Displaying items by tag: Politics
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s budget scrapped the lifetime allowance on tax-free pension contributions. There were other key measures: Free 30 hours per week childcare is expanded to cover children from nine months to two years old. Fuel duty is frozen for another year and government help with energy bills is extended by three months. Funding will be provided for 50,000 places on a voluntary employment scheme for disabled people, called Universal Support. Tougher requirements to look for work and increased job support for lead child carers on universal credit. More places on ‘skills boot camps’ to encourage over-50s who have left their jobs to return to the workplace. Defence spending and corporation tax will be increased. The economy is forecast to grow by 1.8% in 2024 and 2.5% in 2025 and Inflation is forecast to fall from 10.7% last year to 2.9% by the end of this year.
Christians say Budget fails the poor
Christian Labour MP Alex Cunningham said, ‘the budget lacks ambition to tackle the cost of living crisis and support those in need. There is nothing to deal with rising poverty. We need much more done for people at the bottom end of the income line. Above all we need to ensure food supplies are improved - we have already seen prices rise due to shortages. We must tackle these things in order to drive down inflation so that people get better benefits out of the money they have.’ The latest data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that 23% of adults in Great Britain are borrowing more money or using more credit. Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church, Paul Morrison, said that the Budget's number one priority should be to support the poor. People are experiencing destitution in the UK. Destitution should not happen in a country as wealthy as ours.
Israel: Religious v secular politics
For three years no stable government has been established despite five elections. Currently a right-wing, religious government rules. But the opposition refuses to accept it. There are civil uprisings involving all sectors of society, even the military. Police usually crack down on right-wing and settler demonstrations. Now they are allowing protesters to shut down highways etc. Many say ‘Israel is being shaken to its very foundations’ and it’s getting worse daily. The conflict is a spiritual battle between secular and religious visions. Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion was never able to reconcile the opposing secular and religious sectors for Israel and finally gave up on the idea of formulating a foundational constitution or charter for Israel. He decided the state of Israel would be founded on the UN's general principles of human rights. Is Israel to be a state like all other nations, or does God have a different calling for Israel?
Global: AUKUS Building nuclear submarines
The US, UK and Australia have unveiled details of their plan to create a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, aimed at countering China's influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Under the AUKUS pact Australia is to get its first three nuclear-powered submarines from the US. The allies will also work to create a new fleet using cutting-edge tech, including UK-made Rolls-Royce reactors. The deal will create thousands of jobs in the UK's Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, Derby and elsewhere. Beijing has strongly criticised the significant naval deal. Its foreign ministry accused the three nations of ‘walking further ‘down the path of error and danger.’ China's UN mission had earlier accused the Western allies of setting back nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Mr Biden said the deal would not jeopardise Australia's commitment to being a nuclear-free country.
USA: open arms for refugees
President Biden has announced a new pilot programme that empowers individuals to privately sponsor refugees coming to America. Through the programme, Welcome Corps, groups of five individuals or more can raise funds to sponsor a refugee. Once the refugee arrives, these people will help them secure housing, employment, and education as they integrate into American life. Christians are called to care for the persecuted and vulnerable. The narrative of Scripture reveals God’s heart for the immigrant and the refugee, who are valuable people made in His image (Matt. 25:35-40).
Finance ministers of the world's largest economies failed to agree on a closing statement after China refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine or accept parts of G20’s statement deploring Russia's aggression ‘in the strongest terms’. Moscow said ‘anti-Russian’ countries had ‘destabilised’ the G20 after China’s plan was viewed as pro-Russian. President Zelenskiy will meet China’s president to discuss China’s cease-fire proposal, saying a meeting would be ‘important for world security.’ China's 12-point ‘political settlement’ plan does not require Russia to leave Ukraine and was met with scepticism from Ukraine’s allies. Emmanuel Macron called on Beijing to ‘help us pressure Russia’ to end the war as peace was only possible if ‘Russian aggression stopped, troops withdraw and territorial sovereignty of Ukraine and its people is respected’. Joe Biden said, ‘China as a peacemaker in Ukraine is not rational. Putin's applauding it, so how could it be any good? I've seen nothing in the plan that would benefit anyone other than Russia, if China's plan were followed.’ See also
SNP leadership candidates
Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes are leading candidates to be the next first minister. Kate Forbes said she would not have backed the Scottish government's bill to make it easier to change gender legally. At the heart of her identity is membership of the socially conservative Free Church of Scotland. As a Christian she believes marriage to be between a man and a woman, but she insists she would defend the law as ‘a servant of democracy.’ Mr Yousaf describes himself as a proud Muslim who will be fasting during Ramadan, which falls in the final week of the leadership campaign. He said that he does not legislate on the basis of his faith, and he has a track record of supporting gender reform, gay marriage, and buffer zones around abortion clinics. Ms Forbes also does not legislate on the basis of her faith, favouring votes of conscience. See also
North Korea: food shortages
North Korea is teetering on the brink of famine. Their official newspaper urges economic self-reliance, arguing that relying on external aid to cope with the food situation would be like taking ‘poisoned candy’. A US thinktank said North Korea is reeling from floods, typhoons and global sanctions over its nuclear programme and is on the brink of famine. Food insecurity is at its ‘worst since the 1990s famine’, and food availability is likely below the bare minimum for human needs. Experts say the current food shortages, triggered by poor harvests amid extreme weather conditions, have been exacerbated by lockdowns and a sharp reduction in trade with China due to border closures during the pandemic. Pyongyang called for an ‘urgent’ meeting of the Workers’ Party on agriculture this month. It is rare for such a special meeting. They have also reduced daily food rations to soldiers for the first time since 2000.
Nigeria: young people may influence election results
Spurred on by the 2020 EndSars anti-police brutality protests that morphed into calls for good governance, millions of young people in Nigeria have registered as first-time voters for the elections on 25 February. The man many are backing for president, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, is not that young at 61. Nor is he really a new broom in Nigerian politics as he was previously the vice-presidential candidate for the main opposition party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP). But he is considered an outlier because of his accessibility, simplicity, and his record of prudence with public funds when he was a state governor. Under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is stepping down after two terms, young middle-class Nigerians have seen their finances battered by record levels of inflation. One in three of them cannot find a job, students have experienced incessant strikes by lecturers, and many of Nigeria's finest are desperate to leave the country. On top of this, widespread insecurity has seen armed groups kill more than 10,000 people and abduct more than 5,000 last year alone, according to the International Crisis Group. Mr Obi has been openly supported by Nigeria's huge evangelical Christian movement in the south, and can also rely on the votes of Christians who feel persecuted in the mainly Muslim north.
Brexit: unfinished business
The Northern Ireland protocol was agreed to ensure free movement of trade across the Irish land border after Brexit. The legal text is now being looked at to nail down details. However, some are concerned that there are still things to square off to ensure an agreement is sellable to EU member states: the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and some Tory MPs who continue to insist that there remains more work to do. Pray for the language surrounding the talks to be increasingly positive. Also farms risk going out of business. The UK has replaced EU’s subsidies to farmers with ‘payments for public goods’ (SFI). Each year ministers cut how much farmers get paid under the old scheme while they introduce new ones. Farmers’ subsidies were cut by 22% last year, but only 0.44% of the promised budget was spent on SFI. So where is the money going?