12 Questions for Julian Bell

January 5, 2006 | 21 comments
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We have the opportunity to ask questions of Julian Bell, a member of the Church in England. Julian was born 29 April 1959 in Sheffield, England, and married Hermia Bell in the London Temple. They have four daughters, Angellica, Martina, Sophronia, and Christiana.

Since July 2005, Julian has worked as a parliamentary research for Piara S Khabra, Member of Parliament for Ealing Southall. His duties as a researcher include helping write parliamentary speeches and newspaper articles, and conducting research for the Member of Parliament on a range of contemporary political topics. Julian also writes to government ministers regarding constituents queries and problems. Previously he worked for Clive Soley MP and Andrew Slaughter MP (2001-2005).

He was elected to serve as the Labour Councillor for the Acton Central Ward in the London Borough of Ealing in 2002, and he will serve through this year. In that capacity, he is currently the Chair of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee. (For more information, see http://www.ealing.gov.uk)

Julian is active in Labour Party politics, serving as Chair of Ealing Acton & Shepherds Bush Labour Party (2001-Present). He worked for the Labour Party as a Campaign Organiser 1994 – 2001, and helped organize General Election Campaigns in key seats in 1997 & 2001, as well as the Labour Party Annual Conference and the Parliamentary By-elections.

Please suggest questions that you would like Julian to answer. We will gather them, edit them to Twelve Questions, and submit them to him.

21 Responses to 12 Questions for Julian Bell

  1. Ronan on January 5, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    Where to begin?! From one Brit to another (albeit, one who has never voted for Labour):

    1. Julian, as the Labour Party *roughly* equates with the Democrats, what’s your reaction to those American Mormons who feel that it is the Republicans who promote “moral values” closer to LDS teachings?

    2. In your experience, how do British Mormons vote? What issues are more likely to swing that vote?

    3. How many Mormons work in British politics (besides Terry Rooney, our only MP)?

  2. John C. on January 5, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    In line with Ronan’s questions, how would you say do the beliefs of British LDS affect how they vote? Are they more likely to pick and choose? Are they more likely to vote the ticket that represents more of their ideals? Do British LDS (aside from Ronan) see themselves as a beleaguered minority in the culture wars in the manner that US LDS do? Does the term “culture war” have a British equivalant (by which I mean, is such a thing seriously discussed in British politics)?

  3. Ryan on January 5, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    With four Daughters, what cocktail of “stop the crazy” pills do you suggest?… I kid.

    In an alternate Blog there was some discussion of the recent(?) events in the west bank from a millenial perspective. Orson Hyde’s prophecies of England’s hand in the return of the jews was mentioned. What sort of attitudes to do you cuurently see pervading in Britain regarding zionism (in contrast to Post WWII). Or more generally, are there any widely held opinions about the area as a whole?

  4. Wilfried on January 5, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    From a Belgian (living in the U.S.) to a Brit…

    1 – How do you see the situation of the Church in GB and in Europe in general? Are we progressing or not? What should be changed, if anything, to improve missionary work and retention?

    2 – How do members in general experience the relation with “the Church in the U.S.”?

    3 – In many European countries we have had, in proportion, more converts among immigrants from Africa and East-European countries, often with special needs (illegals, out of work, intercultural differences…). Do we, as a Church, respond adequately to this situation?

  5. b bell on January 5, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    From a distant Cousin????

    1. I am hearing rumors that the number of missionaries called to Europe from the US is steadily declining. Is this true and if so are there enough European elders/sisters to fill in the gap?

    2. Is there a “seperate LDS European culture” developing that is different from the US Middle Class Conservative LDS American Church?

    3. Is there a divide between European members and the American leadership over issues of sexuality, law of Chastity, homosexuality ETC. If such a divide exists how does it play out?

    4. What does the LDS UK birthrate look like? Are members reproducing in sufficient numbers to grow the church thru natural growth? Or have they accepted the mainstream European practice of small families and declining populations?

  6. Dan Richards on January 5, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    He was elected to serve as the Labour Councillor for the Action Central Ward

    We don’t even have a Labour Councilor in my ward, just a first and second counselor (although the first counselor does oversee employment issues). And what an awesome name–”Action Central”! Sure beats Granite 10th or whatever.

  7. JWL on January 5, 2006 at 5:32 pm

    If, as I have always heard, a much larger proportion of British LDS support Labour than US LDS support the Democrats, I would be curious to know:

    (1) if the British LDS are very active politically like Julien, or if he is unusual

    (2) how the pro-Labour British LDS fall out in the New Labour/old Labour divide (I was struck in reading about Terry Rooney’s first election that his platform was “pro-family values and anti-poll tax” which struck me as a very New Labour construct)

    (3) whether Terry Rooney or any other poltically prominent British Mormon are influential, or try to be influential, among Church members, or whether British LDS care about his (or their) political career(s)?

    (4) Politics aside, is there any way in which British LDS have a sense of each other as a nation-wide community? Is there any method, (publications, websites, email lists, conferences official or unofficial, social networks) whereby a Church member in York might have some kind of intercourse with a Church member in Portsmouth such that they might know each other or even act together in some way? Here I am wondering if there is anything resembling the extensive informal networks which connect American Mormons — not just the Dialogues, Sunstones, and blogs, but the mission buddy and BYU networks, the online singles sites, conservative LDS political groups, all manner of independent publishing (Horizons, LDS Living, and Nephites in Tennis Shoes as well as the Signature Books), connections arising out of people moving around for school or employment, etc., etc.

  8. Bookslinger on January 5, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    I just loved Margaret Thatcher. She had more cojonesintestinal fortitude than all of Parliament put together.

  9. Jim F. on January 5, 2006 at 7:24 pm

    Dan Richards: Sorry for the misspelling–”Action” instead of “Acton.” I don’t know whether that was the result of my fingers or my spell-checker, but I’ll blame the spell-checker.

  10. Julien on January 6, 2006 at 7:25 am

    “There was an old man from Darjeeling,
    Who traveled from London to Ealing.
    The sign on the door
    said ‘Don’t spit on the floor!’
    So he carefully spat on the ceiling”

    Ever met him? ;)

    from a Belgian (living in Belgium), though with (almost) the same name….

  11. Julien on January 6, 2006 at 7:26 am

    @ JWL – … and liberal LDS political groups…..

  12. enochville on January 6, 2006 at 9:55 am

    I have a question for those familiar with a parlimentary system of government. (I don’t think we should waste one of the 12 questions on this). How does the parlimentary system work? How is it that a Prime Minister can just call for elections apparently when he or she wants to? Are all of the seats in Parliment up for re-election at that time? Do voters just vote for the party instead of individual people for specific seats? I understand that the party with the most seats must obtain a majority of seats through alliances before they can truly govern, and its the head of the majority party who becomes Prime Minister. Someone please help this American understand.

  13. lyle on January 6, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    What about the other members of the Commonwealth? I understand that Albertan LDS are similar politically to US LDS. Why the difference in the UK…if any?

  14. Russell Arben Fox on January 6, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    Enochville,

    Every parliamentary system has different rules about how elections work. Generally speaking, there are statutes–as well as party traditions and obligations–which limit to a degree the ability of a prime minister to call an election “whenever he or she wants to.” More usually, there are set term limits, and a prime minister must call an election before those limits expire, but may also call an election a while beforehand if other concerns force his or her hand (a vote of no confidence within the parliament itself, for example). Also, generally you have certain candidates nominated by their respective parties to stand for seats representing certain districts or ridings, but there are often no hard or fast rules about residency requirements or substitutions (that is, it is not uncommon for parties concerned about election results to make as certain as possible that key candidates are placed in districts where they have a greater likelihood of being elected). You also sometimes have “at large” candidates with no particular district. Overwhelmingly, in the past, parliamentary systems in Western Europe and Canda have been party-centric (that is, you voted for the party, not necessarily the candidate), but in recent years American-style “retail,” person-to-candidate politics has become more common. And yes, when an election is called, everyone comes up for election all at once–parliamentary systems, especially contemporary ones, are essentially unicameral in that sense.

  15. Russell Arben Fox on January 6, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    Piggy-backing on some of the more political questions above, a question about religion and contemporary British political culture: if the news stories are to be believed, Tony Blair is probably the most explicitly religious Prime Minister–in the sense of invoking God in his speeches, sometimes employing scriptural or theological principles in defense of his preferred policies, generally approaching social problems with a “moralistic” tone, etc.–Britain has had in generations. Americans, for better or worse, are quite used to the presence of religious (particularly Protestant Christian) language in politics, and there is a long history of Mormons trying to figure out how they should feel about it or relate to it. What about in Britain? Has anything about Blair’s religiousity registered, so far as you can tell, in either a positive or negative with British saints? What kind of worries, if any, could you imagine you or the typical British saint might have about a revival of religious sentiment in public affairs?

  16. Ana on January 6, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    How do Saints in England address or feel about the departure of thousands of their LDS predecessors for the U.S. during the gathering phase of Church history? Is there any wish that those people’s descendants were still in their homeland? Pride in what they accomplished in the American West? Or something else entirely?

    Just from what you see and hear, of course … I don’t expect you to speak for an entire nation of Mormons on this.

  17. Bonjo on January 9, 2006 at 11:52 am

    During the runup to and aftermath of the 2003 War in Iraq, I noticed considerable tension on the part of European Saints who opposed the actions of the U.S. President Hinckley’s comments in April 2003 (War and Peace) lead me to believe that this type of sentiment was widespread. From my own anecdotal observations, President Hinckley’s comments did not seem to “appease” the European Saints that I have encountered.

    Great Britain was a key ally to the U.S. strategy in Iraq, something that has been politically costly for Tony Blair. How do (typical) British LDS view the War in Iraq? How do they view their ties to an “American” Church? Have missionaries (or the Church itself) experienced difficulty in reaching out to others, or suffered any “persecutions” as a result of these American ties (or, in the case of many missionaries, simply being American)? Do Brits simply see past the differences in political opinion?

  18. Jonathan M. on January 10, 2006 at 1:08 am

    As a Brit now resident in Australia, I would like to make a few comments that I hope are of interest. Brian Adam, a member of the Scottish Parliament who represents the Scottish Nationalist Party which campaigns for independence from the UK, is an active member of the Church. David Baxter, now an Area Authority, fought a seat for the Conservative Party unsuccessfully at a General Election, some years ago. And RM Scott Dyble, ran for the small UK Independence Party (which campaigns for withdrawal from the European Union) at the recent election. Quite a few members have served/are serving as councillors or mayors. Some of this information is available at the official UK internet site of the Church. It seems clear that political allegiance of members in the UK is more diverse than some might expect.

    Ana asks how UK members feel about the departure of their fellow countrymen and women for America last century. My concern, however, is more for the continuing migration of significant numbers of the strongest, most able members to the U.S. True, there are positives, such as increased likelihood of children of migrants remaining within the fold in heavily LDS areas. But the Church in the UK continues to pay a heavy price for this in terms of loss of committed members. Does anyone know how many UK-born Mormons live in the States (or indeed, Canada). I would be surprised if the number were less than 40,000, though obviously, not all will be active. Given that at most 60,000 of the purported 180,000 members in the UK have any realistic affiliation to the Church in practice I find this a regrettable trend..though I admit to a degree of hypocrisy since I left for Australia myself (though Australia has some of the same problems with migration that bedevils the UK Church)!

    How about a few more brave North American members returning the favour, by migrating to the UK to add to the stability of the Church there??

    .

  19. Russell Arben Fox on January 10, 2006 at 7:42 am

    Jonathan M.,

    Thanks for that very fine comment; it adds a needed element to this discussion. (Not that we haven’t thrown enough at poor Brother Bell already!). If you haven’t seen it, you might want to check out a long thread prompted by a post by Wilfried Decoo, titled “Remain in your homeland” (click here). Some of the very tensions and problems you mention are addressed there.

  20. Ronan on January 10, 2006 at 7:55 am

    I’m one of those European emigres, although I did not move to the US for religious reasons. I am happy to report that we are returning to Europe this year; for me, love of my green and pleasant England trumps everything.

    It is true that we do have some people leave the UK. As Jonathan points out, it is as likely to be Oceania as it is America. And I have a sense that those that leave are not viewed as brave pioneers. The vast majority of UK Saints stay, and they want others to stay too.

  21. Jonathan M. on January 11, 2006 at 10:23 pm

    I might just add that iam aware of at least two active members of the Church in the UK who are councillors for the third largest party, the Liberal Democrats (one of whom is simultaneously serving as mayor).

WELCOME

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