UK ELECTION SET FOR MAY 7th

Signpost, political parties

A turbulent six weeks lies ahead as Britain prepares to vote on May 7th.

Americans are already in the midst of electioneering, for an election that’s still 22 months away.  They can be forgiven a case of envy when they learn that the United Kingdom’s election period will only last 38 days.

Elections used to be fairly routine, with either the Conservative or the Labour party winning.

In 2010, that changed.  Neither party won a majority. David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party and Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party agreed to form a Coalition government.   Later, the two had to agree on austerity measures to get Britain out of the international financial crisis.

Today, the country has the fastest growing economy out of all the major western democracies.   Austerity seems to have worked better in Britain than elsewhere in Europe.

This time, there are a number of parties campaigning to win seats in Britain’s “first past the post” system.

The country has 635 constituencies.   Whoever gets the biggest number of votes in each of these, is elected to parliament.   The leader of the majority faction then becomes prime minister.

This time, however, there are more than three parties.

The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties will all be putting up candidates.   In addition, there’s a fairly new party called UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), which is campaigning for Britain to withdraw from the EU and to do something about immigration, which many see as out of control.

Their leader, Nigel Farage, has already said that if David Cameron, the current prime minister, needs UKIP’s help to form a right-wing coalition government, he will insist on a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EU by the end of this year.   Mr. Cameron wants to delay it until 2017 when more Europeans will have moved into Britain, making it more likely that a “yes” vote would be returned.   Anybody from the EU can vote in referenda, though not in general elections. That requires full citizenship.

On the left of the political spectrum, for Labour’s Ed Miliband to form a government, he will likely need support from the SNP (Scottish National Party), Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalists) and even the Greens (environmental party).   All of these parties will want government spending to increase, thereby jeopardizing the recovery the present coalition has engineered.

There are also smaller parties representing Northern Ireland, which may be needed to form a coalition.

It’s all suddenly become very complicated, but the old days of two-party politics seem to be over for good.

The next occupant of 10 Downing Street will be the man who can successfully haggle with other party leaders to reach the magic number of 318 – that’s just over 50% of all the seats in parliament, without which governing would be almost impossible.

 

YEMENI CONFLICT WIDENS SHIA-SUNNI DIVIDE

Shia Sunni

Fill up with gas – the price of oil has been “surging overnight”!

That’s the likely international outcome of the latest development in the Middle East.

Early Thursday morning (late Wednesday in the US), a coalition of ten countries, led by Saudi Arabia, started bombing Shi’ite rebels in Yemen, aiming to restore the “legitimate” (Sunni) government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is in hiding somewhere.

The conflict widens the Shia-Sunni conflict, which is the root cause of the never-ending conflicts in Iraq and Syria.   The latest war pits Saudi Arabia and Iran against each other.

Yemen is not a big oil producer.   But it’s strategically located, controlling the 25-mile wide Gulf of Aden, through which a great deal of the world’s oil is shipped.   The British controlled the Gulf from 1839 until 1967.

Illustrative of the volatility in the oil market is the fact that, less than 24 hours ago, hopes were high that a deal between Iran and the western coalition would lead to a glut of oil, driving the price down.   The deal may still happen, but the benefits will likely be more than offset by the Yemeni conflict and the increasing Sunni-Shia struggle throughout the Middle East.

This is the basis for the ongoing battle over Tikrit in Iraq.   Over a week ago, the Iraqi military was claiming victory over ISIS forces controlling the city.   But ISIS, the most militant group within Sunni Islam, is holding its own against a combined force of Shi’ite Iraqi troops, Shia militias and Iranians, who are also Shi’ites.

Interestingly, the US supports the Saudi-led action to restore the President of Yemen, at the same time as supporting the Iraqi and Iranian action to defeat ISIS.   It’s doubtful this difficult balancing act will last.

Another question is what it will take for western intervention in the region.   An article on the widening conflict in the Middle East in the latest issue of Time Magazine ended with the following paragraph.

“It’s impossible to predict when and where the next extremist attack on a Western target may occur.   But it seems all to likely that it would require a mass casualty terrorist strike in a Western country to build the public support needed for the sustained military effort that could actually eliminate these growing threats.”   (The New Caliphates, TIME Magazine, Volume 185, Issue #11).

Certainly, such an attack cannot be far off.   This could certainly fulfill the prophecy in Daniel 11:40, which states:   “At the time of the end the King of the South shall attack him.”   The King of the North then retaliates.

As this global crisis worsens and spreads, another recent development shows ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram “troops” training together in Mauretania, a Moslem country not directly affected by terrorism until now.   With ISIS now operating in Tunisia and Libya and Boko Haram in alliance with ISIS, operating in Nigeria, Niger and Chad, the whole of West Africa is vulnerable.

At the same time, the Taliban, which operate in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, has pledged support to the new Caliphate.

The spreading Caliphate is well on its way to achieving its avowed goal of an Islamic State stretching from the Atlantic through the Middle East and on to Indonesia.   The plan is a five year plan, which means conflicts are set to increase and spread.

Meanwhile, the “mass casualty terrorist strike” Time warned about, may already have happened. It has been disclosed that the pilot was locked out of the cockpit of the “Germanwings” flight that crashed into the Alps two days ago.   When the pilot went to the bathroom, his co-pilot locked the door behind him and then immediately set the controls for a rapid descent and the final, fatal crash.   The Marseille prosecutor has just declared that the “co-pilot was not known as a wanted terrorist.”   The question remains as to why he would deliberately fly the plane into the mountains.   Terrorism was quickly denied but terrorist websites constantly inspire “lone wolf” violent attacks as part of their cause.

Spain and Germany lost the most people in the crash.   Spain is one of the countries that ISIS wants in its Caliphate, having been ruled by Muslims for over 700 years.

It’s too early to tell if this was a factor in the plane crash but a criminal investigation is now underway.   It seems certain the loss of 150 lives was no accident.

 

 

 

 

SINGAPORE LOSES ITS FOUNDING FATHER

Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore is one of the greatest success stories of the modern world.

The modern history of the country started in 1819, just under 200 years ago.  The British were looking for a strategic location to base their growing merchant and naval fleets and to thwart Dutch regional influence.

The then Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolan in Sumatra, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, landed in Singapore after surveying neighboring islands.   A colony was soon founded with a population of only 150. Today, the population is almost 5.5 million.   Singapore’s success was based on free trade, which made it a vibrant commercial center, attracting merchants from all over Asia, the Middle East and the United States, as well as Great Britain, which dominated the globe in the nineteenth century.

The port city saw its greatest period of growth after the British opened the Suez Canal in 1869.   Control of vital sea-gates around the globe contributed to the dominance of the British Empire.   It was possible for British vessels to sail from England to Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus in the Mediterranean, before continuing their journey through the Suez Canal and Aden, then on to points east, including Singapore.   The naval base at Singapore enabled the British to dominate the Far East and Australasia.   Singapore was a vital sea-gate, one of the arteries of empire.   Many believe this fulfilled the prophecy in Genesis 22:17 that Abraham’s descendants would “possess the gates of their enemies.”

Everything went well until the Japanese attacked the city the day after Pearl Harbor.   Once regarded as an impregnable fortress, the city surrendered on 15th March, 1942.   It remained under Japanese occupation for three-and-a-half-years.   Looking back, it was a major turning point in the decline and fall of the British Empire, perhaps the biggest single turning point.   It showed that the seemingly invincible British, a white race that ruled the greatest empire in history, could be defeated by a non-white peoples considered backward and inferior.

After the defeat of Japan, the British returned, but it was impossible to return to the pre-war order.   New political parties were formed that campaigned for independence.

In 1963, the people of Singapore voted to join the new Malaysian Federation, which the British had created six years earlier.   Only two years later, Singapore, an island of mostly Chinese immigrants, had to leave the Moslem dominated federation and go it alone.

In 1965, at the time of independence, the total Gross National Product of Singapore was only $1 billion.   Fifty years later, it’s $300 billion.   Per capita income has grown from less than $500 per year to well over $55,000, second only to Japan in East Asia.   The island state has been transformed in fifty years from a Third World outpost to a thriving city-state that belongs proudly to the First World of wealthy, affluent countries.

This achievement was the work of one man, Lee Kuan Yew, the longest serving prime minister in the world (from 1959 to 1990). Singapore’s former prime minister died at the weekend.   The man who cried when the federation broke up and Singapore had to go it alone, had a clear vision of what was needed – a free enterprise system which would become a regional financial center.   This does not mean that government was not involved.   He was mildly authoritarian, with restrictions on freedom of speech and the press.   He also oversaw massive public housing projects, which contributed to a rising standard of living for the people. The US could learn from its medical system.

He leaves behind a wealthy, efficient and honest administration – one of the modern world’s greatest success stories.   Other developing nations, struggling to survive in the contemporary world, could learn a great deal from Singapore and the man who built its modern economy.

Singapore is also symbolic of Asia’s growing might, accompanied by the decline of its former imperial master Great Britain, and the West in general.

The world has changed a great deal in the fifty years since Singapore became an independent republic.   It’s experience should give many nations pause for thought and reflection.

 

CHARLES VISITS WASHINGTON

Prince Charles and Camilla

Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, are visiting Washington DC.   During their visit to the US, they will commemorate three things — the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, the most important secular document in the history of the English-speaking peoples; the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War; and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

The Prince of Wales visited the National Archives yesterday where a 1297 copy of the Magna Carta is on loan from Lincoln Cathedral in England.  The Magna Carta is embodied in the American Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

I’ve had the privilege of viewing the same Magna Carta, signed by King John at Runnymede on June 15th, 1215, in Lincoln, which is not far from my hometown.   A depiction of the event can be seen on the bronze doors of the Supreme Court building.

It’s been over forty years since the Washington Post claimed that President Richard Nixon was brought down by Magna Carta.   The charter established the principle that everybody is equal before the law, including the king or president.   This principle separated England from the continental powers, where the head of state is above the law.   When French President Jacques Chirac was accused of corruption while in office, nothing could be done about it until he was no longer president of France.

Exactly ten weeks after King John was pressured into signing the charter, Pope Innocent III declared it null and void.  He said that no people had any right to demand anything of their king. Consequently, England was plunged into civil war.

Magna Carta reminds us that:   “God is no respecter of persons.” (Acts 10:34)   We are all equal before God, who is the ultimate Law-giver.

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It’s a good thing that the royal couple were not in America on Sunday, where they might have seen the first episode of “The Royals,” on the E! Network.   This show depicts a fictional royal family ruling in England.

I watched the first 30 minutes of the 75-minute much-hyped premiere.

It was utter and total trash.

If any of today’s royal families behaved like those in the fictional series, they wouldn’t last very long.

Monarchy has a serious side.   According to the organization “Democracy Watch,” the seven most democratic countries in the world are all constitutional monarchies.   They are:   The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Canada and New Zealand (the United Kingdom was not included in the list, maybe because it does not have an elected Upper House).

They have all also been the most stable countries in the world.

Constitutional monarchy also happens to be the cheapest form of government.

There’s a lot to be said for constitutional monarchy.   In contrast, there is nothing positive to be said for the new television series, which raises trash to a whole new level – and that’s really saying something when it comes to TV!

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While on the subject of royalty, I have to recommend the new “Cinderella” movie.

My son and I took his two girls to see it on Sunday.   The girls, aged 8 & 9, have gotten used to me falling asleep whenever I take them to a movie.   Brooklyn, the youngest, promised to wake me up if this should happen again.

But it didn’t.   The movie was engrossing.   It is beautifully made with real people.

I have never been one for fairy stories, even when I was a child.   But this was different.   It’s a real old-fashioned love story, with an upbeat ending that will leave many in tears.

Lily James (Rose in “Downton Abbey”) plays a very convincing Cinderella.   (One of her ugly step-sisters is played by Downton’s Daisy.)   Richard Madden plays the prince.   Helena Bonham Carter, one of England’s greatest actresses, plays a humorous Fairy Godmother and Cate Blanchett plays the Wicked Step-Mother.

The movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh, one of England’s greatest theatrical talents.

A superb movie, perfect for the whole family.   It’s also perfectly respectable for married couples to go without children — I intend to take my wife who could not go on Sunday.

 

 

TWIN THREATS PROMPT CALLS FOR ACTION

Pope

One thousand years after the Crusades, the Pope is calling for force to be used to protect Christians in the Middle East.

The Catholic website “Crux” is currently leading with the headline:  “Vatican backs military force to stop ISIS ‘genocide’.”   The news story begins with the following two paragraphs:

“In an unusually blunt endorsement of military action, the Vatican’s top diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva has called for a coordinated international force to stop the “so-called Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq from further assaults on Christians and other minority groups.

“We have to stop this kind of genocide,” said Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva. “Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t do something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.”

At the same time, the Fox News website’s top story is:  “Islamic State intensifies its efforts TO WIPE OUT CHRISTIANITY.”

Meanwhile, there has been another call for a European Army.

Presently, every single country in Europe has its own military.   However, many European nations are members of NATO and co-operate greatly on defense.  In spite of increasing threats to the peace and stability of Europe, some European countries have been cutting defense expenditure in order to balance their budgets in a time of austerity.   This has caused some resentment in the United States.  Many feel that Europeans are not pulling their weight.  A number of countries are spending less than the required 2% of their budgets on defense.

At the same time, Europeans are concerned that Americans seem intent on raising the stakes in Ukraine by sending more arms to Kiev.   This scares some European governments including Germany.  Additionally, the US is closing 15 military bases in Europe, as if to emphasize that the country’s priorities are changing.

Europeans see Russia as their greatest threat at this time.  So do many members of the US Congress.  However, differences remain on how best to handle Russia.

The President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has called for an EU Army to make the Russians realize that Europe is serious about Russia’s threats (“Jean Claude Juncker calls for EU Army,” The Guardian, 8 March).

In the last twelve months, Russia has invaded and annexed Crimea, continues to occupy (supposedly through surrogates) eastern Ukraine and has increased intimidating military flights over the Baltic countries and the United Kingdom.

But Russia may not be the biggest military challenge Europeans face.   Islamic extremism could be an even bigger problem.

The Europeans have to contend with both ISIS and Al-Qaeda.  The latter was behind the attacks in Paris in January.  ISIS is now at Europe’s back door with a significant presence in Libya, Italy’s former colony, and not that far away from the Italian peninsula.   ISIS also now has an ally in Boko Haram, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State a few weeks ago.   Boko Haram is causing a great deal of turmoil in Nigeria and neighboring countries, all of which have commercial and historical ties with European countries and the EU.

The Bible highlights the fact that the Middle East is at the center of Bible prophecy.  Many of the prophecies in scripture could not have been fulfilled until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire less than a hundred years ago.  The subsequent peace treaty created a number of new countries, many of which remain in varying degrees of conflict and instability.  Deeper tensions came with the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948.   These events have made the final biblical scenario all the more credible.

Daniel 11:40-41 prophecies:  “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through.  He shall also enter the Glorious Land (the Holy Land)….”

Earlier in chapter 11 we read a prophecy, written in the sixth century BC, of Alexander the Great.  His empire, a fulfilled prophecy, came about two centuries after the prophetic words of Daniel were written.  As predicted, his empire was eventually divided between his four generals.  Two of these generals founded biblically significant dynasties, one to the north of Jerusalem (the King of the North, or the Seleucid dynasty) and one to the south of Jerusalem (the King of the South, or the Ptolemaic dynasty).   These two dynasties were often in conflict.  As the Jews were in the middle, they suffered greatly because of them.

After the horrendous climactic events in the middle of the second century BC, the prophecy takes us down to the present time, where, once again, there’s a king of the North and a King of the South.   It should be noted that the prophecy has a gap of two thousand years because the Jews did not have a country of their own during that time.  Now, once again, they do.

The ancient King of the North was conquered by the Roman Empire in 60 A.D.   A new revived Roman Empire is going to emerge as the new King of the North, although it won’t be called by that name.  But it will fulfill the prophecy in Daniel 11.  It will send troops into the Middle East to deal with the growing threat of Islamic militancy, political turmoil and conflict.  A European Army is more likely to be used in this region than against Russia.

But, after intervening in the Middle East, that same army may have to deal with Russia.  “But news from the east and the north shall trouble him . . .” (v. 44).   It should be noted that Russia, Iran, Syria and a number of central Asian, former Soviet republics, co-operate militarily.  If Europe was embroiled in the Middle East, Russia would no doubt take advantage and annex other countries that were formerly in its empire.

This brings us back to the pope’s call for force to be used to save Christians in the Middle East.

In the latter part of the eleventh century, Muslim Turks massacred Christians and treated surviving Christians cruelly.  This led to Pope Urban II in 1095 calling for a Crusade against the Muslims, to free the Christians in the Holy Land.  The Crusades lasted two hundred years.

Today, it’s not the Turks who are persecuting Christians.  It’s ISIS and other extremis groups.   And, it’s not just Christians who need protecting.   Other minorities also need intervention on their behalf.   But, as with events a thousand years ago, it could be the pope who calls nations to arms.

Western civilization is once again seriously threatened.  Politicians, never able to see beyond the next election, seem blinded to this reality.   The papacy is, once again, more in tune with global reality.

The pope’s call, together with the call for an EU Army, show that the prophecies of your Bible are on track, leading ultimately to the second coming of Jesus Christ to establish His Kingdom.

ISIS FIGHT GOES INTERNATIONAL

Jake

Jake Bilardi was a white Australian teenager who became a suicide bomber with ISIS.   Jake left Australia for Syria at the age of 16 after he became a “self-radicalized” Muslim, over the internet.   He is one of an estimated ninety Australian citizens fighting with ISIS.

A couple of weeks ago, a great deal of attention was given to three British teenage girls who disappeared, traced eventually to Istanbul and then Syria.   A month or so ago, teenage girls from Denver attempted to join ISIS in Syria.

Meanwhile, the BBC World News tonight showed British veterans in Syria fighting against ISIS.   According to the report, at least two have died in fighting in recent weeks.   All of these men volunteered to go and fight ISIS after hearing of the atrocities committed by the terrorist group.   The report also showed other foreign nationals, including an American veteran.

This means that people with British passports are fighting on two sides in the Syrian conflict.   As there are more than two sides, it is possible that some are fighting with other groups.   The First Lady of Syria is a British born Syrian, married to President Assad, who spent years working in London before returning to Syria to take over as president.

It was also revealed today that South African mercenaries are fighting against Boko Haram in Nigeria.   Boko Haram recently pledged its allegiance to ISIS.   Both groups are fighting for the self-proclaimed Caliphate under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The above facts show the increasing internationalization of the ISIS/anti-ISIS conflict.

A particularly disturbing report, also on the BBC this evening, was from the Iraqi town of Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein.   The city is currently a battleground between ISIS forces and anti-ISIS troops of the Iraqi and Iranian governments and Shi-ite militias.   The report showed that serious atrocities are being committed by these groups, as bad as anything we’ve seen from ISIS members.

These atrocities should be of great concern to Washington, which is sending more arms to help the Iraqi government.   The arms will be accompanied by 3,000 US military personnel who will be giving further training to the Iraqi military.

The presence of Iranian troops is also awkward for the United States.   While America and its allies may be grateful in the short term for help against ISIS, long-term the end result is likely to be a stronger and greater Iran.   A nuclear Iran will only complicate things further.

The growing internationalization of the conflict is clear and is likely to worsen.

ISIS EXTENDS ITS GLOBAL REACH

boko-haram1

When I heard the news over the weekend that Boko Haram had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), I decided to watch one of the network news programs at 6.30pm to see what they had to say on this development.

As it turns out, nothing was said.   The news program I watched led on Selma (again) and Ferguson (again, again) and Hillary Clinton’s emails (surprise! surprise!  Corruption from a Clinton!   Y.A.W.N.).   Following those three stories, there was a brief segment on Jeb Bush running for president.

Arguably, Boko Haram’s signing up to the Islamic State will have greater impact than any of the other news items.

A few weeks ago, IS was confined to Iraq and Syria.   Then the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan opted to join the caliphate.   Libya was the next addition, not the whole country but the extremists operating there.   Now, with Boko Haram in Nigeria, Niger and Chad, they are rapidly becoming a major global force.

It’s not surprising the West is still asleep when our media focus is so myopic.

The media is also manipulative.   A great deal of attention is now being given to a young African-American teenager who was shot by police in Madison, Wisconsin.

The death of any young person is a tragedy, no matter what the circumstances.   Ten days ago, a 17-year-old male was shot dead by police a few miles from our home.   It did not make the national news, likely because he was white.   The media sure likes to stir things up, especially when it comes to race.

Perhaps this is why little attention is given to the growing threat from ISIS.   As we are constantly being assured that Islam is a religion of peace, little attention will be given to news that brings this into question.

Yet the fact remains, while we obsess about our own internal problems, there is a growing external threat that we ignore at our peril.

 

 

"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened." — Sir Winston Churchill

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