Thursday 31 May 2012

Hunt Balls

Even with the distraction provided by the charity tax U-turn, Jeremy Hunt's performance has given the nation plenty of much-needed hilarity.

You can be, as Labour Governments especially have sometimes been in the past, well-meaning but incompetent. You can be, as Conservative Governments especially have usually been in the past, nasty but efficient. You cannot, however, be both nasty and incompetent.

Oh, and note that Telegraph Blogs has today been doing a passable impersonation of a competitor, rather than a wholly owned subsidiary, of News International. Are Sir David and Sir Frederick in the office this week? If so, then they should come in more often.

And Labour should take note: as also on the Mail titles, the combination of patriotism in all directions, including towards the Murdochs, with at least an openness towards socially and culturally conservative insights, and with support for the government action necessary to maintain the middle class, the countryside, the domestic manufacturing base, the traditional family, and so on, is the way to pick up newspaper endorsements and millions of votes that are both now ripe for the picking.

Ed Miliband Wins Again

The pasty tax abandoned. The caravan tax abandoned. The church tax effectively abandoned. And now, the charity tax abandoned. But those are only the latest U-turns. There have been dozens. Literally more than 30. Doubtless, there will be dozens more yet.

Conservative, even Tory Britain has rallied to the only party opposed to the crippling of provincial economies through the slashing of the spending power of public employees far from London, to the breaking up of the National Health Service with a view to its piecemeal privatisation, to the deregulation of Sunday trading, to the devastation of rural communities through the sale of our Post Office and of our roads (the latter to oil-rich foreign states as such, several of them on the permanent brink of an Islamist coup), to the abolition of Gift Aid, and to the imposition of VAT on church repairs.

Conservative, even Tory Britain has rallied to the only party always to have promised its MPs a free vote on the redefinition of marriage. And conservative, even Tory Britain has rallied to the only party promising a referendum on EU membership. That party and its Leader are setting the agenda. Brilliantly. As the electorate manifestly recognises.

Next up, BAE must be brought it back into public ownership as the monopoly supplier to our own Armed Forces and to no one else, making possible the re-opening, or even the never-closing, of its plants at Newcastle and Washington, among other places. Meanwhile, provided that there is the necessary government action to ensure diversification and thus to preserve skills while rebuilding the manufacturing base, the sale of arms abroad must be banned, perhaps progressively, but altogether in the end.

Ed Miliband and Jon Cruddas, over to you. Again.

Stay Ahead

A Conservative commitment to an EU referendum is being touted by those who want it to be true. Even if it were, which it is not, then that would only be playing catch-up with Labour.

By 2015, it is more than plausible that Labour, which has never been dogmatic about the EU since it stopped being dogmatically hostile 25 years ago, might want a vote to pull out. Whereas the Conservative Party will never, ever take that view.

As for taking the wind out of the sails of UKIP, what wind? UKIP has never won a Westminster seat, and this year it failed to pick up single council seat despite having had the money to fight more than there being contested. If its support is that dispersed, then it is not worth worrying about.

And if this were to have the desired effect, UKIP really would stand exposed just a collection of people who imagine that the Conservatives used to be something entirely different from what they have ever really been.

The UKIP lot have always missed being "Tories", and they are, apparently, preparing to disband in return for the tiniest excuse to go home. They know perfectly well that no such commitment would be honoured, but they don't care. They just want to be "Tories" again.

If you want an In/Out referendum, then, as in 1974, there is only one way of getting it. The same way, in fact, as in 1974. Which Eurosceptical commentator has the gumption of Enoch Powell? Has any of them?

Don't Be Selective

Are the Republicans going to ban sex-selective abortion, either? I only ask. For that matter, is David Cameron going to do so, since it is not illegal here, where in fact it is fairly widely practised, and thanks to Margaret Thatcher it is practised all the way up to birth?

Both American parties have abysmal records on abortion. Ever since it became an issue, the Democrats have nominated one Presidential candidate twice (Jimmy Carter) and one Vice-Presidential candidate once (Sargant Shriver) who were in any active sense pro-life. Carter was not re-elected, and Shriver was not elected at all. The Republicans have nominated no one pro-life for President, and only Sarah Palin for Vice-President. Several have talked the talk, but none has walked the walk. Ronald Reagan's reputation is singularly undeserved.

If black and white America, both of which are Catholic as well as Protestant (whereas Hispanics aren't really very Catholic at all, by and large - the religion of Latin America is largely the pagan misuse of Catholic terminology, symbolism, religious artefacts, and so on), really wanted to survive and thrive, then black and white Americans would breed sufficiently to survive and thrive. Furthermore, they would only vote for parties and candidates that promised to use the power of the State to assist that demographic effort, an assistance which it would be impossible to prevent from also benefiting other groups, but even so.

They understand these things in France, which is why they still have both a real bourgeoisie and a real proletariat, thinking that their own mild underclass is horrific and regarding the feral overclass of the Anglo-Saxon countries with sheer disbelief. But the failure either to reproduce, or to demand that the State aid the economic, social, cultural and political expansion and consolidation, including the demographic expansion and consolidation, of the middle and working classes and of the traditional population groups, bespeaks a death wish on the part of those classes and groups. That is manifestly the case from black and white America, to urban Britain, to secular Ashkenazi Israel. You obviously do not want to survive. If you did, then you would.

Once, there was the party that produced the Progressives and the Nonpartisan League, both of which started out as factions within the Republican Party. It pursued Keynesianism, Civil Rights and other economically and politically progressive measures into the 1970s and sometimes even beyond, within a morally, socially and culturally traditional framework defined by America's mainline Protestantism in the days when it was still numerically and theologically worthy of the name "mainline". Balancing that party, and balanced by it, there was the party of mostly urban white Catholics (and to a lesser extent Orthodox), of mostly rural white Evangelicals, and of the black church. Within that morally, socially and culturally conservative framework, it pursued Keynesianism, Civil Rights and other economically and politically populist measures into the 1970s and beyond.

Within both parties were powerful elements that insisted on strong defence against external threats, balancing and balanced by powerful elements that believed in minding America's own business and which were profoundly suspicious of the growth of any military-industrial complex. The WASP Republicans and the mighty Scots-Irish among the Democrats were hostile to attempts to control American policy by ethnic lobbies, especially if apparently or actually acting on behalf of foreign states, while the mainline Protestants in fact maintained the Near Eastern universities that were the seedbeds of Arab nationalism among, not least, the ancient indigenous Catholics and Orthodox of that region.

Very similar phenomena defined the politics of Britain, among other places. Ah, those were the days...

Why does no one vote for such parties either there or here these days? Only because we are given no such option. If we still were, then we still would. If we were again, then we would again. If Americans still were, then they still would. If they were again, then they would again.

Wednesday 30 May 2012


Only The People had the wit to endorse Ed Miliband for Leader of the Labour Party. The appointment of Lloyd Embley to edit the new seven-day Mirror is richly deserved. 

The Independent is consciously broad in the range of opinion that it publishes. The Murdoch papers are best left undiscussed for the time being, but they were certainly never pro-Labour as such, rather than merely supportive of a puppet Leader who knew nothing about the Labour Movement except that he hated it. If Times readers, especially, had suspected that their paper had gone Labour, even New Labour, then they would have stopped buying it. It is inconceivable that any actual votes were swung.

The Mail and Telegraph titles, and those owned by Richard Desmond, find themselves opposed to the Coalition from its Right, variously conceived. But there are potential points of contact with the vision of Ed Miliband, with whom come Jon Cruddas, Maurice Glasman, David Goodhart and the new Demos (oh, what a storming of what a bastion), and so on.

The Guardian has supported the Lib Dems at the last three General Elections, the first of which was 11 years ago now. People sometimes tell me that I am wrong about this, but as a postgrad at the time I remember discussing it with Tory contemporaries who found it hilarious. That was before the 11th September attacks, never mind the Iraq War.

By sticking to that Lib Dem line even once it had become politically possible for Labour to lose, but while it was still psephologically impossible for the Conservatives to win an overall majority (as it still is, and as it will still be even after the boundary changes), The Guardian made itself more to blame than any other publication for the subsequent formation of the Coalition.

It continues to provide platforms both to the Far Left and to those yearning for David Miliband, who devised the entire Coalition programme years ago when he was running Tony Blair's Policy Unit, and whose only objections to the cuts as Leader of the Opposition would have been that they did not go far enough, did not hit the undeserving poor hard enough, and were not accompanied by wars against Syria and Iran.

Such traitors in the camp are cheerfully held up as authorities elsewhere, too, in such forms as Dan Hodges and Oliver Kamm. Until today, the Mirror Group titles, at any rate other than The People, were also showing dangerous tendencies in that direction, having backed the wrong Miliband for Leader.

But not anymore, we trust. Britain is now looking suspiciously like an emerging democracy, with media that could be persuaded to give a hearing to views, and to politicians at least open to views, offering a real alternative to the moral, political and literal bankruptcy of neoliberal economic policy, unrestrained liberal social policy, neoconservative foreign policy, European federalism, and the supposed "centre ground" on which the 1970s sectarian Left and the 1980s sectarian Right have met over the last 20 years.

Who knows, perhaps Maurice might even take up that column that he never felt able to accept in The Sun on Sunday? Among other voices telling the story of the present age, which is the redefinition of British and wider politics in terms of, when you really look at it and look into it, the second-generation and second-degree reception of postliberal theology. Over to you, Lloyd Embley, with, in Nigel Nelson, a Political Editor well-connected to the communities in which postliberal theology is lived out; if so are you in your own right, Mr Embley, then please forgive me.

Class Action

The doctors? That's right. The doctors. With a higher vote for industrial action among the hospital consultants than among the rest.

This Government is finished. The alternative Coalition now stretches from one end of both the economic and the social ladder to the other.

StartUp? Shut Up!

Bill Mitchell tears the whole thing to pieces.

Arrested Development

The judgement of the man who brought Andy Coulson into the heart of government now stands exposed as practically nonexistent.

David Cameron is unfit for office.

There ought to be a General Election on the last Thursday in June, if not sooner.

Meat and Milk

I have never understood why we did not eat plenty of veal, one of the glories of European cuisine. We must have done at some point. We cannot always have exported the calves, often in rather unpleasant conditions, to the Continent.

Such exports became something of a Eurosceptical cause célèbre in the last days of John Major, and if a real Labour Government had succeeded him then it might have stood up to the European Commission so as to ban the export of live animals to conditions that would themselves have been illegal in the United Kingdom. One worth revisiting for 2015. Ed Miliband and Jon Cruddas, over to you. Creating all the more need to eat it here instead.

And be in no doubt: if you consume any dairy product, then you cannot object to veal, and in fact really have to eat our own variety of it in all its free range pinkness. Unless you would rather that the calves, absolutely necessary for the production of milk, continued to be subjected to a fate a very great deal worse than gambolling about for six to eight months (longer than many chickens, lambs or pigs live before slaughter) before being humanely dispatched to the dinner plate? Shot within a couple of days of birth, perhaps? That is what happens now in order to feed our appetite for butter, cheese and yoghurt.

Trumping Romney

Obama should reply by endorsing Donald Trump's record of economic patriotism and of support for the Canadian single-payer healthcare system.

Does Romney also agree with those, he should ask? Or does he only agree with Trump on birtherism?

An Unlawful Travesty

Ad hoc tribunals to try specific individuals are inherently illegal. Amnesty International rightly made that point, and did so very powerfully, in its 2003 report into the trial of the Grenada 17. Yet in 2007 that same organisation welcomed the trial of Charles Taylor before just such a tribunal, and called for its proceedings to be broadcast in Liberia for “educative” effect.

Be he innocent or be he guilty, Taylor has been tried, if it can be so described, and has now been convicted and sentenced, by an unlawful body: a specially constituted branch of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, itself a creature, not of international treaty-making and ratification, but of executive fiat on the part of the United Nations. Laurent Gbagbo is also now subject to such an unlawful travesty of a trial, as was Thomas Lubanga.

Consider Rwanda. If anything, there really were two genocides in Rwanda. But “genocide” is a slipperier concept than you might think. In 1993, the former Bolivian President, García Meza Tejada, was convicted of “genocide” for the deaths of fully eight people. Those may or may not have been the only people whom he killed. But they were the only victims of his “genocide”. And so to Rwanda.

Or, rather, to a kangaroo court in Tanzania, set up by a UN Security Council resolution with no authority to do so, and specifically empowered - again, on no proper authority whatever - to try only members of the former, devoutly Catholic regime, and not of that which overthrew it, namely a direct extension, by means of a Ugandan invasion of Rwanda in 1990, of the only-too-successful Maoist insurrection in Uganda. Thank God that no one is now to be sent from this country, historic refuge of the oppressed, to appear before that kangaroo court.

Théoneste Bagosora was finally convicted (well, of course he was – this sort of thing never, ever acquits anyone) eighteen months after the prosecution’s final submission, and fully twelve years after his arrest, even though his trial had started almost immediately.

That was entirely typical, as is the use of European and American activists as “expert witnesses” even though they witnessed absolutely nothing and were in fact thousands of miles away at the time alleged. As is the heavy reliance on anonymous prosecution witnesses (even though it is in fact six defence witnesses before this “Tribunal” who have been murdered soon after giving evidence), universally known to be paid liars.

As is the routine holding of session in camera. As is the admission of hearsay evidence. As are the rulings that no corroboration is necessary to convict a man of rape even he has pleaded not guilty, and that it matters not one jot if a prosecution witness’s written statement differs markedly from his testimony in court. As is the astonishing principle that a prosecution witness’s inconsistencies are proof of trauma, and therefore of the guilt of the accused. And as are the farcical translation problems.

The remit of this “Tribunal” is frankly racist, providing only for the trial of Hutus, the overwhelmingly predominant ethnic group, for crimes against Tutsis, the historically royal and aristocratic minority. Crimes by Hutus against Tutsis undoubtedly happened. But so did crimes by Tutsis against Hutus.

Neither Maoist guerrillas nor embittered, dispossessed aristocrats are characteristically restrained in these matters. No one knows how many people were killed, often with machetes. The usual figure cited is eight hundred thousand. Perhaps that is correct, perhaps it is not.

But what is undoubtedly the case is that not all the perpetrators were Hutus, although many were. What is undoubtedly the case is that not all the victims were Tutsis, although many were. What is undoubtedly the case is that no Tutsi has ever been tried, because none can be: that whole people has been declared innocent in advance, and another whole people declared guilty in advance.

What is undoubtedly the case is that an invasion of a sovereign state by a larger neighbour at exactly the same time as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait has been backed up to the hilt by the West in general and the United States, so that the Americans are now where first the Germans and then the Belgians once were: running Rwanda through a tiny clique drawn exclusively from the Tutsi minority.

And what is undoubtedly the case is that that clique is Maoist, whereas the majority-derived government that it overthrew was headed by a daily communicant, Jean Kambanda, whom it subsequently tortured into confession while illegally detaining him, and whom it denied the lawyer of his choice.

Ivorians, you have been warned.

A Free Press?

It is extraordinary that we purport to have a free press when four out of five newspapers sold are part of an off-the-books campaigning arm of one of the political parties.

That they are a cartel has been exposed by the way in which the rest of them have rallied round their supposed competitors, as exemplified by several pieces in response to Michael Gove's appearance before the Leveson Inquiry.

Two loss-making newspapers exist only because the rules were bent double so that Rupert Murdoch could buy them in order, to his credit, to fund them out of his profitable interests. So they ought to be required to maintain balance.

The publications granted parliamentary lobby access should be required to be balanced among themselves, even if not necessarily within themselves.

Broadcasters having such access should be required to give regular airtime to all newspapers enjoying the same access.

Tuesday 29 May 2012


Are we going to expel any Turkish diplomats, since their country is arming and aiding the other side, the side that wants to destroy pluralist, including largely Christian, Syria?

If not, why not?

What is really going on here?

His Master's Voice

Of course Michael Gove sticks to the Murdoch rather than the Government line on, and today at, the Leveson Inquiry. It worked in bouncing this country into war against Libya.

When he was fresh out of Oxford, the Conservative Research Department could find no link between Gove and its party. Yet look at him now. And still having regular dinner dates and other private meetings with Rupert Murdoch.

Entryism, plain and simple. And that in the service of what can reasonably be called a foreign, not to say a hostile, power.

Another Wall Falls

There is going to be a Labour Government as soon as there is a General Election, with only the fixed-term Parliament provision preventing that from happening this year.

It is the culmination of a process which has been going on for more than 20 years. The Conservative Party was held together by the Cold War, and by claims in that cause which turned out to have been false, anyway. By means of those claims, all manner of disparate elements were corralled together.

Subsequently, the people who thought that economic neoliberalism was somehow the essence of Toryism, or at any rate the opposite of Communism, have wholly displaced the people who were anti-Soviet because they saw the USSR as a threat to traditional Western and British culture and institutions.

Thus, we have a party dependent on the votes of churchgoing farmers and so forth while advocating Post Office privatisation, foreign-owned toll roads, Sunday as just another shopping day, same-sex "marriage", abolition of the House of Lords, and all the rest of it. The wonder is that it has taken such a party the better part of a generation to collapse. But it has now collapsed.

Leaving the way open for the party that lost, not its unifying principle, but its most divisive issue when the Berlin Wall fell. Those who were anti-Soviet but Eurofederalist had actually seceded from it in 1981. But those who were both anti-Soviet and anti-Eurofederalist remained, and have now been vindicated all round: in relation to Stalinism, in relation to Eurofederalism, and in relation to Thatcherism.

Right at the time when the Party Leadership has passed to a man more open to them on Europe than any since the early days of Neil Kinnock, and more open to the related tradition of Labour social and cultural conservatism than any since the death of John Smith.

A Leader whose party can only now be defeated in 2015 by a 29-point swing to a formation whose core supporters have finally realised that they have had no reason for at least 20 years to vote for politicians who are actively opposed to everything in which they believe and on which they depend.

As the recent local elections illustrated, they now feel no tribal aversion to voting for the other lot. They did when it, too, was a party opposed to those values, under Tony Blair. But it no longer is. So they no longer do.

Oak Apple Day

We ought to keep it every year, wearing our oak apples with pride.

The roots of the American Republic, of the campaign against the slave trade, of Radical and Tory action against social evils, of the extension of the franchise, of the creation of the Labour Movement, and of opposition to the Boer and First World Wars, are in Catholic, High Church (and thus first Methodist and then also Anglo-Catholic, as well as Scottish Episcopalian), Congregationalist, Baptist, Quaker and other disaffection with the Whig Revolution of 1688.

Within those communities, long after any hope of a Stuart restoration had died, there remained a sense that the Hanoverian State, its Empire, and that Empire’s capitalist ideology were less than fully legitimate, a sense which had startlingly far-reaching consequences.

Radical action for social justice and for peace derived from testing the State and its policies against theologically grounded criteria of legitimacy.

It still does.

What The Mickens?

The Church does not need a state in order to be the Church, any more than the Jews need a state in order to be the Jews. Whether or not they like to admit it, theirs is a nuisance to them. And whether or not She likes to admit it, Hers looks increasingly like a nuisance to Her.

But in discussing the strange case of the Pope's butler and all that, as if there were nothing else to report, The World at One had on Robert Mickens, er, "balanced" by Michael Walsh. It was a nice day out for the residents of the Schillebeeckx Memorial Home for Bewildered Old Dissidents.

Oh, well, there is no point asking the BBC for someone orthodox. We all know whom we should therefore to endure. Any of my several regular readers in the belly of the beast, I have the names and contact details of a large number of potential contributors to Thought for the Day, and of potential panellists on The Moral Maze who might still deserve the billing of "Catholic writer" by the time that the 45 minutes were up.

For that matter, I have those of several such potential panellists who are neither hardline neoconservatives nor activists within the several continuity organisations of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which latter not infrequently occupy two of the four seats on the panel while also providing at least one witness into the bargain.

Open Justice

Clearly, the market is open for a party of liberty.

Light sentences and lax prison discipline are both expressions of the perfectly well-founded view that large numbers of those convicted, vastly in excess of the numbers that have always existed at any given time, are in fact innocent. We need to return to a free country’s minimum requirements for conviction, above all by reversing the erosion of the right to silence and of trial by jury, and by repealing the monstrous provisions for anonymous evidence and for conviction by majority verdict. And we need to return to proper policing. Then we could and should return to proper sentencing, and to proper regimes in prison, with no suggestion that prisoners should have the vote. But only then.

We need to return to preventative policing based on foot patrols, with budgetary sanctions against recalcitrant Chief Constables. We need police forces at least no larger than at present, and subject to local democratic accountability though police authorities composed predominantly of councillors, not by means of elected sheriffs, which, like directly elected mayors, have no place in a parliamentary rather than a presidential res publica, and are wholly incompatible with the defence, restoration and extension of the powers of jurors, magistrates and parliamentarians.

We need to restore the pre-1968 committal powers of the magistracy, restore the pre-1985 prosecution powers of the police, and restore the network of police stations and police houses placing the police at the very heart of their communities. We need each offence to carry a minimum sentence of one third of its maximum sentence, or of 15 years for life. And we need a single category of illegal drug, with a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on.

We need to abandon the existing erosion of trial by jury and of the right to silence, the existing reversals of the burden of proof, conviction by majority verdict (which, by definition, provides for conviction even where there is reasonable doubt), the admission of anonymous evidence other than from undercover police officers, conviction on anonymous evidence alone, both pre-trial convictions and pre-trial acquittals by the Crown Prosecution Service, the secrecy of the family courts, the anonymity of adult accusers in rape cases, identity cards or any thought of them, control orders or anything like them, police confiscation of assets without a conviction, stipendiary magistrates, Thatcher’s Police and Criminal Evidence Act, the Civil Contingencies Act, the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act, and the Official Secrets Acts.

We need to raise the minimum age for jurors at least to 21. We need to extend to the rest of the United Kingdom the successful Scottish extension of the right to serve on a jury without compromising its restriction to those with a tangible stake in society. We need to repeal the provision for “no win, no fee” litigation, while at the same time protecting, restoring and extending Legal Aid. We need the current judicially imposed arrangement on privacy to be enacted into the Statute Law, but with the burden of proof in libel actions placed on the plaintiff.

We must insist on a return to the situation whereby a Bill which ran out of parliamentary time was lost at the end of that session. On the restoration of the power of a simple majority of the House of Commons to require a General Election, whether by rejecting a motion of confidence or by approving a motion of no confidence. On the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law. On the requirement that EU law apply in the United Kingdom only once it has passed through both Houses of Parliament exactly as if it had originated in one or other of them. On the requirement of a resolution of the House of Commons before any ruling of the European Court of Justice, or of the European Court of Human Rights, or of the Supreme Court, or pursuant to the Human Rights Act, can have any effect in the United Kingdom. On the restoration of British overall control of our defence capability. On the removal of all foreign forces and weapons from British territory, territorial waters and airspace. On the repeal of one-sided extradition arrangements. And, especially now that Norman Baker is a Minister, on the coroner’s inquest that has mysteriously never been held into the death of Dr David Kelly.

There must be an extension to Scotland of the historic liberties, largely as set out above, which have never applied in that far more oligarchic country, where middle-class institutions and upper-middle-class power have been defined as the esse of national identity, a situation which has been made even worse by devolution’s weakening of the Labour Movement. While this might have been a factor contributing to the retention of more rigorous minimum qualifications for jurors in Scotland, criteria which should be applied nationwide as surely as should be the Scots Law requirement of corroboration of evidence, nevertheless it means that, while there is an automatic right to trial by jury for serious offences in Scotland, the decision on which way to proceed in an ‘each-way’ case lies with the prosecution rather than with the defence. The police have no power to caution, and they proceed entirely under the direction of the locally unaccountable Procurator Fiscal, who does not prosecute unless it is in the public interest to do so, which it is for the prosecution alone to decide and for which it does not have to give any explanation. It is extremely difficult to bring a private prosecution, far in excess of the necessary restrictions on that practice which rightly exist elsewhere. These profoundly illiberal arrangements must change.

And we need legislation with five simple clauses. First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural policy and to restore our historic fishing rights (200 miles, or to the median line) in accordance with international law. Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them. Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard. Fourthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons, the High Court of Parliament.

And fifthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons. Thus, we would no longer subject to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura, neoconservatives such as now run Germany and until lately ran France, people who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland, or Dutch ultra-Calvinists who will not have women candidates. Soon to be joined by Turkey’s Islamists, secular ultranationalists, and violent Kurdish Marxist separatists. Any provision for a referendum on EU membership must be only the sixth clause of what would therefore become this six-clause Bill, the other five clauses of which would come into effect anyway.

That would be a start, anyway.

Over to the Lib Dems? Hardly! They had been all ready to vote for yet further secret courts, as proposed by Ken Clarke, supposedly the last big beast of liberal Toryism, but in fact a man who was never out of the Thatcher Cabinet, being given responsibility for her flagship health and education policies by the Prime Minister who also signed the Single European Act.

Over to the Daily Mail, then? Up to a point. But you cannot vote for a newspaper.

Rather, Ed Miliband and Jon Cruddas, over to you. As much as anything else, what would the Daily Mail then say? If not “Vote Labour”, then why not? All that Blair managed was The Sun, always a floating voter. Bagging the Daily Mail would put Miliband in a different league altogether.

The Co-operative Queen's Speech That Should Have Been

Gareth Thomas writes:

No one, it seems, has had a good word to say for this year’s Queen’s Speech, yet it could have been so different. If David Cameron had really bought into the Co-op idea, and if the Conservative Co-op Movement, with its 37 members, had really found some clout, Her Majesty could have been reading out a very different list of new Bills.

Centre stage could have been the Financial Mutuals and Transparency Bill that put financial co-ops and mutuals, plus banking transparency, at the heart of a Plan B to boost growth. Embarrassed by the failure to remutualise Northern Rock, George Osborne could have brought forward a Bill to firstly force the Financial Services Authority and its replacement to promote diversity in financial services – or in other words make more effort to encourage building societies and friendly societies in the mortgage, pensions and insurance markets. Secondly, included in this Bill would have been an expansion of credit union activity, including a greater role for local authorities and housing associations to promote credit unions and local community development finance institutions. The final element of this Bill would have required all banks to make public details of what and where they lend, injecting much-needed transparency into the debate about how to reconnect Britain’s global banks with communities in the UK.

An Energy Co-operatives Bill to challenge the monopoly of the ‘big six’, encourage more competition to stop the endless drift upwards of energy bills and promote a modern, sustainable energy industry, owned much more by local communities, might have been next on the Royal list. An Employee Ownership Bill could have driven a new package of measures to promote real employee-owned businesses – with workers and management alike sharing in the proceeds – and not just 1980s-style management buyouts. A Co-operative Housing Tenure Bill would drive a new era of co-operative housing, supported by revenue from a tax on bankers bonuses. This would get new social and affordable housing under way, creating new jobs and real apprenticeship opportunities to start to tackle youth unemployment.

An International Development Bill could have been introduced to lock into law the UN demand that the world’s richest nations allocate 0.7% of their national income to help tackle poverty. The Bill would have required all aid recipients to account for how they spend the money, would champion democratic institutions in developing countries and would require the Department for International Development to report on how and how much of UK aid was being spent tackling poverty through co-operatives. Alongside such a Bill, Her Majesty could have announced a new UK initiative to reach an international agreement on new global poverty targets for when the Millennium Development Goals come to an end in 2015.

Recognising the importance of football and sport to the national well-being and the growing effort by a small elite to take over the biggest clubs, the Government could have decided to follow the example of continental clubs Bayern Munich and Barcelona and forced rich owners to embrace a real role for fans in the ownership of clubs, with a guaranteed place on the board for a fan representative, elected by a football supporters’ trust or fans’ co-op.

With the loss of confidence in the Government’s efforts to help the third sector, and charities in particular, a new drive could have been announced to support social action with new ideas to encourage volunteering by companies winning government contracts, and new measures to create fair markets in the tendering of government work so that charities have a level playing field with the private sector.

In this International Year of Co-operatives, there could have been a Queen’s Speech which put the great co-op values of social justice, solidarity and freedom at the heart of Whitehall and Westminster decision-making over the next 12 months. Instead we have a damp squib of a Queen’s Speech that will do little to help achieve economic growth and do even less to help families cope with rising household bills and the threat of even higher unemployment.

All these measures have been championed by Co-op MPs. We have Chris Evans championing bank transparency, while Chris Leslie and Andy Love have been pushing for diversity in financial markets. Meg Hillier and Luciana Berger have pushed the Government on energy co-ops, Alun Michael champions volunteering, and Ed Balls and Cathy Jamieson are urging for a Plan B to grow the economy, tackle the housing crisis and cut youth unemployment. Jonny Reynolds is pushing co-op housing tenure and Stella Creasy is promoting credit unions and action to tackle legal loan sharks. Others in the Co-op Group of MPs, such as Tom Greatrex, have been promoting football supporters’ trusts and fan power. And none of this touches on the excellent work in the House of Lords by the likes of Angela Smith, Tommy McAvoy, George Foulkes and other great co-operators.

Purge of the Grown-Ups

Patrick J. Buchanan writes:

After taping John Stossel’s show on March 16 in New York, the Mrs. and I took the 10 a.m. Acela back to Washington. Once we had boarded the train, who should come waddling up the aisle but Bill Kristol. The Weekly Standard editor seemed cheerful, and we chatted about the surge in Mitt Romney’s popularity and prospects.

I did not ask what he had been doing in New York, but thanks to the website Mondoweiss, I found out. Kristol was there for a March 16 “debate” with Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, the pro-Israel organization, at B’nai Jeshurun synagogue on the Upper West Side. After listening to Kristol, writes Phil Weiss, “I am still reeling.”

“Kristol was treated like royalty and came off as … a Republican Party warlord,” bragging “about how all the hostile elements to Israel inside the Republican Party were purged over the last 30 years — (and) no one (now) dared to question the power of the Israeli lobby.”

“The big story in the Republican Party over the last 30 years, and I’m very happy about this,” said Kristol, is the “eclipsing” of the George H.W. Bush-James Baker-Brent Scowcroft realists, “an Arabist old-fashioned Republican Party … very concerned about relations with Arab states that were not friendly with Israel… .” That Bush crowd is yesterday, said Kristol.

And not only had the “Arabists” like President Bush been shoved aside by the neocons, the “Pat Buchanan/Ron Paul type” of Republican has been purged. “At B’nai Jeshurun,” writes Weiss, “Kristol admitted to playing a role in expelling members of the Republican Party he does not agree with.” These are Republicans you had to “repudiate,” said Kristol, people “of whom I disapprove so much that I won’t appear with them.”

“I’ve encouraged that they be expelled or not welcomed into the Republican Party. I’d be happy if Ron Paul left. I was very happy when Pat Buchanan was allowed — really encouraged … by George Bush … to go off and run as a third-party candidate.” Kristol’s point: Refuse to toe the neo-con line on Israel, and you have no future in the Republican Party.

Ben Ami seemed equally exultant: “We’ve won the war; we won the war,” he told the audience. Ninety-nine percent of Congress now votes almost 100 percent pro-Israel. But Ben Ami appeared nervous about how this unanimity in the Congress behind Israel had been achieved: “I very seriously and absolutely do believe that a significant percentage of American members of the House of Representatives and the Senate are intimidated on this issue (of Israel). … They worry about the ramifications of speaking out. … They are worried about the attacks that they will receive.”

Ben Ami said the 50 members who have criticized Israel are courageous, but, “Another 200 are scared to do it.” reports Ben Ami as saying congressmen “live in fear” of the Israeli lobby. Kristol laughed at this and dared Ben Ami to name them.

When Ben Ami brought up the destruction of Palestinian rights on the West Bank and said Hillary Clinton repeatedly raises this issue with Israel, writes Weiss, “Kristol sniggered.” It’s a “myth,” said Kristol, that Arabs care about Palestinians. The Israeli occupation on the West Bank can last for 45 or 60 years more. Bill Kristol on Palestinian rights sounds like Bull Connor talking about Negro rights in Birmingham in 1965.

Another source says Kristol predicted that Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose voting record is closer to Socialist Bernie Sanders’ than to conservative Jim DeMint’s, will be secretary of state in the Romney administration. A former head of the Israel lobby AIPAC describes Lieberman as “the No. 1 pro-Israel advocate and leader in the Congress.” Joe led the cheers for our last three Middle East wars — and has pushed for two more, against Syria and Iran.

About Kristol’s comments, a point of personal privilege. George W. Bush never “encouraged” me to go third party. At the Iowa straw poll in 1999, he asked me to stay in the party, and party chair Jim Nicholson came to my home to make the same request.

At the synagogue, Kristol was never asked about his role in the Iraq War that he and his collaborators pressured Bush to wage as “Israel’s fight against terrorism is our fight.” Some 4,500 Americans died in that war, 35,000 were wounded, and 100,000 Iraqis perished, leaving half a million widows and orphans.

Result: U.S. influence in the Middle East is at a nadir. Al-Qaida has spread into Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and North Africa. Now the neocons are worming their way into the Romney camp, dropping us hints on whether John Bolton or Joe Lieberman will be the next secretary of state.

Has Gov. Romney imbibed the Kristol Kool-Aid that caused the war and cost the party Congress in 2006 and the presidency in 2008? Hard to believe, but we should find out before November.

Monday 28 May 2012

So, That's That, Then

Blair cut no deal with Murdoch.

Well, of course not.

And his eye-poppingly lucrative employment with J.P. Morgan owes nothing whatever to the Iraq War.

Well, of course not.

A Pity That Only One Of Them Can Lose

In Syria, that is.

Having oh so very successfully improved Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, what on God's green earth could possibly make us imagine that we could improve Syria?

The best thing that we can possibly do is to stay out of the whole wretched business. Not much could make it worse. But Western intervention certainly could. It certainly would. It always does.

The Chair In The Lobby

Dr Wafik Moustafa is a significantly more distinguished person than Sayeeda Warsi, and a much better candidate for a peerage. He found that the organisation that he chaired, the Conservative Arab Network, had effectively been banned by Warsi's Co-Chairman, Andrew Feldman.

Like David Cameron and 80 per cent of Conservative MPs, Lord Feldman is a member of "Conservative Friends of Israel". In other words, they are really Likud or Yisrael Beitenu politicians who electioneer by pretending to be Tories. They have a treasonable relationship with a foreign and largely hostile State. That treason was exposed spectacularly, yet to absolutely no practical effect, by the case of Liam Fox last year. Feldman acted in accordance with it.

At which point, Dr Moustafa decided that the world needed to know that he was putting up Warsi's bag-carrier rent free, and that Warsi herself was sometimes staying there while billing the taxpayer for rent that was being neither charged nor paid.

This one could run and run.

For Miliband To Seize The Moment

In a poll just released by Class, the new trade union thinktank, over two-thirds of people are unaware that 90% of the government's spending cuts have yet to take effect. With only 10% of the cuts in place, the poll confirms that people are already calling for alternatives to austerity.

When offered a menu of ideas associated with François Hollande as alternatives to austerity, the response is overwhelming. Ninety-five per cent supported a growth strategy to create jobs and reduce unemployment; 70% agreed with redistributing wealth from the richest; 74% supported the creation of a national investment bank to lend to businesses for growth; and 73% backed support for young people to go to college or university.

This is resulting in calls for Ed Miliband to be braver in advocating an alternative to austerity. This misunderstands the current Labour leadership and more importantly misjudges how it can be shifted.

Labour's leaders undertook their political apprenticeships at the heart of New Labour. The electorate's rejection of New Labour has enabled them to jettison some of the worst excesses of the Blair/Brown era but beyond the last trace elements of neoliberalism, they are dominated by electoral politics. No action is taken or policy advocated that may risk losing a vote.

The Labour leadership will only move and take a stand on an issue if it is risk free and perfectly safe to do so. We saw this over the issues of bankers' bonuses, corporate ethics and Murdoch.

So the strategy for those that want Miliband to be bolder in seizing the moment against austerity is for us to make the issue safe. Our aim must be to create a climate of opinion that enables Labour to shift to the higher ground just as Jean-Luc Mélanchon helped create the demand for radical change that secured Hollande the presidency.

The polls are showing that this potential exists as other evidence emerges showing that people are looking for an alternative that goes beyond current Labour rhetoric of just cutting less deep and less fast.

Recently I blogged a statement called A Radical Alternative to Austerity. It went viral on blogs and Twitter, securing large numbers of supporters. It was not meant as a definitive statement but a broad depiction of a radical alternative.

Like many others I share the view that there is no lack of wealth and resources in our country that we can draw upon to tackle this recession. The problem is that this wealth and these resources are held in the hands of too few people and are not being used productively to create the growth and jobs we need.

The introduction of a limited range of redistributive measures would release the funds we need from those most able to pay and who have profited most out of the boom years. This includes a wealth tax on the richest 10%, a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions, a land value tax, the restoration of progressive income tax and a clampdown on tax evasion and avoidance.

We can get people back to work and earning a decent living by investing the resources released in modernising our economy, its infrastructure and our public services. Instead of cutting and privatising our public services, we could invest in house building, in universal childcare, in the NHS, in creating a national caring service, in our schools and colleges, in our transport infrastructure, in alternative energy and in the extension of broadband. We could establish a national investment bank with the resources levied from the banks so that there is no shortage of funds to lend for manufacturing growth and research and development.

We can address the inequalities disfiguring our society. For those at the top this means limiting the high salaries to no more than 20 times the lowest paid in any company. It means replacing the minimum wage with a living wage and a living pension and living welfare benefits, reducing the working week to 35 hours, closing the gender pay gap, controlling rents and energy prices and restoring rights at work. For young people it means a guaranteed job, apprenticeship, training or college place for every young person with the burden of fees abolished.

By demonstrably signing up for the radical alternative, we can all make it safe for Miliband to seize the moment.

John McDonnell’s was a much more interesting and inspiring candidacy than Diane Abbott’s, brought down by silly Political Correctness and by the stage-outrage of the right-wing newspapers over a remark very tame indeed compared to the casually vicious and viciously casual tribal spitting of their own side.

John was nominated by more people than Abbott, including Frank Field. Including the Countryside Alliance’s Kate Hoey. Including Ian Lavery and Ronnie Campbell, the two Labour MPs, being half of all the MPs, from the second most rural county in England; Campbell is a pro-life Catholic. And including Ian Davidson, a Co-operative stalwart who on the floor of the House has correctly identified New Labourites as “Maoists and Trotskyists”, and who, as befits a protégé of Janey Buchan, is a hammer both of Scottish separatism and of European federalism.

Only John McDonnell, with his uniquely broad base among Labour MPs, had begun to demonstrate that he could build an alternative Coalition in the country at large. But not only, nor ideally, can he ever do so. Over to you, Ed Miliband and Jon Cruddas.

Sunday 27 May 2012

One Spirit, One Body

The whole Church was baptised with the Holy Spirit on this Day of Pentecost, and She manifests that baptism through a rich plurality of gifts, the charisms. The whole Church, and thus every member, is therefore both Pentecostal and Charismatic.

Every gift is a charism, and each is always given for the good of the whole body, in response to Her evangelistic activity, in the context of Her sacramental life, and subject to Her gift of discernment. She exercises that gift within Her institutional life, because the institutional Church and the charismatic Church are inseparable, being two aspects of a single reality. It is wholly unscriptural to impose any requirement that anyone exercise any particular charism in order to be considered a full, believing member of the Church.

There has never been the slightest doubt that the charisms include healing, exorcism, prophecy and words of knowledge, nor really even that they include speaking in tongues. Furthermore, healing is here understood as even those of us not raised in the Charismatic Movement understand it: it is the restoration of the human person to wholeness, which might or might not take the form of healing as understood by medical science, depending on what is known best to the Holy Spirit, Who is the Wisdom of God. Similarly, the performance of exorcism is restricted to suitably qualified people, and it is only ever used against the power of that objective evil which we can but thank God that we do not fully understand.

Prophecy is recognised as the gift of being able to read the signs of the times and to communicate effectively what is thus read, while words of knowledge are always relevant, always wise counsel and always independently verifiable. Speaking in tongues is never without the interpretation of tongues, and together they make it possible to understand where this would not otherwise be the case.

By contrast, glossolalia is not Biblical word, but a twentieth-century running together of two such words in order to describe a twentieth-century phenomenon associated with the denial that those who do not exercise it have been “baptised with the Holy Spirit”, with the degeneration of worship into banality and incoherence, with the refusal of legitimate ecclesial authority, with the denial or minimisation of doctrine, and with the transfer of ecclesial authority to parachurch leaders.

For example, as well as having been miraculously healed, the great Dominican Saint Vincent Ferrer was also blessed with the gift of tongues. Other than Ecclesiastical Latin and despite his English father, he had no language but Limousin, which was what they spoke in his native Valencia in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Yet he was a tireless itinerant missionary, preaching to tremendous effect in Aragon, Castile, Switzerland, France, Italy, England, Ireland and Scotland.

Whereas glossolalia is, it is worth repeating, a twentieth-century running together of two Biblical Greek words in order to describe a twentieth-century phenomenon which does not occur in the Bible. Is it Saint Paul's “tongues of angels”? There is nothing in Scripture to support that view. The true gift of tongues is as manifested by Saint Vincent Ferrer OP, Biblical scholar, philosopher, thus doubly informed and doubly informing theologian, and thanks to that ongoing formation a gloriously successful preacher of the Gospel, not least to the Jews, precisely as an ordained priest and a solemnly professed Religious in perfect unity with the See of Peter.

These and the other charisms serve to re-root Theology in experience, and to call the whole Church to watch at all times for the Second Coming. They restore the integrity of the Liturgy by freeing it from over-formality and over-conventionality. And they release the ministries of women, young people, the poor, and others who experience marginalisation and oppression. Yet there is never any question of any one gift being used to decide whether or not someone has been “baptised with the Holy Spirit”, because it is the whole Church that has been so baptised.

Nor need there be any degeneration into banal and incoherent services; indeed, any such degeneration, like any refusal of legitimate ecclesial authority, or any denial or minimisation of anything taught by the Magisterium, is a sign to the institutional Church, in Her exercise of Her charism of discernment, that the spirits being tested are not of God. And nor is there any transfer of ecclesial authority to parachurch leaders, because there is no parachurch. Rather, there is the Holy, Catholic and Roman Church.

Double Danger

The whole concept of the consummation of marriage is under threat in order to placate the extremely recent but extremely nasty use of homosexuality as an economic, social, cultural and political identity.

And an advocate of those agenda since all the way back in his days on The Moral Maze, Michael Gove of the Henry Jackson Society and of Policy Exchange, says that he wants to send every state school a copy of the Qur'an.

Those two forces have been and remain allied from Bosnia and Kosovo, to Chechnya and Xinjiang, and doubtless to Azawad as well.

Yet the Dutch, in whose country the two had been expected to clash in civil war within this generation, have risen peaceably, but thus all the more forcefully, in revolt against them both. When will we?

A Place In The Sun

Of course the Murdoch media had and have ties to the Liberal Democrats.

I have written here in the past that Fleet Street needs Lib Dem columnists, not least because the Lib Dems need the scrutiny. The Sun, of which Sir Clement Freud's son's father-in-law was and is not only the proprietor but also the editor-in-chief, for many years would not even send a reporter to the Lib Dem Conference. Yet, now that I think about it, it also carried fairly or very regular pieces by Sir Clement over a good number of years, making him the only regular Liberal or Lib Dem, as such, on Fleet Street.

The Lib Dems should consider, and be reminded, that their only newspaper voice over a prolonged period was in a paper of which Rupert Murdoch was not only the proprietor but also the editor-in-chief. That was the voice of a Liberal and then a Lib Dem whose son was by happy coincidence married, and still is, to Murdoch's daughter.

Pyramid Voting

Of course the Coptic working class has swung behind Ahmed Shafiq, veteran Air Marshall and last Prime Minister during the Presidency of that other one, Hosni Mubarak. As the bearer of the Sadat-Mubarak tradition, his only problem for the Copts is that he is not enough of a nationalist, whether Egyptian or Arab. To the late Pope Shenouda III, Egypt was “not a country we live in, but a country that lives within us”. Following his recent funeral on a national day of mourning and with the rulers of the nation in attendance, that same Air Force flew his body for burial at the monastery to which he had once been banished by Sadat for his opposition to the Camp David Accords.

But again I say, of course.

In its day, American Protestant missionary activity has had an important impact in the region. Its universities, untainted by association with British or French colonialism, nurtured generations of Arab nationalist leaders, Muslim and Christian alike. As did those with the most interest in defining the local and putatively national identity as Arab rather than Islamic, namely the ancient indigenous Christians. That was, and very largely still is, Arab nationalism: the fruitful encounter between, on the one hand, indigenous Catholicism and Orthodoxy, including the Oriental Orthodoxy that is not really Monophysite at all, and, on the other hand, the educational opportunities opened up by American “mainline” Protestants.

Alas, the numerical decline of Episcopalianism and of “mainline” Presbyterianism, Lutheranism and Methodism in American society has had an impact on, especially, the Republican Party, while the not coincidental decline of those bodies from the doctrinal and moral orthodoxy that, among other things, sends missionaries has cut them off from the wider Anglican, “Calvinist”, Lutheran and Methodist worlds.

However, the wonderful Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Galilee, Elias Chacour, one of the greatest men of the present age and whose Nobel Peace Prize is long overdue, has founded and heads the first Arab university within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. It is a branch of the University of Indianapolis, an institution of the United Methodist Church, the largest “mainline” denomination. He also holds honorary doctorates from Duke and Emory, both of which are United Methodist foundations, and he has been honoured with the World Methodist Peace Award.

The politically electrifying union of popular Catholicism and Orthodoxy with an academic leadership defined by traditional, not fundamentalist, Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism and Methodism in their American expressions has happened before. It was specifically and successfully a bulwark against political Islam, as well as against Marxism. It was called the Arab nationalism of the Near East. It is still there. Including – indeed, now primarily – in Israel. And, very demonstrably, among the electors of Egypt. Meanwhile, Iran, with her reserved parliamentary representation for Armenians, Assyrians, Jews (yes, Jews) and Zoroastrians, is aiding the defenders of Christian, Shi’ite, Alawite and Druze Syria, and thus also Lebanon, against the agents of our dear friend and brother, the resurgent Caliphate of Turkey.

All is far from lost.

Atoms for Peace

Although he has not yet arrived at probably Eisenhower's (and Nixon's, Ford's and Reagan's), and certainly Enoch Powell's, recognition of nuclear weapons as inherently immoral, Peter Hitchens nevertheless recalls Ike's advocacy of civil nuclear power on the tenth anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

During the Cold War, I did all I could to oppose those who wanted to get rid of our nuclear weapons. Only the USSR would have benefited. Now I’m baffled to find many old Left-wingers happy to spend billions on modernising the Trident system, which has no conceivable point now that the Soviet Union is dead and gone for ever.

The main threat to this country’s independence is the growing need to import energy. As Vladimir Putin has proved, natural gas is a weapon that can actually be used.

Windmills will not save us. Scrap Trident and spend the money on dozens of nuclear power stations. Soon.

Mommy Wars and Money Worries

E.J. Dionne, Jr. writes: 

Last month, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen claimed stay-at-home-mom Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life.” Controversy ensued. But instead of fighting a phony mommy war, we should face the fact that most families these days cannot afford to have one parent stay home with the kids. This is not about “lifestyle” or “values.” This is an economic struggle highlighting yet again the social costs arising from decades of stagnating or declining wages and growing income inequality.

There is a profound class bias in our discussion of what mothers should or should not do. The public debate seems premised on the idea that all two-parent families have a choice as to whether one or both parents work. That’s still true for the better-off. But this choice is denied to most American families. They have had to send two people into the workforce whether they wanted to or not.

Thus the importance of a study recently released by the Center for American Progress that deserves wide attention. The report demonstrates conclusively that the ruckus over Ann Romney’s decisions is thirty years out of date. Its core conclusion: “Most children today are growing up in families without a full-time, stay-at-home caregiver.”

“In 2010, among families with children,” the study notes, “nearly half (44.8 percent) were headed by two working parents and another one in four (26.1 percent) were headed by a single parent. As a result, fewer than one in three (28.7 percent) children now have a stay-at-home parent, compared to more than half (52.6 percent) in 1975, only a generation ago.”

And these changes are driven more by economics than by any of the mommy war issues that provide so much fodder for television and radio brawls. “Breadwinning wives are even more common in families with lower incomes,” according to the CAP report. “Seven in 10 (69.7 percent) working wives earn as much or more than their husbands in the bottom 20 percent of income distribution for all families. And about half (45.3 percent) of working wives are breadwinners in families in the middle of the income distribution, up from four in 10 (39.1 percent) in 2007 and only 15.2 percent in 1967.”

So if you want more households in which one parent can stay home with the kids, you need to boost the incomes of average American families—and especially of poorer families. For millions of American moms and dads, debates about “feminism” or “social conservatism” are irrelevant. It’s about money.

The timing of the report was not driven by the Romney-Rosen kerfuffle. Written by Sarah Jane Glynn, it was an update of an earlier study by CAP senior economist Heather Boushey that was part of a project on working women organized by Maria Shriver. April 17 was “Equal Pay Day,” and Boushey said the new study sought to underscore that equal pay “isn’t just about women, it’s about their families, because women are the breadwinner or co-breadwinner.”

We need to look at both sides of the work-family equation. There are, indeed, as Boushey notes, many families in which “women are working because they want to.” That decision should be respected no less than the one Ann Romney made. But there are many others where the woman “is a single parent, or her husband is unemployed, or her husband isn’t seeing the kind of wage growth that his father did and can’t afford to support the family on his own.”

This points to a contradiction that few conservatives want to confront. When trying to win votes from religious and social traditionalists, conservatives speak as if they want to restore what they see as the glory days of the 1950s family. But they are reluctant to acknowledge that it was the high wages of (often unionized) workers that underwrote these arrangements.

Yet on the right, economic conservatism almost always trumps social conservatism, and market imperatives almost always get priority over family imperatives. As a result, the United States has the weakest family-leave laws in the industrialized world. We have done far less than other well-off countries to accommodate the difficult work-family dilemmas that most moms and dads deal with in the new economy. 

It’s good that Ann Romney had choices. She made them honorably and raised a great family. Now let’s debate what should matter in a presidential campaign: which policies will relieve the economic pressures on millions of parents who are equally determined to do right by their kids but have far less room for maneuver. Profamily rhetoric doesn’t pay the bills.