Friday, December 28, 2007

Eight aspirations

Liberal England has challenged me to name eight aspirations or, perhaps, predictions for the coming year. After some consideration I offer the following thoughts, put forward in great hope but not with any sense of prophecy.

  • First: that Mr Clegg should emerge as a man of stature, a statesman for the times, a torch-bearer of liberty.
  • Second: that our great party should place itself at the head of a great and popular movement that declares that the promotion of justice and peace overseas requires justice and liberty at home.
  • Third: that the same movement should declare that reform is based on a trust of the people, not subversion of the popular will, recognising that reform of public institutions in the interests of the masses is a necessary part of progress.
  • Fourth: that representatives of the Labour movement should at last shed the legacy of Mr Marx, not just in their speech and their declarations but in practical recognition that the economy and the populace cannot be ruled by dictat.
  • Fifth: that our national church should reverse the 150 years of decline initiated by the departure of Newman and Manning, presenting itself as a herald of virtue and catholic unity.
  • Sixth: that families are spared the poverty, misery and loss of property and entitlement that might be engendered if disturbing signs of economic instability come to fruition.
  • Seventh: that I can reconcile my unbelief in purgatory with my existence in this peculiar electronic world where words and rhetoric rule over all and the weaknesses of the flesh are hardly present. Is this perhaps an entrance hall into Heaven and the presence of the Almighty?
  • Eight: that somewhere in these halls I should chance again upon the gracious presence of our Queen and have the opportunity once again to share conversation and discuss great affairs with a lady of great wisdom and deep religiosity.

I am then challenged to name five other "blogs" who will also name eight aspirations for the New Year, passing along something called a meme, a word which I suspect of having Greek origin as it cannot possibly be the French word. I have journeyed in several directions in this peculiar world of blogosphere and would mention the following who, in my humble opinion, should participate in this fancy. At my age, I am a little slow and a number of my nominees, I fear, have already been "tagged" and may even have responded to this cheerful challenge: Ciceros Songs, What's Left in the Church, Anti-Itchmeditation, John Davies, Talking the Walk.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Rejoice in the Lord alway! Again I say rejoice!

The words of the epistle rang out across the aisles today. No doubt the writers of the Prayer Book lived in a time when Christmas merriment took different forms from those enjoyed now or in my time. But their message was clear and distinct: this is a time when the greatest joy is to be found in the coming of Our Lord.

Why should there be such joy? People may say that the world lives in darkness, that slaughter and poverty are everywhere and that the coming of the Prince of Peace has made no difference to the misery of mankind. If that is what you believe, then the correct and proper response to the darkest season of the year is to blot it out with alcohol, to gorge yourself solid and avert your eyes from such sorrow.

Or you may argue that mankind has indeed made progress in the last two millennia but that the Christmas story bears no relevance to this progress, indeed that man is master of his own destiny. You may indeed celebrate this but I ask you, where is your joy?

For indeed there has been progress, if in stops and starts. Much of mankind has been freed from tyranny and poverty and even the extremes of fear and subservience.

Whence does this progress date? Surely it dates from that one event in a stable in a small middle-eastern town. Before that time just a few peoples, the Jews, the Greeks craved freedom and were most often denied it, while even fewer believed that peace was possible without tyranny. The Prince of Peace came not as an emperor to impose order and justice but as a tradesman and a vagrant. Consider those reflections of the virgin Mary: He hath exalted the humble and meek. Never again would the humble be destined for slavery; now they could aspire to exaltation.

The echoes of the trumpet call announcing the coming of the Prince can be heard through pre-history, at least as far as the poet Homer. In the same way those who listen can see the footprints of the Prince, marching through subsequent history. He may continue to be betrayed by His generals and ill-served by His lieutenants but His army advances regardless and it is the best of armies in which to serve. It marches with joyful songs, without fear or force of weapons of this world.

I would therefore wish all men and women the happiest of Christmases and urge you to spend time in reflection during this most special of days, in whichever way you may think best.

Another quandary

What am I meant to make of the news that a former leader of this country has adopted the Catholic faith? In my time I had many vehement arguments with this church and objected mightily to the declaration of the doctrine of Papal infallibility, a matter which caused me especial concern as we had championed the enfranchisement of the Roman Catholics but, it seemed as if members of the church would be subject to the decrees of the human Pope rather than the British state. The matter was in part resolved through the good offices of Cardinal Newman although, I should say, not wholly to my satisfaction.

In this respect Mr Blair was perhaps wise to wait until after departure from office to declare his allegiance to the Pope. But I would hope, indeed pray, that this was not his reason for delaying his declaration because, if it were so, it would mean he, Mr Blair, was implying that no member of the Catholic Church can lead this country and that would be a terrible disenfranchisement of the many citizens who belong within it.

Indeed it seems that the world at large is waiting to know whether Mr Blair has changed his political views as well as his religious views for, it seems, that on a host of matters he was at variance with the Catholic Church during his premiership and in no respect could be accused of acting as its agent. He was even, I hear, advised by the Pope not to undertake his ill-judged adventures in the East.

It is all very puzzling when we are told that Mr Blair, in truth, held sympathies for this church for some considerable period. I wonder whether even Cardinal Newman would allow an adherent to be so at odds with his church.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mr Clegg is an atheist

So Mr Clegg is an atheist. He is also an honest man - although I would wish he had been so frank during his contest for the party leadership.

People may say that Mr Gladstone should be bothered about this but I am not. I championed the right of Mr Bradlaugh to join our party ranks in parliament as the first declared atheist to represent the Commons. It is far better that a statesman should be honest about their inclinations and both instances indicate how true liberalism can create a climate of honesty in politics rather than the humbuggery that so often accompanies it.

The Liberal party by its nature embraces people of all faiths and none, united in agreeing tolerance for each other. I am not surprised that it is now populated with atheists and have no complaint with them, provided they do not obstruct the right of the people to enjoy their traditional Christian faith. I would however wish, in a personal capacity, such people to keep open minds and hearts to the Gospel, but that is not a matter for the political realm. My complaint is rather with Christians, who have abandoned the public realm or chosen to pursue their own interests within it, rather than the interests of justice and the common weal, the expression of the compassion of Christ, who declared that God only is the judge of mankind.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Congratulations Mr Clegg

My heartiest congratulations to Mr Clegg and my commiserations to Mr Huhne, who fought a brave campaign and edged so near to his rival. It is to be hoped that both distinguished gentlemen proceed to hold the highest offices of state. Having some limited experience of leadership in the political realm, I will be more than happy to offer counsel in the days and years to come.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Third Sunday in Advent

I note the nation has been exercised by the reputed loss of the Nativity Play, which, it appears, has been performed in schools for many years. This play, it seems, enables children to act out in simple form the wonderful story of the birth of Our Lord and is frequently performed in schools funded by local education boards.

It is delightful to hear that schools for so long have exercised their responsibilities in Christian education so faithfully. When we gave the task of developing public education to locally elected boards, it was by no means apparent what routes they would take and choices they would make in respect of religion but it seemed right to use that the people should make these choices for themselves. I can only observe now that these Nativity Plays have had little impact in stemming the growing tide of irreligion that has engulfed this nation, except inasmuch as they have enshrined the place of the Christmas festivities in its heart. I can only think how much joy it would have brought to our dear Queen to know that her own special season continues to be marked so well and, indeed, in my walks around our towns and cities I am astounded by the spectacle that erupts from even the humblest abode, a blaze of coloured lights, sparkling stars and shining images.

Indeed it seems that the nation clings almost child-like to the vision of a joyous Christmas introduced by the beloved Albert and enhanced by the incisive writings of Mr Dickens. At worship today, I noted that scant reference was made to the process of Advent and the prescribed reading, which draws attention to the herald of our Lord, John the Baptist. Instead there was a rush to begin the singing of the carols, including that wonderful song of Father Mohre, Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!

Yet it is stated that for all the lavishness of celebration, the British people are in growing ignorance of the Christmas story and the significance of the birth of Our Lord. One almost sympathises with the Lord Protector Cromwell who ordered the English to devote their time to worship rather than festivity at Christmas time. For in spite of the gifts of the Magi, the first Christmas was not a time of great festivity but rather an occasion when God himself was born in discomfort, in surroundings of oppression, fear and poverty.

But, in truth, it is not the place of the public authorities to order the people to worship. True worship comes when one contemplates the divinity of the Christ-child and the marvel that here was God incarnate, born in a stable. It is little wonder our children are confused when the Christ is presented to them as a factory-made doll, rather than He who conquered the powers of death and brought freedom to the nations.

I would expand on this important matter but yet again I am castigated by a preacher of religion for alleged verbosity. In my opinion, there are not enough words in the whole universe to encapsulate this greatest moment in history but doubtless modern preachers have their restless audience to consider.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I am bemused to read that a Mr Foster, who speaks on culture for our great party, is exercised by the phenomenon of entertainment "repeats". Mr Foster, it seems, thinks it is wrong that the public should be required to watch anything but new entertainments on Christmas Day. "People are fed up with Christmas because of repeats," he is reported to have stated.

I have endeavoured to build understanding and appreciation of this phenomenon called television over the last few weeks. It contains much to amuse and much to distract and I have cause to wonder how a population that continues to work to earn a wage can possibly embrace all it has to offer. It has expanded considerably in recent years, I understand, so it is now within the bounds of possibility to choose to view a continuous selection of "repeats".

It has been my experience that great stories always bear repeated consideration. I think in particular of the epic stories of Homer and Virgil. To take a more recent example, Mr Dickens released his stories in instalments but then bound them in books so we could peruse them at leisure.

I am bemused therefore why Mr Foster thinks the masses are so starved of entertainment that they will not appreciate a fresh viewing of modern classics, if indeed they are classics, at a time when they have the leisure to imbibe them whilst in the bosom of the family. Indeed at the centre of the festivities is a story that has been repeated many thousand times since it first occurred and I would hope that all Christian families would take time during the day to consider this most wonderful of all stories.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Second Sunday in Advent

As everything of this season points to one moment, I can envisage the difficulties encountered by the church fathers in devising a liturgy that looks forwards and backwards simultaneously. Today we were treated to St Luke's grand vision of the coming of God's kingdom but in my personal reflections I prefer to look elsewhere.

For weekly at evensong the pious recite those prophetic words penned by the Evangelist, introduced by a Latin title. The title, the Magnificat, is a reminder that for centuries worshippers intoned these words in sonorous but meaningless Latin and in their ignorance of the classical language were kept in ignorance of the radical power of this prophecy. I wonder whether Cramner in ordering their translation - for I presume it was he - envisaged the upheaval and turmoil that would accompany the masses' discovering that the Messiah was not sent to uphold the established order, the power of kings and nobles, of emperors and empires.

It is equally amazing that words of such power were uttered by a young woman on the brink of motherhood and indeed echoed the equally powerful words of the mother of the last judge, Hannah, centuries earlier.

He hath shewed strength with his arms; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat; and hath exalted the humble and meek.

It is little wonder that Bloody Mary ordered the burning of Cramner and his associates; it is surprising that her mad father did not see the perils they posed, although it may be that as the second generation Tudor he still felt himself to be one of the exalted humble and meek.

He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

It may be that even English loses its meaning when repeated and chanted weekly without comprehension. That is why I prefer to consider these words once a year at this season, to remember that the coming of the Son of God brought hope for millions. For too many millions that hope is not realised in this earthly realm but those who conspire to deny this divine hope should consider that they will in time face the judgement of the Almighty.

There were many ways in which the Virgin's words stated a historical reality, anathema to the rulers of her time and to many of those in mine. No human empire or power can sustain itself in eternity and no individual can ensure status and power for their descendants. It is better to walk humbly in service to the Almighty.

I wished that Beaconsfield and those who were seduced by him had acknowledged this principle in their overweening desire to establish our nation at the centre of a mighty empire rather than as part of a family of freely trading nations. Looking back from here I see them all gone, the British Empire, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and at an overwhelming and unutterably awful cost to mankind. I can only rejoice that the legacy of our liberal principles ensured that our own dear Queen's descendants still enjoy a place of some respect in this nation, although I fear her Majesty did not always understand my explanation of these matters.

The rise and fall of democrats need not be as bloody as that of tyrants but it is the beauty of democracy that the humble and meek can be lifted high and that those who aspire to rival the divinity in the attainment of power will of necessity be humbled and that their downfall can be swift and merciful.

It is salutory now to see the heirs of the Labour movement esconced in the palace of Westminster and the corridors of Whitehall. I do not regret our enabling their access to Parliament although I would have wished my party could have met their aspirations and ensured that Mr Marx's wilder ideas stayed locked within his scribblings.

The heirs of the Labour movement may now be at that place of humiliation, having been seduced by the blandishments of power, having succumbed to the attractions of the goddess Nike - repeated victory regardless of principle. It is my fervent hope that my own party may after so long offer the masses an alternative, if temporal, hope of stable, just and far-sighted government but also that, under the leadership of Mr Clegg or Mr Huhne, it may approach this prospect with appropriate humility and a conviction of service to the people.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

First Sunday in Advent

The First Sunday in Advent always marks the start of a special season, the anticipation of the moment on which the whole of history pivots, the incarnation of Our Lord. The warm glow of candles, the smells and the sweet sound of choristers always, for me, provided a soothing respite from a busy time in the legislative calendar and there was many a service from which I returned invigorated and refreshed for the fray, anxious to resolve issues and slay dragons of timidity or privilege. It was I fear the cause of occasional domestic argument as my dear wife could not always understand why I could not respect the remainder of the sabbath, or indeed the holiest day of them all, by settling by the fireside with a warm glass of mulled wine.

It was pleasing and surprising to a see a Christmas tree in church today and indeed to see them sprouting all over the place around the land, and, I am sure, would have been enormously gratifying to our dear Queen, whose beloved husband was responsible for adding so much merriment to English celebrations. Like many I was at first suspicious of his Germanic customs - although the tree itself is the responsibility of an English saint, the blessed St Boniface, who took the gospel to the Germans. My suspicions were allayed when my children enthusiastically adopted this foreign practice and in time I came, when opportunity allowed, to provide the family tree myself, felling it with a vigorous blow of the axe.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mr Brown takes a tumble

As I observe the repetitive cycle of history, I note that our Queen again relies for comfort and consolation on the men of the Scottish Brown clan. They are men of sobriety and steady as a rock but it may be questioned whether they have the temperament to be trusted with the highest affairs of state.

It is with some difficulty I seek to comprehend Mr Brown's latest travails. I do recall that in the practice of politics the Scots are anything but dour. Who can forget the torches, fireworks and bonfires that greeted my arrival in Edinburgh on that momentous occasion? To this day I do not know - and do not care to know - which generous patrons provided the finance for this spectacle. I can only observe that generous patronage was in those days necessary in order that men of humble means can participate in democracy and government.

But reform is progressive and matters have moved on a little in the last century. The state takes up taxes in order that the Labour members - and indeed all members - can live with integrity. It is right that neither voters nor politicians should be bribed nor that power should be used for personal gain. I hear that the young Welsh firebrand, that erratic Celt, (Mr Lloyd George - ed) caused some difficulty in his latest career in the dispensation of peerages and that the present government has been accused of being subject to the same temptations.

So now it is Mr Brown who is mired in questions about who paid what to whom. It is in the nature of political scandal that it is incomprehensible and a leader cannot protest innocence, however ignorant of matters they may be. It is hard to govern amidst such hullabaloo and it does not bode well for Mr Brown. Our dear Queen would undoubtedly have been concerned at his distress and would, with reluctance, have advised her chief minister to step aside for a period.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A new volume

My attention has been drawn to a new volume devoted to aspects of my life. Regrettably my limited funds have long been dissipated to my heirs so I anticipate some difficulty in gathering the large sum that is being asked for this excellent sounding volume by Mr Richard Shannon (Gladstone: God and Politics; Hambledon Continuum, £80). A Mr Howse has written an interesting account of Mr Shannon's work. It is perhaps regrettable that my friend Mr Morley's account of my life was tempered by the growing irreligiosity of the last century. There are comments from that dear lady, Her Majesty, someone who could sometimes be sharp of tongue when she had so many matters of state to consider and who did for a period fall under the spell of that scoundrel Beaconsfield and his antiquated Toryism. Reference is also made to that fool Labouchere, to whom I referred recently. His fine words conceal the lasting damage he did whilst, through the Grace of Our Lord, I always endeavoured to improve the lot of my fellow men and women.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mr Blair - An odd way to separate faith and politics

I have, as I have intimated previously, some limited admiration for Mr Cromwell, who was responsible for otherthrowing tyranny in this country but went on to become another kind of tyrant. Mr Cromwell was known as a man of faith and, within the church, remains well-known for his particular prayer, if indeed it was him who uttered it: "Lord, thou knowest how busy I must be today. If I forget thee, do not thou forget me."

I have a disagreement with this prayer and reading the thoughts of the former Prime Minister Mr Blair today I am reminded of that disagreement. Apparently rather than speaking directly to the people, Mr Blair, following the custom of monarchs and monarchists, was wont to have others speak on his behalf. And on occasion, this speaker stated, with considerable dishonesty, "We don't do God."

Now, today, Mr Blair asserts that this Christian faith was indeed important in his life as Prime Minister. The immediate inference is that he followed the path of his American counterpart Mr Bush, who, it is said, is influenced by zealots seeking to bring about the Apocalypse; but, I would suggest, it would be a wrong inference.

I will quote Mr Blair in full:
"To do the prime minister's job properly you need to be able to separate yourself from the magnitude of the consequences of the decisions you are taking the whole time. Which doesn't mean to say … that you're insensitive to the magnitude of those consequences or that you don't feel them deeply.

"If you don't have that strength it's difficult to do the job, which is why the job is as much about character and temperament as it is about anything else. But for me having faith was an important part of being able to do that… Ultimately I think you've got to do what you think is right."

From this, it seems, that Mr Blair's faith is about "character and temperament". Ultimately, he says, you have to do what you think is right. He states you have to separate yourself from the "magnitude" of your decisions. Mr Blair, therefore, made decisions on the basis of his righteous character and his solid temperament. There is an arrogance in this belief that one's character is so righteous that decisions of high moral consequence can be made without reference to a source of morality and for a Christian there is a clear source of that morality. There is also an inference that the statesman has recourse to prayer and Bible study to purge his conscience of decisions that may have awful consequences. There were many such in my time - one can name generals who prayed - and they were so often wrong.

That is where I take issue with Cromwell and fear it may have been the source also of his weakness. For the prayer suggests it is allowed for a Christian statesman to forget his God, provided he has beseeched his God to guide him with an unseen hand through his forgetfulness, rather than to beseech his God not to allow him to forget the compassion and mercy of his Son .

It seems that Mr Blair will be remembered for one decision - to take his nation into a war that unleashed terrible slaughter and had doubtful moral basis and legal status. In my time I judged all my actions and decisions against the words of the Prince of Peace and it led me to impose restraint on a nation that wielded far more power over the world than did Mr Blair - although perhaps not so much as the American. Nevertheless, would he not have benefitted from some contemplation of the Gospels before letting slip the dogs of war?


Veering to Mr Clegg

I am unclear whether the Liberal Party has an upper age limit for membership or whether my extra-corporeal state would disbar me from application. Having discovered that paying members, rather than elected members, hold the votes, I have had insufficient time to apply in order to influence the contest to be my successor as next leader of this nation drawn from the liberal quarter.

Nevertheless I have followed the contest between Mr Clegg and Mr Huhne as if a voting member and, as have many I suspect, my opinion has veered on a daily basis. One day Mr Huhne appears to act disgracefully and I favour Mr Clegg. The next Mr Huhne's charges of "flip flop" appear to hold substance and I favour him, rather than Mr Clegg.

Both aspirants have today made submissions to their electorate through the pages of Liberal Democrat Voice and, as a consequence, my opinion today veers towards Mr Clegg. For Mr Huhne repeats in brief the same messages as before while Mr Clegg, perhaps driven by the power of the Huhne onslaught, seeks to deliver new direction and vision.

Mr Clegg draws our attention to two themes, rallying calls which he has issued. One is familiar and perhaps common to both men and that is a pledge to restore the power and majesty to the local councils, which were amongst the glories of my administrations. Regrettably his exposition on this matter lacks substance and does not win my favour on this account.

His second theme is expounded in substance and is a brave and apposite choice of subject matter for a party, which is often accused of seeing individuals as islands as a consequence of the excellent but limited work of Mr JS Mill, of whom more perhaps at a later date. It has been a source of dismay to me in this century that children are fatherless and often seem to lack families, who can show them love but also restraint. Mr Clegg echoes my concern that these matters, which relate to the nature of families, have been left to the heirs of Beaconsfield, the "social conservatives" whilst the doctrines of Mr Mill have been taken, not just by my party, to mean that private choices cannot be influenced by state policy, even when that policy is a bad policy. Indeed it is perhaps unsurprising that the socialist government appears equally influenced by the teachings of Mr Mill and Mr Marx, who would have the state take over the work of the family. Can it be true that they have created taxes which drive families apart? It is an appalling prospect and one which would have shocked to the marrow our dear Queen, even with her untutored grasp of fiscal matters.

It is clear to me, having undertaken considerable study of this matter, that the dissipation of the family, in part through misguided zeal in the pursuit of private liberty, has resulted in there being too many ill-disciplined and unhappy children and a selfishness and even rapacity in this nation that is at odds with the progress that has been made in so many ways. So today I veer towards Mr Clegg. It is now for Mr Huhne to put his counter-proposition.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bishop or Baroness?

There are many wonders in this new age, some which even the writers of the Holy Scripture could not have envisaged. One, which it seems is now commonplace, is that mothers can give birth to children without the assistance of a father, yet not by parthenogenesis. I hear that my noble Lords have been discussing this and that senior Bishops have raised objections to proposals issued by the Government, proposals which would enable a woman to register another woman as the father of her child or, perhaps, as a second mother. To me such proposals are unconscionable although I had not favoured the inclusion of adults, acting with free will, in our Bill of 1885. That Bill was the fruit of many years of my research into the exploitation of women, research I should say undertaken at the cost of considerable temptation and fleshly suffering to myself, and it led to many necessary legal protections, especially for girls under the age of consent. Under Salisbury's government, that fool Labouchere added in a clause that made criminals of adult men indulging in private acts; I know not what he had to gain from it or whether he had matters from which he wished to distract attention. It is a matter of shame for our age that it led to the persecution of that fine writer and genuine wit Mr Wilde. It is, I believe, entirely untrue that the legislation was influenced by Her Majesty passing comments on the possibility of members of the fairer sex committing unspeakable acts with themselves although, in truth, it was Salisbury who was privy to that most awkward of conversations rather than myself.

With regard to the matter at hand, our bishops, it seems, are exercised that children may be raised without fathers and, not only without fathers, but in the belief that their second mother is in fact their father. Our own Baroness Tonge, however, has assured the noble Lords that failure to support the measure would be discrimination against those who are otherwise merry and would, presumably, reduce their sum of total happiness.

So to whom am I to incline, the Bishops or the Baroness? In spite of my reverence for the Holy Church, I am aware that its bishops are only too human and indeed have erred on many occassions through involvement in the secular sphere, although they are also capable of calling legislators, bogged down in the morass of affairs, to consider higher matters. It is no novelty that women should dwell together as friends when no husband is available although I find it surprising that now they undertake legal ceremonies to enshrine their friendships. Perhaps this is better, especially if they are to raise children, as it is unfortunate for a child to grow in a family not sanctioned by marriage and uncertain as to who its parents may be. My Lord Archbishop of York however informs us that this measure progresses matters to a further depth and creates children who are "fatherless by design". I must plead pity for the bishops for there are many matters in this modern age that challenge Christian morality and, indeed, the Christian traditions of our nation. Each step is taken for good liberal and humane reasons and yet the sum of steps creates a nation of fatherless children and childless fathers. I would claim to be vindicated in my original opposition to divorce although Mr Mill and many other colleagues repeatedly assured me that it was the most liberal of measures. In respect of the current legislation - to which I may return in the future - some consideration is need as to what difference of reality this new measure will make to the child as, regardless of the birth certificate, it will be raised quite legally with two mothers and always could be. Under the legislation, should the "mothers" part, one may claim rights of access and care for the child although not being a natural mother. This woman might legitimately claim she has sacrificed natural motherhood to share her maternal instincts with another woman.

I concur with the Archbishop that the State should take care not to dissipate the role of fathers and their place in families and, indeed, as married husbands in the household. In this instance I would urge His Grace and the Minister to consider also the role of the second mother who will exist in these families. Following a parting or a divorce, it seems to me the growing child will have more inclination and curiosity about their natural father, who shares their very material, their stuff of life, than they will about a woman who may have shared their mother's life for a period. And yet both child and second mother may also share familial affection and should not be automatically parted. These are different and difficult matters, not to be solved by a name on a birth certificate.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mr Clegg and Mr Huhne

What a marvellous device it is that brings moving pictures directly into the home. This enabled me last night to observe Mr Clegg and Mr Huhne "debating" their aspirations to lead our great party. I fear that debate must be a little strong a term, even in this times when the spirit of Beaconsfield appears to have triumphed and debate too often is confined to witticisms and absence of substance.

I have heard the two aspirants compared with twin characters created by that excellent writer of children's tales, Mr Dodgson, namely Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Perhaps they are not twins but with certainty they are not deadly rivals. Thus Mr Clegg says of Mr Huhne "one of the most thoughtful people I know" whilst Mr Huhne assures us Mr Clegg would be a "key" person in his team.

I listened hard to seek to distinguish them and heard that Mr Clegg is passionate about the poor and so is Mr Huhne. Mr Huhne would not raise the school leaving age and neither would Mr Clegg. Mr Clegg deplores the coup d'etat mounted by the president of Pakistan and so does Mr Huhne.

Mr Huhne does not commit himself to coalition with another party to form a government and neither does Mr Clegg, who proposes that reform should be a pre-condition of coalition, as does Mr Huhne. Mr Huhne would return the hospitals to local boards as would Mr Clegg...and so on and so forth.

So the argument is about one issue, namely a weapons system designed I understand to unleash unimaginable destruction. Mr Huhne does not want it and neither does Mr Clegg but Mr Clegg would not abandon it in advance of discussions with other countries including, it seems Persia, for he fears Persia may acquire similar weapons. Mr Huhne thereupon cites the playwright Aristophanes and accuses his rival of residing in cloud cuckoo land, nephelococcygia, stating that the Trident, the spear of Poseidon, was designed at a time when Russia was our enemy, not Persia. Mr Clegg in his turn accuses his opponent of secretly wishing to build more of these terrible bombs in our own country - a matter that he does not entirely deny.

So, in short, both consider it expeditious to reject the Trident but neither considers it a matter of principle. Both in their wisdom consider our country must have the potential to own such weapons if it is to have a place at international conferences. I fear this discussion needs much extension because so terrible are these weapons that their possessors must surely be able to answer the question: under what circumstances would you use them? It seems that John the Apostle scarcely conceived of such destruction as could be unleashed by modern mankind. You may detect a note of disappointment in my tone as I do believe these are gentlemen who could be great statesmen. But statesmanship requires an understanding of the balance of power and the moral basis of arbitration and not the issuing of empty threats or challenges, which may merely make allies of our enemies.

So I remain unable to commend either distinguished challenger over the other. Both are wise in many ways but in need of a little experience of great affairs before assuming great office. Whilst I am tempted to reconsider my decision not to enter the lists to seek a fifth ministry, I am advised this is not possible now and indeed, also, do recall the gracious words of the sovereign who asked me, repeatedly, when she offered me the mantle of office whether I was quite sure I wished to undertake such burdens or whether there was another whom I might prefer to commend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

School boards

My good friends at the Theos "think-tank" have been debating schools and education.

The Education Act of 1870 I regard as one of my greatest achievements as it established public education in Great Britain and also established elected school boards. Perhaps I will discuss more that at a future date as, also, for the first time we introduced the women's franchise by this means.

Never in any sphere of the public realm are the tensions between liberalism and faith so stark as on the issue of education and this indeed forms part of the subject of the discussion at Theos. We established a liberal education system knowing that in doing so the sterling efforts of the churches to educate our children in both knowledge and morality might be undermined. This was necessary in order to enable all children to have opportunities and to persuade ratepayers that they must contribute to such progressive measures. Some boards rapidly took the view that religious education was not a proper part of the state system and indeed that it was unnecessary as many children would be attending Sunday Schools. They did so on the entirely proper grounds that they could not determine which denomination's religion would be taught

I fear attendance at Sunday School is now all but a rarity. I have visited villages and cities where but a handful of children gain education by this means. Fortunately the state sometime ago recognised the need to complete this aspect of a child's education and found a way to encompass all denominations but I wonder whether it is done well or done badly.

The question that has been posed is whether children can be educated in morality and righteousness. I would hope so but must reflect that a teacher is employed to undertake certain tasks, including the preparation of children for public examination. If a child is a rascal, the teacher will certainly train that child to restrain his natural instincts on the school premises. In other places the father and mother and perhaps the public authorities must be held responsible for his upbringing.

I had always hoped that larger numbers of children would receive a full education in the humanities and that this would create a nation of liberal-minded citizens. I was perhaps too optimistic and must reflect that mankind retains its fallen nature after 137 years of progress. Nevertheless the endeavour must not be abandoned and has undoubtedly stimulated much progress of different kinds. I would urge that those of the Christian faith remember the proper limits under which they should operate within schools, while those of other persuasions should not diminish the benefits that knowledge of the Gospels and Epistles may impart.

I feel that Her Majesty would also be most gratified to see so much achieved through our joint endeavour, which we discussed at such length during the early years of my ministry although, indeed, I fear her delicate constitution might not withstand the shock of so much change and so much public depravity.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A call for humility

I have never hesitated to assert that a measure of humility is a mark of greatness and that those who aspire to high office and the title of statesman should admit their errors and human fallibility. In a long political life, my errors were many, especially in the rashness of my youth.

In my young naivety I was traduced into opposing the liberation of slaves and later equally rashly spoke in support of the American Confederation which would have continued to uphold this vile institution. I did so because, in the wake of the tide of freedom that swept across Europe mid-century, I equated the creation of new nation states with the extension of liberty. In that instance I was wrong and very soon repented of my error. I was privileged in the course of a lengthy career to have many opportunities to right the mistakes of my youth.

I mention all this in preamble as my studies of the new world, which we inhabit, have left me struggling to find the mark of statesmanship in the leaders of our United Kingdom. I hear that Mr Brown has made a speech on international affairs and find myself struggling to remember that he represents the Labour movement, to which we gave so much encouragement in my time. Mr Brown's policies, if not his demeanour, remind me too much of Beaconsfield.

Mr Brown rightly praises our Atlantic cousins. I myself oft-stated my admiration for the founders of that great and new nation of free peoples and their establishment of principles of liberty. However in what family does admiration for one's bold cousins lead to slavish devotion and adherence to their policies? The new America is undoubtedly following perilous and aggressive policies towards the Muslim world and both cousins undoubtedly have grounds to feel grief and grievance. But there is no family member who should be treated with greater caution than he who is blinded by grief and lashes out far and near in seeking redress for the inexplicable.

I understand that Mr Brown had initially sought to distance himself from his predecessor's inability to utter a negative phrase, a refusal, to the American president. Perhaps he now bides his time. I fear however he is too ignorant and too feeble to appreciate the danger of uniting Mesopotamia, Persia and the Pathans in an arc of emnity. Here are the cradles of civilisation and the source of many mighty cultures. Not even Beaconsfield would have condemned these peoples as savages. I understand that prior to the ill-advised destruction of Mesopotamia, the Persians were not associated with the actions that caused so much distress in Europe and America. Are we to repeat the mistakes of a century ago and make enemies for ourselves and allies of our enemies? We could win the hearts of the world by being beacons of freedom and emancipation but I fear there is no leadership. Mr Clegg or Mr Huhne, this could be your greatest hour!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A minute's silence

At worship today I was introduced to a new and deeply moving ceremony. We stood for a period of one minute in total silence and at the end a bugler issued forth the military sound of The Last Post. This ceremony has been observed annually for well over 80 years, I understand, in recognition of those who lost their lives when the British Empire was forced to confront the might of the new Germany.

I am still acquainting myself with the history of the last century and am all but struck dumb by the scale of the slaughter that was unleashed. Our preacher informed me that some 19 million lives were lost in this first conflict and a further 70 million in a second global conflict that arose from German expansionism.

I confess to being tempted in these rambling jottings to frequent musings along the lines of "ah, if only my advice had been followed" or "oh, if they had held to my policies". In truth, we all underestimated the threat of Prussia, although I oft-stated that at Berlin in 1878 the idiotic Beaconsfield signed a treaty of "absurdity and duplicity", missing opportunities to create new and free nation states and entrenching the growth of the new European great powers.

I am thoroughly impressed by the wearing of poppies and the commitment to remembrance, both religious and civil, that I encountered today. If we had counted the lives lost to Napoleon less cheaply and held them in our hearts as well as our heads, we might have avoided later mistakes. I did note a confusion in our preacher's sermon, however, in respect of whether the lives were sacrificed for the freedom of one country or the peace of humanity. I fear that further studies may reveal that the majority were wasted as a consequence of the corruption of humanity and the harnessing of technology for the purposes of evil. Indeed in holding such noble ceremonies, the church may need to consider whether the sacrifice of life in war is equivalent to the willingness to lay down one's life advocated by the Lord Christ. For indeed it seems the modern world is beset by zealots who believe this to be the case: that martyrdom that destroys life is as good as martyrdom that saves life. I can only say that such beliefs are a travesty and always were a travesty of the Christian message of peace. I do recall the Queen looking rather oddly at me when I mentioned this concern to her at a time when she graciously invited me to dine with her one Sunday.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

My oh my!

My oh my! In regaining a comprehensive knowledge of the apparatus of the modern state I am utterly astounded by its possibilities. Why, I read in the last few days about an electronic fly that will soon hover out of site within premises recording and transmitting their proceedings. Cameras I understand observe me walking down the High Street and their operators can follow all my movements. Electronic collection of documents would mean all my details are available to government agents, including the state of my health. Even that admirable writer Mr Jules Verne barely conceived of any technology so all-embracing. Is anybody alarmed by this? Most people I understand shrug their shoulders and state it is necessary to apprehend criminals and anarchists and to maintain a peaceful and orderly society.

It is however beyond belief to me that the government should therefore need to reduce the ancient rights of the citizens on a permanent basis. I see that this is almost the entire substance of Mr Brown's proposed legislative programme. It will be possible to delay the laying of charges against a prisoner beyond the limit of four weeks. I would advise Mr Brown that I was once persuaded to suspend Habeas Corpus to deal with unrest in Ireland. I was misadvised and it was a mistake. I was outraged to be informed in the House of the detention of Dr Kenny, a respected adviser in Dublin, under these powers.

Studying these modern problems, I wonder that so little has been learned from the Irish problem. The failure to follow my advice with expedition on the Irish question left the subsequent generation with a century of trouble and violence. Even at that time we saw how putting ends before means led to corruption of the system. It is disturbing how I hear today how a police commissioner sought to obstruct investigations into the actions of his own force, actions that led to the killing of an innocent. A just society must maintain its moral basis, a matter on which the dear lady the Queen so frequently agreed with me with a slight incline of her head.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Power to the people?

A respondent suggests our aspiring young leaders lack clarity in stating their commitments to local democracy, especially in the light of Mr Brown's government tabling its own proposals. I am reminded so vividly of our great drive to introduce local government to the United Kingdom and the creation of local councils, both district and parish, elected by all the people. That was the intention although I must confess at an early stage that the extension of the franchise to all the people was not to be completed for a little while. Travelling from Shrewsbury to London I passed through the city of Birmingham the other day and recalled how the great works established in his prime by Mr Joseph Chamberlain were attained by municipal government. It is sad to hear how many of those powers have been removed from local citizens in the last half century and to see how our one-time Labour partners created a Behemoth, a monster, which in turn could be savaged and torn apart by the Tory jackals. I understand Mr Brown and his cohorts have no substantial proposals to end this awful charade of democracy and indeed to seek to concentrate what remains of locally elected powers in the hands of single individuals. It is a sad day when the elected councillors of the citizens of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham are reduced to feeble interrogation of over-mighty agents of the state. It is true that Mr Huhne and Mr Clegg would do well to specify in more detail their proposals to improve the dispersal of power, although I believe our party has continued to take a lead in such matters in any case and indeed continues to hold a high reputation in the administration of such local government as remains in the nation of England. I urged the party in my time to "trust the people" and believe it still does. If our leaders trust the people, they may also gain their trust, a situation which seems sadly lacking in the present day. Indeed whilst at worship earlier today, the preacher made remarks that made me consider this matter afresh and perhaps I will return to the issue - but I have sworn to keep my comments short.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Mr Clegg takes a stand

Mr Clegg may be youthful and, in my opinion, would benefit from a period as Chancellor before seeking the highest mantle of state. I am advised he musters considerable support from the ranks of our great party.

It is therefore welcome that he has staked out the high ground of moral principle in opposing further restrictions on the liberty of our citizens. We spent much of my century seeking to turn back the tide of arbitrary justice which had been vested in local squirearchies, leading to considerable oppression of the common people.

Now the power of oppression appears to be vested in uniformed militia. It is outrageous that a person should have to account to the state for going about their lawful business.

So Mr Clegg proposes to resist the imposition of electronic identity papers on the population. And quite right too although I would prefer that, as a legislator, he would prevent the imposition rather than waiting until the legislation is enacted to offer resistance. It is disturbing indeed if the population has become so terrified of the unknown that it should vote for such measures.

Now I should mention Mr Clegg's opponent, Mr Huhne. A gentleman of some wisdom has suggested that Mr Clegg is a man of few words or indeed is reticent in ideas. The same does not need to be said of Mr Huhne, who has honoured us with words that are indeed worthy of a Liberal Prime Minister. A brief perusal suggests there are many worthy notions here although I do propose a longer period of study before commenting in detail. Mr Huhne has spoken in particular on defence and foreign policy. He favours a policy independent of our Atlantic cousins and a restriction of spending on wasteful devices of destruction. There is indeed much that remains admirable in the modern Liberal party when its leaders continue to hold the high ground. I fear they are yet to face the challenge of maintaining such an elevated position whilst conducting the affairs of state, although, as I frequently reminded our young sovereign, such a stance is entirely possible.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

With regret

It has been suggested to me, in view of the parlous state of my own party, that I might consider seeking a fifth ministry. I have never turned away from duty, although on occasions it was only the encouragement of our graceful sovereign that pushed me to undertake such burdensome tasks. It was always indeed a matter of astonishment that a party of such modernity as ours should achieve so much greatness under my titular leadership.

On this occasion I have had to decline in advance of any call from the palace. Apart from the question of my corporeal state, I understand that certain things are done differently in this age and that it would not be the custom for the leader to be elected without a seat in the Commons nor indeed that there would be volunteers to take the Chiltern Hundreds to allow such a leader to resume his place by means of by-election. Indeed so desperate is the state of the party, I have been advised there is no guarantee that a leader would win such an election, even with the aid of a certain Fox, that fine species the Reynard that in recent years returned to the aid of the movement.

A large part of me regrets such a decision. I have been idle for too long and there are great issues to debate. For myself, I am confident that the electors of Lothian or Lancashire would again respond to the clarion of justice as so often in the past. It seems the socialists have succumbed to the lure of imperialism as so sadly did my friend and colleague Jo Chamberlain. So many men and so many lives have been sacrificed so often in ill-thought out wars in nations of which we do indeed know little. Why cannot the Anglo-saxons (for I understand our cousins across the ocean are equally seduced) recognise that other peoples will, of course, and are entitled by right to aspire to the greatness our nations have attained? Even recent events appear not to have taught the so-called leaders - statesmen they are not - that peace and liberty are not attained by the reckless deployment of threats and weaponry. Justice must be sought and it is gratifying to see that international Councils now exist, merely a matter of shame they are not used well. This was a concept I so often explained to HM and felt contributed to her own simple desire to create families of nations.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mr Campbell

Now I fear I must turn my attention to the sorry state of my own party, a great institution that I forged from progressive Whigs and Tories and the rising movement of radicals, all inspired by the legacy of freedom envisioned by Wycliffe, Cromwell and the authors of the Glorious Revolution.

Its leader was I understand a man a little older than I was at the time I started my first ministry when I was in my 59th year. At the time I had already passed the average age at death of the ordinary Briton but this was no barrier to advancement. Mr Campbell I believe had many years to come before he reached such an age for now it is the case that, thanks to prosperity and advances in medicine, males can hope to reach their 80th year. For his crime of being at the age of great statesmanship, Mr Campbell I hear was pilloried by low hacks of the printed press and betrayed by his own colleagues.

O tempora, o mores.

To hear the party has barely 60 MPs is grievous indeed although I gather this is regarded as some sort of achievement. Indeed there seem to have been occasions when it was on the verge of extinction. It is no wonder that the flame of liberty burns so low in this country. I can only recall that 60 is a very uncomfortable number to have within a party, too small to govern or aspire to govern or even to spawn great leaders, too large to lead. This was certainly the experience of our Irish allies, who also experienced frequent problems of leadership.

There are I understand two pretenders for the office once occupied by Mr Campbell. I shall be studying their utterances in the hope of hearing elegant exposition of the place of liberty and morality in this God-forsaken century.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Disraeli's heirs

My conscience troubles me that I spoke in haste to pass judgement on the MP for Beaconsfield without ascertaining whether he is indeed "muddled" and a true heir to Disraeli.

So I have studied the writings of the shadow attorney general, Mr Grieve, using this new technology, which, I must say, offers little of the comfort of sitting under a haystack in a bright autumn day reading a leather-bound tome.

He is clearly not an heir to Disraeli, a man who was incapable of extended thought and substituted bright wit and insult for genuine argument. Indeed for a moment I thought that here was a worthy debating adversary, a Tory who can extend an argument, drawing on learned sources and bringing together threads to a natural conclusion.

I looked forward to a Tory exposition of the integral place of religion in our national life and a condemnation of the secularisation overseen by the sons of the manse who pass for socialist politicians.

Instead I am reminded of the poet Horace who wrote comically, referring to a contemporary statesman, of the mountain that heaved in the pain of childbirth and out came a "ridiculus mus" a ridiculous mouse.

Mr Grieve's main conclusion, with which I cannot disagree although it is but a small conclusion, is that religion has a role in public life. But consider his preceding paragraphs in which he describes, very briefly, how his faith influences his politics "in two ways". It motivates him to "good works", Mr Grieve says, and it tempers the "worldly appeal" of the "exercise of power". Well, I cannot disagree, hard as I may try.

What are these good works? We are not told. There is an implication that they are described in the scriptures or perhaps in the Book of Common Prayer. In a more recent forum, the same speaker suggested that the state and politicians cannot engender "neighbourliness". And yet neighbourliness surely lies at the heart of the gospel view of goodness - and a neighbourliness that is not restrained by geography, culture or language, according to the story of the Good Samaritan. Yet in that more recent forum, Mr Grieve specifically foreswore using politics to create neighbourliness. I do understand that modern parliamentarians undertake a wider range of good works than was usual in my time. Indeed they spend considerable periods of time in their constituency providing aid and succour to distressed or vexatious individuals. And I hear my own party has adopted this as a principle. I do not wish to rush judgement on this but this surely cannot be the kind of works to which Mr Grieve refers. Indeed as a churchman like me I would hope he lives by faith not works. For if that is the only works that a statesman could undertake, he might as well work for the Salvation Army or one of those excellent new institutions such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or the Samaritans.

Mr Grieve appears to be genuine in wishing to restrain the Leviathan of the state. He separates himself from those misguided heirs of radicalism who would use the state to dictate goodness - which indeed must come from the human heart. But he must therefore answer the question: how can the statesman do good works whilst restraining the power of the over-mighty state?

Perhaps the answers were easier in my time. Our state had a need to learn morality and to restrain the brutal exercise of power. No, Mr Grieve may not be an heir of Disraeli. He is clearly a man of principle but he and his party need to consider more what those principles are. For too often under the window-dressing of principle, we hear the old Toryism of false patriotism, opportunism and protection of vested interests, as I so often described it to our beloved young Queen.

My conscience continues to prick me on this matter as the gentleman is a fellow churchman and I may do him an injustice. So I perused a second oration, entitled Liberty and Community. At last, I inwardly whispered, a student of JS Mill. I was not long illusioned. His intention is to claim Toryism as the champion of liberty and the evidence is scant indeed. Burke, yes, an honourable champion of democracy but also too subservient to Royalty. Then to cite that scoundrel Disraeli in defence of liberty is an act of rhetorical daring of unbelievable proportions. This was the same Disraeli who connived in the oppression of peoples around the world and inveigled our own dear Queen to follow the path of Caesar and declare herself Empress.

I see he mentions young Churchill, a young fellow I always thought had a brilliant career ahead of him. This young man apparently, during a time of war with Prussia, released from detention an individual who advocated support for Prussia, a fellow aristocrat it seems. I always feared the young man had Whiggish tendencies. If this was Winston's finest hour, I fear I may have been mistaken in my hopes for his distinguished future.

On this fragile base, Mr Grieve attempts a defence of liberty but I fear remains haunted by the ghost of Disraeli. He identifies considerable state oppression that has been enforced in the spirit of that mountebank Marx. But where is the peroration, the sound of liberty crying for justice? Instead he returns to narrow concerns about nationhood and weasel references to the "host community". His history is profoundly mistaken also in tracing our island story merely back to the Anglo-Saxons. What of Boadica, Arthur, the great kings of Wales, Ireland and Scotland - Celts all - and indeed those citizens of the Roman Empire who made our land their home and gave us so much? Toryism has always dressed itself in convenient clothes but its true nature will always out. So little has changed since my time.

Our dear Queen was never constrained by such narrow considerations, as I was delighted to remind her so often. She could not be, as so much of her heritage lay in the Germanic lands and her vision was to help bind a family of nations, a vision so sadly lost by the mad Wilhelm.

Good citizenship

A stroll down to Millbank last night for a discussion with learned theologians, journalists and fellow parliamentarians about citizenship. An odd mixture creating an odd debate.

I like nothing better than to engage in theology and it distresses me to hear theologians uttering banal comment about the political realm or politicians posing as preachers without a profound thought in their heads.

The proposition put forward by the admirable thinktank Theos was that neighbourliness is what makes good citizens. The alternative it is argued is to base citizenship on the nation state and patriotism. I can only concur that such a view, which the Prime Minister too often seems to take, is dangerous.

A confusing pseudo-intellectual address from the self-styled shadow attorney-general Dominic Grieve, a true heir of Disreali both in his constituency, Beaconsfield, and in the muddle in his brain. Mr Grieve appeared to believe that people lose a sense of citizenship and neighbourliness if their streets are unsafe or if immigrants move into their road. So in appearing to accept the Theos proposition he was unable to develop it. Indeed he took the admirable view that politicians can do little to foster neighbourliness except to stay out of the way. Such minimalism did not apply however to keeping the streets safe or keeping immigrants out. So typical a Tory view.

Elegant, light-hearted and light contributions from radio lady Libby Purves in the chair and from the admirable writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Ms Purves' chairing did little to create a structured debate but that is entirely to be expected from someone whose primary occupation is show-business.

It seems little has changed in 150 years. Politicians and other powerful people use patriotism to boost themselves whilst denying the aspirations of the people.

For a theological debate it was curious that noone quoted the words of St Paul "civis Romanus sum" - I am a Roman citizen. The apostle was proud of his citizen status but felt no obligation to worship the emperor in return. Indeed he gave his head in support of his ideas - and although modernists like to depict him as a reactionary, he it was who crystallised the ideas of equality that stem from the gospels.

In my day too people were proud to be citizens, even those of us who cringed at the excesses of the empire, too often performed in the name of an innocent Queen. People were proud to vote and those who were denied it clamoured for this right. We may have been called subjects but regarded ourselves as citizens.

Now people are told they are citizens but believe they are subjects, oppressed by an over mighty state. What was also not mentioned last night was that to have the vote is to be a citizen. Thankfully also there was little talk of the Blairism of "rights and responsibility" but it is true - voting is both a right and a responsibility. When as few as 20 per cent of people vote, that indicates they no longer regard themselves as citizens.

The discussion was also very much about London. After all even Beaconsfield is little more than a suburb of the capital. I must be in London because that is where debate takes place - but you cannot build a library there. There are many neighbourhoods around the country where people act as citizens and elect parish councillors. In my walks across England I find these are also places of good neighbourliness, ready to discuss the weather or the latest news as I pass. There are also many industrial cities where the abolition of rotten boroughs and creation of municipalities has still failed to recreate the vibrancy of the parish. These people do not believe themselves to be citizens because their vote seems to change very little. And now the Empire is contained within our one country, we have failed - as we failed in my time - to create the assemblies which can speak for different cultures and religions.

My dear wife has advised me to keep these utterances short. Apparently a sermon of 20 minutes is now long and only the Chancellor of the Exchequer is allowed to speak for more than 30 minutes. I shall endeavour to learn these new disciplines, hard as they are for me. I so well remember the Queen stifling the merest tiny yawn when my exposition of affairs of state extended beyond the length of her cup of tea as she politely indicated the time of departure. So until tomorrow..