If the Labour Party, currently headed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, thought it had been politically nice during its past decade plus in power, five of the most senior gentleman Anglican Bishops in England just laid that ungodly idea to rest.
Three days after Christmas, in an historically unprecedented – decidedly non-goodwill – gesture, the five dismayed Bishops (each in separate but precisely synchronized statements delivered to The Telegraph newspaper) declared that the Labour Party had not only been naughty, it had been found guilty of transplanting a moral vacuum where the heart of the United Kingdom once beat. Casting themselves in the role of post-modern wise men, (or perhaps the ghosts of Christmas Present) were the Bishops from Carlisle, Durham, Hulme, Manchester, and Winchester respectively.
The Bishop of Manchester accused Labour of being “beguiled by money.” The Bishop of Hulme said Labour was “morally suspect.” The Bishop of Winchester (yes, there is a Winchester Cathedral a dodeodoe) and the Bishop of Carlisle claimed that Labour had “squandered their opportunity to transform society and had run out of steam.” Tom Wright of Durham said the government had not done enough to help the poor.
These were not tidings of comfort and joy to Labour MPs (Members of Parliament) and the statements evoked some less than seasonal greetings from the halls of government. One crotchety MP suggested the Bishops had been imbibing too much traditional holiday mulled wine. Likewise, Prime Minster Brown was said to be furious rather than full of Christmas cheer.
The citizens of the earthly kingdom were asked to contemplate: Was this current catastrophe a sign that they were to return to an Upstairs Downstairs scenario? Or was this to be the next Great Depression — or worse — The Age of Dickens Redux?
The Bishops blamed the financial magi for keeping the gifts of gold for themselves, using the incense for the smoke value, while the humble folk had been enticed into a flock of debt and were now left sheepishly bankrupt. Alas, that image does not wash. Years ago, when he was the head of the Treasury under Tony Blair, Gordon Brown sold off most of the nation’s gold when it had all but bottomed out in price. Billions disappeared then, too.
So now it had all come down to One Holy financial Nightmare, lamented the five Bishops. Rather than heralding a new age of socially redeeming consciousness and public services, the Bishops characterized Labour as the new Herod & Co. The Party was nothing more than a self-serving lot which had reneged on its promises. This had resulted in a nation of broken families (the slaying of the first born to be substituted by abortions) and a burgeoning divide between the rich and the poor. The system had been distorted, the wise Five wailed. It was all the fault of politicians, they sang in chorus.
Yes, as if they were a single voice from on high, the Bishops said that “Nu Labour” had sacrificed the principles of Old Labour (take from the rich and give to the poor and do whatever the Unions ask of you) for the sake of votes. While promising a humanitarian future, Nu Labour had delivered, instead of aspirations, a message of hopelessness. Money and jobs had or were vanishing. Pensions funds had disappeared. The National Health Service was as screwed up as ever, and yet the tabloids continued to lift up the exploits of the rich and famous as if nothing had or ever could touch them. Every one was watching reality TV despite a warning from the ever-amusing Archbishop of Canterbury (the week before Christmas) that we should not wait for a super hero to save us. Yeah verily. Some dared to think he was talking about Obama…. And others wondered if he was referring to the Christ child…
But as one editorialist exclaimed: “ Nobody apart from a handful of deranged free-marketeers – who yearn for a return to the brutality of the Victorian era — are opposed to state benefits.” The December 30th issue of the Daily Mail (for example) exclaimed: “The welfare system is testimony to our caring society, but politicians have turned it into a monster that is slowly destroying Britain.” This referred to the most recent government figures indicating that 140,000 households were drawing down £20,000 a year (or more) in “handouts,” a sum which is more than the take-home pay of many average workers.
Half of all working women in the UK earn less than £21,424 a year and one in ten full time employees lives on less than £13,613 before tax. Prisoners are receiving cash payments along with early releases from jail. A family of seven was just found to be living in a £2.6 million (government subsidized) house in a ritzy part of town at taxpayer expense. FYI – all state benefits are tax free. Tracing back the historical record belies the charges of latter day piracy and corruption. All roads seem to lead to a gradual transition from the creation of a social safety net to a system known here as “the dole,” a network of government programs which are like drugs. They get people hooked on freebies and then wonder at the rising cost of these addictions to the productive members of society. Those who can create jobs and lift all the boats are left feeling like enablers.
Enter the religious factor. There is a growing movement afoot to disestablish the Church of England from the monarchy and the government structure over which the Queen very loosely reigns. The Bishops who decry the disintegration of family units are also the first to be found on the front lines of the fight for multi-cultural sensitivity and a blanket theology of situational ethics which makes a hash of the Christian principles they are supposed to represent.
All the preaching these five Bishops have done appears to be less like angelic hosts serving up the good news and more of an academic committee revisiting the same old economic and theological punchbowl. The cup which no longeth runneth over – as they see it – serves to prove the incompatibility of Christianity and capitalism. The twist of modernity in this recipe is that the Big UK Five have spiked their temporal brew with a smidgeon of Gordon Gecko and called it Brown.
The sorry part is that David Cameron, leader of the conservative (Tory) Party, played into the Bishops’ hands. He chimed in with the Bishops, proclaiming that England’s current precarious position – poised as it is on the verge of bankruptcy – was going to become the political epitaph of Gordon Brown. He did not deflect any of the explicit or implicit attacks on Margaret Thatcher’s policies (which are becoming reflex ammo lobbed adhoc by the left), nor did he say anything particularly bold (except a mild promise to lower some taxes). Worse, by the end of the week he was alluding to Gaza and accused Gordon Brown of lobbing bombs on the economy. The man is obviously a member of the Metaphor of the week club. This does not bode well for a man who might find himself trying to lead the United Kingdom out of one of the most troubled times in its history. Where are the REAL wise men. Or women?
Postscript: The December 31st edition of the Evening Standard carries a bold type headline quote from Boris Johnson, London’s slightly wacky somewhat conservative Mayor. It reads: 2009 Could Be A Year of Hope. To paraphrase the President-elect, “Yes, it could.”