Election 2019: Spend, Spend, Spend! Is There a Tomorrow?

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Ever since 2008, when the bottom fell out of the financial markets, we have been living in one of the longest economic downturns ever.

The economies of the ‘western world’ have been largely propped up by printing money and cutting back on services – AUSTERITY! Yes, it was the mantra.

That’s why, as in the UK for example, there’s a manifestation of potholes in the roads which never seem to get repaired.

So why now, in this election, has austerity suddenly been cancelled? Even the Tories, often the champions of cut backs, have promised to spend billions on the NHS and put up the minimum wage above £10 an hour. Conservatives?

Don’t believe it

Naturally, from the evidence of the past, we have to treat each manifesto promise with extreme caution. However, the government of any complexion is promising to spend like there’s no tomorrow – and thereby borrow – billions and more billions to add to the already catastrophic levels of debt….. when there is little or no sign of an economic upturn.

It has been argued that large government spending schemes, like improving the infrastructure, can actually kick start the economy and create many jobs. This may be so, but if so why has it taken so long for this to happen?

Over the previous decade we have all taken hits and cut backs, the medicine of austerity, whilst the economy has been essentially bumping along the bottom, only to be told now that even the Conservatives have ‘seen the light’ and we can spend ourselves out of the doldrums.

The cynic in me says I should not believe a word of it.

copyright Francis Barker 2019

Brexit Precedents No.3: ‘Bad’ King John and the Loss of Normandy

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When King John of England lost Normandy, Anjou and Brittany in northern France in 1204 AD to King Philip II Augustus of France, it was to have great repercussions back home in England.

The territories of Normandy and Anjou had been at the very heart of the great Angevin Empire, which at its zenith during the reign of John’s father, Henry II (1154 – 1189 AD), stretched from the Scottish borders to the Pyrenees.

Although John retained Gascony and Aquitaine in the south west of France after 1204, lands that had come into the possession of his family through his father’s marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, the loss of Normandy and Anjou seemed symbolic of a catastrophic failure.

Normandy of course was the dukedom brought into the fold of the English crown with William the Conqueror’s victory at Hastings in 1066. John’s father, Henry II, was from Anjou, meaning that this dukedom also became a crown possession when he acceded to the throne, even though Kings of England still had to swear fealty to the Kings of France for their possession of the dukedoms of Normandy and Anjou.

A sudden sense of separation?

So there was definitely a great sense of sudden separation felt, not merely with John, but also among the vast majority of the ruling aristocracy of England, who were overwhelmingly of Anglo Norman or Anglo Angevin descent, and who had lands and familial ties to these French dukedoms.

Now these barons and other aristocrats had to make a choice: Were they English or French? Whilst the ties between England and northern France remained to some degree, there began to grow a sense of English nationhood from this point in history.

Anglo Normans began to feel increasingly English, often marrying English spouses. Those left in Normandy and Anjou became truly French once more. From 1066 to 1204, the English Channel was a connection between two areas essentially of the same realm: Now it was a great divide between two kingdoms growing apart, who would within a hundred and fifty years embark upon the Hundred Years’ War.

Magna Carta and civil war

Nevertheless, despite the loss of Normandy, for over ten years King John, perhaps foolishly, persisted in trying to regain his lost French territories, causing crippling taxation and making powerful enemies at home and abroad.

This would eventually lead to Magna Carta in 1215, where the barons tried to curtail the power of the king against them.

However, when John began to refuse to follow the new ‘rules’, civil war broke out, ultimately leading to the baron’s inviting Prince Louis, the son of King Philip Augustus, to England with an army of several hundred ships.

A new French conquest

By 1216, much of England was in the control of Prince Louis and the barons and it seemed very likely for a while that the ties between the two kingdoms were about to be even more strongly cemented by this new conquest, exactly one hundred and fifty years since the first one.

Then, in October 1216, King John suddenly died. The English barons who had not supported Louis began to resist and gain more support and the French barons were finally defeated as support for Prince Louis began to slip away.

The barons probably realised that they now had John’s young son, Henry III, to control and get what they wanted without trying to justify the arrival of a young French king and all his staff and the unpopularity that this would undeniably bring.

England’s ‘in out’ relationship with the continent

So within twelve short years, England had effectively been cut off from the continent with the loss of Normandy and Anjou, notwithstanding the retention of distant lands in south west France, then came with a hair’s breadth of being fully subsumed within the sphere of influence of kingdom of France, and then finally reneged on the latter idea altogether, ultimately choosing ‘independence’.

Once more England found itself essentially alone, cut off, though independent and with a growing sense of nationhood, perhaps a little bit like Brexit Britain might be?

copyright Francis Barker 2019

Today is Reformation Day

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In the largely secular world of ‘Western’ society today, Halloween has become a huge and ever growing event each year. So much so that the other significant anniversary of October 31, namely Reformation Day, is often forgotten, or ignored by many.

Today marks 502 years since the German monk, Martin Luther, one of the prime movers in the Reformation of Christianity, apparently nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg church of All Saints.

A sprawling empire, a collection of German states

In those days the Electorate of Saxony, in which the city of Wittenberg lay, was part of the sprawling Holy Roman Empire, of which, what we now know as Germany, was wholly contained, though it was not a unified country but a hotchpotch collection of smaller states and city states.

Martin Luther, who had long agonised about his own faith, was dismayed by the growing sale of indulgences, and especially the spread of this practice to his homeland of Germany.

The selling of indulgences

For a tidy sum, an indulgence could reduce or cancel your time in purgatory. The funds from the sale of indulgences were to be used for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

This may have been the final straw which led Luther to publicly portray his strong misgivings about the religion in which he was so deeply immersed.

The stone which Martin Luther dropped into the lake of faith that day has continued to ripple ever since – an action which was demonstrably epoch making.

copyright Francis Barker 2019

Tanka: Maps

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He pores over maps
joys in relief lines and lakes
the old village names
So much history compressed
Hidden gems to discover

copyright Francis Barker 2019

Pictures of Peterborough Cathedral No.1

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Peterborough is a modern city, with a population well over 200,000. After WW2 Peterborough was no bigger than a large market town – with one of the best cathedrals in England.

Until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the late 1530s, Peterborough Abbey was one of the largest monasteries in the whole of eastern England. Luckily, at the time of the Dissolution. Henry VIII granted Peterborough city status by allowing the abbey church to become a cathedral. We should at least be grateful for that and that it is still a magnificent structure today, with modern elements incorporated inside.

copyright Francis Barker 2019

Haiku: Elevation

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Truth seen from on high
Elevation affords light
Organic city

copyright Francis Barker 2019

Haiku: Heroes

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National heroes
They bring us all together
A shared common bond

copyright Francis Barker 2019