Why you don’t have to be a Christian to believe Christian values are right

THE unwritten code for survival in politics used to contain three ‘don’ts’: don’t get caught with your pecker out or knickers down, don’t get your sticky fingers stuck in the till and don’t mention religion.

Contemporary history – and a probing, 24-hour media – has rendered the first two redundant and British MPs know that even if the Press doesn’t get them, their pals will.

For instance, who’d have imagined a grey (in suit and soul) Prime Minister like John Major indulged in a little, light nookie on the side, until his Cabinet colleague, Edwin Currie, revealed he was a closet lothario in Conservative blue Y-fronts.

And hardly a member escaped dishonour when the Daily Telegraph named and shamed MPs for their grasping shenanigans in the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal, still rumbling on, since they continue policing themselves.

Religion, though, largely remained taboo. Not merely because, for years, the Church of England was regarded as the Conservative Party at prayer and an utterance of blasphemy could see an archbishop rush round from House of Lords and knock seven bells out of whoever said it with his crozier.

No, Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s notoriously blunt spinmeister, made it clear when he said, ‘We don’t do God.’

Fast forward two premierships and, holy Moses, how David Cameron has got himself into a right old load of religious lumber by remarking Britain is a ‘Christian country.’

Writing in The Church Times, the Tory leader said he’d no wish to ‘do down’ other faiths or none at all, but criticised those who demand a strict ‘neutrality’ where belief is concerned, saying it deprived Britain of a vital source of morality.

CHURCH CHEERLEADER: David Cameron believes religion provides a According to the 'experts, the little green leaf on Prime Minister Cameron's poppy is pointing in the wrong direction

CHURCH CHEERLEADER: David Cameron believes religion provides a a vital source of morality, but doesn’t ‘do down’ non-believers

Within hours lightning bolts of hellfire were cascading down on him in an open letter from a group of writers, scientists, philosophers, political thinkers and theatrical types – a coalition of willing great minds, you might be moved to say – few of whom you’ve ever heard of.

They wrote: ‘We respect the Prime Minister’s right to his religious beliefs and the fact that they affect his own life as a politician.

‘However, we wish to object to his repeated mischaracterising of our country as a ‘Christian country’ and the negative consequences for our politics and society that this view engenders.

‘At a social level, Britain has been shaped for the better by many pre-Christian, non-Christian, and post-Christian forces. We are a plural society with citizens with a range of perspectives, and we are a largely non-religious society,’ the round robin added.

The lead signatory, Jim Al-Khalili, an Iraqi-born physicist and president of the British Humanist Association, said Cameron’s intervention was part of a ‘disturbing trend’.

Disturbing trend, Jimbo? Whatever ‘trend’ you perceive seems to run exactly counter to any religious renaissance I see, as the stats demonstrate.

In the 2011 census, 25.1% of the population of England and Wales declared ‘no religion at all’ against 14.81% who said as much in 2001. And the sceptical Scots were even less inclined to cry ‘Hallelujah’, the 27.55% declaring they had no faith in 2001 soaring to 36.7% within a decade.

Indeed, apart from Islam – and the attendant problems fanatics in its midst have sought to wreak on Britain – all recognised religions, including Jedi-ism, are on the back foot. Because long ago many folk stopped buying into the proposition ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first’ if they waited long enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Consumerism and credit cards did for that.

I won’t dispute Jimbo and his talking heads are correct in pointing out there is a ‘narrow constitutional sense’ in which the UK is Christian – Anglicanism is, after all, the official faith of the land, thanks to Henry VIII’s libido and the Queen being head honcho…unless Lib-Dem leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg gets his way and sacks her.

Nor will I argue Britain hasn’t benefitted immeasurably from the genius of people of other credos or none at all. I’ll even add that I disagree intensely with some faith schools insisting on teaching only blinkered creationism.

But, as a non-Christian son of the Sceptred Isle, I had the great good fortune to grow up in a climate of mainly tolerance and understanding, partly due to the CofE being as benign as it is.

It might be figuratively on its knees – and not in a prayerful way – but it remains the faith a majority of Brits identify with, if only out of tradition and not as bible-thumping pew-warmers

CHURCH CRITIC: Humanist Jim Al-Kalili claims British is no longer a 'Christian country'

CHURCH CRITIC: Humanists’ leader,  Jim Al-Kalili, claims British is no longer a ‘Christian country’

So, compared to elsewhere, where hard-line belief in a supreme deity is by autocratic decree, thank heavens for a largely compassionate, liberal ideal of Christianity prevailing in my homeland.

Plus, although religion over the centuries has much to answer for – and in some places still does – it has been the anti-faith doctrines of the 20th Century that caused the most mayhem, conflict and slaughter.

Of course, I don’t subscribe to religion – any religion – being rammed down people’s throats. But if David Cameron wants to air his views on his faith, as an individual and not for political capital, I think he has every right to so, just as Jimbo’s disbelievers are entitled to air a contrary option.

And, at risk of being branded a bigot – and I’d swear on a stack of bibles, Korans or Torahs I’m not – it mightn’t be such a bad idea if the humanists were a tad more humane and didn’t take umbrage at someone having the temerity to ignore their PC pomposity.

The laws of Britain – and, for that matter, most Western democracies, including egalitarian, irreligious France – are founded on Judeo-Christian morality, even if not all Ten Commandments are enshrined in judicial frameworks.

Hence, we know it’s illegal to kill, thieve and tell porkies in court, even if – lucky for John Major and an untold horde of us – adultery isn’t a capital offence, as isn’t covetousness, not remembering the Sabbath Day, being caught with graven images or taking the Lord’s name in vain.

All the same, they are moral pillars of our civilisation. And if someone like Cameron needs a personal reminder of them, via his faith – especially the lighter-touch CofE – where’s the harm?

 

Why I want a democratic Europe, minus the EU dictators and the Euro ‘gravy train’

THE other night I was asked to debate the pluses and minuses of Europe with former European Parliamentarian (MEP), Francisca Bennassar, in front of an audience of international expats here in Mallorca, members of an organisation called Europeos por Espana. Several people have contacted me since and asked for details of my speech – so here’s an abridged version (and apologies for its length)…

THE GREAT DEBATE: Yours truly discusses the EU with former Euro MEP, Francisca Bennassar

THE GREAT DEBATE: Yours truly discusses the EU with former Euro MEP, Francisca Bennassar – Photo: LAURA STADLER

CONTRARY to popular myth, I am not the UK Independence Party’s Man in Mallorca, a swivel-eyed loon or a Little Englander, whose attitude to Europe was probably best summed up by a famous headline in The Times, from the 1930s, that read: ‘Fog in Channel, Continent cut off.’

Indeed, I feel extremely fortunate to live in the sun-kissed Balearic Isles, so I’m not a turkey which votes for Christmas and I don’t want to see an end of the European dream.

And I can tell you: if Britain ever left the European Union, my wife and I would be devastated. Being declared persona non grata here and forced to return to Britain is a dark prospect with zero appeal, especially if – like us – you hail from Manchester.

Not that I’m not immensely proud of being British and my home city. Because, in spite of the EU’s attempts to homogenise us all into being Europeans, first and foremost, we are still entitled to take pride in our nationalities, cultures and history.

Still, in 1973, I was more than happy for my country to join what was then the European Economic Community, or the EEC in short, perhaps more affectionately known as the COMMON MARKET. And, two years later, I voted a resounding ‘Yes’ for continued membership in the only referendum Britain has held on being part of Europe.

This was not just because it would further irritate the French – General De Gaulle, you might remember, worked tirelessly to keep us Anglo-Saxons out of what he regarded as his club…a French invention, funded by Germany, as my German neighbours insist it still is.

No, this was because I strongly believed in the merits of neighbouring nations banding together to form a trading bloc, with free movement of GOODS, SERVICES, CAPITAL AND PEOPLE.

However, the cuddly, old Common Market – which appeared to be working very nicely, gracias – somehow sneakily grew into what we have now…the European Union.

In doing so, the original concept has morph into an UNDEMOCRATIC, BUREAUCRATIC, POWER-GRABBING BIG BROTHER – A LAME ATTEMPT AT THE SUPER-STATE SOME YEARN TO SEE, BUT ONE I SINCERELY HOPE NEVER HAPPENS, BECAUSE IT WOULD BE AN EVEN BIGGER DISASTER THAN WHAT WE HAVE NOW.

Condemned by its own arrogance, the EU is a smug gaggle of unelected appointees, unanswerable to its citizens, backed by a mollycoddled, egotistic bureaucracyalso unaccountable to the electorate – and 766 MEPs, who at least are voted in by us hoi poloi every five years, even if they apparently haven’t the power to pop a paper bag.

To me, this smacks too much of George Orwell’s nightmarish 1984, with totally centralised control bossed by an unchallengeable BIG BROTHER CABAL. Even words they use to sugar-coat policy sound like ‘News-speak’.

What’s more, it’s also a grasping, unapologetic GRAVY TRAIN, where money – that’s OUR cash – is no object when it comes to frittering it away on far too many worthless, needless so-called ‘initiatives’ and ‘projects’.

And, thanks to its arcane treaties, it meddles with and too often overrides the will and laws of sovereign nations– and their peoples – insisting on something called SUBSIDIARITY, which basically means: ‘Europe know best, so do as you’re damned well told’.

Naturally, as you can tell, I’m being hyper-diplomatic here in the interests of pan-European unity…and we haven’t even discussed that most shambolic symbol of EU financial alchemy, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ Euro.

So now you’re thinking this man is Nigel Farage in disguise after all and his weasel words of being pro-European are a sham.

I can assure you they aren’t. Because what I dearly want to see is a Europe that actually works for all the its peoples…one that’s transparently democratic from top to bottom, where APPOINTEE DICTATORS don’t rule the roost and faceless bureaucrats – or EUROPRATS, as many call them– are held accountable for their excesses, however bananas they are at times…and believe me bananas, as we’ll see, is a very apt description.

I don’t know who watched either or both of the two, televised debates between UKIP’s Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister and the country’s No.1 apologist for the EU.

But, apart from Farage winning both by a country mile – sorry, kilometre– what struck me most was how hostile the public have become to Establishment politicians of all stripes, because voters feel the likes of Clegg live in a political bubble utterly divorced from their reality.

NO TO THE EU: Nigel Farage's UKIP is a symptom of growing anti-European opinion

NO TO THE EU: Nigel Farage’s UKIP is a symptom of growing anti-European opinion

So UKIP is not the cause of this frustration, merely a glaring symptom of that disconnect…a disillusionment that’s echoing throughout Europe.

Just look at the gains Marine Le Pen’s National Front made in France’s recent mayoral elections and the manifest dangers other neo-fascist, headbangers – like Jobbick in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece – pose to democracy.

It heavily emphasises that a perilous rejection of mainstream politics is happening and politicians have only themselves to blame, thanks to their litany of broken promises, wishy-washy policies and the growth of a pasty political elite, few of whom have ever done proper jobs or got their hands dirty.

And it can’t be denied that one of the prime targets for this swelling tide of rage – a cri de Coeur you might say – is the clunking fist of the EU and its inability to deal with six years of crippling, financial crisis, except to pile on more misery and austerity.

It even had the effrontery to sack democratically-elected leaders in Greece and Italy and impose its own technocrats to take charge.

As an aside, look what happened in 2008 when the peoples of France, the Netherlands and Ireland voted ‘No’ to the Lisbon Treaty. The all-knowing, all-seeing EU simply said ‘Vote, vote and vote again – until you get the ‘Yes’ result we demand.’

So much for democracy – as we used to know it – in today’s Europe.

It’s no surprise, then, people want to wrest back control of their own countries not have more and more power hijacked by Brussels. Because if, as the records show, over 50% of laws originate from the EU, what’s the point in a state holding a general election?

But, briefly returning to the Farage-Clegg debates, the scariest words I heard came afterwards from the Lib-Dem leader. When asked how he saw Europe 10 years on and he glibly replied, ‘Much the same as it is now.’

‘****!’ (or words to that effect),’ I thought: ‘If this is as good as it gets, heaven help us all!’

Because even a purblind Europhile like Clegg must ask why, for instance, the EU needs TWO centres of government, Strasbourg as well as Brussels.

Not that he’ll admit, but the reason is the French demanded it.

So every so often the whole EU bandwagon – Commissioners, MEPs, Europrats, advisers, translators, lobbyists, hangers-on, plus assorted odds and sods – up sticks and buzz off 432 kilometres down the road to its other HQ, sets up camp there and gets to work.

No wonder the EU Commission budget for 2014 is mind-boggling €142.64-billion – and it’s only that low because Britain, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland, Austria and the Czech Republic balked at the Commissions’ demand for an inflation-exploding, near-7% rise, which was slashed down to below 3%…still at least a percentage point higher than inflation (or stagflation) afflicting most struggling member states.

Personally, I think it was a gross impertinence of the EU’s great and good to demand to let their belts out several notches just when nearly every citizen – especially in crisis-stricken Club Med states, like Spain – was dramatically tightening theirs.

You might be interested to know, by the way, that ever since 1994, when it first started producing annual reports into Europe’s finances, the EU’s own accountants, the Court of Auditors, has failed to sign off the Union’s accounts because of gross profligacy and widespread irregularities.

One audit found over €100-billion of spending was ‘affected by material error’– a polite term for fraud and mismanagement.

Indeed, so critically searing were the auditors, last year the Commissioners ordered them gagged, for fear of what else they might uncover.

But it’s not all just about money, even if an MEP sitting in the EU assembly costs £1.79 million a year (2012 figure) – three times what a British MP costs in Westminster – and the European Parliament’s 766 members cost us taxpayers a staggering £1.3 billion annually. And that doesn’t include pensions most folk could only dream of.

This takes me onto another point about duplication, because just like it has two HQs, the EU has TWO PRESIDENTS. Lucky us, I hear you say – even America’s only got one (and there’s even some doubt about him).

CHEERS TO EUROPE: No wonder Barrosa (left) and Van Rumpoy are smiling...they're in charge of Europe

CHEERS TO EUROPE: No wonder Barrosa (left) and Van Rumpoy are smiling…they’re in charge of Europe

First, there’s Herman Van Rumpoy, who as President of the European Council, is effectively Europe’s Prime Minister and, to be fair, has some experience in that role, since he was once Belgium’s premier.

Second, there’s Jose Manuel Barrosa, President of the Commission, the EU’s executive branch and Biggest of the Brethren.

As President, the former Prime Minister of Portugal doles out jobs to the 28 members of the Commission the EU’s cabinet, each being an appointee from their member state.

The President also determines EU policy, having the final say about all the laws, because the EU’s inner circle is the only body that can propose legislation. MEPs, as I said earlier, can’t pass or change whatever lands on them from above, but – rather like Britain’s House of Lords – can merely rubber-stamp it or ask the Commission for a review.

Now, you maybe be unfamiliar with Messrs. Barroso and Van Rumpoy – even if Farage once described him as ‘having the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk’ (and was fined €2,400 for the insult). But you might – just might – be aware of the UK’s grandee at the EU top table.

She is no less than the Gilbert & Sullivan-sounding High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – in other words Foreign Minister – and none other than Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland, near Wigan, which, I can tell you, is better known for its meat pies than its diplomats.

Vice-President of the Commission, too, no less, Cathy has never been voted into public office anywhere at any level, not even a parish council or a junior school PTA. In fact, all her jobs – from Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament administrator to Leader of the House of Lords – have been by appointment only.

What’s more, many member state foreign ministers believe the Baroness has been hit by a huge ego-rush and considerably overreaches her brief – and expertise – by insisting she speaks on the world stage for all 28 nations of the EU, something Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, describes as ‘competence creep’ (though maybe ‘incompetence creep’ is, perhaps, more accurate).

Hardly considered a colossus in diplomatic circles, Cathy apparently owe her status to the patronage of her great friend, Britain’s ex-Prime Minister, Gordon Brown…so perhaps enough said.

UPDATE – RE: THE BARONESS: The artless EU’s foreign policy chief is the only international diplomat to have welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s new unity deal with it arch enemies, the Islamic crazies of Hamas, who hijacked Gaza in a mini-civil with the PLO in 2007 and are designated a ‘terrorist’ entity by the EU.

The move also signals the final nail in the coffin for US Secretary of State, John Kerry’s bid to forge a two-state solution and end the Israel-Palestinian impasse.

‘Daft as a brush’ is an expression popular in Wigan. Perhaps someone should suggest she’s an apt recipient of that ‘accolade’ on her next visit to planet Earth.

EU’S LOONIER RULES

THE Union gets itself a bad name because not only is it constantly meddling in member states’ domestic affairs, but some of its rules and diktats are beyond absurd. Just for your edification and amusement, let’s look at a few…  

BANANAS! Because it is so curved, this banana was branded illegal by the EU

BANANAS! Because it is so curved, this banana was branded illegal by the EU

● Until 2008, when the daft law was repealed – pardon the pun – for 13 years the EU deemed this banana illegal…because it wasn’t straight enough. It cost growers millions and a similar law applied to bent cucumbers.

The only positive I can recall from this bananas idea was when I came home from work one night with one and my wife said to me, ‘Is that an EU banana in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?’

WATER WON'T WORK: According to the EU drinking water doesn't re-hydrate - so it can't be advertised as being able to do so

WATER WON’T WORK: According to the EU drinking water doesn’t re-hydrate – so it can’t be advertised as being able to do so

● You might know our bodies are composed of nearly 60% of water and we need it to survive – so no wonder marathon runners take on so much when plodding 26 miles. But, despite overwhelming medical evidence, in its addled arrogance, the EU ruled that drinking water DIDN’T STOP DEHYDRATION and manufacturers of bottles like this were stopped from claiming it did.

PRUNE POTTINESS: The EU says prunes aren't laxatives

PRUNE POTTINESS: The EU says prunes aren’t laxatives, so can’t be marketed as a means to make you go (you know where)

● These are, as you’ve guessed, prunes and, again, there’s overwhelming medical evidence they aid…well, you know what. But an EU diktat declared prunes were not laxatives, so they couldn’t be marketed as an aid that helps…well, you know what. That farcical pronouncement prompted one MEP to suggest a prune-eating contest to see what happened. Unsurprisingly, there were no takers.

CHOC CHUMPS: The EU banned Cadbury's chocolate - because they didn't consider it was 'chocky' enough

CHOC CHUMPS: The EU banned Cadbury’s chocolate – because they didn’t consider it was ‘chocky’ enough

● Most Brits will have been brought up on Cadbury’s chocolate, yet for 27 years is was effectively banned by the EU, because it contained up to 5% of vegetable fats and up to 20% of milk.

There was also considerable argy-bargy about British chocolate in general not being chocolate at all, since it didn’t contain at least 60% of cocoa bean, but cocoa butter instead.

And ditto a proposed ban on smoky-bacon flavoured crisps…because they didn’t contain smoky bacon. Of course not! The clue was in the word ‘flavoured’, silly.

Thank heavens Brussels didn’t get around to examining cheese & onion crisps, with no cheese or onion in them, or BBQ-flavoured nibbles that didn’t have a BBQ in the bag.

And, by the way – just in case the Europrats ever decide to look into it – I can I assure them there aren’t any monsters in Monster Munch.

However, one victory for EU ‘group think’ was to re-name carrots as fruit, not veg, because the Portuguese make jam out of them.

The point is not that these laws, pronouncements, diktats and directives are utter twaddle from the EU’s Ministry of Silly Talks, to misquote Monty Python.

It’s more about: what is an organisation like the EU doing wasting valuable time, money and resources by poking its nose into things that don’t concern it and are of absolutely no consequence to the betterment of Europe’s people.    

JUSTICE ON TRIAL: ECHR judges ride roughshod over the legal systems of EU member states

JUSTICE ON TRIAL: ECHR judges ride roughshod over the legal systems of EU member states

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS  

LOOK, I don’t want to keep rattling on like a machine-gun with a tirade against the EU, though I could do at least until midnight.

I could cite the lunacy of the profligate Common Agricultural Policy, CAP – designed by the French for the French, which pays farmers obscene amounts of money to produce nothing and how CAP’s stupidity resulted in useless Wine Lakes and Butter Mountains.

I could ask why the EU needs 13,000 Europrats, who are paid salaries way above any civil service norm, along with generous pensions and perks that include EU-designated shops, where they can buy products tax-free.

I could also cite the EU’s at least 56 quangos and so many committees, even the Commissioners have lost count of them, which all require truly obscene amounts of funding.

But I won’t.

Last week I spent two days researching the EU and on Wikipedia its entry is so garbled with Euro-babble, it must have been written by a committee of the most nerdish Europrats Brussels could assemble.

What I did discover, though, were the three qualifying rules of entry to the Union as set out in simple, unambiguous language for once. So any nation seeking accession must agree to: be financially solvent (like Greece, for instance?), democratic and uphold the rule of law.

That’s seems more than reasonable, I hear you say.

Except it presupposes a nation’s justice system has enough checks and balances not to require further (shall we say) ‘refinement’ by more EU interference.

But, not only does the Union have its own judges in the Courts of Justice, it requires member states to kow-tow to the European Court of Human Rights, the too often ridiculous ECHR.

Technically the ECHR isn’t part of the EU. But it is, because EU rules demand that every member nation joins the Council of Europe, thus every member must automatically accept the European Charter of Human Rights, which means every member is answerable to the judicial quirks of the ECHR.

To be fair, this court was set up in the late 1950s with the best of intentions – as is the road to Hades.

So, more than half a century on, the fitness for purpose of the ECHR as a court of last resort is quite rightly being questioned, thanks to some of its – how can I explain them politely – more bonkers judgements.

Britain, whose judicial code dates back to the Magna Carta of 1215, is but one of many of the 47 nations answerable to the ECHR that raises extremely valid issues about the decisions handed down, often by judges who are junior legal academics with absolutely no courtroom experience anywhere.

DEPORATION DODGER: For years hate preacher, Abu Hamza, used the ECHR to avoid terror charges in America

DEPORATION DODGER: For years hate preacher, Abu Hamza, used the ECHR to avoid terror charges in America

Yet the Court remains free to ride roughshod over national judicial systems, as it’s done with the UK’s, blocking, for instance the legitimate deportation of hook-handed hate preacher, Abu Hamza, to face terrorism charges in the US and with the equally-odious Abu Qatada, wanted by Jordan on similarly offences.

And only the other day it agreed to process the appeals of two Real IRA scumbags, seeking to overturn a UK civil court verdict holding them responsible for the heinous, Omagh bombing in 1988, in which 29 people were murdered and 220 maimed.

Meanwhile, for years the ECHR has accused Britain of ‘human rights abuse’ by refusing criminals serving prison sentences the right to vote in elections. To me – and I’d hope to most sane folk – it doesn’t seem unreasonable that those convicted of crimes should not share the same privileges as law-abiding folk, including the right to vote.

So, like the Big Brother that’s the EU, the ECHR is in dire need of having some common-sense knocked into it.

CURSED CURRENCY: The 'one-size-fits-all' Euro doesn't allow weaker, Club Med states to devalue

CURSED CURRENCY: The ‘one-size-fits-all’ Euro doesn’t allow weaker, Club Med states to devalue

THE EURO

FINALLY, I can’t but help mention the Euro and say simply this: No currency union in history has ever worked long term – and there have been several…but, just like the Euro, they were wishful and egotistical political thinking winning over the realities of economic nous.

And this ‘one-size-fits-all’ pipedream had the makings of one of the most monumental currency blunders right from its introduction in 1999.

How many remember how, here in Spain, 166 pesetas were converted to one Euro – and a 150-peseta cup of coffee suddenly cost €1.50 (249 pesetas) or even €2 (332 pesetas) overnight? If that wasn’t a financial health warning for things to come, I don’t know what was.

A strong currency might meet the needs of manufacturing super-states, like Germany, relatively untouched by the financial tsunami of 2008 that hit the world. But the same doesn’t apply to the weaker, agriculture and tourism-dependent economies of southern Europe.

So, sadly, it’s no surprise to see the growing poverty, civil unrest, joblessness and despair. Just look at Spain, where kids, often highly educated, have to seek work overseas, because over half of under-25 – the cream of the nation’s future – can’t find employment at home.

And the tragedy is compounded by the abject lack of imagination of the European Central Bank, the ECB, which hasn’t a clue about how to combat the drift into stagflation.

The fact that Britain, Sweden and Denmark had the good sense to keep out of the Euro – and are now recovering fastest from the crisis – should be an object lesson in how vital it is for nations to keep control of their own currencies.   

So my plea is ‘Si, VIVA EUROPE’…but let’s have a helluva lot less of it!’

Smearing Britain as the world’s leader in sexism is the daftest UN verdict yet

NOT that I imagined I was one, but I thought I’d err on the side of caution and check to see if I was a Male Chauvinist Pig.

It transpires I’m not, says my wife, who even gave me the verbal equivalent of the British Kite Mark for possessing a ‘feminist side’, which means the next time I pass a sarong shop I can pop in and buy one (well, it worked for David Beckham).

Despite being personally absolved, apparently the UK is the world’s most sexist country.

That’s the learned opinion of Rashida Manjoo, a Special Rapporteur for the United Nations Humans Rights Council (UNHCR), whose withering verdict is based on a 16-day ‘fact-finding’ mission – including, I’d venture, a chat with The Guardian’s women’s editor, on one of her rare visits to the planet Earth.

And not only is sexism rampant, Ms Manjoo insists a ‘boys’ club culture’ rules Britain, sexual bullying and harassment is ‘routine’ and schools should teach lads manners.

‘Have I seen this level of sexist culture in other countries?’ Ms Manjoo posited, rhetorically. ‘It hasn’t been so in-your-face in other countries. I haven’t seen that so pervasively in other countries. I’m sure it exists (elsewhere), but it wasn’t so much and so pervasive.’

Pardon me for demurring with Ms. Manjoo and I can only presume her travels have been short and few.

But, let me state my criticism of her has nothing to do with my distinctly dim opinion of the UN – which regular readers know I consider a chamber of horrors for Western values – or with the loopy UNHCR, which lauded Libya’s late, unlamented, homicidal maniac, Muammar Gaddafi, as a paragon of ‘human rights’ virtue.

Because, for all her political correct piety, I believe this UN Special Rapporteur on human rights has got it dead wrong by naming and shaming Britain as the world capital of anti-female prejudice.

In her purblindness, she utterly ignores glaringly worse offenders in the Middle East particularly, where often women can’t vote, can’t drive, can’t leave home without a male guardian and, among the many other indignities heaped on them, they’re subject to violent abuse from their menfolk.

Ms Manjoo also overlooks Africa, where female genital mutilation is rife in Somalia and rape is an established tactic in military conflicts – even by blue-cap, UN peacekeepers.

BRIT BASHER: The UN's Rashida Manjoo claims the UK is the worst place in the world for 'pervasive sexism'

BRIT BASHER: The UN’s Rashida Manjoo claims the UK is the worst place in the world for ‘pervasive sexism’

She pointedly avoids her own back yard, too, where South Africa is ranked fourth in the world for sexual violence, averaging 500,000 rape cases a year, according to the UN’s Office on Crimes and Drugs (whom she obviously didn’t bother consulting).

Nor does she mention India or Pakistan, where aborting female foetuses, selling young girls into servitude and arranged marriages are disgustingly all too common.

So, in pointing the finger at Britain, it’s not unreasonable to question Ms Manjoo’s bias, let alone qualifications to even run a stall at a charity bring-and-buy sale.

Of course, it would be absurd to deny sexism doesn’t exist in the UK and, at some time, I‘ve witnessed outrageous evidence of it, especially in the once masculine-dominated newspaper industry, heavy with the stench of testosterone.

But that was 40 years ago, when Carry On films overflowed with sniggering sexist gags and pubs were, indeed, big boys’ clubs.

Today, judging by the number of telly ads that denigrate males as being unable to find their hind quarters with both hands, I’d say Britain has much to teach the world about gender equality, even if it isn’t perfectly PC.

And, as far as the battle of the sexes goes, most fellas threw in the towel yonks ago.

We’re consoled by women telling us we can focus on the big issue – i.e. which team should win the Premiership – while they concentrates on the minutiae…like where and how the family lives, what schools the kids attend, where we go on hols and what colour car we drive.

Speaking personally, I was brought up by an extended family of motivated, principled women and venerated them, which may account for my respect towards females to this day.

Men, indeed, maybe from Mars and women from Venus, but I view neither on different intellectual plateaus – morons aren’t judged by gender.

Plus, having a highly intelligent, resourceful and ambitious daughter has given me a greater appreciation of the obstacles women face and I fully admit equality might be a legal requisite, but it ain’t necessarily reality.

Nonetheless, my girl has managed to fashion a highly successful career, which – in great swathes of the globe – gender would have scuppered her.

Lauren’s view on sexism in Britain, incidentally, is an interesting one: it’s more insidious than overt, she says, and it has too many manifestations to be simply constrained in a single word.

If it is a ‘glass ceiling’ that inhibits women in the workplace, there might be a whole host of converse reasons – like some choosing to be stay-at-home mums – why more females aren’t in parliament or heading FTSE 500 companies.

And, to borrow one of Ms Manjoo’s expression, if it’s the ‘visible presence’ of raunchy mags in newsagents or Page 3 girls – which are tame by comparison to what’s available on the internet – how come E.L. James had such a stonking success with Fifty Shades of Grey, which pandered unashamedly to women’s lust for porn?

Or if it’s that some females take exception to being wolf-whistled at in the street, that’s a worldwide phenomenon and men intend it as a compliment, however coarse.

Ditto predators, who exploit their status to exert sexual power, but nowadays – with the growing advent of the woman boss – this isn’t restricted to only females being victimised.

So I can only but wonder if Ms Manjoo’s smearing of Britain as the world’s worst sexism pariah state echoes her own warped prejudice.

Or is it a reflection on the pre-judgemental, anti-West mindset of the disorganisation employing her, which – conspicuously – has yet to appoint a female Secretary General?

Welcome to the weird world of Pallywood, where truth is pulped into fiction

ON Monday Jewish people the world over celebrate Passover, commemorating how Moses led the enslaved Israelites out of Egyptian bondage towards the Promised Land.

The crisp, flat slabs of unleavened bread, matzo, they’ll eat during the festival meal is symbolic of that exodus. So, too, are the bitter herbs that recall the cruelty, humiliations and injustices meted out by Pharaoh’s taskmasters.

Jesus and his disciples were partaking of exactly this ancient ritual in what Christians recall as the Last Supper.

Except it didn’t happen, because the bible is bunkum, according to one popular, Arab narrative. And Jews have no more right to claim Israel as a homeland than Native American Mohicans, Australian Aborigines or Bushmen of the Kalahari.

Conversely, if you don’t buy that hogwash, there’s the contradictory, ‘We-were-first’ porkie, as propounded by Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian’s chief negotiator, who says he’s ‘the proud son Canaanites’, around when Joshua brought Jericho’s walls tumbling down.

Except he isn’t. Nor, for that matter, are the vast majority of Palestinians.

For the record, genealogists show Erekat belongs to a Bedouin tribe, which originated in pre-Saudi Arabia. A branch began to settle about 200 years ago in the Ottoman province that became the post-WW1 British Mandate of Palestine, so his roots in the biblical soil hardly scratch the surface.

In fact, most Palestinians are descendants of late-19th/early-20th Century immigrants from Sudan, Libya, Egypt, and Jordan, lured by the opportunity to trade with Zionist settlers, who made the desert bloom in territory Mark Twain described as ‘desolate and unlovely’, when he toured the Holy Land in 1867.

Even Yasser Arafat was no son of ancient Palestine, not simply because no such nation existed, but he was born an Egyptian, in Cairo, on August 24, 1929.

There’s no disputing, however, Arafat was the wellspring of the litany of so many great Palestinian myths, tall tales his Palestinian Authority (PA) successor, Mahmoud Abbas, continues to peddle to those gullible enough to listen – principally the West-hating neo-Left, whose boycott, divestment and sanction movement (BDS) is a handy means for many to cloak their anti-Semitic bile under the veil of trendy anti-Zionism.

SON OF CANAANITES: Except Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat's family history hardly scratches Holy Land soil

SON OF CANAANITES? Except Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat’s family history hardly scratches Holy Land soil

So, the ‘revisionist’ history of the Middle East’s most intractable problem is an amnesiac’s dream, neatly forgetting the host of treaties that created a Jewish state, three unprovoked wars Israel won against seemingly insuperable odds and the land-for-peace deals it concluded with Egypt and Jordan.

Selective memory also overlooks the 19-year timeframe, after Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, when the West Bank and East Jerusalem was grabbed by Jordan and Egypt annexed Gaza.

Despite appalling abuse by their Arab brethren, during that interim there was hardly a peep about Palestine statehood, largely because the Jordanians and Egyptian suppressed it, never recognised Palestinians as a people, didn’t assimilate them, but merely pilfered the land.

Only after the Israel’s 1967 Six Day War victory did the Arabs wake up to the potential of Arafat’s invention of Palestinian nationalism, though his stock tactics of terror attacks and airline hijacks initially won few admirers and little influence.

But, in 1968, Soviet KGB spinmeisters turned truth into fiction and created Pallywood, in which Arafat was transformed into the Middle East’s Che Guevara.

And, instead of a plucky, little Jewish state defying the might of a genocidal Arab world, the conflict was ‘re-spun’ to present it as the struggle of a powerless, indigenous people – the ‘Palestinians’ – to free themselves from imperialist US lackeys, the despised Israelis.

Thus, Arafat became a master of deceit, waving the olive branch at the West and the AK47 at his followers. Feted on the world stage, he was regularly offered the chance of a state on a plate by Israeli leaders, but his customary reply was to crank up more terrorism and bloody intifadas.

With the venal warlord dead – and the secret of a missing $1.3-billion of US and European Union taxpayers’ largess buried with him – Abbas continues his old boss’s ploy of negotiate, obfuscate and infuriate, always scuppering talks and pinning failure on Israel.

Last week he succeeded again, forcing John Kerry, America’s latest peace-broker, back to Washington, smarting at being taken for a sucker after nearly nine months of intense, shuttle diplomacy, in which the PA played him like a yo-yo.

Angry his place in history was ebbing away, the US Secretary of State’s knee-jerk reaction was to fault Israel – just as Abbas intended – only to embarrassingly backtrack by laying blame on both sides.

Meanwhile, most sane folk yearn for a two-state solution and wonder why the Palestinians have spurned the offer more times than Mickey Rooney, who died last week, aged 93, had wives – eight at the final count.

But, as the late Abba Eban, Israel’s eloquent Foreign Minister, noted, apropos Arafat, ‘He never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.’

Ditto Abbas, who’s done zilch to advance the peace process and who threw a grenade into the works by breaking off face-to-face talks and scorned Kerry’s plea to extend the pow-wow beyond its over-optimistic April 29 deadline.

PALLYWOOD HERO: The KGB transformed Yasser Arafat into a Middle East Che Guevara

PALLYWOOD HERO: The KGB spinmeisters  transformed Yasser Arafat into a Middle East Che Guevara

Furthermore, he incensed Israel by announcing he’d sign 15 UN treaties – it’s reckoned the PA is already in breach of 11 of them – thus reneging on his vow to seek statehood only via bilateral negotiations and tearing to shreds the 1993 Oslo Accords.

With the goalposts suddenly moved, Israel premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, retaliated by shelving the release of the fourth tranche of 104 hard-core terrorist prisoners, some of them Israeli-Arabs – a new PA condition never in the script – who’d murdered and maimed thousands.

Much to Kerry’s chagrin, Netanyahu also approved housing tenders for a Jerusalem suburb, already earmarked as part of a land-swap deal.

But, in reality, Abbas was simply indulging in more Pallywood petty-fogging , before being caught with a deal-busting, smoking gun by outing his true aims at a recent Arab League summit in Kuwait.

With rare candour, he stated: ‘No’ to recognition of a Jewish state; ‘No’ to renouncing Palestinians’ right of return to their ‘ancient’ homeland; and ‘No’ to Israel extending its territory beyond the 1948 truce borders (a.k.a. the ‘Auschwitz Lines’)

Those words have virtually dealt Kerry’s mission a killer blow.

Because if the US envoy didn’t know it before, he knows now that Abbas will only accept a Palestinian state if it includes all of Israel, too.

 

 

 

‘Nightmare’ Nige’s UKIP mavericks could signal another mish-mash UK government

IF I were a betting man – and it’s odds-on I’m not – I’d wager that whatever constitutes the next United Kingdom government, post the General Election of May 7, 2015, it will be another hastily-cobbled coalition.

Labour may currently be a gnat’s nose ahead of the Conservatives, but they’re not dead certs to lead the field a year from now, especially after Finance Minister Osborne’s crafty budget unlocked pension funds and unashamedly played to Lamborghini-lusting wrinklies.

Meanwhile, showtime has kicked off with the warm-up acts slugging it out to determine which also-ran might be a junior partner, should the great British electorate again decide to inflict a plague on both houses of the major parties.

So, last Wednesday, Nick ‘Nicey’ Clegg, champion of the sagging Liberal Democrats, went head-to-head in a TV joust with the United Kingdom Independence Party’s Nigel ‘The Nightmare’ Farage for the second time in a week, keeping the chatterati so abuzz, a 1,000-volt charge could have been thrust up their bleached posteriors.

The BBC debate was fiercer, more cuttingly personal than the previous, LBC/Sky TV  clash, but each produced only one winner – and it wasn’t the crestfallen Deputy Prime Minister.

Many, yours truly included, wondered why a Coalition Goliath like Clegg had thrown down the gauntlet to Farage, a self-styled David and, proudly by his own account, a ‘non-professional’ politico.

So, if it was intended as an exercise in rubbing the underdog’s nose in the doo-doo, it backfired monumentally.

Because hubris did for Clegg as he totally misjudged Farage’s gift of the gab and in both debates the second most powerful man in Britain reeled under a welter of verbal blows, the most withering being the accusation of ‘wilfully lying to the British people.’

The debates’ outcome have further signalled a radical shift in the UK’s political sands.

Even the ‘hung’ parliament of 2010, which gave the Lib-Dems their first a whiff of influence in decades, could be eclipsed by the bonfire of political vanities that threatens.

The cardinal errors the big battalions – Labour as much as Conservative, let alone Clegg’s political harlots – made were a) Trivialising UKIP as swivel-eyed, Little Englander loons [true, some are]; and b) Utterly underestimating Farage’s connect with non-metropolitan have-nots.

NO CONTEST: Nick Clegg (right) and UKIP's Nigel Farage locked in verbal fisticuffs - with 'Nightmare' Nige winning both times

NO CONTEST: Nick Clegg (right) and UKIP’s Nigel Farage locked in verbal fisticuffs – with ‘Nightmare’ Nige winning both times

This emphasises how divorced from reality the elite truly are, with rare exception all too comfy in their Westminster bubble, inured from life in the Siberia of the provinces.

Interestingly, a similar arrogance afflicts the commentariat, as a horde of talking heads demonstrated, disparaging Farage as ‘looking sweaty’ and praising Clegg for appearing ‘ministerial’ in the first face-off.

The YouGuv poll of real people saw it differently: feisty Nige licked lacklustre Nick 57% to 36% first time out, then bested him 68% to 27% in the re-match.

No wonder that snotty scribbler, Yasmin Alibhia Brown, of the fast-fading Independent, demanded furiously the media should be ‘controlled’ in giving coverage to Farage.

If Ms YAB’s remark didn’t smack of neo-Lefty fascism and a curb on free speech more redolent of serfdom than democracy, I don’t know what does.

What her witless ravings echo is how much fear the smiley man with the pint has instilled in the smug mugs, who believe they reign over Britain and Europe by divine right.

As a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Farage is a first-hand witness to the impotence of colleagues and the power wielded by a faceless, ruthless Europratocracy.

He’s utterly dismissive, too, of the unelected cabal of non-entities that rule the European Union (EU) roost, reserving special scorn for Herman Van Rumpoy (anonymous President of the European Council), Manuel Barroso (ineffectual President of the European Commission) and Baroness Ashton (vacuous Foreign Minister), all of whom he dismisses as political pigmies on the world stage.

Irrespective of an artificial currency strangling the Club Med countries, Farage has exposed the EU faultlines and the dire need to restructure the project around its original, core principles of a free-trade Common Market.

BAN NIGE: That's the opinion of neo-Left scribbler and talking head, Yasmin Alabhai Brown

CONTROL FREAK: Neo-Lefty scribbler and talking head, Yasmin Alabhai Brown demands the media should stop publicising the UKIP leader

In Eurosceptic Britain, his damning verdict will undoubtedly translate into votes in next month’s EU polls and UKIP’s nine MEPs are tipped to see their number swell dramatically.

Not that all who’ll vote for the party buy into their message of cutting loose from Europe or to Farage lauding the tyrant Putin for defying the West over Ukraine.

But there’s no denying, after the economy, immigration – and loathed Brussels diktats on the issue – is the most festering sore in British electorate thinking. The reality, though, is the UK opened its door too wide too long ago and the floodtide of Rumanian and Bulgarian incomers Farage predicted hasn’t materialised.

Nevertheless – for now, at least – the country’s voters admire Nige’s chutzpah in putting the frighteners on the vested interests, whose paucity of ideas and personalities is woeful.

The EU polls, then, will be the first chance since 2010 for the people to bash the Westminster clique and they’re practically salivating to register their disgruntlement with the mish-mash Coalition government and Labour’s lamentable opposition

However, General Elections tend to concentrate voters’ minds, so it remains to be seen how much of an X Factor UKIP will pose in a year’s time.

My prediction is they’ll pick up a few House of Commons seats for the first time, come the big day, and those could buy them some say in who holds power.

A greater spectre than Farage’s mavericks, though, looms with September’s vote on Scotland’s independence. And, should Westminster’s worst fears come true, Labour will lose its 41 Scottish MPs, the Lib-Dems their 11, but the Tories only one.

Still, if I were the gambling man I’m not, I’d place a wee wager on the ‘No/Stay Together’ campaign shading it, despite Scottish National Party (SNP) leader, Alex Salmond’s brazen ballot-rigging that allows 16 year-olds to vote, yet bans ex-pat Caledonians south of the border from participating.

Assuming I’m right – that Britain remains a united kingdom and Nige nets a clutch of MPs, plus potential Tory defectors – a successive, ruling Coalition is certainly on the cards.

And I would bet on Squire Cameron and Red Ed Miliband sounding out the UKIP upstart over a pint of Tetley’s best British bitter to see which way his once swivel-eyed loons will jump.