Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Insulting the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI is due to visit Britain this year, he is due to be in Britain between 16th and 19th September 2010.

In amongst Foreign Office documents preparing for this visit is one outlining the 'ideas' from a 'blue skies brainstorming' session by civil servants suggesting that
the Pope be invited to open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage
the Pope's UK visit could be marked by the launch of "Benedict-branded" condoms.
the Pope could apologise for the Spanish Armada or sing a song with the Queen for charity.
It listed "positive" public figures who could be made part of the Pope's visit, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair and 2009 Britain's Got Talent runner-up Susan Boyle, and those considered "negative", such as Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins.
This is the sort of smut to be expected from a pre-pubescent schoolboy, not a civil servant. It should not form any part of either cabinet or Prime Ministerial briefing or discussion.

The sender of this memo had, apparently, asked that
these should not be shared externally.
Of course they didn't want it 'leaked', but it was given sufficient importance to be
attached as one of three "background documents" to a memo dated 5 March 2010 inviting officials in Whitehall and Downing Street to attend a meeting to discuss themes for the papal visit.
They might not have wanted it 'leaked' but they still expected ministers to take their time to discuss these ideas, to take them seriously.

Is this, truly, an example of the best advice, the best ideas, that are given to Foreign Office ministers?

Oh, and no, this revelation has not come from the Mail. Every single one of these quotes is taken from from the BBC - which is, naturally, trying to downplay the importance, and the ignorance of those involved. They are saying that
It's clear that what the Foreign Office has called "this foolish document" did not reflect government policy. Its tone is clearly frivolous, and it came from junior officials.
There is a small element of caution though, because it notes
How serious and far-reaching the effect of the document is depends partly on how the Church itself responds.
The article clearly states that British Ambassador to the Vatican has apologised to officials there for what the Foreign Office refers to as
a "foolish" document [...] which resulted from a "brainstorm" on the visit, [and] did not reflect its views
It is also pointed out that this 'foolishness' was not enough to cost a job, because the individual concerned has been
put on other duties
The BBC also, Mrs Rigby notes, highlights alongside this article a link to one referring to a petition against the Pope's visit. That other article is dated 4th March 2010.

There's a message there, and Mrs Rigby doesn't like it.

She isn't a Catholic, but she knows people who are, and they would be devastated to learn of the utter disrespect shown by civil servants and those in high office to their church and to the man who sits on and beneath St Peter's throne*.

source - Wikimedia Commons

Imagine, for a moment, if you will, if any civil servant, in any national/local government or quango department in any town or city anywhere in the country had made a joke about a Muslim, let alone written something equivalent on paper and circulated it to government ministers.

Would they still be in their job? Would they still be being paid out of the public purse? Would any ministers be silent?

And would our streets be quiet?

Haven't the last thirteen years been enough? How far down do they have to drag this country before they go?


*Throne = cathedra

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