Goodbye Scotland?

12376_haggis-1I was born the son of a London-based proud Scot who to the end maintained his distinctive Glaswegian brogue, contended that haggis isn’t haggis without bashed neeps and a nip (ie. mashed swede and a tot of whisky), reckoned that sugar on porridge is solely for Sassenachs, and even on his death-bed required a dram of his favourite single-malt Scotch.

So I’ve watched with disappointment as that once significant nation, home of the Calvinist rectitude that some believe made Scotland the moral standard for the world, and of the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment whose intellectual and scientific accomplishments reached around the globe, has deteriorated since the war into a small-minded whingeing country with the national motto, nicked from the terraces at Hamden Park, of “ABE” (Anyone But England).

A country gets, sometimes, the politics and politicians it wishes for: recently Scotland has voted overwhelmingly for the blustering Scottish National Party and has got its chip-on-the-shoulder nationalists, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, as First Minsters.

p1080018So a breakaway from England – but not, if Scots get their way, from the European Union – is on the table and I determined during my summer holiday to try to understand why. I took historian Lynda Colley’s magisterial work, ‘Britons: Forging the Nation 1707 – 1837’, with me to the sun-drenched beaches of Sardinia. It was a fascinating read.

Colley reminds us that Britain was only created in 1707 following the Act of Union between England, Wales and Scotland and therefore – I for one had overlooked the obvious fact – the British nation is just a few decades older than the young country the other side of the Atlantic which forged its own Brexit  (Amexit?) and independence in 1776.

Historically British identity is a modern concept, superimposed on the older but enduring identities of Englishness, Scottishness and Welshness and other regionalisms. union-jackColley traces how this new overarching identity gained so much pull and power amongst ordinary people as well as social elites in the 130 years leading up to the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, and – my particular interest – gives explanation why the collective identity seems now to be unravelling.

Colley cites three reasons why British identity prospered:

Her second reason is mutual hostility across the English Channel. Colley point out that Britain and France were at war six times during this period culminating in Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815 – and “these were only the most violent expressions of a much longer and multi-layered rivalry”. The external threat from France united the peoples of the British Isles such that, most visibly, Scottish, Welsh and English regiments fought closely together in the decisive Waterloo victory over the French that brought extended peace to Europe after twenty bloody years of war.

british_empire_1921Colley’s third reason is the expansion of Britain’s global empire and the opportunity this gave people from different ethnic and social backgrounds to fight, trade with, govern and otherwise benefit from Britain’s increasingly valuable colonial possessions. They had a real interest in accessing Britain’s subjects and captive markets world-wide rather than limiting their livelihoods to these islands. Fame and fortune lay abroad.

However Colley’s first reason is the big surprise. Our secular age is blind about religion so her thesis is unexpected: Protestantism, she argues, was the unifying and distinguishing bond.

linda-colley“More than anything else,” she writes, “it was this shared religious allegiance combined with recurrent wars that permitted a sense of British national identity to emerge alongside of, and not necessarily in competition with, older more organic attachments to England, Wales or Scotland, or to county or village. Protestantism was the dominant component of British religious life. Protestantism coloured the way that Britons approached and interpreted their material life. Protestantism determined how most Britons viewed their politics. And uncompromising Protestantism was the foundation on which their state was explicitly and unapologetically based.” (p18)

So why have we ignored the impact of the Protestant faith on 18th century society, and its subsequent role in creating 19th century Victorian Britain? “The absolute centrality of Protestantism… is so obvious that it has proved easy (for historians) to pass over,” Colley argues. Personally, I reckon in secular UK it is opinion-formers’ and academics’ anti-Christian bias that has led to this omission; although Colley is British-born and educated, she lives, publishes and is a professor of history in the more church-going United States.

john_wesley_by_william_hamiltonIt is regretable too that Colley herself passes over the impact of Protestant preacher and one of my all-time heroes, John Wesley, plus his fellow founders of Methodism. In the half century from 1738 when Wesley first preached the Christian gospel outdoors to crowds of unwashed ragged miners at Kingswood, Bristol, “their tears making white channels down their grimy faces”, to 1791 when he died as “the most loved man in the country”, Wesley travelled 290,000 miles mainly on horseback (equivalent to circumnavigating the globe 12 times), preached 15 sermons a week sometimes despite violent opposition, and created Methodist churches up and down the land from, primarily, working and lower-middle class converts.

Wesley and his evangelical colleagues were also social reformers. Methodism promoted education and health-care amongst the poor as well as ‘manners and morals’ and a commitment to wider society. The Protestant faith brought prosperity and patriotism: “Get all you can, save all you can, give all you can,” preached Wesley, and the changes in behaviour led to widespread uplift and social improvement that benefitted the nation as well as the individual.

(c) Ferens Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Perhaps as a concession to our religious illiteracy Colley notes only the public impact of the change, not the spiritual source. “In the early and mid-eighteenth century it had been possible for high-ranking politicians like Viscount Bolingbroke or Robert Walpole to flaunt the fact that they were keeping mistresses and to be blithely unconcerned about newspapers and cartoons publishing it. But by 1800 the fashion amongst politicians… was for ostentatious uxoriousness… (and they) wallowed in domesticity. Public men acknowledged the vital importance of practicing regular church-going and conventional sexual morality.” (p189)

If Colley’s three-point thesis is right, and Protestantism amongst all social classes, armed enmity across the Channel and the widespread fruits of global Imperialism were the main contributors to British identity, it is not difficult to see why this identity has declined. Public religion, Anglo-French hostility and the British Empire have all virtually disappeared, and local identities have begun to dominate again. So Scotland may yet go independent.

But eighteenth-century Englishmen did not all want the 1707 Union anyway, according to Colley. “(M)any regarded the Scots as poor and pushy relations, unwilling to pay their full share of taxation, yet constantly demanding access to English resources…” (p13)

Hmm… Plus ça change.

Oxford’s Gender-Bender Agenda

neutral looThe rise of the gender-bender agenda, recently highlighted by the ‘bathroom wars’, is the latest phase of the ongoing sexual revolution. It is, like previous phases, imported from the US and entirely top-down and media driven.

It sees gender identity as a social construct rather than a biological given. It claims our gender is fluid, should be chosen by ourselves as we grow up and may change if we wish; it is not settled by nature (or God if you are a believer) at the time of our birth.

It is also dangerous nonsense. But it is coming your way.

It came my way this week when a polite young woman from LBC Radio contacted me. Oxford City councillors are introducing the gender-neutral option of Mx – pronounced “mix” – to official forms with a view to phasing out the conventional Mr and Ms: “Do you have views?” she asked.

Half an hour later I found myself on LBC’s Iain Dale show together with trans journalist and equality campaigner Paris Lees. (If you want to check out our chat, it’s the first item on the 16/08/16 show here (£)).

Paris’ arguments were excruciatingly unpersuasive. The stronger the binary male-and-female gender identities, she claimed, the greater the violence against women. 3935258_origThe solution is to “blur the boundaries between men and women”, she said – happily ignoring inconvenient facts like, for instance, the high level of lesbian and gay same-sex violence which some consider has reached epidemic proportions.

For my part, I welcomed the good sense of Oxford Pride chairman Rob Jordan who stated he doesn’t mind Mx as a simple addition to the current available titles, Mr and Ms. If Oxford Council wants to add a gender-neutral title in order to increase choice and inclusivity, that’s OK.

But of course it doesn’t stop with this apparently innocuous change to council paperwork. Indeed the sexual revolution does not stop anywhere. So the Oxford councillors have determined that next they want to drop Mr and Ms because these titles “are not inclusive of transgender people”.

In other words they are, wittingly or otherwise, promoting a gender-destruction ideology which reduces choice and, uninvited, imposes a gender-free framework on everyone: all Oxford residents will be titled Mx on all council forms.

The-10-Richest-Transgender-People-In-The-World-2The wider gender ideology is a cancerous virus that is creeping across the western world. It is destroying foundational categories such as ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and helping undermine time-honoured healthy family structures and relationships.

And gender activists like all sexual revolutionaries are targeting our kids. They insist even pre-pubescent childen have the right to question – and receive medical help to change – their gender identity.

Fortunately for once some influential professionals have stood their ground. The American College of Pediatricians recently issued an important statement called “Gender Ideology Harms Children”. It’s worth reading in full, but I quote here excerpts that should be read out loud to Oxford City councillors at their next council meeting:

“Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: ‘XY’ and ‘XX’ are genetic markers of sex, male and female respectively… The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident… 

“Human beings are born with a biological sex… People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.” 

I thank God for this rock of sanity and common sense that stands out against the West’s rising tide of sexual madness and gender muddle.

UKIP – Defender Of The Faith

UKIP has a track record of saying the unsayable and promoting inconvenient truth against the mainstream consensus. mikeBrexit, control of immigration and opposition to gay marriage are just three issues where the party has, famously, refused to kowtow to the liberal establishment.

There is another issue too: the public role of the UK’s traditional religion.

Until recently Tory MP Andrea Leadsom had been a less than high-profile politician. But she’d frequently gone public about her Christianity and her religious reservations about – but personal support for – same-sex marriage.

These, together with some naïve comments about motherhood, brought a storm around her head from party colleagues and media alike during her brief bid for the Conservative Party leadership earlier this month.

andrea-leadsomConservativeHome editor Paul Goodman described the ferocious attacks on her as ‘prejudice’, ‘feral’ and ‘bullying’, while commentator Iain Dale called the media assaults ‘astonishing’.

Faced with this onslaught the MP withdrew from the contest. Journalist Allison Pearson interviewed her afterwards and concluded that “Leadsom was genuinely shocked by the poisonous attacks from within her own party. She said it was highly unlikely that the daily stories saying how useless/dishonest/Christian she was ‘are coincidental’.”

Anti-religious prejudice in the UK is reserved only for traditionalist Christians like Leadsom it seems. In her article Pearson drew attention to the fact that no-one calls London’s Muslim Mayor Sadiq Khan a ‘religious nutter’.

And when celebrity atheist Richard Dawkins claimed that then New Statesman editor Mehdi Hasan was disqualified for the job because of his Islamic beliefs, the media leapt en masse to the Muslim’s defence and it was Dawkins who came under sustained media fire.

for everyoneBy the end of the 19th century, laws requiring holders of public office to assent to particular religious beliefs had been repealed. Jews, Catholics, Puritans, Atheists – they were all free to participate in public life. It was a long time coming, but freedom of religion had come of age.

But step-by-step today’s secular Britain is turning back to public prejudice. As Andrea Leadsom found out, there is a new intolerance in the air.

Hotel owners, registrarsmagistrates, doctors and counsellors have lost their livelihoods because of their Christian beliefs.

anti-christian_hateAnd a wider targetted hostility can be observed, for instance, via the stand-up comedians in the popular TV series Live at the Apollo. Mock Christians or Christianity and the audience falls about laughing. This is no problem in a society that values satire and freedom of speech of course. Except that it does not, it seems, translate across onto Islam or atheism.

So who will step into the breach and stand against this rising tide of prejudice against the nation’s traditional religion?

Yup, once again: only UKIP.

In last year’s general election, ours was the sole party to publish a manifesto specifically for the faithful. In the document Policies for Christians, Nigel Farage wrote “UKIP is the only major political party left in Britain that still cherishes our Judeo-Christian heritage” and “we need a much more muscular defence of our Christian heritage and our Christian constitution”.

He had made similar comments previously to Fox News in New York and at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

UKIP’s deputy leader Paul Nuttall was reported as saying too that “UKIP is the only party that will confidently protect the rights of Christians in the UK and speak out against the attack on our Christian heritage.”

The party was as good as its word. In the 2015 manifesto UKIP promised to “extend the legal concept of ‘reasonable accommodation’ to give protection in law to those expressing a religious conscience in the workplace“- in this case over same-sex marriage.

QuakersSince 1757 our society has been broad-minded enough to allow Quakers and other pacifists to refuse military service even in times of national peril, and freedom of conscience has developed into a fundamental feature of western democracy.

Yet the establishment’s growing liberal authoritarianism has meant that UKIP’s pledge on this issue is unique amongst the main political parties.

UKIP also has been the only party to speak up for Christian refugees from the Islamic Middle East and North Africa.

In Syria Christians are a vulnerable minority who frequently suffer the double whammy of having to flee first from Islamist violence in their home towns and villages, and subsequently from the hostility of militant Muslim migrants inside the refugee camps. In 2013 Nigel Farage faced down a storm of politically-correct censure when he called for the UK government to take in only Christian Syrian refugees.

MigrantBoatAerialEighteen months later, after African Muslims threw Christian fellow migrants out of the boat while crossing the Mediterranean, the UKIP leader repeated his call for Christians only, this time from north Africa, to be offered refuge in Europe.

Farage and Nuttall have both resigned from party leadership and currently UKIP is looking for a new leader. Nominations close today, and hustings and voting will take place during August. The successful candidate will be announced at the party conference on 16th September.

Will he or she be sympathetic towards Christian values and defend the nation’s traditional religion? To find out, some CAUKIP (Christian Action in UKIP) colleagues and I have formulated an online questionnaire which we will be submitting to each declared candidate.

You can view it here.

We plan to publish the responses of the candidates on the CAUKIP website. If you’re interested, watch this space too.

Battling For Brexit

It feels like I’ve been in election mode all year.

In February I was selected by UKIP to stand for the London Assembly election on 5th May. No sooner was that election over than the campaign for tomorrow’s EU referendum commenced.

superhero-businessman-revealing-british-flag-classic-superman-pose-tearing-his-shirt-open-to-reveal-t-shirt-union-jack-68347921The latter is immeasurably more important of course, and for me the London campaign during March and April was actually about the EU. I cited the adverse impact of Brussels on London at every opportunity.

Campaigning over the past seven weeks though has been particularly intense as it is absolutely vital that we Leave the EU. The proposed European Union superstate, the ‘United States of Europe’, has many hallmarks of the Moscow-based USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) which imploded in 1991 after 70 years of economic misery and social/political woe; we must get out before it is too late.

The latter was socialist of course while the former is corporatist; the latter was hard authoritarian whereas the former is soft. But the intention of both was/is to shoe-horn more and more countries into an undemocratic structure of central control and regulation in order to force a massive single entity with a single identity.

The EU’s flag-waving European Anthem, the Ode to Joy, a “celebration of the brotherhood of man”, has become a masterpiece of irony as Greek pensioners and Spanish young unemployed will tell you. EU joy and economic brotherhood doesn’t extend to vulnerable people at the margins.

The same hubristic empire-building spirit has been abroad before in Europe. The EU superstate is Napoleon without the guns, Hitler without the gas chambers, and the British are right to be sceptical once again.

EU-flags-at-half-mastA Brexit result in the referendum undoubtedly will be a Waterloo defeat for Brussels. However it will also create an opportunity for self-reflection and a new humility amongst the Eurocrat elite. And maybe, just maybe, there will be decentralisation and democratic reform of the EU and a return to the original concept of a common market.

It has been a fascinating seven weeks. I have distributed thousands of leaflets; had discussions and occasional arguments on the streets; engaged in public debate with Remainers from both Houses of Parliament; discussed the EU and immigration on Turkish state television; spoken at two church Brexit meetings; campaigned both from UKIP’s national battlebus and from UKIP MEP Gerard Batten’s Vote to Leave minibus; written a Brexit piece for the local paper; and tonight will be out in the early hours erecting Vote Leave posters ahead of polling which starts tomorrow at 10.00am.

But two things stand out for me:

First, I have been delighted at the support for Brexit from ethnic minority communities. I’ve campaigned primarily in multi-ethnic east London where I live. It is clear from here that established immigrant families from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean are concerned about the recent and rapid migrant influx from eastern Europe with the resulting downward pressure on jobs and wages and the growing burden on schools, housing and hospitals.

They also rightly see EU migration policy as giving preference to white Europeans, and therefore racist.

I reckon 60% of ethnic minorities are firmly for Brexit.

geldofSecond, I stood on Westminster Bridge during the Bob Geldof’s ‘Battle of the Thames’ last week when the millionaire luvvie on his luxury floating gin-palace, his face contorted by hate, sneered and pumped vulgar V-signs at the flotilla of fishermen, led by Nigel Farage, whose livelihoods have been wrecked by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. As Brendan O’Neill points out, Geldof brilliantly if inadvertently illustrated the cosmopolitan establishment’s superior and dismissive attitude towards what their frock coat and top hat-wearing Victorian forbears called the lower orders.

I spotted young children in one of the small rubber dinghies that accompanied Geldof and harassed the fishermen’s flotilla. “They’ve lost the plot! They’ve got young kids in that boat!” I blurted out to my companion, eyeing the rough water and hostile boats. “Why are those kids not in school?” he asked.

The next day we learned about Jo Cox’s tragic death in her constituency, and I learned with disbelief that it was she and her husband Brendan who had taken their children into the river drama in the vulnerable small boat.

jo-cox-boatingMy heart goes out to her husband and the children for their loss. However in the light of Geldof’s bile and the on-river risks to which the out-of-school children were subjected, I found Brendan’s high-minded statement following Jo’s death, that people should “unite to fight hate” and that “our precious children should be bathed in love” rather too hypocritical for my taste.

Will we win the referendum tomorrow? Three months ago I reckoned we were faced with an impossible uphill task and that status quo inertia would win the day.

But we gained traction thanks to the uncontrolled immigration issue and the over-reach of David Cameron’s Project Fear, and today, despite continuous pounding by the heavy guns of the political, media and corporate elite, the polls tell us it is neck and neck.

I remain hopeful that we will vote Leave.

The Greek Tragedy Of Suzanne Evans

Her political descent has been a tragedy.

A year ago Suzanne Evans was riding high in UKIP. Appointed deputy chairman of the party, she was widely applauded for producing the party’s best-ever manifesto for the May 2015 general election and was seen by many as the next leader. Indeed Nigel Farage recommended her for interim leader after he resigned following his defeat at South Thanet.SuzanneEvans

But ten weeks ago Suzanne was sacked as deputy chairman and four weeks later suspended from the party for six months. As a result, she was dropped from the party’s London-wide list of candidates for yesterday’s London Assembly elections.

Since then she has become a minor celebrity both as a surprisingly inert panellist on the quick-witted BBC TV show Have I Got A Bit More News For You  and as a participant in a women-only debate on the EU organised by the feminist Fawcett Society.

However, despite her disputed claim that she is still UKIP’s Parliamentary spokesperson (she is spokesperson only for UKIP’s sole and semi-detached representative in the House of Commons Douglas Carswell; she is not authorised to speak for the three UKIP peers in the House of Lords) and her stated hope that she still has a future in UKIP, her return to the party fold must be in severe doubt.

And I was an unwitting participant in her downfall.

In a recent post I wrote how, back in February after I had been selected as a UKIP candidate for the GLA elections that took place yesterday, my defeated opponent, gay activist and lawyer Richard Hendron, rushed off to the anti-UKIP Pink News to complain that I was a “vile nasty homophobic individual”. He resigned from the party too with the maximum of noise and self-publicity.

mad-doctorWithin hours fellow UKIP gay activist Richard Hilton set up a public petition accusing me of being “an outspoken homophobe who has addressed ‘gay cure’ meetings” (I haven’t) and demanding that I should be removed from UKIP’s list of approved candidates.

The next day Pink News too commenced a series of hostile and inaccurate articles claiming that I believe in ‘gay cure’ (I don’t) and that I have compared gays to Nazis (I haven’t).

Suzanne was still deputy chairman of the party at the time so it was astonishing that she immediately joined the baying herd. She tweeted excitedly that she had signed Hilton’s petition. She informed the twittersphere that “Alan Craig’s views have no place in @UKIP” and commented on the petition website that, by choosing me as a candidate, the party’s selection process “has clearly failed”.

I immediately emailed her suggesting that, as a matter of courtesy let alone party protocol, she should contact me before publicly criticising both my selection and me. There was no reply. Instead the same day she gave an exclusive interview to Pink News  . She told them she was confident that I would not remain a candidate.

The next day I emailed her again, asking what evidence she had to back up her statement that there had been a “failure in the party’s selection process.” Again, no reply.

Two weeks later she was sacked as deputy chairman.

A month after that, following a disciplinary hearing of UKIP’s National Executive Committee, she was suspended from the party. The NEC cited as the reason a complaint that she had “publicly criticised a fellow candidate in breach of party rules”.

squarepegIn an attempt to prevent her suspension, Suzanne sought an injunction in the High Court. Acting on her behalf was, yes, the same Richard Hendron. In the documents presented by Hendron to the court Suzanne repeated the Pink News falsehood that I have compared gays to Nazis. She also claimed that she publicly signed Richard Hilton’s petition because she “did not agree with Mr Craig’s stance on ‘gay cures’ for homosexual people” – a stance about which clearly she had no knowledge except what the hopelessly biased, unreliable and foolish Hendron-Hilton-Pink News faction had told her.

The High Court rejected her application. Her suspension went ahead.

Of course there were many bigger factors leading to Suzanne’s downfall including her perceived lack of loyalty to Nigel Farage. But it seems her unfounded public criticism of me was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Certainly it was the trigger for her suspension.

Janice-Liu-AntigoneIn Greek tragedies the demise of the hero is often self-inflicted. In her rush to censure me and her zeal to climb aboard the shrill Hendron-Hilton-GayNews bandwagon, Suzanne didn’t check the facts. She didn’t restrain herself from knee-jerk public criticism of a fellow party candidate and the party’s selection process. Nor did she demonstrate the discretion and adherence to party protocol expected of a deputy chairman.

She also lacked judgement. She leant on broken reeds; she relied on her unreliable friends.

In the end she brought her demise down on her own head.

It was a tragic waste of talent.

C’mon Nigel, It’s Your Churchill Moment

We’ve been here before of course. The UK is facing an existential threat from a corrupt unelected assertive Imperium from across the Channel chamberlainand we have been landed with an appeasing invertebrate weasel occupying the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street.

The huge difference this time is that, in a magisterial act of betrayal that could only be perpetrated by a certain type of Philby-esque former public school boy, the occupant of 10 Downing Street and his establishment friends are the ones who are training their guns on us.

Night after night the Biased Broadcasting Corporation bombards us with pro-EU and Remain stories and highlights the latest salvo orchestrated and fired by prime minister’s heavy weaponry:career children elite figures from the military, the scientific community, the arts and media, academia and FTSE 100 companies are obediently paraded across BBC airwaves to trot out Pavlov platitudes about the supposed benefits of remaining in the EU.

Next door in No 11 the Chancellor of the Exchequer moves the beads around on his abacus and expects us to believe his forecast that each household will be £4,300 worse off if we leave the EU. Really, George? abacusIs this one similar to your previous economic forecasts? So why not £14,300? Or £144,300?

And together these two architects of austerity Britain lavish £9m of our money on a glossy pro-EU propaganda publication that is dumped unsolicited on every home.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” someone nasty said once. That’s certainly the hope of the Quisling boys in Downing Street.

Then last week weasel turned poodle; the prime minster hosted the president of the United States at Downing Street and asked him to do battle on behalf of the Remain campaign. poodle-groomingCameron stood smilingly obsequious beside the presidential podium while his friend Barak Obama instructed us with threats to surrender our sovereignty to Brussels and to become a sort of Michigan in a United States of Europe.

Followed by similar stuff from Hillary Clinton, there is no doubt this was a US Exorcet that hammered at the heart of the Leave campaign, and it hurt. An acquaintance tweeted that he has never harboured a scintilla of anti-US feeling in his life, until now. I was reminded of the Duke of Wellington’s comment at the height of the Battle of Waterloo; “Hard pounding this, gentlemen,” he exclaimed as Napoleon’s cannon ripped into the British troops.

Many Leave troops are struggling from the onslaught of Cameron’s guest and the official Vote Leave leadership seem to have been battered into silence or, like London mayor Boris Johnson, into squawking impotence. Although some believe Obama’s intervention in UK domestic affairs will boomerang back on the Remain campaign, the president was strong in challenging Leave arguments – and also in making clear that the ‘special relationship’ between the US and UK is a dead letter and not worth the paper it was never written on. True friends don’t publicly threaten each other.

But we Leavers have two key factors in our favour:

First, timing is everything and Cameron may have fired his heaviest guns too early. There are still two months to go until Referendum Day and a week is a long time in politics.

Second, there are not many people who single-handedly have changed the national agenda and turned political tides, but Nigel Farage is one.

nigel_farageWith focus, courage and a thick skin, for twenty years Nigel has toured the country promoting the benefits of leaving the EU. Dismissed by many including Cameron as a fruit cake, nutter and worse, he has sung his song and made the strong case for Brexit. Slowly the tide has turned in his favour until the prime minister, who a few years ago instructed the Tory Party to “stop banging on about Europe”, has been forced to hold a referendum and to bang on about Europe almost full-time.

Now, post-Obama, we must urge Nigel to step up to the plate and raise his game even further. He must take the lead to raise morale amongst Leave grassroots campaigners, to constrain the squabbling Leave factions,winston_churchill with cigar to re-frame the Brexit arguments, to set a fresh campaign direction, and to hold aloft the vision of a sovereign independent Britain that together we can achieve once again.

No one else can do it.

Nigel, it’s your Churchill moment to Speak for England and save the nation.

We’re right there with you.

The Easter Jesus v The Islamic Fake

It was the weekend before Holy Week and I was on my way home across Meridian Square outside Stratford station. I was looking forward to the coming festivals: the commemoration of Jesus’ last supper on Maundy Thursday, the solemn reflection on his death on Good Friday and the celebration of his resurrection on Easter Sunday. For a Christian it’s the heart of the Gospel and highlight of the year.

HijackJesuspic2On the Square I was confronted by some Muslim men doing dawa (proselytism) at an Islamic book table. In principle there’s nothing wrong with this as freedom to promote your religion, and indeed your non-religion, is vital to our society.

But, deliberately courting controversy, they were trading upon our Christian festivals by wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with the words, “I love Jesus (peace be upon him) because I’m Muslim!

I was well aware that their “Jesus” is a fake. So I chatted with them briefly, took a picture with their consent and tweeted it with the caption, “@ Stratford #Newham this w/e: #Islam hijacks, demotes & discredits Founder of #Christianity”.

Immediately I was contacted by our local paper, the Newham Recorder. Would I write an article to reflect my views? 250 words; deadline 10.00am on Tuesday.

I did. I wrote:

The True Jesus

“We love the Wife of the Duke of Edinburgh as much as you Brits do,” said an imaginary American in my dream. 

Queen Elizabeth“If that’s so,” I retorted, “you wouldn’t downgrade her. Instead you’d acknowledge her role properly as Her Majesty, Elizabeth ll, Queen of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth.” 

There was a bearded young man outside Stratford station last Saturday. “We Muslims love the prophet Jesus (pbuh) as much as you Christians do,” he declared. 

“If that’s so,” I reflected, “you wouldn’t demote Jesus and insult his self-sacrifice. Instead you’d acknowledge him as he truly is – the Son of God who for our sakes went willingly to his death on a cross on Good Friday 2,000 years ago.” 

Easter this weekend is the highlight of the Christian year, when Jesus’ followers commemorate both his death and resurrection. It’s a wonderful time of significance and celebration. Yet Islamic zealots like the bearded young man are trying to hijack Jesus, diminish his role and spoil the party… 

‘Jesus’ translated into Arabic is ‘Yesua’, but there is no such person mentioned in the Quran. Instead there is an inferior prophet called ‘Isa’ who ranks significantly below Muhammad. Isa wasn’t God’s Son and he didn’t die on a cross, but nonetheless some Muslims insist on misnaming him ‘Jesus’ after the Founder of Christianity. 

It’s simply a ploy or taqqiya (deception) to undermine the real Jesus. 

empty_tomb11However Christians don’t need to mind. It is Easter-time once again; Jesus is Jesus; and in Christ we are free to celebrate his life-giving resurrection from the dead.


However the Newham Recorder didn’t publish it!

It’s not the first time the paper has failed to publish my work. A few years ago I wanted to place a campaign advert against the proposed London Olympic mega-mosque at West Ham near my home. At the last moment they pulled the ad because they feared violence.

This time they say that they couldn’t find a Muslim writer to answer my points.

So it’s published here on my blog instead.

Would any Muslim like to respond to the piece and justify Islam’s ‘Jesus’? Avoid vulgarity and personal abuse and I will publish your comments unedited in the appropriate place below.

UKIP: Christians Welcome!

Last year I helped set up Christian Action in UKIP, aka ‘CAUKIP’, an informal group whose aim is both to promote UKIP to the churches across the UK and to promote mainstream Christian ideals within the party.

Ade AmoobaWe held our first fringe meeting at the UKIP party conference last September. It was attended by Steve Woolfe MEP, the party spokesman on migration, and addressed by UK-based Nigerian Pastor Ade Omooba who talked for 30 minutes on “The Moral Argument for Controlling Immigration”.

Interestingly, Pastor Ade quoted the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6: 9,10) to demonstrate that God Himself created immigration controls for the Kingdom of God, and that therefore we are free, responsibly, to control immigration into the United Kingdom.

UKIP listeners loved this application of Christian values to political policy, especially by a Black pastor from a Commonwealth country. Contra our sniffy metropolitan critics, UKIP doesn’t do racism. It was a good meeting.

However, CAUKIP is closely associated with another informal but long-established group in the party, Christian Soldiers – UKIP, and we were concerned last month when a gay UKIP councillor based in Dudley & Halesowen, Shaun Keasey, called publicly for the party to cut all ties with Christian Soldiers. He was supported by UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge and on twitter by the official LGBT in UKIP group.

microwave-2-resizeCllr Keasey’s argument simply reheated cold meat. He focussed on a leaflet promoted by Christian Soldiers at the party’s Spring Conference a year ago as his reason for the ban. The leaflet had denounced attempts to create gender confusion and promote sexual-orientation discussion amongst primary school children, especially through a now-withdrawn LGBT programme called ‘CHIPS’. Although the leaflet had used robust language, it was in line with UKIP’s excellent and politically unique manifesto promise to ban all sex education in primary schools.

The Daily Mirror happily pursued its anti-UKIP agenda by manipulating the story and creating a fuss. The party was forced to handle this and, light of foot, it smartly insisted the Christian Soldiers leaflet should be withdrawn. As a result the issue was reduced to a storm in a tea cup, and was dead and buried within 12 hours.

And so it stayed for almost 12 months, until Shaun Keasey decided to resurrect it four weeks ago.

Fortunately the party is growing canny. This time around it did absolutely nothing. Cllr Keasey’s call to ban Christian Soldiers was flatly ignored and the group continues to be free to hold its regular stall and promote its Christian literature at the UKIP Spring conference this coming weekend. As they say in church: Alleluia!

Then, at a party hustings three weeks ago I was selected as UKIP candidate for the London South West constituency in the London Assembly elections on 5th May. The only other applicant at the hustings, gay activist Richard Hendron, immediately and loudly resigned from the party publicly accusing me of being a “vile, nasty homophobic individual”.

Pink News and the Daily Mirror rapidly crawled all over the story claiming that I support ‘gay cure’ amongst other things (I don’t, of course), and LGBT in UKIP activist Richard Hilton put up a public petition to have me removed from UKIP’s approved candidates list.

agreement36 hours later and unknown to me, a party member in the North put up a counter-petition, “Say NO to political correctness infiltrating UKIP”, asking the party not to remove me as a candidate because of my “traditional Christian views”.

Regrettably, the party’s deputy chairman Suzanne Evans – who has since been relieved of her job – weighed in against me too. She tweeted that my views have no place in UKIP, declared openly that the party’s selection process had failed and wrote to the party chairman requesting that my selection should be reviewed. She gave Pink News an exclusive telling them she was confident I would be removed.

For a few days it was The Battle of the Petitions but, as news website Breitbart pointed out, the LGBT in UKIP petition was soon seen to have “backfired” as it was rapidly overhauled by the counter-petition. As I write, the second petition has more than 13 times the signatures of the first.

I became aware too of growing grassroots support as people told me they had called and emailed party officers asking that I should remain a UKIP candidate.

Finally, I was invited to appear before a panel of senior party officers to discuss my views about ‘gay cure’ and related issues. The meeting was confidential, but I was informed the next day that the panel had decided unanimously that I should continue as an approved candidate for UKIP – a decision then ratified by the party chairman and the National Executive Committee.

So in my experience UKIP is maturing into an excellent anti-establishment party. As you see, with a few exceptions it is fair, robust, hard-working, committed to free speech and democracy and stands firmly against the suffocating tenets of political correctness.

Unlike the old parties, there is ample room for social conservatives, grassroots Christians and supporters of family values.

bojesen_brexitIf that’s you, and you urgently want the UK out of the EU on 23rd June, join us now. There are only 16 weeks to get our country back from the dead hand of the Brussels bureaucrats.

Giving Thanks

“You say grace, Alan,” someone urged.

I was in a classy restaurant in London’s West End last week with the small celebration wineMegaMosqueNoThanks team and our professional advisers – a lawyer, a town planner, a chartered surveyor, an academic journalist – that together opposed the construction of a huge mosque close to the 2012 London Olympic stadium in East London.

The ‘Selkirk Grace’ of the Scottish poet Robert Burns sprang immediately to mind. My father, a Glaswegian Scot to his fingertips but no church-goer, taught it to us and prayed it himself on semi-formal occasions such as family Christmas lunch:

‘Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.’ 

It’s a grace that was much prayed at Burns Night suppers this week too, no doubt – but I flunked it. Burns’ poetry needs a strong Scots’ inflection and my Sassenach tongue would mangle it. I gave thanks in English.

saying graceWe had a lot to ‘be thankit’ for. As Burns recognised, ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley’; but for us our nine-year campaign against the mosque had not gone ‘agley’. Rather, as regular readers of this blog will know, we’d been given real success as first the local planning authority in December 2012 and then the Secretary of State in October 2015 both rejected the mosque plans.

Tablighi Jamaat, the fundamentalist group behind the mosque proposals, are now in a desperate corner but they have very deep pockets. In December they applied to the High Court for the right to appeal the government’s decision, and no doubt they will if necessary petition the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and even up to the European Court. This likely will go on for years. As I said, they have very deep pockets…

But as we tucked in to our Cauliflower veloute and Goosnargh duck we reckoned we had much to celebrate. We were certain that our campaign had a major impact; for instance Tablighi Jamaat explained on BBC TV that they downsized the project because of our strong opposition.

robinwalesWe also had done our bit to force Newham Council to shift – grudgingly – from 100% support for a mega-mosque to outright opposition. In celebration I had long wanted to raise a glass to Newham’s Labour mayor Sir Robin Wales who huffed and puffed much vitriol towards me personally, but in the end did the necessary U-turn and came to agree with our position on the mosque.

It was at a different table the next day that other colleagues and I had another cause to celebrate. This time the event was held in the House of Lords dining room and we celebrated with very English mid-afternoon cups of tea, cucumber sandwiches, scones, jam and clotted cream. We had just been present at the successful third and final reading of Baroness Caroline Cox’s private member’s bill.

Regular readers of this blog will know that the bill tackles gender discrimination in Sharia councils and the growth of an Islamic parallel legal system in the UK, and also that we have been researching the issue, listening to evidence and promoting the bill for four years. The completion of the bill’s passage through the upper house means that it now goes to the House of Commons, and we were elated that en route it had received strong encouragement and warm support from all quarters in the Lords – apart from the government front bench.

The job is not yet done of course: it will be a very different ball-game in the Commons and further non-cooperation by the government will be a real obstacle. Nonetheless we had reason to celebrate progress so far and afternoon tea seemed appropriate.

dark valleyPolitical activity involves major troughs as well as peaks, dark valleys as well as sunlit mountain-tops, and in my experience it’s unusual for two political wins to coincide and enable celebrations on consecutive days. I was delighted. I was having a good week.

But in If, the English poet Rudyard Kipling famously denotes Triumph and Disaster as “twin imposters”. In Scots Wha Hae,  Robert Burns is indifferent between success and failure: “Welcome to your gory bed, Or to victorie… Let us do or die!” And in the Gospels, Christ asks us, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” 

So at some deep and personal level political successes aren’t – or shouldn’t be – important. But it was pleasurable nonetheless to ignore past frustrations, give thanks for these wins and to celebrate roundly with friends and colleagues.

Courage In A Bleak Mid-Winter

I’ve just returned from another visit to Jos at the north end of Plateau State in middle-belt Nigeria. Nigeria_map_JosHere, despite the proliferating Christmas decorations in homes and churches, peace on earth and goodwill between communities continues to be in short supply and, across northern Nigeria, the church is facing an existential threat from the violence and intimidation of Islam in its various forms.

I travelled in the company of Baroness Caroline Cox and members of the team from her Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) charity for the first time. The Baroness is seventy-seven but her drive, energy and zeal for travelling to help oppressed people in remote and dangerous locations show she clearly considers herself thirty years younger.

Zambiri2In Jos we met with Ben and Gloria Kwashi, the Anglican Archbishop and his wife – an essential engagement in a Christian visitor’s itinerary as it is never less than inspirational. We visited Gloria’s school for 400 orphans where, for a third of the children, the lunchtime bowl of mixed rice and beans with added nutrients is the only meal of the day. Education of these precious orphans is taken seriously by Gloria and her dedicated staff of seven, not only as a Christian imperative but also as a vital route out of poverty.

We had dinner too in the archiepiscopal home and joined in night-time prayers with the fifty five orphans who Gloria also has rescued to live with them.

archbiship_ben_kwashi_and_his_wife_gloria“Good night children,” said Archbishop Ben after leading the prayers. The fatherly but diminutive spiritual colossus stood in front of the youngsters holding the rudimentary archbishop’s staff they had made for him from branches of a nearby tree in one hand, while blessing them with the other.

“Good night Daddy Kwashi, goodnight Mummy Kwashi,” they chimed in unison. The orphans have nothing, but, surrounded by the warm and disciplined Christian love of the Kwashis, they have everything. It was difficult to join in the prayers thanks to the lump in my throat.

I’ve blogged before about the inter-communal violence generated by Fulani Muslim herdsmen migrating from the Sharia states in the north onto Plateau land belonging to Berom Christian villagers. Ostensibly the Fulani are searching for grazing pasture for their cattle although their motive seems also to do with Islamic expansionism.

ShoVillage2On the fourth day of our visit and protected in convoy by two police armoured cars bristling with guns, we were taken to a distressing recent example of the phenomenon. The farmland belonging to and surrounding the Berom village of Sho in Barkin Ladi local government area, some 30 minutes’ drive outside Jos, has been occupied by force by Fulani herdsmen. Since September 2013 twenty-four of the Berom villagers have been massacred, ten of them on 7th July of this year. As a consequence they live in terror, unable to enter or exit their village or cross their own adjoining occupied farmland except under armed military escort. Their school and church have been destroyed.

We met the head man and villagers in the village square and heard their stories. They were grateful that outsiders – perhaps especially foreign ones – were being made aware of their plight. Fear and distress was in their eyes as they explained they are isolated, grieving and desperate, living in poverty without access to their farmland food source.

It wasn’t clear why the authorities have not attempted to rectify the situation except that justice is in short supply in northern Nigeria. And it wasn’t clear either how we as outsiders could help except by publicising their predicament. I left Sho with a heavy heart.

Mark_LipdoI also visited an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp run in dilapidated school buildings in Bukuru south of Jos by the under-funded but resourceful Stefanos Foundation and it’s energetic CEO, Mark Lipdo. Primarily the camp comprised Christians from the Gwoza area of Borno State in the north east of Nigeria, close to the Cameroon border.

Until the second half of the last century, Gwoza was peopled by primitive and frequently warring tribes. Then, after the Second World War, the colonial authorities allowed British and other missionaries into the area. These were doctors, nurses and teachers as well as evangelists, and they built health clinics, schools and in due course churches. The first indigenous convert, Inshaya Hutuku, became a Christian in the early 50s (he is still alive today) and the early trickle of converts grew to a steady stream. By 2013 there were over 200 churches in the thriving Gwoza council area.

But twelve months later, by the middle of 2014, there were almost none.

Boko Haram, who last year killed more people than ISIS and who this year pledged allegiance their brutal Iraq/Syria counterparts, moved into the area in April 2014, killing, kidnapping, burning and destroying churches and homes. On 2 June last year the militants perpetrated the infamous Gwoza massacre wherein up to 500 males were slaughtered. Then on 24 August Boko Haram declared Gwoza town the headquarters of their Islamic Caliphate. An acquaintance of mine, an elderly Nigerian minister, narrowly escaped death by scrambling up into the hills and hospitalising himself in the process through a heavy fall. His home was burnt out.

IDP2Many escaped the slaughter in Gwoza with only the clothes they stood in. Over 450 are now living in the IDP camp I visited, surviving on church generosity and handouts organised by Stefanos. The conditions are pitiful, the drafty rooms are cold during the December nights, most of the refugees are desperate to return home to Gwoza as soon as possible and there is limited cause for optimism for them. While the military under the new Federal ‘hard man’ President Muhammadu Buhari, together with increasingly effective civilian vigilante self-defence groups, are gaining some push-back against the militants across Borno State and elsewhere, there is little prospect that families can return to and rebuild their lives back in Gwoza itself in the near future.

Ben and Gloria Kwashi and Mark Lipdo – like many other Christians in northern Nigeria – are faithful, courageous, visionary and inspirational. They spread hope, joy and generosity in the darkest of places, and it is certainly appropriate to highlight and celebrate their endeavours at Christmas time when we remember the true Light who came into the world.

But the tide is flowing strongly against them. Through violence, persecution and discrimination, over the centuries and especially over the past decade Islam has chased Christianity out of the heartlands of the Middle East as well as across North Africa. The signs are that the same is happening in northern Nigeria.

So despite the joy of Christmas, rising militant Islam means it’s a bleak mid-winter for many believers there and indeed around the world.

If you are moved to help them, you can donate via HART. Your money will be well spent.