David Cameron's description of Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a 'greased piglet' missed the mark, as 'pig in a poke' might have been more apt, particularly in regard to the Tory Party membership who voted for his leadership en masse. Clouds over Jeremy Corbyn too, the perennial backbench radical who has never previously required reconciliation of his beliefs with his actions to produce deliverable policy and coherent strategy.
The clocks may have gone back, but summer's silly season has never ended this year. Our Westminster government threatens to go on strike because the House of Commons is not yet entirely in Dominic Cummings' domain. The SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, adds to the jollity in seeking to dance on the head of a pin in explaining why a general election on 5 December is fine, but one a week later would be a disaster.
Gaming appears to have taken over the practice of politics at Westminster, and the public has a right to expect more maturity from our MPs in these sombre times. Meanwhile, in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon's leadership of the SNP remains unchallengeable, at least in the minds of those outside her party. She will stay in post until a time of her choosing, perhaps 2022 if she has failed to deliver a second independence referendum by then.
The SNP benches at Holyrood have a few bright sparks but far too many timeservers. A newly independent Scotland would almost certainly be SNP-led, hence the electorate is seeking evidence that it could provide a government team with the capacity to exploit more challenging conditions. Relying on comparison with a shambles at Westminster, while facing an ineffectual opposition at Holyrood, does not provide it.
Some will always say pigs might fly when it comes to Scottish independence, but many more are undoubtedly open to being persuaded otherwise.
A seasonal limerick...
December will see thick blizzards flying
and the internet busy with shoppers buying
unwanted as well as wanting gifts
with the fall and slush in hefty drifts
and a helluva sight more than snow lying...
Robert R Calder
In June, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office published the Mounstephen Report, which was commissioned by the Foreign Secretary to examine the persecution of Christians (which covered other religious minorities). Since then, I have contacted the main political parties to ask for their response. With most initial communications being acknowledgements (usually promising a reply in 21 days – long since past!) there has since been a deafening silence.
To quote the report: 'FoRB (Freedom of Religion or Belief) is enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights... but... Western politicians have been reluctant to speak out... It is rarely covered in the Western media... Even many churchmen in the West turn a blind eye'. Has the church – once the conscience of the nation – lost its prophetic voice, to alert and challenge politicians and the media? Take lessons from other spheres:
In some congregations, harvest thanksgiving degenerated into the formality of a flower display and lost its biblical cutting edge of a living relationship with God which challenges people with accountability to God. There are others, however, for whom it is an operational worldview seeing the needs of people and seting up foodbanks, or – recognising that ecology is the often belated application of the biblical principle of stewardship to the development of technology and the use of the earth's resources – being active in areas such as climate change.
Police Scotland sources have commented that 80% of calls at weekends are welfare rather than criminal. There are many hurting people in our society. Christians, as recipients of the grace and love of God, cannot logically keep the love of God to themselves. That is the dynamic behind Street Pastors 'listening, helping and caring' on the streets at weekends, and, for example, the Safe Space provided in partnership with St George's Tron in Glasgow, which acts a clearing station for those with various problems.
As we come up to Remembrance Day, when the nation remembers the suffering caused by 'man's inhumanity to man', it is important that lessons are learned from the 20th century and related to the 21st century, with a realisation that in some parts of the world genocide is continuing and 245 million are suffering persecution. This is a challenge to politicians: instead of being bogged down in the current political morass, politicians of all parties are challenged to respond to and action the recommendations of the Mounstephen report. It's also a challenge to the media to share truth without bias; and to the church to not have religion as a formality, but to truly represent the living relationship with a loving God made possible by Jesus by overflowing that love in all of life.
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org