Friday, 26 May 2017

Looking towards a Positive Islamic Future

Paul Nuttall, leader of UKIP, in a return to the General Election, says that he's not afraid to blame radical Islam as a cancer to be rooted out.

What is radical Islam? Radical Islam might just be Islam. It is like referring to 'fundamentalist Muslims'. When the claim is that the Qur'an was recited directly from an angel of God, then all Muslims are fundamentalist.

It's about terrorism? The IRA did terrorism. It drew from Catholics, it had Catholic clergy who ought to have known better, but there was also the legal seal of the confessional. But then the difference between IRA terrorism and Islamic State (ISIS) terrorism is that the IRA never did its terrorism in the name of Roman Catholicism or the Pope.

However, it is quite possible to have a violent Christian terrorism in an unknown future, say one that wants to bring about the last days perhaps on the basis that secular society 'oppresses' them. Anabaptists were deemed to be violent and as terrorists, and the response of the authorities in Munster was harsh. Times moved on.

Some say that extreme terrorists, like the one who struck in Manchester on 22nd May 2017, and killed children at a pop concert, are mentally ill. This includes being psychopathic. They are not of a community who would retain empathy.

I don't buy it for a minute. I have met Christian fundamentalists (I do try to avoid them) but even less than fundamentalists seem to trigger a switch that goes from ordinary discourse to some sort of internal logic contradictory to ordinary narratives: 'from the perspective of faith' it is called, and it is quite normal. It does not take much for people inside cults and sects, in tight-knit groups, to take this kind of thinking to a detached level and start losing an empathetic perspective.

Let's face it, if you join the military you are trained to kill. Many who retain and regain empathy after military service then become traumatised. Even having to think for themselves in arranging life outside the military can send some on to the streets. So the right immediate community can send people with extreme religious ideology into killers.

People do leave sects and cults and return to more connected (or less disconnected) thought. This is not mental illness towards recovery; it is forms of extreme rationality that return to the muddle and ambiguities of the everyday. The Nazis were a warning in history because people could and did operate the gas chambers, and yet somehow gained moderated empathy after the War. Nazism was a culture of cruelty, and people found themselves in a supporting environment being viciously cruel, all in the name of order and even national culture.

I have never believed that Islam is problem free (or any religion for that matter: even Buddhists can be tribal and engage in civil war). Islam is about the tribe; the tribe might be intended for all humanity, but then all humanity would be Islamic. Islam promotes itself as the one, final, original, true, unadulterated religion. Its first prophet, it says, is Adam. His message was corrupted, as was Abraham's, Moses', Jesus' - until Muhammad recited the Qur'an and preserved it because it was given in the divine language of Arabic.

It isn't pure, and that's where the first clash comes. Jesus simply never wrote a Qur'an to start with, or any other record; nor is the Islamic view of his crucifixion the most likely historical. The Qur'an completely misunderstands Christianity and the Trinity doctrine because it relied on information from a non-mainline group that itself didn't understand the doctrine. Far from being divinely recited, it shows cultural setting in time and place.

But of course it does not follow that Islam necessarily encourages violence. After all, Islam tolerated when some other religions did not. But it was toleration from a position of superiority, and a limited toleration. What it does is assists States demanding uniformity, and serves that uniformity as the one superior, original and final unadulterated religion, and what it often gets in modern times is a pluralistic setting that allows it to grow or shrink, and this it appreciates (because it thinks it will succeed).

On the other hand, look at Christian writings and actions about the one and only Incarnation of God. And - my speciality - look at Unitarian writings in the nineteenth century. This was the evolved, superior, rationalistic, approach to religion, Christianity made even better. Darwin and religion added together to produce the highest form: liberal Protestantism. It's all about: "I'm better than you."

But there is a complicated history of religions and violence. Think of the Crusades and the Popes who blessed the warriors.

In modern times, questions have been asked of the Muslim communities (plural because there are different strands).

First question must be, why did it take so long for Muslims in general to condemn the violence and threats at the time of the Satanic Verses controversy, when Shia Iran condemned literature? Why was nothing done to see the corrosive effects, the price tag, on Wahabi Islam exported to so many Western mosques by Saudi funding? Why has Islam and its clerical cliques been so suspicious of Western Islamic scholarship about origins and how the faith developed?

What is wrong with the kind of scholarship that Christianity has handled for some three hundred years? The answer may be because it threatens to undermine the supposed directness of the recite command, the apparent perfection of the Qur'anic Book.

The other problem is the relationship between expansion and violence: that either Islam spread initially as a kind of Holy War with territorial expansion, or (due to no archaeological evidence for its Arabian origins) it had its beginnings in the Near East after violent Arabian expansion.

Using the stories of origins in Arabia, the early Islamic community fought the declared 'disloyal' opposition of Jews in Madina. It also continued to raid camel trains across the desert. However, contemporary anti-Jewish Islamic sentiment has followed the rise and actions of Israel, and when it appears it (like others) fails to make the distinction between the Israeli State and the ethnic Jew.

As for development, if the Qur'an is rearranged into time order, it starts with general visions and develops into communal rules. (That gives the book and its visions credibility.) But it isn't arranged in time order, but in chapter (Sura) size order. Children who learn to recite it by memory often do not know what it is about, even though they can recite as it was apparently first recited. Does this matter? I think it does, because of the Christian child and teenager who, on reading the Bible for themselves, and not having it constantly interpreted for them by some approved person, can start to say, 'What does this actually  mean?' or, 'Hang on, this bit isn't quite like they say it is!'

At one time there were about six Qur'ans in the early Islamic empire until the one version was arranged by insisting on the one language, by having it once in its peculiar order of size of Suras.

Of course there is resistance to such a critical, liberal view of the material. For example, in Christianity many a believer will say that the Christian nativity is myth and unhistorical. I would argue that the same can be said of Abraham setting up the Ka'ba that was apparently later lost to Paganism - with a water miracle too; the same can be said of the Night Journey.

I'm not a Muslim and will state these things. Can a Muslim say them? No, but this is what a pluralistic world means: where people can make these arguments and be able to do so freely. In turn, Islam has every right to establish itself, expand, recruit (and lose) people and flourish. This is the deal.

Let's give Islam its due. Islam preserved and developed Greek and Hindu knowledge. From Hinduism and through Islam came a number system that worked and has lasted into the computer age of binary and hexadecimal. From the Greeks came a naturalistic philosophy that Islam learnt about and put in its libraries for only later incorporation into Christianity. Thomas Aquinas depended on Islam's work. Islam developed science.

A significant additional reason why Eastern Europe was able to pluralise early in the 1500s and early 1600s, and show a vision of later Western society, was because of the influence and impact of Islam at its south-eastern borders. When tolerance receded it was because Catholic Christian intolerance was restored. Unitarianism in Hungary was crushed; Socinians had to get out of Poland (in 1660).

Yet, as the West would come to a Renaisance, the Islamic ulama clericalised even further. And the religion that was supposed to be superior among its neighbours found itself at second fiddle. Thus a chip started to appear on the Islamic shoulder.

That chip on the shoulder has been intensified by Western intellectual development from the Renaissance and Enlightenment (almost like superior revelation), by Western power and imperialism, by the Islamic States backing the wrong side during the First World War and the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire, by imperialists drawing up silly boundary lines cutting across tribal areas (notably Saudi Arabia and Iraq), by nationalist and nationalist-socialist leaders and monarchs turning into oppressors, and a failure of democracy (most notably in the recent short-lived Arab Spring). The 2003 intervenion in Iraq was an act of partial Western stupidity at at time when intervention in Afghanistan could be justified and did have support within.

But at the same time Islam has always contained a tendency to violence. It did at the divide between Sunni and Shia at the time of the third Caliph. 1844 is a good example, with the killings in Karbala and later on over the expected coming of the Hidden Twelfth Imam. I have some knowledge of this in the context of the  Babi expression of that and Baha'i Faith born in the faction fighting of the two groups exiled to Palestine and Cyprus in order to keep the peace. Once again claims to final and perfect written revelations have a part to play, this time in the context of emerging into the West in the nineteenth century. The Baha'i Faith later did spiritualise and Westernise and even bureaucratise.

So if you are colonised, pick the losers in international conflicts, have insensitive borders created for you, and end up with a succession of secular, corrupt and violent tinpot dictators, it's no wonder that violence can emerge, but that violence has an internal dynamic.

This superiority has become a death-cult ideology among a few, younger hotheads influenced by radical preachers wanting to force a Caliphate upon others. People become killers of the outsiders: those who like dance, music and show a bit of flesh.

And in Indonesia comes the shocking public caning of people doing no more than being as they are: gay and loving.

It is up to Muslims to rescue the failing reputation of their religion. Something has however begun in the UK with open days and public explanations. People will respond. Faith communities must break their own boundaries and include others: a multi-two-way process. We start in a better place than on the European continent.

But Islam also needs reformation: a self-critical reformation (using itijad), beginning from the Western university.

This is not about Muslims saying sorry. No one is asking Muslims to take responsibility for these wayward killers. However, when the radicalisation takes place in Western mosques, then explanation is needed.

In the end, terrorism is always political. It arises because of politics, even going back hundreds of years, and although it needs opposing and reducing, it dies off with politics. Put the lid on it, yes, but reduce the fire under the pot. There is no Bader Meinhoff terrorism, for example, now, but at one time they were a group attacking the basis of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Profiles matter. The Manchester terrorist was radicalised partly with his father fighting in Libya and going to Syria. He grew the distinctive large beard, stopped his smoking, read the Qur'an assiduously, and absorbed extremist islamicist propaganda. He clashed with his moderate mosque in Didsbury especially when an Imam there criticised happenings in London. People noticed him but nothing happened; he was known to the authorities but not rated.

So he was an educated young male of a home-grown partly secularised base, but of immigrant parents, and he changed rapidly after international experience and identifying with violent Islamic material.

So, although it is international, Islam has to ground its worshippers in their home culture and communities. It has to watch its youth because of these international events.

At the same time, other communities have to cut the racism, and tackle the isolationism (the multi-culturalism that leaves people knowing their own and not the other). The government has to think further and longer before it jumps into foreign aggression. However, none of the UK Muslims are oppressed and are much freer than, say, Christian counterparts in many a Muslim State.

In the end, though, this is about 'society in a person' (that kind of mentality): the immediate society, the ideology, and the way individuals in their chosen collective can lose all sense of balance.

The future will be better when Islam undergoes a Reformation; meanwhile, the task of Islam and the mosque on the ground via its worship and social work is to keep their people connected beyond the tribe and develop their sense of broadest communal empathy. For example, be like the Sikhs: which is to nurture a spirit of welcome, practical service and openness from one group to others. It is quite practical.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Visiting an Anglican Minster

As part of my current church tourism I went to a service on Sunday at the renamed Hull Minister, Holy Trinity Church. It has been seven years since I attended an Anglican service. As I explained after this service to one of the three clergy with whom I conversed, I used to attend at Barton over the river and things faded away, as things are fading away religiously regarding the Unitarians. However, I added that I cannot regard one person as exclusive deity and indeed, I said, "I don't think transcendence is like that." She said I was "liberal" and I said, "Oh very liberal." In fact it was worse than this, because I was able to take part in as little of the service as I could at the end of Barton days.

I estimated fifty people in the place for this service, which didn't seem to be many, and didn't look to be many. On the other hand, there are several services and it lacked the choir that was performing at the evensong. I overheard one person say they are in the choir, so in 'counting up' I can't but there is always overlap as some attend more than once. In fact there seemed to be a number of officials.

The first person I chatted to was in the seating in front of me, and he asked my name then. Afterwards saying I was from the Unitarians, on and off since 1985, he said he knew the minister from the interfaith forum. He ended up describing me as "well read" having made reference to Buddhism and Baha'is, and the latter I corrected him regarding its origins (he asked if from India; no, Iran). I said its precursor came from a very violent episode in Shia history, that it spiritualised along the way, that its key change was via the son of its main founder who Westernised it, and then it became bureaucratic.

It's odd what you end up talking about. I had expected to refer to Presbyterians and Independents divided within Holy Trinity prior to toleration: I never mentioned it. Instead, I talked to the preacher who had invited comment regarding her sermon at coffee. No one took her up, as far as I could hear, but I did. Her sermon was on the Bible reading of Paul at Athens, about which he was regarded as an amateur and like just dropping birdseed around (or similar). I said to her that I don't buy it; Paul was cross-cultural. He was a strategist. She agreed. I further made the point that there were many end-time preachers like Jesus and with a Jesus ethic, and allowing for some spread in synagogues, Paul is the person who made the connection. I said we don't know about the Jewish Church. She didn't disagree with anything I said, only a translation she'd used to suggest Paul approached Athens in a way that was not in-depth.

Yet the sense was low Protestant Anglicanism, with a folksy MC clergy presiding at the Eucharist. I didn't go forward. I said to the male clergyman with whom I spoke that last week I went to the Hull Community Church and it didn't have a Bible reading as such, no Lord's Prayer and the sermon could have been given in some Unitarian churches. But the song lyrics were impossible.

How Hull Community Church can be regarded as 'more biblical' than Holy Trinity puzzles me, as Holy Trinity using the standard low Common Worship (printed for use separately) just laboured the point all along the way. Anglican liturgy can be like someone stuffing a meal down your throat and they just keep stuffing it down.

I was never going to 'return to Anglicanism' simply because the wider Church is unethical regarding social inclusion. I was disappointed to see this one uses the Alpha Course as some sort of magic bullet for recruiting and retention (usually recirculation). It is advertised as 'asking any questions' but it comes with answers and manipulation, a marketing package from Holy Trinity Brompton.

I just cannot see how anyone, with a secular upbringing, technological solutions (and problems) and the common narrative for meaning (not just intellectual but in basic assumptions) would want to switch to supernatural causality and the cultic worship of whom Paul repeatedly called a man at Athens and only the preacher clergywoman called God. Why alter such a mentality, for no reason whatsoever? I don't think the Anglicans realise just how misdirecting is all this clutter.

Oh well. I want to get up early one day to attend the only really functioning URC church within Hull. I will also go to the Quakers. In one sense Hull Community Church 'kept quiet' and even ignored the difficulties. They just did indigestible lyrics and a minority with their hands in the air. The sermon giver there said she hadn't been to "Bible College" and didn't intend to go either. All hail ignorance.

I suppose it annoys me that so often the Unitarians have chucked the baby out with the bathwater, and then gone on to crack the bath itself and dismantle the taps. I just don't like content-free unanchored so-called spirituality. But nor do I like this clutter experienced today, nor the mismatch last week between community practicality and a recognising-the-problem content but impossible banal lyrics. I was able to sing most of the hymns at Holy Trinity - I deliberately sung some word changes! - but could not previously on my tour.

So, then, so far: none of the above, with useful discoveries and reminders.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The General Election Surprises So Far...

The background to the General Election is of course the referendum on exiting the European Union. This was that if Cameron had won and we remained, the Tory Party with its crazed right wing would have become ungovernable and even effectively split. UKIP would have campaigned on. With Cameron losing, the Tory Party stayed united and UKIP lost traction. Labour became divided instead, and needed to form policy pro Single Market later on. The Liberal Democrats had to set up stall as a remain party, build slowly, but tactically 'accept' the referendum whilst nursing the 48% remainers.

Those of us seeking to remain in the EU were waiting for negotiations to go on, and the governing Tory Party to split later on 'Single Market plus Customs Union' and 'total break' lines. The Liberal Democrats would gain traction, and the government start to lose the ability to make decisions as its majority was lost one way and the other.

Unfortunately, another of Theresa May's flip-flops was to call an early General Election. She has run the election campaign as a personal mandate (she is not on most election voting papers folks) as "strong and stable" and has been successful in banging away the mantra. Trouble is, no one in the media has challenged the number of U turns she has carried out since slipping into power. The biggest U turn of course was being Remain to now parading a UKIP style 'hard' exit from the EU. But her U turns range from the Chinese building a nuclear power station to the Budget.


However, elections can have a mind, or dynamics, of their own, and this one has a few surprises.

The first is not a surprise. It is that the Liberal Democrats have failed to gain traction. Given their main cause, it is simply too early. Their manifesto isn't a bad one, with a little imagination added in, but it is a fake. Here's why. If the Liberal Democrats won power, do we seriously think they would negotiate our removal from the EU? Of course not. We'd expect that they would stop them. This is why: the manifesto is still trying to 'accept' the referendum result; however, they should be running as if for government. The manifesto needed the balls to say that a General Election trumps a referendum, and therefore 'Vote for us and we remain'. Arguing for a referendum is for an opposition, and indeed the argument should be to learn the mistakes of a binary referendum.

The second is a surprise. It is that Theresa May, for all the pumping up she receives across the media, press and television, is wooden. She is coherent, but that is about all. She seems to believe in nothing much, other than making a land grab across the political spectrum. She seems to fly in the face of reality: the reality of the state of the NHS, the social services, education cuts and a low-wage low-productivity under-employed economy. But against this, people do fantasise; people do not vote according to self-interest (except the rich), or evidence, but according to mental values. The immigration debate has been one of these fantasies of short-cut identity. So the reality of the economic situation isn't enough to sway the vote. However, in keeping with this, the Tory Manifesto is remarkably dull, and effectively attacks its own elderly supporters, also with a big negative in policy regarding social care. The Cameron policy of social insurance was a far better prospect than this effective 'pay up' beyond a fixed figure, especially once you are dead. The children of the elderly will not be impressed. Expect an early U turn.

The third is a surprise and this is the imagination in the policy direction of the Labour Party. It is distinctive and it is positive. It means a change for the future, and one all about each looking after the other. So it has vision.
And the press and media go on and on about the apparently inadequate Corbyn, partly because (but not only because) the Members of Parliament gave an 80% vote of no confidence in the leader. But watch him. He speaks well, he is on the ball, he knows what he is talking about, and he believes in it. He looks authentic because he is authentic. Jeremy Corbyn is having a good campaign. He draws crowds where the camera angles reduce the numbers, not like Theresa May often locked away with a close-up around a tiny gathering.

Now my first choice is Liberal Democrat. I want us to remain in the European Union. This really matters for the future. It matters because it is about sharing with others like us, about liberal and democratic values, about peace and about shaping a continent. However, I am unimpressed with Tim Farron. He is coherent and he speaks well, but he doesn't have the gravitas of Ashdown, the seriousness (and deviousness) of Clegg, or the personal connection of Kennedy. He might get to be like Kennedy. There is a serious danger that Liberal Democrat seat gains will be undermined by losses, including his own seat if not careful. It is just really about the timing. It is too early, and the Liberal Democrats may have to suffer more. Their social media reach seems ineffective. Don't they know I support them?

What gets me about Labour, however, is that whilst the leadership is at least running a good social media campaign (as they must, the rest of the media is out to undermine), the social media discussions I see among its members is like a war zone. They are undermining themselves. People are saying there vote Labour despite the worst manifesto ever, the worst leader, a shambles at the top (Diane Abbott was their early example), poll ratings that will lead to devastation, and a war to come to remove Jeremy Corbyn who still will not stand down after a defeat. With supporters like these, who needs an opposition?

I'm still aware that Labour was a shambles of organisation since the Corbyn leadership. However, the campaign has been good and it is no surprise that he is picking up support. I am tempted myself, or I would be if I didn't live in East Hull. The local MP is one who would unseat Corbyn, so if I voted Labour because I liked the manifesto (and I do) my MP would be one to stage a coup with others.

Labour on the 'no deal is not better than a bad deal' has actually firmed up its option to remain in the EU: if remain is better, we remain. But it is unclear about this. Nevertheless, in power it would negotiate to come out, presumably with a better view of the single market and jobs.

Again, timing means UKIP is dying. Good riddance, maybe, but it could return later. It has a Donald Trump like leader, a sort of me-me person, childish, a fantasist, but the Tories have stolen its rhetoric and parades a few left-centrist policies (and another U turn was workers on company boards - so don't believe a word of it).

I don't believe a word Theresa May says. Nothing she says indicates what she is going to do. I take the view that all she wants is a majority that just allows her to decide one way or the other. I don't buy it that a moderate remainer (which was power-tactics anyway: she has just sought the top job) is someone who will crash the economy via a no deal. With a majority to defeat the Tory nutjobs as well as the single marketeers (if she wanted), she can choose a closer relationship with the European Union whilst coming out of voting for what policies it chooses. She won't risk Ireland (although she can be careless), and she won't risk massive failure, which is easy to achieve in wrenching ourselves out of the EU.

As said before, removing from the EU is to lose sovereignty. We will still have to obey its rules, but never go to the Council of Ministers or have representation in the European Parliament or put in Commissioners to make and monitor those rules. We will have to pay to leave and pay for its benefits, whilst they choose closer integration. Leaving the EU is simply stupid. The only problem is this. If Corbyn's imaginative manifesto and Fallon's feeble approach cannot overcome the Tory majority on its way, then we are on our way to loss of sovereignty or economic stupidity.

And here is the odd thing. Just as Blair's command of the political sphere ended in disaster (after several re-elections), so will the Tories, and quicker: a huge majority could last but one session of five years. It is bound to end in failure, in one side or the other utterly disappointed and angry, in a sense of all that and nothing achieved. Theresa May really is a nobody, with ministers who are even less; and she will command with nothing to do except fail: fail everyone or fail half. So there is hope, if we can take yet another five years of this.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

A Church Visit

I made a decision that from May this year I would be free-floating in terms of religious activity. This couples with the decision to withdraw from all local Unitarian religious activity. It means I have gone from attending every week to attending no weeks on a Sunday. I still go on a Friday for social connections, to maintain a basic contact for the time being, although this is reviewable. If it proves difficult to maintain a basic contact, then I will stop it.

I have not made any commitments to keep silent about local matters, but I am not out to cause difficulty (despite an apparent reputation otherwise); the best thing would be a possible return in some years time to see a restored, healthy congregation, even if my leaving was at a time when others still there would have hung on and hung on. However, sometimes in talking about somewhere else, there are implications in the negative. I know that, and I don't know how to get around that other than to say it doesn't always follow that a positive in one place implies a negative in another. But if you want to read between the lines, do so - just remember, this is all you are doing.

The danger though is that there is something you can write and publish, and then things you can't or don't want to write in public, the result being that you say them in private; and when you say things in private one to one you know the gossip machine is then active. You then see the implication of sticking plaster all over orifices that can speak and hear and chains where you can write.

These restrictions are too great. So the only option is to try and go along a narrow, delicate line, because there are points I want to make and, frankly, with as much respect as possible I am going to make them. So here goes.

After a gap of two weeks going nowhere I went somewhere. I won't say where but anyone in the know will soon guess.

This was to an independent church. Indeed, I asked about this, and the chap I asked said there is an informal link with a church in Lincoln, but at a time when both churches had similar problems Lincoln had enough on its plate and did not want to help. So it really is independent.

Three people at the Unitarian end of things have a link with this church. One is a member and one name was quoted to me there, who is actually a Unitarian member. The other is attached to one of them, and that is probably the extent of involvement.

So what is this church? It has long been on a site of churches, and there was a Lutheran church in situ. Now it is a modern building, with an upstairs, but the main hall is a full height atrium that doubles up as a sports hall. That doubling up is in keeping with its provision as a place of practical community offerings and not just religion as a speciality. Indeed I was told how the hall was arranged for BBC Question Time held there on one occasion when it came to Hull.

Not only is the building fit for purpose, but so is the audio visual set up. So let's describe it. One the corner of two roads, the seating faces the shopping street. In front are these almost full height long windows divided into square tiles. The surrounds are coloured but the glass is not, the effect being a rainbow arc. The windows colouring is made by the large tree close outside, the sky and buildings. Above these long windows is long across windowing in the shape of an arc. So there is light in the place. It was the local authority who demanded the long windows. Only once did the screen projection look a little washed out. The rest of the time it was fine.

The attendance went over sixty as the service started, and late comers and others put the number to 70. It was not full. Three times as many with extra seats could have attended comfortably. There are no hymn books, and only 'Red Letter Day' papers like envelope size with pens to write after the sermon how God had helped you at some time. They had been left under the seats.

Facing the windows, then, was a stage on which the "MC", one of the four leaders (two married couples) stood. Either side of him were speakers, and at the far edges two hefty speakers. The screen was high up with a fixed projector on a long pole. The projection was accurate.

To my left (I was by a centre aisle) at the front row was about four people with one directly working the visual display. This included relevant pictures, biblical quotes and the song/ hymn lyrics that were repetitive and even banal. The only theology in them was a Jesus-unitarianism in the face of human sin. No Charles Wesley equivalent at all! To my left as well was a band that involved one of the four leaders: he led most of the worship from there with his guitar. His wife did the sermon. Everyone was very informally dressed. I'd say they were in their forties. They are all included in the seventy number. So was the chap behind me in a kind of reception area. When I dropped these red papers, he jumped in to pick them up.

The ethnic mix was good: Black African and Caribbean, South East Asian, and quite a few children about. There may have been others elsewhere - if so, that's on top of the seventy.

Now to me the audio-visual fundamentals were in place, and it did make me a bit annoyed. This was smooth and supporting, and the volume level was never loud despite power. I once set up an audio system with the same result, although mine was stereo from the back as well as front.

The MC said the service would start in two minutes, and it started with notices repeated on the screen. He asked who were exiles into Hull (a good minority) and made loose references to ransomware (he was wrong: it was not an attack on the NHS), mental health and then mentioned Jesus as the light of the world. The worship leader then came in with quiet guitar merging into a song and then his brief talk how God helped him and then another - Amazing Grace with additions.

Then there were three testimonies, including a chap know to get things going, and a recovering alcoholic. This was followed by an unintended song, but found to go on screen.

The collection was followed by a sermon given by one of the women of the four. She spoke of her own doubts and faith, once reading a book that gave logical atheism and this took a long time to shake off. Her faith was restored by a retreat at Whitby. Three years she's been leading. She used C S Lewis to talk about the practice of faith to result in the habit of faith. She mentioned people who think Jesus didn't exist and was only myth and legend. Never 100% convinced, the church aimed to be practical and direct, not theological, and make outsiders welcome. Referring to the 'Dark night of the soul' often experienced by the long-term believer, she moved on to Hebrews 10:32-36 and asked people to fill in Red Letter Day slips that stated how God had helped them, some of which were put on the wall by their writers. She also wondered how she had become a leader, with her husband, having never been to "Bible College" (I said later I noticed she said this, and not theological college or seminary) and she told me she's not going either.

After that came a song and end prayer, and it all lasted about an hour and a quarter. This was followed by chat with tea and coffee and water from thermos flask type distributors (there is a cafe or seating area: I was surprised people didn't move over there).

So a chap described me as "a theological Jeremy Corbyn" so I asked if the words were not "Theological Theresa May". When he said he admired Calvin and Luther, I said I don't and that they were "thugs" - Calvin a killer and Luther an antisemite. He said yes the people you uphold as saints are mixed. I said Servetus, who was killed by Calvin, was an idiot and full of his own ego. He was more an off-beam trinitarian than unitarian, I said. To someone else I was misinterpreted as wanting to join a home group, and I think it was deliberate misinterpretation. I said how I could not join in with the words as they were not my theology, despite the informality and practicality. The first chap said they are biblical even after he said they were "liberal". He meant liberal in a social sense, and practical. (I do not know if they are inclusive in the more contentious areas: I rather doubt it, but there is a strong sense of interfaith co-operation).

Although I did fill in a contact card - see, they are on the ball - the fact is that the church is not there for people like me. It is there for the ordinary folk around the city, not theological anoraks. Although not dogmatic - and no Lord's Prayer, no statements of doctrine, and brief if more meaningful prayers for believers - the songs were down a narrow line that did encourage a few to put their hands up in the air.

As well as giving contact advice, I was via misinterpretation given a card for when house groups meet, and there is one for newcomers meeting one time. I know someone who called it "Bible Class" and indeed I was told this morning this is the basis of the home groups. Nevertheless home groups are the method of integrating people into churches. Thus church also has an 'urban retreat' for contemplative prayer and it has help for the unemployed, debt advice and similar urban life difficulties. It has kids and youth club.

It is not the place for me, but it does things well. It has them sorted out, it seems to me, and the basics are working foundations. This means, principally, an audio-visual system, good light and space, disabled simply included, people on the look out, smooth presentation even when informal, coherence, and cards. The cards cover the basic service, home groups, next step home group (singular) (presumably for newbies), the urban retreat, and the various age-group gatherings and when. Plus there is the contact form to fill in on paper. Every church should have these, regardless. To me, the cards and the audio-visual are priorities, and so is professional and smooth delivery. You do not need orders of service or even announcing all the way along: just do it and have the preplanning that everyone presenting knows what is coming along.

This church is near one also in a student area that I would not touch with a bargepole. It is Reform Anglican Evangelical, and is fighting an internal holy war within Anglicanism via its obnoxious ethics. So that one is not on my list, but there was much positive in my visit to this independent church, independent in a contemporary sense and not historical. But it is Reformation.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Strategy after a Huge Majority

First of all, what a fat lot of good the Fixed Term Parliament Act turned out to be! No need to repeal it, just bypass it. Once a Prime Minister wants a General Election, no one else in direct competition is going to shy away from the challenge. The Scottish Nationalists of course choose their own path. The only difference then is that dissolving Parliament is no longer a prerogative power of the monarch given to the Prime Minister. Quite rightly, Parliament should decide. Nevertheless, the Government controls the business of the House of Commons. By introducing the legislation, the governing party is whipped into compliance, and the rest follow on. The alternative is losing a vote of confidence, by a simple majority.

The upshot is that the timing still suits the Prime Minister and no one else. And it does suit her. She reached a 20% gap over Labour in the opinion poll ratings. Labour was clearly unsure and compromised with itself about leaving the European Union, and up ahead were French and German elections before which nothing much could be negotiated anyway.

Theresa May's reasoning for calling the General Election, that the country was uniting but Westminster was divided, was disingenuous to say the least. The country is not united any more than it was: opinion is going through phases, but not uniting.
And she might have heard that it is the job of the occupants of the Palace of Westminster to hold the Government to account. She sounds dangerously authoritarian, and the language of "give more authority to me" is not how we elect Members of Parliament in parties to choose a Prime Minister.

The real reason she has called an election is precisely the same reason why we who wish to remain in the European Union have to recalculate what to do. Strategy was to use the coming division in her own party, that which she will remove.

The situation is good for her and bleak for many. With the bleating media doing her job for her, and her repeated catch phrase about "my strong leadership versus the chaos of coalition" (which was quite stable previously, liked it or loathed it) - and people always prepared to be like sheep - we are facing a potential landslide Tory majority.

If little piggies flew and Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister, he would have bestowed upon him the same powers and privileges of all who become Prime Minister. His Cabinet would argue like any other and be subject to unity of presentation. The same bureaucracy would support it. If it needed a coalition for support, it could be as stable as any other. Like coalitions, it would consider the arguments more openly. Even tacit support could do it. Theresa May on the other hand might be telling her Cabinet what to think, ending up with all the mishaps of those Prime Ministers who think they are the only ones that matter, with a kitchen cabinet or the sofa for decision making. You might get one or two Cabinet member identified as restraining, as in the Blair-Brown duopoly.

Nevertheless a poll for Wales gives the Tories a lead, a situation not seen for 180 years. A vox pop effort in the street shows people saying they "won't vote for him", meaning Corbyn. Tim Farron has to say gay sex is not a sin early on in this campaign to try and fill the hole he jumped into since he became Liberal Democrat leader, now fuelled by tabloid journalism. The original question, I think, was from Channel 4 News when the journalist (Cathy Newman?) could see a difference between Liberal Democrat equality views and those of a card-carrying evangelical Christian. Seeing as he could say "not a sin" now, why didn't he say it then? Well, it is not important, but it shows how trivia can undermine: would he be so conflicted on a bigger matter?

For Corbyn to stop digging, he'd have to resign, with a rapid replacement via some emergency rules. It is not going to happen.

Now the first thing is that the first past the post system, and on the old constituencies, gives Labour some protection from outright disaster. However, there is a tipping point in constituencies, and this was seen in Scotland in 2015. It could be so in Wales. Indeed it could be so throughout large parts of England. I hardly think East Hull will be lost to Labour, despite Karl Turner, but it is quite possible that Hessle and Hull West could go Conservative now that Alan Johnson has retired. And such a tipping point activated would, the time next, start to implode in places like East Hull.

This is bleak stuff and I say it as naturally drawn to the Liberal Democrats. This is because the Liberal Democrats also face such a tipping point upwards, and so they are unlikely to achieve it to restore them back to some 60 seats. Indeed it is very difficult to get more seats once lost.

Here is the problem. The phase we are going through now, for EU opinion, is for those who voted Remain to say 'get on with it and see what happens'. Theresa May knows this. Later on, these voters, and those who just tipped over into leave, will start to see that we should stay in. Those, like me, who think we should stay for both idealistic and practical reasons are in a minority.

Our task was going to be to persuade others to realise we are going to be better staying in the EU. It is the fact on the ground, and we trade with it. If you pay for the benefit of it, and abide by the rules, you ought to have representation through the Council of Ministers, be in the Commission and opining through the Parliament. Coming out will be economically damaging, and the best option is to stay where we are. Coming out, we will not have a say on its level of integration in future, and we will be more and more on its outside, more and more having to accept what happens with no input. And staying in gives us our young people travelling all over Europe for work and non-work reasons, so freely and productively in every way, it gives us scientific co-operation, and it keeps us in this growing confederacy of internal negotiation and peace.

By calling an election now, Theresa May jumps the gun on this. Correct for her: she has taken the initiative.

It's not the other parties that are split, it is hers down the line. Here is how it was going to be: if Cameron had won the referendum - we stayed in - the Tory Party would have split there and then. By losing the vote, the Tory Party became nearly united and Labour looked divided and lost. But down the line, at the point of decision on the deal, the Tories would then split between the single market/ customs union side and the wholly out side. And with an effective majority of around twenty, any decision would have lost Theresa May her majority. The Tory Party this is, not the rest, who were either pro-EU or unsure. Because she might well get a decision at home in favour of the single market, she is deemed to be anti-single market. She is deemed to be attempting to get UKIP votes and seen therefore as 'hard Brexit'. Her policy direction seems to be that way, as calculated.

The problem is the rest of it, of course: the Tories and the dreadful funding/ management/ privatising of the NHS, the social care crisis, the education mess, transport inadequacies, the level of underemployment and fake unemployment figures, and people who are having to go to food banks because of the increasingly cruel social security system. This is what makes it so depressing, and why Corbyn is letting us down when he knows he is such a blockage to at least having a decent sized opposition.

This notion that he is 'moving the debate leftwards' is useless if the representation shrinks. Nothing is being moved, other than down a plughole. This idea of not this election but the next, that he loses of course but the troops will re-elect him leader to 'move the debate left', is just more woe for ordinary folk - yes the ordinary folk who are so foolish to vote for an authoritarian leader or, previously (we hope), the various stupidities of UKIP. Why do turkeys vote for Christmas?

The problem of Corbyn is demonstrated in a number of ways recently. For example, the decision making processes of Labour concluded that the Trident missile system is to be renewed. Corbyn cannot stomach it. So in an interview he doesn't support the policy, and immediately afterwards the Party issues a statement about its policy - contradicting its leader. Or Sir Keir Starmer makes a reasoned statement clarifying EU policy for Labour, after which Kwasi Kwarteng can demolish it in 5 seconds, saying this revision is now agreeing with the Tories and not what Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott had said previously (Channel 4 News, 25th April).

The Labour management of its party is a shambles, and it is this lack of governance that suggests he hasn't got a grip. In other words, the man (Corbyn) is a campaigner, not a leader, and he is simply putting people off. Contrast this with the grip Blair's Labour Party showed before 1997, and indeed throughout, and Blair's media presentation as leader in waiting.

So, those of us whose strategy was to 'educate and wait' regarding the EU opinion have been usurped. May has stolen our time, and we have to rethink. Tony Blair, turning up with his own "I'll vote Labour" and then not quite suggesting tactical voting, is vague - because he too has been caught on the hop. Those who would have formed a grouping to reverse the EU decision have all been overidden in strategy by this early General Election.

So it needs a rethink, and my rethink so far goes something like this. Theresa May actually believes in very little: it is her strength and her weakness. Assuming she gets a landslide, she will think she can do what she likes. Her leave position is more likely to seek economic continuation, close co-operation with the EU. She will probably be realistic over immigration. I don't buy it that she necessarily will do the 'hard Brexit', and for me it's not the point anyway. For me, a soft Brexit is stupid enough, because we may as well have representation and support the ideal in its concrete reality and get all its benefits. She was a Remain; her political power rests on slipping into leadership after the leave vote (she'd have done the same when Cameron would have lost power over divisions had he won; then her remain approach would have been via a General Election as well). So with all power she will be able to adjust back into that fairly uncommitted near leave/ near remain position.

So what happens in this scenario? Well, Blair saw this happen with his majorities: a party that is 'big tent' or stretches too far becomes unwieldy, and starts to split. She will have the manifesto mandate and all that, but the realities are still flexible. So the same division will come about. She will still have a majority, but the party will be increasingly undisciplined simply because it does have that majority. She will get her way, with big chunks of dissent among her own ranks.

Unfortunately, it does mean that those of us who would have us stay in the EU are probably stuffed: except for this. That there is likely to be a transition time in removing. That transition time will mark out the real losses that coming out will demonstrate. It may well be that an election happens during that period, one that involves a Tory Party in deep division and disarray, from which there can be a rethink. It is a small prospect, this, but the EU would not turn away a repentant sinner if the 'events dear boy' come about to change people's minds - where those who would have come out and quickly are disappointed, and those who'd have stayed realise that something has to be done to reverse matters.

Plus the other fact that a huge Tory majority will frighten the Scots. They will have about 45 MPs next time or so, with losses including to the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats). It would serve Nicola Sturgeon to wait: wait until the arrogance of May as authoritarian and with the huge majority, plus powers of the EU to translate to Westminster and not the devolved assemblies (court cases coming up!), where that huge Westminster majority persuades the Scots that their best option is their own sovereignty, to be shared with the European Union.

For when the UK leaves the European Union, and no longer contributes to decisions that directly affect us, we will have lost not gained sovereignty. We will have lost it to a nowhere place, instead of investing it in supranational institutions.

Meanwhile, really, we should be voting in constituency after constituency in the best way to avoid an elected dictatorship. It is the best we can hope for. But the worst is, probably, a longer term best hope, where the Tory Party falls over itself and digs its own grave.

It is bleak. It is bleak because, in this election, all Theresa May has to do is what she is doing. She goes to occasional staged election gatherings, says very little, says the same thing each time, and leaves. She just needs to show her presence. The rest is left to Labour's mismanagement and lack of place in the current British EU situation, and the arithmetic mountain of Liberal Democrat recovery.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Becoming (One) Unitarian Curator

Easter Day I provide the music again as I have done since 14th February 2010. The plan is to do one more. I want a clean break. It never became possible to 'train up' someone to stand in for me, despite an early attempt, and I have never missed even one for illness. Absences have been planned in advance, usually because of doing other Unitarian activity (e.g at Great Hucklow).

My method of music has been to use Unitarian Choir Hymns CDs, downloadable organ music of public domain hymns from the excellent Clyde McLennan, other Unitarian hymn singing put online, occasional other websites with public domain hymns, and You Tube and similar presentations. In addition I have used incidental music sources. They have been edited and saved on an external hard drive, so that every hymn in Hymns for Living is now covered, most hymns from Sing Your Faith, and a selection of 'No Book' hymns and then a number here and there appearing in other books. Now that I am stopping I have offered the external hard drive for copying to another such drive so that these hymns can be used by any others. As well as the longer term gathering, editing and storing, there is the preparation of a CD for each service and then the actual operating of the equipment so each hymn and each piece of music is delivered as required.

I was also responsible for setting up the original music delivery system so that organ music sounded like organ music filling the room from four corner speakers in good stereo. It had the power to be a loud disco, but has never been so used.

It is a matter of some sensitivity to discuss anything local, because I hope that policies go ahead for growth. For example, there will be live played music from a number of musicians: excellent. Nevertheless, one notes the statistics as ever, and we talk of growth but decline goes on nationally.

So all I am going to say here about is my own outlook. I do not describe myself as Christian because I do not believe in the incarnation of God in the person Jesus of Nazareth. I don't describe myself as liberal Christian either, partly because I don't know what it means. Nevertheless, I have an informed theological outlook at the more liberal and radical end of Christian thinking, and I combine this with a Buddhist view of focus and clarity and a humanist view of dominant working and delivering narratives of what is real.

I have an institutional view of religion: this is to say an attempt to understand historical streams, exposing and recognising the role of myth-making in them. These are invented traditions, claims of apparent historical ballast to legitimise something in the present. I would include Pagan continuity, the Unitarian Open Trust Myth, almost anything involving Iolo Morgannwg or Edward Williams (1747-1826), The 'Land of Song' myth with Welsh Methodism, Anglo-Catholicism in its attempt to claim a history that isn't, and 'Unitarian Church founded 1672' etc.. Doing history means realising that (Reformation style) Arianism had more impact in the Church of England than the Presbyterian stream that became Unitarian (Arian Samuel Clarke did influence the new Essex Church, that failed to attract Anglican defectors), and that Socinianism was never really part of the Presbyterian stream at all - when it was acceptable it had morphed into a kind of liberal, biblicist, materialist ideology. It means knowing that Bohemian Jan Huss had nothing to do with Unitarianism or similar, and reading back into that has more to do with nationalism than liberalism.

Doing such history is a continuous intellectual activity, but it is done in order to look forward. If one argues, for example, that Unitarianism and its predecessors were often binary running arguments, then this gives an understanding of where things are going. Thus the later dominant liberalism built into the Unitarian stream was collectively liturgical but individually subjective, and such a clash has distinct postmodern implications, the collective and individualist each collapsing into the other. This, however, is a very different approach than offered by the mirror opposite postliberal direction into postmodernism. For Karl Barth, faith was the Gospel witness, of revelation in the particular, out of which comes biblical narrative (even Church narrative), and therefore the institutional life creates identifiers of legitimate performance (collective and anti-experience). That is postliberalism. For James Martineau, the Gospel witness was but one example of faith, for which one had collective liturgical poetic spirituality and individual conscience (experience), and therefore a much more widespread basis of religious identity.

Some are trying to go back to the Anabaptists and radical revolutionaries and using this 'Spirit' focus to anchor a definition now. It is inadequate on a number of fronts. Too much happened in between. English Presbyterianism onwards like so much nonconformity was very middle class and mercantilist and then capitalistic in reference. It was also born from intolerant Presbyterianism both here and in its export to America (it wanted religious freedom, but did not offer it to others - not until later on). So the roots are hardly the radical Anabaptism of parts of the continent. Nor, as said, are institutional roots here particularly Socinian; after all, even Transylvanian Unitarianism was not Socinian. And the Anglo-Americans had to rediscover Transylvanian Unitarianism, with its different catechism approach, in the 1830s.

What I do dislike is the other trend seen within Unitarianism of becoming 'spiritual but not religious' - in an attempt to grab a perceived contemporary market. Now a lot of this is New Age and related, and some of it is a kind of commercialised second-rate magic or forms of spiritualised psychologism. This is the "we have moved on" argument. What is wrong with, for me, it is that we always talk collectively, and collective talk comes from traditions and understandings. Revolution is always less revolutionary: the Russian Communists ended up producing a modernist Tsarism, for example. This is because we are culture-carrying institutional types. Even the shrinkage down to handfuls gathering on Sundays does not permit 'starting again' because institutions are incredibly persistent. Memories and past inventions persist. We still deal with a Puritan shadow.

Many of those who say they are 'spiritual but not religious' are soon found to be religious. They do it in a Buddhist setting, and what they get then is some kind of Tibetan or Hinayana or Mahayana or combination presentation. Or indeed Pagans invent a continuity based on certain polytheistic principles and sell their Tarot card readings. One can see how traditions continue and change, such as the Old Catholic into Liberal Catholic morphing that happened also on the edges of Unitarianism and Congregationalism: as in the Kings Weigh House in London and the Unitarian Bishop who ordained many there. So, someone tells me that they are spiritual and not religious, and I will tell them their religious context.

And, incidentally, what is interfaith and ecumenical are indeed those: it takes time or receptive periods for crossovers to happen. It is too easy to exploit and violate the religious rituals of others. Misused and misrepresented, they usually turn out to be simplistic, misdirecting and offending. One annoyance of mine in the past was 'The Buddhist Beatitudes'. Another yuck was The Golden Treasury of the Bible. Of course there is change, and adoption with adaptation. So a little bit of Hinduism and Buddhism came into the Liberal Catholics, and of course Unitarians in their plurality have evolved Christian, humanist, Eastern and Pagan outlooks. These are not mini-versions of those religions, and nor should they be. In Unitarian terms, they are the working out of the decline of Christian sufficiency and explanation, plus the rise of romanticism and its clash with inherited reason. So reason is seen in humanism and most of the Eastern methodology, the Christian became more romantic, as is the Pagan with a bit in the Hindu tales. You can see the running argument still running.

So out of the history comes theology, and all of it follows a sociology of institutions: this means memory realised into the present.

I would admit that my personal reference is to several streams: and so one is the Unitarian outcome, Methodist, a little of the Presbyterian reborn, Anglican theology and ritual, and also Independent Sacramental (Liberal Catholic/ Free Catholic) outcomes. Add to this Western Buddhism and the unofficial Liberal Bahai.  I'm going to pursue these in conversation across cyberspace, and in my own reading and writing.

It is quite usual for some folks even near Unitarian congregations to prefer other contacts. Many join the NUF. Some have a choice of congregations with different tendencies. Not so where I live. I don't want to join any Unitarian body.

My liturgical offerings, my reading, my theologising, has a particular institutional sense to it, a reaching back as well as a reaching forward. In the end, institutions are carried in people's heads. When institutions decline, as indeed Unitarianism has now done to chronic levels, the purpose of the memorialising and translating changes.

I remember having an online conversation with an Intersex woman, who was Jewish and she could have no children. She was part of an extremely small Jewish Messianic group for which Jesus as Messiah "forefilled" (not fulfilled) the Kingdom. Rejected by all the main Jewish groups, considered not Christian enough, and definitely not part of the nasty Christian messianic movements of fundamentalists doing Jewish rituals, the movement had drifted. She had become, she said, a curator of documents and the memory that described their faith. The communal memory was that they had wriggled out of various oppressions that we say crushed Jewish Christianity - starting with the first primitive Jesus family Messianic Jews. The Nazis effectively finished her grouping off, and they have been too weak since. In their few hundreds, they are seeing the end.

This is my view regarding the Unitarians. You see the governing institutions effectively collapsing. They are confronting what the URC and Methodists must tackle soon. The recent General Assembly was well-delivered and there are yet more ideas for spreading the message. The profile is going up. But it does not translate into broad recovery, only into more decline as the age imbalance continues to rise.

When people do come along, they can be told all sorts as to what is Unitarianism. It takes a long time to absorb the religious culture. So many have gone away before they do.

So this is how I see it now. Unitarian sympathisers are curators. I'll do a website with stuff on it and write material. All Unitarian websites now ought to contain resources for understanding. When they don't, they are thin and even illusory. But this is how I view my future: Staying connected, I'm going more freelance, but I'm going to work on these memories and what we keep in our heads as we pass culture on, one to each other and each other to one.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Day We Lose Sovereignty

March 29th 2017 is a tragic moment in the life of the UK. It is when Theresa May, who once set out a cogent argument for staying in the European Union, fires a gun in the form of a letter to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, that could quite simply throw us out of the Union in two years. The reason why the Supreme Court said that this needed Parliamentary approval through legislation is that the letter results in exclusion. "Job Done," Douglas Carwell MP called it.

For some of us, and hopefully more of us as time goes on, the effort has to be that he does not get his 'Job Done': however, for the brakes to go on, it will take the agreement in unanimity of all 27 others in the Council of Ministers. To stay in will probably take a resolution across the institutions of the European Union.

By April the basic outline of the EU position on negotiating should be known, basically whether divorce settlement negotiations preceed trade negotiations. This is how much it costs to come out to meet obligations. In April the European Parliament should express its position as well. The Council of Ministers makes a formal view of its position end of April. Even then the rounds of negotiation, the chapter headings will need to be worked out. Between June and Autumn all this gets fleshed out by the Commission. And this gets us past the French and German elections. It is only in Autumn that real negotiating begins. How long will it all take? If it takes a year, that is long enough, because ratification is involved, and may well involve national parliaments.

The fact is that some governments, or parts of governments, would like to be shot of us, because we have always been the bad boy of Europe. Our influence has been expansion to many members and economic liberalism - which has not worked, set alongside a currency we never joined and never supported. The euro would have benefited from our membership.

The effect of coming out is to lose sovereignty, not gain it. The reason is that if we have all the trading benefits we had before, then we still pay towards them and the only difference is that we have no say in them. There will be this plus the cost of the divorce.

At the same time, a more unity-minded EU will evolve its democratic institutions. It knows about the democratic deficit. But with Britain out, it will be easier (even with some slow lane countries - and frankly, some fascistic tendencies in Hungary and Poland require two speeds at best) to make accountable processes at the centre. The EU will stay confederal for a long time: it will remain principally a co-operative structure with only some 'federal' elements.

So how to put the brakes on. First of all it needs political leadership from a core group that grows. This is now Farron, Clegg, Clarke, Lammy, Heseltine, Morgan, and similar so on. By-elections are likely to be shaped by the referendum. Labour, whose ambiguity and appalling ineffective leadership, hasn't helped but now promises "hand to hand" combat on the government achieving what David Davis, Exiting the EU Secretary, calls gaining the same benefits as we have now. Let's see, because this is going to be the rub of the opposition duty regarding negotiations from now on. Chief folks here will be Labour's Keir Starmer, Nick Clegg and, actually, all of the Scottish Nationalists acting with one voice.

The government for its part no doubt will keep things relatively secret, to reduce the effectiveness of the opposition.

Now I take the view that Theresa May isn't very effective. She can U-turn on anything, including her view of the purpose of political power. Having achieved power, she could have gone to the EU and said we had 52% out and 48% in, what can you do really now to meet our agonies of membership so that we can be in but loosely in. She could have made an appeal across the House of Commons and House of Lords. One more go or we go, so to speak. But no, she simply became someone else after the referendum result.

She's made a big mistake over Scotland. A Scottish Parliament, for that is what it is, has decided on having an independence referendum, with timing to know the terms of the EU exit deal. She is saying no, only after we've left. If I was Scottish, I'd be infuriated, on the lines of who does she and he (the Scottish Secretary) think they are? Once again it is the executive trying to buckle Parliament. Ah, Section 30 is in the hands of the British Government. Of course it is, but set against this is the democratic will in a representative democracy.

We are going to have to sort out the British Isles constitutional situation. The House of Commons is now utterly imbalanced. Instead of adjusting here and there, it needs a formal sort-out and reform that is comprehensive. But does the government have space for this?

Otherwise Scottish independence is the way to sort out much of the imbalance. There would have to be a Council of the British Isles, rather like the early European Economic Community itself. A place to co-ordinate by discussion and agreement. In this, Northern Ireland either becomes independent or goes south - independence would need the active support and engagement of both British Isles sovereign governments.

The fact is that we cannot come out of the European Union and retain a unitary State. This is because increasingly the EU was underpinning the British Isles politically, and the worst prospect is for the border in Ireland. How on earth is that kept relatively invisible with one nation inside the EU and one outside - unless one of them is outside but pays for everything economic inside except having representation? In other words, the British State loses its sovereignty.

The reality is that the best deal is the one we have, being in. By triggering Article 50, the negotiation may well realise that its either economic damage or lost sovereignty (or both). We then get enough people to see the light: the Liberal Democrat strategy of a second referendum on destination becomes the means to ask to stay in.

But it doesn't follow that we do stay in, because to stay in may come with conditions, rather like joining again - to no longer be the bad boy of Europe. And it turns out then that this Conservative Government under Theresa May will have been the most disastrous ever. Plus the Scots may be on their way to their own independence and control over how to manage their sovereignty. And goodness knows about Northern Ireland: unity across Ireland might be possible even with enough unscared Unionists in a modern, secular, EU Ireland.