Bashing the Bishop

Criticism for Rowan Williams and praise for John McCain

The best way to unify the blogosphere against you, it would seem, is to come out in favour of shariah laws in Britain, as Rowan Williams did this week.

In a thoughtful piece on the subject, Cranmer concludes: “God forbid that Britain should ever return to the days when religious leaders should determine guilt or innocence, or legislate on matters of crime and punishment. For some of us, those memories are all too acute and dreadfully painful.”

The news brought a swathe of imaginative post titles. Iain Dale comes up with “Who will rid us of this idiotic priest?” Chris Paul responds: “Archbishop: who will rid us of this ID-iotic blogger?”, while Obsolete’s contribution is titled “Opening your mind so much that your brain falls out”.

In one of the few posts that supports Williams’s position, Brian Sloan writes: “It is an issue that calls for informed debate if we are to have a genuinely pluralistic society, and I admire the Archbishop for raising it. Given the ill-informed and immature reactions of some, such a debate seems a long way off.”

Apparently there have been some elections over the pond. At Harry’s Place, Gene serves up some Super Tuesday afterthoughts, including praise of John McCain: “Although I can't help liking McCain (if it wasn't such an insult in certain circles, I'd call him a decent man), I'm quite aware that on many of the social and economic issues I care about, he's far to the right of me. I actually was moved last night when he referred, non-sarcastically, to ‘our friends’ on the Democratic side.”

Danny Finkelstein calls the caucus voting system “ludicrously undemocratic”, highlighting some of the winning margins (e.g. Mitt Romney winning 25 seats in Montana on the back of 625 votes, while Mike Huckerbee needed 120,776 votes in order to win just 26 Arkansas delegates).

While acknowledging it may appear hypocritical judging American democracy as a Brit, Finkelstein states: “Romney, Huckabee and Obama all gained delegates as a result of this system that they otherwise might not have won. Caucuses (and state conventions) clearly favour the choice and enthusiasm of activists over those of ordinary voters.”

And finally, on the 90th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, Jon Bright at Our Kingdom assesses how far we have come in terms of equality of political power between both sexes. He concludes: “I hope that in another 90 years we are able to celebrate the equal access of men and women to positions of power, whilst also celebrating the anniversary of when change first began. Sadly, even today, this is a hope rather than a certainty.”

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.