And in the Guardian, Tim Dowling gives a blow-by-blow account of Brown’s first 100 minutes in power:
2.50pm The BBC reports that Brown's car is making "slow progress" towards Downing Street. Does this send out the right message?
2.50pm The BBC reports that Brown's car is making "slow progress" towards Downing Street. Does this send out the right message?
Labour leader Gordon Brown is the UK's new prime minister after being asked to form a government by the Queen.
"Although you have many positive qualities you have three, superficiality, unreliability and an apparent lack of any clear convictions, which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership to which you aspire and which it is the presumed purpose of the Conservative Party to achieve.
"Believing that as I do, I clearly cannot honestly remain in the party. I do not intend to leave public life."
Mr Davies said he had "found increasingly I am naturally in agreement" with the Labour Party and praised Mr Brown as "a leader I have always greatly admired, who I believe is entirely straightforward, and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which I fully share".
You are the first leader of the Conservative Party who (for different reasons) will not be received either by the President of the United States, or by the Chancellor of Germany (up to, and very much including, Iain Duncan Smith every one of your predecessors was most welcome both in the White House and in all the chancelleries of Europe).
It is fair to say that you have so far made a shambles of your foreign policy, and that would be a great handicap to you - and, more seriously, to the country - if you ever came to power.
One day in January, I think a Wednesday or Thursday, you and George Osborne discovered that Gordon Brown was to make a speech on the environment the following Monday.
You wished to pre-empt him. So without any consultation with anyone - experts, think tanks, the industry, even the Shadow Cabinet - you announced an airline or flight tax…
The PR pressures had overridden any considerations of economic rationality or national interest, or even what would have been to others normal businesslike prudence.
You regularly (I think on a pre-arranged PR grid or timetable) make apparent policy statements which are then revealed to have no intended content at all. They appear to be made merely to strike a pose, to contribute to an image.
The MP for Grantham and Stamford, made his decision public in a letter to Conservative leader David Cameron.
He wrote that under Mr Cameron the party "appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything".
"It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda."
Opinion and fact should be clearly divisible. The truth is, a large part of the media today not merely elides the two but does so now as a matter of course. In other words, this is not exceptional. It is routine. The metaphor for this genre of modern journalism is The Independent newspaper.
the need to interpret and comment upon the official version of events is more important than ever. And we are confident that our readers can differentiate between news and opinion.
An astonishing confidential document… proves that Tony Blair planned to sack Mr Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer immediately after the last election.
The Cabinet Office document… shows that… the Prime Minister… planned to scupper his [Brown’s] career and break up the Treasury just two years ago.
The top-secret paper confirms talk at Westminster that Mr Blair intended to sack Mr Brown after the 2005 election and move him to another post to loosen his control over the domestic agenda.
The paper was prepared by a trusted team of advisers in the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, in close co-operation with John Birt and the Economic and Domestic Secretariat in the Cabinet Office…
Downing Street sources have told The Independent on Sunday that Mr Blair wanted to be kept closely informed of its work and watched presentations of the plans as they developed. As proof of how closely involved Tony Blair was, The Independent on Sunday has seen the Prime Minister's own personal copy, drafted for him in March 2005, weeks before the election.
It proposes boosting the role of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who would head a new Office of Delivery and Expenditure within the Treasury, which would be responsible for public service delivery and control of spending. …
The proposals suggest that Mr Brown was to be kept in the dark about the changes afoot, while his own civil servants would be asked to work on the plans without telling him.
"There were all sorts of presentations to the Prime Minister. He was definitely aware this was going on - he wanted it. There was a big thing about how Mr Blair was going to make a big comeback after the election. His basic command was 'I want to refresh my government'. It was about Mr Blair being so sick of the in-fighting with Brown," said one source.
The revelations will shock Labour Party delegates assembling in Manchester for the formal announcement of Mr Brown's succession as Labour leader.
Khan may have felt indignant about western foreign policy, as many anti-war campaigners do, but that wasn't the reason he led a cell of young men to kill themselves and 52 London commuters. At the heart of this tragedy is a conflict between the first and subsequent generations of British Pakistanis—with many young people using Islamism as a kind of liberation theology to assert their right to choose how to live. It is a conflict between tradition and individuality, culture and religion, tribalism and universalism, passivity and action.
In an ordinary crime, how does one defend the accused? One calls up witnesses to prove his innocence. But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime, is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other. Now we cannot hope the witch will accuse herself; granted? Therefore, we must rely upon her victims – and they do testify, the children certainly do testify.
- Deputy Governor Danforth, The Crucible, act III.
Many faiths and ideologies achieve and maintain their predominance partly through fear. They, of course, would call it “respect”. But whatever you call it, it intimidates. The reverence, the awe — even the dread — that their gods, their KGB or their priesthoods demand and inspire among the laity are vital to the authority they wield.
Against reverence and awe the best argument is sometimes not logic, but mockery. Structures of oppression that may not be susceptible to rational debate may in the end yield to derision. When people see that a priest, rabbi, imam or uniformed official may be giggled at without lightning striking the impertinent, arguments may be won on a deeper level than logic.
So you’re offended. So fucking what?
The failures of the UN secretariat in responding to the Darfur catastrophe are among the many signs that the international body remains incapable of responding to crises that entail confronting sovereign nations engaged in genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
…almost 10 months after UN security council resolution 1706 authorised "rapid" deployment of a force of 22,500 civilian police and troops with a robust mandate to protect civilians and humanitarians in Darfur, a mere 200 UN technical personnel have been deployed…
And still the genocide continues, if with more chaotic violence and a fracturing of the rebel movement. Khartoum remains obdurate in its defiance…
In short, there is a highly embarrassing disconnect between the rhetoric of the UN secretariat, including the secretary general's various special envoys for Sudan, and the poverty of achievement in protecting millions of vulnerable Darfuris and acutely endangered humanitarian operations.
The Cameroons say that Gordon Brown's relationship with the voters is like a triangle, with the state at the top and the individuals lined up in a row at the bottom. Labour, they argue, wants to create a direct relationship between individual and state...
The Conservatives, on the other hand, want the people at the bottom of the triangle to be looking out for each other, as well as looking up to the pinnacle at the top. It's the difference between reading a newspaper, which tells you what to think, and contributing to a blog.
Social responsibility means that every time we see a problem, we don’t just ask what government can do. We ask what people can do, what society can do.
challenges can best be met only by bringing out the best in people, and in their individual potential, and we do so by rediscovering… ideas of liberty, responsibility and fairness
…the state is not master, but serves the people; and remember, also, that we will meet the challenges ahead best when individual, civic society and the institutions of government work in partnership.
It’s the twenty-first century. It’s the age of “people know best.” … We’re living in an age where people want to control their government, not have their government control them.
The fact is, you cannot master the challenges ahead the old way with… a political class believing they were born to govern and a passive electorate.
…the 21st century insight is that each challenge needs not just investment by the community but also the active involvement of citizens, and so we need not just new policies but a new politics, starting from an active national engagement of the British people: the responsible citizen, empowered communities and an enabling accountable state.
[People] want and need a government that’s on their side, that trusts them, that positively wants to put power and control in their hands.
We are now embarked upon transforming the culture of government from controlling to enabling, from directing to empowering, work in progress - work to be stepped up in the years to come.
That’s the big difference between us and Gordon Brown. His answer to crime, his answer to education, his answer to everything - is a top-down government scheme.
In developing policy for children’s centres with my colleagues I and others insisted that voluntary associations, parents and charities not only be involved but help run the new services, in other words that we formed a partnership of parents, civic society, and local and national institutions of government. …parents and the local community are at the centre, in the driving seat.
But Sure Start and children’s centres could not have happened without the investment and the catalytic and coordinating role of local and national government. And so, the way forward in encouraging the flourishing of the individual potential of children is not to assume a divorce between community action and government nor to assume that if you enlarge the civic space you need to diminish the contribution of the public realm, but a partnership where each helps the other: the active parent, the empowered community associations and an enabling government.
In the typical car bombing, some Islamists say, God will identify those who deserve to die — for example, anyone helping the enemy — and send them to hell. The other victims will go to paradise. “The innocent who is hurt, he won’t suffer,” Dr. [Mohammad al-]Massari says. “He becomes a martyr himself.”
…children receive special consideration in death. They are not held accountable for any sins until puberty, and if they are killed in a jihad operation they will go straight to heaven. There, they will instantly age to their late 20s, and enjoy the same access to virgins and other benefits as martyrs receive.
The US military has embarked on a new and risky strategy in Iraq by arming Sunni insurgents in the hope that they will tackle the extremist al-Qaida in Iraq.
The US high command this month gave permission to its officers on the ground to negotiate arms deals with local leaders. Arms, ammunition, body armour and other equipment, as well as cash, pick-up trucks and fuel, have already been handed over in return for promises to turn on al-Qaida and not attack US troops.
One [US] commander… said that despite the risks in arming groups that have until now fought against the Americans, the potential gains against Al Qaeda were too great to be missed. He said the strategy held out the prospect of finally driving a wedge between two wings of the Sunni insurgency that had previously worked in a devastating alliance — die-hard loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s formerly dominant Baath Party, and Islamic militants belonging to a constellation of groups linked to Al Qaeda.
Sunni groups offering to fight Al Qaeda and halt attacks on American and Iraqi forces met a basic condition for re-establishing stability in insurgent-hit areas: they had roots in the areas where they operated, and thus held out the prospect of building security from the ground up.
Imagine a reliably knowable God whose rules are not incidentally or incompletely cruel but thoroughly and systematically so - the usual 'God' in every other way, but sadistic and merciless. Would anyone love that God? No…
It's not God that believers love - it's 'good.' It's Good, and they just conflate that with God.
it's daft to think that God's existence is necessary to ground normative ideals, because the whole point of ideals is that they float free from the mess of our actual reality. The question of how things should be does not fundamentally depend on how things in fact are. Ideal standards can be grounded in counterfactuals, e.g. facts about what an ideal spectator would recommend; whether such an ideal spectator actually exists in the here and now is, quite simply, irrelevant. (This is a familiar point: one may ask, "What would Jesus do?" without requiring that Jesus actually be in that situation.)
We only know God is good if the way God is good - even if God declares its own goodness itself - is what we ourselves think is good; we can't know it if God's idea of good turns out to be our idea of horrible wickedness.
If it [Christianity] is not true, to whom would I turn? Dualism? What's that? There's no name or face associated with a term such as that [my italics].
Atheism is pretentious in the sense of claiming to know more than it does.
It claims to know what belief in God entails, and what religion, in all its infinite variety, essentially is.
And atheism is muddled because it cannot decide on what grounds it ultimately objects to religion. Does it oppose it on the grounds of its alleged falsity? Or does it oppose it on the grounds of its alleged harmfulness? Both, the atheists will doubtless reply: religion is false and therefore it is harmful.
But this is to make an assumption about the relationship between rationality and moral progress that does not stand up.
Atheism is the belief that the demise of religion, and the rise of "rationality", will make the world a better place.
Atheism therefore entails an account of history - a story of liberation from a harmful error called "religion".
Some will quibble with the above definition. Atheism is just the rejection of God, of any supernatural power, they will say, it entails no necessary belief in historical progress. This is disingenuous. The militant atheists have a moral mission: to improve the world by working towards the eradication of religion.
What is this thing that the atheists hate so much? What is religion? Believe it or not, I don't know the answer. … If the atheist deigns to define religion at all, he is likely to do so briskly and conventionally, as belief in and worship of some species of supernatural power. It's a terribly inadequate definition.
In reality, "religion" is far wider than a belief in a supernatural power. This is only one aspect of what we mean by "religion".
The… relationship between religion, morality and politics is infinitely various and complex. The critic of religious abuses must be specific, particular. He must focus on particular practices, particular institutions, and explain why they have a detrimental effect on society. But the militant atheist cannot humbly limit himself to the realm of the particular; he necessarily lapses into sloppy generalisation. For he has to insist that religion in general is harmful, all of it, always.
I consider the atheist's desire to generalise about religion to be a case of intellectual cowardice. The intellectual coward is one who chooses simplicity over complexity and difficulty.
With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
A national day to promote a stronger sense of British identity, and prevent communities from becoming more divided, has been suggested by two ministers. Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne say it could be a new bank holiday. Ms Kelly told the BBC: "The point of it would be to celebrate the contribution that we all make to society."
when there are so many Murdochian pressures on a British Prime Minister dragging them to the right, pressing him to fellate the rich, isn't it good to have a counterveiling pressure to help the poor - even a superstitious one? If religion drives Brown's best instincts and whittles down his worst, should we still condemn it?
Hmmm. Perhaps the more important question is - can we have this benign, pro-poor element of some of Jesus' teaching, without all the other abhorrent lessons his religion brings?
First, religious-based arguments don’t permit the possibility of persuasion. If a Christian says: “the Biblical prophets tell us to help the poor” an opponent could reply: “the Bible has no authority, as God doesn’t exist.” And the debate stops there.
Redistributive policies then become merely a way of the Christian imposing his private beliefs onto others.
Secondly, religiously motivated arguments assume that one party has superior access to a “truth.” This surely is a strange thing for an egalitarian to believe. Thirdly, religious appeals undersell equality, as there are countless secular ways to argue for it
In an egalitarian polity, in which people should be persuaded rationally of policies, religion should have no place – even if it is true. Religion might motivate political beliefs, but it shouldn’t, and needn’t, be the public justification for them.