Bishops, Cobras and the law of unintended consequences

Jan 8, 2018 by

by Gavin Ashenden:

[,,,] When the British ruled India, there was a real problem with cobras in Delhi. Some well-meaning pen pusher had a bright idea. ‘Lets offer a bounty for every dead cobra people turn in to the police stations.’ It started off working very well. After a while some enterprising people began to breed cobras just of the purpose of killing them, turning them in and collecting the reward. So when the authorities got wind of this the responded by scrapping the scheme. This led to the cottage industry of cobra breeders finding themselves with loads of worthless cobras on their hands, so they just released them. The end result was many more cobras loose in Delhi than there ever had been when the problem started. Their bright idea had consequences they hadn’t foreseen. They made matters so much worse.

And that brings us very neatly to the Church of England’s House of Bishops. Over 80 of them have written a letter to the Government about refugees. They think that the number should be increased from 20,000 to at least 50,000 – or perhaps more. (In fact that was the same number that the Labour leadership candidate Yvette Cooper put forward – not that there is any formal link between the bishops and the Labour party of course.)

None of the details of this process reflect terribly well on the bishops. They got a bit miffed when the Government didn’t bother answering their letter, so they went to the press to get themselves some publicity to see if that would help. The press is something of double-edged sword of course. One of the leading signatories of the letter was the Bishop of Manchester. He lives in a 6 bedroomed house that the press rather unfairly now calls ‘a mansion’. He was asked if, since the house was only lived in by him and his wife, he would be prepared to offer some of the space to any of the 50,000 refugees himself? He rather thought not. Wherever the 50,000 refugees went, none of them were welcome in his house. He suggested that it would be awkward “trying to share the breakfast table with a couple whose language they don’t understand and whose culture is alien to them.”

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(from the archives)

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