At Mass on Sunday, we were issued with a letter from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, entitled ‘The General Election 2017’. It set out questions which Catholics should ask candidates. These included the ‘uncertain future’ of EU citizens in Britain and British citizens in the EU, rehabilitation in prisons, immigration, overseas aid, welfare services. All important issues, of course. But it was striking what we were not invited to raise. Nothing about how high spending and taxation might burden poorer taxpayers. No subject in which the interests of UK citizens (who, after all, are the people for whom any British election takes place) come first. No mention of the difficulties of immigration for people living here, of the Islamist threat, or of any need to defend ourselves. No suggestion that creating wealth might assist human dignity and opportunity. Even when discussing trade deals, no mention of free trade. No hint that national independence could help democracy. On strong Catholic issues, no direct reference to abortion or to marriage (except as it assists immigration rights). The Catholic magisterium had boiled down to an upmarket version of the Liberal Democrat manifesto.
Operation Temperer was put into effect for the first time after the Manchester bombing. Troops substitute for some police tasks in a terrorist emergency. The Bombay and Paris attacks rightly convinced our authorities they must guard against what is known as a ‘marauding terrorist firearms threat’. In this case, the deployment of 1,000 troops freed up 1,100 armed police officers. A couple of problems have emerged. One is optical. If troops are involved, the media naturally look for film of them — hence the foolishly authorised sequences in Downing Street and Parliament, as if the security of the powerful mattered more than that of Manchester.