A view backstage at Beverley Minster

I’m an angry old man, and I don’t care who knows it

Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford takes up cudgels
Last week I read something that made me angry, angry, angry, ANGRY! Not just cross, or fuming, or irritated but shouting-out-loud-kicking-the-furniture-and-scaring-the-cats raging. The fact that it was a statement issued by someone from the Tax Office didn’t help as the red mist was already descending, but if the words had been issued by St Francis of Assisi then it would have still had the same effect.
They would not, of course, have been uttered by St Francis of Assisi because he was not an utterly fatheaded individual who should be publicly flayed and then kicked into the River Thames without a pension. No, this utterance came from the self-serving mouth of ‘Dave’ Hartnett, permanent secretary for tax at HM Revenue & Customs after it was discovered that he had ‘misled’ Parliament after letting a phenomenally rich organisation off £10 million tax they owed. You may think that this, by itself, was enough to condemn the individual concerned to the Eighth Circle of Hell, but that wasn’t what got my blood boiling. No, it was when he said, and I quote: “We learned from that mistake as an organisation.”
A few years ago it would have been impossible for someone to claim that it was an organisation rather than an individual at fault for approving morally dubious tax settlements, but in the modern world it’s quite logical.
The dehumanising process of introducing multi-page forms to codify and nail down ‘proper systems’, ‘formalising’ job descriptions, setting up ‘proper channels’ and ‘paper trails’ with tick boxes to cover everything from changing a light bulb to investigating a road accident have come to their ultimate conclusion. Individuals supposedly no longer matter – they cannot exercise their judgement because every single process they must follow is enshrined on pieces of paper. “You don’t need common sense if you have rules,” as I have heard quoted on several occasions by apologists for this soul-destroying brave new world.
So poor old Dave Hartnett wasn’t at fault when he shook hands on a deal that let well-known paupers Goldman Sachs off tens of millions of pounds that they owed HM Government – oh no, it was an organisational problem –  could have happened to anyone.
Well that’s just cow-manure and it’s only my knowledge of the laws of libel that stop me speculating what really happened in that room. Suffice it to say that Christianity doesn’t have any truck with Mr Hartnett’s stance – we know we are individuals and we should accept responsibility for our own actions within a wider community – no matter how irritating. We have a set of rules and guidelines that remind us to put the interests, feelings and needs of other people ahead of our own.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” sums it up – and ‘Dave’s’ behaviour fails to acknowledge that simple truth. Perhaps it’s time to have a few more committed Christians in high offices who live their lives guided by a sense of public and private responsibility – and I’m available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
And anther rant – this time over the BBC’s latest style guidelines: to no longer use the phrases AD (Anno Domini) and BC (Before Christ) to describe the date. Instead we should all get used to hearing “CE“ (Common Era) and “BCE” (Before the Common Era) so that the BBC doesn’t offend non-Christians.

What is the logical point of that? It’s not as if the BBC in its infinitely expensive wisdom wants to change the starting point of our calendar. They could have nominated The Modern Industrial Age with a Year One in 1829. That was when Stephenson’s locomotive won the Rainhill Trials and we’d now be in Year 182 PR (Post Rocket).
That’s an entirely reasonable point to debate because the Industrial Revolution transformed the entire world and the fact that you are reading these words is one tiny consequence of that. Yes, 1829 saw something momentous happen and it’s worth consideration as a pivotal point. But what is the logic of changing 2011 AD to 2011 CE?
It still recognises that something hugely significant happened in Year One – so what was it? I’ve been checking loads of databases to try and find what world-changing thing occurred 2011 years ago.
Was it the 44th anniversary of the murder of Julius Caesar? The 18th anniversary of the Three Kingdoms in Korea? The formal date when woad became the official clothing of the Celts?  No, I’ve searched and searched and the only event that might seem to have been sufficiently important to launch a brand-new common era was – wait for it – the birth of Christ!
So why stop calling it that? Even if you disagree with the significance of the event itself you can’t dispute that this is what the years are counting from.  
 It’s just more illogical rubbish from anti-Christian individuals who have got into positions of influence within a very important broadcaster. Mind you, we could always say that “CE” stands for “Christ Emerges” or even “Church of England”. That would make them really, REALLY angry.

And my apologies to anyone who has been offended by my attitude this week. You’re right – I shouldn’t have pulled my punches.
You’re welcome to argue with me at either here @ or

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