I have this morning sent this message to Tommy Robinson:
The courageous parents of little Alfie, Tom Ward and Kate James, have discovered the totalitarian fact that their child belongs first to the State.
Silly us. We thought that we live in a democracy where the government and its minsters (note the word: to minister means ‘to support’, ‘to help’ or ‘to care for’) are elected by the people for the people; where public servants are employed to, er, serve the public; and where the publicly-funded State institutions like the Armed Services and the National Health Service are there to – well, the name is on the tin.
But no longer: in 2018 Britain the idiots run the asylum and the servants are now the masters.
It’s been a long time coming. Since WW2 the tentacles of the State have spread ever wider and deeper so that now, whatever the problem, the knee-jerk response is to call on the government to solve it and pay for it.
So when Labour MP Carolyn Harris tragically lost her eight year old son and found the burial expenses too demanding for her domestic budget, she naturally turned to the prime minister for help. Mrs May, being a compassionate if childless woman, opened her bottomless purse of public money to set up the Children’s Funeral Fund (CFF). Now no grieving parents – no matter how wealthy – will ever again have to pay to bury their child.
“In the raw pain of immediate loss, it cannot be right that grieving parents should have to worry about how to meet the funeral costs for a child they hoped to see grow into adulthood,” explained Tory Mrs May empathetically.
“This is a simple piece of dignity for bereaved families across the country,” agreed Jeremy Corbyn for Labour, offering words of care and compassion.
As a result the State further increases its involvement in the most unifying and private areas of family life. Whereas in an earlier age a wider circle of grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins would have rallied round, made sacrifices and together fulfilled family responsibilities towards the grieving parents, they no longer have to.
The government has taken over a natural function of the family, the fairy godmother in Downing Street has given away more tax-payers’ funds, and Uncle Bill and Aunt Mavis are free to put down the deposit on their flyaway holiday or new car.
But State generosity with our cash comes at a democratic price – and here’s the rub. State involvement invariably brings with it the power to regulate our decisions and control our lives. To qualify for the CFF grant, grieving parents are required to use only permitted funeral directors and proper places and forms of burial or cremation.
It cannot be otherwise; it is good government to direct and hold to account those who receive public funds.
But, at £10 million pay-out a year, the CFF is merely a gnat bite to both government and society.
The National Health Service is a different being and on a different planet. Although born through the same spirit of compassion and service – Lord Soper called the 1946 formation of the NHS “the noblest domestic act of government in the 20th century and one of the most transparently Christian political acts in British history”- and with the same need to demonstrate good government, it has now grown into a massive £125 billion a year State behemoth whose reach extends into all areas of society.
And as a result bureaucracy has taken over from compassion, efficiency of management has replaced vocation of service, and through the NHS there has been dramatic expansion in the State’s power to regulate our personal decisions and control our family lives.
Which is what baby Alfie’s dad and mum, Tom Ward and Kate James, discovered when they passed their sick baby into the arms of the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital & NHS Foundation Trust. The hospital management decided they knew what was best for the little boy – to let him die – so they closed ranks, exercised their court-backed authority and refused to release the child back to his desperate parents.
The private affair became a public battle as Tom, Kate and their legal advisers faced up to the full power of the State – the legal system as well as the hospital authorities – in front of local supporters and global media alike.
The Pope appealed on their behalf, the Italian government granted citizenship to Alfie, and a fully-equipped air ambulance was on stand-by to fly the lad to reputable hospitals in Rome or Genoa.
But the servants are the masters now. The hospital management morphed into a monster, refused under any circumstances to grant the parents’ wishes and did not consider themselves obliged to publicly explain their reasons further than claiming a vague “best interests of the child”.
Alfie manifestly belonged to the State.
In the end a crushed and defeated Tom and Kate threw in the towel. They appealed for supporters outside the hospital to go home and said they would instead work with the hospital team “to provide our boy with the dignity and comfort he needs.”
Tragically, Alfie has now passed away. Our hearts go out to Tom and Kate as they grieve their loss in private.
Ironically, to add insult to injury, the State will now give them cash for their baby’s burial by way of the newly-created Children’s Funeral Fund.
A few days ago former Steven Woolfe MEP launched an ‘Alfie’s Law’ initiative through which parents like Tom and Kate will be able to choose an independent qualified advocate to act on their behalf in order to correct the power imbalance between themselves and the State.
I understand too that, in the light of the similar Ashya King and Charlie Gard cases, Lord Alton is working on a comparable initiative in the House of Lords.
Tom and Kate have lost their battle with the authorities, but their heroic action must serve as a wake-up call to parents and to democrats everywhere.
It’s time to grab back our rights from an increasingly totalitarian State, and UKIP must be at the front of the fight.
This article was first published on 3rd May by UKIP Daily
Recently a favourite commentator of mine, Brendon O’Neill, wrote a striking article about Islam that “slices through the fog of confusion, obfuscation and sheers dishonesty of public debate” (as Melanie Phillips says in another context).
Actually, of course, there is very little proper public debate about Islam. It is a belief system privileged by our Islamophilic political establishment and protected by politically-correct but unwritten blasphemy laws in the media and elsewhere which ensure that criticism of Islam – except of its most violent versions of course – is immediately shut down as Islamophobic, racist and/or hate speech.
This protection is shown to no other religion. “Show some damn respect for people’s religious beliefs,” a pious Piers Morgan instructed Tommy Robinson last week when the latter held aloft a Quran and claimed that Islam’s holy book is “the reason why we are in such a mess” following the London Bridge and Finsbury Park Mosque attacks.
This is the same Piers Morgan who was venomous in his disrespect for Christians and others who held to traditional Biblical views of marriage during gay marriage debates.
Brendon O’Neill’s article ‘After London Bridge: let’s start talking about Islam’ points powerfully to the dangerous social consequences of protecting Islam from criticism. He writes:
“This… privilege is not extended to any other religion… Islam is ringfenced from tough discussion; phrases which at some level include the word Islam are tightly policed; criticism of Islam is deemed a mental illness: Islamophobia.
“This is incredibly dangerous. This censorious flattery of Islam is, in my view, a key contributor to the violence we have seen in recent years. Because when you constantly tell people that any mockery of their religion is tantamount to a crime, is vile and racist and unacceptable, you actively invite them to be intolerant. You licence their intolerance. You inflame their violent contempt for anyone who questions their dogmas. You provide a moral justification for their desire to punish those who insult their religion.”
Get that? The censorship of criticism of Islam contributes towards Islamic intolerance and violence. It’s a brilliant insight that ‘pierces the fog’ of a dishonest public debate and rightly boomerangs back onto the heads of our political class some of the responsibility for Islamic atrocities .
I’ve done my own bit to counter dishonesty in the public portrayal of Islam. In an article published on UKIP Daily following the Manchester Arena suicide bombing atrocity I argued that from its violent foundation in the 7th century it has been impossible to argue sensibly that Islam is a religion of peace.
Why do politicians and other religious illiterates intone the vacuous mantra that Islam is a ‘religion of peace’ every time there is an atrocity like the Manchester bombing last week?
9/11 should have stopped such nonsense in its tracks sixteen years ago. But no, they continue to inform us that Islamic terrorism has nothing whatever to do with ‘peaceful’ Islam.
Theresa May gave Donald Trump and the Republican Party the benefit of her witlessness in a speech during her January visit to the US. “We should always be careful to distinguish between this extreme and hateful ideology and the peaceful religion of Islam,” she lectured them.
The Prime Minister is of course just the latest in a long line of dissembling Western leaders. It started with President George W Bush. Six days after the 9/11 atrocity he went to the Islamic Centre in Washington to assure traumatised Americans that “Islam is peace” and that the religion has nothing to do with the “acts of violence” perpetrated by the airline hijackers.
The problem with this supposed division between violent extremists and the rest is that all forms of Islam – from the “twisted version” propagated by ISIS to the most moderate westernised version – have one factor and focus that unites them: they all revere Islam’s founder and prophet, Muhammad.
For Muslims he is second only to Allah, and indeed occasionally the Quran even gives him equivalent authority: “Obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad) that ye may obtain mercy” (3: 132). For every Muslim he is the greatest moral example in history, a mercy for the world and a model for all time.
For centuries across Muslim lands it was impossible to raise objections to him as the objector would risk execution for apostasy. Glorified legends and sanitised stories about Islam’s prophet were able to flourish without contradiction, while outside the Muslim world there was minimal interest in the man or his religion.
However, increasing post-WW2 immigration from Muslim countries and the dramatic 9/11 wake-up call has brought Islam into full engagement with the West for the first time. Therefore things have changed: the religion has become subject to our tradition of critical inquiry, Muhammad’s life and character have been put increasingly under the microscope and, particularly, the advent of the internet has enabled open scrutiny of both Islam’s founder and his religion like never before.
Of course in the West it is our democratic duty to examine, challenge and debate any belief system that is impacting our society; that’s how a free society works. We’ve done it with Christianity and atheism. We’ve done it too with communism, fascism and even climate change.
We are doing it now with Islam and, as this process is new to Muslims, it has made many defensive and over-sensitive to criticism. Nonetheless the job must be done if we are to remain an open society, and we must do it despite the efforts of the political class to protect Islam, of the liberal Left to damn critics as Islamophobic and racist, and of Islamic community leaders to play the victim card. We still have freedom of speech – just.
For as long as Muhammad was a lone and persecuted prophet in Mecca, he cut a sympathetic Gandhi-type figure who simply preached his new religion to mostly deaf or hostile ears. But after his migration to Medina in 622 (significantly, the start-date of the Islamic era) he became the powerful warrior-governor of this desert community.
It was here he resorted to violence if it was necessary to impose his (and, as he understood it, Allah’s) will and it was here at its foundation that Islam lost any claim to be a religion of peace.
In his ten years as Medina’s governor Muhammad fought eight major battles, personally led eighteen military operations and oversaw thirty eight others. He himself was wounded twice.
He had a poetess, Asma Bint Marwan, assassinated at night while she slept at home with her five children. She had been virulent in her criticism of him and called for rebellion against him so, apparently, she had to go.
After one successful battle, Muhammad authorised and attended the slaughter of hundreds of prisoners; they were beheaded in batches and their bodies pitched into a trench he’d had dug in Medina’s market place.
So it simply isn’t credible to sanitise Islam as a religion of peace. Even today Muhammad’s swords are proudly displayed at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul for all to see, and until recently mainstream Islam gloried in its early history of military conquests and successful battles as a sign of Allah’s special grace towards believers.
Muhammad was no peaceful religious leader like Jesus Christ or the Buddha, nor indeed was he a political pacifist like Gandhi or Martin Luther King. He used the sword frequently during the birth of his religion.
Muslim community leaders may describe Salman Abedi’s massacre at Manchester Arena as “unIslamic” and politicians, media and police may explain that he was an ordinary young British Muslim radicalised by his regrettable links to Libya.
But they cannot bolster their theories by arguing that true Islam has nothing to do with violence. At heart it is not a religion of peace and never has been.”
Following Brendon O’Neill’s insight, perhaps I should add to my article a further conclusion: Political leaders who insist Islam is a religion of peace are deliberately promoting falsehood. This dishonesty boomerangs back onto their own heads through our increased mistrust of the political elite and increased doubts about the state’s willingness to protect us from the growing Islamic fundamentalism, militancy and violence – especially amongst young Muslim men – that they deny exists.
So if in the future people feel forced to take their personal security and defence into their own hands, who can blame them?
Since the successful Brexit referendum in June last year UKIP has, inevitably, been struggling to find a new purpose and political identity.
There is much internal party debate, and one of the current hot topics is about how the party should respond to the rise of Islam as a religio-political force across the UK. My contribution was published last week on the blogsite ‘UKIP Daily’, and now here:
Recently UKIP Daily has hosted a number of articles about issues such as halal slaughter, Sharia courts and jihadi terrorism. It is good to see the party is beginning to get to grips with the rise of Islam in our society.
But it seems we are still tip-toeing around the topic and trying to avoid giving offence. One of the contributors even wrote that we should be careful about going too far when discussing Islam in case our political enemies “have us promptly branded as BNP-Lite, or similar” – as if it matters what our opponents say about us.
We cannot do policy by worrying about tomorrow’s headlines.
Islam now saturates our political landscape and dominates the public imagination in the way that, say, Communism/Marxism did fifty years ago, and the UK is being increasingly Islamised. UKIP must therefore develop a coherent approach to the issue if it wants to be a serious political party.
I offer two key principles to guide us:
First we must fully respect Muslims as our friends, neighbours and fellow British citizens who have the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us. Stupidly stereotyping them, insulting them or slagging them down as people is unacceptable.
But, second, we must insist that we are free to challenge all aspects of Islam, unconstrained by political correctness and with nothing off-limits. Nonsense accusations of racism and Islamophobia must not be allowed to shut down necessary debate.
I’ve tried these principles and they work:
In 2005 a fundamentalist Islamic group called Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) announced that they planned to construct one of the largest mosques in the world, with a capacity of between 45,000 and 70,000, at West Ham in east London just a mile from my home and half a mile from the London Olympic stadium. TJ intended to build this as a massive showcase mosque for the 2012 London Olympics and as a global centre to propagate their hostile form of Islam across Europe and North America.
I decided to oppose it without personal animosity towards the Muslims behind the project. Indeed I often subsequently defended their right to propose their mega-mosque just as I defended my absolute right to oppose it. That’s how democracy works in the UK even if not in Saudi Arabia.
Before I started the campaign I tried to meet with the TJ elders in order to explain my opposition. Although they refused, I regularly extended the right hand of neighbourliness to them to show I had nothing against them personally or as Muslims. However they continued to refuse to meet.
I was also ruthless in publicly exposing the political ideology of the group and their underlying hostility to British society, with no holds barred. In my view it would have been utter madness to allow them this huge platform to propagate their anti-social beliefs across the UK and wider.
I launched the campaign via BBC TV in July 2006 and immediately ran into a storm of vitriol and bile, mainly from the Left, with the inevitable accusations of race-hatred, bigotry and Islamophobia. Jonathan Bartley, now joint-leader of the Green Party and that party’s leading UKIP opponent, was one of the first out of the blocks with uninformed and typically knee-jerk comments.
Muslim mega-mosque supporters too attacked me. One even issued a death threat by publishing my obituary on social media.
But as I respect Muslims and am not Islamophobic, I was able to campaign together with moderate British Muslims who also opposed this monstrosity. Our campaign co-operation was telling and in due course the message got through. Newham Council, which previously had been 100% in favour of the mega-mosque, took note, changed its mind and in December 2012 it rejected the TJ planning application. The government followed when in November 2015 Secretary of State Greg Clark MP rejected TJ’s appeal.
A personal warmth towards Muslims, together with an iron determination to publish the unpalatable facts about Tablighi Jamaat and their mega-mosque no matter the cost, were both vital to the success of our campaign.
Islam is a theocratic religion, that is, both a political ideology and a religious belief system. Also, like Communism/Marxism, it wants to take over the world. In our democracy we primarily challenge such take-overs by disputing their ideas and contesting their policies. We must maintain therefore that we are completely free to dispute the Quran, to expose hypocrisy in the Hadith and to rubbish Sharia, for example.
Further, at the heart of Islam lies Islam’s prophet Muhammad whom every stream of Islam claims is the ‘Role Model for All Humanity’.
It is our democratic duty to put Muhammad under the microscope and see what he has to offer UK society.
For instance, he had nine wives, the youngest of whom was aged six when they wed and with whom he consummated the marriage when she was just nine. If our increasingly Islamised society begins to accept Muhammad as a role model for the UK, will this necessarily change our collective view (and, ultimately, our legislation) about polygamy, paedophilia and child brides to a more Islamic approach?
UKIP is a bold radical party that rejects the soggy truth-denying political correctness of the political class. We must be willing, if necessary alone, to raise tough issues, ask hard questions and champion unpopular causes.
And from now on Islam, but not Muslims, must be on UKIP’s agenda and in our political sights.
A couple of weeks ago I made my seventh visit in as many years to the persecuted church in northern Nigeria, this time accompanied by a British writer and commentator who wanted to see for himself what is happening there. (I’ve blogged my previous visits, for instance here, here and here.)
Together we talked with many people, and it was as distressing as ever to hear the stories of Christians and other minorities who are being crushed by the iron fist of Islam – a fist wielded in the north east corner of Nigeria by the madmen of Boko Haram, and across the north and ‘middle-belt’ of the country by murderous Fulani cattle herders.
Nonetheless some of the stories were inspirational.
In one IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp we met a woman who, together with her husband and a 30-strong group of others, tried to escape Boko Haram violence by crossing into neighbouring Cameroon in early 2014. They were caught by the militants at a river bank. All the men were slaughtered and the women and children were carted off to the now infamous former game-reserve, Sambisa Forest, where the Chibok girls are believed to be held.
During a captivity that lasted two years she was forcibly converted to Islam and married off to a young Boko Haram fighter, with whom, she says, she quarrelled incessantly. Once she received 80 lashes across her back when she and other women tried to escape. In the end they were rescued by Cameroon soldiers who defeated the Boko Haram militants in a fire-fight; the militants ran away and the abducted women were left free to return home.
At eight months pregnant by her Boko Haram ‘husband’, she in due course gave birth to a baby boy whom she breast-fed as she told us her story. When asked how she felt about the boy, she told us quietly that she had been taught by her Pastor to love even in the most difficult circumstances; she felt nothing but love towards her son despite his brutal Islamist father.
We were profoundly moved by her dignity and courage.
Other people’s stories were informative.
We met with the elderly wife of a Pastor who had ministered for decades in and around Gwoza which borders on Sambisa. Boko Haram has decimated the thriving Christian community there, killed or injured many believers, destroyed dozens of churches and, in August 2014, declared Gwoza town the headquarters of their Caliphate in Nigeria along the lines of the Mosul headquarters of the Islamic State Caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
The causes of the rapid rise of Boko Haram have been much debated. Although Boko Haram’s official Arabic name when translated means ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’, most authorities refuse to blame any form of Islam. Some, like the US State Department, prefer to cite poverty, bad education and “poor government service delivery”. Others reckon it is the malign influence of armed Islamists crossing the border from West African states such as Mali, Chad and Niger. Yet others identify locals’ adverse reaction to foreign influences such as decadent Western secular lifestyles and to the residual impact of British colonialism (Nigeria gained its Independence in 1960).
We asked the Pastor’s wife what she thought. She was clear: fifteen years ago or so Afghan men dressed like the Taliban arrived unexpectedly in Gwoza and started taking young Muslim men away for education and training. That is when local Muslims became radicalised, she said, and previously good relations between many Muslims and Christians cooled noticeably.
So at the territorial centre of its operations, Gwoza, Boko Haram arose out of a radical Islam imported from a country nearly 4,000 miles away. I haven’t read that in the mainstream media.
Yet other interviewees were insightful and prophetic.
“I said it would happen,” explained the charismatic if diminutive Archbishop of Jos, Ben Kwashi. We were discussing the recent slaughter of Christians by armed Fulani herdsmen in southern Kaduna. “This persecution of Christians came from the north and started here in and around Jos in Plateau State,” said the Archbishop. “I forecast then that the Fulani violence would spread south, as it has done now into southern Kaduna. I further forecast that Niger State will be next. They will not stop, you mark my words.”
The Archbishop also pointed out that in 2015 many Christians voted for Muhammadu Buhari for Federal President even though he is a committed Muslim; he had a reputation as a former military hardman and he said he would be tough on terrorism. They have been disappointed, the senior cleric told us, as government inaction over the slaughter of Christians is difficult to explain apart from the fact that Buhari himself is Fulani.
I returned to the UK sickened once again by the Islamic and Islamist violence and inspired by many Christians’ grace under pressure and persecution.
Christmas came early this month for Dutch politician Geert Wilders, just ahead of the country’s general election in March.
During the autumn he has been dragged through the courts by Dutch authorities and a couple of weeks ago they successfully secured his conviction for ‘inciting discrimination’ and ‘insulting’ Moroccan immigrants.
Wilders is an anti-establishment, anti-Islam, anti-EU politician who, at huge personal cost to himself and his wife, is articulating popular discontent at the country’s entrenched elite and the growing Islamisation of the country.
The authorities’ inadvertent seasonal gift is the spike in popularity of Wilders’ PVV party (Party of Freedom) that resulted directly from the the court case. In the final opinion poll of 2016 PVV is ahead of prime minister Mark Rutte’s liberal party.
Wilders argued throughout that this was a political trial about free speech brought by the country’s politically-correct establishment who want to control and undermine what he says about Islam and immigration, and there is evidence he is right.
Although state prosecutors could have demanded a jail sentence for – as they claim – a serious hate crime against an immigrant community, in the event they balked and requested only a symbolic 5,000 euro fine.
The judge, Hendrik Steenhuis, went further and refused to impose any sentence at all in the belief that conviction alone will sufficiently blacken Wilders’ name. It’s clear too that Steenhuis wanted to avoid creating a pre-election martyr.
So it seems the Dutch legal establishment prefers playing to the gallery and massaging public opinion rather than imposing proper punishment. Although they’re not competent in implementation, their strategy might have come straight from a Blair/Campbell/Mandelson New Labour handbook on the dark arts of spin.
And the Dutch judiciary has form on this. Wilders was subject to even more blatant official skulduggery in his previous 2010 trial.
He stood accused then of inciting racial hatred against Muslims. Backed by what the media cited as ‘soaring’ popular support, he argued that his hostility is against Islam not Muslims, and certainly the case against him was so weak that the Dutch public prosecutor did not want to pursue it.
However a Dutch court of appeal led by Judge Tom Schalken insisted, and in January 2010 the trial started.
Early on in the trial Wilder’s lawyers attempted to remove a judge for bias when the court president Jan Moors, faced with Wilders’ assertion of his right to remain silent, had commented idiotically that the politician was known for making bold statements but avoiding discussion, and that “it appears you are doing so again.” It was unjudicial sniggering knockabout, but the judiciary closed ranks and refused to replace Moors.
Then, on 6th May, Wilders’ lawyers were due to call their expert witness on Islam, retired Arabist professor Hans Jensen, in order for him to verify the injunctions to violence written into in the Quran.
But three days earlier on 3rd May, Jensen had been invited to an informal ‘dinner of friends’ by the organiser of a pro-Palestine committee of academics and professionals. By design but unknown to Jensen, Judge Schalken was invited too. At the dinner, according to Jensen, the judge repeatedly engaged with him about Wilders, Islam and the trial in order to persuade him that the legal proceedings were justified.
Nobbling a witness is a serious crime of which the mafia are acknowledged experts. It is not however expected of a senior judge.
This time the mud hit the fan. Following disclosure of Schalken’s dinner party intervention, a legal review panel was convened and the case was dramatically terminated due to this “degree of (judicial) bias”. However although judges had been guilty of prejudice and the public prosecutor remained firmly against pursuing the case, the panel farcically ordered a retrial.
This took place the following year and, as widely anticipated outside court, Wilders was acquitted of all charges. The fiasco irreparably damaged Dutch judiciary’s reputation for competence and neutrality.
As highlighted in my previous post, the political tide has turned across the western world. While in the past Dutch authorities could use anti-discrimination and hate-speech legislation to close down debate and silence opposition, they’ve been exposed as fraudulent and now find themselves preaching their message to a shrinking choir. People outside their circles are no longer listening.
Wilders’ court appearances have boomeranged back on the authorities and become a potent badge of honour for the politician. He will of course appeal the conviction in order to milk it for all it’s worth, so the case may run and run.
It’s a welcome Christmas present and boost to his chances of becoming prime minister following the elections in March.
It was an off-the-Richter-scale earthquake, followed by an even bigger – because American – aftershock. Brexit, followed by Brexit plus plus plus. History before our eyes.
When it comes to forcing new realities upon disconnected political elites, Donald Trump’s election victory in the US is the biggest thing since 9/11 and Nigel Farage’s Brexit victory in the UK is bigger even than the 1956 Suez debacle.
For decades politically-correct liberals – of all parties – have succeeded in every skirmish and won every battle in the culture wars. They’ve established their hegemony and new morality right across the institutions.
They’ve done this so effectively that, when it came to the highpoint of trendy right-on progressive gestures, gay marriage, they were able to impose it on society without electoral mandate, popular support or, in the UK, statutory consultation or proper debate.
But almost single-handed, the two unashamed unapologetic older straight white males have taken on the political establishments, said the unsayable, spoken for the sidelined masses, and won.
The shock-waves will reverberate for years. The elite will fight back of course and no doubt win some battles. But the lights have come on, the tide has turned and the hypocrisy, shallowness and manipulation of the politically-correct has been exposed for what it is.
One benefit is that freedom of speech is being restored. The abusive language through which the liberal elite controlled discourse and confined debate, has been shown, in the event, to be so overused and misapplied as to be rendered powerless. ‘Racist’, ‘fascist’, ‘misogynist’, ‘homophobe’, ‘Islamophobe’, ‘hate-fuelled’, ‘bigot’, ‘prejudiced’, ‘uneducated’, ‘narrow-minded’ – the list of insults intended to shut down discussion and cast outsiders back into outer darkness is endless.
But now thanks to Farage and Trump these epithets are bouncing off like Teflon and have little effect, at least amongst the electorate. Indeed they are becoming a badge of honour and success.
“UKIP are closet racists,” railed David Cameron. He’s gone, thanks to Farage.
“Love Trumps hate,” campaigned Hillary Clinton. She’s gone too, thanks to Trump.
Not just powerless and a badge of honour, but hypocritical as well. The poisonous post-referendum torrent of social media bile towards Brexit voters was a vivid illustration of metropolitan Europhiles’ authoritarian intolerance and rejection of ordinary patriotic Brits’ majority decision. Liberal, open-minded and charitable they are not.
Luvvy Bob Geldof is a well-heeled millionaire from southern Ireland. His invective and visible loathing for out-of-work fishermen from English east coast ports whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the EU, rivalled Labour MP Emily Thornberry’s famous tweet for contempt and condescension.
And furious feminist Grace Dent’s anti-Trump anti-men tirade – published centre-page in a self-described ‘concise quality newspaper’ and complete with expletives – is a public window on her partisan soul.
So the liberal elites’ emperor is wearing no benevolent tolerant clothes after all, and their fangs have now been pulled by Farage and Trump. While they rant and rave in protest, a new day of freedom to discuss real issues has dawned for the rest of us.
During the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013, doubters were intimidated into silence by Peter Tatchell of OutRage! who claimed across the media that anyone who opposed gay marriage (which then included Nigel Farage and UKIP of course) was “homophobic”. Ben Summerskill, then CEO of Stonewall, merely damned us as “bigots”.
However, following Brexit and Brexit plus plus plus, and embracing this new freedom of speech, I’d like to see the gay marriage debate reopened:
There is now credible peer-reviewed evidence that same-sex parenting is damaging to children compared with that of still-married heterosexual biological parents.
There is credible evidence too that sexuality is fluid, orientation is not fixed from birth and therefore people are not necessarily ‘born gay’ – the claim that was the central plank of gay marriage campaigners’ platform.
Also, since the legislation was passed in 2013, the prestigious but liberal Royal College of Psychiatry has been forced by the facts to concede that “post-natal environmental factors” at least partly determine sexual orientation.
In the light of this and for the sake of our children, I personally reckon we should resurrect the gay marriage debate and consider repealing the same sex marriage Act.
And if this means that the gay Tory LBC Radio presenter Iain Dale yet again abuses his position and calls me a homophobic bigot on air, it doesn’t matter. He is yesterday and on the wrong side of history.
I 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.
So 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. Colley 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.
Colley’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.
“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.
It 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.
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.
We’ve been here before of course. The UK is facing an existential threat from a corrupt unelected assertive Imperium from across the Channel and 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: 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? Is 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. Cameron 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.
With 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, 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.
I’ve just returned from another visit to Jos at the north end of Plateau State in middle-belt Nigeria. Here, 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.
In 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.
“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.
On 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.
I 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.
Many 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.