Sunday 22 February 2015

Sunday, February 22, 2015 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Posted by Jake on Sunday, February 22, 2015 with No comments | Labels: , , , , ,

Some of our readers complain that we at Ripped-off Britons are always being negative. It's not true! We once wrote a piece explaining why we should love estate agents. And we ran another piece urging people not to be beastly to bankers

This time we speak positively of Church of England bishops and their letter for the General Election 2015.

Taking a sideways glance at data can be revealing. A report from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) provides a key insight into us Brits, apart from all the stuff about food standards. It's one of our most endearing and most infuriating characteristics: if we aren't reminded that we are annoyed, we forget to be. 

This is a good thing in general, but not in a general election.

Henry V, according to Shakespeare, knew it. To get his army to defeat the French at the siege of Harfleur in 1415, Henry knew it wasn't enough to simply point out the city walls. Henry had to work his soldiers up into a froth: 

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English."

It takes quite a bit of stirring before we Britons will stiffen the sinews and give someone a hard stare. We need a heavy hint even to complain about our food: The Food Standards Agency's study asked a set of questions twice:
  • First time: Spontaneous, unprompted, "Is there anything you are concerned about?"
  • Second time: Prompted, "What are you concerned about from this list of issues? Food prices; Food waste; Sugar; Salt; etc."
For example, food prices:
  • First time: Asked what food issues in general were of concern, only 14% of responders spontaneously said they were worried about food prices.
  • Second time: Asked specifically whether they were worried about food prices, 50% of responders said they were worried.

As you can see from the above graph, people weren't spontaneously particularly worried about sugar, salt, fat, or animal welfare. But when asked specifically about sugar, salt, fat, or animal welfare between 40% and 50% were indeed worried. Unprompted over half the people questioned had no concerns at all, falling to only 14% completely unconcerned when asked about specific issues.

Specific blasts of irritation tend to blow in our ears at the wrong time when there isn't anything we can do about it. There's no point you flaring your nostrils when the receptionist at your GP says there aren't any appointments left. You know he can't see your nasal gesturing over the phone. Why bother raging at the self-service ticket machine when you discover an off-peak one day London travelcard went up 34%, from £8.90 to £12 in January 2015? I can tell you, the machine didn't care.

By the time you actually can do something at an election, the rage is less than a distant memory. The urge to complain has faded.

The Church of England Bishops hoped to remind us of some issues with their letter, following the well trodden Pauline (and Caroline) path of writing epistles to influence policy (St Paul's were much snappier, as we hope were Prince Charles'). The Bishops' 56 page(!) letter in February 2015 , followed by an 11 page explanation of the 56 pages, raises a medley of things for us to get exercised by one way or the other:
  • Our political culture, parties and democracy
  • The role of the state
  • The role of intermediary institutions
  • The role of the family
  • The economy
  • Poverty & inequality
  • Unemployment
  • Welfare reform
  • Health
  • Immigration
  • Housing
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Constitutional Reform
  • Britain’s global role
  • Europe
  • Defence and war
  • International development
  • Threat from extremism and religiously-inspired conflict

The bishops explain their intentions for this letter:

“This letter from the Church of England’s House of Bishops is addressed to all members of the church... we hope that others, who may not profess church allegiance, will nevertheless join in the conversation and engage with the ideas we are sharing here”

“This letter is intended to help church members and others consider the question: how can we negotiate these dangerous times to build the kind of society which many people say they want but which is not yet being expressed in the vision of any of the parties?”

The Bishop of Leicester stated:
"We do not claim to offer a “God’s eye view” nor to endorse any particular political prospectus, but rather to encourage a renewed political culture in which the lessons for today can be learned.  It is our hope that this letter will serve that purpose."

The bishops say it more gently than we at Ripped-off Britons would. Or Henry V would. 

We dare not compete with Shakespeare. So, back to Henry V, and the General Election:

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for...' write an X next to your preferred candidate 'and St George!'

For the general election put aside your mild manner, put your dog on its lead, cry havoc and go to your polling station!


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