Category Archives: US Politics

That “Ed Hotchner” moment

Most people have never heard of AE Hotchner which may be a pity because he lived a very colourful life as the trusted friend of interesting people.

Latterly he was the partner of the late Paul Newman in the marketing of culinary sauces which were sold in the film star’s name, and at the end of every financial year,  the two  friends would sit and work out how to distribute the very significant profits to charity; something like 350m dollars found their way to good causes in this way, so Mr Hotchner did a lot of good.

He was also a companion of Ernest Hemingway, and in his auto biography tells of a rather splendid story of their “hell raising” days together, when they were friends of the Bull Fighting fraternity.

After drinking with two of Spain’s finest matadors one night, they hatched a plot to smuggle Hotchner into the bull fighters’ entourage and send him into the grand parade of matadors before a prestigious corrida. They appreciated that making a mockery of this great Spanish institution was risky in the Spain of General Franco, but high spirits prevailed.

The following morning, Hotchner was dressed in a “suit of lights” and took his place as the 2nd reserve bullfighter and was soon hugely enjoying the joke and the adulation of the crowd as he entered the ring and took his place on the bench.

It was only at the entry of the bull that the full precariousness of his position came to mind.

If the bull killed the greatest matador in the world, it was the reserve bull fighter’s job to finish the job.

If the bull despatched the two greatest bullfighters in the world, the time would have come for Hotchner to make his bull fighting debut.

It is perhaps as well that this all took place before Leicester City defied the 5000/1 odds against winning the English Premier League.

This anecdote came to Brother Ivo’s mind as he heard US commentators opining that the effective winning of the Republican Presidential nomination meant a ” shoe-in” for Hillary Clinton to become the next US President.

Frankly, Brother Ivo is not greatly enamoured of either candidate, but he tries to be objective and “interesting” and it is worth pausing to consider Mrs Clinton’s position if she eventually shakes off the dogged campaign of Senator Sanders, who has made her expected ( and significantly engineered ) coronation a less comfortable process than the party bosses planned.

As she takes the plaudits before the adoring Convention might she too have her ” Ed Hotchner moment”?

Might she reflect that having beaten Mr Sanders with some some difficulty, she will next be facing a man whose brutal political populism has relatively effortlessly despatched, not one unknown Senator, but sixteen highly resourced opponents, several with significant records of  years of hard campaigning and executive experience?

Campaigning, andtaking part in a grand procession is one thing; delivering the final performance is a very different proposition, and all of us in greater or lesser degree have experienced that “Ed Hotchner moment”.

A curate securing her first living, the newly qualified doctor approaching his first shift in A&E , even the newly elected member of General Synod preparing to make the maiden speech – we all have such doubts and reminders of our own fallibilities.

Many Churches will be having their own collective ” Ed Hotchner ” moments as they hear another call to evangelism , and consider the exhortations to follow Christ’s great commission to make disciples of all the world. We will all feel inadequate to the task ahead.

Some may doubt their strength, others their technique. Many will feel their own faith incomplete – few of us have all the answers – but Jesus was ahead of us, telling is not to worry what we will say, he will give us the words if only we get alongside people like ourselves and start the conversation.

But there is yet another reason to set aside our fears in such circumstances.

Our Archbishops Justin and John have launched an online video not simply calling upon us to prepare to evangelise the nation, but giving us the watch word that will enable us to fulfil our part in the great commission,

it is encompassed in two small words that might have served A E Hotchner well as he confronted his doubts and fears in that bull ring all those many years ago –  Just Pray

Is Donald Trump the new Cassius Clay?

Brash, boastful, boorish, successful, not much of a gentleman, riding for a fall, hated – all words and phrases that might be applied to Donald Trump at a time when many British people have petitioned Parliament to ban from entry to the UK, the man who could become the next President of the United States of America.

Was it not only a few weeks ago that we entertained the Chinese Premier without any such foolishness, notwithstanding that the Chinese Government is infinitely less congenial to British values than ” The Donald ” will ever be?

What his detractors appear to miss is that Mr Trump thrives on the disapproval of those who dislike him. Both in this, and the full set of unflattering epithets listed above, Mr Trump resembles none other than another upstart braggart hated on these shores – one Cassius Marcellus Clay, the ” Louisville Lip” whose outrageous pronouncements propelled him to become both the heavyweight boxing champion of the world – and in later life, to the status of “National Treasure”, under his new name, Mohammed Ali.

In public perception as in theology, one can be “born again”.

Along the way, Ali flirted with some borderline racism in his association with the Black Power movement. He upset the Establishment, sporting and political, and eventually won his detractors round by doing exactly what he said he was going to do.

America loves success and forgives winners.

Could this be the fate of Donald Trump? He is certainly talking a similarly good game. He also has the media dancing to his tune.

His promise to ” Make America Great Again” resonates with many of those who once threw reason and caution to the winds to deliver with acclamation a landslide victory to Barrack Obama, who had similarly stepped onto the National political stage with no record of political achievement but a lot of populist rhetoric.

The public is fickle and may be again. Nevertheless, from time to time they take to an outsider. That certainly applies to the Republican Party field which is dominated by successes from outsider cañdidates. Trump, Cruz, Carson and Fiorina have all performed better than expected. Even Hillary Clinton now tries to step aside from her First Lady and Secretary of State status, and attempts portray herself as outsider champion whilst being challenged by another genuine candidate from ” Left field” in Bernie Sanders.

A dissection of the proletarians claims of Ms Clinton is best left to another time.

Like Ali, Trump is the master of the counter punch. Opponents who attack him see their subsequent poll ratings fall. You can’t best him on one liners and if you try to fight ugly, he can roll in the gutter with the best ( ie the worst) of them.

When Hillary Clinton accused him of sexism, he showed no squeamishness, and put into play her own complicity and lack of feminist outrage over the multiple women abused by her husband, and silenced by the Clinton “War Room”. Asked if his own less than pristine marital history was also in play Trump disarmingly answered ” Of course”.

Like Ali, he dominates both the centre of the ring, and the pre and post match interviews. He intimidates many, so that they are emotionally beaten before they begin. What is especially alarming to the political Establishment of both parties is his extraordinary personal resources- which he has not even begun to spend yet. Ms Clinton is very rich woman – her net worth is about $38m : her husband is worth around $80m. Mr Trump’s income last year was approximately $400k

Getting into a financial battle with a Donald Trump is like entering a bleeding competition with a blood bank. This even intimidates National Parties, especially the GOP that is terrified of him running as a third party candidate.

Unlike the British, Americans love this.

For the first time, the inner beltway Washington political machine and the lobbyists who work within it are bemused; they have  an opponent they don’t like, who they can’t outspend, can’t crush, can’t shame, doesn’t need their money and can dictate the terms of fight as a complete loose cannon. Joe Public USA loves the sport.

So does this make him the next GOP President?

Possibly, but far from certainly.

Those who think Ms Clinton invincible are drawn largely from those who thought the same when she fought Barrack Obama. Her husband’s legendary campaigning skills nor their formidable campaigning machine  did not save her then, and not only does she have her own vulnerabilities today, but her husband’s charm may not cut it with the new generation of PC voters they helped to create: they may be less charitable towards his predatory behaviour than the electorate of 16 years ago.

If you talk to Boxing fans about which fighters from another era could live with the supreme Mohammed Ali only two names are offered.

Rocky Marciano’s record is better, but those he fought were inferior to those with whom Ali contended.

In more recent times only one name recurs, that of the Canadian born Lennox Lewis. He was never so popular, but had a formidable physique, great technical ability, was equally resilient and of greater stature. He might have had what it takes to defeat the self proclaimed “Greatest”.

Of Donald Trump’s opponents there is also one whose raw intellect outguns even “The Donald’s” intimidating 154 IQ. He too is a Washington outsider, one who can draw and hold not only those who dislike Donald Trump, but those who adore him : that should not be underestimated.

He is younger, even more hungry, forensically equipped to dissect the Clinton record and has a cleaner record than either of his possible opponents. His name is Ted Cruz: he too was born in Canada.

What did I learn about Benghazi? – Cynicism pays.



From the days of his youth, Brother Ivo has been interested in US politics. He recalls the Kennedy-Nixon campaign of 1960, albeit hazily. He followed the progress of the Civil Rights movement and the tragic assassinations of Dr King and both Kennedys.

He was a “Watergate junky ,waking early each morning to eagerly receive the overnight update on the inquiry, from a BBC which covered it in depth, making the slow southern drawl of “Senator Sam” Ervin of Texas a minor media star as he doggedly pursued the questions that revealed the unthinkable – that a US President had both acted  and lied  for political advantage.

Nixon fell and repented, but that appears to be the last wholesome precedent in living memory.

Subsequently, and in sharp contrast, Bill Clinton lied and was forgiven. He was aided and abetted in that by a wife who knew perfectly well of his widespread philandering, yet faced the press and people down.

More importantly she vilified the victims of her husband as liars, fantasists or gold diggers, yet still manages to represent herself with a straight face as the champion against those waging a “war of women”.

Only recently did Brother Ivo learn that Mrs Clinton had in fact been thrown off the Watergate inquiry team by its lead Democrat prosecutor for unethical behaviour. She had borrowed the only copy of an obscure legal precedent from the Library of Congress which supported the beleaguered Nixon’s request for Legal Counsel to assist him, she locked it in her room and then argued that if he could not produce it, he had no case for assistance in the process.

Her then boss discharged her saying that said she could never be trusted with such responsibility again.

Times have changed. Brother Ivo had been an admirer. If Watergate taught us anything however, it is surely that for integrity to remain in public life, one sometimes has to stand against one’s “own side”, something that Watergate Republicans of a different era did do; sadly, the Benghazi Committee Democrats have proved themselves incapable of following that ethical precedent.

Brother Ivo watch much of the Clinton evidence – so you didn’t have to.

What did he learn?

First that the BBC has ceased to be a serious reported of the issues of American politics. Jon Sopel’s report only addressed one issue -” Did Mrs Clinton’s Presidential bid survive?” One might have expected such a culturally liberal institution to assert that the deaths of 4 Embassy staff was too important to be politicised – which they accuse the Republicans of doing – and yet none of the evidence has been reported by our National Broadcaster.

This is evidence of a decline in broadcasting standards. Watergate was arguably less important – nobody died – and yet Brother Ivo and others of his age could probably even now give a fair summary of how bad practice came to be exposed.

The Benghazi Committee Chair, Trey Gowdy, came out as a man of integrity and forensic focus. He said he would concentrate on the events of Benghazi, and although the tale of Mrs Clinton’s secret and illegal email server is fascinating, he did not dwell on it at all.

He did neatly dispose of the claims that there was no new facts to investigate, pointing out that Mrs Clinton had never testified to any of the other bodies purporting to have investigated the matter, neither had any of those inquiries seen or even asked for her emails or those of Ambassador Stephens.

None of them had heard from witnesses on the ground.

The notion that this inquiry is irrelevant was thus despatched easily in his opening remarks, to the satisfaction of anyone of a non partisan nature.

The one big issue clarified was major. The Benghazi attack was not caused by the getting out of hand of a demonstration about an internet film, watched by only 300 people at the time of the attack occurring.

Nobody on the ground reported a demonstration.

Nobody called from the compound talking of a demonstration at all, still less it becoming ugly. Congressman Jordan put this directly to Mrs Clinton and she acknowledged its truth. There was not only no demonstration but no proper basis upon which to discuss one.

Sen John McCain – a personal friend of Mrs Clinton – had observed at the time that “nobody brings a rocket propelled grenade to a demonstration”, and although Mrs Clinton mentioned in passing that as Libya fell into turmoil, weapons were increasingly available, that may actually prove a hinderance rather than a help when we come to consider her responses to requests for greater security.

The key new revelation comes in three parts evidencing that the video claim was both patently false and known by Mrs Clinton to be false.

.On the night in question, Mrs Clinton emailed her daughter Chelsea to speak of a terrorist Al Quaida attack on the Benghazi Consulate. There is no reference to a video or a demonstration.

More officially, in two official records of telephone conversations with the Egyptian Prime Minister ( where there had been a demonstration) and the Libyan PM , Mrs Clinton said – in plain terms- that this was a pre-planned attack by an armed terrorist group and nothing to do with a video.

Within days that changed, with no evidence of reason for change being advanced; Mrs Clinton stood over the coffins of the dead and asserted that they had arrested the video maker who was responsible for this dreadful state of affairs. In the meantime, her staff had prepared “talking points’ for Susan Rice, the Whitehouse National Security advisor,as she  toured the Sunday morning talk shows asserting that it was the video that had inflamed the situation.

Why would anyone do this?

Would not most people have accepted that sometimes attacks like the original 9/11 literally come out of a clear blue sky? Unfortunate, tragic, but capable of being maturely explained and accepted.

The answer of course comes from the context. it was only 56 days from the election date, the President and Mrs Clinton were running on a record encapsulated in the phrase “General Motors is still alive and Bin Laden is dead”. They were proclaiming the victory over Al Quada and this was now falsified by the attack.

A second reason is more specific to Mrs Clinton and her own political ambitions currently being pursued. The evidence showed a picture of less than due diligence towards the security needs of Ambassador Stevens.

Mrs Clinton claimed him as a personal friend, implying that she would never neglect her duties towards him, with professional obligation underpinned by personal loyalty. She referred to him as “Chris” throughout.

Yet when questioned on this, she confirmed that he did not have her private telephone number, nor her cell phone, fax number or access to her through the notorious secret private email server. Her friend had never visited her house.

In contrast, her friend Sidney Blumenthall , was not only in possession of all her contact details but, despite being declared persona non grata to the Administration by the President in direct, unambiguous terms, was in constant discussion with her and she engaged with him regularly, sometimes sending his opinion over Libya higher up the chain – after carefully redacting his identity as the source of opinions.

She knew he was not trusted, neither did he have security clearance. He had never been to Libya but did have commercial interests as an advisor there, interests he was happy to advance with her by email. He was one of her most prolific email correspondents. His views and advice was “ put into the mix” as if a credible source though she knew that had those receiving the advice known its source they would have brought a degree of scepticism to the evaluation of the weight to be attached to it.

Congresswoman Brooks graphically displayed two piles of emails, one, approximately 750 in the year before the attack, but in the second barely a hundred and fifty in the time leading up to the attack. Whilst email is not the only measure of engagement, the contrast was striking.

It became more so in relation to the plight of Mrs Clinton’s  “friend”, who was simultaneously expressing concerns about the security situation for himself and his staff, sending about 600 requests.

Mrs Clinton made two sound points; first that emails alone are not the only indicator of concern, she was, after all having meetings, telephone calls cable reports etc. Second, that there were things she did do to improve security across the region; she had more obligations than Benghazi, even if “Chris” was specifically a friend.

Where that hits a credibility problem is in relation to her staff.

Two of them, writing form the State Department Libya desk, recorded that she appeared not to know that there was a consulate in Benghazi. She denied knowledge of the memo or its authors and specifically denied knowing their names.

This is puzzling.

How many unknown parties in a large organisation would risk upsetting its head by reminding her of a significant memory lapse?

Is that not usually the role of trusted confidantes?

Further, if unknown parties had access to the private and secret email address of a Secretary of State, does that not raise increasingly worrying questions of security?

More substantial is the fact that some 600 emails from Ambassador Stevens appear to have been received by her staff ( these were only disclosed two weeks and on week before the hearing so evaluation time was truncated). Mrs Clinton says that she never received or knew of these increasingly worried pleas from the Ambassador. What does it say of the culture of the Department of which she “takes full responsibility” that such powerful pleas and indicators of concern were never thought sufficiently important for her staff to refer to her for executive consideration and decision?


We learnt that not only did the Ambassador specifically raise concern that the Consulate might have to be abandoned – again never put to her by her staff, but that as other Countries Missions, Charities, and Non Governmental Organisations pulled out, the worried Ambassador began buying cut price security apparatus to improve the security because his pleas to his Secretary of State were persistently unanswered.

Not only did Mrs Clinton laugh at this, referring to her “ friend’s ” ‘entrepreneurial spirit’, but insisted that he was making the decision to stay – he could have raised it with her if he was especially worried.

He was signaling anxiety, but these signals cut no ice with Mrs Clinton’s Staff who arguably were anxious not to break the political narrative that all was well with the Administrations policy in relation to the Arab Spring.

Is there no lesson to be learned here?

Is it not at least apparent that when staff screen out 600 pleas for help a Secretary of State in future needs to put in place procedures that such matters should be offered to him/her for risk assessment?

To put this in context, in specific answer to a question from Congressman Pompano, Mrs Clinton agreed she read every email from Sidney Blumenthall who advised and opined on Libya, having never been there, but not the many emails coming into her Department from her Ambassador in the front line,

The refrain that he was an experienced Diplomat and the best man to decide when the risk escalated to an unacceptable level may underplay the loyalty that Ambassador Stevens showed to Mrs Clinton. At times she was perilously close to asserting “ death by misadventure” – that he was “asking for it”.

If nobody knew the risks better than the Ambassador, the question begs to be asked “why did she and her staff ignore his advice that greater security was needed?”

Ambassador Stevens had 5 security men protecting him. The US had more security men defending their Embassy in Bermuda. Congressman Westmoreland from Georgia spoke with a slow Southern drawl, but one small part of his questioning was powerful.

He specifically asked Mrs Clinton about attacks on the Benghazi Consulate. She said she knew of only two, including the last fatal one. Westmoreland then pointed her to emails in which no fewer than 18 other attacks – of varying severity- were referenced. She agreed she had absolutely no knowledge of them.

We learned an important  new reason for this. Asked directly, she agreed that she could remember not a single occasion on which she spoke to her friend/Ambassador after he was appointed and sent into one of the most volatile war zones at the time,

As can be seen, far from being an “Irrelevant” political witch hunt, real new information is emerging about what happened that night, Mrs Clinoton’s Democrat colleagues desperately tried to run the “ nothing to see here” line, frequently offering criticism of the process whilst asking no specific questions.

Unfortunately for them, in a moment of unguarded candour, Mrs Clinton answered to one congresswoman that “ There are legitimate questions ……”

If this is the case – as indeed it is – why were the Democrats not attempting to ask them?

Not all legitimate questions would necessarily have been to Mrs Clinton’s detriment, yet her supporters seemed to have no faith in her ability to offer full and credible explanations of the character identified as “ legitimate” by Mrs Clinton, and chose not to risk any serious invitation to ask her explain more.

So there you have a brief resume of the principle points of the 11 hours of testimony. Only half of those hours were made up of serious questions and Mrs Clinton was not shy of giving extended answers to run down the clock.

Chairman Gowdy did not interrupt her and was scrupulously polite throughout.

Anyone can watch the entire hearing on the internet if there is any concern about Brother Ivo’s summary or interpretation.

So what did Brother Ivo learn?

Beyond the factual matters, he has come to a very depressing conclusion. Bill Clinton lied to get elected and was forgiven. Barack Obama’s election was secured partly thanks to a less than frank account of what happened in Benghazi that night; it was not an error but a strategy.

Mrs Clinton is seeking election on the back of a significant lack of transparency, resistance to accountability and plain evidence to having advanced a full narrative about the significance of the rogue video.

In Watergate, there were Nixon supporters who reluctantly came to the conclusion that however much they liked “ their man” , integrity forced them to turn away. Sadly in these three more recent scandals partisanship has triumphed. Committee Democrats bemoaned the costs of the process – $4.5m. They seemed blissfully unaware of the irony that the easier you make it for a lying politician to remain in office , the more it incentivises lying, prevarication, and subterfuge. Only by always calling out the miscreants, will you curtail waste in the future. All Secretary of State Clinton is seeing as a result of her mistakes from that time, is unqualified approbation and adulation from her side of the aisle

So reluctantly, sadly, Brother Ivo’s abiding lesson from the Behnghazi investigation is just that – cynicism pays.


P.S. As he reviewed his notes and wrote this piece, many on twitter were declaring that “nothing new” had emerged, that there was no “gotcha moment”, and even that the whole inquiry must be closed down in consequence.

This profoundly misunderstands the quasi-judicial process,

  1. Mrs Clinton had to be given an opportunity to put her side of the case – as she was with time opportunity and politeness, That is a prerequisite of a fair process,
  2. Something important has happened; her account is now fixed on oath,with no more opportunity to adjust the narrative.
  3. It can now be compared to other evidence, past and future, and any inconsistency can be identified and brought into account.

PPS Should the BBC wish to use this analysis as the basis for intelligent discussion they are more that welcome to use it to ” up their game”

Ferguson -“Its not a skin matter, its a sin matter”

When the riots began on Ferguson Missouri, we all  began to wonder what to make of it.

Brother Ivo is a huge admirer of Archbishop Justin Welby but his response goes to prove that even our best leaders can sometimes get it wrong.

Archbishop Justin tweeted an approving link to a piece from Jim Field, the President of Sojourners , a “progressive” Christian organisation. He described it as ” powerful”. It is not, it is a piece designed to advance a political narrative contrary to the facts of the case.

On the issue Brother Ivo believes that the Archbishop and Jim Field have missed the mark and were bested by a less sophisticated National Football League player for the New Orleans Saints by the name of Benjamin Watson.

Brother Ivo reproduces the two pieces and invites readers to consider who gives the better Chritian response.

Piece 1 Jim Field

Many black families woke up this morning knowing that the lives of their children are worth less than the lives of white children in America. The deep distrust of law enforcement in their own communities that so many African Americans feel just got deeper last night — 108 days since the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown — when the prosecuting attorney announced the decision not to subject the police officer who killed Brown to a trial where all the facts could be publically known and examined.
Ferguson protests Monday night. Photo by Heather Wilson / PICO
We now all have the chance to examine the evidence — released last night — in the grand jury’s decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson, who fired multiple bullets into Michael Brown. But the verdict on America’s criminal justice system is already in for many Americans: guilty, for treating young black men differently than young white men.

According to veteran prosecutors and defense attorneys, many things were unusual about the grand jury that ultimately decided not to indict Wilson. But most unusual may have been the decision to hold the news until after dark — as anxiety rose and hundreds gathered on the street. The decision was reportedly in by 2 p.m., so why did authorities wait seven hours to announce it? Why did they wait until people were off work and anxious young crowds had gathered outside police headquarters in Ferguson? Focus quickly turned from the grand jury’s decision to the response in the streets. While most protestors remained peaceful, the media naturally focused on the very unfortunate violence.

Other large questions remain. Why did prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch never mention in his long statement last night that Michael Brown was unarmed? Why did a trained police officer decide he had no other option than to shoot more bullets into Brown after he had fled their confrontation? Why did anyone have to die? Why did a prosecutor, in his long 25 minutes of explanation of why Wilson was not indicted, sound more like a defense attorney for the police officer instead of an advocate for the unarmed teenager who was shot and killed? Why were the “conflicting accounts” of the confrontation between Officer Wilson and Michael Brown not subjected to a trial? The resulting decision from the grand jury was completely foreseeable in a nation where police officers are almost never indicted for the use of deadly force — especially when it is white police officers killing black people.

It was a very sad night for America. I echo St. Louis area pastor, Rev. Traci Blackmon’s words this morning: “I hurt, I really hurt for the young people who did everything they could to be peaceful and nonviolent and to raise their voice; but the anger and rage of a few made the narrative very different this morning.” Even though most of the protests in Ferguson and around the country were peaceful, it was painful to watch President Obama speaking to the nation on a split screen with scenes of violent protest in Ferguson. In his powerful speech, the president spoke the truth when he said, “We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson; this is an issue for America.” He also reminded the nation of the recent words of Michael Brown Sr., the dead boy’s dad, words that have touched many of us so deeply.

The dad who lost his son said, “Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.”

It’s time for us all to honor the wishes of Michael Brown’s father and mother. Whatever the facts might have revealed in the trial that will never happen, the time is long overdue to subject our criminal justice system to the requirements of racial justice. The racialization of that system and its policing behavior toward people of color is beyond dispute. The police force in Ferguson that is completely unrepresentative of the community and whose behavior has caused such deep alienation among the people they are supposed to serve and protect has become a parable. Ferguson has become a parable in America, for how black lives are less important in the ways our laws are enforced. Ferguson is not only in Ferguson.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the nation’s apostle of nonviolence, once said: ”a riot is the language of the unheard.” He also showed us that only disciplined, sacrificial, and nonviolent social movements can change things.

It is time to right the unacceptable wrong of black lives being worth less than white lives in our criminal justice system. The broken relationships between law enforcement officials and their communities are deeply felt and very real.

How law enforcement interacts with communities of color raises fundamental, legitimate issues that must be addressed by the whole nation if we are to move forward. The changes we need in both policies and practices must now be taken up in detail. Our neglect has led to anger and hopelessness in a new generation, but their activism will also help lead us to new places. It is indeed time to turn Ferguson from a moment to a movement, and Michael Brown’s life and death must not be allowed to be in vain.

Piece 2

Benjamin Watson

25 November at 18:00 ·
At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

You can decide whether the better leadership is being offered by Jim Field or Bengamin Watson, who has incidentally received significant abuse for his ” controversial” piece.

Since Benjamin Watson wrote we know more.

Brother Ivo is not one to step away from controversy, and regrets that the media have not put into the public domain a number of significant facts which have come out of the Grand Jury decision. Facts matter.

Michael Brown was not exactly an innocent adolescent but a huge and powerful young man – 80lb heavier than the not insubstantial police officer. He was willing and able to use that size to dominate the weak and exhibited an attitude that made that plain. He identified with gang culture.

The police Officer Darren Wilson, had never fired his weapon at a suspect before.

Michael Brown was capable of killing the officer and attempted to kill the officer, once with his fists and once by turning the officer’s gun on him.

Michael Brown had robbed a store earlier that evening and was filmed on CCTV using his size to brush aside the slight Pakistani store clerk’s protestation as he he suffered the crime.

Michael Brown and his accomplice Dorrien Johnson were correctly identified by the officer as the offenders, Michael Brown was carrying the stolen property and declined to stop when located 10 minutes later, walking down the middle of the street. He swore at the officer as he refused to step to move to the sidewalk for questioning.

In the course of the initial altercation the officer was punched twice in the face with the intent to cause serious harm. Those injuries were recorded and photographed immediately afterwards. People can and do get killed by punches to the head; having “ridden” and survived two such blows, whilst seated and contained in his car, the officer was reasonable to fear for his life at the hands of such an assailant, and doubted his ability to survive continuing blows. Under fear for his life, a person is lawfully permitted to use lethal force to stop the attack.

He was accordingly fully entitled in law to draw his weapon but Michael Brown reached into the car and attempted to take control of the weapon and turn it against the officer. In the struggle the gun failed to fire on two occasions adding to the officers anxiety, but a shot fired in the car, injured Michael Brown in the hand. It did not deter his determination to act in an un-constrained manner.

Michael Brown walked away but when the officer followed, in accordance with his duty to arrest the suspect, he turned and charged at the officer from a few feet away, and was shot as he did so. that renewed attack also entitled lethal force to be employed.

All the forensic evidence, including three autopsy reports, was consistent with the account given by the officer, who did not avail himself of the right to refuse to attend the Grand Jury or, once there, to remain silent before the Grand Jury under the 5th Ammendment, but submitted himself to questioning for four hours by the jury without having a lawyer present to protect his interests. The jury received considerable evidence, including eye witnesses and found the few that blamed the officer not to be consistent with each other or the forensic evidence, and not to be creditable. It is qualitatively no different from the decision made by Lord Justice Mitting against Andrew Mitchell, except they were the very people policed by Darren Wilson and threatened by Michael Brown and his accomplice.

The threshold of proof before a Grand Jury is very low: the mixed race jury heard all the evidence and decided there was no basis to suspect illegality on the part of the officer. The officer is entitled not to be drawn through lengthy and stressful prosecution if there is no proper case against him. We ought to support justice for all.

The riots that followed Mr Brown’s step father’s repeated call to “Burn this bitch down” paid every regard to a preconceived false narrative of victimhood, and none to the facts of the case.

Looters are not “the community”. Martin Luther King never fomented a riot. There may be many cases of injustice by police towards black citizens. This case is not it .

There is one story of hope emerging out of these dreadful circumstances.

A young black woman Natalie Dubose had her bakery store burned out by rioters: she was a wholly innocent party. She had sold cakes in the local market, saved her money and eventually been able to buy a store whilst supporting her two children. She was pictured weeping in the wreckage. She had done the right thing, worked hard following her American Dream only to have it destroyed but someone
Protesting his “civil rights” whilst violating hers.

Within days, money began to arrived from all over America. People of all races were moved by her plight, and the donations quickly topped $250k. For all the talk of a racially divided nation, one is minded to recall the words of Bill Clinton that ” there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be solved by what is right in America.”

The generosity was as colour blind as the jury verdict.

It is truly is “not a skin problem but a sin problem”.



copyright getty images

Few people have been more defined by a single life event than Monica Lewinski. The mere mention of her surname will take millions from a certain generation, back to a scandal that is now many years old, and as somebody said on the radio this morning, her affair with Bill Cliento will be the first paragraph of her obituary, even if she discovered a cure for cancer tomorrow.

She seems to have come through it and we should be pleased for her. She is not the first person to have had a work place affair and will certainly not be the last. She appears to have accepted responsibility for that misjudgement and refused the easy embracing of the label that she as a victim of the charisma of a more powerful man. She has shown greater maturity than others involved.

What was the real scandal of those distant events is the way that she was fought over by the political establishments like dogs over a bone. The one faction knew that Bill Clinton was a philanderer and a liar and wished to pressurise her to confirm the truth. The other faction was even worse. They too, knew Bill Clinton was a philanderer and a liar and they went all out to crush Miss Lewinski – and Paula Jones, and Gennifer Flowers, and Juanita Broderick, calling them all liars, greedy opportunists, and a whole lot more

It is worth remembering the context of that scandal.

Paula Jones had alleged that when Bill Clinton was State Governor, he had treated her disrespectfully and sought to use her for a casual sexual encounter which she had done nothing to encourage. The whole of Arkansas’ political establishment and press core knew that such behaviour was entirely in keeping with his behaviour towards women and yet when the humble Miss Jones would not accept it and sought an apology, the whole weight of the Democratic machine came down upon her. She stood her ground, eventually getting a financial settlement – though no apology – and many other women were silenced by such public humiliation of a young powerless woman.

It was the indisputable DNA evidence on “that dress” which compelled the President to admit that he had lied on Oath about his relationship with Miss Lewinski. As a result of his behaviour, he was disbarred as a lawyer and no Supreme Court Justice attended his second inauguration.

It seems extraordinary that he was not compelled to resign the Presidency as Richard Nixon was once compelled. Nixon had been implicated in covering up the bugging of his opponents campaign office at Watergate. President Obama has authorised the eavesdropping of every digital communication and survived; how times have changed.

What was perhaps the most shocking part of the treatment of Miss Lewinski and the other women , however, was the overt misogyny that was applied against these relatively powerless women.

James Carville, the Clinton’s campaign director jeered that you could drag a $100 note through every trailer park in the South and women would follow eager to make similar accusations. Hilary Clinton made a decisive intervention on her husband’s behalf asserting  that Bill Clinton was not a serial sexual predator upon younger women and that these women were lying. They exploited the prejudices against poor women – “trailer trash” – and sought to taint the rather more socially elevated Miss Lewinski with the same brush. Like every rapist they tried to discredit the victim and thereby compounded the hurt.

Hilary Clinton knew all this to be patently and that her husbands discreditable defence was false. She was utterly complicit in the cover up.

Similarly, virtually the entire feminist establishment rallied behind the President and against the women who told the truth. They failed to call out the chauvinism, the exploiters and the deceivers.

Brother Ivo is not here to cast the first stone. Yet he cannot help but remind folks of these truths when the matters come back into the public arena.

Next year there is every likelihood that Hillary Clinton will run for the Presidency. Before she does so, she ought to repent of her part in the abuse of Miss Lewinski and the others. She should instruct all her supporters to lay aside their favoured hashtag #waronwomen which they deploy without any sense of irony against opponents who are nothing but pro-life.

It will be interesting to see how the BBC handles these matters and whether, on its “comedy” news reviews, Mrs Clinton receives one tenth of the disrespect minor UKIP Councillors receive when they are similarly caught out.

There was no more focussed campaign against the feminist ideals of equality and respect than the Clinton conspiracy to silence Bill Clinton’s “conquests”.

There has been a consistent – and by no means unjustified -campaign to force the Catholic Church to own its part in the exploitation and covering up of child abuse by its officers. The same logic should apply to the Democratic Party before Mrs Clinton asks for the trust of the American people.

Until she does so, she remains every bit as tainted as the Church officers and representatives who encouraged the cover up or allowed guilty men to retain the veneer of respectability whilst the victims suffered injustice in silence.

It is time for the Clinton Democrats to repent their #waronwomen.

Ukraine – “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call who will get ready for battle?”

obama and putin

Brother Ivo has surely not been alone in his response to the news stream from Ukraine. He has veered between anger, frustration, and no little fear for the people of that country, who relied upon western promises of protection as they undertook significant disarmament to appease their Russian neighbour, which they agreed to do as part of the price of moving away from the sphere of influence of their former Soviet compatriots.

Now they are fearful of how far Russia will go to reassert its hegemony in the region, and their insecurity has inevitably been compounded by a clear realisation that the West has displayed uncertainty and weakness.

During the course of last week we heard Germany disinclined to invoke sanctions relating to Russian energy and the UK refusing to deny them financial services. The EU “Foreign Minister” Cathy Ashton has demonstrated a complete waste of her £400,000 salary by calling an “emergency meeting”- for Monday morning. It has not yet occurred.

No wonder some wag on Twitter suggested that the worst the West was prepared to do it is dock 10 points from Chelsea’s Premier League campaign.

Our discomfort is nowhere near as acute as the citizens of that country, and yet we too are fearful. We remember that this is the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War when a series of promises, treaties, and misjudgements in such a region precipitated a holocaust.

A generation that has never lived under the threat of the Cold War is learning that there was a reason some of us promote the teaching of history in our schools; those who do not learn from history truly are condemned to repeat it.

We have yet to hear from the UK “Peace Movement”: some are talking of leaving Ukraineans to their fate, doubtless in ignorance of a former time when we turned our back on a ” faraway country of which we know nothing”. For readers who do not recall that phase- it did not turn out well.

Such sentiments are however tinged with a sense of guilt. We are learning the wisdom of Roger Srutton that the default position of humanity is not one of rational tolerant democracy but tyranny, and whenever institutions break down, there is great danger to the society that suffers it. Worse, it sucks other countries into the dispute and uncertain consequences then happen.

We should never have got here and would not in times of earlier clearer thinking leadership.

Ukraine is a country whose component peoples lack the cohesion of older countries like the UK where Scots, Welsh, Irish and English have centuries of commonality to hold them together, even as some try to weaken the bonds.

Ukrainian institutions lacked the deep roots of our own as the brawling in its Parliament demonstrates. If the crisis teaches us nothing else, respect for and the need to value our own stable cultural institutions, however imperfect must surely be at the top of the list.

The situation is made worse because so much of the ideology of western progressives is being shown to be inadequate to the challenge.

President Putin may have parotted the need for United Nations support for any interventions in other countries during the debates over Iraq or Syria, but he has shown beyond doubt that  faith in the UN is nonsensical. That institution is a busted flush when the big players perceive their vital interests to be threatened. Russia and China will veto any UN action: they always do and they always will.

Advocating recourse to the UN and “International Law” truly is to engage in the “science of imaginary solutions”.

If ever a crisis called for a strong leader of the West, this was it, and the PR stunt which is the Presidency of Barack Obama is certainly not that.

Reuter’s White House Reporter reported that the Leader of the Western World did not even attend the White House briefing on the crisis as it unfolded last Friday but received an account of it from his National Security Advisor Susan Rice. This leads to a simple serious question.

What exactly was he doing that was a greater priority in these dangerous times? Date night with Michelle?

Whatever one thinks of any of his predecessors, one cannot concieve of any of them being so lazy, cavalier and ineffectual. The Illinois Senator who routinely preserved a record of abstention before his Presidential run by simply and consistently  voting “present”, has continued that practice by absenting himself on vital occasions. We do not know what he was doing on the night the unprotected Benghazi compound was stormed and its Ambassador killed and we do not know what he was up to as this crisis unfolded.

A President is supposed to be present, and this one is not, intellectually or apparently, physically.

The UK Prime Minister has been no more effective either in restraining the Russian President or assuring his electorate that a robust response would be forthcoming. Today we learn that a Government adviser has been photographed imprudently carrying a briefing document into Downing Street which revealed a distinct lack of robustness. One hopes that was inadvertence and not the triumph of “management of expectation” over principle.

As readers might deduce from this, Brother Ivo had joined the majority of folk in concluding that our leaders are either uncertain or that they have decided there is nothing to be done save a few diplomatic niceties.

It was thus with considerable relief that Brother Ivo came across  proposals of US Senator Marco Rubio.

Whilst all the major western politicians seem to have have failed the test of leadership, Sen Rubio has published a list of 8 specific proposals which would represent a series of robust peaceful practical measures to exact a price from the aggressors and form the basis upon which “normalisation” would thereafter be negotiated.

Normally Brother Ivo would post a link but it is so important to make them available that he reproduces them with full attribution.

We need to publish the fact that some are thinking intelligently.

Here is what Sen Rubio proposed in Politico Magazine on Saturday.

8 Steps Obama Must Take to Punish Russia


Russia’s illegal military incursion in the Crimea region in Ukraine is a grave violation of a nation’s sovereignty and cannot go unpunished.

First, President Obama should speak unequivocally and call this what it is: a military invasion. The Obama administration must publicly acknowledge that its “reset” with Russia is dead. The president must now accept that the only way to deal with tyrants like Vladimir Putin is with a clear understanding that they can’t be trusted and that only decisive action will deter their provocative moves.

Second, President Obama should dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Kiev to show U.S. support for Ukraine’s transitional government, and urge our allies in the European Union and NATO to send representatives there as well. The United States should convene an emergency meeting of NATO to develop a strong united response from the trans-Atlantic alliance. And we should send high-level delegations to our allies in Central and Eastern Europe to reinforce the fact that we are standing by them. As part of this work with our allies, we should develop a series of economic and security assurance measures to help the transitional government in Kiev remain stable and carry out a democratic transition.

Third, the United States should rally our allies to boycott this June’s G-8 summit in Sochi, Russia. And if Russian troops do not leave Ukraine immediately, Russia should be expelled from this group altogether.

Fourth, any and all discussions and negotiations with Moscow on any issue unrelated to this crisis, including trade and other matters, should be immediately suspended.

Fifth, the U.S. and our allies should put forward a condemnatory resolution in the United Nations Security Council. A Russian or Chinese veto would make clear to the world the hypocrisy of these governments, since they say they oppose foreign intervention into the affairs of sovereign countries—unless of course they are the ones intervening.

Sixth, we should renew a push for eventual membership in NATO by the Republic of Georgia and aim to provide the country with some of the defensive capabilities the Georgians have requested ever since they were invaded by Russia in 2008.

Seventh, the Obama administration should immediately add more Russian officials to the Magnitsky list, which places travel bans and other sanctions on them – something President Obama failed to do in December. Living in Miami, I have seen in recent years the wave of Russian tourists coming to our city and state to spend money and buy property. Many are government officials or allies whose wealth stems from allegiance to Putin, and we should limit their ability to travel here.

Finally, in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid should immediately halt his effort to force a Senate vote on Rose Gottemoeller next week to be under secretary of state for arms control and international security. As I, Sens. John Cornyn and Jim Risch said yesterday, we shouldn’t even be thinking about arms-control negotiations with Russia anytime soon. And especially not negotiations led by a State Department official, such as Ms. Gottemoeller, who has tried to play down and potentially kept information from Congress and our allies about Russian violations of arms-control agreements.

This is a critical moment in world history. The credibility of the alliances and security assurances that have preserved the international order is at stake. If Putin’s illegal actions are allowed to stand unpunished, it will usher in a dark and dangerous era in world affairs.

Read more:

Brother Ivo holds no specific brief for Sen Rubio, yet warms to him for simply offering hope of confident and competent leadership when so many others seemed to be faffing around. He has subsequently made clear that he does not envisage military intervention.

One cannot help but think that if such clarity of thought had been displayed at the start of the crisis, President Putin might have considered riding his horse off into the sunset instead of seeking to exercise power in the face of western weak leadership.

Coupled with Sarah Palin’s reminder that she and Mitch Romney were mocked when she predicted this danger, and Douglas Carswell’s  that he warned of Europe being too dependant on Russian Ukranian oil, it seems to have been a better week for those of a more conservative mind.

What next after the Grammy Wedding?


The writer and playwright Alan Bennett has written simply and touchingly of the marriage of his parents Walter and Lilain in the early hours of the morning in a Leeds church with only the vicar and witnesses present.

Walter was a butcher at the local Co-op, and when he requested time off so that he could be married, it was refused; the only way forward was for him to secure a 15 minute leave of absence so that the principle part of the service could be undertaken early and the pronouncement of the marriage lawfully declared immediately at 8 o’clock, giving Walter just enough time to kiss hiss bride, and jump on his bicycle to arrive in the shop just before his leave of absence expired.

Notwithstanding the time constraints, Walter and Lillian would have heard the full majesty of the opening lines of the Marriage Ceremony, lines which their famous son came to love, as he later became a significant member of the Prayer Book Society

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace.

Walter and Lillian’s marriage lasted a lifetime.

Brother Ivo could not help but bring the simple integrity of this story to mind as he awoke to learn of the “ mass wedding” which occurred live on television during last nights Grammy Awards, when 34 couples, some gay, some straight, were brought into marital union by a rap singer, Queen Latifah, who had been temporarily appointed as a Marriage Commissioner for the occasion.

The couples had been recruited by a casting agency and sworn to secrecy so that their families and friends knew nothing about it until they were shuffled into the television schedule, so that a bunch of self regarding celebrities might preen and offer themselves congratulations at their liberal outlook and ground breaking innovation.

The President of the Recording Academy said “I think it was as elegant and meaningful and powerful as we wanted it to be”.

Well, in the country of the Elvis impersonator Wedding Chapel, one supposes that this passes for “elegant and meaningful”, although in future one wonders whether those who were brought in as extras for this purpose will still look back on it in that way.

Brother Ivo wondered what might have happened had someone smuggled a canine pair into the proceedings and whether anyone might have raised an objection that this was a step too far in demeaning the solemnity of the occasion or would that, too have been welcomed in as evidence of progressive thinking.

Brother Ivo specifically makes clear that whilst he did not and does not support the redefinition of marriage, his criticism of this event stands independent of that debate which has been resolved and is settled law. He should also clarify that he is one of a minority of participants in the debate who does respect gay Civil Partnerships and has actually cast a vote in favour of such unions being blessed within an appropriately structured Anglican Service.

His problem with last night event centres upon seriousness, an aspect that eluded the imagineers of last night’s events, who evidently think that nothing says “reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly,”  like a wedding, shoehorned into an awards ceremony, in the absence of all who love and care for you, conducted by a here today gone tomorrow “Minister’ who gave you no preparation and would pass you in the street tomorrow without a flicker of recognition – except they are all to grand to walk the streets that you frequent ( they have people who do that sort of thing for them).

So what next year?

What could possibly top this year’s extravagant celebration of all the great things Liberalism stands for?

Brother Ivo has an even more  ground breaking suggestion.

Why not have an even more “edgy” celebration of a Constitutional Right which these Hollywood/Music Industry folk have fought to establish and extend for years.

It is a Constitutional Right, the reality of which has never been shown on television before. It will change hearts and minds in ways that this one could only dream about.

It is a right which their liberal President has repeatedly supported and one which they will doubtless be very proud to have “ out there”, “in your face” and “loud”. If you don’t like it “Deal with it!”>

Next year, lets show and celebrate live on screen for all to see , the world’s first celebrity partial birth abortion.

Redefined Religion is but the latest unintended consequence of the Equality Act


The Supreme Court has chosen to change the Law and declare the Church of Scientology an officially recognised religion for the purposes of conducting marriages at their premises. The decision will inevitably have wider implications because of the fiscal consequences relating to the tax treatment of premises of religion. The Church will now also enjoy access to charitable status and protection under the law against religious discrimination.

Where this new church leads, others will follow, and it is not special pleading from an adherent of an established faith, to observe that when legal privileges and immunities are extended, they may also become diluted. Some,  who may be tolerated as a small acceptable exception in restricted cases,  may eventually find that an extension of a legal class moves it towards a tipping point, at which agitation begins to abolish the special status privilege or immunity altogether.

One senses that would not bother the members of the Supreme Court much.

Archbishop Cranmer has comprehensively explained and analysed the implications of the case: if readers are not yet au fait with the detail of the matter they can catch up  here

His Grace  illustrates Brother Ivo’s fears for the future by exploring how badly the Labour Party predicted the implications of its Equality legislation when it declared in answer to a direct question on the subject stating that hat nothing it was enacting would result in an alteration to the business rates which exempts churches. It did and it will.

This single piece of legislation has had more unintended consequences than any other and it has not finished yet.

What the supporters of the legislation did not say, or did not understand, was that by the Act which they were promoting, they were elevating the Judiciary – ultimately the Supreme Court – to become unelected co-legislators by placing in their hands a set of principles that carried latent within it the opportunity to make decisions relating to age old practices, institutions, and understandings, without having the inconvenience of ever consulting the public. What could possibly go wrong?

Law has always been interpreted by Judges, and there has been a long discourse in academic circles about the extent to which Judicial discretions might be stretched before infringing the important bulwark of British liberty, the separation of powers.

We paid lip service to that doctrine when we effectively demoted the ancient office of Lord Chancellor to become a rather dowdy Minister of Justice,  and appointed a series of hang dog second raters who would never have graced the woolsack in better times. We did so because the ancient office embodied in the single person of the Lord Chancellor, a member of the Government. the Speakership of the Upper House, and the most senior of Judges. He infringed the separation doctrine so he had to go. It was not appreciated how complex that was, either.

We have since endowed the Supreme Court with the powers to legislate with few having noticed that this is in itself problematic.

 In the days of clearer jurisprudence, the rules of statutory interpretation , were developed to delimit the extent to which which judges might employ their creative legislative power.

When those discretions were exercised within  the primacy of the Common Law tradition, the interpretations and adjustments were very Anglo-centric, constantly referencing English traditions, customs, attitudes and concepts of fairness. Why anyone should have regarded this as problematic is not understood by Brother Ivo.

The influence of English culture, law and constitutional tradition has spread beyond its shores and even when it was initially imposed colonially, the intrinsic values of the English ways were recognised and accepted long after the Empire and Commonwealth receded. It is no accident that so many of the safest and comfortable so places in the world in which to live, fall under the “Anglo-sphere” description.

By its Scientology decision, however, the Court  has stepped away from its Anglo-heritage and embraced the more European tradition.

Instead of interpreting the law from and within its Anglo-cultural context, it turned to the “Enlightenment” tradition of thinking things through from first “rational” principles.

Brother Ivo deliberately began his piece by describing the decision of the Court as a choice. It plainly was. There was nothing which compelled the Court to change the law. It could easily have re-affirmed the existing law and retained the requirements which previously needed to be met to qualify for religious status. These had been defined by Lord Denning in an earlier decision which laid down that an important feature of a religion was belief in a Supreme Being.

“Turning to the creed of the Church of Scientology, I must say that it seems to me to be more a philosophy of the existence of man or of life, rather than a religion. Religious worship means reverence or veneration of God or of a Supreme Being. I do not find any such reverence or veneration in the creed of this church. … When I look through the ceremonies and the affidavits, I am left with the feeling that there is nothing in it of reverence for God or a deity, but simply instruction in a philosophy. There may be belief in a spirit of man, but there is no belief in a spirit of God.”

Plainly our Supreme Court prioritises abstract “Equality” over culturally derived ways of doing things, however pragmatically successful most of us might judge those ways to be. It must also be said that the English culture has not proved so offensive that others have been dissuaded from coming and settling within it the better  to enjoy the benefits of  tolerant values found here.

There have been many fugitives from “rational” legal systems reasoned from abstract principles, but by and large, there is a paucity of evidence of outraged victims fleeing the oppressive judicial values of the Anglo-sphere.

There has always been a steady stream fleeing from the “enlightened” “rational” laws of the  French and Russian revolutions and we still see  modern examples of legal and political systems “reasoned” by radicals.  Many victims of inhumane “reason” have sought the protection of “irrational” British cultural decency, and still they come from the sympathetic dissident to the worst religions zealot and war criminal.

Why we should be so keen to jettison the principles that might regulate such entries, in favour of  “modern rationalities” that admit them seems absurd, but Brother Ivo digresses.

The Scientology case is but part of a juristic trend that seems to be advancing without much popular thought being given to it.

Do we want our Judges to legislate?

How far should we let them go?

Is it right that there should be a class of legislator who can not only delay change ( which is all our House of Lords can effectively do) but actively initiate it?

The Scientology case was fought out partly with an eye upon the fiscal consequences. His Grace highlights that this was the subtext of the dispute. Are we happy to have legislators who have no interest or accountability when they make law or enact policy change with massive fiscal implications?

When the Court attacked the Government policy of imprisoning dangerous men whom the Court would not deport, the Judges were able to only substitute its judgement for that of the elected Parliament, but also to impose the costs of a 24 hour surveillance exercise without giving a moments thought to the economies that might have to be made elsewhere.

Are we comfortable with this?

This is not of course a purely British phenomenon. In the US Supreme Court Judges have been very activist. They drove some of the Civil Rights reforms  but also tortured the Constitution to declare abortion to have been in the minds of the founding fathers when they drafted it. We all know that that those founding fathers would have considered it a crime against God and humanity, but the sophisticated jurist is comfortable with “legal fictions ” of this kind.

The consequences of that decision is that America has been cursed with culture wars for over 50 years thereafter. Whatever one thinks of the issue, the British way of legislating it openly and properly.  settled it quickly,  whereas by taking the US route of judicial activism, much social division resulted.

This should be an awful warning to us.

Our Supreme Court judges appear wish to emulate their US counterparts and have adopted both the name and the penchant for group photographs. If they do see themselves in such a light,  then surely they must accept the US corollary of submitting themselves, their records, their attitudes, their politics and and their beliefs to public confirmation sessions conducted in Parliament.

If Brother Ivo is to be subjected to laws enacted by an unelected and unaccountable coterie of judicial legislators , he wants us all to know exactly what kind of person they are and what we are letting ourselves in for before they are appointed.