Friday, 6 January 2017

The Current Need for Political Leadership

It's not about a 48% who want a closer relationship with exiting the European Union, it is about making the argument to oppose leaving the EU altogether. This is whether or not this Article 50 is invoked, whether or not it has to come through Parliament or the government thinks the executive can do it.

This is not something to be trivialised with name calling and labelling. The view that leaving the EU is a disaster for ethical, political and economic principles: principles of sharing with like-minded nearby political cultures in order that we come together as peoples, principles of economic overlap that turn into political overlap, with the ethics of peace and similarity, are too important to be lost in some transitional time vote that rarely had anything to do with knowledge and purpose about what the European union did.

What is needed now, I suggest, is a leading politician, and group of politicians, who are quite clear that this is a disaster and will stand to stay in the EU and make the argument. So far we have politicians who "respect" the vote and wish to see the best deal regarding economics. With a few exceptions, Parliament's politicians, who are representatives and not delegates, seem too scared to actually go beyond this limited resistance. Some may be going for cover while really wanting to stay in the EU. They are not yet 'declaring their hand'.

But what is required here is leadership, leadership that articulates the arguments now to stay, that makes the case that was never made within the limitation of the campaign. Even in the campaign, politicians for remaining in were luke warm in defending the EU. It was as if they were accused of calling it perfect. It's not about it being perfect - of course it is a long way from being perfect, and does have a democratic deficit - but the answer was never to abandon the principles involved by removal. But it's as if these principles were never discussed. Compare it with the 1975 referendum when the whole range was discussed. It's a historically disprovable to say that we were only going into a Common Market then: Edward Heath, Roy Jenkins, even Tony Benn in the negative, discussed the full range of implications of being members and the trajectory. Watch the Panorama debate where a young David Dimbleby sits back because he need not direct the respectful conversation between Benn and Jenkins. Nothing like that this time, in a terrible campaign both sides that is part of the argument for a bad vote. I'm against referenda anyway regardless, but the wrong campaigning, and wrong reasoning, and ignorance, all calls upon politicians to grasp the nettle.

We need a political A. C. Grayling. Had the vote gone the other way, there'd be no doubt that Nigel Farage would have been the political figure for that argument of removal on that side. He would not have given up. Nor should those who think we really ought to stay in.

Nor is it about this notion of unity in the UK. Unity was not there before, and not there now. It is not there among the population, nor is it between the UK nations, itself a unitary state than is starting to look more like a federation. Of course the European Union is a confederation, not even a federation, and this was never explained by its defenders. I cannot remember any information about how the EU actually works: how decisions are taken and why it is beneficial from a principled position.

Politicians may be being strategic: they are watching a government make a hash of it. There is a certain amount of holding back, before it becomes more obvious what a mess is involved. There are overlapping ministries that cause the decision making upwards to the Prime Minister Theresa May, but it looks like her absence of leadership, her indeed questionable competence, is causing stagnation, as well as the incompetence - indeed the amateurism - of the politicians we have available to run departments. This notion of 'it's your mess not you sort it out' is not good enough unless the mess they then go on to create can be stopped as it unfolds. The resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers and his reasons are only a symptom.

But this reality does call for clarity on the side of those who oppose leaving the EU. It needs a sort of government in waiting to articulate turning this around: making the argument to stay, and why the referendum is not some sacred object that must be obeyed.

When it comes to the General Election, it requires political parties. At the moment the Liberal Democrats are the nearest to offering the sort of resistance-to-reversal that is being suggested here. But it seems not quite, and the party is somewhat unclear, even if the most clear compared with muddled Labour and divided Conservatives (on what form of exit). General elections trump referenda: they are referenda with a manifesto, with a government intended. So what is needed is the Liberal Democrats to move position, but in addition individual politicians to declare themselves, rather in the manner of David Lammy and Sarah Olney. Kenneth Clarke probably will. These politicians can form an informal group, and may well be part of a possible grand coalition (as coalition is the first possibility to defeat the Tories, given the electoral arithmetic and Corbyn stuck in post ahead of Labour).

If the Supreme Court rules to uphold Parliament, those politicians who do not vote to invoke Article 50 will be the most obvious to clarify the politics of reversing this drive.

Reversal means not just stopping the nonsense of leaving but also making time for policies needed in this country for social reconstruction, policies that a dithering do-nothing Theresa May talks about but will have no time or resource to act upon. Leaving the European Union is so enormous an act in terms of law and policy and negotiation that scarcely little else is going to happen.

There is no reason to change view that this government is set up to fail, but it still needs leadership to formulate what needs to be done when it does fail.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Pluralist Magazine

Having resigned from doing a church magazine, I decided that I wanted to continue with something similar iin skill use for my own Pluralist Website. I could of course just make articles as webpages and add them in. And nothing wrong with that. Except of course they get lost into the generality of all of them. I can highlight new ones here, but that is only for those who visit here. So something up front is a little different, another emphasis, with a front page button access, as well as an extended definition of the 'Stories' Area, as renamed.

The idea then is to mix material along the subjects already as part of the website. In the previous magazine I did (that now continues with the church administrator under the same editor), there were a few intentional rules, given its main presentation was as printed out. One was to put main pieces facing the front, that is on odd page numbers, and lesser to the back. However, two page pieces were to be facing. Three then, the assumed maximum length, could be any three. All were to be continuous - nothing like in The Inquirer with its numerous 'continued on...'
Front and back were distinct: I preferred  an informative front and the back could be poster like: best was a colouring in, I thought. We settled on Trebruchet MS 12pt as most readable - I'd started on Arial 10 Bold, which didn't allow further emphasis. It meant for the A5 format very short articles. I wanted variety. I found myself not only editing pieces (prior to editorial decisions) but crushing some, losing some important detail at times. I didn't intentionally ever do bleed-through and what was therefore required ahead of printing (extra margin to assist cutting), so there was always a white border. Nevertheless a variety of software created a variety of appearance, as .PDF pages were made and combined into one document.

Now, with my magazine, and for online, some format decisions can be relaxed. The cover is similar (same in frame) to my previous magazine work, but the back is less critical. The front now contains the Pluralist logo and a flame that relates to Sir Cato Worsfold's Vestal Virgins, whilst in a kind of also mosaic chalice. I have abandoned an article size limit, but kept the Trebruchet MS 12pt font in an A5 size page. Also, articles can start where they will even though I still offer an alternative book order for A4 printing, in the online linking. I'm less worried about coloured backgrounds too, used with criticism before, although I keep them faded. They form a function of saying this colour means this article continuing. Some new presentation rules though include the consistent Google-like titles, often after an opening paragraph that starts with a drop capital, vertically two lines being enough (I like the Freehand591 BT for these enlarged opening characters).

So the first magazine - maybe quarterly but possibly more - is available.

It shows the long-gone Sutton-on-Hull railway station. Article 1 is about the end of Setam on Hessle Road in Hull, having contributed myself to very many Facebook Old Hull section comments (I did not start this) and making corrections to opinions expressed. Setam was part-managed by my long-standing friend. It is an essay an article on changes in retailing. Its Pluralist Website home would be in Localities or Learning/ Business and Organisations. The next article might be seen as some hoary old chestnut: 'Can Unitarians Be Christians?' In fact the question extends to who at all can be called Christian. It reflects my reading of Bart Ehrman (again) and a really good little book about Christianity in the Arab world, which serves to describe early Christianity broadly (with a little too much acceptance of orthodoxy as an early norm). So my piece covers how one does the historical Jesus and more on early Christianity, because in my view with varieties of belief and our cultural distance the decision to be Christian is about relating oneself and one's group in continuation from the early believers. Politics is next, with religion, on how the Liberal Party was involved in Trade Unionism before Labour got going. Fred Maddison went to school in Hull and failed to represent a Hull constituency in the city. This already has a shorter webpage in Learning - Religion - Unitarianism (local). Then a long article again on defining preaching in a pluralist and liberal setting, using an Anglican approach for comparison and contrast. This would be in Learning - Religion, probably under Unitarianism (national and international). Finally is the Nash Equilibrium, a puzzle with answers, with relevance to road space in Hull, that probably would supply a webpage in Learning- Maths. I was saving this for some time.

So there is the main pages order version, and then the back-facing (with front cover) and front-facing A4 print run versions.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Year Gloom

Internationally, locally and personally, 2016 has been an awful year. We've seen the portrayal of evil in Syria and related spilling out over the world. We have had cynical, nasty, if some places restrained, political leaders engaging in conflict. The xenophobic right wing has been doing its usual trick of hoodwinking the masses and making headway. The problem is that 2017 could be a whole lot worse.

The United States is about to lose a cautious, thinking, President for someone whose logic on many matters doesn't extend further than chat down the pub and is someone who jumps to assumptions at best. The newcomer isn't divested of his interests and we suspect his palliness with the Russians is because of longer term business interests, where corruption is rife and politics is twisted.

In this country we have a Prime Minister and Ministers who show themselves to be out of their depths - and their depths are shallow. They seem intent on pursuing an exit from the European Union despite all the damage it will do, and the narrowness of vision this involves. I am clear that a referendum set up for party political reasons and made as a gamble that went wrong should not be driving policy for a representative system of control over government. For decades political culture has pressed down on the tendency to tribalism, nationalism and racism, and now the can of worms has been opened.

The city in which I live has its year of culture. Best of luck with that. I regard it as ephemeral. Culture follows on from economic and social structures and forms, and isn't 'made up' - or at least shouldn't be. So I pay it little interest. For those who think otherwise, enjoy, and let's see if the various authorities cease from cocking things up as they have all the road works prior to and running into this particular year.

I've been on what is now in Orwellian speak called a 'Fitness Certificate' renewed several times. It will go through the State processes of being rendered ineffectual so a cycle goes on. Last year saw me declared diabetic, although in the last count I went below 48 (the key number: 42-47 is a warning). Over Christmas I might have gone over 48 again. I've never had so many salads and oily fish.

Next year will simply be a task of 'hanging on' and trying to keep afloat. That is the only goal. My religious involvement is being minimalised and I'll make it more personal and less collective. My friendships are precious (and one is having a serious life change: loss of a lifetime's work habit) and my potential relationships are unlikely to non-existent.

All around me though is where it could go all go seriously wrong. The scenario is an idiot President of the USA surrounded by his chosen business people. Pallying up to Putin, Putin nevertheless tests him on some matter of conflict. Being narcissistic, the stupid USA President reacts and everything spirals out of control. He is already making conflict with China, on the basis that he isn't into their business scenario and blames them for bad competition. The Chinese, we hope, are more rational, but they are building those islands in the sea. The British could add to the damage of the European Union, and its ideology of sharing and being peaceful, liberal and democratic is thrown into serious doubt. Already our Prime Minister has, over Israel's dangerous expansion into Palestinian land, sucked up to the President elect rather than the one with some brains. If this is the pattern to come, it shows the weakness of Britain coming outside of the European Union. In the end the political, social and economic environment shapes what happens personally.
Perhaps if we begin pessimistically then we won't be surprised, and things may actually turn out to be better. Things just look very gloomy, that's all.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Unicoms (Again)

On 4th to 6th November 2016 I stayed at The Nightingale Centre at Great Hucklow for what was still existing of the Unicoms Conference. I have now completed all the reports to make of the time there.

My own presentation on using Audio CDs in services was cancelled. There are plans to have it next year. The lengthy comprehensive guide is available now.

At Hucklow I (among six others) participated in James Barry's explanation of moving to a multisite version of Wordpress for a denomination-wide arrangement of websites.

Whilst I quizzed him on preferring directly designed and relevant websites for congregations, highlighting what is important, he said that even as a longstanding programmer (PHP and all that) he can no longer compete with the standard provided by such as Wordpress. (This rather questions going to these firms that offer bespoke websites!) Wordpress detects varieties of devices and browsers and appears to look the same everywhere via up to 40 selected stylesheets from which the detection makes choices.

Then I participated in Louise Reeve's presentation on specific church publicity, continued because it was being filmed for UK Unitarian TV. I took extensive notes, and wrote my webpage from these, the handouts and a glance at a sent set of resources of the original presentation made into one .PDF file.

Some ten or eleven attended that. I have put my piece as a webpage in the Learning Area Business and Organisation Section (because it relates to marketing).

Hucklow also included a walk out for filming towards a Paganism element in Unitarian video, but I did not go to that. I did check out an attempt to photograph a changing sky of stars with a body sat in front. It was on a hilltop at Bretton in the wind-making freezing cold, with the additional benefit of fireworks going off. So we went in the close-by pub.Three of four of us remaining for lunch on Sunday made ourselves useful by designing a questionnaire, which I have put in the Learning Area Business and Organisation Section (because it relates to marketing).

If I have any critique of this, it is tentatively to compare doing marketing with the success that is cathedrals and to suggest only that marketing alone is limited. Cathedrals clearly do marketing, and such thinking does not negate marketing, but what cathedrals have consistently is a management core that allows others to be anonymous by choice, usually within a large number or large distance from the core. You can still volunteer if you want. Cathedrals also produce a reliable worship quality. The theology is also fairly standard, if tending towards the more liberal, and a little high. It usually encourages some reflection and treats people like adults. Can these be reproduced in this somewhat different context? How to test for relevance of these characteristics as well?

Whilst it is right to target the most likely participant types, and to become known, there is much to be said for laying the produce on the stall and attending to: quality and consistency, theological explanation, and a system of greeting and letting be for newcomers with information and contact detailing that gives the new person (or indeed any person) space. Information on the walls is such a good idea, beyond a range of leaflets, simply because it involves least activity for the individual who may not want to read leaflets and booklets. Websites are fantastic for that leisurely, DIY, investigation, and thus so important to get them to be good.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Unicoms (Having Been)

Four of us at the end, six of us most of the time, ten at peak, and a conference of sorts: a very useful presentation and discussion on changes to the Unitarian denomination websites arrangement, a presentation on publicity (link soon), and a questionnaire from marketing principles regarding why existing people started to attend. Much will be repeated and updated next year at a properly advertised conference (whereas the talk had been that these had had a good run and would cease). This would mean me doing the audio CD in services presentation next year, although my pessimism about my continued participation in the Unitarian movement was evident.

Saturday, 29 October 2016


I am going to the residual Unicoms gathering for 2016. Effectively the Conference (and my presentation as well) has collapsed and it won't be revived in the future. My ow
n presentation has been superseded by a comprehensive webpage on using audio CDs in services - the preparation long term, preparation weekly and actually doing the activity on the day. There is much involved.

The collapse is indicative, of course, of the perilous winter state of the Unitarian movement, but comes at a time when publicity is all the more important. Unicoms is communication and comes with a technical edge, and the point about audio CDs is when there is no keyboard player.

About half a dozen to ten people will still be going, and some presentations will still be considered. One of these is using Wordpress for church websites. I am interested in this. My own view is that these enhanced blogs are too restrictive for websites and do not allow for the most direct, relevant, design. Pages have to be 'highlighted relevance' and this is only really achieved by coding to order. Menus and choices are vital presentations to give service times, location, and vital ideological information.

You should have a website for all news and information of interest, use a blog for described announcements regarding the website and then advertise on social media with opportunities for further comment.

London Rapid Transit Suggestions

I am not a supporter of an extra runway at Heathrow Airport. I do think the surrounding airports for London can be developed including London Biggin Hill. Goods need moving from Heathrow. What is needed is flexibility and capacity shifts in public transport. I have been interested in this for years, and is why people are surprised at my knowledge of London locations. I've developed maps and routes to enhance the London Overground as an alternative flexible system around the London Underground, with its own distinct colour-marked routes rather than orange everywhere. There is a single line going through Poyle and Stanwell Moor. The latter is hundreds of yards from Heathrow Terminal 5 and could be connected by a travelator. Buses could link the terminals to Wraybury on the line coming south from Windsor.

The maps are in the Localities Area of the Pluralist Website. The updated webpage of routes and now achieved is at and links go to all maps from there. The maps are standard, then with Crossrail 2 in original and updated forms, one set more geographical and one more diagrammatic.