as a toe-dip on the drama.

So if it’s relational therapy, the discussion is effectively between the relevant parties in a room – there are charities that offer the support already, but again long waiting lists. It may also be best to provide these people with anonymity, but I think if people are followed through their therapy, they may find that the “audience at home”, however horrendous your actions in the past, are routing for your success (on the whole).

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Then there’s the issue of the less-than-sound science Jeremy Kyle and the like employ – yes those “lie detector” tests – they are less accurate than a broken condom – and that’s why there’s not admissible evidence in the UK Court rooms. Whilst lie-detectors can give an indication that someone may or may not be lying – remember some people are trained to fool them – but the majority of us will have elevated readings in those situations – and yes the control questions at the start are supposed to help account for it, but lie-detector tests are notoriously bad for false-positives. DNA tests are probably okay, science doesn’t have an issue with them, but instead of leaving it at “It’s not his baby”, they need to focus on “love not biology” – that is – if you’re able to you can be the father of a child that isn’t yours – be the man.

Image by Schäferle from Pixabay

Anyway – any kind of replacement show should also have different sub-formats for different types of sessions. There is no reason family reunions shouldn’t happen; no reasons relational problems can’t be discussed, and there’s no reason addiction support can’t be offered. Helping people overcome their problems is what these shows should be about. But perhaps change the environment for these ‘segments’. If people wish to air their dirty laundry, fine – but it needs to be done with winding up the audience or the guests – and also in a safe-and-controlled environment – there is no need for a bodyguard in a counsellor’s office.

There should also be an independent ethical panel of counsellors and psychologists involved in the editing process to make sure the edits to the show don’t sensationalise or focus on the negative or even the dramatic – but showcase the success and overcoming nature of the show’s guests.

Embedded image from Ian West/PA Archive/PA Images
Embedded image from Ian West/PA Archive/PA Images

It may be best to show highlights of the therapy sessions, but instead focus on an almost big-brother style diary approach to reporting – that is – a “how are you feeling before and after” approach.

Embedded image from  MCT/SIPA USA/PA Images
Embedded image from MCT/SIPA USA/PA Images

Of course we could always return to the Springer esq format, if we used actors in these things – plenty of out-of-work; and/or unable to find a break actors out there. But if these shows were really about helping people, then they wouldn’t sensationalise. Truth is, the Jeremy Kyle Show and co. are generally more about ratings and “great TV” (even if it’s actually trash-tv) than they are about helping the guests – which I believe would actually make quality programming and really great-TV – everyone loves to see someone overcome their issues.

A 17th century engraving on bear-baiting, Public Domain

So on balance, I do think it was right for ITV to cancel the Jeremy Kyle show – and as one judge said a few years ago, these shows are just modern bear-baiting with humans. But let this be an opportunity to recreate these into positive, affirming and supportive shows, which are about helping rather than ratings. About championing the over-comer, whilst also helping those who fall down on their road to beating their issues.



Is Tony Blair making a political come-back?

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No – in short, but he’s certainly doing the rounds. As with US presidents there is a tendency for former Prime Ministers to make less public appearances and political comments on their successors. However, in this Trumpian age of political divided-world and hyper-partisanship the most recent crop of Prime Ministers (Blair,  Cameron) and Presidents (Obama) seem to be far more open-mouthed than their predecessors as Prime Minister (Thatcher; Major; Brown) or even Presidents (Clinton; Bush).

But is this a sign of modern politics, that former leaders will now comment on their successors, just as their successors comment on them (Cameron on Blair; Trump on Obama).

So let me reclarify why the question here is important, and although Blair is highly unlikely to return to front-line politics, in the sense of a government position; it is possible, though unlikely, he’ll stand as a back-bench MP. What is most likely, aside from a seat in the Lords; which must surely be on its way – that Mr Blair will some-how become heavily involved in the current political fiasco.

He’s already campaigning for a second referendum. And if we’re honest, aside from some issues post 2003; Blair was probably “the last decent prime minister” we had.

I quite like Gordon Brown, but his reign was so short, its hardly worth commenting. I have heard someone comment Major was one of the greatest PMs because he did very little (towards policy) – but the early 90s are for many lost in some kind of political fog – between the red-esq-sunshine of 1997 and the blue-deluge of Thatcher.

So what are we to make of Blair’s repeated rounds of the chat-shows and constant press briefings? As an elder statesman (as he technically is now) – forget your personal vehement against him; Mr Blair is now on the media circuit, which is either a way of lining his pocket – which no one can rule out – but what is also likely is, he is making some sort of political come-back.

I can’t say in which way, or how, or why – but I’m pretty certain Blair is back – I’m just not sure what he’s back at. What I will say is, this is a “watch this space” moment with regards to Tony Blair.

Do Cyber-Nats exist?

University of Stirling’s Iain Black, Professor in Marketing in Marketing & Retail; who is listed as an expert in Climate change and consumption; Sustainable consumption; Barriers to sustainable consumption; Fracking and unconventional oil and gas extraction; and Consumers and Electric vehicles by the University – was recently giving a presentation lecture at the Political Branding Workshop hosted by the university, and his presentation was fascinating – as he discussed the concept of co-creation; particularly with reference to Yes Scotland (2014) and Yes Edinburgh North & Leith (2014-) – a campaign he was personally involved in; and alongside University of Glasgow’s Cleopatra Veloutsou was researching this concept of Branding Co-Creation.

During a moment in the 2014 referendum campaign Yes Scotland HQ asked the grass-roots Yes Edinburgh North & Leith (which they didn’t do)– to bin some campaign materials which featured a link to the website Wings Over Scotland, run by the not very Reverend video game designer, blogger, and journalist “Rev” Stuart Campbell. In response to this I asked the question around the concept of Brand Co-Creation; and preventing the tarnishing of the brand by Cyber-Nats (which I acknowleged was on both sides of the campaign) – how would a brand, even one in co-creation; as Yes Scotland was; manage to prevent this?

Professor Black had a two-fold response – his first was to say that no one has proven that there is such thing as cyber-nats, more correctly his argument was that those appearing to be cyber-nats weren’t necessarily actually supporting Scottish Independence (and he made reference here to Russian bots).

Embedded image from Andrew Milligan/PA Archive/PA Images
Embedded image from Andrew Milligan/PA Archive/PA Images – Wings over Scotland Writer & Founder Stuart Campbell, is he “Cyber-nat”?

Now before I tackle his second point – let me deal with this first one. I am not sure how Stuart Campbell, who was arguably considered so odious in his behaviour online by a judge it appears (f0r some) this was the reason wasn’t awarded damages, despite the judge saying he had been libelled (worded carefully, in case he tries to sue me, I have no money, never sue the skint people) – I am not sure how he is not a cyber-nat from Bath – unless Mr Black suggests he is not a cybernat, or that Campbell does not actually support Independence for Scotland.

Perhaps Professor Black was not thinking about Mr Campbell – but rather the anonymous trolls online who may or may not be provable as indie-supporting cyber-nats. Is Professor Black actually arguing some kind of false-flag; or Russian conspiracy theory – don’t get me wrong, there clearly is Russian involvement in large-scale political events such as Brexit and the US Presidential Election (2016) – but unless, and it is possible that the Scottish Indie ref was a practice for Brexit, which became a practice for the US Presidential elections (whilst Brexit as a practice has been shown to at least be possible, I’m not the Scottish Indie ref has been) – then I’m not entirely sure what Professor Black is actually arguing.

Anyway – on to his second point – Professor Black, an excellent academic, and someone I do actually hold in high regard, argued that those campaigning for Scottish Independence during any future referendum campaign would self-police, that is (he gave an example) report those who were not representative of the campaign to the appropriate authority and also to make it clear to the public that x, y or z was not appropriate or part of the civic nationalism the Indie campaigners believed in. Whilst I love the optimism of this answer, and ideally agree this is how society should function – I fear that campaigners on both side of the debate, if they were truly to self-police in this manner, would possibly end up spending more time calling out bigotry and bad-behaviour than actually debating the topic at hand – alternatively they would ignore all those who aren’t “representative” and end up deleting them from social media – which possibly leads to the problem of not actually being representative; but also the fact this would, in my view probably be such an onerous that I’m not sure it will happen in a widespread enough manner; or consistently to work. Thus in this case the Yes Scotland brands will again be tarnished by cybernats, effectively un-policed. Of course I also believe it will happen on the opposing team too – and what is on the whole a beautiful exercise in democracy actually gets bogged down in the mire of cyber-nats and cyber-unionists – and the problem is not solved.

Though I admire Professor Black, I wonder if perhaps time prevented him from explaining more fully his own position; and I would not wish to attribute to him views that weren’t really what he meant – so if corrected I promise to correct in an equally lengthy new article shortly.

Pete’s Other Ponderings

From a Facebook Comment I made, in relation to this picture:

“I was under the impression that the full extent of ‘the final solution’ was hidden from the ordinary people – that they were essentially seeing it as the confiscation of the riches property to help the people (a robin hood type thing, even if the confiscation of the property was not used for the ordinary people) – which is essentially the bit that I think is being repeated at the moment over here, the propaganda that immigrants (or whomever is an easy target) is responsible for our woes.

The question has to become would the full extent of such a government policy being easily seen by the ordinary people today – Windrush occured under Theresa May (initially) but wasn’t found out until Amanda Rudd was Home Secretary – so one concludes, that yes, I think it could be close to being repeated by a government without the majority realising, at least initially, but that it would probably happen for a year or two before being found out by the media… So the first step is usually the restriction of the press, as happened in Nazi Germany, question is, is it happening here?”

And I added further:

“Of course if we consider Benefit claimants and the demonization of them, and the austerity policies of this Conservative government which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, then perhaps we can already argue it is happening, just less obviously, and is essential going unreported by the free media, because it is linked by too many chains, and not directly linked.”

PS: (Join the conversation)

I can’t think of anything more today that I would care to comment on, so this is the lot this week – I’d actually like to hear your thoughts, so drop me a line and give your political ramblings, or even your spiritual ones, if you’re a Christian – I may just publish them as a guest post; if you’d prefer them not to be – why not add a comment, tell me why I’m wrong, how I’m wrong (I probably am somehow) and also your own views (keep it clean and polite).

What do the local election results actually tell us?


I have held off on writing this, until the last possible moment, primarily because I am not sure how much the local election results tell us. There are a multitudinal amount of reasons why, let me explain.

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The first reason is that local elections are primarily about local issues – and local candidates. Whilst many will follow party politics in this, local elections have historically not been the best of indicators of how the public will vote in a general election (especially when a general election may be months or years later).


Turnout for local elections is famously lower, usually much lower than for a general election, for example 2019’s election had a turnout accross England of 36.3% of the electorate; whilst the most recent general election (2017) saw an electorate turnout of 69.1% (almost double) and 2015’s “normal” general election saw a turnout of 66% – this is of course just in England.

By contrast to our relatively low turnout during General Elections (compared to other nations) and our even lower turnout for local elections, 2016’s referendum on membership of the European Union saw an unprecedented exercise in democracy, when 73% of England’s registered voters turned out to vote. The last time that high-of-a-percentage of eligable voters voted was in 1992 General Election, which saw John Major victorious.

Aside from the legalities of the 2016 referendum campaign, it was certainly the largest exercise of democracy since the 1992 General Election – though not the highest percentage of turnout for a democratic event – that honour goes to the 2014 Scottish Independece referendum, which saw 84.59% of the electorate in Scotland vote – this is the largest percentage of vote turn-out since the introduction of Universal Suffrage. The higher vote was the 1910 General Election when 84.6% of the fewer men and no women electorate could vote; and the most recent General Election to come even close (since Universal Suffrage) was actually in 1950, when 83.9% of the electorate voted.

The lowest turnout in a general election was recorded in 1918 at 57.2%, due to the end of the First World War. Between 1922 and 1997 turnout remained above 71%. At the 2001 general election the turnout was 59.4%; in 2005 it was 61.4%; in 2010 it was 65.1%; and in 2015 it was 66.1%.

General Election Turnout, Parliament.UK

Low turnout at local elections has been a common theme for decades, back in 2010, Ipsos MORI, the legendary pollster, wrote the following:

Next Thursday will see local government elections being held in most of England, both the high profile contest for London Mayor and the much less heralded contest for more than 3,300 seats on around 150 district and borough councils. Turnout will almost certainly be dire, as it nearly always is these days; last year it was 36% in the shire districts, 31% in the unitary authorities and just 26% in the metropolitan boroughs.

Local Election Turnout, Ipsos MORI, 28th April 2000.

And again, as this BBC article from 2013 highlights, local elections “…are not always a reliable indicator of what will happen at a general election.” As Labour in 2003 (Local) and then 2005 (General), the Conservatives in 1990 (Local) and then 1992 (General), – both are examples of electoral drubbings for the parties in the local followed by massive wins at the General. Sometimes the opposite is also true, Labour had bad results at the 2009 Local, followed by a disasterous General Election result in 2010; and the Conservatives have their own 2010 General in 1997, following their very disasterous result in 1995. Essentially, we can’t use Local to predict very accurately the results of the next General Election – sometimes they show a feeling, sometimes not

What then do Friday’s results show?

The results of Friday’s Local Election results in England make interesting reading. Comparisons with the previous local election results is not helpful, though most news sources seem to be using them, the Press Association (and also the Guardian) favoured the numbers at the dissolution of each local government authority (i.e. councils) as they represented the most accurate figure for comparison – e.g. where Councils were reconfigured, such as the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch Council mergers, to create a Unitary Local Government Authority on April 1st 2019. This means that those large headline figures change.

Take the headline figure of 1330 Councillor losses for the Conservative party – that’s the figure the BBC put out, the Guardian’s figure is 1269. For Labour the result is less drastic, they lost 84 councillors according to the BBC, the Guardian reports a loss of 63.

Embedded image from Andrew Matthews/PA Archive/PA Images
Embedded image from Andrew Matthews/PA Archive/PA Images

And the result is more important when discussing the number of Controls of Councils (i.e. number of Councils) gained or lost. The Conservatives, according the BBC lost 44 councils; 46 Councils according to the Guardian; and Labour, lost 6 councils by the BBC’s count, whilst they lost 7 councils according to the Guardain’s numbers. Essentially it looks like the Conservatives started with 4828 Councillors and ended with 3559 Councillors whilst Labour started with 2083 Councillors and are now on 2020 Councillors (Guardian Figures).

Or did the Conservatives start with 4894 and are now down to 3564; and Labour started with 2105 and fall to 2021 (BBC Figures)?

To differencitate between the two main parties results, is actually quite important – because the losses are not as close as some outlets would have you believe – take the losses for each party at the previous local elections…

At the 2015 Local Elections the Conservative Party gained 541 Councillors taking their total to 5521 Councillors (from 4980 Councillors); whilst Labour lost 203 of their 2481 Councillors (down to 2278 Councillors) – to look at those percentages is important (2015 being the most recent Council Election of similar scale (in terms of number of Local Authorities).

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2015 saw Labour’s Councillor percentage fall by 8.18% and the Conservatives number of Councillors rise by 10.86%; whilst 2019’s result saw Labour decrease by 3.02% and the Conservatives fall by 26.28% (based on Guardian figures for both) or the Conservatives fall was 27.18% whilst Labour’s fall was 3.99% (according to the BBC’s figures).

With regards to the Council’s lost – the Number of Conservatives Councils is down by 32.12% (based on BBC figures) their increase in 2015 was 24.43%. Labour however lost 9.09 % (BBC); compared to 2015 when they lost 3.9 % (they lost 3 Councils in 2015).

The Labour Party’s loss in 2019 is within the margin of error for an opinion poll with regards to Councillor’s lost (to be fair their loss of Councils is technically just outside a margin of error for most opinion polls). The Conservative’s can’t spin this as anything but a disaster, electorally.

Based on The Guardians figures
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Lets talk now about the Liberal Democrats rise.

For Number of Councillors they gained 676 Councillors, bringing their total to 1351 from 675 Councillors, that’s more than double, or 100.15% increase (based on Guardian Figures). The BBC says they gained 704 Councillors, taking the total from 647 to 1351, a 108.18% increase.

Their Council gains are statistically no less impressive, they gained control of 10 Councils according to the BBC, taking them from 8 to 18 Councils, or a 125% increase.

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The Greens gained 185 Councillors (Guardian) or 194 (BBC); meaning they rose from 80 to 265 (Guardian) or from 71 Councillors to 265 (BBC) – the increase is either 231.25% (Guardian) or 273.24% (BBC) – they gained control of no councils, but nor did they loose any.

Embedded image from  Danny Lawson/PA Archive/PA Images
Embedded image from Danny Lawson/PA Archive/PA Images

The final headline result is the UKIP result. These are a little more confusing for me as the numbers are so different. According to the BBC, UKIP lost 145 Councilors, according to the Guardian they lost 36. This means they started on either 145 Councillors (BBC) or 67 (Guardian) and ended up in both cases with just 31 Councillors. In this case their fall was either 78.62% or 53.73%. Either way they lost this local election more than the Conservatives.

Based on the Guardians figures

So is it about Brexit?

To argue if the local election results are related to Brexit, is an attractive idea for remainers (less so for Brexiteers and their lesser highly-missguided cousins, Lexiteers). But honestly, we just can’t, not intellectually – whilst UKIP a very Anti-EU party lost heavily, that could be more because of their lurch beyond the Centre-Far Right, to the Far-Far Right recently; and the introduction of their former leader’s new party – The Brexit Party, which did not stand a single candidate at the local elections. Then there is the fact that people voted to punish the two main parties (we don’t know how many, but it seems a significant amount) – also remember that the numbers of spoiled ballots, which had “Deliver Brexit” spralled all over them seems to have been significant (though I haven’t seen a figure, and can’t find one, as we only record spoiled ballots and not what they say).

Also these are seen by many people, unfortunately, as fairly insignificant elections – hence low turnout; also it is likely that many who do vote also see them in this way – and so its a “safe” occassion to vote against the two major parties – General Elections are when many “hold their noses” and vote for “the lesser of two evils”.

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Whilst it seems likely that a significant proportion of voters now support remaining in the EU, over-and-above leaving the EU – how many of these support a second referendum or even the Liberal Democrates and Greens is difficult to argue. The % fall for Labour is fairly insignificant from a statistical perspective – the Conservatives do not have that luxury.

What the Local Elections can say about Brexit

What the local elections can (I am confident) say about Brexit is that those who voted in England do not want the current options presented by the Conservative Party – either Theresa May; her deal; or their in-fighting. Labour can be a little more reserved here – they are under continuing pressure to back a side – and whilst I might agree with that position – I do think their statistically right not to throw their hands up too early – they recieved a slight decrease, but loss of councillors compared with those in 2015 was significantly statistically less; loss of councils was still only single figures.

Embedded image from  The Telegraph
Embedded image from The Telegraph

The Liberal Democrats and Greens are right to continue their particular arguments here; but they may find that many who voted Lib Dem or Green don’t do so at the EU elections later this month. And with the new Brexit Party and even Change UK – or the Indepdent Group, however poor these groups are or are not polling at the moment, the EU elections will probably show some interesting results.

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Depending when the next General Election is, will depend on how well these results transfer through – and frankly its anybody’s guess who will win that one.

Learning to listen


O.W. Holmes wrote that “…it is the privilege of wisdom to listen” and that “It is the province of knowledge to speak”. Holmes considered that before we speak we must first listen. That listening to others was both the mark of wisdom, and is ultimately a privilege. Or as James 1:19 says:

…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

James 1:19, NIV

Michael Mitton (The Wisdom to Listen, 1981) highlights that our times are characterised by “high activity and rush”. It is because of this pace in our modern lives that “More time is given to doing, and less to reflecting” (Mitton, 1981).

It is the mark of modern politics, that whilst traditionalists such as Corbyn and May, seek to reflect before springing into action – rightly or wrongly – that the vast majority of the media, both traditional journalists and social media commentators; as well as the majority of media-friendly politicians – are quicker to speak than they are to listen.

Whilst I too might be guilty of writing opinion pieces, and thus perhaps it is a little ironic and hypocritical to say there are too many opinions being expressed and not enough listening in politics at the moment.

Many speak from, perhaps myself included, a more dangerous place than no knowledge – and this is some or a little knowledge.

This is probably why online social media debate is so vitriolic – be it Facebook or Twitter – and the truth is even “experts” are being dragged into the gutter, when they engage.

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It was Mark Twain – or perhaps George Carlin, or perhaps its based on Proverbs 26:4 – who said

Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

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And I see the experts becoming embroiled into this identity politicking and falling into angry tirades because of everyone’s lack of listening.

And here’s the problem, listening requires presence or availability – being open to persuasion, change and correction. Listening means not casting the other person, people or group as a debating opponent or enemy or other – it requires humility. It requires the ability to be dispassionate on highly emotive issues, to be gentle and gracious, never jumping to conclusions, but hearing what another person is saying, how they mean what they are saying and not interpreting their words in a negative way to suit your own perspective – it is the ability to be impartial (as much as possible).

Listening requires openness to alternatives, fidelity to ones own words, and to the other person and their words – the ability to build that trust and be trustworthy in what you say and do. It requires a sense of belonging – that you really are “in this together” and are determined to find compromise, that you are not against them, but rather on their side.

A recent article, which featured a commentary by an academic who is a considered expert on international negotiations, argued that this word “compromise” was one of the key issues with Trump’s negotiations with China (and others). Negotiations in good faith do not seek to have a “winner” or a “looser” – both sides are positively “winners”. Listening requires we seek the best for the “other side” – even if we disagree.

Listening does mean we don’t cling tightly to “red-lines”, that even in politics we must learn to compromise. The difference between red-lines and values should be self-evident, but let us presuppose that an example of a value is “care for veterans”, which includes the injured and mental health of former soldiers. A red line in this example might be that to preserve the dignity of former soldiers they should never be prosecuted for crimes committed whilst an active soldier.

However, the alternative position, might say that the prosecution of former-soldiers guilty of a crime is essential to just society – this is a value statement, and in effect a red-line. How then might we proceed in light of these seeming contradictory red-lines and values?

There is no-way I could properly treat the subject outlined above in depth, and any suggests I make would require an accurate knowledge of law; the Crown Prosecution Service; Military law and the politics of the recent situations which it refers to – such as the case of Soldier F.

Embedded image from Andrew Milligan/PA Archive/PA Images
Embedded image from Andrew Milligan/PA Archive/PA Images

And that’s where listening comes in – to begin to find a way forward we would need to listen to the victims of the crimes; to the police; the military; the CPS; the soldiers; lawyers; respective governments; as well as the concerned and involved public. Only by listening can we determine where everyone positions themselves – what their values and red-lines are, and how we might ‘negotiate’ so that everyone can claim both a victory and not loose face.

It is my belief, based on my limited knowledge that there has been a lack of discernible mediatory dialogue on a lot of recent political issues. I gave the example above of former soldiers because of its recent discussion in the media. It is not a debate I have any great stake in, other than purely its ethical and moral dimensions as a member of humanity.

But we could also look to Brexit. We could question and wonder if the UK government has really listened, not only to the people who voted to leave (or remain) and their own “side” – but if they ever attempted to act as a mediator in the dialogue of everyone and create a real lasting consensus.

I believe it is also the mistake the Scottish government and the SNP are proving they are more than guilty of – as they fail to truly engage “no voters” and to really listen to their concerns. They have also failed to realise in their engagement with other political parties – when they have asked them to discuss the devolution, why the other parties have had no choice to pull out – because the value of the SNP is to ultimately seek to break-up the UK as a political entity – it is a hard-and-fast rule of the SNP, thus any devolution discussion would ultimately dead-lock on that issue – if, as I suspect, the other “left” political parties (Liberal Democrats and Labour) set their value and red line as the unity of the United Kingdom.

This has ultimately created a strange situation – but none-the-less expected – SNP politicians are criticising their opponents for not willing to negotiate – but it is difficult to negotiate with a party whose red line and value is diametrically against your own, that you know, ultimately, you would be helping them achieve that diametrically opposed value – and that ultimately your negotiations must dead-lock on that ever-so-pressing constitutional question.

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The other thing that I’ve noticed is that these politicians – whatever government or political party – are feeding their supporters with diatribe-le content for social media, rather than helping their followers to actually engage with those with opposite views, values and red-lines. When your followers are created online, you end up with a problem, highlighted by the SNP’s Angus Robertson who is reported to have said of “cybernats” as being uncontrollable – yet one wonders if online “trolls” are created or just discover themselves.

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What I will say is if Jeremy Corbyn is serious about Kinder, Gentler Politics, then the Labour Party must seriously engage its supporters and its members, training them in the art of listening – and in mediation dialogue. Then and only then can Labour really begin to build the bridge, so that politics in this country and begin to heal the divide, in this hyper-partisan age.

Peace & Patriotism


In 1983 Grove Books published Jesus or Britannia? The Christian Dilemma over Patriotism by Reverend David Prior – I own a few of David’s books, including his books on House Church – but it is the core of Jesus or Britannia? that I wish to focus on.

In 1983 Grove Books published Jesus or Britannia? The Christian Dilemma over Patriotism by Reverend David Prior. I own a few of David’s books, including his books on House Church – but it is the core of Jesus or Britannia? that I wish to focus on.

Prior questions at some length the difference between nationalism and patriotism – writing: “…it is biblically, debatable whether even such patriotism can be sustained as a Christian option.

After ruling out Nationalism as an option for Christians. And highlighting that the disciples Matthew and Simon epitomise the nationalistic fervour of first Century Palestine – one a tax collector, and thus in collusion with the occupiers (Rome) and the other a freedom-fighter or terrorist (depending on perspective) hell-bent on the destruction of Roman rule.

In making himself out to be a king, Jesus was quite deliberately ranging the kingdom of God, which he embodied, against all earthly kingdoms, Roman or Jewish, present or future.”

DAVID PRIOR, Jesus or Britannia? The Christian Dilemma over Patriotism (1983)

Prior highlights one of the key elements of Jesus’ time on earth: “In making himself out to be a king, Jesus was quite deliberately ranging the kingdom of God, which he embodied, against all earthly kingdoms, Roman or Jewish, present or future.”

That point alone should make one wonder if a Christian can support any form of nationalism or patriotism.

Prior highlights that Orwell is supposed to have delineated between nationalism and patriotism, that patriotism is merely the love of one’s own native land, whilst nationalism is a claim to natural superiority over others.

But note that “a patriot will do his duty when his country calls him. He will fight if his country is attacked… But nationalism is exclusive, for it… sets out to exclude other races from the body politic.

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I am not sure if the Scottish National Party’s so-called Civic Nationalism, is supposed to be Nationalistic or Patriotism.

What I can say is that military service involves an indoctrination as an essential part of basic training – an indoctrination that is best defined by Che Guevara’s statement that “Unbending hatred of the enemy, which goads the individual beyond his natural limitations…” essentially enabling him to kill other humans for King and/or Country. It is this hatred which “…transforms him into an effective, violent, selective and cold mechanism of death – that is how our soldiers must be; a people without hatred cannot win over a brutal enemy.”

This is the kind of nationalism I see in the Scottish Independence debate, whilst not fought with guns or even sticks and stones, it is fought with words – with the tearing apart of individuals online by cyber-nats – both Scottish and British Nationalists.

“Unbending hatred of the enemy, which goads the individual beyond his natural limitations…” essentially enabling him to kill other humans for King and/or Country. It is this hatred which “…transforms him into an effective, violent, selective and cold mechanism of death – that is how our soldiers must be; a people without hatred cannot win over a brutal enemy.”

Che Guevara

Prior argues that the nationalism facing the tale end of the 20th Century was “arguably…far more blatant and defiant… than the unconscious assumed superiority of the previous 150 years.”

He adds that the exacerbation of this nationalism is down to immigration, citizenships and nationality, and that this “…can also be seen in the passions roused by regional (e.g. Welsh and Scottish) nationalism.

Having previously highlighted that, for many, nationalism is a religion, evidenced by “the behaviour of certain football fans at international matches.

We should not forget also the words of Catherwood, describing the formation of over a dozen nations formed out of the four defeated empires of Russian, Germany, Austro-Hungry, and Turkey, marking: “an acceptance that it is no longer possible for countries to be effectively governed except by those of their own race who could govern by appeals to nationalistic ideals.

Bearing in mind that Prior wrote this in 1983, it seems that this situation has only gotten worse, as we’ve seen the meteoric rise of the Scottish National Party and the 2014 referendum, do not be fooled by civic nationalism, it is the same superiority complex that all Brits have effectively suffered since “the glorious days of empire” – despite our age shunning some words, and spitting the word colonisation, a pejorative term for the revisionist approach to British history.

This is not to say I do not, in many ways, agree that the British empire was both a disgusting abuse of oppressive power – but identity politics is almost as disgusting to me, this is not, however, the debate.

And we have also seen this nationalism rise in the form of UKIP, BNP, Nigel Farage, Jacob Reese-Mogg and ultimately in Brexit.

As Christians can we really ethically support such an appalling appeal to worldly kingdoms, when claiming to belong to another extra-worldly Kingdom – the Kingdom of Heaven?

Is our identity so tied to this plane of existence, that we relegate the Kingdom of Heaven to a less-real one? How can we claim to support any separatist movement?

Because it might fulfil the biblical prophecy of the end times?

No, that is poppycock – it is ultimately our earthly trapping – we are so wedded to the world we have forgotten who we really belong to, instead, we are so broken and sinful we cling to the trappings of this world.

A Christian with nationalist or patriotism tendencies is as anathema to scripture as sin is to holiness – it is by very definition, a form of heresy, or heterodoxy – a theology so corrupted by the ideology of the world, it is blind to the things of heaven.

You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.

George Bernard Shaw

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.”

George Bernard Shaw
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Moving on from Prior, we can turn to George Bernard Shaw who said that “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.”

It is clear to me, and anyone with any regard for actual understanding of this issue that nationalism and patriotism are both forms of degrees of exceptionalism.

We most often think of American or British exceptionalism – but it exists in anything that puts nation before heaven, and earth before Jesus.

Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy.

George Bernard Shaw

I think there is a form of exceptionalism that Christian’s can expose – the exceptionalism that says Heaven is the best, Jesus is the greatest King, he is Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace and King of Kings.

That’s exceptionalism, but that’s biblical – it is not exceptionalism that breeds anti-immigration sentiments – because ultimately, we are all sojourners from the Kingdom of Heaven – we are called, so that we may go into the physical, fallen world, to make disciples, that is to bring about the influx of immigrants into the Kingdom – thus to expand the Kingdom’s citizenship.

It’s not exceptionalism that breeds a superiority complex, as we are called to serve the weakest amongst us – and it is also, despite historic issues, not a Kingdom with an army staffed by citizens.

Christians are called to fight the good fight – but that is a spiritual battle – and we are not called to wield weapons, rather we are called to stand against the torrent of sin and pride.

To be Christians in the world, we are called to relocate our identity and our citizenship out-of-this-world – to place it in the Kingdom of Heaven – one of the great offences to Rome was that Christians’ did not serve the Empire and Emperor first but served the High King of Heaven.

No earthly kingdom, has ever truly allowed its civilians to pledge allegiance first to God and then to themselves – God becomes subservient to the state.

Whatever others may have said – one of the largest arguments in American Evangelicalism is the issue of the Flag, the issue of the President and the issue of American Nationalism and Patriotism within the Church.

Something the Church is called not to be is a part of the structures of government – a part of the civic order – because earthly trappings will do exactly that, trap it in the bindings of State then God, and never truly free it to be God before the state.

No earthly nation truly accepts Jesus as first – it cannot, a Christian nation can not exist in this regard – for to allow your citizens to first serve a kingdom out-with the states’ control is to invite sedition and rebellion – even pacifistic rebellion and unrest.

It would be like inviting Martin Luther King and Gandhi into the midst of the Houses of Commons to stage a protest, whilst simultaneously banning protests.

This is why the state always creates God in its own image – this is the poison of nationalism and patriotism upon the heart of the Church of Jesus Christ.

But there is more to the blight of patriotism and nationalism on Christians – it has turned a peaceful religion into one of war – this began before the rise of nationalism and patriotism as most historians define it – though one can not see any real difference between the nationalism of Ancient Rome and modern Britain.

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The Church fathers were primarily anti-war – pacifism is the name we would give their views today, though there is nuance, according to defenders of Christian warfare (I would argue this a tautology and hypocrisy of one of the highest levels).

The key work, however, on Christian attitudes towards war & peace (in a book of that title, link) by Roland H. Bainton (1960/1991).

This survey includes a description of modern war as “incompatible with just war” (Cardinal Ottaviani – see: The Catholic Worker, Volume LXXXIII, Number 5, 1 August 2016, p. 3); and that depictions of the failures (whilst acknowledging the successes) of the Middle Ages; the Renaissance; the 18th & 19th Century; Switzerland during the reformation and the USA during the American Civil War – that these times were essentially “less lethal than our own”.

Bainton highlights using the words of R. H. Tawney that “War is either a crime or a crusade.

However, modern warfare is unlike the medieval crusades – it is neither the desire to save the heathen or to send them where they “belong”.

And frankly, it never could have been.

Bainton states that “The crusade suffers from the assurance not to say the arrogance of all elitism… it breaks down such restraint as can be placed upon the carnage of war… it impedes the making of a magnanimous peace…” and finally with regards to all war (but specifically crusades) – “The victors in war cannot administer disinterested justice, and least of all is this possible in the case of a crusade.

Essentially this is because “The crusader is severely tempted to arbitrariness in the final settlement, for the mood of holiness leads to the punishment of war criminals by the victors under the fictitious trappings of impartial justice.

Arguing further that even in a just war The Christian in war cannot win without the aid of obnoxious allies… and he becomes therefore in a measure guilty of their crimes.

And that a just war requires that “war shall be just on one side only” which requires “an impartial court of judicature which does not and never has existed.” to determine which side is just only.

Whilst most modern Christians adhere to a variation of the just-war theory – which Bainton calls the edge of justice rather than the exclusive justice (of just-war theory) – but again, this falls down, as can modern warfare really “vindicate that edge of justice”?

And whilst one can talk of the protection of smaller states – as a way of describing just war, we must not forget “that protection often imperils the protected” especially, I would add, with the American invention of “friendly fire”.

And if to highlight his point, in this age of mass warfare, we can not square modern warfare with any notion of a just war.

Bainton writes that “The possibility of killing in love is remote in the frenzy of battle when passions are unleashed and hate becomes the slogan.”

It is therefore with Bainton, that we have no real reason but to accept that “If the crusade and just war are rejected as Christian positions, pacificism alone remains.” And that “Christian pacificism is not a strategy but a witness.”

Bainton highlights that “The choices which confront the pacifist are almost as grim as those which confront the soldier, and he is not to delude himself by supposing that by his stand he can avoid inflicting all hurtYet, if he dissociates himself from the use of war to advance a cause however noble he is not for that reason irresponsible, and he may not be irrelevant.”

I would wish to extol further on this matter, but this is not my primary point.

My primary point on this issue is that Christian Pacificism is the only reasonable position for Christian’s to take in this post-modern world.

This pacificism must be tied to our rejection of nationalism and patriotism – for only by the active pursuit of trans-nationalism, of international co-operation, of seeking to break down walls, boundaries & borders; and simultaneously building bridges, co-operation and dependence upon one another, whilst progressing the cause of peace through pacificism and witness to the Gospel of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, that is the only reasonable and honourable way forward for Christians.

Christians are called to be peacemakers, to be in the world but not of it.

These are two fundamentals of Christian doctrine and life – to be peacemakers in a world we are not of.

The experience of being in the world but not of it, is an underpinning of our world-view and any Christian who does not base their conceptual framework on this is failing to realise that we are in the world to influence it (Salt and Light); to act for and the best of interest of peace (violence begets violence); and to provide a ministry to the world (of love; care for the needy; freedom for the imprisoned; homes for the homeless and the sojourners; the lost; the orphans; the widows) – this is the calling of each and every single Christian – we are not called to the trappings of this world, at least not to be trapped by it. Christian’s can be called to the military – I sincerely believe only as support personnel.

Christian’s can be called to politics – but they are called to be change makers (and to hell with economics, perhaps) – they are called to selflessness and sacrifice for the good of others, not for the enriching of themselves.

Christian’s are call justed to serve – to take the least of seats at the table, not the top seat, to be counted less than everyone else; to be the last to eat, not the first; to be the downtrodden, the walked-all-over; we are called to be last, rather than first.

The only first in our life should be God – before nation; before presidents and kings; before flags; before ourselves; before our pride; before our hypocrisy; before the entire world – if you support nationalism – consider that in light of your bible, not your own ideology; if you support war – consider that in light of the Prince of Peace – is your story in-line with that gospel.

For those who would like to read more, please consider (with one caveat):

  • Prior, David., Jesus or Britannia? The Christian Dilemma over Patriotism (Bramcote, UK: Grove Books, 1983)
  • Bainton, Roland H., Christian Attitudes Toward War & Peace – A Historical Survey and Critical Re-Evaluation (Nashville, USA: Abingdon Press, 1991)
  • The U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on War and Peace in the Nuclear Age, The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response (London, UK: SPCK, 1983)
  • Bonk, John., The World at War, the Church at Peace: A Biblical Perspective (Winnipeg, Canada: Kindred Press, 1988)
  • Zahnd, Brian., A Farewell to Mars (Colorado Springs, USA: David C. Cook, 2014)
  • Machen, J. Gresham., Christianity & Liberalism (1923) – Can be read here:
  • Blog Article: Pavlovitz, John., The Heresy of Christian Nationalism (,, 2018)
  • Blog Article: Spencer, Andrew. Christianity or Nationalism (Ethics and Culture,, 2018)[1]

[1] I do not agree with Spencer that there is such a thing as a healthy form of Patriotism, however, I am not as set on this opinion as other points – simply because we are, as he notes, called to seek the good of the city we live in & it may be possible to be nominally patriotic without any real religious-like devotion.


Since writing this article I have come across the following blog posts, some are rediscoveries:

  1. Notes on Christian Pacifism:
  2. What I – A Pacifist – Would Say To Obama About The Crisis In Syria:
  3. No Christian-Pacifists are not cowards:
  4. Does Following Jesus Rule Out Serving In The Military If A War Is Just?:
  5. American Crap:

Saving Notre Dame de Paris


Some of you may have been wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. In truth I had planned to rest over the weekend and come back on Monday with a couple of in-depth feature articles; however, as you can see it is now the following Friday and nothing else has materialised (And I’m not promising anything more this weekend). I’m afraid a trip to hospital last Sunday due to a bout of viral meningitis put paid to my plans.

Also the fact I never wrote a word of what my features were going to be about; stored in my head – which means, until I am fully recovered I am unlikely to remember what they were about it, if I ever do. Note: Always write your thoughts down!

Today is Good Friday, which is where today’s post seemingly is, but as Christian’s we look forward to Easter/Resurrection Sunday – for out of the ashes shall rise the glorious phoenix.

Anyway, looks like I choose a great time to be ill – Notre Dame’s demise (reminiscent of York Minister, 1984) and all the obvious links between that and Grenfell which are being made ad-nasium on Social Media.

And I say ad-nasium because if I wasn’t already feeling queesy, they probably would be, whilst I am not unsympathetic to the point all these memes are trying to make, I do feel they are making a political point out of two tragedies.

Whilst one is horrific for its sensless loss of life; the other for the it’s damage to one of the Medieval world’s wonders of architecture – they can’t be compared; life is obviously more important. No amount of millions could replace life – and I’m not sure the former residents of Grenfell tower would want it rebuilt. Aside from the £21+ million already distributed to them; what would the other £780 million do?

What £800+ million can do is rebuild one of the great wonders of medieval architecture. Then there is the obvious issue of should we? If there are sick and hungry people dying on the streets of Paris, never mind anywhere else, should we really waste money rebuilding Notre Dame. My answer is simply – yes we should rebuild Notre Dame; more complex in my thinking I would add, we can feed the hungry; heal the sick and still rebuild Notre Dame – we can do both.

Rebuilding Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady in Paris) is more than the history – though it is a call to remember that history. It is more than the cost. It is more about what it represents as a symbol of what Notre Dame represents.

In this age where the Roman Catholic church is being remembered for all the wrong reasons; and yes it has done plenty of wrong in its 18+ Centuries of existence, its actually about what the Catholic Church has done and continues to do right.

The Catholic Church has always and continues to be one of the largest supporters of the poor; the sick and the disabled globally – it has since the foundations of Notre Dame were laid given refuge to the homeless; those infirm and those who are hungry. Notre Dame during the hey-day of Catholic Europe would have put a roof over the heads of those without homes – something most Medivael Churches did; it would have had a poor box, to provide financial assistance to those without means. Monastics gave up time and space specifically to heal the sick as the first kind-of mass hospitals.

Christian’s such as myself, Catholic or Protestant, should remember the calling of the Church – to be salt and light to the nations; but also:

“…to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord ’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”

Isaiah 61:1‭-‬4 (NIVUK)

Some of those verses were quoted by Jesus in his first Sermon in Luke’s Gospel (4:18). And that’s what Notre Dame should represent – not because it hasn’t meant this for most of its life, but because that’s exactly why medieval cathedrals were built – forget the politics – the heart behind the politics – forget the financiers – think why the Roman Catholic Church of Medieval Europe desired to build churches – yes, they were it’s pacifistic castles; but they were where the people of God could gather and where they could proclaim Jesus but and almost more importantly they were the focal point of the work of the church in the community.

Notre Dame, however, is not just special because it was a homeless shelter; a place of worship; an early hospital; an early benefits centre – most if not almost all European churches of the time did these things and in that sense they all deserve to be preserved. Notre Dame however, like York Minster; like St Paul’s, London; Coventry Cathedral and many across Europe which have been destroyed and rebuilt – in the case of Notre Dame at least three times (now) if not more. And that is one of the great symbols it represents – from the ashes it rises.

Like Paris after the French Revolution; it’s disciples 100 years later; the second world war.

But more than Paris, it is a symbol of Europe having overcome the issues of two World Wars, having united all of Europe (pretty much) into one global superpower of equal trade and co-operation – that’s symbolised by Notre Dame.

More than this we must think about what would become of Notre Dame’s ruins, if it was decided not to rebuild it – would we waste time clearing the site, and preserving it as a ruin for generations to come, with all the cost that preservation comes with in the immediate not just future sense.

Then we would need to talk about the fact of ownership – Notre Dame is not actually owned by the Roman Catholic Church, despite being a Roman Catholic Church. It’s owned by the French republic – that is the government and people of France. The cost of this, whatever is decided is actually borne by the republic of France – whose primary responsibility should be its people; and the Catholic Church would view its own role there too, as serving the people.

Who is better placed to bare the cost – the republic or the Church; or as has been proposed here – those who have donated, the billionaires and millionaires – in theory relieving the state and Church of the burdon of repairs, thereby enabling the state and Church to continue their work of relieving the needy and poor.

Whilst these billionaires and millionaires could and should also be giving money to the poor – that is ultimately a matter for their own conscience, it is good too that they have shouldered the burden of this public building – as that will prevent the unnecessary re-focusing of the State and Churches own finances – meaning any money given by the billionaires and millionaires to support those in need is actually on top of the government and church service to the needy; rather than replacing them.

Whilst you may not agree with the existence of Billionaires and Millionaires – the fact is they do exist; and nothing will change that – surely relieving them of a few million to help the state and church is better than them keeping it in high-yeild tax havens and bank accounts?

How better to enable those who care for the poor best – the Churches – than to free them from the financial burden of repairing the symbol of that hope – that hope that lifts them higher? How better to serve the poor than by enabling the state to provide the welfare needed – rather than burden them with the financial difficulties of trying to fund the large scale renovation and restoration of one of the most important historic buildings in Western Europe (and there’s a fair few of them too)?

And I appreciate my answer here will not satisfy many – the sheer cost of restoration is seemingly extausionate, and £800 million may be a little much for a symbol – but it is not our money, it is the money of those millionaires and billionaires (whether legally or illegally obtained). And if they wish to pay for a symbol all power to them – you are not judged for the car you have bought, the TV or games console, why not celebrate rather than castigate those who invest in symbol of hope, rather than personal pleasure and gain? Repairing such a monument, would actually help the continued upkeep of the building, potentially lowering latter costs, for a few years at least. Aside from that – ruins don’t have quite the same power to captivate the imagination.

Ruins don’t lift the soul and bring people closer to God, as much as a living-breathing Church building. Especially when that building is filled with the people of Jesus – praising and praying together. Those people who are then called to go out into the world with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; with the message of the gospel – and who are called to put that Gospel into action – through caring for the needy, the poor, the broken, the imprisoned, the hungry and those without.

And as Christians we also have to ask ourselves, within reason – how much did the cross cost? And is £800 million really on a par with that cost, I don’t believe so – so if we as Christians are calling on the world to heed the Cost of the Cross; how much is a symbol of that greatest of sacrifices worth? I’m not sure we can put a price on a symbol that points to Jesus, on a symbol that shops the hope of the Cross so elegantly, especially one which has such an age. I would not advise such a cost today for a new Cathedral – but to preserve the heritage and all that that symbolises, to restore that and show that destruction (symbolic of sin, shame and guilt) is not the end of the story is surely more important than our own left-leanings.

Whilst I appreciate that this is all my opinion, and yes I still cough at the cost, and it does make me a little sick. But I have to remind myself that God is sovereign and his word and will shall be accomplished in this matter. I sincerely believe that he not only wants the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris, but also of all those listed in Isaiah, but also of the whole world. And I believe that the restoration of Notre-Dame is a-part of that calling, that light we are to be to the nations as Christians. Notre-Dame can serve as a beacon to the message of the cross, the message of resurrection, ultimatley, the message of Salvation through in Christ alone.

And like the Cross – and the resurrection of Jesus – what better way to symbolically represent the power of a resurrection to lift the soul, in a world so desperately in need of that hope?

Less prominent political headlines


Today the news has been filled with Jacob Reese-Mogg’s sister (and Nigel Farage) launching The Brexit Party, and with continued anti-Theresa May and anti-EU rhetoric in the Sun; Express and Mail (as expected). What I want to focus on for you is the news stories that deserve more of your attention, than perhaps the rolling news networks will give you – so here is your “less prominent political headlines” round-up.

My favourite news article of the day

The headline reads “As Boris Johnson eyes up Tory leadership, Operation Arse II is good to go” and focuses on Ruth Davidson being the only one who can prevent the rise of Boris Johnson. You can read the article on the Dail Record website. But the article is very humours in its approach and outlook.


Boris Johnson in secret talks with the DUP

It emerged rather late last night that Boris Johnson in his bid to become leader of the Conservative Party – bearing in mind there isn’t even a leadership election process going on, officially – is meeting with the Democratic Unionist Party in secret (so naturally everyone in Parliament and Fleet Street knows about it).

BoJo met with DUP leader Arlene Foster and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds on Wednesday, and follows a recent spate of meetings with the DUP by various pretenders to Ms May’s poisoned-challice crown. Why anyone wants to be head of the Tories is beyond me, especially at the moment, it would be a thankless job, but I guess the potential kick-backs could be worth it?

READ MORE: Belfast TelegraphThe TimesDaily MailMirror;

First it was boats, now its trains – Failing Grayling scores own-goal again

I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who thinks Abellio is a decent train service provider – but they’ve won the East Midlands franchise; awarded to them by Failing Chris Grayling, MP. Loud-mouth Mark Francois described this as ‘another Grayling cock-up’; which is just further evidence for Francois how much they share in common.

Anyway, the basic issue is that Brian Souter’s StageCoach (which also owns CityLink; Megabus); in conjunction with Richard Branson’s Virgin Train were rejected after refusing to take on the ‘long-term pension liability’. Remember that Brian Souter is one of the largest financial donators to the SNP and also to Glasgow Prosperity Based Cult-Like Church “Destiny” (with “Apostle” Andrew Owen). And helped the latter bankroll the trip of Prosperity and charlatan preacher Creflo Dollar (aka Dollar-A-Minute Ministries) to the Armadillo (again ‘connected’ with Souter). And combine with the political persuasion and desire to stick it to the Conservatives on behalf of the SNP; as well as Richard Branson, who not so long sued the NHS because they denied him a contract he felt he was entitled too… so we could see this one go all the way to a large payout for Branson and Souter.

READ MORE: iNewsSky NewsVirgin TrainsITV NewsThe Times;

Also, read these articles for the background as to why the situation is all screwed-up: RailNewsCivil Service WorldRail Technology MagazineRailway Gazette;

Coup D’état in Sudan

It seems only yesterday that the South Sudan was seperated in a landslide referendum result from Sudan, that helped to bring to an end the second independence war which lasted over 20 years; the first lasted for 17 years (1955-1972). And yet that was 2011; and the problem now is not South Sudan, but Sudan itself.

The Coup D’état follows months of protests by the people of Sudan against President Omar al-Bashir’s ,75, regime who came to power in 1989 following his own coup. The Sudanese military arrested the President and the announcement of the coup was made on the state broadcaster by the Minister of Defence dressed in Military attire.

The military plans to rule the country exclusively (after desoliving the government) for two years – this will be followed by fair and free elections – they will also close the broders; issue a curfew and announced a state of emergency for three months. Protesters are already breaking curfew having previously committed to a ‘sit-in’ outside the Army’s HQ, prior to the cuop. Their fear, which now continues with greater anxiety, is that the military will shrug-off the general populations desire for a ‘civilian transition’ from dictator to democracy.

Protests against al-Bashir began back in December, he responded harshly, resulting in dozens of deaths and banned unauthorised gathering. Following the Coup D’état South Sudan is worried about its already fragile peace with their northern former overlords.

CNN; READ ME: BBC NewsReutersBrookings InstitutionAllAfrica.comBulawayo 24 NewsThe ConversationTASS – Russian News AgencyAllAfrica – Sudan News AgencyBBC NewsCNNNews24Daily MailOath’s YahooThe Jerusalem PostNPRMetro;

Dispicable propaganda firm boast about dodgy election tactics in Israel

A dispicable supposed PR firm, representing current Israeli President Netanyahu’s Likud party boasted of over 1,200 hidden cameras in Arab polling station – which resulted in riots at polling stations, and a huge drop in Arab voters in this crucial general election which saw the Israeli right-wing parties score victory despite being nearly beaten by a very left-wing and righteous coalition, called The Blue and White Party.

Netanyahu won almost exactly the same percentage of the vote as the Blue and White Party, but remains in power through the numbers won by the far-right of Israel’s politics. Netanyahu is considered one of the far right.

The propaganda firm, masquarading as a Public Relations firm, called Kaizler Inbar was so proud of their achievement they posted to Facebook – their achievement:

“The voting percentage has dropped below 50 per cent, the lowest in recent years. This is the place to say a huge thank you to the 1,350 people of the field.”

This certainly coercive act that goes against all ethical practice within Public Relations; and is responsible for such a violation of people’s freedom to vote – based on race (and therefore a racist act); was clearly designed to prevent the victory of the Blue & White Party, who seemed to be polling fairly well amongst the Arab population.

READ MORE: The Jewish Chronicle. If you’d like to know what kinds of standards PR firms should hold to visit: PRSA or CIPR.

Other Stories

India: India’s general elections are taking place at the moment; and will see 900 million people vote – its the largest democratic exercise ever.

The Washington Post or Metro

NHS, UK: Waiting Times in Accident & Emergency last year were the worst they had been in 15 years

The Independent

Labour Party, UK: UK Labour Party explores ‘automatic voter registration’ to boost election turnou


Poundland, UK: £1.50 babygrow slogan ‘Lock up your daughters’ teaches boys to be sex pests according to mum.

Daily Record

High Street, UK: According to Sky Views the High Street isn’t dying, it’s becoming more relevant.

Sky News

Jeremy Corbyn, UK: Jeremy Corbyn once visited Tory Party HQ and even drunk pints with them, according to the Shropshire Star.

Shropshire Star

Commentary on Brexit & Political News


EU27 Agree Extension

Last night the press waited with bated breath for the decision of the European Council’s decision at the Brexit Summit, whether the UK would be granted an extension – and for how long.

It seemed almost certain that a delay to Article 50 would be granted – but no one got the date right. Angela Merkel seemed to be pushing for either the end of December 2019 or the end of March 2020; whilst President Macron of France seemed to determined to make the process as difficult for the UK as possible. And why shouldn’t he, with comments from people like Jacob Reese-Mogg and Mark Francois suggesting we should screw the EU over until they reopened the backstop negotiations – that’s not compromise, that’s just bullying.

And that’s what the EU 27 Council proved – compromise is possible – whilst our political parties and politicians pull each other apart, Merkel and Macron agreed to October 31st. Whilst one is reminded of the words of George Osborn after Theresa May’s disasterous performance that she was a dead prime-minister walking it seems appropriate that Theresa May would finish the withdrawal process, and in all liklihood her priministership on Halloween.

The one thing that seems to remain unclear is what exactly the six month period will do – Michael Barnier warned prior to the EU Council meeting that any Brexit extension must be useful and serve a purpose – but what that purpose is remains unclear, unless that condition was dropped.

General Election, Second Referendum, New Prime Minister?

But its not so simple, is it? At the moment, you have the spitting feather brexiters trying to oust Ms May, they’re currently trying to rewrite the Conservative Party consitution, which requires 10,000 signatures, signifcantly less than the 16,141,241 people that voted to remain in the EU in 2016, a difference of just under 1.3 million between Leave and Remain). And that difference is going to become a key sticking point going forward.

As of January 2019 “...if not a single voter in the referendum two years ago changes their mind, enough mainly Leave voters will have died, and enough mainly Remain voters will have reached voting age, to wipe out the Leave majority achieved in June 2016.” So going forward it looks certain tha proponents of a second referendum will pump more time into seeking the will of the people, again.

In theory another General Election could be around the corner – Brexit being a dominant issue; but all the recent bi-elections accross the UK show that support for the three main parties hasn’t really changed, despite what the SNP might claim – it seems more likely that more people will boycott a Second Referendum than will vote in it. If as Robert Peston thinks the Conservatives do oust May, and become the No-Deal Brexit Party, Labours reaction maybe to become the second referendum party.

I am not convinced of that, but thats what some pundits are claiming. Six months seems just about long enough to have a second referendum followed by a General Election (or the other way around) – if we’re being tight with the timings; however, it seems likely that May will continue until Halloween and any Second Referendum or General Election would occur probably between August and early October.

That’s all dependant on Theresa May remaining Prime Minister – which is probably a better prospect for the country than other Conservative MPs.

Tory Interests

Whilst Jeremy Hunt believes that if the Conservatives don’t delivery Brexit, at the ballot box they will be destroyed – and he might be right. But his focus as is just every Conservative Politician has been focused on the Conservative Party not the UK as a whole. That may be where Theresa May has been different. Previously she has tried to appease her arc-Brexiteers, obviously that hasn’t worked. Now she is seemingly earnestly discussing alternatives and negotiating in what appears to be a genuine desire to compromise,.

If you believe the Main Stream Media, these negotiations appear to have broken down several times; have stopped; been holted and broken up. At least three times a day since they started just over a week ago, again if you trust the MSM. But in actuality they seem to be continuing, in fairly good faith.

Yes it may politically be a little two late for Theresa May, but that’s the way Party politics works. The reach accross the aisle and bi-partisanship is very much for individual members, and not a principle of UK Party Politics – however much the numbers should support that.

It is difficult to not see how the Conservatives have over the last decade only served their own interests; how Osborne’s Budgets (written by Matthew Hancock) underlined the necessity of austerity, which has according to the UN’s special report directly resulted in over 200,000 deaths; and further more was considered by that same report to be a political choice. A Conservative Party & Government made a political choice that has directly resulted in the deaths of 200,000 UK Citizens – if that does not shock you, or make you realise that the Conservatives serve themselves and their friends; and however much you earn, you will never trully be “one of them” – then nothing will.

Will we ever leave the EU?

Whilst my desire for remain is known, I believe democracy needs to triumph through a confirmatory referendum using preferential voting, requiring only ballots cast with a 1st and 2nd options minimum to be counted, and four options – No Deal; May’s Deal; Remain; None of the Above.

However, Kate Adler, the BBC European Editor; has suggested that the UK would have to remain in the EU for the length of the EU Parliamentary Term – if the UK runs candidates in the EU Parliamentary Elections in May 2019.

Whilst there is some merit to this argument; it seems unlikely, there is arguably no reason, that I am aware of, that the EU could not run by-elections if the UK were to leave part-way through a term.

Or that during the upcoming EU Elections the candidates who sit in ‘extra’ seats (which won’t technically exist until the UK leaves) could run, win, and then once the UK leaves take up their spot in the EU Parliament.

Of course if the UK runs candidates in the EU Parliamentary Elections in May 2019 – there will be more pressure to stay or at least more pressure on the Prime Minister to run that Confirmatory Referendum.

Second Homes Expenses Scandal

Also in the news over the last few days, which has been broken by the Mirror, is the new expenses scandal – this one not about duck houses, but about proffiteering by MPs using the public expenses to purchases second London properties, renting out their first London property (suggesting they don’t need two houses in London) – but there’s more in the Mirror about this, and I’m yet to see this reported anywhere else (other than the Express), perhaps because Brexit is dominating broadsheet, tabloid and television media like there’s no tomorrow.

Whilst the reports make clear that there is no rules being broken; it seems that this flipping and renting second homes at the tax payers expense will not help MPs regain trust, considering many of these claims date back to the time of the last expenses scandal – and continue through to fairly recently.

MPs involved in the Scandal include Conservative’s Michael Gove; Liam Fox; John Bercow; Philip Davies; Robert Goodwill; Owen Paterson as well as Labour MPs David Crausby; and Chris Bryant. There are, according to the Mirror, around 170 MPs involved. The Labour Party, according to the Mirror, is the only party investigating their own MPs, and making calls for a change to the system.