Dr Sarah

sarah wollaston

 

Yesterday, Dr Wollaston changed sides. I quite admire people who change their opinions especially in the middle of a race. It is rather noble, I think, to defy the school 400m, turn tail and run backwards to the starting point. It requires guts and self-judgement as well as a fair degree of élan to pull off this sort of manoeuvre successfully.

It is also something that, quite frankly, you can only do once. (I did it so that is the end of that)

In this case, I think Dr Wollaston has actually drawn attention to a disturbing trend in the Referendum campaign. She said that she was not comfortable with the claims being made about the potential money, potentially £350 million a week, available to spend on the NHS (and the simple fact is that she is right). This is what she has said,

“For someone like me who has long campaigned for open and honest data in public life I could not have set foot on a battle bus that has at the heart of its campaign a figure that I know to be untrue.

“If you’re in a position where you can’t hand out a Vote Leave leaflet, you can’t be campaigning for that organisation.”

This is all well and true, however, and I have been saying this for a while, but the problem here is that the claims made about the £350 million were being made quite a few weeks’ ago, so her sudden defection seems a bit tardy. Was it that she did not think the claim mattered as long as it was not plastered over her own bus? The timing of her move is just not quite right.

Dr Wollaston is quite good with warnings – she warned us before the General election about the need for a £15 billion spend on the NHS to avoid the whole system imploding during the present parliament. So prophetic and right again, but late, and she is doing the same here.

We also heard about fraud (£670 million lost last year with 9000,000 Euros lost to dishonest EU staff!) but the figures were drawn from Olaf, the EU fraud office, which presumably is in the process of catching the fraudsters and putting the money back where it belongs.

boris

Boris has made the £350 million claim fairly often-“We send the EU £350 million a week – let’s fund our NHS instead.” -that is 350 million a week going to Brussels (17.8 billion a year), but with the rebate (1984) the actual figure is closer to £240 million and the rebate takes place before any money is sent to the EU so the claims made about Britain sending £350 million a week to Europe are blatantly false.

More than that, the £240 million odd that is sent to Brussels does not include the money spent by the EU on UK projects. Scientific research (in 2013 was £1,4 billion a year), education and the arts all benefit from EU investment and bring the overall net fee to around £130 million a week- still arguably alot of money, but significantly less than the claims made by Boris.

The letter

The UK Statistics Authority wrote rather apologetically to explain to the leave campaign that their figure was wrong, but still the sum is peddled out…

But there are other more serious errors. The first is the simple fact that even if we save £350 million every week, there is no guarantee it will be used in the NHS or can be ring-fenced at all. If a “Leave” result causes the economy to tumble as some predict it will, then much of that savings will be lost anyway and the reality of the post-Brexit negotiations certainly does not guarantee any substantial savings if we follow Norway . So the simple fact remains- if I do not spend money as it is currently spent, that does not automatically mean I have saved it- It may mean I no longer have the money to spend at all.

The Philosophical problem

There are good reasons for voting “Leave”- supporting our declining fishing industry is one of them, and I contributed advertising to that end.

I still think this is an important cause, but on reflection, I am not sure it is enough to see us quit the EU. That alone is not enough- a big negative gesture will not bring about anything positive. Again, back to the Wollaston issue- saving £350 million does not mean we can or would automatically use that money on the NHS.

Here is the mistake of the BREXIT campaign in this instance and it is a serious one: not doing something bad does not mean we are automatically committed to doing something good.

And back to Statistics

But the Remain side has been equally plagued by dodgy statistics, so once again Dr Wollaston’s desire for honesty is compromised. The Osborne claim that families would be £4300 worse off after Leave is again fairly spurious and based on a misreading of Treasury data. Jacob Rees Mogg is someone I respect a great deal and this is his conclusion-

“I care nothing about the bus. I am not concerned about charabancs. That is not at the heart of the debate.

“I have always used the net figure. What is far more shocking is that the Chancellor has been using a figure he knew would be misleading.” Mr Rees-Mogg is in the Brexit camp.

Farage the right hand man

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.

Her majesty’s leak

Every other day there seems to be a story emerging from the Palace – private views on Europe, on China and now on Nigeria. Surely there should be a review of the Palace plumbing because this is becoming absurd. It is almost as if there is a secret organisation determined to undermine the dignity of our monarch!

buhari.jpgStill, what Cameron said seems fairly legitimate: Nigeria is demonstrably corrupt. However, what has happened is a home goal because President Buhari’s brilliant, evasive and commendably concise response has had the effect of turning attention from his country’s dodgy dealings to questions about the lingering impact of Empire and the slow progress of restoring money after it is confiscated by the British legal system. More than that, Buhari readily admits his country is certainly corrupt- or rather, as a representative of the new Nigerian Administration, he says this is something he has discovered himself. “He was telling the truth. He was talking about what he knew.” The previous government had stolen an estimated £10 billion through arms trafficking. Buhari is determined to tackle corruption which he calls a “hydra-headed monster”.

I think this requires some comment:

The most obvious assets still held in the UK belonged to Diepreye Alamieyeseifha, who, rather like a recent ISIS fighter, fled in a yashmack, to avoid trial, though his accounts were frozen and assets held. The ISIS man was captured near Cairo, looking rather silly in a skirt. There was also Abdul Aziz Ghazi who rather hypocritically ordered his followers to fight to the death and then crept out of Masjid en travesti. Of course, the desire to cross-dress as part of the escape plan, while it seems to belong to “Carry on” films, “Dad’s army” and “Allo Allo” or, more seriously in films like “Triple Echo”, actually has a very long pedigree. I gather that Ehud Barak dressed up as a woman in a covert operation against the PLO in 1973- that must have been a sight to see, but Amin el-Husseini escaped the British in Palestine in 1937, sliding down a rope from temple mount, and romping off to Lebanon where he started a pro-Nazi cell. Neuri al Said tried the same thing in Iraq in 1958 but was given away by his shoes, and shot. Ignominious end. There was also Mullah Mahmood in Afghanistan and Yassin Omar from the UK, the latter also carrying a brown handbag, so going for accessories as well. Bonnie Prince Charlie did it after the battle of Culloden and of course Achilles did it to prevent his being conscripted into the Trojan war.

Oddly, while alot of attention has been given to France’s decision to ban the veil in public, the Ottomans dealt with this issue in the late 19th century, banning the Burqa (the extreme form of veiling) after a man disguised in a burqa attempted a robbery in 1892.

War-time cross-dressing is better served by women dressing as men, of course, and “the trouser-part”or breeches role, like Cherubino, seems altogether more gallant. From Epipole, to Joan of Arc, Phoebe Hassel and Zoya Smirnow. Though probably the best example today would be Eowyn the white lady of Rohan.

As for literature and theatre- the place is littered with cross-dressers. Indeed, until Rudolph Nureyev butched up male dance in the early 1960’s, ballet had a reputation for fey men- and with good reason – the male role in Coppelia, for example, was actually created by a woman, Eugenie Fiocre, and of course it was only recently that Peter Pan (my own production in Oxford was among the first examples, incidentally) was played by a man. Pantomime continues the music halls’ obsession with cross dressing.

But back to Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseifha who was the governor of the oil-rich Bayelsa State, and who was accused in London of money laundering in 2005. He was found with nearly £2.5 million and property in excess of £10 million. He jumped bail disguised as a woman and was then sentenced in Nigeria to be later pardoned by Goodluck Jonathan. He died in 2015.

He had to dress like a woman

All these men in frocks! It was Nietzsche who popularised “the Bacchae” and what a play that is! The main character even does a Pantomime turn on stage as he is persuaded by the (disguised) god to try on women’s clothing – “Go on, it suits you. Sir!” and then his head is ripped off by his crazy mother, Queen Argave. the reason for all this? Dionysos demands respect: “Can you, a mortal human, dare to fight a god?” (πρὸς θεὸν γὰρ ὢν ἀνὴρ ἐς μάχην ἐλθεῖν ἐτόλμησε.) This is one side of the equation and the other is the fight many LGBT campaigners have waged so that they can be taken seriously. This is to say nothing about the prohibition in Islam, but then, as we know, terrorists read the sacred texts very selectively when they want to:

عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال: لعن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم المتشبهين من الرجال بالنساء، والمتشبهات من النساء بالرجال. صحيح البخاري.

This is what President Buhari said, “He (Alamieyeseigha) had to dress like a woman to leave Britain and leave behind his bank account and fixed assets which Britain was prepared to hand over to us. This is what we are asking for. What would I do with an apology? I need something tangible…Our experience has been that repatriation of corrupt proceeds is very tedious, time consuming, costly.” He also thanked Britain for helping in the impeachment process of Alamieyeseifha. But Alamieyeseifha was really just the tip of the iceberg, with Sani Abacha apparently looting more than $5 billion while in power, and huge amounts of oil stolen more recently according to a 2013 report.

The foreign secretary has added,

“The Prime Minister was merely stating a fact. These are both countries (Afghanistan and Nigeria) with serious corruption problems and the leaders of both those countries know they have those problems and are determined to deal with them.”

 

 

Andrew Marr

AndrewMarr.jpg

 

I was horrified by the story that Andrew Marr had been abused in the Daily Mail. Quentin Letts should have known better and it should not have been down to Roy Greenslade to get him to apologise, but that is the world we are living in. We are back to the same discussion we have had before (Jonathan Ross, for instance)- when is a joke no longer funny?

There have been many times when I have drawn something I later decided was too direct or simply did not work. Trying to be topical and humorous can often get us all into trouble, but there are some lines we should never cross. Racism is of course an absolute, but I think also we have to salute those people who are brave enough to stand up in public – Marr is particularly brave, to come back to prime time TV after suffering a stroke. He shows that this is possible. But that wider thought about public life is what makes me pause to admire even those public figures with whom I disagree- I am delighted Sadiq Khan, for example is now the first Muslim Mayor of London: it sends out a tremendous message, though I disapprove of many things Khan and his supporters have said and done (as I hope is clear from previous blogs). Nigel Farage might espouse views I dislike and behave in an appalling way (he still owes me a letter incidentally) but he must be saluted as one of the three great orators in the UK today (the other two are Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson).

Here is the best Farage speech: brilliant, cruel, and probably not something I would say (I balk at the reference to Belgium, for instance) but certainly not poking fun at someone with a disability:

Jeremy Corbyn may not be a man who leads from the front, but I recall on the Andrew Marr show, what a convincing and positive performance he gave. I salute that too, while at the same time bemoaning his inability to control his own cabinet and form a decisive and genuinely loyal opposition. In the absence of real political leadership, we in the conservative party have begun to form our own loyal opposition on our own backbenches! Not good for the Conservatives, not good for Labour and certainly not good for our wider parliamentary democracy.

But praise where praise is due, and frankly, I cannot find a word to say against Andrew Marr. It is fairly shameful that the Daily Mail peddles this sort of filth.

Lord Dubs

dubs1Last week, I wrote to Lord Dubs to express my concerns that his amendment had been defeated to take into Britain 3000 Syrian children who have already made it to mainland Europe. The Government is prepared to take children directly from Syrian refugee camps by 2020, but I think this rather misses the moral issue and the urgency involved. This is not really a numbers’ game. We cannot- or should not- pick and choose how we do our charity and how we respond to those in need. When someone turns up on the doorstep asking for help, I think this is a God-sent opportunity, and it is also of course a political hot-potato. We can take it or leave it- that is about us, and that aspect of charity has always seemed a bit self-centred. Instead, we should ask- how about the Refugee child? How many parents can really imagine what it would be like to know their own children are stumbling across a foreign continent without much hope? I think, very few. We cannot expect others to suffer what we would not.

The 3000 Syrian children are our moral responsibility whether we help them now or not- indeed, more so now Labour is increasingly emerging as a party riddled with anti-semitism. We have to take a stand for what is right. We have to learn from the mistakes of the past.

I also wrote last week to Humza Yousaf. If Westminster will not take the lead on this issue, maybe Scotland will! Lord Dubs was instrumental in Necati’s fight for justice 15 years’ ago and his kind words and support are something I will not forget. While other MPs and Lords wrote to us, Lord Dubs picked up the telephone and called us.

Dubs was also a kindertransport child. When twits in the BBC and senior positions in our society like Livingston, are prepared to misrepresent the details of the rise of Nazi Germany, it is all the more vital that we learn the harsh lessons that history should be teaching us, and we should always listen to a man who has personal experience of that time. Bottom line- we did something but we could have done much more to help Jews in Germany. We cannot change the past but we can certainly do something about the future and our current mealy-mouthed numbers’ game is beneath contempt.

And a small point about self-preservation: if we really want to breed further resentment across the muslim world, then rejecting these children can only help to make things worse and here, instead, is an opportunity to send a message of goodwill. We should be building bridges, not erecting barriers.

 

 

26th April 2016

Dear Lord Dubs,

I am writing to express my deep regret that the support for refugee children failed in the Commons last night. I am writing as a current Tory candidate in local elections in Daventry, but also as the partner of Necati Zontul, a man who you kindly helped when our back was against the wall in Greece in 2003. Your amendment yesterday went beyond party politics and was a call to moral responsibility that has been misread by the Home Office and ignored by too many people in my own party. I am afraid History will judge this decision very harshly. If there is anything I can do in the meantime to support the wider campaign to give aid to refugees in need, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Tim Wilson

Dear Humza,

I am afraid some time has passed, and I am also standing in local elections next week: the outcome is not a certainty and the former incumbent is a labour councillor I much admire: she has set a standard for local politics that would be very hard to follow.

However, I have been following the amendment of Lord Dubs in the Westminster Parliament, and I have just written to him to express my great regret that this failed last night. You may not be aware of the story of my partner Necati Zontul, who was a torture victim in Greece in 2001. We owe a great debt of gratitude to many MPs and members of the Lords who wrote letters of support at the time. Lord Dubs very much led the way.

I know that you are very supportive of the refugee cause and I wonder if there is any progress that can be made on this issue after the election through the Scottish parliament?

Mr Livingstone I presume!

red kenI am astonished that the BBC report on the Livingstone affair today lets him get away with the perverted chronology that he presents as “fact” on BBC Radio London. Either he is wrong and the BBC have avoided making that clear or he is right. No subsequent BBC report makes it clear that his so-called “facts” are wrong.

The impression, instead, given in reports is that his error lies in his attempts to smudge over Naz Shah’s supposed anti-semitism. In fact, Livingstone is just wrong.

And let’s get something else clear from the beginning- it is quite possible to be critical of current Israeli policy (It may even be not only “possible” but “necessary”) without being anti-semitic. Not all Jews support the State of Israel, and even among those who do, there are many who openly reject the current treatment of Palestinians.

This is what Livingstone said,

“It’s completely over the top. It’s not anti-semitic. Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting zionism before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews…” He went on to add  that Hitler was “a monster from start to finish” but he claimed to have been quoting “historical facts”.

His history is wrong. And it is wrong of the BBC to let him get away with this.

The facts are very simple, when Hitler came to power in 1932(sic), a wave of international horror at the treatment of Jews in Germany, known now as the “anti-Nazi boycott”started in New York two months after he became chancellor and continued in various forms until the outbreak of the war. There was already a good deal of anti-semitism, and indeed the Catholic Bishop of Linz thought anti-semitism was “a moral duty”, something he announced in January 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor. But the full force of hatred was fired by outrageous lines like this in Mein Kampf: “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: ‘by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” and elsewhere he argues that it was the “deceit of Jews” that led to Germany’s defeat in the First world war- “the sacrifice of millions at the front” would have been prevented “if twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas.” Strong words from the man who cannot dodge responsibility for the Holocaust. They were echoed in the Nazi party newspaper, Der Sturmer which had the motto “the Jews are our misfortune”. In 1941, one day after declaring war on the US, he brought up this same argument in Berlin to justify the annihilation of Jews. Hans Frank, who attended this briefing, went on to brief his own officials in Krakow saying, “in Berlin,” he had been told “to liquidate the Jews….As an old National Socialist, I must state that if the Jewish clan were to survive the war in Europe, while we sacrificed our best blood in the defence of Europe, then this war would only represent a partial success.

“With respect to the Jews, therefore, I will only operate on the assumption that they will disappear… We must exterminate the Jews wherever we find them.(Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‘Final Solution’, BBC Books, 2005, p.112)

Goebbels proposed a number of “countermeasures”, really an excuse to boycott and close Jewish businesses in Germany with Goebbels on record saying “the boycott will be resumed until German Jewry has been annihilated”. Placards outside Jewish shops told people not to use them- Kauf nicht bei Juden! and Die Juden sind unser Unglück! Within one week, beginning on April 1st 1933, a one-day boycott of Jewish shops escalated into the wholesale banning of Jewish workers from Government jobs and from practicing law. Only the Lutheran church opposed the sanctions while Catholic bishops had what was described as “cordial” chats with the Führer. By the end of April, Jewish children were being turned away from schools under the “Overcrowding in German Schools and Schools of Higher Education Act”.

The Haavara agreement was a further response by Hitler’s Germany to the Anti-Nazi Boycott, brokered partly by the Va’ad Leumi organisation. This was signed on 25th August 1933, but although it facilitated the emigration of 60,000 people to what was then called Palestine, it also involved confiscating their property in Germany. A complex and half-hearted refunding process had already been in place through Hanotea for shipping goods from Germany to Israel.

Hitler was certainly not a supporter of the agreement and the impression given is that he was dragged into it because he feared the Anti-Nazi boycott was destroying the fragile efforts made to sort out the German economy. Johann von Leers and Achim Gercke also did not support the Palestinan agreement advancing resettlement instead to Madagascar as a way to solve the “Judenfrage” It was only 2 years’ later that the Nuremberg Laws came into effect. The rest is certainly “history”.

Whatever happens to Livingstone and Naz Shah, the BBC comes out of this looking distinctly shabby. I have just renewed my TV licence: I regret that now. A shame.

 

Miqdaad Versi’s campaign

Just a footnote here to draw attention to the work of Mr Versi who works for the Muslim council of Great Britain. Sloppy journalism simply has no place in defining the way we tackle extremism and the threat of terror. On 23rd March, he tweeted a correction to some rather silly reports that suggested that Muslims were not doing enough to stop the spread and influence of ISIS. We should be careful not to soak up the nonsense peddled by twits like Trump who claimed there are no-go” areas in Britain There may well be, and they are reserved for people peddling the nonsense you peddle, Mr Trump. For God sake, Donald, grow up! It matters not one jot whether you eventually secure the Presidency or whether you are just in this race for the pleasure of making hell, you are a public figure, and you have responsibilities – not, I think to “truth” but to “probity”, common decency.

This is what Mr Versi wrote:

We’ve had mosques that throw extremists out of their midsts. We’ve had many hundreds of Muslims reporting other Muslims to the police and to counter-terror officials. We have over 95% of Muslims saying if there is any Muslim within their own community, maybe committing an attack, they would report them. Of course there are fringe elements in any community and there are people who have gone to Syria to fight for Daesh or so-called ISIS. They are people we need to stop.

 

The Aegean idea

There are 47,500 migrants stranded in Greece at the moment. These are the ones who are counted and regarded as part of the ongoing “EU migration” process. There are countless more who have found a way of hovering on the fringes of Greek society, making a buck in the cinemas near Omonia and begging or stealing whatever they can to get by. Certainly the current agreement does nothing for them and does little to sort out the squalor that remains in Idomeni. All it will do at best is to send a signal to the people who manage the boats in Turkey that this Aegean crossing is closed. After 4 years, that is modest progress, but I was talking about the dangers of this people-smuggling issue nearly 15 years ago and no one paid much attention to me then.

So what is changing now?

An agreement about illegal migration to Greece may well have taken place, but to implement it will involve the movement of countless judges and lawyers from Athens to the islands, as well as the 2300 experts cited by Tsipras and imported from mainland europe to oversee the process, because presumably each of the migrants landing on Samos or Lesbos or wherever will demand and be entitled to a legally responsible decision before being shipped back to Turkey (lest the plan fall foul of the declarations made by the UN under the Geneva Convention). More than that, the EU deal will not process back those refugees already on Greek soil- Turkey ruled that out on 10th March!merkel

I find it hard to see how Greece will be able to manage this in practice, so whether the deal with Turkey and the EU is morally or legally sound, it still faces a practical problem. What has taken months of legal work in Athens so far will now be done in a matter of hours in makeshift courts along the seafront of Samos- I doubt it somehow! As I understand it, however, the Syrians who are deported from Turkey to the EU will be sent to specific EU countries to be processed, so this might ease the burden on Greece  in the long run and that thought alone might energise the process a bit.

Amnesty calls the EU/turkey agreement a “historic blow to human rights”, though to be fair, when I was in Greece, Amnesty had been infiltrated by some very peculiar people, some of whom were certainly illegal migrants. So, as Christine Keeler might have said, “They would say that, wouldn’t they!”

It seems unclear, at the moment, whether Greece is also being awarded extra funds to deal with this. If not, I await the outcry from Athens (a) that Turkey is being unfairly awarded 6 billion euros and (b) that this much hyped agreement merely moves the problem from one country to another. It might deter the boats in the Aegean, but it will hardly stop the boats already arriving again in Malta from Libya and Tunisia..

And it does not answer the moral question at all- why should a country like Turkey accommodate so many more refugees/migrants than the 28 different countries currently in the EU? I worry that we have somehow shifted all discussions away from the bigger picture and we are focused only on making a quick “deal”- in other words, have we just all become barrow-boys or costermongers in some sort of market-place… oh yes, we have! And wasn’t it once called “the Common Market”?

Whatever trading we do, we must not forget the bigger picture. We need a moral centre, not just a tidy profit or a quick solution.

Do not fear!

welbyI need to choose words very carefully here- I am stepping over (or into!) the shoes of the current Archbishop of Canterbury. I am certainly challenging what he said. Justin Welby preached “fear” and that, to me is a red line that should never be crossed. Gone are the days when the pulpit offered such entertainment. Today we can cast our minds back to “Hammer Horror” if we want a thrill, or we can look to the diet of films that have played out in the few years since the millenium. Here are a selection of such films for a man evidently hooked on “fear” like the current Primate of Canterbury- “The others” (2001), and Mulholland Drive (2001), “the Ring”(2002), “Orphan”(2009),  “the descent” (2005), “Bug” (2006), “Let the right one in” (2008) and its sequel “Let me in” (2010). We do not need fear-mongers in the pulpit and certainly not those who advocate principles that fly in the face of their own vocation. At a time when the TV is filled with the xenophobic rants of Trump, I believe Justin Welby makes a bad problem worse. In short, as the senior cleric in the UK and leader or guardian of our moral health, he had no right to sanction our fear of migrants.

Wesley’s rather than Welby’s “fear”

But, to be fair to Welby, “fear” is a confused word in the mouths of English Churchmen. “Work out your salvation”, says Paul in the King James Version, “with Fear and trembling”. It seems to me, for instance, that there is certainly room for this kind of “fear” in the next few months because we shall be making a collective decision at the Referendum that will determine the way this country works and to do that casually would be folly. We should be mindful and in the language of John Wesley, therefore, that might mean we should be “fearful”; in other words, we should be respectful and careful. My own name calls out the same message- “Timothy” comes from two greek words meaning literally to “fear God”, but the sense of this name is to be “respectful”, not to be cowering in terror or worried about whether God might steal my job.

Calling for fear in this debate is tantamount to a licence for racism or at least xenophobia and that must be wrong in the mouth of an Archbishop.

The Fear stuff comes in an interview published in “House” magazine where Welby concedes there is , in his words, “a colossal crisis” because of migration into Europe. That is perfectly reasonable. He then says that people who express fear about this migration are not racist -“There is a tendency to say ‘those people are racist’, which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous.” He went on and added ” and the UK should be “taking its fair share of the load”. (well, thank God he concedes that much!)

“Fear is a valid emotion at a time of such colossal crisis.

“This is one of the greatest movements of people in human history. Just enormous. And to be anxious about that is very reasonable.” (*TW: note how he’s already back-tracking. anxiety rather than fear, so he knows he said the wrong thing!)

However, it seems to me that fear is not a valid emotion in this context (though I admit there are instances where migrants have behaved badly) and in a country where there is actually a good deal of wealth, we should be better placed to manage people’s insecurities and at the same time, offer significantly more hope to those who have turned to us with outstretched arms, looking for a better life or looking for any sort of life at all!

These words, of course, play well in the hands of the BREXIT group- as Ian Duncan Smith intoned-

“These are rational comments from the archbishop – they’re to be welcomed – but you wonder just how late they’ve come from various people in institutions, so I congratulate him. If you think back, for far too many years what’s happened is that in a sense the elites have all said ‘It’s terrible to talk about immigration and if you do you’re racist’, so they’ve shut down the debate for many, many years.”

But we should not be engaged in this debate and certainly it should not have been started or been licenced by the Archbishop. Welby’s job is to preach the Gospel, and he would do well to heed the message in Matthew 25:36- to provide for the needy, the poor, to visit prisoners, the sick and the dying. He might also look at Gen 23:4, Ex 2.22, Lev 25:23, 1 Chron 29:15,Ps 39:12, 119:19,  Hebrews 11:13 and reflect on the fact that we might all migrants and all in need of shelter. There, but for the grace of God…

The Greek example:

I also refer the Archbishop to the example of the villages on Lesbos, Kos, Chios, Samos, Rhodes and Leros who have good reason to fear for their security in an economoc crisis frankly imposed on them by Northern European bullies. These islanders have routinely shown migrants pouring on to their shores the hospitality and shelter that Welby ignores.There may be fear- but it is Welby’s job to preach an answer to fear, and that answer is kindness.

The islanders in Greece deserve a nobel prize in the same way that Welby deserves to be stripped of his office (or at least suspended for the duration of the Referendum). This is what Spyros Limneos said,

“By opening their hearts the islanders sent a powerful message that humanity is above races, above nations.”

Humza Yousaf, up in Scotland, has the right idea, of course! Certainly he’s ready to debate the idea without all this “fear” nonsense. But really, he is not alone. We may talk about the many things we must thank the waves of migrants for over the years- from fine tailoring to fish and chips but we must still also be ready as a Nation to help those who need help now, and- as for economic migrants: well, many of those we need too- they are the ones with the vision and maybe the skills to kickstart our economy. Fear-mongers are just plain wrong!

humza

Oh, and unless it looks like I advocate a migrant “free for all”, not at all. Our responsibility is to be ready without fear to welcome these strangers but the response to our kindness and hospitality is also responsibility and people who come here have their own responsibility to learn our language, promote our values and engage in our society.

Migration is not part of the Referendum

I understand many of the arguments put forward by BREXIT as also by the “staying in” camp, but there are enough valid issues to be discussed without touching on that of migration: economics, fishing, farming, political independence and so on. Moreoever, the migration issue was surely done to death last year by the nasty brigade that lurks within UKIP (Believe me, there are some very good and noble UKIPpers who, like me, think the migration issue should be off-limits). Migration is a separate deal that will be solved by finding a Syrian peace, and by working in harmony with our neighbours to deal with the flow of migrants: the migration issue will continue whether we are “in” or “out” of the EU and the Archbishop gives a very cheap and simplistic lead in what he says today. What he also says is categorically against the spirit not only of Christianity which he represents, but of Judaism and Islam. It is wholly wrong. Leave it to others to preach fear if he must. BUT If he intends to stay in office, or indeed leave office with any honour, this garrulous priest needs to shut his mouth for the rest of the summer.

Boris

Boris lightened the tone today by referencing Welby’s comments and saying that after the referendum, we may need prayer. We certainly need unity and we need to work on that now. the referendum may well energise our democracy but we must be careful that it does not fracture our society as indeed the Scottish referendum threatened to do. We need to engage in this debate without fear, and look at both sides so we can reach a decision that leads us to make a reliable and informed vote in the summer. It is the role of the churches and faiths to bind us together during this process: we will remain a single Nation and British whether we are “in” or “out”. I would like to see us become a better Nation for this debate.

Getting real in London

khanSometimes, even as an artist who admires Aubrey Beardsley and Erte, I have to bite the bullet and admit that substance is more important than appearance. The race for the London mayor is one of those times. It may seem like some sort of abstract Platonic argument- that we need to ignore the glitzy images and look at the reality behind the razamatazz, but that is how it is. The reality stinks and we have to identify it for what it really is: bad judgement, and demagogy.

Today, Sadiq Khan revealed who he really is and this is disappointing, even if I have been repeatedly warned. There has been alot of things said about a possible Khan win confirming the dreadful Corbyn in his place as leader of the opposition and that this win would confirm the position and the power of the man who presides over the destruction of the labour party- why would I care about that? I am a Tory! But I enjoy the challenge of a good debate and since Corbyn came to office, that has been missing in the House of commons. Instead, we are treated to a self-satisfied litany of what Betty said to Sally and what Bert thinks of Dave. What we want are some facts rather than a series of quasi-religious quotations. The commons, anyway, is not the time for semi-anonymous or barely-invented hearsay.

But it is the self-righteousness of Corbyn that dominates.

corbyn-tim

Rhetoric:

What I loved about Tony Benn and particularly about Michael Foot as orators was the element of conviction which was matched by the possibility of doubt in what they said. Another way to put that is to use the word “humility”. I am sure no one has ever accused Tony Benn of humility before, but he was a man who knew his place as did Foot. Yet I admired their skills in speaking even if I rejected what they said. There is nothing I can admire in Corbyn. I think Corbyn has yet to learn what his place should be. He has been thrust into the political spotlight too fast, and while on the Breakfast-time sofa on TV, he sounds reasonable, he has not yet found his place as a national orator or leader in the Commons. He might well be a nice man- who knows? That is not important- Corbyn’s job is not simply to represent his party -he does not incidentally- but he is also the voice of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition. He represents a challenge across the political parties to the sitting Prime Minister- he demonstrably does not do that either. Instead, he represents  a small vocal faction of the Labour party. So, Mr Corbyn fails absolutely to serve his country. He serves himself and his clamouring supporters.

But should Khan win in the Mayoral race, just like a second Oldham by-election, Corbyn’s position will be even more protected and we shall have to suffer even more litanies from his makeshift lectern of what John and Jenny, Mary and Jo have to say when all we really want to hear is the authentic voice of the Leader of the opposition. Any opposition! Without that voice, Mr Cameron must look to his own party to find a challenge: we have not elected a dictatorship.

If Mr Corbyn continues to demonstrate that he cannot do or does not want to do this job, then in the interests of Parliamentary democracy, someone else must surely do it for him. I do not want to hear any more about John and Jenny, Mary and Luke or whatever improbable names are chanted in the prayers Corbyn leads weekly (or weakly?) at the dispatch box. This is not the Bidding prayers in a local church. So, now might be the time for the SNP to step up, maybe and assume the office so abandoned or mutilated by Corbyn?

Lame Duck quacking in Commons

Let me be clear, as a Tory supporter, I do not see any advantage in having a lame duck Leader of the Opposition. Let the lame duck lay eggs on the backbench with the other quacks. If he wants to do TV shows with Michael Portillo, that too would be great news- anything indeed, save this travesty at the dispatch box week after wretched week.

And so to Khan himself. Whatever rosette is worn by any candidate for Mayor, we ought to presume competence, but today Khan demonstrates his utter INcompetence by trusting a man who has apparently a homophobic record and then sacking him. I am not sure which is the worst offence. If the homophobia was so much a thing of the past (some reports say this was recently on twitter, but some say this was stuff from 2012) then it no longer matters and the man should have kept his job, but if it demonstrates a continued prejudice, then clearly he should go and the question lingers about Khan’s own judgement- Khan sacked Shueb Salar after a letter from our own Priti Patel. He was badgered into action because he failed to act decisively in the first place, or he failed to check or worse still, he faild to notice or to care. And however it is spun, the fact remains, why could Khan not see that such prejudice undermines not only his campaign, and his credibility but the claims that Labour repeatedly make for the moral highground. This is what Ms Patel wrote,

“This man has a Parliamentary pass and thus privileged access. Do you not think it is incumbent upon you to check the background of those who are given such access in your name?

“Is Mr Salar therefore still on your payroll and is he still receiving taxpayers’ money while the investigation takes place?”

“Even if you didn’t run checks on him before appointing him, his comments could easily be viewed on Twitter as recently as a week ago, particularly as your account follows his. … You appear to hesitate and/or turn a blind eye when you come into contact with those whose views are deplorable. And you appear to regularly come into contact with such people.”

I think this event shows one of the biggest of Khan’s failings and it is a failing shared by Corbyn. Indeed, it sums them both up because they both want to say what they feel their own particular cronies, or their own particular audience want to hear from them. Khan says whatever will win him votes (he has no shame)- and Corbyn says what he thinks will please the people who voted him into power- John, Jane and Jenny who he talks about so often in the Commons and who clearly pull his strings. But in both cases, their intended job is bigger than this miniscule audience of alleged admirers. That is their common failing!

the modest bow

And that is why Boris was so much better. Because Boris managed to appeal beyond his core voters and across party lines.

While Corbyn has developed a joy in displeasing those MPs among whom he stands, in an effort to please his latent supporters penning letters in the labour heartlands, Khan has developed a slippery fish-like quality of pleasing whomsoever he happens to be talking to. But while Corbyn looks limp and lame,  Khan looks false. How is this possible when essentially they are following the same brief? However, Khan, Like Blair, when he is caught in a fix, thinks a quick attack on an old trusted friend will do the job, but it simply exposes the lie- Mr Khan either knew his friend was a homophobe and did not care, or he sacrificed his friend because a Conservative minister inconveniently dug up dirt from the past.  Mr Khan fails the loyalty test or he fails the far more important test of trusting the wrong people in the first place.

We need to believe that the future Mayor of London will have the right friends, will command loyalty and will make the right decisions for the right reason. we have to trust he will not be badgered into action by the media, or say something just because he is caught in the headlights of public attention.

For what it is worth, I would like to see London led by a Muslim Mayor. But not this one.

 

PS: This is what Boris said today (a few days after I posted the text above, sorry:)

boris speaking

Boris Johnson

The murder of Lee Rigby was an event that outraged and sickened Londoners, and the memories of that tragedy are still raw. I find it absolutely incredible that Sadiq Khan, a candidate for the office of Mayor of London, could hire as his speechwriter someone who has suggested that event was in any way fabricated.

To my mind that shows an appalling lack of judgement, and I do not see how Mr Khan could command the confidence – or the support – of Londoners.