Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Images from the birthday party

  • Councillor Gary Millar, of Liverpool City Council, declaims to the crowd assembled in front of my statue in St John's Garden, Liverpool;
  • Councillor Hazel Williams, deputy Lord Mayor of Liverpool, prepares to lay a wreath;
  • detail of wreath;
  • display from bicentenary exhibition in St George's Hall, Liverpool;
  • detail from the magnificent statue erected by the good people of Liverpool in my honour.











Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Birthday celebrations

The last time I spoke in public it was to a crowd of some 7,000 in my home city of Liverpool when I took the opportunity to denounce the massacres of the Armenians. Today a gathering a mere one per cent of this size gathered to join me in my 200th birthday celebrations in this great English city - but it was a large and warm enough crowd to cheer the heart of an elderly gentleman. video
I do wonder that I have become such a person of inconsequence that my successor as Prime Minister or successor as leader of the Liberal Party could not attend. Nevertheless, it is stated that a prophet is not without honour except in his home, and it is gratifying indeed to be honoured in your own home city when you are such an age as I.

Within the city's magnificent St George's Hall, a series of lectures was delivered, leading me to the verge of weeping as they recalled the sounds and sights of my childhood in a city on the brink of transition.

I am able to share some moving pictures now, thanks to the wonders of telegraph transmission, of the laying of a wreath. Shortly I shall share some further photographs and discuss the very moving and appropriate contribution to the proceedings made by the excellent Mr Steve Binns, who is the city's community historian.

WEG

Remember the opium wars

The account of the sad,mad gentleman who has been deprived of life by the Chinese authorities for the carrying of substantial amounts of narcotic substances is distressing.

Nevertheless it ill befits ministers of Her Majesty's government to treat the matter as of diplomatic importance or as an affront to British pride, or even to British values.

For it is barely some 150 years since this nation, most shamefully, went to war with China to enforce the smuggling of drugs into that great country. Her Majesty's ministers are quite entitled to express regret about this present incident, but not dismay, as in the Chinese mind this too readily sounds like a nation that has forgotten the opium trade.

We are no longer a nation who goes to war because a pirate loses his ear. China is a great nation with a great past and a momentous future. There are many breaches of the rights of its citizens for which it can be criticised, now and in the recent past. Its justice is harsh but we should not as a nation look foolish by seeking confrontation over the fate of proven criminals.
WEG

My birthday!

It is now 200 years since the date of my arrival in this world. It's my birthday!

WEG

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mr Clegg sets out his stall

 Mr Nick Clegg continues to make his admirable argument that it is time for the great Liberal Party to be restored to its place in British politics. His new pamphlet is available here.

As for me, I spent the summer months walking in the mist of the Welsh mountains, an entirely pleasant experience. However my scribe declined to accompany me and, indeed, continues to state that he has personal business too pressing for him to make time for the ramblings of an old man. Indeed I suggested a visit to the festival in my honour at Deiniol's at the weekend but the curmudgeon declined, stating it was an entire weekend, rather than a festival of frolicking and merriment such as the good people of Hawarden have enjoyed on other occasions. I believe he was misinformed and that in the course of the summer the Library had reached the decision to allow some public participation so we are both disappointed.

To return to Mr Clegg, I am by and large in accordance with his thesis, as I have stated earlier. I am somewhat less certain that now is the time for a resurgence of liberalism. Economic hardship creates fear and petty-mindedness and it is a sign of greatness, not a feature of the common person, that a nation can abide by liberal principles in such times. It is quite possible that the fortunes of politics will ensure that a liberal party continues to exist in a central position in the nation's democracy and will be well-placed to rebuild a liberal and great nation. But now is not the Liberal Hour.

WEG

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Carnival in Hawarden

I am delighted to hear that the good people of Hawarden are participating in my birthday celebrations. Indeed the Hawarden Carnival would appear to be the merriest event of the year.

Thanks and compliments are owed in abundance to Mr John Butler, who has produced the attached recording as part of John Butler's "Gladstone - 2009 bicentenary Film Archive Project".




WEG

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A new party!

Young Mr Nick Clegg has delivered a most inspiring and hopeful speech on the occasion of an event that passed me by some 150 years ago.

According to the historians, the parliamentary Liberal Party was formed on this occasion when Palmerston, Russell, Bright, Hartington and others met at Willis's Rooms, a little before today's date, for the meeting was on June 6th. I do not think I was present as I rejected the plan to remove Lord Derby's government and in many ways rejected Palmerston's statesmanship. However after Palmerston assumed the premiership, I agreed to resume my post at the Exchequer, for the good of the nation and also because I was increasingly in sympathy with others, such as Russell and Bright, who had joined the new Liberal Party.

Mr Clegg's argument is that today, yet again, the old party lines are no longer relevant and that today it is time again for a Liberal hour. This has been my perception but I am not sure the events of 1859 provide an example to follow.

Undoubtedly on that occasion Mr Bright and the Radicals represented the new generation of newly enfranchised electors. Was it opportunism that led the Whigs to seek to coalesce with them? Or was it merely force of habit inasmuch as the Radicals had in general given support to Whig governments?

There does not appear to be an equivalent circumstance now, even though there are four significant parties in the British parliament and an increasing number gaining support outside of Parliament.

The cause of progress is tainted by the failings of the present government; and indeed there is no clear liberal tendency within the governing party, although liberal causes are predominantly espoused by those on the left of that party. Indeed there is now a liberal wing of the Conservative party that is more overt and outspoken than that in the Labour Party, although its numbers are uncertain and one of its leaders, Mr John Bercow, has recently been elevated to the Speaker's Chair.

Nevertheless Mr Clegg is broadly correct that the best course for Britain to take in the near future would be under Liberal leadership, not Conservative nor Socialist leadership, just was the case in 1859. Now as then, the nation was emerging from a costly and ill-considered martial entanglement. The public would desire Mr Vince Cable to be Chancellor, as I was, and it is possible to imagine a coalition forming across the existing parties for that purpose, to give Mr Cable the support that is needed to fetter the power of those who have abused our financial freedoms and the power of the market and to disperse power from the wealthy to the populace. It is equally possible to imagine the polling numbers giving encouragement to the electorate to sweep away the present power structure, as seemed possible last month; for the most part that can only be done by voters placing their trust in Mr Clegg and his party.

It is most likely however that the electorate will hesitate and return to their comfortable habits, condemning the nation to a new period of incompetence and dishonesty under the platitudinous and deceptive leadership of Mr Cameron.

WEG

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The desperate state of the Commons

The Speaker of the House of Commons upholds the nation's liberties; the Speaker, it seems, is also now charged with upholding the honour of the honourable members of the Commons.

Tomorrow Great Britain is promised a fresh start, a clean sweep, by those who would blame the departing Speaker, Mr Martin, for the crisis that has enveloped the House. This, to my aged eyes, does not seem a likely event.

Indeed it is a matter of concern that the prime candidate for the majority party, the socialists, is tainted in many respects. I refer to Mrs Beckett, who does not appear to be a parliamentarian who is independent of the government; indeed she has been Foreign Secretary, Leader of the Commons and prior to that deputy leader of the Labour Party. Today we are told, in addition, that she has charged the taxpayer for her gardening expenses to the sum total of almost £11,000.

At the heart of the liberty of the nation, is the right to be represented on the matter of taxation. It is incumbent on those elected by the people to stand as guardians of the exchequer, watchers of the great departments of state and indeed of the Royal coffers. The British nation has fought at least two wars on this principle, and in both wars the State has lost the right to levy taxation without appropriate representation.

It does not seem to me therefore that this fundamental liberty should be upheld by one who is cavalier with the nation's finances. Indeed it would appear that hardly any of those who would aspire to this ancient post are untainted by the present problems and questions, including that most distinguished Liberal, Mr Beith, even if an innocent explanation for Mr Beith's alleged transgression springs readily to mind.

It would appear, therefore, it was a mistake to remove the hapless Mr Martin with such haste and seek to make him a scapegoat for the widespread abuse of tax revenue. I do not blame those such as Mr Clegg who sought his removal. I lay blame at the door of the Prime Minister, who cannot see that he presides over a discredited parliament and that, regardless of the outcome, it is time that democracy took its course and that the people of Great Britain were given a chance to elect men and women of probity.

I spare some sympathy for Mr G. Brown as it is indeed true, as he has stated, that the consequences might be chaotic and unsettling. It is also not apparent that the British people are equipped to distinguish the honest from the dishonest, candidates of principle from chancers. Sadly, however, the present Parliament has lost its authority and is unlikely to regain it tomorrow.

* I note, with sadness, that the Liberal Democrat Party has been embroiled in a matter of receiving substantial sums from a gentleman who defrauded a number of individuals. It is disturbing that the party spokesman states it has no legal obligation to make provision for repayment. It is most likely that this statement is correct; for the party must have believed that the donation came from properly earned profits. It has now learned this was not the case.

It seems to me that the party should align itself with this individual's other creditors and offer to pay a portion of this sum to the administrator of his estates as if owed the whole sum by the aforesaid Mr M. Brown.

WEG

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Unimaginable

Never in the wildest of my dreams did I envisage sitting with my friends and a jug of ale, receiving the declaration of elections to a Parliament of the whole of Europe. I am only dismayed that in this unimaginable future so many of the British people seem to wish not to participate in this great Parliament, either by the recourse of failing to cast a ballot or by indicating a preference for parties that would separate our island once again from the great continent.

WEG

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Liberal future

You spy the swallow but it may not yet be summer. The appearance of the swallow offers me a pretext to lay out a grand narrative; even if it provides inadequate support for such a narrative.

I have been wondering for some time if the British people will ever put right the mistakes made a century ago, when the great Liberal Party appeared consigned to oblivion. Tomorrow it seems an opinion poll of the public will suggest that the Liberal Democrat party is now the second party of British politics. The margin is small and the possibility of error large; but it is significant that the third party has overtaken the party of government; and in the present febrile atmosphere of British politics it may be reinforced in the few short days before voting takes place on Thursday.

The Conservative Party intends to gain from the weakness of the socialists; in the immediate future they may well be beneficiaries. But a short period of government will expose their contradictions; even before that happens the public may become heartily fed up of a party whose true soul, whose arrogance towards government is exposed daily.

So I do not say the pendulum will cease to swing. Yet a pendulum that is left alone will swing ever slower and its span will diminish with each cycle.

For while the 20th century played out the last epic struggles between capital and labour, these are not the battles of this century. The British people may still pretend they hate foreigners but their real spirit is liberal; it is liberal to an extent to which I find astonishing and hard to countenance. No matter. The essence of liberalism is that the people can be trusted; for when they are not oppressed, when the constitution is sound, they will live in peace each with the other.

Neither the party of labour, nor the party of the ruling classes has a place in this future. They may to some extent bear the aspirations of sections of the population. Labour lays claim to what is known as "social justice". It claims it helps the poor and even that it, and it alone, can aid the poor to escape from poverty and even from the class to which they were once assigned by birth; the Conservatives will deny this. They will seek to articulate the aspirations of the British people for order, for moral standards.

Yet neither party is fit to undertake these tasks. For each, the true purpose has long been to govern, to be in power and to struggle with each other and within their own ranks for highest office. Their constitutions do not allow people of true worth to flourish within the political realm.

It may be the purpose of a Liberal government, yet again, to dissolve itself and disperse its power, as once the party did by supporting the aspirations of the workers. For too long the British people have clung to two large parties as if to their childhood nanny's skirts. There is a new generation of Britons, sprung from many races, tutored in many schools and universities and articulate in discussion and impatient of those who would patronise them. Having exercised choice in elections, as they will on Thursday, they will wonder why they are denied choice in the greatest election of all, the election for Parliament; they will wonder even more how a collection of scoundrels, toadies, cronies and discredited politicians can now sit in the hallowed chambers of the one-time so glorious House of Lords.

This is both the spirit of liberalism and the essence of reformist liberal politics. Almost daily it seems people seek to form new parties, frequently funded by the very wealthy. These are a conceit and the British public recognise this. Where is the Jury Party or Libertas, even now, where are they?

I will not seek to set out how this great change will be achieved; one would wish those with true care for the future of this great country to support Mr Nick Clegg. For it was the quality of our governments, the virtue and intelligence of our leaders across the country, that made them great, and gave me the privilege of leading a great force for reform.

WEG

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Deja vu

I am suffering from a bout of what we came to call deja vu. So little changes in British politics.

It is apparent that one party calls for reform - and the other calls for reform when it is convenient. It has been said that the only institution, which the Conservative Party truly wishes to conserve is the Conservative Party. There was a time when I felt otherwise and believed that the party had leaders with the interests of the British people at their hearts; but they were few and far between. For it dawned on my consciousness that the only time when that party will gesture an offer of power to the many is when it is necessary to conserve power for the few.

There is now a third party in Britain claiming to pursue the path of reform; yet in truth it only ever sought power for its own class - and when its own class diminished and dispersed, it also became a vehicle for achieving power for an elite of its own creation.

That has been obvious for a while to those who observe these things and is now, it seems, made clear to the British people at large.

It is therefore pleasing to observe that the Liberal Party has always pursued a path of reform, has continued to advocate trust of the people, even when for a period it forfeited that trust itself.

I am therefore neither staggered nor jubilant when I hear the Conservative leader, Mr David Cameron, offering a programme, which he claims, in sonorous tones, will promise reform and "dispersal of power". It is little surprise that the measures he proposes are trivial; as Prime Minister he would wish to continue to appoint a favoured few to the once mighty House of Lords. As Conservative leader, he would perceive 50 per cent of the vote as unachievable and therefore would wish to retain a failed system that would allow him to seize power without the fulsome support of the British people. He talks of "considering" fixing the term of each and every Parliament - but he only gives a promise of consideration.

He should look to Ireland, which seems to have delivered reform and progress for much of the last century. There was a time when his party looked to Ireland briefly - and it was only brief. For when it suited Mr Disraeli, he was in favour of Irish self-government; when it was no longer convenient, he no longer favoured the measure. Such has been the Conservative approach to reform throughout the decades. Somehow I could never persuade our dear Queen of the man's duplicity; I do not know what hold he held on the dear lady.

The British people should be aware that Mr Cameron will deliver a mere half of the few trifles that he has grandly packaged as a promise of "reform".

WEG

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stand up for the concert of Europe!

I am astounded to learn there is a party contesting the current elections with the sole purpose of removing the United Kingdom from the concert of Europe. Indeed my current estimate is that this party may well collect as much as a two fifths or one half of the votes that are cast, such is the present mood of public anger at the political classes in Westminster.

Indeed it appears that the main parties are loath to confront this UKIP, this party not of Independence but of Isolation. For it is feared that if votes are not cast for the UKIP, they will be cast even more wildly and dangerously, perhaps for the party that rejects the history of Empire, that rejects the purpose of Commonwealth, that rejects our mingled heritage and pays some confused homage to what - Germanic, Celtic ancestry.

It is therefore time for politicians of moral worth, for Mr Nick Clegg, Mr Vince Cable, Mr Norman Baker and even Mr David Cameron to stand up to the pretensions of the UKIP. I have spied their slogan, which proclaims "time to get back control of our borders" or some such. This is a party that would set this nation back 200 years, beyond the era of John Bright, of Richard Cobden and even, dare I say, of myself. It is a party that would have us live in the splendid isolation of the Napoleonic conflict.

For it is a wonder of the present age that trade flows freely throughout Europe and indeed quite freely over the globe. Even at a time of economic stagnation, Great Britain and Europe enjoy immense and unthinkable prosperity.

A success for the UKIP would place a contingent of Neanderthals, of regressives, to represent our country, to be our ambassadors within Europe. It is a party that will seek to make gain from the failings of the two tired parties of the 20th century, the socialists and the Conservatives, and yet will send representatives to indulge in the flesh-pots of Europe whilst denying the right of that Parliament to exist or to deliberate.

I cannot imagine how our dear Queen would have viewed representatives of that party, she who did so much to unite Europe and whose fragile heart would have been broken yet again by the events that  followed her death.

WEG

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Glory of the Land laid low!

The Glory of the Land is laid low! The mother of democracy's purity is tarnished, like a Jezebel.

For a while words failed me; I was stuck dumb, like the father of the Baptist, but not by the sight of an angel, no by the venality, the greed of those who now purport to represent the British people.

Odysseus served his King for ten years with nothing but a sword and a shield by his side; Our Lord himself instructed his followers to set forth with "neither staves nor scrip, neither bread nor money; neither have two coats apiece." Such sacrifice of personal pleasures appears not to have occurred to those who have sought to inhabit Parliament's hallowed halls in this century. The nation should mourn, not rage; it should clothe itself in sack-cloth and ashes. For not since the time of Cromwell himself has a Parliament been in such disrepute, have the public representatives so demanded that someone should thunder "Be gone and do not darken these doors again!".

He hath put down the mighty from their seats and hath exalted men of low degree.

Such, it seems, was the rise of the Labour movement a century ago. But now it has become mighty, over-mighty, and it is time it was put down. For the most part its leaders are not men and women of low degree; even though possession of a good degree from a modern university appears not to have imparted wisdom.

Mr Nick Clegg, rightly and honourably, talks of reform. The Queen's ghillie even promises reform; but only it seems to avert the public outcry. The leader of the Conservatives remains silent for fear of what may be revealed about his own party. Reform is necessary but so is honour. And while the public may cry out in anger, let them ask themselves: how often have they voted for a Member regardless of that person's moral fibre, regardless of that person's dedication to the task?

For while the rules of Parliament may be deficient, so is the character of those who have abused these rules. It is said that some have amassed fortunes through the purchase of property aided by the state. Even the first Prime Minister, Mr Walpole, would not have dared to assist his followers through such an extent.

It is time for a clear-out.

WEG

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Living in London

It seems to be that living in London is as costly and awkward now as it was some 150 years ago. In those days, young MPs from the provinces benefitted from the hospitality of generous benefactors. Indeed it was necessary to be a gentleman of independent means in order to sustain a career in parliament.

On this occasion, as on others, it is necessary to note that times have changed. Not only are members of the Commons no longer required to support themselves, many, it is apparent, are unable to do so without recourse to the public purse. Indeed through public benefaction, MPs appear to exercise patronage, hiring secretaries and bag-carriers and charlies-of-all-trades and nieces and nephews as if they were a wealthy man of business. The exchequer is also required to provide each of them with a home - although the exchequer appears in no sense to exercise ownership of these properties nor the ability to realise the capital value.

The Queen's ghillie, mindful of his diminished reputation and that of the labouring MPs, has sought to make reforms. Today in the Commons some sensible measures have been approved; no doubt the Prime Minister, as is his wont, would hope this would lay the matter to rest and that there will be no further need for reform.

Yet his reforms are limited in scope. They will remove some unwarranted powers of patronage from MPs, requiring their bag-carriers to be employed by the exchequer. Those who are within a short train-ride distance from the House will no longer be entitled to maintain two homes at public expense in the Capital. A further measure, which to me is puzzling, will require MPs to state their earnings from other employment; it is my presumption that those who are successful in supplementing public payments will earn high praise and those who subsist on government hand-outs alone will face ignominy: it is possible I misunderstand the proposal however.

There are no proposals here that will recover for the Exchequer the public investment that it puts, it seems, into many hundreds of properties occupied in the capital by MPs. It is perhaps time that some enterprising journalist calculated the value of these properties; if it were some 500 properties each amounting to half a million pounds in worth, the total would amount to some £250 million of capital assets in which the state has invested.

WEG

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Big day



A budget debate in the parliament of Great Britain is always a great occasion and, as I observed last year, it is flattering that my red box continues in use. If I were there today, I would rather be in the shoes of Mr Vince Cable than in those of Mr Alistair Darling, who has a task as unenviable as it is invidious. It is apparent there will be no answers and that the ship of state would be heading towards bankrupcy were the rest of the globe not equally afflicted. Spending by the State is too high but to reduce it now will cause additional misery. Taxes are too high but cannot be reduced and indeed may be in need of increase.

For the sake of the people, I pray to the Almighty that Mr Darling might be granted a little wisdom, but not so much that due judgement on this faltering Government is not delivered.

WEG

Friday, April 17, 2009

Shades of Peterloo?

It is my recollection that even as a schoolboy in the privileged cloisters of Eton I was disturbed by news of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester; later in life I considered it a special honour to speak in the Free Trade Hall in remembrance of those much-maligned agitators for democracy.

Indeed a poet coined these words:
Shades, that soft Sedition woo,
Around the haunts of Peterloo!
That hover o'er the meeting-halls,
Where many a voice stentorian bawls!
Still flit the sacred choir around,
With "Freedom" let the garrets ring,
And vengeance soon in thunder sound
On Church, and constable, and king.


I confess - there were my own juvenile scribblings. Later in life I rose to condemn an equally appalling massacre in Ireland.

My recollections are stirred as fresh news seeps into the British consciousness daily of the G20 horror, to which I referred briefly previously, - it cannot thankfully be termed a massacre - in London, a disgraceful attempt to suppress the liberties of the people, even as America's new young liberal president visited our nation for the first time. President Obama cannot but have thought the British soul has not moved on from the dying days of imperialism had he heard of these events.

It is gratifying to see that my successor Mr Nick Clegg continues to uphold the banner of liberty and has even now been commended by conservative writers for his foresight.

Indeed just as I write I hear that the victim of the G20 horror died not from failure of his heart but from injuries caused by assault. The matter becomes more serious by the day.

Sadly it cannot be hoped that the Queen's ghillie will in any way seek to restore liberties to this nation. Whether tainted solely by power or by the collectivist spirit of socialism, he appears to operate in the shadows, deploying, with increasing ineffectiveness, his forces to suppress the people and malign his opponents.

President Obama in contrast is to be complimented for exposing the corrupted advice that led to his country's agents indulging in torture of suspects. It is to be hoped that in his desire to lay the past to rest he does not allow the guilty to escape free.

WEG

Friday, April 10, 2009

Appalling headlines

A delightful English spring, best viewed from indoors in view of the light drizzle permeating the nation. I had planned a gentle Easter dozing in front of an English hearth, in the words of the poet, throwing another log on the fire, Thaliarchus, and pulling out a fine Sabine wine.

Sadly I have been jolted awake by the headlines in the news bulletins issued by the state-funded broadcaster. I am appalled.

It is not appalling that the police have performed their role and made some arrests of suspected anarchists - even though it appears that a measure of incompetence hampered the efficiency of the operation from the beginning.

It is appalling that information about the suspects has been imparted as if it were fact; and that the Queen's ghillie, her most senior minister, has seen fit to pass comment on the issues. English law or Scottish law requires individuals to be put on trial and not to be judged guilty, nor their associates to be judged, until a jury has returned a verdict. I am a little old-fashioned but it is my belief that this is the law and that the time of arrest is not the time to stir up political campaigns.

Yet we are informed these are young men from the nation of Pakistan who have travelled to Great Britain as students. The Prime Minister is quick to inform us that this should not be allowed - and yet it is his government that has allowed it. He is then equally quick to inform us that the nation of Pakistan is responsible for these young men. And, as I observed a few days ago, it is our foreign policy that stirs up young men in this nation.

A summary of the BBC reports can be read here. It appears that no explosives have been found, that the alleged plot was merely at an "aspirational" stage.

So why the haste to make arrests? It was we are told because a senior police officer allowed cameras to film his secret plan. As if by coincidence this all took place within hours of the dark underbelly of Mr Brown's attempt to strut the world stage being revealed to all; for it seems these self-same police forces had been deployed to suppress dissidents during this gathering of world leaders.

Indeed such was the overwhelming nature of the evidence gathered by the independent broadcasting companies and submitted by other witnesses, that a "criminal investigation" was announced into police activities. Lest it be forgotten, I will insert some moving pictures of the death of poor Mr Tomlinson, who, it seems, was not even a participant at this rally.

WEG

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Khyber Pass

The Queen's ghillie would commit several thousand more troops to the troublesome Pathans. For what purpose?

It is a sound principle of foreign policy that a nation should be reluctant to join itself to an ally that oppresses its own people. It was once the case within this century, I am told, that the conquest of Afghanistan could be claimed as a liberation, and a necessary liberation as the country harboured those who had made war on America and other nations.

Events have moved on in eight years. It is certainly true that President Obama seeks to rectify the mistakes made by his predecessor in full recognition of two clear facts: that the pacification of Afghanistan should never have been assumed to be complete and troops should never have been diverted to Iraq; that without Iraq the international effort within Afghanistan might have been more united and determined.

Yet, in his youth, the President hurries; and Mr Brown hurries in his despair to be obedient, just like his predecessor. There is no special relationship here, no wise counsel between friends, simply Prime Ministers of the British Queen hanging on to the strength of America to enhance their failing reputations.

Both leaders would have been wise to take stock of the situation in the Pathan territories. For it is apparent that the present government of Afghanistan is intent on oppressing 50 per cent of its population: I refer to laws that are proposed that would specify female marital duties in a way that Pope Benedict himself would never contemplate. That such laws would apply to a single religious minority compound the crime of the legislature - for the law should apply to all or to none at all.

The second and urgent practical problem that needs to be considered is the spread of violence by religious extremists into Pakistan, which has ventured boldly once again into the warm waters of democracy. This displacement of extremists appears to have been aggravated by the allied actions in Afghanistan - and will not be solved by the destruction of insurgents in the northern nation.

The consequence is that success in Afghanistan will not calm Pakistan, nor will it calm Iraq. It will certainly lead to the loss of the lives of many more hundreds of soldiers in the most brutal and lonely of circumstances, and may indeed leave a legacy of bitterness and hatred amongst the Pathans lasting longer even than the incursions through the Khyber Pass of our own expeditionary forces.

For the only conqueror who has ever been welcomed and celebrated in that nation would appear to be Alexander the Great, as on occasion I was at pains to remind our Queen. "Yes indeed Mr Gladstone", she would invariably reply.

WEG

Friday, April 3, 2009

Risks in political economy

There are many things to be said about the present financial crisis; much has been altered in our knowledge of political economy since the writings of Mr Adam Smith.

I note that Mr John Maynard Keynes was a great liberal and that his analysis of a great financial collapse some 80 years ago influenced much of the last century. Indeed I hear he continues to influence the present British Prime Minister and the new, young president of the United States.

It is felt I might be inimical to Mr Keynes' ideas in that they envisage the government spending large sums in an attempt to redress financial collapse. I have spent a little time studying his writings and I do not reject them; I do urge they be approached with caution.

For it is apparent that Mr Keynes wrote eloquently about the cause of the great problems of his era; and indeed some that bedevilled my own age. When the world sailed into further storms some 30 years ago and millions more were thrown on the mercy of the State, his solutions proved inadequate and were replaced by those who claimed to be heirs of Mr Smith, notably Mr Milton Friedman.

I would therefore proffer some cautious thoughts on the present crisis: it may be unlike the crisis of 80 years ago and also that of three decades ago; it may have points in common with both and points of difference with both.

Mr Gordon Brown places his faith in "fiscal stimulus" but also in the expansion of the money supply. The latter is a ploy I used myself on occasion to good effect. The expectation is that demand will bring forth supply; for Mr Keynes' insight was to recognise that when industries lie idle it may be because the flow of money has ceased.

It is assumed that because the banks have ceased lending, because businesses cannot draw on their credit, this is the problem; yet it is also the case that reductions in the rate of interest, small reductions in tax and substantial reductions in the price of fuel have placed money in the pockets of many. It is said money is not flowing from these newly enriched people because they have debts to eliminate and remain uncertain about the future.

Yet it is not apparent that the flow of money into the pockets of individuals has enabled them to purchase more. For I hear that the rate of increase in prices, certainly in Great Britain, has not necessarily slowed to zero.

This was the discovery made in the latter half of the last century; that even by increasing the flow of money you may not bring forth supply. You may bring forth increases in prices. It is therefore alarming if the increase of prices in the shops has not ceased but continues to proceed at a steady rate.

It was always my habit to continue to pay heed to the great merchants of Liverpool; it is by talking to business people in amiable settings that one understands the state of the political economy. And I hear that in business at present merchants and manufacturers are not necessarily able to take advantage of cheap prices; and that this may be a problem that is peculiar to this century.

For if a supplier offers a low price, the purchaser faces particular risks, especially if the product embodies a high level of intellectual knowledge. It is possible in conventional circumstances to protect one's contracts; one does not pay for widgets until they are delivered; if they are not delivered one merely approaches another company to provide substitutes. But the more complex the item, the more expert the supplier, the more time and expense is consumed in establishing a contract.

It is therefore necessary for purchasers to be cautious about suppliers and not to commit themselves to contracts that may not be delivered. The result is to increase the price of contracts and to, as an unfortunate consequence, reduce the number of suppliers.

There are therefore new risks entrenched in the political economy of the 21st century that may be preventing the free flow of money and the necessary fall in prices. It is said that the banks can alleviate this by lending more freely to businesses. This is a possibility; for it is difficult to think of other solutions that might not simply lead to general increases in prices rather than in productive activity.

WEG

Sunday, March 29, 2009

An inner light?

During the latter weeks of the winter I have been perusing an account of myself written by a Mr Osbert Burdett and published quite recently, in 1927, by the publishers Constable.

Mr Burdett, I presume, is a member of the Burdett family, which, it should be noted, moved in an opposite political trajectory to myself, moving from the cause of reform to that of reaction.

Mr Burdett's proposition is that I lacked an "inner light". To this he attributes my initial decision not to seek ordination. He credits me with being a practical and effective politician but appears to attribute my political journey to the absence of this inner light rather than to the guidance of such a light. The imputation is that I preferred to spend time in theological discourse rather than in contemplation and prayer, that I prefered to speak rather than to reflect.

This is a proposition that I must refute in its entirety. It misapprehends the fortune of my circumstances, the lengthy walks that allowed me to contemplate the Divine creation and the righteousness of particular actions; Mr Burdett is also unaware of the benefits of regular Observance and the contemplation of the Liturgy on a weekly, nay even daily, basis.

I do not claim like St Joan or Samuel to have enjoyed an inner voice, to have been certain of my path from the beginning. Indeed that might excuse the meandering trajectory and the occasional diversion in my life. However I do claim that the Light of the Gospel convicted me at an early age of the need to do what is good, to improve the lot of my fellow mankind and that this conviction never departed me. It was apparent that some of my early beliefs were misconceived, others were in need of revision in the light of experience; in other respects I never wavered, and indeed it was not infrequent for Her Majesty to tease me playfully for being "stiff and unbending".

WEG

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Grumbles

My scribe has been grumbling that I ponder too long on these jottings, that I may be a little elderly to pass comment on a century removed so far from my own, that there is little time to scour an appopriate quotation from Horace, Homer or Virgil.

I confess there is much to research and consider when deliberating the plight of the world's finances or the perils of Afghanistan; I will endeavour to do better.
WEG

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mr Clegg banks on nationalisation

Harrogate - I have been astonished over the course of the weekend to hear both Mr Vincent Cable and Mr Nick Clegg, the present leader of the Liberal Democrats - as the party is now known, advocate that the government should take over the banks, taking what I understand to be 100 per cent of the stock.

These were astounding statements but Mr Clegg moved to reassure me that these are indeed astonishing times, unimaginable and unthinkable were words that he used. I was delighted to hear him expound these proposals for the reform of the banking system in detail. I may not yet be fully convinced that it is wise for the state to own the banking system but I am impressed by the argument.

Indeed Mr Clegg argued that the devastation to the present economy would be akin to warfare or the Great Fire of London. This, he said, would give a Liberal government an opportunity to build from the ashes a new economy and a new Britain.

I recall that in September I mentioned my experience of Overend & Gurney. These distinguished gentlemen sought aid from the Government to sustain their bank; they did not receive it but the financial system received the necessary sustenance. This lesson was ignored by the present British government which has put capital into banks whilst taking very little in return. Had my advice been heeded at the time, many scandals would have been avoided; those who were responsible for mismanaging the banks would not have reaped ill-gained rewards. Does this mean I think Mr Clegg and Mr Cable are wrong? Not of necessity. For what should happen in the United Kingdom is that banks that cease to be viable businesses should be placed in administration; the process of administration does not mean that all trading ceases; it does mean that those departments of the bank that have gambled recklessly can be closed down. It also means that the directors of the bank can be held accountable in law. If they issue unwarranted awards to themselves, they may face prosecution.

Indeed this was what Mr Clegg urged today; that directors face scrutiny and penalties if they have failed to act in the interests of their shareholders and customers.

It would certainly be astonishing if banks as large as those that operate in this age were to be placed in administration; it could, as a possibility, mean hardship for those who hold substantial shareholdings to support their pension arrangements. But administration is not the end; for the job of the administrator is to find a new owner and to recover that which can be recovered for all creditors. In such a situation Mr Clegg and Mr Cable would be justified in putting their plan into force; their government would then be well-placed to implement those further reforms proposed today by Mr Clegg.

For Mr Clegg then proposes that two different kinds of banks should be established; indeed until quite recently banks operated in such a fashion. The bank on the High Street served businesses and individuals while the banks in the City of London sought to invest capital and trade on the exchanges. Mr Clegg proposes a stark and legally enforced division of the banks: the one kind would serve the public and be subject to strict rules of procedure and conduct; the other kind would be allowed to raise capital and take risks - but would be prevented from seeking government aid in any circumstance.

Dimidium facti qui coepit habet; sapere aude; incipe!

WEG

A liberal debate

As was intimated yesterday in the course of my jottings, it was my intention to spend a pleasant afternoon watching Liberals debating the management of schools. It was the choice of the Assembly in Harrogate to devote much of their time and energy to the question of church schools.

To my mind this was regrettable; it was a matter we settled in principle in 1870. There appears to be a case for reform and that was agreed by the assembly. Nevertheless, it seems to me, if the party chooses to debate education, it should not find itself discussing religion.

Regardless of that note of alarm, fulsome praise should be issued to the majority of those who participated in this discussion. Strongly opposing views were put forward with civility and generosity, in a fully liberal spirit. Indeed many participants accepted the liberal dilemma: that families should choose their schools and may do so according to their religion; that schools should nevertheless, if they are in receipt of funding from the tax-payer, should not restrict their entry to those of their own belief; that a school that is of one religion in a small town or village may restrict the choice of those who do not share that religion.

I recall discussing the 1870 Bill with our dear Queen prior to its passage. "Mr Gladstone, you mean you will permit schools not to teach religion!" she exclaimed. "Indeed, Madam" was my reply as I then sought to expound the principles of the Bill.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Remember 1870!

Liberals are gathered in the delightful Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate today and it appears they are to discuss reforms to the education system.

Reforming and improving education is the hallmark of a great Liberal administration and so today I must urge delegates to remember the principles we laid down when in 1870 my first administration created the United Kingdom's first public education system.

Our first and most important principle was that all children should be entitled to learn how to read, write, add, subtract, multiply and divide.

But we did not do so by creating a behemoth, a monster that requires armies of civil servants to dictate to teachers every word they must teach.

Indeed we did the opposite and established school boards in every town and city. These boards were elected by local people, men and women alike, and men and women alike were entitled to take part.

This principle, that local communities can take their own decisions on many issues, has always been a hallmark of Liberalism in Britain and appears to continue to be so.

It was apparent that the major churches had done a great service by providing many schools; but these were not schools for all children and indeed many non-conformists preferred not to send their children to schools run by the Church.

We did not abolish these church schools. Instead we left it to each and every school board to decide what religion to teach; some chose to invite ministers and priests into their schools. Others chose not to.

In my travels in the 21st century I have discovered that politicians and civil servants like to use single words to express great ideas, albeit that these single words are not well understood by common people. There are two such 21st century words that appear to sum up the principles that we used.

So to those modern Liberals who do not understand plain English, I would make this rallying cry: "Remember localism and diversity and most of all remember 1870!"

WEG

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Titans?

 The wonders of electrical communication have allowed me to pay a visit to my old castle at Hawarden. Here I see my library and here is my desk and here is a photograph of myself writing at my desk. I am not present in the flesh or even in spirit. I am merely viewing a British Broadcasting programme entitled Gladstone and Disreali.

The programme states that I hated Disraeli, that I had a "feud" with him. It is no doubt a source of drama for authors to pitch myself against Beaconsfield, as we jousted so often over so many decades. But I did not not hate the man; he was a mountebank, a scoundrel of few principles, a man who led many astray. People who hold hatred in their hearts do not live for a great age; it was my task to expose Beaconsfield's humbuggery and overweening ambition. It was not hatred.

Regardless of the deficiency of the analysis, the programme contains much to amuse and inform, and you can view it here. 


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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Loose morals?

I note there is some consternation within the Government in respect of the number of young women who are becoming pregnant.

As readers may know, I was concerned throughout my life by the impact of loose morals on the welfare of many young women. However, having studied the statistics released today, I am puzzled as to why it should be regarded as deleterious for a married woman aged 17 years to give birth.

Now, accepting that I am an "old fogey", I understand that the status of women has improved considerably since we first gave a limited right of voting to some women in 1870. It has also come to my attention that moral standards have mutated in an unimaginable way.

I am told that about 42,000 girls under the age of 18 became pregnant in 2007 and that as many as half of these resulted in the induced abortion of the unwanted baby. Now this is a matter of consternation, even though it appears that the British government is unclear of what it disapproves; is it the process of abortion or the process of pregnancy? For if a young woman and her husband wish to undertake the pleasures of family life, for what reason should they be discouraged?

The response of the Government is to promote the value of contraception - which I understand to be methods for preventing conception. A sum of some twenty million pounds has been mentioned. Further reports suggest that instruction booklets have been made available to parents of growing children advising them not to discuss moral matters; I confess to perplexity about how this might assist.

It is my perception and experience that most young women are more than capable of making up their own minds when they wish to have children and whom they wish to marry. Some however are driven by poverty or desperation to trade their womanhood and their fertility; such young women need advice and assistance. Their situations cannot be changed by a pill, an injection or another artifice; nor can any moral code circumvent their desperation and misery.

WEG

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Tale of Two Sites

The government-financed news service, the British Broadcasting Corporation, has intimated to me that the Queen's ghillie has put up a display on the "Web" relating his efforts to combat the deteriorations of the political economy. Furthermore it indicates it has been done in imitation of the excellent President Obama.

There is a kind of competition that cheap magazines like to run, setting out two drawings with subtle differences. I have therefore perused the two web-sites in an endeavour to spot any differences.

Mr Brown states that the British government offers Real Help Now; President Obama talks of Recovery.

Alas, the difference is so transparent that a tiny child would suffer little hardship in placing a finger upon it. For President Obama appears to be aware that he has been trusted with large sums of public money; and he appears intent on explaining his expenditure, almost down to the last dollar. The website explains, as if to an audience of adults, that a sum amounting to some $787 billion dollars is to be disbursed in projects and pledges to account for every penny. It is a colossal sum.

Mr Brown, in contrast, lists no such expenditure. Indeed a cursory survey of his web-site suggests that his government continues to play with magic money. For instance the site refers to child benefit payments of £20 to families. A little research tells me that the total additional payment to each family is in fact £4.50. For what is the history of this payment? It is an increase for one child only announced in last year's budget by the chancellor Mr Darling, to take effect on April 1. It has now taken effect on January 1, an additional payment of £1.50 per month for three months. Even worse, the government has delayed announcing this year's budget by a full month until April so there will be no further possible increases for additional children.

Mr Brown states that pensioners have received a "£60 increase". He omits to mention that this is a £60 increase in an annual payment, that is to say an increase of some £5 per month.

Rather more disturbing is the Prime Minister's claim that some £10 billion has been committed to public investment on "schools, hospitals, roads and railways". There is no explanation, no accounting for this expenditure; indeed my own overhearing of conversations among public servants suggests to me that in some respects the reverse is taking place. Some of those responsible for government investment are being ordered to reduce it for fear of the future commitment against public revenues when existing borrowing has risen substantially. In addition spending on hospitals and school is at risk because many projects are to be financed by private companies who must raise their own capital.

I do not dispute the objective; I do question whether the Prime Minister and the Chancellor understand the difficulty in spending public money fast and effectively. Indeed it appears they have persistently underachieved their plans over the course of ten years and failed to deliver their announcements.

There is much that could be said about this but I must recall Her Majesty's frequent refrain: "Oh do not trouble me with such details, Mr Gladstone."

So most of all, this Tale of Two Sites exemplifies the difference between a liberal government and a socialist government. For a liberal government trusts the people to support good government - and is accountable to the people; whilst a socialist government demands that the people place unwitting trust in its every action.

WEG

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A double birthday

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the births of two of the greatest men of my era. I refer on the one hand to the American president Mr Abraham Lincoln and on the second hand to the chronicler of animal life, Mr Charles Darwin.

In extending my sincere and profuse congratulations to both gentlemen, I must proffer a confession that to some extent I erred in judgement of both at the time of their greatest achievement.

This morning I chanced upon a discussion as to which of these two gentlemen was the greater in their impact upon humanity. It should be stated that both have most obviously had a lasting impact upon humanity, perhaps to an extent that could not be claimed for my own limited achievements.

It is nevertheless my opinion, expressed without hesitation, that President Lincoln was the greater. The course of action that he pursued was not determined solely by the hand of fate; indeed I resisted it at the time. It is a marvellous and terrible thing that a democracy should have to resort to brutal force to assert the will of the majority; it is equally terrible that such slaughter should be required in the interests of justice.

President Lincoln created a great nation out of a lawless confederation. He created a sense of justice linked to power that twice during the 20th century appears to have willingly undertaken missions to preserve the world from tyranny. This is a hard thing, even for a powerful nation, and has most obviously led his most recent successors to make mistakes, to err on the side of force rather than of justice. And yet his legacy continues, most obviously in the election of a president of African descent, a symbol of hope to disenfranchised millions around the Globe.

As for Mr Darwin, I have discussed his heritage previously. I bow to the greatness of his intellect and believe he was a gentleman of personal virtue and would have been greatly disturbed at the horrors unleashed by those who claimed to be his philosophical heirs. And yet he used the words "survival of the fittest" and appears to have had little doubt that humanity was a part of this process. I have heard that he was motivated to prove the commonality of mankind with a view to demonstrate the error of slavery. Indeed Mr Darwin alone was not responsible for philosophies that sought to set man against man and may have wished to counter them. One is reminded somewhat of Mr Marx, who worked in the British Library and, I understand, was venerated through much of the world for much of the 20th century whilst unspeakable horrors were visited upon nations in his name. It is also stated, I believe, that much of modern medicine would not exist without Mr Darwin. This seems not to be the case as he was not unique in developing his ideas, even though, it would appear, he was unusually correct about matters which were not to be confirmed until many decades later.

I do not wish to denigrate Mr Darwin's genius nor to understate the impact of his theories. It may be they have fundamentally changed man's view of himself; it is also possible that they have left humanity adrift and confused about his purpose and place in this world. Mr Darwin spoke the truth as he found it; his genius did not extend to providing guidance to Man about how to cope with such self-knowledge.

WEG

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reform!

 My youthful respect for the ennobled peers of the realm diminished in later years as it became apparent that their chief interest and predominant role was to serve the interests of few but themselves.

I have been delighted to find that my successors took up this worthy cause and about 100 years ago clipped the wings of this noble beast, a task that my generation balked at. I have been equally surprised to see the slow progress made by the socialists in bringing reform to this institution; perhaps I should not be surprised as the party of Labour appears to have entrenched itself as the party of the classes, rather than the masses. Therefore the main interest of their ministers appears to have been to create a safe haven for their comrades and, in recent decades, a place of reward for favoured friends of the party.

The scandal that has erupted this week is merely the outcome of a century of timidity; of failure to complete the unfinished business of the Glorious Revolution. For it remains the case that the first-born male of a British noble family has a vote worth 5,000 times that of a common person; indeed such a person has more power over the legislature than the Queen herself.

It is not the off-spring of noble families who are the subject of scandal this week, however; it is those unworthy appointments made by the Labour party.

I do not resent a smattering of wisdom in the Upper Chamber; nor do I resent the presence of the Archbishop or indeed the Chief Rabbi. I am perplexed that the masses of Great Britain continue to have no means whatsoever by which they can elect or appoint their representatives to this chamber; it is most peculiar that a people deemed able to select a Prime Minister (albeit not the present one) are deemed unable to recognise the rudiments of wisdom within candidates for the House of Lords. It is hardly surprising that a population treated in such a fashion should turn their attention to votes on matters of trivia and gossip rather than those of state importance.

Indeed I note the present government promised to appoint People's Peers; and yet failed to appoint a single person of common occupation or humble station.

It is heartening to hear Mr Clegg carrying the ancient Liberal banner this week; Reform! must be his clarion call.

WEG

Friday, January 23, 2009

Birthday celebrations!

My statue at St Deiniol's Library
I have been ruminating upon the installation of President Obama, which I trust will be the most interesting event to occur this year. Nevertheless the British as a nation look to the past, it appears, and it is gratifying that some attention is being paid to one's own up and coming birthday.

Today a programme of events was announced and it would be churlish of me not to welcome such a memorial, to quibble with the nature of the programme, the more so as it has been organised by the estimable folk who continue to manage the library I founded in the village of Hawarden, a library which appears to have taken on an exceptional character.

I am peturbed to see one whole day devoted to the study of Mr Darwin, as though the coincidence of our ages means a confluence of our views. I have discussed this matter recently and am delighted to offer respect to Mr Darwin for his scholarship and personal beneficence; the application of his theory, nevertheless, does not seem to me to have been in every respect benign.

Indeed I would prefer such a programme to be more than a historical study, rather to be a continuation of my thoughts and scholarship. There is nothing about Homer, I am surprised to see, but a delightful plan for celebrations of Bulgaria, free once again. A peer of the realm called Lord Alton, who I believe was the last Liberal MP for Liverpool, sadly now having abandoned the party, is to lecture on the cause of freedom that I eschewed, depicting me, it seems, as the Scourge of Tyrants.

It is gratifying, once again, to see modern politicians of other parties involved in the programme, all of them peers of the realm, a Lord Hattersley, a socialist and Lord Waldegrave, a Conservative. Baroness Williams and Lord Ashdown, I note, are to represent the modern Liberal Party in the celebrations.

Yet I will pray for sunshine in June, for that is when Dollis Hill House in London is to be thrown open and the people invited in for a festival, termed the Gladstonbury Festival, a name I believe to be a pun on the Somerset town of Glastonbury. I will mark the event in my diary!

I am somewhat old now so I can be forgiven for perceiving as a little odd the report today which stated that my bicentenary would be devoted to the study of the Koran. It is an estimable book worthy of study, and never more so than at the present, a book that could inspire peace as well as war, freedom as well as tyranny; but I would wish also to see study based upon the Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture.

WEG
(Post scriptum: the images are indeed of the St Deiniol's Library at Hawarden, a village of many, many memories and happy recollections.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A most excellent oration

A most excellent oration!

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The inauguration

I never in my life thought I would be able to attend the inauguration of an American president, to hear them utter the historic oath, declared in public in front of the masses in a way that the traditions of the United Kingdom have never permitted.

Now today it is as if I am there, albeit still in the warmth of an English hearth. I am not jealous that the crowds milling in Washington DC and assembled in the other cities of North America far outstrip those mighty assemblies that once gathered for some reason to hear my modest words, in Edinburgh and the great cities of the north, Newcastle, Leeds and so many other places.

The election of the new president and the enthusiasm for such an event has shown that the United States continues to be a nation where democracy is strong, where indeed it has been revived. It is a sad contrast with a country where questions of governance seem to be greeted by so many people with cynicism and apathy and where few politicians seem able to offer leadership based on genuine hope.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mr Darwin's sesquicentennial

There appears to be great excitement in intellectual circles about the century and a half that has passed since Mr Charles Darwin published his tome The Origin of the Species. Indeed it even appears to be casting a pall over my bicentenary as an event of note from the 19th century.

I was among those who expressed concern at this publication and its reception within those circles who wished to use it to disprove the traditions of the Church. In reviewing the events of this sesquicentennial event, I find little cause for celebration, even if it is true that the scientific evidence continues to support Mr Darwin's bold hypothesis.

It is apparent that the present proliferation of literature and visual output is intended to drive the last vestiges of the Christian faith from this country. And yet, and yet, those who celebrate have failed to consider the dangers of such a course of action and the eradication of Christian morality.

An early example has been the advertisements that have appeared on a number of omnibuses stating the following: "There is probably no god. So don't worry and enjoy yourself." I do not believe the eminent Mr TH Huxley, with whom I had many disagreements, would have supported such a statement, even though he declared himself to be agnostic. For Mr Huxley and the humanist movement that surrounded him expected with confidence that mankind itself could evolve to embed the moral values of Christianity - albeit shorn of belief in the Godhead. The statement displayed on the omnibuses represents a new morality - or rather an absence of morality - that does indeed derive from the work of Mr Darwin. It is unsurprising that the British Humanist Association should endorse these advertisements but it is nevertheless regrettable; and at a time when many thousands are in peril of their livelihoods it was ill-timed and may suggest that Mr Darwin's heritage may not be the cause of celebration that some would wish.

My recent studies indeed suggest to me that a proper reading and understanding of Mr Darwin's findings should serve to reinforce the teaching of the Church, not to undermine it. Indeed Mr Bagehot's The Economist published an article last month which extolled Mr Darwin's contribution to the understanding of human behaviour. I do not disagree with the thesis in its entirety. For it took but a few decades for the optimism of my last years to be overshadowed, indeed shattered into a thousand pieces, as it became clear that picking fruit from the Tree of Knowledge would not be the salvation of mankind, would not make humanity any better. And in due course, the world plumbed new depths when a monstrous regime in Germany combined the concept of speciation and evolution with the myopia of medieval Europe and set out to create a race of super-beings.

I would therefore urge the 21st century not to forget that the first popular impact of Mr Darwin was to create a sense in the popular mind that humanity might evolve, evolve beyond God, beyond the strictures of the Ten Commandments. Some believed humanity might evolve into angelic and beneficial beings, others believed that humanity must struggle between itself and that only the fittest would survive. A sorry legacy indeed for the Darwin family.

It appears that popular conceptions have evolved, if not humanity itself. For the thesis of Mr Bagehot, and I understand many others, is that if men and women are merely animals then their behaviour will always be that appropriate to a species of ape. It does indeed follow therefore that the British Humanist Association must declare the chief aim of Man to be enjoyment; albeit that the true aim of each individual is, it seems, to reproduce and nothing else. And everywhere that one's gaze might fall, there is evidence of the pursuit of pleasure. Let it not be forgotten that the prosperity the modern age enjoys arises not from Mr Darwin but from Mr James Watt and those engineers who created modern industry prior to Mr Darwin.

Let us not call the pursuit of pleasure a morality. It is an amorality. In spite of the contortions of the followers of Mr Darwin, it is not possible to derive unselfish behaviour from this amorality. The population may weep when the television broadcasts pictures of children in Gaza destroyed by the weapons we have manufactured; but the population may also use their electronic devices to choose another form of entertainment; they may prefer to weep when their favoured entertainer fails to win at the X-factor. Indeed I hear that the new generations of young people are unlikely to view these news broadcasts; for they are more likely to be engaged in games of fake warfare and fantasy destruction.

How different from the population of the 19th century which liberated the slaves, and flocked to the polling stations to protest at the oppression of peoples in far away lands of which they knew little.

It is now apparent to me that Mr Darwin's science was correct for the most part; that he described and led others to describe in detail how the world was shaped by the Divine Will and how Adam and Eve were created in the form of apes that Divine Providence had enabled to become the highest and most intelligent form of species on the planet.

It is also apparent that this ape would not have developed systems of laws and justice; civilisations that function by popular will, not by the brutality of tyrants; and compassion for those who may be out of sight but cannot be out of mind without the exercise of the divine hand. Indeed it is still possible to state when mankind began the journey from servitude and oppression and that this was some time in the first century Anno Domini. For the Church teaches that man is born to a struggle which the Apostle Paul described as with the World, the Flesh and the Devil; some call this "original sin". An atheist, a Darwinian may not believe in the Devil but he will describe in detail how the flesh, composed as it is of tiny pieces of Deoxyribonucleic acid, binds us, how the world, the culture of this race of apes, oppresses us.

It is the Divine Hand, the Spirit of God, that can make humanity different and better; for this species will not evolve any other way.

WEG

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Some thoughts

I have had a great many thoughts about many things over the 12 days of Christmas but of late my scribe has complained that it has been too cold to manipulate a type-writing machine. As I have noted before, England has become less able to cope with the exigencies of winter in spite of the advancement of technology. Pen, ink, a roaring fire and thickly drawn curtains always made a delightful environment.

It has taken not a little reading and study to comprehend the new conflict in Palestine. The existence of a modern Jewish state is a wonder of the modern age. Yet its creation, its conduct and its tendency to display an arrogance in its actions is a source of conflict.

I noted in the case of Russia the foolishness of a small state tweaking the tail of a mighty neighbour. Yet there appears to have been a deliberate plan in the provocation launched against Israel by the Palestinian zealots in Gaza. A movement that can sacrifice women and children as weapons would be happy to use a whole nation to achieve its aims.

Israel has responded crudely, as it was likely too. It has given Hamas a nation of martyrs.

It is difficult to urge the principles of St Augustine of Hippo on two nations that follow separate religions based more on the Old Testament than the New Testament, that perceive an "eye for an eye" as a reasonable way to resolve conflict. And as I have noted before, modern warfare appears to have diverged considerable from St Augustine's principles in that it places the safety of the armed forces above that of civilian populations, of innocent women and children.

Undoubtedly in striking Gaza from the air in search of the Hamas rockets, Israel believed it was merely emulating the tactics displayed by the western powers in recent conflicts, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. It is difficult therefore for these self-same powers to urge restraint without restating their own principles of warfare.

And yet restraint must be urged and, indeed, the principles of modern warfare must be reconsidered. Devastating air bombardment allows an invading force to enter cities and face few casualties. But it is not analogous to the use of bombardment to destroy an opposing force.

As for the Palestinians, in pitying their plight, we must regret their embrace of Hamas whilst acknowledging the many injustices that have led them over the years to resort to extremism and violence. It is apparent that on the West Bank Israel continues to violate international agreements. It is to be hoped that President Obama of America will use his newly-acquired power to restore a stable and inviolate democratic Palestine to the West Bank; and in turn that such a development may offer hope and assurance to the people of Gaza.

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