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 change.org 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.

Mega-Mosque: The End

I was waiting on Dagenham East station one Saturday recently when out of the blue I received a call from Andrew Gilligan of the Sunday Telegraph.DagenhamEast

I had been door-knocking with Peter Harris, the excellent UKIP candidate for Dagenham & Rainham at the general election last May and for the London Assembly in the GLA election in May next year. He had discovered that Barking & Dagenham council were trying quietly to foist a mosque onto greenbelt land in the predominantly White English neighbourhood of Eastbrook, so we had been assessing local opinion with a door-to-door survey.

But Gilligan had good news for me about a different and much bigger mosque, the proposed London mega-mosque at West Ham in Newham close to the 2012 Olympic stadium. Mega-mosqueOriginally this mosque had a futuristic design and a proposed capacity of between 45,000 and 70,000 which would have made it one of the biggest in the world. In the face of our vociferous opposition the mosque capacity was downsized but the mosque architect still claimed the building would be the size of Battersea Power Station with a capacity three times that of St Paul’s Cathedral. I’ve been campaigning against it for nearly a decade.

At first on my own but in due course backed by a superb small team, I had spent months studying, analysing and understanding Tablighi Jamaat – the fundamentalist and isolationist group behind the project. As our opposition campaign took off I encountered vicious verbal hostility and a death threat, and had a website set up against me personally; our combative team produced the MegaMosqueNoThanks campaign website, video channel and Facebook page and participated in two huge Public Inquiries; we delivered at least one campaign leaflet to each of the 97,000 homes of Newham’s 300,000 residents, and four or five leaflets to each home in the West Ham neighbourhood;  2000px-Seal_of_the_Ronald_Reagan_Presidential_Library.svgI was flattered to receive a ‘Hero of Conscience’ award for our efforts at a glittering American Freedom Association event in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California; I undertook public debates in Newham and at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, and engaged in informal discussions in cafes and on the street with mosque supporters many of whom live near my home in Muslim-majority Forest Gate; and I was interviewed by journalists and on TV and radio from around the world as well as in our national media.

crossculturalHandshakeIt has been an extraordinary journey during which I have come to like and respect the overwhelming majority of Muslim people I have engaged with, but also to loathe the dark fundamentalist Islam that is rising across the world from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East to the UK and Europe, from Pakistan in South Asia to Nigeria in West Africa. And recently in Paris too.

But the journey was coming to an end. “The mega-mosque isn’t going to happen,” Gilligan told me. “Reliable sources say that the DCLG (the Department of Communities and Local Government) will announce soon that the trustees’ appeals have failed. The mega-mosque isn’t going to be built. My exclusive on this will be in tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph,” he continued, “and I need a quote from you.”

My joy was great and relief was deep.  I could hardly believe my ears. Gilligan swore me to silence until his exclusive was published the following day, but that didn’t matter. This massive platform for promoting fundamentalist Islam globally which also would have had a disastrous effect on social integration locally, was over, sunk, dead. My colleagues and I could relax, be grateful and celebrate. Our job was done.

Gilligan’s story was published and four days later the formal decision of the Secretary of State at the DCLG, Greg Clark, was published too. To our amazement he took a firmer line against the mosque project than the Planning Inspector recommended;Bulldozer not only is the mega-mosque not to be built, but within three months the mosque trustees must cease using the site and must demolish the 2,000-capacity wood-frame buildings they are using there as a temporary mosque.

Technically the trustees still have the right to challenge the Government decision. However, due to new and tighter regulations that came into force just two days before the decision was announced – the Government was astute in its timing – they have first to apply to the High Court for permission to make the challenge before submitting the challenge itself, and they have to do so by 9th December. Also the challenge can be only on technical points of law and not about the decision itself. This is a huge mountain to climb for the trustees and if they have any sense they will not waste their time and money.

Meanwhile I now find myself involved with UKIP in the much smaller mosque project close to Dagenham East station where I took the call from Andrew Gilligan. Here, as in Newham, the authorities have been secretive and ignored local opinion until we forced the issue into the open: Peter Harris contacted and briefed the Dagenham media; we undertook a door-to-door survey where we found 93% of locals were against the mosque for reasons ranging from “too much traffic already” and “save our greenbelt” to “no Muslims live here so no need for a mosque”; Eastbrookmeetingand ten days ago we held a residents’ meeting in a pub and invited UKIP heavyweights Peter Whittle – our London mayoral candidate – and Roger Gravett. The pub was packed. You can read about it here and here.

Inevitably, as in Newham, Labour’s borough leadership in Barking & Dagenham has been incensed by our actions.

So deja vue. Here we go again…

Homerton Hospital’s Politically Correct Prejudice

Political correctness has developed into a putrefying ideology of propaganda and untruth promoted by the elite political class and liberal opinion-formers. Homerton University HospitalIn order to foist their poisonous ‘progressive’ agenda on us, they demand frequently that evidence should be ignored, facts should be changed, truth should be denied and history should be rewritten. A well-known east London NHS hospital is a case in point…

Homerton Hospital in Hackney has been serving the people of the East End since Victorian times. Completely rebuilt and modernised in the 1980s, it has 440 beds and a staff of 2,200, serves as a teaching hospital for undergraduate students and was the designated hospital for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Although recently embroiled in controversy over the number of deaths in the maternity unit, in many ways the Homerton represents the beating heart of the NHS, the nation’s favourite institution.

The hospital claims to be rooted in the local Hackney community and to demonstrate this is currently displaying – just inside the main entrance – some 25 portraits of Hackney residents taken in the 1970s. They were photographed by local man Ron Gibson who for over half a century from 1952 ran a portrait studio at 97 Lower Clapton Road.

Carefully selected from Gibson’s huge archive to represent “memories of past and present Hackney residents” as the blurb says, the pictures are superb, colourful and well presented. Singles, couples and family groups, the subjects are dressed variously in their security guard uniforms, nurses’ uniforms, wedding dresses, national dress or normal clothes.  It’s a high quality display and it is regrettable that for copyright reasons some of the portraits cannot be shown on this blog.

There is just one glaring and hugely significant error. Not one single portrait of a white British resident is displayed. Not one.nhs-logo

Certainly, according to the national census the percentage of White British residents in Hackney has been rapidly declining, down
from 44% in 2001 to 36% in 2011, and they have been replaced predominantly by Commonwealth immigrants from the West Indies and elsewhere.  But by common consent Hackney’s population in the 1970s was overwhelmingly white working class, and indiginous white Brits today still represent over a third of the borough.

But all the white residents have been airbrushed out of the hospital’s gallery of “past and present” local people. White people don’t exist. They didn’t exist. They have been written out of the script. Not even a cockney barrow boy or traditional Pearly King or Queen is shown. They are all – according to the hospital – irrelevant and presumably an embarrassment.  Africans, Asians and West Indians are proudly and beautifully portrayed and promoted at the entrance to the hospital, often in their national dress. But not one single white person – working class East Ender or otherwise – is deemed worthy of the honour.

So Hackney’s demographic history has been falsely rewritten and re-presented by the hospital to fit a progressive politically-correct pusagenda.

It is in-your-face untruth, ‘diversity’ gone mad and it reflects blatant prejudice, discrimination and, yes, racism by the country’s major caring institution. And the political establishment wonders why bitterness and disenchantment is growing on council estates up and down the country.

There is only one way democratically to lance the boil of Homerton-style prejudice and wipe the seeping discharge of politically correct pus out of our public life.

Go anti-establishment. Vote UKIP.

UKIP’s Runners and Riders for London Mayor

For political parties in London it’s choose-your-mayoral-candidate time.

city-hallA couple of weeks ago the Greens selected Sian Berry as their candidate for the May 2016 election; any day now the LibDems are expected to announce Caroline Pidgeon is their woman for the race; and on Friday Sadiq Khan upset all expectations except his own and won the Labour Party ballot for the position. The Tories are expected to announce their man for the job by the end of the month.

UKIP too is selecting and reckons to announce the party’s mayoral candidate in a couple of weeks. And, as it happens, I’ve thrown my hat into the ring…

I was enjoying the white beaches, blue skies and blistering heat of Sardinia last month when the news website Breitbart London, jointly run by Nigel Farage’s former election strategist and right-hand man Raheem Kassam, published an assessment  of UKIP’s ‘runners and riders’ for the mayor contest. RaheemKassamKassam reckoned my ‘tough stance against gay marriage’ and my campaign against the London mega-mosque could cause the party ‘operational and public relations problems’ – but nonetheless scored me 6/10.

Then, on successive days over the August Bank Holiday weekend, Breitbart published each candidate’s responses to ten key questions, seven of which were common to all and three of which were tailored to the individual. The other candidates’ responses are here: Suzanne Evans, Richard Hendron, Elizabeth Jones, David Kurton, Shneur Odze and Peter Whittle.

I was abroad and I missed out on the Breitbart exercise, but my formal party interview was postponed until this coming week. So here are my responses to Kassam’s questions and assessment:

Question 1: What makes you the best person to represent UKIP in London in 2016?

AC: For three decades I have lived and worked at street level in east London which is about as far from Boris’s Westminster/Whitehall/City Hall bubble as a Londoner can get, and my track record for standing up for ordinary people against the establishment powers-that-be is as good as anyone’s.

Locally I cut my political teeth campaigning – both successfully and unsuccessfully – against the council’s social cleansing, imposed top-down ‘regeneration’ and the large corporate developers who make people’s lives a misery.

Lemons-and-limeI have lengthy experience of UKIP-style grassroots and outsider politics. For a time I was the sole Opposition councillor on Newham Council and, later, leader of the small Opposition group. In 2008 I stood for London Mayor against Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone and also for the London Assembly. 

Q2: If it were a straight choice, would you rather be a London Assembly member or UKIP’s Mayoral Candidate?

AC: In May 2016 I’d rather be UKIP’s Mayoral Candidate. The May election almost certainly will be held prior to the vital EU referendum and I want to bend every sinew to promote London’s own case against the EU.

Debating at hustings with Sadiq Khan and maybe Zac Goldsmith about London in the EU will be a great high-profile opportunity to promote the ‘Leave’ campaign. 

Q3: Uber – are you for it or against it?

AC: I am in favour of commercial competition in principle, and we’ve seen that under pressure from Uber the black cabs recently reduced their fares for off-peak long-distance rides. This is good for the customer.

black-cabBut the black cab is an iconic part of London scene and a safer choice especially for women at night. It must retain its privileged status as, for instance, the only taxi that can be hailed on the street.

Q4: Tube strikes and union drivers. What is the solution?

AC: The tube drivers’ unions held us to ransom before the Olympics and filled their wallets at our expense. They must not do it again.

So, eyeball them and see who blinks first.

Advertise externally for new drivers and introduce driverless trains as soon as possible.

Q5: How do you feel Boris has done as Mayor? What would you keep, what would you change?

AC: He’s brought fun, laughs and global media attention to London. When he retires as mayor next year he ought to do stand-up at the Hammersmith Apollo rather than on the green benches at Westminster. He also removed the western extension of the Congestion Charge zone.

But he and his Russian billionaire friends who push up property prices simply do not understand London’s burgeoning housing crisis caused also in part by mass immigration. Ordinary young people – the future of the capital – cannot afford their own home and are being squeezed out by the lack of affordable housing.

Q6: What are the best things about London in your estimation?

london-2012-crowdAC: Londoners’ vitality, variety, open can-do spirit, and the city’s rich culture and history.

Q7: What are the worst things about London in your estimation?

AC: The widespread poverty caused by London’s exorbitant cost of living.

Also the personal pushiness on public transport that is threatening to the elderly and vulnerable. I’d welcome back some old-fashioned English queuing!

Q8: You left the Christian Peoples Alliance party and joined UKIP. Why?

I left CPA in 2012 having been variously joint-founder, leader and CPA local councillor since 1999. I had no major issues with the party. I just thought I’d done my bit.

I met UKIP MEP Gerard Batten in 2008 when we both stood for London Mayor and he started encouraging me to join UKIP. Four years ago or so I sat on the same political panel in Tottenham as Nigel Farage and he impressed me by his forceful but, then, politically lonely opposition to the EU. In 2012/13 UKIP confirmed its gutsy anti-establishment status by standing alone against the imposition of gay marriage by the metropolitan political class.

In 2014 I threw in the towel and joined the party.

Q9: You have run a lengthy high-profile campaign against the proposed Tablighi Jamaat mega-mosque at West Ham. That can’t make you an attractive UKIP candidate to the Muslim community can it?

telling-the-localsAC: When I started the campaign in 2006 I got all the knee-jerk insults – racist, Islamophobe, bigot, Christian crusader, the lot. But while I strongly opposed these mosque plans and the separatist ideology behind them, I like and respect Muslims and slowly bit by bit this message got through.

Further, I campaigned closely with moderate Muslims who also oppose the fundamentalist Tablighi Jamaat ideology and their mosque plans. There is no single ‘Muslim community’; there is a variety of ‘Muslim communities’.

Lastly, I live in the Green Street West ward of Newham which according to the 2011 Census has the highest concentration of Muslims in London. They are my neighbours and I like and respect them even when I don’t agree with them. I think they know that.

Q10: You took a strong stand against same-sex marriage. That isn’t going to get UKIP votes from the LGBT-types.

AC: Alone of all the national parties, UKIP too stood against same-sex marriage. This gained the party a lot of recognition and votes from social conservatives like me.

The gay marriage debate centred on adult rights and issues and ignored the rights and nurturing needs of children. Also, in order to make their legislation fit the lifestyle of many gays, the government – like a monster Ashley Madison – deliberately undermined the loyalty and faithfulness implicit in traditional marriage.

But currently there is no political will to repeal the Act and, like UKIP, I do not seek to do so.