A Post About Lives

Protests Continue
The ‘Black Lives Matters’ protests have well and truly supplanted the coronavirus as the current Big Thing. We can only hope that COVID-19 does not make a comeback over the next few weeks.

In my last post I predicted that the protests would soon die out and that nothing would change. Watching footage of mobs pull down statues does make one think that something more profound and long-lasting is happening but I am not going to abandon my prediction just yet.

This is because I believe that whatever future the protesters want to see, they won’t get it by staying on the street. Not in America, not in Britain. At some point they will have to enter the democratic system either directly or through those already there.

In fairness to the protesters, it is too early for them to have done that, but I think, ultimately, they will need to do so. Their only alternative would be to simply overthrow the current order by force of arms, and I don’t see that happening.

Statues: Stay Up or Come Down?
This question can only be answered one statue at a time. What can be said in general is that mobs should certainly not be involved in the decision making process. Those who pulled down the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol should be ashamed of themselves. Their actions were profoundly anti-democratic and anti-rule of law.

If Colston was that bad an individual then there should be no problem in either persuading the local council to remove it or seeking election with a promise to do so themselves.

I read on Twitter today (so a little pinch of salt, just in case) that Bristol Council has in the past debated removing the statue but been unable to come to a final decision. That’s not an excuse for mob action but an inspiration to get involved in politics in order to get the decision one wants.

The United Kingdom is a democracy. The only way she will remain so is by embracing democracy completely and utterly, not by allowing anyone or group retreat from it whenever they have the chance. A failed state and tyranny lies that way.

J. K. Rowling
The Harry Potter author caused a great deal of controversy with the tweet, below.

The reason why the website referred to people who menstruate is because people who are pro-transgender believe that transwomen can menstruate. But how can they if they were not born female? I found this post on Quora useful in terms of understanding. Perhaps predictably, the answer depends on how one defines the word ‘to menstruate’: does it refer to the discharge of blood or to the symptoms surrounding that discharge?

Depending on which definition one takes, J. K. Rowling is both right and wrong to believe that the website should have said ‘women’ instead of ‘people’.

Either way, Rowling is entitled to her view, as are those who believe the opposite. What is more important here is how the two sides talk to one another. Is it with respect? With a desire to inform or with a desire to put down?

Of course, it ought to be with respect, and with a desire to inform.

Unfortunately, public discourse around trans issues has become corrupted. Why? Perhaps because the two sides have become so utterly entrenched in their opinions/prejudices that they only see the bad in those on the opposite side, and speak accordingly. Why has this happened? Perhaps because supporters of trans people don’t want to be put down like they and/or their brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ movement were for so many years before finally achieving their breakthrough and so have decided to approach the issue aggressively? Perhaps because their opponents spoke aggressively towards them first? I don’t know the answer. I do know, though, that one day, the two sides will need to find peace in their disagreement (because there always will be disagreement). If they don’t, neither side will ever achieve justice for their cause.

Films
The Bookshop (7.9/10)
Emily Mortimer plays Florence Green, a widow, who decides to open a bookshop in a small northern town in England. She does so despite opposition from Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson), a rich local woman, who wants the premises for her own purposes.

Opening it, however, turns out to be only half the battle, and unfortunately for Florence, she loses the second half. Mrs Gamart gets the premises. But then… well, I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice to say, although Mrs Gamart wins the battle, she doesn’t wan the war.

The Booskhop isn’t a bad film but I struggled with it. For a long time it was just so plain; so kitchen-sink. Once again, the ending saved it.

Would I watch it again? Part of me thinks not but I have to remember that when I first saw Lost in Translation I thought it the most boring film ever. Like The Bookshop nothing seemed to happen in it; it was all so dull. Now, however, it is one of my most favourite pictures.

Corpse Bride (8/10)
Animation directed by Tim Burton starring Johnny Depp as Victor, a young man who accidentally marries Emily, the corpse bride.

Once again, I struggled with this picture. Again, it wasn’t bad, but I suspect watching it during the coronavirus crisis possible wasn’t the best idea.

In truth, the film is very sweet love story. The puppets were beautifully made and the animation top-notch – I still can’t believe it wasn’t a digital production.

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Sainsbury’s
Yesterday, I toddled off to Sainsbury’s and found virtually no queue to get in. Such a queue as there was wasted no time in moving forward and I was able to start shopping within five minutes of my first arrival.

What can we put this down to? Well, although lock down remains in effect, restrictions on movement continue to be eased so that may be one reason.

I suspect, however, that I just got lucky. When I left the store about twenty/twenty-five minutes later, the queue had grown again – although happily only to about the length it was when I joined it last week.

While I am on the topic of Sainsbury’s – the store where I shop has now put up clear plastic partitions between the self check-out machines. As someone behind me said, they made the self check-outs look a bit like voting booths. I don’t like the partitions – even though they are transparent, they feel very confining and vaguely sinister; I don’t know why.

***

Home Life
It has been a good-difficult week at home.

Good because everyone remains well; difficult because, especially as the week has gone on, I have found myself with little motivation to do anything creative. I have had ideas but when it comes to writing them down – no. All things considered it’s a little bit of a miracle that I am writing this. Perhaps I am more motivated than I realise.

***

A B&B in Dorset
As I was writing the above, I saw a business card sticking out of a book on my desk. I pulled it out and found that it belonged to this B&B cottage in Dorset. I can’t remember which year I stayed at the cottage but I do remember enjoying my stay there. I hope the couple who ran it (David and Jackie Charles) are still there. The cottage is a little way outside of Dorchester; I remember walking along the winding road to get there from the pub in the pitch dark: a bit of a thrill! Fortunately, the thrill never became a nightmare and no cars suddenly appeared from around the bend.

***

America
A few days ago a black man named George Floyd died in police custody in the city of Minneapolis. During his arrest, a police officer restrained him by placing his knee on the man’s throat. Floyd’s death is the latest to involve a black man being killed by (white) officers or white people. Rioting has followed his death. I predict that the violent protests will soon fade away. In a few weeks or months from now, another black man will die at a white person’s/police officer’s hands but whatever happens in the immediate aftermath, nothing will change then, either.

America, such an innovative country yet so utterly unable to find an answer to her ills.

Actually, that’s untrue. She knows perfectly well what the answers are but is unable or unwilling to apply them. I’m tempted to say that for as long as Donald Trump is president, she never will, but, here we are after eight years of President Obama. What was he doing? What could he do?

Once upon a time I respected America, looked up to her, even; yes, she had faults but she was a country that was always seemed to be striving forward. The Trump Presidency ended that perception. Under him, the country has chosen to look backwards.

Or has it? Trump lost the popular vote. He became president due to the Electoral College system. And I like to think that the people who voted for him – or most of them, anyway – probably didn’t vote for him because of his character but because politically speaking he offered them something that Hilary Clinton didn’t. This uncertainty means I can’t dislike the country but I’m sad that I can’t view her as once I did: with admiration. The West needs a great America: someone has to be able to stand up to the substantial threats posed by Russia and China. The E.U. should, but won’t. The world needs a great America because in being the best version of herself, she shows the world what it is capable of. I hope one day the U.S.A. finds a president, politicians, police officers who are able to meet that challenge. Make America great again, indeed.

Saving Mr Banks (8/10)
Disney film about how Walt Disney secured the rights to Mary Poppins from its author, P. L. Travers.

1961. P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) has run out of money. Her agent (played by Ronan Vibert) advises her to sell the rights to Mary Poppins to Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). She refuses. Travers can’t bear to let her dearest creation go. Her situation is so bad, however, that in the end she does agree to go to Los Angeles to discuss Disney’s proposed script for a film. She goes, she criticises, she returns home. But even as Travers makes her way to the airport, Disney realises why Mary Poppins means so much to her. He follows her back to London. At Travers’ home, Disney not only tells Travers what he has discovered but reveals how she and he are both connected far more than they knew. This leads to Travers finally signing on the dotted line and the film being made.

I found all but the last half hour of this film difficult to watch. This was because Travers seems to have no redeeming features. She is all recalcitrance and general horridness. What kept me going were the flashbacks to her childhood. As a girl, Travers was a different person. Her life was not easy, and got worse, but it was for a time better, and so was she. The last half hour of the film is when the truth comes out. It is revelatory and freeing for her and me. The screenwriters did really well, there. I would recommend the picture just for the last section. That’s being a bit unfair! The whole film is good and well worth your time.

Delicacy (8/10)
Audrey Tautou plays Nathalie Kerr, a happily married young woman whose husband dies suddenly. For three years, she mourns him. Then, one day, probably while thinking of her husband, she kisses the office nobody. He is overwhelmed and all of a sudden in love. He bravely asks Nathalie out. She accepts and this being a romantic comedy, love blossoms against the odds.

Delicacy is a funny, sweet, and very French film. For proof of this, see the final scene: the hide and seek game in the garden. I won’t spoil it here but suffice to say it involves philosophy. So French.


A Living Metaphor

I have just finished saying Compline and a Rosary for Boris Johnson who has been moved to intensive care this evening after the symptoms of his illness got worse. Although his condition has deteriorated, the reports are that he is not on a ventilator so we can only hope and pray that he will get better.

When I prayed, I included in my intention all who are ill with the coronavirus at the moment, those who had died, and their loved ones. Boris Johnson is one name among many but because he is the Prime Minister he is more than just himself; he is a representative of this country – second only in importance to the Queen – a living metaphor for its health. To hear about him going into intensive care, therefore, even though his situation could be a lot worse, feels like a blow to the stability of the country, and by extension, to oneself. Whether one likes Johnson or not, we need that stability because it breeds hope.

Right now, I feel mostly okay. Thanks to the Novena I’ve been saying, the last week hasn’t been too bad. I can’t fool myself, though. Hearing about Boris Johnson makes me feel anxious. Every time I cough I wonder is this the start of a persistent cough. Every time my room gets a bit too hot (because the radiator has come on) I wonder if this is the start of a fever. The Novena is helping, but I am in the foothills.

I finished watching Divergent this morning. I rate the film 8/10. A pretty entertaining watch. It’s set in a dystopian future where, following a war, the citizens of Chicago have been divided into factions according to their dominant personality – Erudite, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Candor. The film follows the adventures of Tris who joins the Dauntless faction but who is actually divergent – she holds all the above mentioned personality traits within herself. This is a problem as the divergent are outcasts because they can’t be controlled. We watch as Tris goes through her Dauntless training before she discovers a plot to usurp supreme power by the leaders of Erudite and Dauntless. The film is by no means a classic but it has a good heart, decent story and acting; well worth a night in to watch. There are three films in the series and subject to their availability I will definitely try and watch the next two to see how the story resolves itself. The new film is Frozen.

Jacks

Corona Chronicles VII

Home – Thursday
Yesterday, I had to take a medicine that I had been putting off using for two weeks. Why? Because I read the instructions and saw that one of the possible side effects is anaphylactic shock. That pretty much scared the life out of me so I put the medicine away and said I will Only Take It If I Have To. Yesterday, I did. Afterwards, my day came to a halt: I was waiting to see if I would suffer an anaphylactoid reaction.

It’s stupid, really. Did I really think my doctor is in the business of prescribing me medicines that he thinks will be harmful? Yes, an adverse reaction was possible but surely unlikely as the medicine would hardly be on sale if it was common.

This, though, is logic, and when you are anxious, you do not think logically.

So, there I was, stewing in my fear, when I received an unexpected call from a very dear friend. Actually, she’s more than a friend – she is the person who instructed me when I joined the Catholic Church so is also a kind of spiritual mentor. I think she’s a saint, as well. Talking to her took away the anxiety and afterwards I was, in a manner of speaking, a new man. Deo Gratias.

As for the medicine, it did its job and although I could have continued taking it, I have decided not to unless the problem reoccurs.

Home – Today
Yesterday and today I did my exercise straight after my physiotherapy exercises. I think I might carry on like this as it feels quite good and doesn’t make me particularly tired. During today’s exercise, I finished Bad Boys. Oh my. It’s loud, brash, and silly; but also witty and funny. I rate it 6.5/10. I might have rated it .5 higher but the stupidness of the film is just a tad too strong. With that said, Bad Boys II is on Netflix, sooooo. Actually, I better wait for the brain cells that I destroyed watching this one to repair, though. The new film is Hook (1991): Robin Williams plays Peter Banning who is actually Peter Pan. In this film, Peter has grown up and forgotten who he is (or was). In order to rescue his children from Captain Hook, he has to try and remember.

I’m watching this film for the same reason that I hope to read J. M. Barrie’s book in the days or weeks to come: as I get older and see my parents age, a part of me wishes that I could be young again. I don’t like them getting old. I don’t like the thought of them not being there. Of course, I better get used to it because ageing is inevitable: in me. In them. Watching Hook is a stupid attempt to pretend that it doesn’t have to happen.

Abroad
This afternoon, I went to Sainsbury’s. They were only letting a limited number of people in at a time so we had to queue for a little while outside. Everyone was very good at observing the two or so metre gap. The shop was pretty well stocked, though again, some shelves were empty. Tomorrow, I have to go back to the chemist for my parents.

On the way to Sainsbury’s, I passed some firemen who were trying to break into a pub. They weren’t thirsty – its fire alarm was ringing. I thought to myself that if they have to break in, the landlord will find it hard to replace the glass or door lock afterwards. Fortunately, though, by the time I walked by on my way home, the firemen were gone and the door appeared to be in one piece.

A.O.B.
I subscribe to the New Ways Ministry blog. I don’t like everything that they do because I don’t like the idea of being a dissenter, but I am glad they are there. This week, they quoted the traditionalist Cardinal Burke as implying that LGBT people are to blame for the coronavirus. You can read the article here. This kind of scapegoating makes me intensely angry, and I would very much like to tell him to get fucked but if I said it and meant it I would in my own way make myself no better than him. How should one respond to such an attack? Well, with love, of course. And forgiveness. 7×70. God bless, Cardinal Burke; I disagree with him and will pray for him; I get things wrong, too, so I hope he would pray for me if he read this.

What about the coronavirus? This is my view: it happened because for whatever reason the disease jumped from an animal to a human. God allowed it to do so; not because He is angry with anyone or any group but because He is not in the business of controlling our lives like that. It is part of the free will deal. If God intervened to stop the coronavirus’ ‘jump’ we might ask Him why he did not intervene to stop the movement of any other disease or ailment, and as a matter of fact, why doesn’t He intervene to stop [your issue of choice here]. Very soon, we would hand to God our free will. We may want to do that but He does not. He knows we would find it the most painful thing of all.

That’s my view. I can’t say I have thought deeply about it so if you disagree you will have to forgive me.

Yesterday’s New Ways Ministry blog (here) was about a queer Catholic singer named Gina Chavez. I’ve been waiting to read about someone like her for a long time. I’m glad to say her music is pretty good, too (This is her You Tube channel).

I started reading from my C. S. Lewis shelf yesterday. I read the first chapter of his Reflections on the Psalms, and then an essay based on a talk about him by a lady named Joan Murphy, who was – or is – his grandnephew. I looked her up after reading the talk and found that she was still alive in 2015. If she is alive today she’ll be 94. It was a lovely essay. Unfortunately, C. S. Lewis’ father, Albert, does not come off well in it but Lewis very much does. Murphy writes,

When I began to think about this talk and wrote down things that I wanted to say, I noticed that there were two words that became dominant in my memory, and they kept coming up and coming up again: the first was encouragement and the second was laughter. Those are two things that I remember about Jacks.

(Jacks: Lewis’ given Christian name was Clive but he hated it. While still a boy he announced to his family one day that from now on he would only answer to the name Jacks. In time, that became Jack, and the name stuck).

Encouragement and laughter. What lovely ways to be remembered.

Boris Johnson and the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock were both diagnosed as having the coronavirus yesterday. We must pray for them, and indeed, for anyone in a position of authority who falls ill. I have thus far managed to resist the temptation to read comments about Johnson’s and Hancock’s diagnoses on Social Media (beyond the people that I follow) as I know they would be malevolent.

Inspired by a friend I’ve never met

Corona Chronicles I

I follow Niall Gooch on Twitter. He is a clever and compassionate person and I always benefit from his tweets. A few days ago, he tweeted,

This seemed to me a good idea so on this blog, until such time as the coronavirus abates, I will try and record what’s going on in my little corner of the world – Islington, London, U.K.

First of all, home life.

Yesterday, our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, ‘urged everyone to avoid unnecessary social contacts, to work from home where possible, and to stay away from pubs and restaurants.’ This doesn’t affect me too much as I work from home, and don’t have the money to go out very much, anyway.

The above quotation comes from the BBC website, here. The same report states that ‘[p]eople in at-risk groups will be asked within days to stay home for 12 weeks.’ My mother and father are 79 and 80 so are definitely ‘at risk’. I still live in the family house so am now part son, part shield. The latter fits my love of chivalry perfectly. Are there any medieval romances where the Knight washes his hands a lot?

A concern for my parents now informs all my actions when going out. For example, yesterday (16th March) I had intended to take a walk across town to Westminster Cathedral to go to confession. Because of the worry that I might pick something up, at the cathedral if not along the way, however, I decided to stay at home. Now that we are being told to avoid unnecessary social contact, I suspect I will not go to confession again until the summer. It’s not ideal but the thought of bringing an unwelcome guest home is even worse.

Now that I am avoiding going out, what about my daily walks? I am going to do more exercise at home, even if it is just walking on the spot while watching a film on Netflix or a You Tube video.

Speaking of exercise, you may recall me mentioning my dodgy leg in last year’s Camino posts. Well, back in January I finally – FINALLY – got round to submitting a request for a physiotherapist appointment with the NHS. I thought I might not get an answer until later in the year but within a week or two, I was offered an appointment. Three weeks ago, I met the physiotherapist and he gave me some exercises to do. I have been carrying them out religiously ever since and let me tell you, while my leg is not perfect, it is SO MUCH BETTER than before. The old pain is almost entirely gone. Not quite, but almost. I am amazed. And all it took was ‘some’ stretches. Unless the medical centre has been closed, I am meeting the physio again this week to let him know how I have been getting on. I can’t wait to tell him.

There is one fly in the ointment – part of the physiotherapy involved walking in a slightly different way and I haven’t managed to perfect that yet. In fact, I am a long way off it, so that’s something I need to work on whenever I do go out.

Away from home.

I mentioned above not going to confession. I will keep going to Mass unless one of us in the house falls ill or until/unless the churches are closed. How extraordinary it is that I have to write these words. Who could have foreseen it, even at the start of the year? It’s like we have gone back to the time of Shakespeare with the closing of the theatres. The other day, someone on Twitter said that when W.S. was quarantined he wrote King Lear. The implication was that you should do something similar. Nonsense, of course, but I hope I can be at least a little creative. I have one or two ideas in this regard and will mention them if I can realise them.

All sporting events in the country have been cancelled or postponed for the time being. The one that affects me most is the calling off of the first few Formula 1 races. I can do without football or even rugby but F1 I miss. Depending on how things go we won’t get any races until May or June.

As I said above, I don’t go out the often. I am the secretary of The Keys Catholic literary group, though, so attend its meetings every month. I had already decided not to go to this month’s meeting but yesterday the Master decided to postpone it. I immediately sent the e-mail to all the members confirming this. Thankfully, the ones who have responded have been very understanding. We haven’t decided what to do about April’s meeting, but as with the F1, I don’t expect there will be another one until the summer.

Further Afield

There is just one thing I would like to write here. Business Insider reports that the American President, Donald Trump, ‘tried to poach German scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine and offered cash so it would be exclusive to the US’. You can read the report here.

If the report is true – the German government says it is, the company for whom the scientists work say it is not – it really is the most diabolically selfish act on Donald Trump’s part. Of course, given his past behaviour, we should not be surprised by this, but I think we may be surprised by the depth of his selfishness in this regard.

Thank you to Niall for letting me quote his tweets in this post! (It’s true I’ve never met him so I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him a friend).

The Aid of Illness

In my last post, I said that this general election campaign is both interesting and anxiety inducing. Despite the former and because of the latter, I have steered clear of it on social media as much as possible.

Is it good to run away from one’s anxieties? Wouldn’t it be better to face them down? I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t have an answer to that. I imagine, though, that the answer is Yes, one should face them them because only that way lies freedom.

However, if that is to be done, surely one needs to confront one’s anxieties in a way that is positive: it’s no good facing what you hate or fear with that hate and fear. Freedom doesn’t lie that way, only confrontation and war, which perpetuates and escalates the problem.

So, what is to be done? I’m a Christian so my view is that my anxiety, and the hate and fear that it induces, needs to be washed away with love. How? With prayer. But also, attentiveness; attentiveness to the uselessness of anger.

It’s one thing to know that anger (the negative kind; I’m not talking about righteous indignation here) is useless but how does one interiorise it?

I think the best way is to meditate on it, to find where it exists within oneself and drive it out by the practice of love. Another way, though, and a harder way that I would not wish on anyone, is through illness.

Last week, I woke up with a need to visit my G.P. As it turned out, I wasn’t seriously ill but I didn’t know this at the time, and as a result, I was in a state of discomfort and worried.

While I was in this state, my anxiety about the general election fell away. It seemed so much stuff and nonsense, a complete waste of energy and life.

It felt bad to realise I had taken such a wrong path, but it was also a blessing, for now I could set about finding the right one. Having said that, I can’t help but look back on that morning, ten days ago, and wonder Why did it take a little existential crisis for the truth to come out?

I guess I am just spiritually immature. At least I know better, now; at least I have a chance to find the right path again. I hope I do so before the memory of what happened fades away. You see, this isn’t the first time I have had this realisation. It has happened before – yes, when I was unwell – and ultimately, nothing changed.

How to find the right path? Well, I certainly need to go back to yesterday’s post: prayer.

As I write these words

we are just two weeks away from polling day in the 2019 General Election. Will Boris Johnson win an outright majority for the Conservative Party or will Jeremy Corbyn win the day for Labour? Or will voters be split down the middle once more and return a hung Parliament?

For me, the election campaign has been an interesting but anxious time. It’s been interesting in the way that election campaigns always are. But it has, and is, anxiety-inducing because of the fact that Jeremy Corbyn belongs to the far-left of the Labour Party, and the thought of that faction holding the keys to Downing Street is, to me, a detestable one. This has been compounded by Corbyn’s failure to deal with the issue of anti-semitism within the Labour Party.

Right now, the polls are suggesting that the Conservatives will not only win the election but will do so with an outright majority. I would say good except that I am a very ‘wet’ Tory who does not believe that Boris Johnson is fit to be Prime Minister. He is lucky to have Corbyn as his opponent, otherwise I would be tempted to sit this election out.

What to do about it all? Practically speaking, one can only cast one’s vote and hope for the best. In my case, I can only do the latter: Jeremy Corbyn is my MP and has such a huge majority that my vote will not count a jot.

As a Christian, though, I can – and must – do something else:pray: pray for Boris Johnson, pray for Jeremy Corbyn, pray for all politicians. And pray hard. For the forgiveness of their sins (as well as mine, of course). For their wisdom. Especially their wisdom.

I wish there was a theology of election campaigns, spiritual guidance for how to not only survive election campaigns but turn one’s response to them to good. I imagine, though, the guidance would boil down to one thing: prayer.

I wish we had a theology of election results as well. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister, be it Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn (whether in a Labour majority or minority government) we will have a leader who has his plus points but also negatives – some of them profoundly bad. For the next four or five years, he will be on our TV screens and computer monitors daily. He will need prayers. Lot’s of.

And so will I. Politics is a very turbulent business and it sometimes feels like social media puts us, the voters, into the eye of the storm. Where we stand, all may be calm, but we see the savage conditions around us and can only be adversely affected by them. The answer, of course, is if gets like that, then quit. But there is so much that is good about social media that it can make quitting a hard thing to do. And why should I quit when it is other people causing the problem? Sometimes, though, hard decisions simply have to be taken. In the meantime:-

This is my Theology of Election Campaigns and Results

  • Prayer for Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn
  • ~ for the forgiveness of their sins and wisdom; I dislike Corbyn most so an especial amount of prayer for him
  • Prayer for myself
    ~ for the forgiveness of my sins and the grace to endure
  • Prayer for the new government
    ~ for its wisdom
  • An active determination to get angry at those in politics whom I do not like
  • Prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament wherever possible
  • Prayer at Mass
  • In all social media interactions, be positive; don’t hate. Remember: those I dislike are humans, too; they deserve the dignity of the children of God. That’s a bare minimum

Brexit. Saturday, 19th October 2019

Just when we thought our MPs might finally – as Boris Johnson would say – get it done, Oliver Letwin threw another spanner into the works this weekend with his last minute amendment.

It would be easy, so easy, to feel annoyed at Letwin for messing things up, and at Hilary Benn and others for acting like they are the government but that would be unjust.

To the best of my knowledge, the Benn Act and Letwin Amendment are the work of two (and more) people who care about this country, and who want to see things done in a certain way for her good. It may be frustrating that Britain will not get it over and done with and leave on 31st October but who knows, maybe Benn, Letwin et al have saved us from a departure that would unnecessarily hurt people.

Either way, Hilary Benn, Oliver Letwin and co. give Christians, indeed, people in general, an opportunity to practice that great virtue: patience, and we can never have enough practice of that.

The Political Week Ahead (1)

May you live in interesting times…

The times have been very interesting in Britain ever since the Brexit referendum in June 2016.

And from this week they may be about to get even more interesting still.

On Tuesday, Theresa May’s successor as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister will be announced. Boris Johnson, of course, is the hot favourite to win.

My preferred candidate was Rory Stewart. When he was eliminated I switched to Michael Gove, and when he went out, I plumped for Jeremy Hunt.

Once upon a time, I might have supported Boris Johnson. He wrote a good book about Rome and was a rather funny buffoon with an echo of Churchill in the way he looked. Then I grew up a little and he became a very unsatisfactory figure.

To be fair to him, he did reasonably well as Mayor of London (2008-16), and I have not heard anything against him as M.P. for Henley (2001-08) or Uxbridge (2015 – present) but I have not read anything good about him as Foreign Secretary (2016-18) and he has caused controversy in the past over things he has done and said.

Of course, I have to be careful here: who was it that told journalists that Johnson was a bad Foreign Secretary? Why did they tell them? I have to consider that it may have been people with an axe to grind. As for his various controversies – we are all capable of being stupid at one point or another.

That’s fair enough, but by the same token, we all have it in us to act intelligently and wisely, and in the Conservative Party leadership race, I just haven’t seen him do that. He has declined to appear in television debates, when he has spoken he has not been clear about his policies, he appears to have fallen back on his buffoon image to get by. This is just not good enough for someone wanting to become Prime Minister.

At the moment, Boris Johnson comes across to me as all image and no substance. It’s such a shame as he is clearly an intelligent person – his book on Rome was a genuinely good read. He needs to have substance, though, to successfully oversee the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union.

During the campaign, Johnson said that he would make sure Britain left the E.U. on 31st October come what may. I believe this means with or without a deal. I might have supported a No Deal withdrawal until I saw this video that Stewart made about it during the leadership campaign in which he outlined precisely what a No Deal would mean. Now, I worry about what might happen to the well being of the country in the event of a No Deal exit. And neither Johnson nor any other Brexiteer has stepped up to the plate and said ‘Actually, Rory Stewart is wrong; a No Deal exit will be good, and this is why—‘

***

Because I worry about the effect of a No Deal exit, I also worry about the Conservative Party. It is the only thing that stands between anything approaching sanity and the insanity of a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour government. Corbyn is not fit to be an M.P., let alone Labour leader, let alone Prime Minister.

Over the last few years – years! – he has failed again, again, and again to deal adequately with the anti-semitism crisis within the Labour Party. Again, again, and again. Reprehensible. Then there is the issue of his own past associations with pro-terrorist figures. But let’s say he met these people because somebody had to in order to help the such and such peace process. This, argument would be more convincing, however, if we had footage of Corbyn meeting British or American officials. He appears to be very selective, however, about who he will meet.

***

When the new European Parliament opened a few weeks ago, the MEPs from the Brexit Party turned their back on the E.U.’s anthem (Beethoven’s Ode to Joy). That was predictable and ignorable from a bunch of bores as them. At the same time, however, the Liberal Democrat MEPs arrived wearing T Shirts bearing the legend ‘Bollocks to Brexit’. The Liberal Democratic party is a mainstream party with deep roots in British politics. I expected better, much better, from their MEPs.

That’s been the problem with Brexit, though; it has made fools of so many people. Why? Because they want their objective to be met so much, so, so much. So, so much it has corrupted them.

What’s to be done? That is what Boris Johnson will almost certainly need to work out. Can he do it? Personally, I don’t think so; I don’t think he has the popularity or good will in Parliament to make it happen. I suspect we’ll be heading towards either another Conservative leader or, more likely, a General Election before too long. And God help us if Jeremy Corbyn wins.

God help us – prayers are all we have left right now

The Day That Didn’t Happen

Today was supposed to be Brexit Day. For now, however, the U.K. remains in the E.U. Unfortunately for her, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has not been able to persuade the House of Commons to approve her Withdrawal Agreement (W.A.). Later today, she will commend it to the House for the third time.

Will it work? Reading political journalists on Twitter this morning, it seems the numbers are still against her: too many Brexiteers are remain opposed to the W.A. as does the Conservative’s junior partner-in-government, the Democratic Unionist Party (D.U.P). It looks like the D.U.P will definitely vote against the W.A. but maybe by the time the vote takes place those Brexiteers who are still against the deal will decide that the potential consequences of the deal being voted down yet again are too great to risk and come round.

It’s a high risk time. What would I do if I was an M.P.? I would certainly have voted for Theresa May’s deal. I voted to leave the E.U. because I don’t like super-states and don’t want to belong to one. I’m not concerned with immigration and I would be perfectly happy with a customs union.

Let’s say that Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is voted down for a third time and, ultimately, Brexit fails. I would be very sorry for it but life goes on, and let’s face it, there are advantages to belonging to the E.U. and also other things in life that are much more important: doing good in one’s daily life, for example.

This doing good would have to include not being annoyed at the Brexiteer M.P.s whose actions ultimately killed Brexit off because it was never good enough for them. Of course, they have to vote according to their consciences but when they do I hope they realise that the world isn’t perfect and they will never get all that they want – or even half of it! For now, let’s see how they vote…