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Missing the drama of the Synod

17 July 2015

THERE are good arguments for making the General Synod a less theatrical place, although it is hard to see how much less dramatic some of its debates could be. None the less, there are times when you do want maximum impact from a debate, and the climate-change day was one. Unfortunately, this was vitiated by the fact that the actual decisions about money and disinvestment had been taken, and announced, much earlier.

From the point of view of a hard-headed news desk, there wasn’t much new in the outcome of Monday’s debate, except that the Synod narrowly averted a call to prayer and fasting. That is interesting, but it’s not the interest people wanted to generate.

It’s not obvious what the cure would be. It would require remarkable powers of stage management to arrange for the Church Commissioners and the EIAG to delay announcing their decisions until after the Synod had approved them. But that would in fact have got a much bigger and better splash.


OTHERWISE, the papers’ coverage was all of the eccentric bits and bobs around the edge of the Synod. The Telegraph, The Times, and the Mail could not quite agree on whether defrocking was a better story than racism: for the Telegraph and the Mail, it was defrocking; for The Times, and The Guardian online, it was Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s talk about racism in the Church. The Times put “Borderline racist” in the headline, which was hard but fair, since the Bishop used the term at least when he was talking to journalists afterwards.

The green debate raised at least one interesting question: why did the Bishop of Chester not speak? The morning afterwards, he signed a press release put out by Nigel Lawson’s climate-change denialist think tank. There were reporters salivating for a news angle in the gallery. But on the day, there was no significant resistance to the motion.


AWAY from the Synod, the interesting stories were once again Muslim. There was a fine piece of reporting in The Guardian about a deradicalisation programme that might be effective: having Yazidi girls who have escaped from IS fighters lecture schoolchildren here on what life in the Caliphate is actually like:

“When ISIS tore up Bushra’s village and she and her family fled for the mountains, a young man who had been a friend of her brothers told them to go home and that they would not be hurt. When her brother refused, the man put a gun to his head. Bushra, then 18, was taken to a strange city and held captive with her 14-year-old sister.

“After being told they were to be married, her friend from the village went into the bathroom and slit her wrists. ‘They knew I was closest to her; they made me go into the bathroom,’ she says. ‘She was covered in blood and I couldn’t look at her. They wrapped her in a blanket and threw her in the street like a piece of rubbish.’”


MEANWHILE, the untiring Andrew Gilligan found a civil servant who was, in his off-duty hours, a member of a nasty Islamist propaganda outfit: “For almost two years, Abdullah al Andalusi led a double life, the Telegraph can reveal.

“By night, he taught that the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was ‘no different to Western armies’, said that ‘kaffirs’, non-Muslims, would be ‘punished in hell’, and claimed that the British government wanted to destroy Islam.

“By day, using a different name, he went to work for the same British government at the London offices of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the official regulator of all 44 forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

What’s remarkable — apart from the sloth and incompetence of the authorities — is his excuse for IS. Just like the would-be Jihadi bride who convinced herself that the vile man she had wanted to marry must really have been a Kurd all along, al Andalusi realised that what was wrong with IS was that it was all along too Western.

He condemned the group for killing civilians, but said that the West had “no basis to judge Islamic State” because “IS are no different to Western armies. . . IS’s crime is being actually a good student of the West, right down to their corporate structure and organisation and ability to use social media.”


FINALLY, a small mystery: a Google search for the phrases “flaunts her {x}” or “shows off her {x}” in the Daily Mail website brings up about 2,600,000 results. The same search run through Google News search finds only 1.3 million Mail stories using the phrase. What of the other 1.3 million? Can they not be news at all?

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