Back Jesus vote BNP?

April 7, 2009

The BNP poster claims that if alive today, Jesus would vote for them. The campaign has brought much publicity. But will it win voters, or trigger resistance from opposing activists?

The BBC reports the story :

In the UK most politicians are markedly reluctant to “do God”. But the British National Party has recruited Jesus Himself in its efforts to get an MEP elected to the European Parliament in June. [Their] election poster bears a passage from John’s gospel and a traditional image of Jesus. “What would Jesus do?” it asks, and then supplies the answer – “vote BNP”.

It’s an appeal to people worried by the growth of Islam, and to traditionalist evangelical Christians anxious about the secularism they feel is eroding their values in society. The party tries to strike a chord with them by claiming that “church leaders actively shun the word of God on issues like sodomy, abortion and social justice”. Christian groups have accused the BNP of using the word “Christian” as a synonym for “white”, and “Islamic” to mean “Asian”, but it’s a claim the party dismisses. The BNP has also been stung by strongly worded instructions to voters from Church leaders telling them not to vote for the party. The UK’s first black archbishop, John Sentamu, said in 2004 that voting for the BNP was “like spitting in the face of God”.

What is the BNP?

The BNP (British Nationalist Party) does not hold any parliamentary seats in Westminster, but has secured a handful of local government seats. Controversies over a more overtly racist past continue, although its current leadership denies this in public. What is clear in these murky political waters is that the BNP attracts voters in areas where racial tensions are high, and is regarded as a group with views that play to anxieties of the disaffected and underprivileged.

Jesus would have voted for us …

Christians from time to time discuss ‘what would Jesus do if he was alive to day …’ over various topics from gay rights, to shopping on Sundays, to women priests. No doubt there will be discussions (and further advice from church leaders) on this one.

It has long been said that the Church of England is the Tory (Conservative ) party at prayer. Recently it was argued in one influential Christian blog that the old saw has political mileage today. By espousing it more wholeheartedly evidence of

such a moral purpose would undoubtedly find resonance among the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities, the Conservative Party would find itself increasingly attracting the votes of ethnic minorities

Leadership questions

I’m not convinced. Suppose that you are involved in the leadership of a political party? What considerations should inform a decision to present your political message with a strong religious connection?

Clearly there is no simple and universal answer. Each leadership campaign calls for judgments drawing on various kinds of evidence. It is situated in the conditions of the time.
It may be backed up by techniques of market research, and short term considerations may be weighed-up against longer term consequences. Emotions may be triggered today which arouse recollections of other emotionally charged memories. I would think carefully whether a campaign might trigger off such past assocations. In that sense, history tends to take hostages to fortune.

Update

Yesterday [May 24th 2009], Archbishops entered the fray with exhortations to their flocks to vote, but not for the BNP. The poster was again used as a hook for the story.

The British National Party has dismissed an appeal by senior Anglican church leaders for voters to boycott the party at next month’s elections.

The archbishops of Canterbury and York are urging people not to let anger over the MPs’ expenses scandal drive them to vote for the party.


Creative challenges to authority: ATP tennis at Miami

April 4, 2009
Hawkeye in tennis

Hawkeye in tennis

The Sony Ericsson ATP tennis tournament at Miami illustrated how players find creative and unexpected ways of coping with rule changes

From the UK, the Miami event plays out often into the early morning, GMT. This mini-post may thus have been influenced by sleep deprivation …

The Murray versus Del Potro semi-final furnished some nice examples of players cottoning on to creative use (and abuse) of newly introduced rule changes.

Non-tennis players begin here

Tennis has introduced a natty technology giving players the right to appeals line-calls. To avoid excessive appeals, there is a limit of three unsuccessful appeals every set. The ultimate authority resides in the technology which tracks ball-movements, now revealed on giant screens to ums and ohs from the fans. Despite reservations, the technology has been around for some while and seems mostly accepted by players and officials alike. It is also a crowd-pleaser.

The intention

The intention behind introducing the hawkeye system is to provide fairer decisions for the players, and perhaps reduce abuse of umpire and officials. Both seem to have been achieved to a degree.

Unintended consequences

In the course of the match, a commentator supplied some stats on how successful the top players had been in their challenges. Only one player had a better than 50% success rate. That was Novak Djokovic. Murray was down at the bottom of the list with less than 25% success rate. As it tuned out, Murray was to go on to contest the final at Miami with Djokovic [Sunday April 5th 2009].

Curious. This researcher’s interest was aroused (even at 2pm in the morning in the semi-final). Both players made unconvincing linecalls. But some unexpected explanations emerged from the SKY commentators. Del Potro, bothered by an injury, found various ways of grabbing a few extra seconds after toughly contested points. An appeal after one rather obviously correct call served the purpose very nicely. He had remained within the letter of the law, even if it had the unintended consequences as far as the legislators were concerned of giving a player a bit of breathing space (almost literally). .

Quickly after, Murray made an equally unconvincing challenge. Was he too grabbing a time-out from the battle? Possibly. But another explanation was suggested by the SKY commentator. It seems that Murray, nothing if not a strategic thinker, had been talking of using a line call appeal to figure out just how wayward his shot had been. The statistically minded might dig more deeply to see whether the stats for players may throw light on such cunning ruses.

Who cares?

Other tennis pros, maybe. Sporting innovators are destined to attract sporting imitators, and that’s how ‘progress’ (or at least change) occurs. Also, of interest to various anoraks who dream up theories of change leadership and innovation.