Thursday, 19 May 2016

European Referendum

Whilst Llandudno CYTÛN was happy to sponsor Welsh Election hustings, it has opted not to put on a European Referendum debate because of the difficulty in in obtaining honest, factual information as opposed to the assertions of the IN and OUT camps.

An article in today's Daily Mail illustrates the problem.  There's no disguising the fact that the Mail is in favour of Brexit in the European Referendum and there are no lengths to which it will not go to support its case.

In today's paper, it asserts that a European Court judgement is preventing British Security Services from denying entry to known terrorist supects.

This is supposedly supported by court papers and a junior Justice Minister Dominic Raab.  It's worrying when a Justice Minister either doesn't know the law or deliberately misinterprets it for political purposes.

We shall hear much more of this as the British Government attempts to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights, an issue which CYTÛN might like to consider because it is much more focused and human rights ought to be something about which Christians are concerned.
The supreme judicial authority in the UK is the Supreme Court in London.  It has to take account of European Court rulings but it does not have to follow them.
This excellent article from Bella Sankey, the Director of Policy at Liberty, refers.  Personally I'd prefer Liberty to the Daily Mail as an authority.
I quote the relevant paragraph but the whole article is worth reading by those interested in the human rights debate as well as the European Referendum one.

"Under the HRA, Britain's courts are only required to "take account" of ECtHR judgments, not follow them. British courts regularly depart from Strasbourg jurisprudence to take account of UK laws, traditions and customs, and the Supreme Court is already the ultimate arbiter of human rights cases here. In fact, when the Human Rights Bill was passing through Parliament (in 1998), the Conservatives tried to amend it to say British Courts should be bound by Strasbourg - a proposal rejected by Parliament."

Back to the European Referendum.  When I lectured undergraduates, they were always very keen to write questionnaires to support their research, so it was incumbent on me to point out some of the pitfalls they might want to avoid.  One sample question I tried out on them was "Is 50 billion pounds per year enough, or too little to spend on the NHS?"  One of the difficulties with this question is that most of us don't have the information or knowledge to know whether £50 billion is enough.  The European Referendum debate poses many questions on which we simply don't have enough information.  Figures about the economic cost/benefit of IN or OUT can be conjured up to prove anything.

There are however some questions we might consider:

The original EU of 6 nations, not including the UK, was formed because the countries involved had been involved in the two largest wars in history in the first half of the 20th century.  It was felt that those, who were bound together by trade and some common rules, were far less likely to go to war against each other in the future.  Is this principle still an important one?

Do we start from the position that the other peoples of Europe are our neighbours or that they are foreigners/potential unwanted immigrants?
Can we draw up a list of what things we think ought to unite us as Europeans and compare them with what things we think divide us?

If UK voters vote OUT, how does the UK set about establishing relations with those countries nearest to us whom we have just rejected?

If UK voters vote IN. how might we set about reforming the EU so that it is more responsive to the ordinary citizen, how might we make it more democratic?

And - if you were wondering - the current NHS annual budget is about £116.4 million ( it isn't clear whether that includes Wales or not).  From the service you receive, do you think that is enough?

Every blessing as you ponder your vote in the referendum,

Mike Harrison

CYTÛN President

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Elections and Referendums

We are now in the season of elections and referendums.

We enjoyed a good hustings in Llandudno on 20th April where candidates from four parties answered questions.  It is easy to be cynical about politicians but I have the highest respect for many of those stading for public office.  We shouldn't let headlines about "bad apples" distract us from the long hours of public service offered on our behalf.

Llandudno CYTÛN does not offer direction on which party to vote for but it does encourage everyone to vote.  Anyone who has seen the recent film "Sufragette" will realise that many made great sacrifices so that we could vote.

Christians should test the promises and records of the parties against strong biblical principles.  The Bible has much to say about how the poor, the outcast, the stranger and foreigner should be treated.  There are themes about our stewardship of God's creation and principles of how we should act for the common good. How do the records, as well as the pledges, of the parties stack up up in comparison?

Remember that we are voting for  a WELSH Assembly.  Neither David Cameron nor Jeremy Corbyn are candidates in this election whatever the papers or some campaign leaflets may imply.

Resources can be found here: 

Remember that in the Welsh Assembly Elections, each voter has two votes.  The first is for a constituency candidate.  The second is for a party and may be cast for a different party to the first vote.  Indeed there are very good reasons for considering a different second vote depending of your preferences.

At the same time as the Welsh Assembly Elections,  there is a parallel election for a Police Commissioner for North Wales.  The public can be forgiven for asking who the candidates are and what they are offering.  There is very little information in the public domain.

On 24th June, there is a Referendum on Britain's membership of Europe.  The campaign so far has been disappointing with more bluster than fact. It is good therefore the Joint Public Issues Team of The Methodist Church, The Baptist Union and the United Reformed Church have produced some excellent resources which can be found here 

If each voter thinks carefully and compassionately and remembers Jesus's injunction to love their neighbour, our democracy might produce a ray of hope.