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Year we go

There is very little public optimism about our prospects for 2011. Whereas Tony Blair's mantra was that things can only get better, David Cameron seems to be making it clear that things can only get worse - in the short term at least. Cuts announced in 2010 will begin to bite this year, and there is some fear that a wider discontent will contribute to the wave of protests begun by students last autumn.

Others have scoffed at the demonstrations taking place on university campuses around the country. They argue that such dissent is mere self-interest, and that students would not be as active in support of other sectors of society.
This may be true. Certainly, during the last period of significant social unrest in the 1980s - from Toxteth and Brixton to miners' and dockers' picket lines - the various causes did not coalesce until the Poll Tax was due to be imposed on every one of us.

This is not to say that 'self-interested' protest is not valuable. The same charge could be levelled at, say, Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat for a white passenger in 1955. The more serious question is whether those of us who do not join in with the protesters are right to cross over to the other side.

There may be good arguments in favour of tuition fees for higher education. We do not insist that each reader has a responsibility to join the sit-in at their local lecture hall. But if there is a wider build up of protest, and we believe that parts of our society are being threatened unnecessarily, we may have cause to find our own answer to Jesus' question about neighbours.

The prime minister did have a smile on his face about one plan for 2011. When cabinet members heard the news of an imminent royal wedding they responded with 'a great cheer'. Meanwhile, republicans braced themselves for an avalanche of saccharine coverage, and found surprising support in the Facebook musings of Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden. The news would provoke a round of 'nauseating tosh', he said, adding that a hypocritical media would soon be chasing negative headlines, causing a stress on the marriage that would see it end within seven years.

Despite this expressing the thoughts of a number of people within the church, Broadbent was hauled before the court of the Daily Mail and the servile Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. Chartres asked him to withdraw from public office before plodding up to the palace to convey his 'dismay on behalf of the church'.

Clearly, at least part of his church was not dismayed. If republicans can be made bishops, the clerical bond of loyalty to a monarch in the Church of England must surely be under threat. But if good priests of this opinion are to be treated this way (while wilder opinions go unchallenged), they may be forced to conclude that they are better off out of it.