Monday, July 01, 2024

Election Thoughts

The exit poll will be wrong. Even if its close on vote share, translating that into actual seats won will be incredibly tricky. There are several seats which, in current forecast, are neck and neck between 3 different parties, not just two. 

Some projections are suggesting Labour won't even hit 40% of the vote. There has never been a UK government elected with less than 40% of the vote which has served a full parliamentary term with a majority of seats. It will be a landslide, but will it be a mandate?

The combined Conservative/Labour share is likely to be the lowest since 1918. What happens to Reform will determine whether this is a blip, or the start of a trend. 

The Libdems could end up with a lower vote share than Jo Swinson's disastrous 2019 campaign, but 50+ seats, and everyone will hail Ed Davey as a strategic genius. Fair play to him though, you'd never get me on a bungee jump. 

Though behind the comedy facade is a Liberal Democrat party who will sack you if you aren't hatey enough towards feminists. 

But too many seats and Ed will end up as leader of the opposition. This will be a challenge: there has been a blatant non-aggression pact between the Libdems and Labour for the duration of the campaign. For an opposition in waiting, they aren't doing much opposing. 

Campaign strategies in a nutshell: Labour - focus on 14 years of Conservative failure, make all the right noises but commit to as few specifics as possible, and don't answer any questions directly (especially about women). Conservative - started out by trying to set the agenda with a series of policy announcements, begging the inevitable 'why haven't you already done this, if its such a great idea?' riposte, ditched in favour of 'project fear' mode. Libdems - a stunt a day, tenuously linked to a policy proposal which they hope Labour will adopt once in power, studiously avoid attacking Labour.  

Farage isn't that far off the mark on the Ukraine war: recommended reading is the chapter on Russia in 'Prisoners of Geography' by Tim Marshall. 

If you're the only party that talks about proper control of immigration and border security, I guess its inevitable that you'll attract racists. 1.4m added to the UK population in the last 2 years is off the scale, its disappointing that Farage is the only leader prepared to say so.   

Reflecting on the election campaign, here are the headlines that float to the service: soggy announcement, Normandy, betting, dodgy candidates, dodging questions, supermajority/meltdown. Notable that none of these are about policy, or the future of the country, yet these are the things which have been fixated upon by our media. With one or two glowing exceptions, our mainstream journalists are too shallow, or too lazy, to make the policy debates the central feature of their coverage, and to inform the public about what we're voting for. 

And a deeper layer to that, the parties themselves aren't addressing the major structural and cultural issues we face, e.g. declining birthrate (linked to immigration, pensions, NHS, workforce, cost/size of the state, family policy, poverty), fatherless families (major contributory factor to criminality, mental illness, educational underachievement, poverty, gangs and youth crime), NHS reform (the NHS will absorb whatever money is thrown at it, and as new treatments become available, will carry on expanding as far as the government lets it. The work structure means that people can earn more as locums, or in the private sector, which in turn draws people away from NHS jobs, increasing reliance on locums/private sector in a feedback loop.)

There are parallels with the England football team. Our expectations are so high that governments are bound to underperform, and the pressure, structure and culture around politics is such that our politicians don't/can't perform to the best of their ability. Meanwhile people of genuine ability see how impotent politicians are, and how savagely they get treated, and quite understandably put their energies elsewhere. Dominic Cummings has been going on about this for a while. We look at the USA and think 'well at least we're not that bad'. Not yet. 

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Labour Manifesto 2024

 The Labour Manifesto for 2024 was launched today, and here it is.  136 pages sounds like a lot, but when you strip out the photos and blank pages its not quite as scary as all that. But how scary are the contents?

The intro sets out the key beliefs and ideas behind the manifesto. There is a danger that, with so many lists, the casual reader might get lost:

Two Shared Beliefs

  •  That politics should be driven by a sense of service, not self-interest
  • That if you work hard you will get a fair chance to 'get on' (whatever that means)
Five Missions
  1. Kickstart economic growth, targeting being the highest growth in the G7
  2. Become a clean energy superpower, with lower bills, more jobs, and zero carbon by 2030
  3. Take back our streets, halve serious violent crime and restore confidence in the police and justice system
  4. Break down barriers to opportunity through childcare and education reform.
  5. Build an NHS fit for the future. 
Six First Steps
  1. Deliver economic stability with tough spending rules
  2. Cut NHS waiting times with 40k extra appointments on evenings and weekends
  3. Launch a new Border Security Command
  4. Set up Great British Energy
  5. Crack down on antisocial behaviour
  6. Recruit 6500 new teachers. 
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of references to 'Conservative chaos' and the things that need fixing. Labour will 'stop the chaos and turn the page', we are repeatedly told. Its notable that the first main section is 'Mission Driven Government', setting out values and approach rather than specific policy: e.g. that policies need long term goals, and that government should work in partnership with business, trade unions, civil society and faith groups. 

What's In It?
  • Commitment to retain a nuclear deterrent
  • Strategic Defence Review to assess all current threats
  • Border Security Command, with extra staff, working internationally to deal with trafficking gangs, and clearing the asylum backlog. Fast tracking removals of failed asylum claimants. 
  • Balanced budget and falling debt, but 'there will be no return to austerity'. Not sure how they'll do that without raising taxes. 
  • Address the cost of living crisis: reduce costs of energy, food, housing and childcare, free breakfast clubs in every primary school. 
  • National Wealth Fund to make public investments - e.g. in ports, gigafactories, steel, carbon capture. 
  • Cap on corporation tax, and giving businesses long term plans for taxation, so they can do financial planning. 
  • Replace business rates with a new system (but nothing about what the new system will be)
  • 10 year Infrastructure strategy covering road, rail, reservoirs and key national infrastructure. And of course they will 'slash red tape' in the planning system. Everyone promises this. Nobody does it. 
  • 2030 phase out date for new cars with petrol/diesel engines. 
  • Renationalise railways, new local powers to control bus routes through local government. 
  • 1.5m new homes 'over the next parliament' (300k a year, compared to 210k at the moment), with 'a new generation of new towns' (but no figure on how many, or how large). Promises of an increase in social and affordable housebuilding, but no figures. 
  • Workforce training plans in key sectors - health, social care, construction - to reduce dependence on migrant labour. 
  • Ban on zero hours contracts, parental leave available from day 1, align minimum wage with actual living wage. 
  • 650k new jobs in green energy - clean power, home insulation. Huge uplift in onshore and offshore wind and solar, plus carbon capture. No new gas, coal and oil licences, and no fracking. Windfall levy increased. Great British Energy to drive this. £6.6bn on home insulation, grants and loans for renewables. 
  • Chunky sections on crime, addressing violence against women and girls, and the justice and prison system. 
  • 'An ambitious strategy to reduce child poverty' developed in partnership with charitable and faith sector as well as business and local government. Apart from free breakfast clubs at primary school, little detail as to what this might look like. Mental health support in every school. 
  • Addressing the dentistry lottery - 700,000 more urgent dental appointments (per year? over the parliament? for whom? - children need to be a priority)
  • 8500 extra mental health staff for children, young people and adults.
  • Scrap hereditary peers in the Lords, and eventually replace the second chamber with a representative one.  
  • Recognising a Palestinian state 'as a contribution to a renewed peace process which results in a two state solution with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state'. Diplomatic language there, but no blank cheque for Hamas. 

What's To Like?
  • Unlike the Libdems, the document is consistent. It has the same quote on security: "The first duty of any government is to keep the country safe", and therefore the first section is about national security, rather than chapter 21. 
  • The cost of living crisis is named, and there are clear steps to address the key components of it (food, fuel, housing, family costs)
  • Using the state where the market fails: much of our key infrastructure was built by government corporations, and left to the private sector it is disintegrating. Reintroducing the state as a key actor in transport and energy is a good move. We should do it in housebuilding too. 
  • Good, ambitious and detailed plans on green energy, this will be a shot in the arm to our contribution to reducing global warming. 
  • Recognition of faith groups as partners with government and other agencies in developing plans and delivering outcomes. However, I suspect Labour are saying this mostly with an eye on the mosques rather than the churches. 
  • Tackling homelessness, rather than just letting it happen. 
  • Retaining a diagnosis of gender dysphoria for trans people, so that there is proper healthcare support in this area, rather than a free for all. 
  • Commitment to restoring 0.7% of GDP as foreign aid, though its 'when fiscal circumstances allow' - i.e. can be put off indefinitely if they so choose. 

What's Not To Like?
  • Aspiration rather than policy, again and again. What does Labour will also ensure the police and intelligence services have the powers and resources they need to protect the British people from terrorism and hostile espionage really mean? Blank cheque for a surveillance state, or just proper staffing? The document is deliberately worded, in many places, to sound good but make no specific commitments to action. Which is exactly what you get when Keir Starmer speaks. 
  • It's not clear where the money is coming from. Labour says what taxes it won't raise, but the costings deal with surprisingly small amounts of new spending - either there is something they're not telling us, or there are surprise tax rises/spending cuts coming down the tracks. 
  • There are entire sections you could read, and still have no idea what, specifically, Labour will do in government in that area. 
  • The idea that you can sort out anti social behaviour and criminality by 'cracking down' and putting a few more police on the street. Like the other parties, Labour ignores a key root cause, family breakdown. Research shows that children from fatherless families have impaired chances in education, work and earning, and worse outcomes in addiction, health and crime. 
  • The 40k extra appointments will be created by 'incentivising staff' - i.e. paying people to work longer hours. Good luck with that. But at least Labour aren't averse to 'using spare capacity in the independent sector' to reducing waiting lists. What the NHS really needs is some way of curbing the lucrative alternatives of locum or private sector work so that doctors aren't financially rewarded for leaving the NHS. 
  • A 'trans inclusive ban on conversion practices' will mean that counsellors can't explore with people presenting as trans whether something else is going on. The vast majority of people who explore transition don't go through with it, and the vast majority of children presenting as trans have at least one other significant mental health or neurodiverse condition. There still seems to be an internal conflict in Labours approach to trans rights, and their approach to womens rights, something which has already spannered the SNP. 
  • Phasing out all sales of petrol/diesel cars by 2030. The electric car market is dominated by the Chinese, who are dumping unsold EVs on global markets, and electric cars themselves are much more expensive than conventional cars (which have become more efficient). There are serious problems in the EV market
There is plenty here, but there is a jarring mismatch: repeated rhetoric about what an awful job the Conservatives have done, but remedied by minor tweaks - a few extra staff here, more brushing of teeth there. We are not actually presented with substantial or far-reaching policy solutions. There are major structural problems in the country, all of them connected - birth rate, age profile, immigration, housing, NHS, social care, mental health, inequality, family breakdown, social mobility etc. Though the document talks a good game about long term plans developed in partnership, Labour needs to be much much bolder than what's presented here

 To say this is unambitious is an understatement. After 14 years in opposition, whilst there are a decent number of ideas and proposals here, overall it is incredibly timid. This graphic from Sky sums it up: 

If Labour were intending not to scare the horses, then they've just about succeeded, with a few exceptions. But the lack of ambition is linked to the other major reservation - that there is something we're not being told, particularly about taxation and spending cuts. And I do have concerns about the Labour party as a whole - Starmer has changed the party, but not to the extent of Tony 'New Labour' Blair. There are still a number of people in the party - including some on the front bench -  who I wouldn't trust in government, and good MPs like Rosie Duffield are kept at arms length because they don't toe the line of Stonewall activists. 

PS If you don't have time for a 136 page manifesto, try this one from the Trussell Trust. 16 pages, 10 specific proposals. Come on Keir, how about going down in history as the PM who put all the food banks out of business?

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Conservative Manifesto 2024

 So Rishi Sunaks farewell note is out, 80 pages of Clear Plan and Bold Actions to deliver a Secure Future. There's also a Costings document.

What's In It? 

Stop me if you think you've heard these policies before. 

  • Tax cuts: Cutting national insurance by another 2p, longer term to scrap it completely, abolish NI for the self employed, the so called 'tax cut for pensioners' which basically creates a 2-tier tax system with a higher rate of tax on working age people. 
  • 30 hours of free childcare from 9 months
  • Increasing the child benefit threshold so households barely scraping by on £119,999 a year don't lose it. 
  • Putting the brakes on green policies
  • 'Mandatory' national service
  • Ban the use of mobile phones at school
  • Defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030
  • Legal migration cap and the Rwanda scheme to 'stop the boats'.
  • Clarify the Equality Act that sex means biological sex, to protect women-only spaces and sports.
  • Abolish stamp duty for first time buyers up to £425k
  • Spend the £8.3bn saved by cancelling HS2 on pot holes (that's a lot of pot holes!)
  • 8000 more police, 92k more nurses, 28,000 more doctors (that could take a while)

What's To Like?

If you forget for a moment that this is a party which has been in government for 14 years, there is plenty of good material in the manifesto. Lots of detailed plans for transport infrastructure, business and innovation investment and support, reducing spending waste within government and moving civil service jobs out of London. The cuts to tax would be welcome, if they're affordable, and not done by penalising the poor. 

Sunak has always been a techie, so its good to see awareness of the world of potential online harms, and some attempts to protect children. Having said that, any decent secondary school already bans use of mobiles during the school day. The NHS section includes a lot on using technology to improve health access and outcomes. 

There does need to be an overhaul of welfare, but in a supportive rather than a penalising way - there's no way of telling whether 'improved PIP assessments' will make peoples lives harder or easier. Again, after 14 years in office, why aren't they doing this already?

Some good aspirations in school - on phones, removing gender ideology, improving PE provision - though 2 hours of PE per week for every child will need more sports halls and pitches on land that was sold off long ago. 

Its easier to read and digest than the Libdem manifesto, the writing is clear and punchy, and there is more specific detail on policy - though there's still far too many things which sound good, but are just aspirations rather than concrete proposals. 

Good to see a continued emphasis on highlighting faith-based persecution, and ending modern slavery.

Quite a few good ideas on health, including expanded mental health support, much of which parallels what is in the Libdem manifesto. Good to see full implementation of the Cass review, which wasn't in the Libdem manifesto.  Also good to see the use of proper language when referring to women, rather than allowing to be erased from NHS documents (though again, this is happening now, on their watch....)

What's Not To Like

Jeremy Paxman once ambushed David Cameron in an election interview by asking him how many food banks there were. In 2015, when the question was asked, the Trussel Trust alone (other food banks are available) gave out 1.1m emergency food parcels. The latest figure is 3.1m.  There is no mention of food banks or food poverty in this manifesto anywhere, nor of the Warm Hubs which have helped people through the cost of living crisis, or the churches, faith groups and other parts of the charitable sector which have stepped into the holes in the welfare system. It's like none of this exists. 

  • The pension 'tax cut' is a sleight of hand. Pensioners don't currently pay the tax that the Conservatives claim to be cutting. The effect will be a 2-tier tax system, which will favour the elderly. For pensioners, it's all gain and no pain. this looks, I'm afraid to say, like a bribe to the Tory base. 
  • The 'support for families' is not what it says on the tin. Its just support for families to send their kids to paid childcare providers. There is no support for parents or parenting, it is all about getting parents away from their pesky kids and back into the workplace. Because parenting isn't really valuable work is it? 
  • Why should households earning £155,000 still receive child benefit? Why should millionaire pensioners get winter fuel payments and free prescriptions?  
  • There are a surprising number of ideas here, but it all feels a bit too late. Where was all this when the Conservatives were dawdling their way through recent parliaments with no legislation to pass? 
  • The regular sideswipes at Labour get a bit wearying. And they are confusing, as the Tories need to win votes back from the Libdems and Reform too, but steer clear of attacking either of them. 
  • The immigration/asylum section needs to start with an admission that they dropped the ball. 1.4m net immigration in 2 years is a ridiculous level. 
  • I'm not sure how you recruit 28,000 more doctors by the end of the next Parliament - they take 5 years to train, and the universities will have to offer more places. I guess the answer is that we'll import trained medics from countries who need them more than we do, which is unethical. 
  • There's a lot of tough talk on policing and sentencing, but that's pretty pointless with abysmally low conviction rates and a sclerotic and underfunded court system, on which there is very little. 
  • The renewables and net zero policies look pretty tame, there's quite a lot of text here, but the policies don't actually amount to a great deal. 
  • The housing policy section doesn't mention social housing at all, despite the chronic shortage. 
  • 'We will complete the review of Gift Aid within the next parliament'. Does that mean there is a chance it will be scrapped? That will be devastating for the charitable sector. 
  • Like the Libdems, there is nothing addressing family breakdown, particularly fatherlessness, which is at the root of a whole host of other social problems, including educational failure, drugs, criminality, unstable relationships, poverty etc. It's like the whole political system has declared this a no go area. 
  • Large Union Jack pictures on every available page, and a miniscule Tory Tree logo on the front and back page. Someone's lost confidence in their brand....
Overall this isn't bad, but it has some glaring blind spots. Without setting out any governing philosophy, at its heart the vision is essentially Thatcherite - there is no such thing as society, just individuals making choices, and those choices are fundamentally financial and economic ones. This is a pathetic and withered view both of human nature, and of the families and communities which give our lives location, meaning and the opportunity to live for others. 

In the end, its hard to shake off 14 years in power, and the question 'if this is such a good idea, why aren't you doing this already?' There's a failure to be fully honest about failure, and the Libdem 'nothing works' attack line simply has too much of the ring of truth about it. Regardless of the ideological or economic rights or wrongs of their approach, the Conservatives have failed on two even more fundamental things: integrity and competence. 

LibDem Manifesto 2024

 Manifesto season is here, kicked off by a 117 page beast from the Liberal Democrats 'For a Fair Deal' accompanied by a separate costings document. 

What's In It?

A lot, there are 20 separate policy areas, each with dozens of policies and pledges. Health alone has 76 separate policies and actions that the LibDems want to implement. 

The key message is that 'everything is broken', so "We must transform the very nature of British politics itself, so that we can fix the health and care crisis, get our economy back on track, end the appalling sewage scandal, and give people the fair deal they deserve." Key pledges include

  • A home insulation programme to bring down energy bills and carbon footprint
  • More flexible and generous parental leave
  • Rejoining the single European market
  • Recruiting/retaining 8,000 extra GPs, with a new right to see a GP within 7 days (or 24 hours if urgent), and ending 'dental deserts'. 
  • Expand free school meals for children in poverty
  • Increased investment in renewables, backed up by changes in planning law, aiming for 90% of energy to come from renewables by 2030, aiming for net zero by 2045. 
  • Proportional representation in all elections. 
  • Investing extra money in HMRC to crack down on tax avoidance, (one of their key fundraisers)
  • Higher tax on big banks, big tech and energy companies, lower personal taxation by raising thresholds. 
  • Restore international development spending to 0.7% of national income
  • A thorough reform of mental health services, with increased access, mental health professionals in every school, CAMS to run up to 25. 
  • Boosting the care sector - higher minimum wage for the sector, higher recognition, rights and financial support for unpaid carers. 
  • Scrap 'free schools', give extra free nursery hours to 3-4 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds, triple the early years pupil premium, extend free school meals to all children in poverty. 
  • Cracking down on sewage dumping, through taxation, new laws and quality standards. 
  • More safe and legal routes for asylum. 
  • And much much more. 

What's To Like?

This is a proper manifesto, a programme for government, something the Conservatives have lacked for several years, and which (if the rumours are true) Labour doesn't have for the next few years. There is a clear focus on helping the vulnerable - children in poverty, new parents, the lonely, carers, supporting mental health. There is some support for families in the new parental leave arrangements and extra support in nurseries and schools for children in poverty. The environmental targets are ambitious, but this looks like a party which takes climate change seriously, as well as our responsibility to the wider world with the 0.7% aid pledge. This looks like a party which cares about the right things (mostly) and has lots of ideas about how to fix them. 

There is plenty here to support - I wonder if the Libdems are playing the long game. During the Coalition years of 2010-15, most of the most popular and impactful policies (pupil premium, raising the lower tax thresholds, equal marriage) originally came from the Libdems. Given that Labour seem determined to have as few policies as possible, the Libdems will be hoping to see much of their manifesto become law, even if its enacted by another party. 

What's Not to Like? 

Size isn't everything. Some sections of this are highly focused, some aren't. The Defence section is a case in point, it opens Keeping our country secure should be the first priority of any government. On page 105. In section 21 of the document. So not your first priority then. It makes all the right noises but what does 'secure a fair deal for service personnel and veterans' actually mean? How is 'having an ambition to spend at least 2.5% on defence' a policy. Will you or won't you? Many of the bullet points in the document are aspirational, with no clear actions, outcomes, or measurable goals. 

There are a lot of state solutions here. Many of the policies will involve additional laws, standards, targets, quangoes and government bodies. Police and Crime Commissioners will be scrapped, but otherwise the traffic is all the other way. This manifesto will lead to a more regulated society with more state interference, and more bureaucracy and waste spent on chasing targets. 

Investing in more mental health support is great, supporting the decriminalisation of cannabis isn't, that will create more mental health problems in the long run. 

There's no recognition of the hideous cost of family breakdown, both personally and economically. To be fair to Ed Davey, I don't expect any party to address this. But its the root cause of a whole slew of other problems - low educational attainment, mental illness, criminality, economic cost, even the housing market (couples who stay together need 1 property, couples who don't need 2). 

Self-id for gender recognition, and legal recognition of 'non-binary genders' (?) will add even more confusion into a confused area. 'Ensure access to high quality reproductive healthcare' sounds like taking the side of the abortion industry, rather than asking whether 250.000 abortions per year is too high. And I don't think trying to export abortion around the world is something commendable. (Its ironic that liberal/left voices decry the colonialism of the past, whilst still assuming that Western values are superior and wanting to export them around the world to the benighted savages who don't see things as we do.)

There is no wrestling with the downside of immigration, and the pressure it puts on infrastructure and social cohesion. Yes we need immigration of working age people, as the birth rate of 'native' Britons is below the replacement rate (another issue that no party seems prepared to address). But 1.4m in the last 2 years is unsustainably high. If the centre/left parties don't even recognise this, they leave a void for more strident voices to fill. 

The costings document amounts to less than 2 sides of A4 of actual figures. I've had to produce more detailed work applying for grants of £20k for my local church. This is not 'fully costed'. 

Time permitting, reviews of other manifestoes will follow! 

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?

The Resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Without it, the whole building collapses. If Jesus is not raised, we are wasting our time. If Jesus died, and that was it, then “your faith is in vain and you are still lost in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

Do we just have to take the Resurrection of Jesus on faith, or is there good scientific and historical evidence for it?


 a)     The New Testament

The New Testament is built around the Resurrection – every book and letter shouts of faith in the risen Jesus. It was all written by people who were convinced the Resurrection had happened: either they were eye-witnesses themselves, or they had met other eye-witnesses and become convinced.

            The Gospels are the key. These are the books which recount Jesus life, death and resurrection in detail. The Gospels all agree that Jesus died and rose from the dead – that’s why the 4 writers felt compelled to write about Jesus.

The fact that there are 4 Gospels, and not 1, is important. 4 identical accounts would look like a fix, 1 account only would be shaky. But 4 accounts which all differ in various details looks genuine. If there was some conspiracy between the gospel writers, they would have made sure their accounts agreed.

            The New Testament itself was all written between 50 and 90AD, within 60 years of the life of Jesus. Earliest fragments of the NT have been found that date to 120AD. With other literature of the time (e.g. Roman), the earliest finds date to centuries later. The archaeological evidence is sound.

If the resurrection was a myth, a legend invented by Jesus followers, then it would need a much longer gap from the life of Jesus to the creation of the written accounts. What’s more, the 1st century was a culture well practiced in memorisation, and passing on accurate details.

We can therefore take the stories of the resurrection as genuine history, rather than a legend.

b)     Other literature:

Several non-Christian texts from the 1st century mention Jesus, his life and death, and some mention the resurrection stories. So the basic facts of Jesus life, teaching, death and resurrection are confirmed by sources outside the Bible.

What Happened?

Here is what we know:

V  Jesus was arrested

V  He was tried and sentenced to death,

V  He was executed by crucifixion.

V  He was buried in a tomb

V  When his followers went to pay their respects 2 days later Jesus body was missing from the tomb.

V  Many of Jesus followers then claimed to have seen Jesus alive, including some people (like St. Paul) who had been openly hostile to Jesus.

V  The early church was founded, by the disciples, on the belief that Jesus was risen from the dead, and that he was therefore God’s chosen one.

Science is based on this principle: the theory that best fits the facts is the one most likely to be true. So what best explains these facts? Is it that Jesus was raised from the dead, or something else?

Here are the other explanations that people have offered

a)     Jesus didn’t die: he fainted on the cross, then revived in the tomb and escaped.


Ø  the Romans were experts at crucifixion, and by the time he got to the Cross Jesus had already been beaten and flogged, and lost a lot of blood.

Ø  The spear in Jesus side (John 19:34) released ‘blood and water’ – i.e. the dead Jesus’ blood had already started to clot and separate. John, the gospel writer, wouldn’t have known this, but medical science has since discovered it. Jesus was dead.

Ø  By some fluke, even had Jesus survived the cross, he would be in no state to escape his embalming bandages, roll aside a massive stone, overpower a group of soldiers and appear to the disciples in a way that convinced them of his resurrection. A month in intensive care would have been more appropriate

b)     Someone stole the body, which explains why it wasn’t at the tomb. But: who?

  • The disciples went to prison and death for the sake of the Gospel. If they had stolen the body, then they would have known all along that the resurrection was a fake. You don’t die for a lie. They didn’t steal it.

·        The Jews or Romans would have produced the body as soon as stories of the Resurrection began to circulate, to quash the stories. But they didn’t. So, they didn’t steal it either.

c)     The disciples were all hallucinating: they thought they’d seen the risen Jesus, but they hadn’t.


V  Firstly, they were in no condition to hallucinate. Though Jesus had taught them about his resurrection, none of them believed him, and they all ran away. They were finished. Hallucinations tend to be wish-fulfilment, but psychologically this seems very unlikely with the disciples

V  Secondly – too many hallucinations. They were in all sorts of places, and all sorts of times, to all sorts of people. The Bible reports 550 different eye-witnesses. This is just too many people to have the same delusion.

V  Again, if they had been hallucinating, Jesus would still have been dead. But where was his body? It would have been a simple matter to produce it, but nobody did.

 None of these rival explanations does full justice to the facts. The only explanation that fits is that Jesus really rose from the dead.

3  Burning  Questions

1. What actually happened to the disciples?

A ragtag bunch of fishermen, revolutionaries and civil servants, whose leader had died as a criminal, suddenly began preaching that Jesus was alive. Within a matter of weeks they had thousands of followers. They change from a defeated and scattered group to a powerhouse of prayer, preaching and community life.

One writer has said that for such a change to happen, it would have needed an event with the power of a nuclear explosion.

It must have taken something amazing to do this. The best explanation is the one the Bible gives – that they met Jesus, risen from the dead.

What’s more, since then millions of Christians have met Jesus personally, and had their lives transformed by him. The risen Christ is still at work today, in our lives and in the lives of countless others across the world.

2. Who was raised from the dead?

The man God raised from the dead wasn’t just anyone:

Ø  Jesus spoke of himself as ‘one’ with God,

Ø  He claimed the right to reinterpret God’s ancient laws

Ø  He forgave people their sins – something only God can do.

Ø  He spoke of himself as ‘the way’, and ‘the light of the world’.

In other words, Jesus claimed to be unique, he claimed to be God, and he called people to follow him. When God raised Jesus from the dead, it was God’s seal of approval on everything Jesus said and did. The resurrection is God’s endorsement of Jesus words and claims, and God’s demonstration of his power over death and sin.

 3. So what?

The resurrection of Jesus means that:

V   Jesus is who he said he was; God in human flesh, the Lord and Saviour of the world. The only right response to this is to obey and follow him.

V   Jesus is God’s unique messenger. No other founder of a world religion has been raised from the dead. Through the Resurrection, God points to Jesus as the true Way to himself.

V   God has acted decisively in history through Jesus, and at the end of history we will all be judged on our response to Jesus. 

A prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe that you died in my place on the cross, and that you were raised from the dead, and that you are alive today. I want to follow and obey you as my Lord and Saviour. Forgive me my sins, fill me with your Holy Spirit, and fill my life with the power of your resurrection. Amen

Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas Day


"To you is born this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11)

Image 'Christ in the Rubble' by Kelly Latimore, courtesy of Red Letter Christians

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Scriptwriter openings at BBC

 After outsourcing the scriptwriting duties on Dr Who to Stonewall, the latest license fee announcement has accelerated the push at the Beeb to find cheaper alternatives for writing work and show production. A whole range of charities, interest groups and organisations are in the frame, and here are some of the shows under consideration. There is a suspicion that the intern who created this list hadn't fully grasped the nature of the shows in question.  

Escape to the Country: written by the inmates of HM Prison, Dartmoor

Married at First Sight: a new format with Islamic State

Would I Lie To You?: edited highlights of the Covid enquiry

Top Gear: the London College of Fashion

Masterchef: The Professionals: retro 70s cookery show presented by Bodie and Doyle

Strictly: the entire output of the BBC is turned over to the Chinese government. 

Mrs Browns Boys: Gordon Brown narrates holiday pictures of his family.

Pointless: full coverage of the Covid enquiry

The Chase: written by the staff of HM Prison, Dartmoor

Blankety Blank: Keir Starmer talks about his key ideas.

The Great British Bay Cough: produced by Surfers Against Sewage 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Warm Spaces - Look at all the (formerly) lonely people

 Some really fascinating research published in the Guardian today about Warm Hubs, which had over 500,000 users over the winter in the UK. We've had one running at St Peters Community Centre in Yeovil and tracked the footfall a couple of weeks ago, and had 230 adults over the 4 days we open (Mon-Thurs 9.30-3). The three top reasons for coming (each about 75% of users) were Hot meals, Meeting others, and Warm space/reduce energy use. 

This reflects the national figures, which show that community was just as big a factor as saving money on fuel bills for many Warm Space users:

“The biggest difference has been in reducing social isolation,” said one survey respondent. “We found those who were struggling with the cost of living crisis in financial terms didn’t particularly access us - they used the nearby foodbank more. It was the escape from an empty house that people found most gratifying about our warm space.”

The greatest impact of warm rooms, the survey found, was in providing a sense of community and tackling loneliness in a safe and welcoming space. Frequent visitors reported positive improvements in their mental health, social wellbeing, and sense of purpose. “It’s helped me cope with the hard times,” one respondent said.

Here's the startling effect on loneliness for Warm Space users:

That's a drop from 39.6% to 6.1% of those who felt 'always' or 'often' lonely, and a rise from 27% to 60% of those who felt 'rarely' or 'never' lonely. That's simply staggering. 
The good news from the survey is that many warm hubs are continuing. I hope this data is on the desk of every MP and health executive this morning, and real strategic effort goes in to making sure we keep this going. Strangely (as a Christian I should really say 'unsurprisingly') out of the grimness of the cost of living crisis, something amazing has emerged.