Monday, February 14

St. Shmalentines Day

Could this possibly be the most depressing day of the year for single people? I think so. I would be tempted to hide away under my bed until it all goes away ... except it's a solid bed with no room for me. Oh, yes ... and I need to work!

Talking of annoying and overrated things, Gordon Brown was extolling the "virtue" of voting New Labour at the next election, repeating time and time again the phrase "The stakes are too high to stay at home." Now, I don't especially want a Conservative government and certainly not one lead by Michael Howard, but this new line of campaigning from Labour just doesn't wash with me! "Please vote for us, cos at least we're not the Tories!" I'm sorry guys, if you want my vote you'll have to tell me what you're going to do, not hope to scare me into voting for you cos you're not the other lot! Maybe they're finally realising that there's no good reason to vote for them ... so they play the "least worst" card.

In elections, the onus is often on the opposition (Mmm ... alliteration) to make their case and say what they would do if in power ... and the Tories are doing this. New Labour have just got into the terrible habit of re-announcing the same "bold new initiatives", the same money, the same figures and pretending this is a record to be proud of. We seem a very long way off from the modern, efficient and "free at point of use" services in education and health, they have failed to come up with a workable and compassionate approach to immigration and the ridiculous obsession with targets brings more comparison with the Soviet regime than with a party committed to Social democracy. Sadly I don't know what the solution is; I don't believe the Conservatives will be good custodians of Britain's public services and I have no faith in the Liberal Democrats whatsoever.

I think the next election is going to be one about the individual candidates in my constituency. I won't be voting on the basis of party as I have significant problems with all of them, however I believe it is a civic responsibility to vote. Maybe I will end up voting for the least worst one, but considering ours is a safe Labour seat, I can't see my vote making a big difference.

So, as St. V's day 2005 draws to a close (and my card count, as usual, is a depressing fat zero), I feel this has been a futile exercise. Neither the political parties nor the women seem at all interested in me ... Maybe that will change in time but for now, I console myself with my democratic ability to be able to give the polticians a slight kick in the teeth when I come to the Ballot Box. Roll on May/June/whenever it is that King Tony determines ...

Saturday, February 12

Joe to Mission Control ... Over and Out!

What a week has it been!!! For the past 7 days it has been Mission Week for the Christian Union at Uni of Manchester (known as UMCU). I was helping out as one of the "esteemed" CU Guests (CUGs), which was fun ... along with another group of CUGs from St Helen's in London.

The main speaker was Nigel Beynon who is Student Minister at St H's. And I have to say, the guy is a legend! Brilliant Bible teacher, an extremely engaging and entertaining speaker, a really nice guy to boot and the illustrations he uses in his talks are just inspired! If you ever get a chance to hear him ... DO IT!!! Each day there was a lunch bar event looking at difficult questions such as "How can God allow suffering?" "Can I trust the Bible?" "Can a God of love send people to hell?" among others and then we had an evening event with talks on Relationship with God, Believing in Jesus, Jesus' Death and Resurrection.

It was also good to see in the Q&A after the talks, the Christian faith standing up to the various objections and challenges thrown at it. I've certanly learned a lot about giving Biblical answers to the various difficult questions that people have.

A number of people signed up for "Encounter", a 5 week evangelistic course being run by the CU and the gospel was proclaimed to many students over the week. Very encouraging. All we need to do now is pray that God's gospel does it's work as his power for salvation, that he will work in the hearts and minds of these students so that they might come to submit to the Lordship of Jesus and accept his saving grace.

So now being tired, relieved of duty and in great need of rest, I plan to spend most of my Saturday ... well, playing video games for several hours ... with a little help from my friends Mr. Video Projector and Mr Big Projector Screen.

Oh, boy ... this is going to be good ...

Tuesday, February 1

Drink up!

Just imagine if our glorious Prime Minister Tony Blair, addressing a group of school children, said "By all means get drunk once in a while." Think of the uproar would ensue ... and just how many "Outraged of Tunbridge Wells" would write to The Times to complain.

Well Tony Blair hasn't said this, and I would have thought one of his many focus groups would kill off any such statement quite quickly.

No, this rather stupid gaffe was instead made by the Scottish First Minister, Jack McConnell. And, as usual when a politician comprehensively puts their foot in it, we now have the spin, the backtracks, the desperate defence and if it gets really bad, the insincere apologies. However, the response to McConnell's blunder is the following ... Even though he was speaking 1) At a secondary school 2) To an audience that appeared to include a large number of school pupils (if not a majority), his people claim that ... "He was talking in the context of adults binge drinking and irresponsible drinks promotions - which are for the over-18s."

I know politicians rarely adhere to this rule, but I understood that good public speaking involved tailoring the speech to the audience who would receive it, and certainly making sure that the message given would not be thoroughly inappropriate for those hearing it? McConnell, First Minister of the Scottish legislature, basically encouraged young people to break the law. Maybe his comments were aimed at the adults in the room, but the fact remains ... there were underage young people there, also listening and they also heard McConnell say "By all means get drunk once in a while." It doesn't appear that he specified who that suggestion was aimed at, so as far as the students know, the Scottish First Minister said it's ok to get drunk. What an example. What a role model. What great advice.

The only justification I can think of is this ... and even then it's a long shot; Perhaps McConnell thought that if he said this as a crusty, old, authoritarian politician person that it would destroy the coolness of binge drinking etc. and that all the kids would give it up immediately.

However, I doubt such a politically risky strategy would be employed by someone so prominent; I can only summise that this was a catastrophic, ill-thought out and badly managed PR disaster. What else will we decide it's fine for kids to do, as long as it's once in a while?