8 April 2021
A Streak of Yellow
And a turning tide.
By John Watson
The combination of spring weather and falling Covid figures has made this an optimistic Easter as, with a few restraints to be sure, the nation has smelt the scent of revival. A close boat race, drinks in the garden with friends, the opening of churches as the liturgy begins to be heard again in physical form. A time for a new start, a Eucharist, but at the start of that the confession:
“We have left undone those things which we ought to have done. And we have done those things which we ought not to have done” to use the elegant phraseology of 1662, and we all have our personal lists of things falling into each category. In the public sphere there are lists too and, although the season should be one of forgiveness, we should still learn from them, particularly when they are linked.
The first example is the extraordinary report in The Times of 1 April (your columnist hopes he was not the victim of an April Fool) that the Church of England had posted on its website that families should gather for a meal including flatbread, rosemary and honey to celebrate the delivery of the Children of Israel from Pharaoh, and then withdrawn the post because it was too close to the Jewish meal of Seder, and, as one Yorkshire priest put it, it was “wrong and harmful to steal Jewish ritual”.
Now that is a bit odd as the Christian faith is a derivative of Judaism, and the history of Moses (yes, he was the one who did the delivering) is as much a part of the one religion as the other. Assuming no mockery was intended, and one can presumably acquit the Church of England of that, why should Christians not celebrate it too? Why did the Church of England so oddly lose its nerve?
For our second event we travel back to Batley Grammar School where a teacher is in hiding following the use of an image of the Prophet in a religious education lesson. It is to be hoped that following last week’s Shaw Sheet the police are well on the track of those who have made threats and that the judiciary are weighing up the maximum lengths of the sentences they can impose, but what of the School itself? Presumably the Head Master has stood four square behind the teacher involved expressing his general support, albeit quieting public concern by saying that he would look into any points which are made to him? Supporting your team is, after all, the essence of leadership and institutions which do not work on that basis need a change at the top. Well, if you look for that at Batley you look in vain. The school apologised for the showing of an inappropriate image and suspended the teacher well in advance of the inquiry now being set on foot. Not an example of supporting your staff.
Third, the reaction of Sadiq Khan to the action of the police in relation to the Sarah Everard vigil. How was it that Khan, who as mayor overseas the Met, initially responded? That he was not satisfied with Cressida Dick’s explanation of the completely unacceptable scenes which occurred. Not quite as bad as Ed Davey (who is leader of the Lib Dems) calling for her resignation, but in both cases a pity they did not wait for the report from the inspectorate concluding that the Met acted in a “measured and proportionate way in challenging circumstances”, a report which Khan now accepts and which criticises “leading voices” for jumping to conclusions on very limited evidence.
There is a streak which links these three incidents and it is a yellow one. In each case the person concerned abandoned their duty out of fear. The Church of England, unless they are so half-witted as to think that the life of Moses is the subject of some form of intellectual property reserved for the Jewish faith, ran like rabbits for fear of being thought offensive. The Head at Batley left his teacher out there rather than taking flak from angry parents himself. Sadiq finds it safer to run with the crowd than wait for the facts and risk losing popularity just before mayoral elections. None of them dared to stand and do their duty in the face of fashionable protest. But before condemning them too harshly it has to be remembered that they are symptomatic; at the moment few are prepared to take on the new puritanism and those who do so can find themselves nastily isolated before a baying crowd.
Newton’s third law of motion dictates that actions give rise to equal and opposite reactions and that is true in politics too. Sooner or later the fashionable causes will be pushed too far and the public will lose patience with them. It is hard to know when, but attempts by those in the Race Relations Industry to oppose vaccine passports on the ground that they are unfair to those groups who choose not to take the vaccine might well be the trigger. Then we will see the majority culture reasserting itself. That will relieve a number of cultural pressure points but it carries risk too. Campaigns on equal opportunity, female rights and the environment all hold traction because they are real issues which need to be dealt with. If the reaction against the campaigners removes the need for progress from the public eye we will indeed have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
Cover page image; Myriams-Fotos (Pixabay)