This blogpost has two parts - linked by moral and spiritual prespectives. First, the more obviously political part:
The journalist Peter Oborne observed in a recent interview with Stop the War Coalition's Sweta Choudhury that "the main political parties seem to be detached from the moral problems of our age". The Morning Star daily newspaper composed an editorial around this judgement (Tuesday 6 April 2021). Rather brilliantly, Ben Chacko and his team dissect the pretensions of the Labour leader, Keir Starmer:
"(Starmer) has defined himself against the most important movement for far-reaching change to have emerged in Britain in decades. While Starmer was (attempting another revamp), his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn was on the streets, standing with demonstrators opposed to the government's plans to criminalise peaceful protest.
|Jeremy Corbyn on the streets at a Kill the Bill protest against the government plans to criminalise peaceful protest|
"(Starmer) is heavy on platitudes and short on specifics.... Across the Atlantic, at least Joe Biden combines his warm words for unions with condemnation of Amazon and other major employers. In fact Labour has proposed nothing approaching the significant investment in infrastructure and job creation that the US president has announced.
"(Starmer) has spent his first year in office defining himself not against the Tories butagainst his predecessor. This has not only involved disgracefully removing the Labour whip from Corbyn, but the suspension and persecution of the ex-leader's supporters and an alarmingly authoritarian crackdown on democracy and debate.
"The Labour Party had more than doubled in size under Corbyn because for once a major political party was not "detached from the moral questions of our age". It struck a chord by pointing to the yawning gulf between the super rich and the rest of us, and to the way that our economic model is the cause of global emergencies like climate change and the refugee crisis.
|A Daily Telegraph selected image of JC at the demo against the policing bill.|
"The Corbyn years ... were a revival of mass party politics that directly engaged hundreds of thousands and won the voters of millions who understood that radical change is both possible and necessary [there were still over 10 million votes for Corbyn's Labour vision in the election defeat of 2019, shaped by Brexit].
"No serious movement to reform this country is even conceivable without the passionate and committed activists who formed the backbone of the Corbyn movement. Starmer has not just turned his back on this genuinely mass movement, he has done his best to stamp it out ... and exposed him as an enemy of progressive change."
My blog posts are an opportunity for me to share and spread the ideas of others, as well as communicate some of my own thoughts and experiences. I warm to every word and thought in the analysis above. I hope you do - and if you don't, at least please have an honest and coherent appraisal of the reasons for your dissent.
And so to the second part - the recent words of the Archbishop of Canterbury in his cathedral not very far from where I was born and then the words of Pope Francis in Rome:
In his televised Easter sermon, the archbishop (Justin Welby) called for sweeping changes after Covid to build a better "future for all". Such aspirations, however, may be no more than platitudes. Was there a sharper edge to Welby's words?
- He stressed the importance of international aid - just days after the UK government cut this country's aid programme using the cover of the Covid emergency.
- He described the world before Covid as one where the most powerful and the richest gain and so many fall behind - and concluded that "We have seen where that left us".
- He emphasised the fact of death, describing the past twelve months as "yet another cruel period of history taking from us those we loved, ending lives cruelly and tragically".
|Justin Welby - Archbishop of Canterbury|
Pope Francis also called on the world's governments to act against inequalities. Mere platitudes - or something more biting?
- "I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries."
- "The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless, and this is scandalous, armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened."
Well, one might wish for more - but at least there is enough here in both Canterbury and Rome to understand the direction of travel. And that is what is missing in Starmer. And so well disguised in Johnson, most of the time for most of the people it seems.
'Johnson and Starmer thank Christians for volunteering' is the headline in the 'i' on Monday 5 April 2021. Neoliberal Tories and their paler versions do love a good volunteer - it does save the state so much money and time. Johnson has "lost count of the number of church leaders and congregations that have stepped up to support us all in these very challenging times".
Thus we gloss over all the condemnations that are being made behind clerical doors about this serial liar and cheat who has eased his way to the top of a very greasy and dirty pole and who now threatens so many of the liberties that are part of our hard-won democratic rights. He is moreover planning a 40% increase in Britain's nuclear arsenal in flagrant breach of the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) agreed and ratified by Britain in 1970.
Starmer declares "The Christian community has always been there for the marginalised and for those that need support and help, but over the last year that has shone through so strong and so visible for everybody to see". Amen to that - but oh would that it could be said for the Labour Party under your leadership, Keir Starmer.
Unbelievably, Starmer made a visit over this Easter weekend to a church whose pastor was very soon revealed to have campaigned against discrimination protections for gay people. Whoops! Can you imagine the media outcry if Corbyn and his team had found themselves in that position? Starmer's office offered an "unreserved apology".
They then went on to say that next Sunday (1 April 2021), Sir Keir Starmer would travel to Canterbury and deliver a very important speech from the pulpit of the cathedral with the full agreement and support of the archbishop. Sources suggest that this could be the occasion of the leader of the Opposition's unreserved apology for his betrayal of the Labour movement and that this mea culpa will be followed by a return of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership, subject only to another endorsement from the mass membership that is expected to double yet again in the coming months.
Sorry, that should have been 'next Sunday (11 April 2021)'. I must have found April Fool's Day irresistible.