Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dreaming of David Blunkett

Strange but true! Yesterday morning I found myself dreaming about David Blunkett. Actually it was a familiar dream, repeated with a changing cast of Labour characters. But yesterday it was Mr B. We were stood on my back step, I was remonstrating with him about how little his party had done for young people. "I remember 1997" says I "Despite being a LIb Dem I really believed you would invest in our young people, I believed the mantra - tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime." Well, I continued, as is my want, banging on about how useless they had been, how youth services had continued to be decimated, how the gap between rich and poor had widened, how our education system had failed so many of our most vulnerable young people, how asbos were criminalising a whole generation................then I came to. I had dropped off whilst listening to Thought for the Day, as I roused I realised we were at the 10 past 8 slot.......Blunkett was putting in his ten penneth on gun crime. Heaven knows what he said, but at least some of it must have penetrated my unconscious....the worst thing was realising it was 20 past 8 and my car was parked outside in danger of the green peril (aka our local traffic wardens), at that point scrambling into my jeans and charging down the stairs became much more important than worrying about what Mr B had to say......

Saturday, August 25, 2007

You're on your Jack!

The observant amongst you may have noticed the lack of women candidates in the Eastern European yours truly. I know I bang on about these issues, but can we at least try to understand why we are so unrepresentative as a party? I have said it before, but will say it again.......I was so frustrated that at the Meeting the Challenge conference 18 months ago not one woman graced the floor, not even at a fringe meeting. When we debated Meeting the Challenge, I was the first woman to speak after 13 men. I had to ask Conference if they noticed anything different about me!

Well, I am far too tired to dive into an analysis of why right now, I am still coming to terms with the huge disappointment of discovering that SKY have only now told me that I have another 14 days to wait until my broadband wakes up........hmmmm..........but be warned, after that you won't be able to shut me up!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A month in the life of Cruella - Hugging Hoodies, Embarrassing Interviews et al

Because of having had such a turbulent few weeks with little access to my blog I seem to have a whole basketful of unfinished tomes.............anyway - here is a summary.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days at the LGA conference. Highlight for me had to be Simon Hughes' speech. Not only because I am a confessed Simonphile, but particularly because his ten point programme for local government had top of the list investment in Youth Service and in particular in detached youth work. As someone who has spent most of my working life in youth work it was as you can imagine music to my ears. I listened carefully to the speeches by Mr Cameron and Ms Blears, just to see if they would back up their own rhetoric, but sadly not much mention of services for young people, although Cameron talked a lot about special needs education.

And then it was off to the Youth Summit, the swan song for my old pal, retiring CEO of the National Youth Agency, Tom Wylie. Tom is famous for his quip about hoodies "I Blame the Franciscans". A couple of years ago I got a hoodie made for him - you can't see it in this pic, but I had it printed with a little Franciscan on the front and a big one on the back with the text "I Blame the Franciscans" I dared him to wear it when the minister (Beverley Hughes) was speaking, on that occasion he didn't, but at the Youth Summit I am glad to say he did, and got quite a laugh. A couple of weeks ago was his retirement do, he received many well deserved accolades, including from Phil Hope MP (who used to work for the NYA), Tom has been a fearless critic of government youth policy and will be sorely missed, although I am proud to say he will now be chairing our advisory group at the FSA.

In the last month we also had a visit from Jafar Farah from Elijah Trust partner organisation Mossawa. He was over for a meeting with the LGA about town twinning with Arab towns, so we were able to arrange meetings in Bedford and in Westminster for him, it was the last week of term so difficult for many parliamentarians to attend, but pleased to say that Dan Rogerson made it.

As a granny it was a delight to celebrate my little grandaughter Sumaiyah's birthday - she is the image of her mum with a fantastic personality, you wait we'll get her on the podium at conference to speak about toddler's rights before she is 2!

Oh and that embarrassing interview..............that was with a couple of children at the Youth Summit, it's on the web somewhere...........a babycham in the conference hotel bar for anyone who can find it!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pentagon Chaplain Blesses Sending Badass Apocalyptic "Convert or Die" Game to Troops in Iraq

I just received the following email from someone who takes a particular interest in Christian Zionism - the content speaks for itself.

"How appalling and sick is this? What will they do next? Watched a clip of a video made by the "Christians United for Israel" conference in DC last month. Thousands of "Christians " rose to their feet to flag wave (Israeli and American!!) and shout for Armageddon when the speaker urged that George Bush should go to war against Iran - they have completely lost their orthodox Christian roots and are so very strong and dangerous. Am just reading "Wayward Christian Soldiers" written by Charles Marsh, an evangelical American Christian theologian and professor addressing the issue of this monster movement. He quotes statements from Christian groups around the world who were strongly against the war on Iraq, but the Christian Right heeded none of these. In its own eyes it's superior to the rest of the worldwide church and having its own hotline to God - not the God of the New Covenant, who came to earth as a babe,gave his life on the cross to set all humanity free, and is all Love.

Courtesy of the Pentagon, and the Pentagon Chaplain's Office, troops in Iraq will soon be able to unwind, after a hard day's urban warfare, by playing a video game in which they command a Christian fundamentalist army waging urban warfare in America ! On the streets of New York City ! Plus, in the game screens appear, between different levels of play, with short, helpful essays such as one that explains how the Theory of Evolution is clearly impossible. And, the game will be provided to US troops free of charge ! How cool is that ?
The United States Pentagon Chaplain likes "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" and the religious warfare the game depicts so much that the Chaplain's Office is sponsoring a prayer breakfast in the Pentagon's main executive dining room this Friday morning, where the founder of an apocalyptic fundamentalist "extreme sports" ministry that will distribute the game to US troops in Iraq (thoughtfully included in care packages along with baby wipes) will address top officials of the most powerful military on Earth.
Religious war is way cool. On the smoking battlefields of the religious wars that erupted in Europe in the wake of the Catholic/Protestant rift, victorious armies would entertain themselves by making small incision in the sides of wounded enemy soldiers and pulling their intestines out to wind those around sticks and so extract the entire intestinal tracts, very, very slowly. In Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' "Left Behind" series, God does that to unbelievers; God pulls their guts out.
That's religious war. Way cool.
As a taster for my new book, Zion’s Christian Soldiers, here is the text of a recent article written for Al Aqsa Magazine about the Left Behind video game.

Armageddon Now

The video game taking Christian America by storm, aptly titled ‘Left Behind: Eternal Forces’, encourages its players to kill anyone who resists conversion to Christianity. As Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft battle it out for domination of the electronic game world, the games’ creator anticipates a ready market among those who have already bought 63 million copies of the ‘Left Behind’ novels.
The game is set in New York City , a rather unusual venue for Armageddon you might think since New York doesn’t actually get a mention in the Bible. It is, however, the location of the United Nations headquarters and that is the clue. Never popular among conservative evangelicals, in Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the bad guys are the Global Community Peacekeepers, who are on a search and destroy mission in Manhattan . Their target is the remnant of newly converted Bible-believers, left behind when Christians were apparently raptured secretly to heaven. These new believers, left on earth, form a Christian army called the Tribulation Force.
Under the heading ‘Turn or Burn?’ a review by Focus on the Family suggests the game could well be an evangelistic tool for teenagers – “the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior—and use to raise some interesting questions along the way.” Perhaps anticipating a degree of incredulity on the part of some readers, the review asks,
How do peace and prayer go hand in hand with tanks, attack choppers and street battles? … Yes, you're offered sniper rifles, gun turrets, even tanks and helicopters. And there are points at which a gun battle is necessary to avoid a massacre. (When this happens, there's no gore. Units fall to the ground and fade away.) But if you go in guns blazing, nine times out of 10 you fail. It quickly becomes clear that the strongest weapons in your arsenal are your top-level missionaries and worship leaders. It's easier to convert a group of enemies than it is to shoot them. Still, post-Rapture warfare is integral to the game, as it is in the Left Behind books and movies.
In an interview with Tim LaHaye, the author of the Left Behind books on which the video game is based, Focus on the Family asked whether Christians will really be expected to militarize in the future?
He told Plugged In Online that this fictionalized depiction in the books, movies and now video games is a representation "of the self preservation instinct of the much-persecuted saints during the Tribulation."
What a relief. It’s all right then apparently as long as it is “faith-based” killing. Players pray for their adversaries "and try to do good spiritual things for them" But at a certain point, it becomes acceptable to kill them. So killing is OK as long as it is done in the name of Jesus. A rather more sceptical review by Jews on First observes that,
The goals of the game are simple: Spread the gospel, and stay alive. But staying alive may sometimes lead to the taking of life -- "fighting hellfire with hellfire”. And that raises a knotty moral conundrum for any game designer who worships Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Sadly, the mistaken idea of a secret rapture on which the Left Behind empire is based, and the belief that some will come to faith after Jesus returns, has generated a lot of bad theology and galvanised a belligerent US foreign policy in the Middle East.

Confident that Christians will escape and witness the events from the grandstands of heaven, exponents detach themselves from the Christian responsibility to work for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East . Instead they describe in graphic detail the suffering that will soon take place there. Charles Ryrie, for example predicts this will be, ‘the time of Israel ’s greatest bloodbath.’
[3] John Walvoord similarly predicts a holocaust in which at least 750 million people will perish.[4] Tim LaHaye warns that ‘Jacob’s trouble’, prophesied by Jeremiah 30:7, will certainly be far worse than the Spanish Inquisition … or even the Holocaust of Adolf Hitler.’[5] Not to be outdone, in The Final Battle, Hal Lindsey claims, ‘ Israel is in for a very rough time. The Jewish State will be brought to the brink of destruction.’[6] In a later chapter he clarifies what this will mean for the Jews:

The land of Israel and the surrounding area will certainly be targeted for nuclear attack. Iran and all the Muslim nations around Israel have already been targeted with Israeli nukes … All of Europe, the seat of power of the Antichrist, would surely be a nuclear battlefield, as would the United States ... Zechariah gives an unusual, detailed account of how hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the Israel battle zone will die. Their flesh will be consumed from their bones, their eyes from their sockets, and their tongues from their mouths while they stand on their feet (Zechariah 14:12). This is exactly the sort of thing that happens from the intense radiation of a neutron type bomb.
John Hagee takes an even more aggressive approach toward Iran . At the July 19th, 2006 Washington DC inaugural event for Christians United for Israel , after recorded greeting from George W. Bush, and in the presence of four US Senators as well as the Israeli ambassador to the US , John Hagee stated :

The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West... a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran , which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.

The highly speculative and imaginative interpretation of ancient prophecies that under girds the Left Behind books, films and now computer game has a fatalistic view of the future. With its prewritten script, it is inherently suspicious of anything international, anything ecumenical, anything involving the European Community or the United Nations.

Efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East are spurned as counterfeit and a satanic ploy to beguile Israel . Such paranoia might be deemed a sick joke were it not so pervasive and influential, not least in galvanising US foreign policy with its perpetual war against the ‘Axis of Evil’. Its greatest danger, however, must surely be that it is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the Middle East , this kind of apocalyptic theology, which is invariably pro-Zionist and hostile to Islam, is having a devastating effect on relations between the faith communities and on the viability of the indigenous Christian community.

Munib Younan is Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land , and a Vice President of the Lutheran World Federation. He describes how this theology has impacted him and his family.

“My father was one of the 6,500 refugees driven out of Beersheba in 1948, and my mother was from West Jerusalem . She remembers fleeing her home after the Haganah told her family to go and it would be safe for them to return soon, only to look back and see they had bombed her house and it was engulfed in flames. Their families became part of the 800,000 Palestinian refugees that were driven from their homes, more than 200,000 of whom left before May 1948 or before any of the more organized neighboring Arab armies came in. I grew up in the Old City of Jerusalem, through the 1967 war which led to the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza , which has dominated our lives since then. Occupation continues to violate basic human rights. The worst part for me, however, was that some of my own Christian sisters and brothers from all over the world began justifying what happened as a part of God's plan. I still remember my first encounters with what I would now call a Christian Zionist who came to tell me that I should be thanking God because the scriptures were being fulfilled in the Six Day War… It is painful to me that in this Holy Land , scriptures and religion have been terribly used, abused and twisted to justify violence, injustice and hate...”

The Right Reverend Riah Abu El Assal, the retired Episcopal Bishop in Jerusalem , also said recently,

"Nearly a thousand years ago, European Crusaders tried to colonise Palestine , fuelling religious hatred and bringing the indigenous Christian community close to extinction. It is tragic, if ironic, that misguided Western Christian Zionists, by their one-sided political support for Israel , are today succeeding where the Crusaders failed… It is heartbreaking to see misguided Christians identifying more with Ahab and Jezebel than with Naboth. On a daily basis we are seeing our land confiscated, our vineyards destroyed, our homes demolished, our children traumatised and our future negated for the sake of an earthly kingdom which the Lord Jesus has plainly repudiated. I [call] Evangelical Christians, in particular, to break the spiral of violence and hatred. Instead we must obey the teachings of the Prince of Peace who has called us to a ministry of reconciliation.”

In the Summer of 2006, members of the EMEU Executive were invited to assist the heads of the local churches in Jerusalem to draft the "Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism" rejecting the tenets of this movement. The Jerusalem Declaration included this statement:

“We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.

We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine . This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.

We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from the ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!”
The new Left Behind video game seems a very long way from the simple teaching of Jesus who promised “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

PS from me..........can anyone technical please tell me how to post my pix so I don't end up with all the text down the side???!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Shout out for all Lib Dem Bloggers

Dear Paul Walter has kindly described me as a "diamond in the Lib Dem jewel box".......(before going on to have a pop!) so I just wanted to return the compliment to him and all my other fellow bloggers. Paul you are a star in the Lib Dem firmament - I love reading your blog, even if you are hanging me from the nearest lamp post! I wish I had the time/opportunity to be so prolific, but I will be on leave soon - and if I finally get online at home - be warned......I may defend myself somewhat - but frankly I am proud of our party that we can have these spats and still be friends (so anyone out there who has decided they don't want to be my pal any more had better let me know!)

The Ming Thing - Jackgate or Jackdoor?

I have been warned by a pal to count to 1000 before writing this so..........1,2,3,4.........1000!

If you are prepared to dish it you have to be prepared to take it (in my case in spadefuls!) So, I have read carefully the fall out from my mild criticisms of Ming this week - criticisms that others far more important than me had also made, off the record, it has to be said. I certainly didn't expect "Jackgate" - but hoped for more of a "Jackdoor" - an open door to enable us to deal with some of these concerns which lets face it, even if they are only shared by a few percent of the party and 10% of the shadow cabinet, ignoring them could lead us down the same sorry road as 18 months ago with Charles.

I have tried to do a little bit of analysis - in order to learn for myself (and possibly save myself from the metaphorical stocks in the future). I observed what is a common pattern in these things - firstly the "who is she?!" syndrome in an attempt to denigrate my analysis because for example - she was 'only FPC - not FE' presumably had I been FE that would have come out as 'only FE - not MP' and failing that 'only MP not Shadow Cabinet' frankly I find that quite shocking as one of the values I thought I shared with my fellow Lib Dems was one of egalitarianism? If I was the woman who emptied the bins and delivered the leaflets - would I as a consequence forfeit my right to an opinion?

I looked carefully to see if there was anyone who shared my concerns about Ming but felt I shouldn't have aired them. I didn't find them - those with concerns supported me, thanked me for having the guts to speak out and in some cases shared their own despair. Those who thought I was bang out of order thought Ming was doing a grand job - so of course they disagreed with me. Some disagreed with my analysis but respected my right to speak out. So - we have a dilemma it seems to me. We all want to do well in the elections don't we? We'd be a rather sorry excuse for a political party if we didn't. We are where we are, we can't have another leadership election (if my motivation in speaking out had been that I would not have been so mild in my criticism), so surely the aim has to be to get Ming to raise his game (unless of course you are one of those who think he is doing just fine). How to do that? Maybe some training and or coaching would be a good start. Ming is clearly a skilled parliamentarian, orator, lawyer - but has he ever lead anything before? He is clearly comfortable with those of similar standing, particularly if they have had a classical education, but maybe some communication skills training would be helpful for when he has to deal with those of us nearer the bottom of the barrel? He clearly knows his erstwhile portfolio very well and is excellent in most areas to do with crime, the legal system and the constitution, but what about other domestic issues? He gives me the impression he doesn't know much about key domestic issues, such as health, housing, the benefit system (which is fine he can learn) but the problem is he doesn't seem to be interested. So maybe he could take more of an interest in these issues. I have been chastised for using the term 'possibly over promoted' - yes he was elected, including by me (as second preference), as a party we promoted him. We thought he could do the job - but he wasn't tried and tested as a leader - when else has he ever lead anything? This doesn't always matter, some are natural leaders and will fall into the role easily. Remember Neil Kinnock? Before he was elected he looked and sounded like the perfect choice for the Labour party, but when had he been tried and tested in the role? Equally Cameron, I can remember discussing him in his honeymoon period - yes I thought he looked and sounded good - but I cautioned about being too smitten, a leader doesn't only have to be the public face of his or her party s/he also has to be able to lead that party. Leadership skills are not synonymous with great PR skills.

I do accept that leaders need the support of their members, I have tried to give Ming the benefit of the doubt, but I have had these concerns for a long time. At Federal Conference last year I did an interview on the Today programme, I was asked about Ming's leadership and frankly felt very uncomfortable having given an answer that masked all my concerns and tried to be positive - we needed to give him time etc.

So, to those of you who criticised me, I accept your criticisms, just ask you to consider if you would have been as vitriolic had you shared my views? Chris Leslie in particular chastised me over my lack of collective responsibility. This was a particular stinging criticism for someone who has been an active trade unionist as well as party member for so long. So I gave this particular consideration. In my trade union I challenged the leadership through internal mechanisms when I believed that they were colluding with management, or in some cases the Labour Party. Only once did I do this publicly - when my local branch colluded with the leadership of the County Council to try to get a long serving activist sacked. I had evidence that the leader of the council had lied and so I went to the local press. I was castigated for this since I was putting the union facilities agreement at risk and should have been prepared to sacrifice the one member (despite the injustice) for the greater union., sorry I don't work like that, my attitude would have been, (as it was on a previous occasion when as Branch Secretary I was threatened with the same thing) bring it on! In terms of my collective responsibility within the party, I am at a loss to understand where this comes in? Of course shadow cabinet members, who are appointed by the leader, have collective responsibility and should resign if they want to criticise him. However, I was not appointed by the leader to the FPC, I was elected by conference (which I certainly get the impression our current leader would prefer didn't have the powers it does). My accountability is to conference. Given that my strap line was "vote Jack, you won't get the oyster you'll get the irritant that produces the pearl" (!!?) people shouldn't be surprised if I sometimes say things that some people don't like. I made very clear my views and I assume those who voted for me did so because they thought I would represent theirs, as I say on the doorstep, if you don't like me, or what I stand for, don't vote for me - it's called democracy, you have a choice!!!!

So, rant over, back to the naughty corner.................
Luv Cruella

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Flambe Goose a la Loo


Never knowingly been one to shirk from the temptation to poke my head over the was no exception. It appears I have been vilified and praised in equal measure (well OK, maybe more vilified, but I am sure my fans amongst you will leap to my defence???!)

Some clearly view my decision to talk to World at One as inexcusable. But, it was a decision taken with a great deal of thought and soul searching. As Leo helpfully points out on Lib Dem Voice this could well scupper any ambitions I may have for a winnable seat, or keeping my seat on FPC. Don't think I didn't think of that. Of course, World at One only used my comments because they were perceived as somewhat critical, I am not so stupid as to think it was due to my scintillating wit and awesome powers of analysis, but I am frankly sick to death of the party trying to pretend all is well in the state of Denmark.........

As I hope I have made clear my first commitment is to the party, because I firmly believe in the values and (most of) the policies of our party. Because I believe our party can really change people's lives and their futures not only in this country but in the wider world. Because, fundamentally I am a Liberal Democrat! So, I would have kept my mouth firmly shut had I thought my comments would be more damaging to the party than continuing the current pretence. Frankly burying our heads in the sand helps only our political opponents.

To those who attribute my decision to a desire to "be on the radio" please, get a life! I think that's what is politely called "projection". I have done my fair share of national and local TV and radio in my time, both as a Lib Dem and a national Unison activist, and believe me, if I wanted to get myself noticed (as was noted in my last work appraisal) I am well able to do so!!!!

So apologies to those I have upset, anyone who knows me knows that as much as I hate making myself unpopular (I do like being loved!) I hate hypocrisy, duplicity and lilyliveredness more. The general public, typified by the London taxi drivers I encounter on a regular basis agree..........we are being disingenuous by pretending we have the right leader. I was once asked on an interview on ITN what I thought of Charles (in the height of the is he a chair or a leader debate), my response was that I thought he was a great leader but that at the next general election we may need someone with different skills, he was perhaps the Moses who had seen the promised land when what we needed was a Joshua to lead us into it........................sadly we have ended up with............well Biblical scholars amongst you will have an idea of who I am thinking of....................