The New Prime Minister makes it very clear that she is efficient- she had appointed the key members of her cabinet within an hour of kissing hands in Buckingham palace. One of those appointments, Boris Johnson, has sent shockwaves around the world but I think I have already explained for a Turkish outlet precisely why Boris over-egged the “Leave” omelette and why that was such an important thing to do if he was to deny Farage his place at a future Cabinet table- to me, Boris will always be the man who took one for the team, and he did it with a panache no one could ever rival.
Boris is not just the thinking-man’s Farage, he is quite simply, “thinking man”. Farage, once thought necessary to anyone’s plan for Brexit, like any unwanted ingredient, like rancid butter, has been consigned to the bin of history.
Mrs May also makes a stab at a smile, but it all looks a bit forced. For that reason, I hope she will find room for Andrea Leadsom on her team. Andrea demonstrated last weekend that she is deeply human and the mistake she may or may not have made in no way disqualifies her for high office. I think she could show the humanity of the Cabinet. We need a few tears and we need someone to gleefully explain how to vote twice, or, indeed, to observe that getting a room to meet a Telegraph interviewer at the local hotel might perhaps be misinterpreted. I do not share many of Mrs Leadsom’s views but I have grown to like what she stands for more and more over the last week.
Now the Conservative Leadership campaign is to be fought between two women, there seems to be competition to look as much like Mrs Thatcher as possible. Last night, Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom both gave interviews and I did a quick drawing of each. This is the result, but look how much they resemble the Lady herself! I think Mrs May has the edge.
Here is a scene from my film, “How to be Boss” where I am quoting Mrs T’s famous dictum made to Women’s Own in 1988: “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.”
Here are the individual pictures-
I have drawn Theresa May before here-
and Andrea Leadsom here
I scribbled this for a Turkish paper:
Just a note about Boris:
Johnson, the charismatic former mayor of London, dropped out of the Conservative leadership election after his fellow “Leave” campaigner, Michael Gove, said he was not fit for office. In fact, I understand that Boris was stabbed in the back by his own manager, the MP for Stamford, Nick Boles, another Oxford man. I had been in touch with Nick Boles, indeed, a few weeks ago about an educational project, and I got the impression then that he had not been actively involved in the Referendum campaign. I was right. He was probably busy plotting political assassination. The day before he resigned, Boris had been besieged by telephone calls and texts and Nick apparently suggested he took away the mobile phone which Boris, trusting animal as he is, gave to him. In his possession, Boles had the power to send a number of deeply foolish messages in Boris’s name, one indeed to Angela Leadsom which Boris knew nothing about. This is what led to his decision to withdraw. The lesson is very simple: never lend anyone your mobile phone!
For weeks, Gove and Johnson looked like great friends, but it is now clear that although Michael Gove was underhand, is openly disliked and arguably dishonest, in fact, the groundwork for Gove’s brutality was actually laid by Boles who was a much closer friend. It is still not clear whether Boles’ telephone antics were stupidity or malice but they provided enough ammunition for Gove. The chaotic mess that surrounds Boris’s departure, however, does not lessen his achievement which has been spectacular. So, on Friday night, Boris made his own oblique reference to the Boles/Gove assassination when he spoke with some detachment about his success as Mayor in London bringing down crime levels- though he added, he had not quite dealt with “knife crime” in Westminster. Only a man as schooled as Boris in classical allusions could have got away with such a reference. Not only was Boris stabbed in the back, but it was done by one of his closest university friends.
in contrast to Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli’s twitter comments that Brexit would fragment the EU and that “Britain was the first to abandon ship,” Brexit may well heal Europe and at the same time, help Turkey’s EU bid. After dragging its feet for months, I expect the EU to finally pay up the cash promised on 18th March and also grant the visa-free access promised in return for discouraging irregular migration across the Aegean sea. Already, a week after BREXIT, the EU has opened a new chapter in Turkey’s accession talks, entitled “financial and Budgetary provisions”. The EU will be looking to replace Britain with another weighty nation and Turkey is a prime candidate. The “Christianity” claim is rubbished by the accession of Bosnia and the planned accession of Albania so the key objections to Turkish accession are fading.
We now face an exciting time as two women contend for the Premiership, and I hope as Andrea Leadsom adjusts to being in the media spotlight, there will be a real discussion about the way forward. I am personally very proud that we, as a Nation have put forward two women, without any attempt at an “all woman shortlist” or positive discrimination. Andrea and Theresa are there on merit.
In the meantime, as Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci has urged, we should be cementing our common interests as two countries on the edge of Europe and build up our mutual investments and trade.
It is certainly not the first time that Nigel Farage has over-egged his omelette, and certainly not the first time he has courted controversy with ill-judged mis-information. Indeed, had he been in a kitchen, he would have long-since eclipsed Gordon Ramsey who as far as I know was only foul-mouthed, never deceitful. As Mr Kipling might have said of the UKIP man, “he bakes exceedingly good cakes,” and what almighty whoppers they are.
Last year, Farage claimed that the NHS was overrun with migrant patients claiming treatment for HIV at a cost of £25,000 each. (he said that 60% of the 7000 HIV sufferers in the UK were not British:
You can come into Britain from anywhere in the world and get diagnosed with HIV and get the [anti-]retroviral drugs, that cost up to £25,000 a year per patient.
I know there are some horrible things happening in many parts of the world, but what we need to do is put the National Health Service there for British people and families who in many cases have paid into this system for decades.
Utter tosh of course- he was immediately branded “ill-informed and discriminatory” and migrant doctors and nurses do a great deal to help the NHS. More than that, at least 6o% of people newly-infected with HIV were born in the UK. It is incidentally, quite true that we had once held a payment scheme for non EU HIV patients but since 2012, Norman Fowler has ensured that HIV infection has been classed like any other infectious disease (meningitis, tuberculosis, cholera, food poisoning, and malaria). When the legislation was introduced to bring treatment in line with the treatment of other infectious diseases, this is what was said,
“This measure will protect the public and brings HIV treatment in to line with all other infectious diseases. Treating people with HIV means they are very unlikely to pass the infection on to others.” Treatment and early diagnosis helps us all:
“Effective treatment of HIV reduces its spread by up to 96 per cent. This change is in line with the UK Chief Medical Officers’ Expert Advisory Group’s advice, and offering NHS treatment will encourage testing, resulting in fewer undiagnosed HIV infections and therefore ensuring that there is less chance of passing on infection to the wider population.”
Farage was sent a letter by ACT UP, Leanne Wood, Nicola Sturgeon and Natilie Bennett, asking him to “to apologise for his factually inaccurate, and stigmatising, comments”. Farage tends not to answer such letters.
Farage tends to dismiss criticism as exaggeration or nonsense so he is not likely to be bothered now that fellow Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom questioned his claims- “obviously it is an outrageous thing to say”, she said.
What Farage threatens this time is further attacks in Britain like that of Cologne at New Year if we remain in the UK. Women will no longer be safe because British and migrants have “very big cultural” differences. That may be partially true but it is certainly not true that all migrants are abusers and potential rapists. That is absurd and racist.
The two claims, about HIV and the potential danger to women posed by migrants, however tell us something more about Farage the man. Not only is he prepared to peddle fear in horror-film format, but he is also clearly obsessed with sex. This, from someone who hopes to be Boris Johnson’s right hand man come a successful result at the referendum. This is what Farage said of Boris and how he envisaged his role as right hand man, on May 14th:
“I love Boris, respect him, admire him; I’m a Boris fan. Could I work for him? Yes. Could I see a scenario if he was PM and he asked me to do something? I wouldn’t rule it out.
Poor Boris! I shudder to think what weird favours Farage intends to provide, but as he says, “I wouldn’t rule it out”
Thank God for Chris Heaton Harris who leads the Leave campaign with the qualification that he will not discuss the immigration stuff nor score points off immigration. I wish others would wake up to the reality that immigration is a quite different question to whether we remain in or out of Europe, and the Turkey-basting is simply embarrassing.
However this story moves forward, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Heaton Harris, our two local MPs come out of it very well. There are some prices we cannot pay, and we can never condone the sort of racist demagogy championed by Farage. Surely after this election, he will retire for more than a few weeks… we live in hope.
Here are a few pictures to put all this into context.
The idea that there is a “correct” or an “incorrect” way for MPs to vote in parliament is fatuous. If the party they belong to cannot make a case on paper and in debate for a particular proposition, it makes no sense at all to use threats and rewards to cajole them into voting one way or another, particularly if they have given their word to their constituents to oppose or support a particular motion when it is presented. This is the dilemma faced by people like Andrea Leadsom who promised to oppose plans to build HS2 and then, faced with the lure of promotion to the Cabinet, fled to Brussels when it came to to crucial vote. She was not alone. Another 47 Conservatives, most of whom had vigorously opposed the bill, found themselves unavoidably detained on other business when it came to the vote. Lots of Liberals, too, including Mr Clegg, were detained elsewhere that day. There was little chance the bill would be defeated because it had backing from both the Government and the opposition, so it was simply a matter of the personal risk taken by individual MPs- were they willing to risk their careers simply in order to keep their word to their constituents?
In the end, it comes down to the power of the whip and the mystical appeal of high office.
Yesterday, there was the spectacle of two elderly Foreign Secretaries walking through the corridors of disgrace towards political exile because it looks like they wanted big business kickbacks. Looks can be deceiving, but today both of them have lost the party whip and look set to leave parliament. This is a shame. Again, it reflects badly on the way we do politics in this country that we have not provided proper assistance to two elderly and clearly infirm men.
In Shaw’s case, will this be the thing he is remembered for? Being tricked by the press into promising to table questions for a Hong Kong business that never even existed. Does he not have an assistant to research these things first? – is he so “down on his uppers”? This is a man who rachetted up the bureaucratic thumbscrews in the Foreign Office, more even than any Conservative had done to date. I think, the mix-up over the d’Hondt formula and his rulings on Double Jeopardy are probably just about excusable, but really – his judgement over at least one asylum seeker beggars belief in the face of the events that followed: Here is what Noam Chomsky said in the Irish Times:
“in 2000 there was a request from an Iraqi who had somehow escaped an Iraqi torture chamber and made it to England. He was applying for political asylum.
Straw turned him down with a letter saying “we have faith in the integrity of the Iraqi judicial process and that you should have no concerns if you haven’t done anything wrong “. In 2000!”
Within Months of becoming Foreign Secretary, the 9/11 attacks happened. Opposition from Craig Murray and Walter Wolfgang, I think was perfectly justified and time will tell whether they were right. Recently, the Jerusalem Post accused him of Anti-Semitism. Till now, however, he had come across as an honourable man who, in the heat of the moment, had made perhaps inappropriate decisions. And, to his credit, he was very helpful in the process of getting justice for Necati’s case in the European Court of Human Rights. But the Hong Kong trap suggests he was not quiet as honourable as we might have thought. I, for one, am going to go back and look more closely at the campaign of Craig Murray and see what we have to learn.
NB: 17th September 2015: with some relief today’s news states that the two politicians have been cleared of any wrongdoing by the parliamentary standards. This is a relief because whatever their political colour, these are two men who count as history-makers and it would be inappropriate for them to be remembered for something so wearisome. We need to work harder to ensure that this sort of tittle-tattle does not dominate the news in the future- actually it does not one any good. There are bigger things to look at!
developing a caricature of Andrea Leadsom, MP for South Northamptonshire and now a junior minister in the Treasury
I had drawn a picture of Andrea Leadsom along with others who opposed Gay Marriage and the new cross country high speed rail link, HS2. While I share a concern about both the time wasted on the gay marriage debate- which seemed to me to be simply about re-branding civil partnerships and an opportunity for some very nasty people to pontificate about bits of theology they did not understand at all or to vent homophobic prejudice (often thinly veiled behind claims that “some of my best friends”, but Putin tried that one too!), and while I share concerns about the HS2 cost and proposed route, I am astonished that for all the noise she made, particularly about the rail link, she ducked out of the crucial commons’ vote.
Anyway, Mrs Leadsom has been elevated to the treasury and in the process has had a political make-over- the hair is straighter, and more boring so the the nose seems more pronounced and sharper. I fear she is trying to ape Mrs Thatcher but she quite lacks both the Lady’s charisma and that astonishing beak of a nose. the problem is that it simply makes her look as if she has a permanent cold: she seems to be forever trying to suppress a sneeze, poor dear! Still, it is good to see her making a Go of it. Above is my completed image and here are some rough sketches of her:
A few years ago, I fell into the constituency of Andrea Leadsom and I went to see her about student visas. I was concerned and remain concerned that a student is sponsored by the institution that both teaches that student and monitors his or her attendance. In effect, the institution acts as judge, jury and executioner and it cannot be right! In most cases there is no problem, but some “colleges” and “schools” are shabby and the system, as it stands, holds the student hostage. If they are paying for an education that was arranged by an agent in a far-flung country, they can have no idea what they have let themselves into and the process of legally changing from one institution to another is fraught with difficulties and requires expect advice and management. I was equally concerned about the rash imposition of sanctions against Russian big-wigs. I taught a few of their children and these same children repeatedly told me they were worried that- as their parents were on the “list”, they, too, as family-members, ran the risk of being expelled from the UK during their GCSEs or A levels or half-way through their university career should the Government sanctions become more draconian. I wrote to my current MP who, to his credit, responded promptly (in start contrast to Leadsom’s approach) and passed me on to a Home office lackey who, after a couple of months, bragged that there were no problems and that we had a record number of foreign students anyway. This rather missed the point: because students are well-documented, they are easy prey to anyone who wants to count student numbers and put the squeeze on one of the few groups that can be used to demonstrate action against irregular immigration. Students, by the sheer weight of their doggedly-devised paperwork, can be monitored and controlled in a way in which illegal immigrants and EU migrant workers cannot. What these various officials fail to take into account and what I have emphasised again and again is that the students who we attack today- and particularly those who come from wealthy, influencial families, will be the leaders of business and politics tomorrow and we will have to do business with them in ten years’ time. If we continue to bully them in the way we are currently doing, I cannot imagine they will be singing the praises of the UK or indeed want to deal with us when it comes to trade or issues of national security. We are squandering such a good opportunity! In the past, the students who passed through our educational system could be relied upon to think well of us and share our values. Today we are more likely to be breeding resentment.
Anyway, Leadsom used to lead the “Fresh Start” programme. This was a moderate Tory initiative to re-negotiate the EU commitments we signed up for in the early 70s under Heath. What is often neglected is that we only had a referendum about the membership of the Common Market which few parties want to quit. What we never had an option over were the hidden treaties binding us to greater political and financial interdependence and these are the bits of the EU that seem to have got out of control.
The Fresh start programme advocates a series of measures- to take back control of our finances, social and employment laws, to further opt out of those policing and criminal justice agreements not yet covered by the independence clause in the Lisbon treaty, to allow us to freely trade beyond the EU without discrimination, and to abolish the Strasbourg part of the EU parliamentary calendar.
This seems to be fiddling with the curtains while the Dining room burns. It seems, like the obsession with the Australian points’ system to be approaching the EU crisis in terms of bean-counting and penny-pinching, rather than to recognise that some of the treaties we have signed up for are simply out of date and dangerous. Whatever reservations one might have about the lady and her solutions, however, we cannot fault her blunt description of the problem in the forward to the Green paper, “Options for Change”.
Here it is:
Here is my earlier cartoon of Andrea Leadsom, the Archbishop of Canterbury and others!
Not at all clear in Islam or in Christianity
A few weeks ago, I posted a lengthy piece about the Biblical texts that appear to condemn homosexuality in the bible, about the way they are sometimes interpreted and about a general progress that has seen a more charitable and positive attitude emerging both in Judaism and Christianity in practice. My article focused on the work of Photios of Constantinople and the distinction that he observed in Paul’s analysis of the Jewish law. On the basis of this, it is possible to see Paul’s statements that appear to be so negative in a much more positive light. Of course, this cannot be the last word and will almost certainly not “do” for the strict evangelical fundamentalists who bombard the internet with such hate and bigotry. Equally, people like the politician, Andrea Leadsom, will undoubtedly continue to pontificate about these 6 scriptural texts as if they really knew what they were talking about. There will always be a sentence here and there that can be plucked from a religious text to defend bigotry and prejudice.
A while back, I was intrigued to find a story about “the Unity” mosque, a relatively secret gay mosque in Paris located in a Buddhist Temple headed by Ludovic Mohammed Zahed. There is a lengthy talk here, though in French. While many imams condemns homosexuality as a perverse “choice”, Zahed said, “Homosexuality is not a choice, and it would be crazy to choose to be gay in the socio-cultural environment I grew up in.”
“Current Islamic ethics condemns this sexual orientation, but in fact nothing in Islam or the Quran forbids homosexuality,” Zahed argues. “Indeed, for centuries, Muslims did not consider homosexuality to be the supreme abomination that they do today.” In his book “The Koran and the Flesh”, he says, “There is nothing about homosexuality that ‘goes against nature’ according to one interpretation of Islam. Quite the opposite…I am sure that if the Prophet Mohamad was still alive, he would marry gay couples.”
Zahed is openly gay and married his partner, Jantjies-Zahed in a version of Nikah (the muslim marriage contract, without which any form of sexual contact is regarded as “haram”). “Common prayer practiced in an egalitarian setting and without any form of gender-based discrimination, is one of the pillars supporting the proposed reforms of our progressive representation of Islam,” he says.
Today, there are reports of a Gay Mosque in Cape Town, so the idea is clearly spreading.
Now to the theory: There are 5 major verses in the Qu’ran that are generally assumed to condemn gay behaviour unequivocally, but like the 6 texts in the Bible, they are not at all as clear as they first appear. The two main verses are:
1) Surah 7:80-81 refers to Lut, لوط, the Muslim equivalent to the Bible’s Lot. “We also sent Lut : He said to his people : “Do you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds? Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people.”
2) Surah 26:165: “Do you approach males among the worlds. And leave what your Lord has created for you as mates? But you are a people transgressing..”
(there are often further verses cited about the condemnation of the people of Lut: 11:77–83, 21:74, 22:43, 26:165–175, 27:56–59, and 29:27–33)
3) Surah 27: 55: Do you indeed approach men with desire instead of women? Rather, you are a people behaving ignorantly.” It seems to me that a statement of stupidity, however firmly made, is not quite the same as condemnation.
4) Surah 4: 15: And the two who commit it among you, dishonor them both. But if they repent and correct themselves, leave them alone. Indeed, Allah is ever Accepting of repentance and Merciful. (this is actually about adultery in general)
5) Surah 4:16: The heavens, the Earth and the mountains tremble from the impact of this sin. The angels shudder as they anticipate the punishment of Allah to descend upon the people who commit this indescribable sin.
The last two verses are a bit vague about the reasons for God’s condemnation but the first of these two verses emphasises God’s forgiveness and the context is adultery. This is part of the problem in Islam, that there is a tendency to avoid the use of terms like “liwat” and opt instead for “Al-Fahshah” (Shameful activity) that may or may not denote homosexual sex.
There are also some hadiths: “When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes.”
“Whomever you find doing the actions of the people of Lut then kill the one doing it, and the one it is done to” (Al-Hudud) The book on Legal Punishments كتاب الحدود عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم
مَنْ وَجَدْتُمُوهُ يَعْمَلُ عَمَلَ قَوْمِ لُوطٍ فَاقْتُلُوا الْفَاعِلَ وَالْمَفْعُولَ بِهِ
But despite this, there remains devision among the three major legal schools of thought. The Hanafite (in South and East Asia) generally believes no punishment is necessary, the Hanabalites (the Arab world) believe in severe punishment following the example of Abu Bakr who had a gay man burnt at the stake and the Sha’fis (also mostly in the Arab world) require extra witnesses to the homosexual act before punishment is carried out. About 4,000 gay people have been executed in Iran since the revolution in 1979.
Variety of interpretations
Because Islam is a Religion of the Book, it would seem reasonable to suppose that everything should be clear, but in this case, everything is not clear and there is a range of response to homosexuality that extends from execution to toleration and now a range of acceptance.
Some scholars today claim that there are no explicit condemnations of homosexual activity in the Qu’ran and some people stress that what the people of Lut do wrong is to reject his prophethood. They are condemned for their lack of faith, not their sexual behaviour. (Scott Kugle Homosexuality in Islam. Oxford, England: Oneworld Publications. pp. 42–49). The Hadiths, in contrast, can be very severe. that severity alone means that they can only be relevant in the most extreme societies. In other words, the extremity alone means they are already questioned.
The modern position seems to be that Islam condemns adultery and thus homosexual sex outside a committed relationship. Therefore, within the context of commitment, it cannot be considered wrong.
I will try to deal with some of this again at a later date. Let’s go back to the news report today. Dr Taj Hargey is an Oxford professor at the Muslim Educational centre and seems to be behind the “Open Mosque” in South Africa. There is some precedent here because of the activity of Imam Muhsin Hendricks- a few years ago he said of a Gay Mosque,
“In the last five years, there have been more discussions and debates than ever before. Just the mere fact that there has been no strong opposition is an indication for me of some sort of acceptance. It just can’t happen publicly now. People understand that if they oppose homosexuality publicly, they could get into trouble. I guess we are kind of blessed in South Africa … I don’t think it would be possible in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.” There was also the Indian Parvez Sharma, and the idea of gay Islam was explored in a Channel 4 film, “A Jihad For Love”.
The debate is certainly developing and in some predominately Islamic countries (like Albania. Lebanon and Turkey) there has even been discussion about legalising same-sex marriage. Homosexuality was decriminalised in Turkey in 1858, long before the Oscar Wilde trial in the UK! Lesbianism is legal in Kuwait. That said, one must be careful because countries which profess tolerance are also inclined to impose strict penalties when they are forced into making legal or police statements or challenges. I recall a particular incident in Egypt, a country which has no laws against homosexuality, but where such activity would be seriously ill-considered, about which we will undoubtedly hear more. What is done in private, one might suppose, should remain private. And a last word to the current developments:
Dr Hargey also encourages women to lead prayers. Of course one of Mohammed’s wives, Khadijah, famously led prayers though arguably under special circumstances.
Here is a link to the Christian views analysed