Sunday, 18 May 2008

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here this afternoon in the presence of almighty Gord ...

Wendy Alexander looks like losing another senior member of staff with Mike Elrick taking three weeks' leave. A new job before he's due back?
Anyway, Gordon Brown's speech to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. If you want read it in full, use the link, I'm just going to pick out the bits I want to talk about.

He claimed early in the speech that his parents had come home when he was 12 to find him serving lunch to the local burglar - aye right - as likely as Blair sitting behind the goal watching Jackie Millburn play.

El Gordo went on to say:
[my father] brought us up to study the great texts, to believe that the size of your wealth mattered less than the strength of your character;

That explains the removal of the 10% tax rate then. He's not punishing the poor, he's strengthening their characters.

There are many passages of gibberish in the speech, but quite early on there's this bit:

And I have never forgotten the lessons I learned in the manse of a parish in a
medium-sized town in a nation that has given so much to the world:
  • the sense of an interwoven fabric of life and the strands within it:
  • the powerful linkages that clubs and societies - many church-related - brought to those who joined them: boys and girls, men and women, young and old;
  • the spirit of neighbourliness - with the Church, for many, at the centre of it;
  • the recognition that, yes, we cooperate out of need but, yes also, we have a human
    need to cooperate.

The last of these is the only one which approaches a lesson, firstly - how is it a lesson to get a sense of the society around you or to notice that clubs create links between people, and, most bizarrely, how is a spirit of neighbourliness a lesson? In the fourth and last place, how is the recognition of human cooperation a lesson? It appears to be little more than a very clumsy attempt to compare and contrast physical and psychological interdependence - surely we're entitled to better from a Prime Minister?


I would respectfully suggest that our country is fairer today than in the past

We could just go back to the 10% tax rate, or look at the growing gap between rich and poor, or the avenues to self-improvement that the New Labour Project closed off, but I prefer to point to the London Government attitude which amounts to "sod you pal, I'm OK" or, as Mr Balls put it "so what?" to the growing poverty in our land.
Look at this:
As a son and now a father I believe in the Parable of the Talents my father taught me:
that everyone has a talent,
everyone should have the chance to develop that talent,
and everyone should be challenged to use that talent and given the best chance to bridge that gap between what they are and what they have it in themselves to become.
Now far be it from me to pick fault with the words of a son of the manse talking about scripture in a lecture to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, but:
1. The talents referred to in the parable are units of currency, not talent as in ability.
2. The parable ends with the stricture that unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath - hardly a call to social justice, is it? Close to Brown's true political philosophy, right enough.
3. The third servant - the one who had failed to make his master extra money - was sacked from his job and thrown out into the street, thereby being made homeless.
4. The parable is an encouragement to usury - if any of the poor servants had come away with the kind of deal that Brown and Darling offered Northern Rock shareholders they wouldn't have been promoted, they would have received short shrift from this chappie - unemployed and homeless might have been the least of their troubles.

This parable isn't about people having talent and developing that talent to bridge the gap between where they are and where they could get to - it's about rewarding the acquisition of money.

The speech carried on and on but there was nothing else which would take the interest even of a chap as motivated as me. I once thought that Brown's non-endogenous growth theory speech was an example of a man thinking in jargon and not considering his audience. I'm now convinced that it was a speech-writer, having decided to seek alternative employ, having a laugh. Brown simply does not understand his surroundings.

It used to be said that Blair was all style and no substance while Brown was all substance and no style. Looking at it now I think it has to be admitted that at least Blair had style.
If one may be permitted to draw a contrast between the current Prime Minister and the lady who visited him for tea - at least she said enough to provoke a response (polite but pointed) from the moderator - at least she delivered a sermon.

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