There was a curiously muted international reaction to the allegations of widespread voting irregularities in the recent Russian presidential elections. Numbers were significantly lower in post-election protests within Russia, and most international powers have accepted the result with only superficial negative comment.
But in a continent of profoundly and increasingly undemocratic change, is the lack of reaction so surprising? I wrote in November (here) about the unelected technocrats taking power in Greece and Italy with no democratic mandate for the sweeping economic reforms that they were subsequently to seek to push through. Even these ground-breaking developments have rapidly come to be accepted as uncontroversial, so perhaps the sense is that Russia, where at least lip-service was paid to the idea of democratic elections, should count itself lucky.
So – in the space of a few days Greece and Italy have both acquired new, albeit interim, governments.
In Greece, the new prime minister is Lucas Papademos – not a member of parliament and not, therefore, elected by the Greek people, but apparently qualified for the task of implementing austerity measures in the country by virtue of his former vice-presidency of the European Central Bank. It is reported (here, for example) that “The Greek stock market jumped sharply when Mr Papademos arrived at the presidential palace to join the negotiations on Thursday morning.”
In the commentary on the current global economic situation, and in particular the protests against capitalism which have been developing increasing traction over the last decade or so, an analogy is often made between the principles of capitalism, as contrasted often with some seemingly discredited alternative such as socialism, and the evolutionary principles at play in the natural world.
What a shame to read about the resignation of Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, Dr Giles Fraser, over the Occupy London protests.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, writing today in the Daily Telegraph acknowledges that for a time the Church of England looked like “ reclaiming a valuable role in hosting public protest and scrutiny” but that moment quickly passed and with increasing emphasis on the cathedral’s lost revenue of £20,000 the institution rapidly came to seem to be more pre-occupied with material considerations.
A couple of current stories (the vote on an EU referendum and the news that a further study tentatively seems to confirm earlier research on climate change) have me thinking about ideology.
Having belief in a cause is often viewed with some scepticism or suspicion. I don’t know whether this is an English trait – but most of the people I know would be very uncomfortable when asked to define, say, the five philosophical or political beliefs that motivate them. Yet the media is very quick to put people into different camps – euro-sceptic in the first debate, environmentalist in the second, for example.
In the latest round of objections to the UK government’s Health and Social Care Bill, over 400 health care experts have written an open letter to the House of Lords, taking issue with a number of aspects of the legislation. The letter, also published in the Telegraph, expresses the concerns of these experts (concerns that are seemingly also shared by the BMA and a number of other bodies), that the Bill “will do irreparable harm to the NHS, to individual patients and to society as a whole”.