Since moving to England, I haven’t been able to participate in Angus Reid surveys (their site only allows Canadian IPs to participate), so instead I’ve been getting my polling participation fix through YouGov.
The most recent one I completed was just released and is part of a UK-USA comparison of belief in the devil, demonic possession, and exorcisms. Yes, it’s a Halloween novelty poll.
Continue reading Brits and the Devil
“The trouble with kids these days…” is not exactly the way I would have expected one of Britain’s youngest Prime Ministers in recent history would launch his latest policy announcement at the recent Conservative Party Conference.
To David Cameron’s credit he’s not a cranky old man shouting at the kids to get off his lawn but his new plan to remove welfare benefits from people under 25 sounds like it’s targeted at people who do just that.
The goal is to get youth “earning or learning,” meaning that they should either be in university or working.
Unfortunately, due to the Coalition’s own policies, student tuition has skyrocketed from free to £9,000 in a generation and youth unemployment rates have risen to over 20% (graph from link).
So it’s all well and good to talk about the need for youth to be in school or working but the trouble is there are no jobs to pay for the school that students can’t afford. Now the government will take away the little government support that keeps many young families (few people are still studying by 25 and many are starting families by that age) need to survive between jobs in this economy.
Nevertheless, it’s a smart strategy for a government that’s lagging ten points back in the polls as those least likely to vote are the youths getting screwed under this new policy, while those most likely to blame youth for sucking the state dry are the older generations who show up and vote Tory.
A bit of welcome news came today that British government inspectors have forced the temporary closure of an Islamic free school over “health and safety issues.” The school promises to re-open soon.
Over the past few years, the British government has been increasingly trying to solve its broken education system through a combination of market-based reforms. Key among them have been the opening of many “free schools,” that is, fully government-funded schools that are free from the control of local authorities (locally-elected school boards).
Many of these free schools are religiously-motivated and are permitted to have discriminatory admission policies that favour students of a particular faith. The system is loosely based around similar programs in Alberta and BC where independent schools receive a certain amount of government funding.
The British Humanist Association’s Fair Admission Campaign has highlighted that these free schools end up increasing social fragmentation and class separation, with students of higher socioeconomic standing being admitted disproportionately.
The Huffington Post has a piece comparing open atheists in government in the USA with the UK.
They note that only two American legislators have only ever really professed non-belief: Pete Stark and Barney Frank (the latter admitting it after leaving politics). Meanwhile, the current deputy Prime Minister of the UK, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, is an atheist, as is Ed Miliband, Labour Party and Official Opposition Leader. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is a Christian but has brought in gay marriage and UK politicians are routinely reminded that Brits “don’t do god.”
Further to that, the British Humanist Association maintains a Humanist Caucus with over 100 elected MPs and unelected Lords in the three major parties.
The closest Canada has had to an atheist Prime Minister might be Kim Campbell, who is listed as a “lapsed Anglican,” although many Liberal Prime Ministers may not have been as Catholic as they professed. Pierre Elliot Trudeau was reportedly a board member of the Humanist Fellowship of Montreal. Several past federal party leaders have been reported as atheists, including Stephane Dion and Gilles Duceppe. Few Canadians wear their religiosity (or lack thereof) on their sleeves though.
I follow politics pretty closely and among the first things I did upon arriving here was register myself and Sonia to vote (I’m a citizen through descent and Commonwealth citizens living in the UK have a vote because colonialism).
So here’s a rough translation of UK politics for Canadians (probably most of my readers).
Continue reading A quick guide to UK Politics for Canadians