May’s close advisers described their approach as a ‘new model conservatism’, with overtones of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army. But he led a civil war that oversaw a regicide – not just the summary firing of a chancellor of the exchequer out of the back door of Downing Street. If Brexit was an uprising against the governing ‘political elite’ and their international friends, it was also a challenge to the way policies are imposed. ‘Take back control’ has thrilling, democratic implications if it means that people themselves start to take control. Brexit was not just about unfair policies, it was also directed at who made decisions and how policy is decided. Freedom from the European Union should have delivered the country on a more democratic course, replacing the hyper-centralisation of Whitehall and winner-takes-all elected dictatorship as well. Instead, re-imposing them will crush the vitality and democracy out of Brexit.
ROME – Over the years, the Vatican has demonstrated a fairly remarkable capacity from a PR point of view to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – striving to offer the world good news about the pope and the Church, only to find a way to step on that story and turn it into something else.
One thinks, for instance, about a wave of sexual abuse scandals that swept Ireland and then much of Europe in 2009 and 2010, which actually triggered real reform in Catholicism and revealed Pope Benedict XVI as an honest-to-God change agent.
Nevertheless, that storyline was basically hijacked when Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s former Secretary of State and Dean of the College of Cardinals, called the complaints of abuse survivors “petty gossip” during an Easter Sunday homily.
It’s still early in the game, but there have already been hints during this week’s high-profile summit on clerical sexual abuse that the Vatican may find ways to take our eyes off the prize this time too.