Letters to the editor

Letter re: Unsurprising headline of the week: a banker from Sevenoaks and a pastor from Oldham disagree on the EU

This first letter was initially posted as a comment to Jeremy Marshall’s blog. The comment is mainly to Jeremy, rather than my, post but it was sent to me separately as a letter to the editor.

I posted the following on Jeremy’s blog earlier today and I send it to you because it seems that the choice of who governs us and how we are governed is not something that is readily apparent in a debate that focuses mainly on personalities and deal variants.

I too voted remain. However, over the last two and a half years four key factors have emerged that have forced me to reconsider.

Firstly, whilst I acknowledge your argument about the primacy of parliament you assert its primacy because, in large measure, it provides a figleaf for the proposal to overrule the clear result of a democratic vote, which parliament itself (554 to 53) had given to the people.

Secondly, the remain supporters having lost the referendum have reserved for themselves the role of the rational and informed, whilst characterising leave voters as ignorant, duped or fanatical. Both sides have created an environment where prejudice trumps discourse and volume trumps civility. But it is the remain side that appears to have the greatest difficulty hearing or understanding the position of their opponents.

Thirdly, our democratically elected parliamentary representatives are now striving purposefully to subvert the referendum result having been elected on manifestos that clearly promised to deliver leave. Their justification is couched primarily in terms of economic self-interest. Leaving will generate economic turbulence and we will be less wealthy than if we remain in the EU. Our material comfort is what really matters.

Which leads to the fourth and most important factor. My vote to remain was rooted in the fact that I am the father of three sons, all of military age who have been spared the global conflicts that my parents’ generation faced. However, I have learnt the nature and structure of the organisation that I was given the choice to leave or remain in 2016. The EU is an organisation over which I have no democratic control. The EU is not a federation of nation states co-operating for mutual benefit. I am staggered by my own ignorance of what the EU is and the ignorance of those who so passionately advocate that we should remain a part of it.

For someone who is so clearly well informed about our own parliament I am astonished at your argument that parliament should overrule a vote of the people so that parliament can impose membership of an organisation that is inexorably subsuming the responsibilities and authority of that very parliament. The irony is that the leave vote was an emphatic endorsement by the people of the primacy of our national parliament.

What do we value most? It seems that remain wants us to believe that it is material benefit. Today, for me, the liberty that we have acquired in such hard won struggles that you outlined in your article is what I value.
I voted remain, but I accept the result of the referendum. If I am forced to vote again I will be a passionate leaver. I choose to pay the price of living in a country where I have a say in who governs rather than having materia lbenefit but no say in who governs or how I am governed.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safetydeserve neither liberty nor safety.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Paul Rigby

I enjoyed your Brexit forray. I find the push for a second referrendum intriguing.  To be sure, the electorate can change its mind and things should never be set in stone not least because of the principle that Parliament cannot bind its successors (which also raises issues about a supposedly permanent customs union).  However, whilst people have tried to make a comparison with General Elections, this again misses the point. Generally, we expect them to happen every 4- 5 years. Politicians who are constantly  for new mandates are likely to be seen as manipulative and anti-democratic. The 5-year cycle allows for the highs and lows of public opinion, it allows for difficult decisions to be made and seen through, it encourages sober and careful judgement. Yes we can vote them out in 5-years time but we have got to stick with them for 5 years. Referrenda are now part of our democratic fabric and so we need to think carefully about the regularity with which they are used. 
The idea that you can go back with another plebiscite before the end of Article 50 plays into the hands of those who never agreed with the decision and so benefit from making the process as frustratingly difficult and complicated as possible. We have a PM, chancellor and foreign sec who all voted remain so it suits them to say “Look, it was all far too complicated and painful – we did warn you.” 
Of course part of the tactic is to tell us how complicated it is. Far too complicated for silly voters to worry their little heads with. In fact, the matter is far simpler. A vote to leave an institution is a vote to leave it. The question after that is what relationship do we want with our near neighbours. We want to trade freely with them. Of course if they don’t want to reciprocate, we cannot make them. Indeed if they wanted free trade and frictionless borders then they could have put all the time and effort they put into negotiating backstops and writing political declarations into negotiating the fair trade deal. That such a deal was not negotiated tells you everything you need to know about the EU.
If there was a second referendum and I were a leave campaign leader, I would say “Look, the EU has proved exactly what kind of an entity it is. We  want to be part of it.” I would explain that leaving may come with the cost of some tariffs but these are regulated and we would offset them with either lower taxes or subsidies that we would now have the freedom to decide on. I would assure the people of Northern Ireland that given there’s been the technology to enable free movement through and around London whilst collecting congestion charges and Dartford Tolls we have no intention of introducing border checkpoints. So the only people who might want to threaten the NI peace process are the EU commission.

Dave Williams

Letters re: What we tell our children about Santa and what we tell our members about Biblical misunderstandings

On Father Christmas, the question that tends to come up is about the distinction between myths/fairy tales and truth. The argument for not entertaining the idea of Santa often used is that children will be confused if we allow them to believe in him, will they then see Jesus as also a childhood myth? Personally I think it is a little bit of a red herring in the majority of cases because I think most people grow up distinguishing story/play acting from truth.
However, I think we can helpfully learn to talk gently and naturally about those distinctions too and may need to learn this as I think postmodern minds struggle with doing it. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein are probably helpful here. What we want to say is that the stories are there because there is something more real and more wonderful. Father Christmas doesn’t come to your house every year but we have an eternal, heavenly Father all the year round. God doesn’t just come to your house, but into your very life. We don’t have to get on the good list to get “presents” indeed the Bible would say that a gift earned through my goodness is no gift at all but a wage (Romans 4) instead we receive a gift we do not deserve.
I also think it is concerning when secondary school age children still “believe” and teachers are made to fear “taking away the magic.” I think this suggests that they are struggling to make those distinctions and parents are moving into lying territory if they don’t explain what is really happening. They are also may be missing the opportunity for the conversation above.
On church members, the main point – very helpful. I think Piper used to distinguish what was expected of members and what was expected of elders. I believe members should be able to sign up to the Statement of Faith but yes there will be the weird, wonderful and off- centre. I know of churches who certainly, in the past, would have been more demanding at membership interview.  I think that we also need to distinguish people who are long settled in a view and simply would be happier elsewhere and where there is plenty of choice from those who come with a messy understanding and where the option is between them sticking with us and growing and being at the whim of the peddlers of the weird and wonderful elsewhere.

Dave Williams