The absolute (Secretary of) State of this

 

© The Belfast Telegraph

 

At certain eras in history, for certain sections of humanity, there were places to which you really didn’t want to go – places whose very name filled you with dread.

 

For members of the British underworld in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was Sydney Cove, Norfolk Island, Port Arthur, Van Diemen’s Land and the other brutal penal colonies that’d been established in Australia, to which you could be transported if you were convicted of anything worse than pinching five shillings-worth of goods.  For criminals in the Second French Empire between 1852 and 1953, the place that was synonymous with hell was another penal colony, the pitiless one at Cayenne, or Devil’s Island as it was better known.  And for German soldiers in the Wehrmacht during World War II, there were surely frequent nightmares about the prospect of being sent to the freezing and carnage-filled Russian Front.

 

Meanwhile, for members of the British government over the past half-century, the equivalent of the worst penal colony devised by the British or French Empires, or of the Russian Front, is surely Northern Ireland.

 

Political satirists have long been aware of this.  A 1984 episode of the BBC political comedy Yes, Minister had the British Prime Minister resigning and two ruthless politicians competing to take over as PM.  Both men threatened hapless minister Jim Hacker that they’d make him Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if they ended up winning and he hadn’t publicly backed their campaigns.  A generation later, a 2012 episode of a more abrasive TV satire, The Thick of It, showed slow-witted politician Ben Swain responding warily when he was offered the job of Foreign Secretary: “And you mean Foreign Secretary?  That isn’t code for Northern Ireland?  I’m not f**king going there.”

 

The position of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland came into being in 1972, when the old Northern Irish government at Stormont was suspended following the start of the long period of bloodshed and mayhem that became known as the Troubles, and when direct rule was imposed from London.  The first holder of the post was Conservative MP Willie Whitelaw, who set the template for many secretaries of state to come.  He was stiff and crusty, looked like he’d be more at home wearing tweeds and trudging around a grouse moor, and seemed perplexed that the half-dozen local Catholic and Protestant terrorist organisations and the mob of unruly local politicians wouldn’t play by Queensberry Rules.

 

Whitelaw wouldn’t be the first Secretary of State to look ill-at-ease in a province where though the two native communities were at each other’s throats, they had one thing in common, which was that they both hated his guts.  Nationalist Catholics saw him and his successors as stuck-up, patronising, untrustworthy English bastards who’d come to oppress them and keep them imprisoned in the United Kingdom.  Unionist Protestants saw them as stuck-up, patronising, untrustworthy English bastards who’d come to betray them and abandon them to a united Ireland.

 

From Polldaddy.com

 

Actually, I recall seeing, when I was a wee boy in Northern Ireland and just after Whitelaw’s appointment, satirical posters pasted everywhere depicting him as a grim-faced Wild West sheriff stalking nervously into an unsavoury-looking establishment called The Dead-End Saloon.  However, unlike many of his successors, Whitelaw’s political career didn’t come to a dead-end after Northern Ireland.  He served as British Home Secretary from 1979 to 1983 and became a favourite of Margaret Thatcher, who once said of him gruesomely, “Every Prime Minister needs a Willie.”

 

I also remember from my boyhood some political satire involving another 1970s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – the Labour Party MP Roy Mason, who served there during James Callaghan’s three-year tenure as Prime Minister.  The Belfast Telegraph featured a cartoon caricaturing him as Henry II while the Reverend Ian Paisley loomed behind him caricatured as Thomas Beckett.  Mason lamented, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”  However, unlike Thomas Beckett, who was murdered by knights soon after Henry II made this plea, Paisley lived until 2014 and made life a misery for a further 14 secretaries of state.

 

After the Conservatives had returned to power under Margaret Thatcher, Northern Ireland had as its Secretary of State the luckless Jim Prior.  Prior was a leading member of the ‘wets’ – the moderates – in the Conservative Party and when he dared to question his boss’s economic policies, his fate was sealed.  Empress Thatcher had him banished to Devil’s Island.

 

I also remember – for the wrong reasons – Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the early 1990s.  One day in 1992, an IRA bomb slaughtered seven construction workers.  That evening, Brooke appeared on Raidió Teilifis Éireann’s chat show The Late Late Show and unwisely allowed its host, the twinkly-eyed shit-stirrer Gay Byrne, to talk him into singing Oh My Darling Clementine live on air.  And with that, Brooke’s political credibility was gone.  To quote the song: ‘lost and gone forever / Dreadful sorry, Clementine.’

 

When Tony Blair entered Number 10 Downing Street and 1998’s Good Friday Agreement was on the cards, Northern Ireland finally got a Secretary of State of some substance: Mo Mowlam, also the first woman in the role.  The down-to-earth and bluntly-spoken Mowlam helped to knock heads together in the run-up to the agreement, although she earned herself the displeasure of the Protestant politicians and was eventually side-lined by Blair.  When Bill Clinton flew in to grab a piece of the glory, she grumbled to him that her role had become that of ‘tea lady’.

 

© BBC

 

The Good Friday Agreement paved the way for the Northern Ireland Assembly, which came into being while Peter Mandelson was the province’s Secretary of State.  An operator best described as an oil-slick in a suit, Mandelson had been a key ally and advisor of Tony Blair but he’d fallen from grace thanks to a scandal involving a dodgy home loan.  To rehabilitate himself, he had to do the political equivalent of donning sackcloth and ashes and beating himself with a scourge, which meant taking the Northern Ireland portfolio.  I imagine that Mandelson, a gay man, had his patience stretched to the limit by having to deal with Ian Paisley, who in 1977 had launched the infamous Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign.

 

With the Assembly up and running and its members responsible for the province’s governance, Mandelson’s successors as Northern Irish Secretary of State had less to do.  However, the Assembly collapsed early in 2017 because of a spat between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein and since then London has had to administer things again.  The Secretary of State on whose watch this happened was James Brokenshire, who surely had the most appropriate surname of anyone ever to take on the job: broken shire.

 

Brokenshire stood down at the start of this year for health reasons – not, as you might expect, mental health reasons, but because he needed to have an operation on his lung.  And this brings me to his replacement, the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley.

 

Last week Bradley hit the headlines when she confessed in an interview that she accepted the Northern Irish brief whilst having a knowledge of Northern Irish politics that was less than encyclopaedic.  “I freely admit that when I started this job, I didn’t understand some of the deep-seated and deep-rooted issues that there are in Northern Ireland.  I didn’t understand things like when elections are fought… people who are Nationalists don’t vote for Unionist parties and vice-versa.  So, the parties fight for the election within their own community.  Actually, the Unionist parties fight the elections against each other in Unionist communities and Nationalists in Nationalist communities. That’s a very different world from the world I came from.”

 

Oh, come on.  Bradley was born in 1970, which means she grew up in a Britain where the Northern Irish Troubles raged continually in the background – and sometimes in the foreground, for the IRA also set off bombs in England, including the Brighton one in 1984 that killed five members of Bradley’s Conservative Party and nearly took out Margaret Thatcher.  And she makes a living as a politician.  You’d expect her to be aware of political arrangements in the UK’s four corners and have some inkling who the Alliance Party, DUP, Official Unionists, SDLP and Sinn Fein and their supporters are.  Especially as her party has been propped up in government by ten MPs from Ian Paisley’s old outfit the DUP (in return for a 1.5 billion-pound bribe) since the 2017 general election.

 

Are we really to believe she flew to Belfast to become Secretary of State for Northern Ireland ignorant of such facts as most Protestant households don’t have framed, signed photographs of Martin McGuinness sitting on their mantelpieces and Roman Catholic support for Arlene Foster’s DUP is somewhat on the scant side?

 

© The Irish Examiner

 

Then again, Bradley’s ignorance is no worse than that displayed by many members of the Conservative Party these days, especially Brexiters like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.  These are people whose attitudes towards the post-Brexit condition of the Northern Ireland / Republic of Ireland border – all squiggly, wriggly 310 miles of it, crossing towns, farms, fields and loughs and crossed itself by more than 200 public roads – suggest I.Q.s that are at basement-level.  They proclaim that the border isn’t important enough to worry about, or it can be policed the way it was back in the days of the Troubles (and what happy days those were), or – Boris Johnson’s opinion – all the immigration and customs issues on the border arising from Brexit can be solved with technology.  Maybe Johnson is proposing using drones.   Or maybe he’s thinking about using toy airplanes with cameras fixed to them that can be piloted by leprechauns.  He’s probably heard that there are still a few leprechauns on the go in Ireland.  And what jolly little fellows they are too.

 

The selection of Karen Bradley to be Secretary of State for Northern Ireland must have been because she sings from the same hymnbook as many of her fellow Tories.  And that’s a hymnbook from the Church of Stupid.

 

You’ve been DUPed

 

© BBC

 

The most memorable joke cracked by the late British funnyman and game-show host Bob Monkhouse was this one: “People used to laugh when I told them one day I’d become a famous comedian.  Well, they’re not laughing now.”

 

I’m sure many commentators living north and south of the Irish border are saying something similar now that Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations with the European Union have ended up stuck between a rock and a hard place.  The rock is the Republic of Ireland’s aversion to the creation of a ‘hard border’ between it and Northern Ireland and its demand for both parts of the island to have ‘regulatory alignment’ (i.e. Northern Ireland quietly remaining in the EU’s customs union and single market).  The hard place is the insistence by Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, on whose ten Westminster MPs May’s minority Conservative government depends for support and survival, that Northern Ireland gets treated no differently from the rest of the United Kingdom during Brexit (i.e. if the UK quits the customs union and single market, Northern Ireland does too).

 

In other words: “Brexiters used to laugh when I told them the Irish border would be a massive problem if the UK voted to leave the EU.  Well, they’re not laughing now.”

 

Their attitude in the run-up to the Brexit vote in June 2016 wasn’t so much one of laughter, though, as one of sheer disinterest and ignorance.  It depressed me that on the morning of June 24th, just after the vote’s result was announced, the BBC showed a panel of British politicians taking questions from an audience.  An Irishman in the audience raised the border issue and was rudely and almost roundly ignored.  (The only panel-member to acknowledge his concerns was, significantly, Alex Salmond.)

 

Not that the British political or media establishments have shown any lessening in their ignorance of things Irish since then.  For instance, a recent editorial in The Sun advised Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to ‘shut his gob’ about Brexit; and right-wing politicians and commentators have generally talked about the Irish Republic so high-handedly you’d think they believed it was still one of Britain’s colonial possessions.  All this is despite the Republic of Ireland, as one of the remaining 27 members of the EU, having a veto over any deal between the EU and the departing UK that it sees as damaging to its interests.

 

Mind you, if you really want to soil yourself and experience all-out, full-frontal ignorance among the players in this fiasco, you should check out the Democratic Unionist Party.  The DUP includes among its ranks such God-bothering, science-disdaining eejits as Thomas Buchanan, a campaigner for the teaching of creationism in schools who rejects evolution as a “peddled lie” because, he reckons, “the world was spoken into existence in six days by His power”.  Then there’s Sammy Wilson, who maintains that climate change isn’t happening and has denounced the Paris Agreement as “window dressing for climate chancers”.  It’s mind-melting that Wilson was once Northern Irish Environment Minister.  And let’s not forget Trevor Clarke, who until very recently believed that HIV affected gay people only.  With IQs at near-subterranean levels, it’s unsurprising that the DUP is able to hold conflicting views without seeing any illogicality in holding them.  Most notably, it chants endlessly about Northern Ireland being exactly the same as the rest of the UK, for example, whilst insisting that Northern Irish law continues to ban abortion and same-sex marriage, both of which are legal in the rest of the UK.

 

© The Independent

© Belfast Telegraph

 

And low IQs might explain why, for a fiercely Christian outfit, it seems to have a lot of difficulty interpreting the teachings of Jesus Christ, which I thought were explicit in stating that Christ’s followers should not behave like corrupt, shifty, greedy, hypocritical tossers.  For instance, there was the ultra-dodgy Renewable Heat Incentive, or ‘cash-for-ash’ scheme, which was introduced in 2012 while the party’s leader and one-time Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster ran Northern Ireland’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.  Ostensibly, this encouraged people to switch from fossil fuel to biomass heating systems.  In reality, it meant unscrupulous farmers – many of them no doubt DUP voters – could set up biomass heating systems in empty cowsheds and still claim back £1.60 for every £1 they spent.  The scheme’s believed to have cost taxpayers some £400 million.  And then there was a £425,000 donation to the DUP from the shady anti-Scottish-independence organisation the Constitutional Research Council, rumoured to have really originated in Saudi Arabia, India or even Putin’s Russia.  In 2016, £282,000 of this was spent by the DUP on a ‘Vote Leave’ advertisement in a newspaper that wasn’t even published in Northern Ireland.

 

The most hilarious instance of DUP sleaze and sinfulness, though, was the 2009 scandal involving Iris Robinson – senior DUP figure, wife of Arlene Foster’s predecessor as party leader and First Minister Peter Robinson, and well-known denouncer of homosexuality as an ‘abomination’ – who had an extramarital affair with a lad young enough to be her grandson and also illegally procured some £50,000 to help him with a business project.  While Iris obliterated the seventh and eighth commandments, hubby Peter was content to line his pockets with hefty political salaries, allowances and alleged fixer-fees in direct contravention of what Matthew chapter 19, verses 16-26 said about camels, eyes of needles, rich men and heaven.  No wonder the pair of them have been dubbed the Swish Family Robinson.

 

© The Week UK

© Daily Mirror

 

From all accounts, Theresa May, the Republic of Ireland government and the EU were close to agreement yesterday on ‘regulatory alignment’ between the northern and southern parts of Ireland when Arlene Foster and the DUP scuppered it.  The deal would have helped to cushion the massive economic blow that Brexit looks certain to inflict on Northern Ireland.  (And the DUP is aware of this threat – soon after the 2016 referendum, and having championed a leave vote, the DUP saw no shame in sending Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister, Michelle McIlveen, scuttling off to Brussels to beg for continued EU support for Northern Irish farmers.)  And at best, it could have given the Northern Irish economy a real boost – imagine how attractive the place might have looked to investors as a corner of the UK that was still in the EU’s customs union and single market.  But as I’ve said, the DUP refused to countenance anything that’d make it different from the rest of the UK (apart from having medieval anti-abortion and anti-same-sex-marriage laws, obviously).  And among its members and supporters are plenty of red-white-and-blue nutters who’d saw off their own legs and strangle their own grandmothers if they thought it’d make them more British.

 

Ironically, I think this is hastening the very thing that the DUP abhors, which is the prospect of a united Ireland.  Although demographics are changing in Northern Ireland, with Roman Catholics looking set to soon outnumber Protestants, it seemed to me there was a large, mainly middle-class section of the Catholic community who were reasonably relaxed about staying part of the UK so long as Northern Ireland remained politically and economically stable and they had the safeguards guaranteed by 1998’s Good Friday agreement.  However, with the impending shitstorm of Brexit, I suspect many of those moderate Catholics will now swing towards supporting union with the south.  (When people asked me, I used to tell them I didn’t expect to see a united Ireland in my lifetime.  Now I’m starting to wonder.)

 

Amusingly, in the short term, if this spat continues between Theresa May and the DUP and the latter withdraws its support for the former, May’s government could collapse – resulting in yet another general election and the possibility that Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn becomes the next UK prime minister.  And it’s well known how old lefty Jeremy was, in the past, good friends with some people from Northern Ireland who definitely aren’t on Arlene Foster’s Christmas card list.

 

© Belfast Telegraph

 

Meanwhile, I sympathise with the many folk in the UK who, thanks to this crisis, have finally discovered that their country’s post-Brexit future depends on the whims of a political party from Northern Ireland whose asininity, venality and zealotry is truly of Trumpian levels.  Happy days.

 

Everybody won – and lost

 

© Daily Record

 

My head hurts.  Since Friday morning I’ve been trying to figure out the results of the British general election and I still don’t feel much wiser.  Here’s how it appears to me.

 

Theresa May’s Conservative Party got the most seats in Parliament, 317 out of 650.  So they won the election.  Right?  Wrong.  Their total was 13 down on what it’d been before, which left Theresa May looking the world’s biggest dolt for calling the election in the first place because she’d assumed, from the polls, that her party would be returned with a thumping majority.  In fact, the biggest thump heard as the results came in was that of Tory jaws striking the floor in shock and disbelief at their majority failing to materialise.  Now they’re nine seats short of the magic 326 number required for a working majority and it looks like they’ll have to do a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.  More on whom in a minute.

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has been hailed as the election’s big winners because they performed much better than expected.  There’s rarely been an election campaign where the odds against the main opposition party doing well seemed so great.  In particular, Corbyn and his followers had opprobrium heaped on them by the British press – two days before the vote, for instance, the Daily Mail seemed to devote an entire edition to telling us that Corbyn was an evil, crazed, corrupt, terrorist-loving, Satan-worshipping, child-murdering, baby-eating ghoul.  However, despite the unexpected bounce in their fortunes, Labour still managed a total of only 262 seats.  Even if they joined forces with the all the other non-right-wing parties in Westminster, they’d barely come within touching distance of that 326 working-majority number.

 

Tim Farron’s Liberal Democrats increased their share of seats by a third.  That’s a win, right?  Well academically.  They now have 12 seats instead of nine and remain utterly insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  Next!

 

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party got its second-biggest share ever of seats in Scotland, 35 out of 59 and comfortably more than all the seats won by the other Scottish parties put together.  That surely qualifies as a win, right?  But no.  The party lost 21 of the seats it’d won in the previous election of 2015, which had been its all-time high-water-mark, with the result that their performance this time has been interpreted as a loss.  That’s certainly how the anti-SNP mainstream media in Scotland has been spinning it furiously since Friday.

 

The Scottish results are rich in irony.  The Scottish Labour Party managed to increase its number of seats from one to seven, helped no doubt by the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing credentials north of the border.  Yet for the past few years the Scottish Labour Party has been notable for its loathing of Corbyn.  ‘SLAB’ leader Keiza Dugdale claimed that Corbyn would leave the Labour Party ‘carping from the side-lines’ and Ian Murray, previously Labour’s only Scottish MP, once resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet in an effort to undermine him.

 

Meanwhile, the way the media has fawned over Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson since the election has left many with the impression that Scotland has now entirely turned Tory and Davidson has somehow become the new Queen of Scots.  I’ve seen comments on Twitter by hurt English Labour voters, berating the Scots for changing the habits of a lifetime, voting Tory en masse and letting the Conservatives finish ahead of Corbyn.  For the record, Davidson’s Tories won 13 seats in Scotland, 22% of the total – a lot by their usual standards in Scotland but nowhere near a majority.  Though in the topsy-turvy world of Britain’s 2017 general election, a showing of 22% is construed as a victory.  (Yet another irony is that the pro-Brexit Scottish Tories won their seats in regions like the Borders and the North-East, heavily dependent on agriculture, which will likely get hammered when Brexit goes ahead and EU farming subsidies stop being paid.)

 

One group who lost utterly was the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party, which went from a vote-share of 12.7% in 2015 to a share of 1.8% in 2017, won no seats at all and saw its leader, the wretched Paul Nuttall, come close to losing his deposit when he stood in the constituency of Boston and Skegness.  Thus, UKIP are dead, buried and hopefully already in an advanced state of decomposition.  Good riddance to them.

 

© Daily Mirror

 

And probably the party who are feeling most chuffed post-election are the afore-mentioned DUP in Northern Ireland, who won 10 seats; and who since Friday morning have had Theresa May, desperate to form a Conservative-DUP coalition, wooing and serenading them like Romeo under Juliet’s balcony in Act 2, Scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet.  Yes, because the DUP have become the new kingmakers at Westminster, they could be identified as the real winners of this election.  Mind you, if you examine their beliefs and political record, you soon appreciate what a shower of losers they are.

 

Where to begin with Theresa May’s new best friends, the DUP?  Well, there’s the fact that as a bunch of Bible-thumping, science-hating nincompoops they include in their ranks such specimens as Thomas Buchanan, who campaigns for creationism to be taught in schools, condemns evolution as a “peddled lie” and proudly asserts that “the world was spoken into existence in six days by His power”; and Trevor Clarke, who until very recently believed that HIV was something that affected only gay people; and Sammy Wilson, who mind-bogglingly served as Northern Irish Environment Minister whilst denying the existence of climate change and dismissing the Paris agreement with Trumpian scorn as “window dressing for climate chancers”.

 

They have a medieval attitude towards women’s issues and gay rights, ensuring that that Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where abortion is illegal, and vetoing any move towards the legislation existing in the rest of the UK that allows same-sex people to get married.  Former DUP politician Iris Robinson – whose hubby Peter served as Northern Irish First Minister for several years – once described homosexuality as an ‘abomination’ and prescribed psychiatric treatment as a cure for it.  “Just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ,” she reasoned, heart-warmingly, “so can a homosexual…”  I hope some journalist tackles out-and-proud lesbian Ruth Davidson about what she thinks of her boss in London climbing into bed with Robinson’s party.

 

I’m from Northern Ireland originally so I know it’s futile hoping for religion and politics to be kept apart in the province.  But even if you forget their religiosity and focus purely on their performance as politicians, the DUP are useless.  Their disdain for environmental issues didn’t stop them running the disastrous Renewable Heat Incentive or ‘cash-for-ash’ scheme, encouraging folk to switch from fossil fuel to biomass heating systems; which not very smartly meant that claimants could get £1.60 back for every £1 they spent.  Hence, crafty local farmers were soon rushing to install biomass heating in empty sheds.  This happened while current DUP First Minister Arlene Foster was running Northern Ireland’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and is believed to have cost the taxpayer £400 million.

 

And then there’s the tale of the DUP receiving a £425,000 donation from dodgy sources, of which £282,000 was subsequently spent on funding a ‘vote leave’ advertisement in the Metro newspaper during the run-up to the 2016 Brexit referendum.  The Metro isn’t even published in Northern Ireland.  Soon after the vote, and despite her own party backing Brexit, DUP Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen went scuttling off to Brussels to plead for continued EU support for Northern Irish farmers – a shameless act of grovelling hypocrisy.

 

But the most entertaining instance of DUP duplicity and corruption is, of course, the 2009 scandal involving Iris Robinson and a man nearly 40 years her junior.  Robinson not only had an extramarital affair with him but also illegally procured some £50,000 to help him out with a business project.  Needless to say, this turned the supposedly God-fearing and holier-than-thou Robinson into a figure of ridicule.  And with a name like ‘Mrs Robinson’, she was really asking for trouble.

 

© Irish News

 

Right, that’s enough politics for now.  I’m seriously depressed.  The UK has become the equivalent of a clown-car, trundling towards Brexit, with the beleaguered Theresa May and those idiots in the DUP at the steering wheel.  The only way this scenario might change is if May gets usurped by her party, which isn’t known for showing mercy towards failed leaders.  But if that happens, her replacement is likely to be Boris Johnson – and substituting Boris for May is like treating an open wound by pouring sulfuric acid into it.

 

So there’ll be no more politics in Blood and Porridge for a while.  Unless they decide to clear up the shambles caused by this election by holding another bloody one next week.

 

God wants your vote

 

(c) The Belfast Telegraph

 

The 2015 UK general election – voting takes place tomorrow and then it’s all over, thankfully – has, even by the usual standards of British general elections, been a depressing experience.  The current generation of mainstream party leaders, surely, are more blatant in their peddling of empty, meaningless platitudes, obfuscations and evasions than any generation of leaders that’ve gone before them.  And they’ve been aided and abetted in making this election campaign as disillusioning and unappetising to voters as is humanly possible by an idiotic national press.  Owned by half-a-dozen millionaire / billionaire tax-dodging Europhobic right-wing dingbats, the majority of Britain’s big newspapers have stuck unrelentingly to a simple formula – malign Ed Miliband and the Labour Party as far as you can go without ending up in the law-courts in England, and do the same to Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party in Scotland.

 

Actually, I thought that Ed Miliband wasn’t having that bad a campaign, despite everything – I even found myself warming to him during the leadership debates – but then he went and ruined everything.  As a publicity stunt, he unveiled an eight-foot-high limestone plinth with six Labour Party promises carved on it.  Carved in stone – get it?  Cue a million cruel jokes about Ed fashioning his own tombstone, about Ed sinking like a stone, about Ed’s plinth not having planning permission, etc.  It’s the sort of blunder you’d expect to see only in an episode of Armando Iannucci’s political sitcom The Thick of It.

 

At least, I thought, there’s one consolation amid all this.  Despite its ludicrousness and its sneaking underlying dishonesty, British politics at least doesn’t have the God factor to deal with.  It isn’t beset by the mentality that you get in the USA wherein certain politicians on the right have no compunctions about mixing their brand of cretinous hanging-and-shooting-and-nuking politics with God, Christianity and the Bible.

 

A good (or bad) example of this is former House of Representatives member and general all-round extreme-right Republican gob-shite Michele Bachmann, who has been recently predicting that the Rapture is about to happen, as a result of Barack Obama’s policies towards Iran and his espousal of same-sex marriage.  That’s the Rapture in the Biblical sense, i.e. the claim that prior to the Second Coming true Christian believers will be raised into the clouds whilst hell breaks out on earth below.  Not the Rapture who were a rather funky indie rock band from New York.

 

Yes, there seemed some consolation for me in the fact that you don’t get that bollocks in British politics.  However, I then stumbled across, in the online edition of the Belfast Telegraph, an article about Susan-Anne White.  Ms White is standing as an independent candidate in tomorrow’s election in the West Tyrone constituency of Northern Ireland and her campaign promises are ones you’d more expect to see carved in stone than Ed Miliband’s promises.  They’d be promises carved on two tablets of stone brought down by Moses, after he’d conferred with God on top of Mount Sinai.  That’s if God is really as much of a wrathful, blustering bigot as some people like to think He is.

 

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/susan-anne-white-wants-gay-people-jailed-adultery-made-illegal-and-rock-bands-outlawed-now-she-wants-your-vote-31133489.html

 

Among the things in Ms White’s manifesto are opposition to the 1967 Abortion Act being extended to Northern Ireland; the banning of ‘amoral’ sex education from schools and the reintroduction of corporal punishment into them; the raising of the age of consent to 18; the banning of ‘gay pride parades’; opposition to ‘the LGBT agenda’ and the ‘redefinition of marriage’ and the upholding of ‘Biblical man / woman marriage’; the abolition of the Equality Commission Northern Ireland and the Human Rights Commission Northern Ireland; withdrawal from ‘money-wasting and decadent Europe’; opposition to the ‘Islamisation’ of Britain and the building of mosques; and restoration of the death penalty.

 

(c) The Huffington Post

 

Ms White is also an ardent opponent of ‘the global warming fanatics and their pseudo-science’.  I assume such objectionable pseudo-science also includes practices like zoology, geology, astronomy and palaeontology – or as they’re sometimes known, science – that dispute the fact that God created the universe and everything in it during six very busy days about 6000 years ago, which Ms White and all other good, sensible people know is true because it says so in Genesis.  That’s Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament.  Not Genesis, the rather boring progressive rock band from the 1970s.

 

Talking of which, the Belfast Telegraph article stated that Ms White wanted to ban rock music for being vulgar and promoting ‘sexual anarchy’, although she has since denied this in her blog (https://thetruthshallsetyoufreeblog.wordpress.com/).  Her main reason for disliking rock music, she claims, is because it’s bad for your ears.

 

As well as ‘global warming fanatics’, Ms White is also severely down on feminists.  She regards feminism, in fact, as being “responsible for many of the social ills we see all around us.”  This includes the dire state of the economy, because “they destroyed the whole concept of the family wage with the father as the bread-winner and the stay-at-home mother.  They make women feel they have to be out in the workforce.”

 

Well, it’s a free country and I believe people have the right to believe any old claptrap they want as long as they don’t try to force it down other people’s throats – although I suspect this is what Ms White would be doing if she ever became MP for West Tyrone.  (Even in Northern Ireland, the chances of this happening are thankfully very slim.)  However, if she’s so hell-bent on opposing women leaving their homes and venturing out into the workforce, what on earth is she doing trying to win employment as West Tyrone’s elected representative in Westminster?  Shouldn’t she be at home, vacuuming the carpets, washing the dishes, making the tea, etc., while her husband goes out and wins the bread?  Tsk, tsk, Ms White.  At least practise what you preach.

 

What I find particularly amusing / worrying is that Susan-Anne White comes from the County Tyrone village of Trillick, which is just three miles along the road from where I used to live in Northern Ireland.  (In fact, my home was in the same parish as Trillick.)  From what I remember of the area, there lived there a couple of gentlemen who, while they were very conscientious about showing their faces in church every Sunday, were also a little bit, shall we say, amorous with the ladies.  Maybe that’s why Ms White is also advocating making adultery ‘a punishable offence’.  Aye, good luck with that one.

 

The Belfast Telegraph article is followed by a thread full of comments poking fun at Ms White and her barmy views.  It’s sobering to think, though, that some of those views are not far removed from those of Northern Ireland’s Free Presbyterian Church and its political wing, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), both of which, once upon a time, were headed by the Reverend Ian Paisley – a pulpit-thumping demagogue, close exposure to whom would do more damage to your ears than any amount of rock music.

 

For example, Iris Robinson, the former DUP Member of Parliament and former DUP Northern Irish Health Minister, famously described homosexuality as an ‘abomination’ that was worse than abusing children and called for gay people to receive psychiatric counselling.  (However, Iris parted company from Susan-Anne White’s opinions when it came to committing adultery; because in the late noughties, very famously indeed, she had an extra-marital affair with a lad of 19, who was about a third of her age.  This was much to the embarrassment of her husband, Northern Irish First Minister Peter Robinson, and much to the amusement of nearly everyone else in Northern Ireland.)

 

Mind you, though she shares some opinions with them, Ms White is not above offering the DUP criticism.  On her blog, for example, I saw her having a go at Fiona Paisley, daughter-in-law of the late Reverend Ian Paisley and wife of his imaginatively-named son, Ian Paisley Junior.  She’d been dismayed to see Fiona tweeting photographs taken of herself while she worked out in her local Crossfit gym.  “However, as women are 40-50% weaker than men (generally speaking) women should not be lifting weights at all,” said a disapproving Ms White, “and Fiona Paisley is at risk of serious injury if she continues to place such unnatural and unnecessary strain on her body.”

 

Anyway, in the event of a hung parliament, which on Friday morning seems a likely outcome of this general election, David Cameron will no doubt go scuttling off to see Susan-Ann White’s fellow religious nut-jobs in the DUP about securing their support in a new right-wing coalition.  Yes, having such people in positions of power in an administration of the United Kingdom as a whole – now that’s a prospect far more depressing than the election itself.

 

DUP – Determined to be Upset Party

 

(c) Reduced Shakespeare Company

 

A comedian – it may have been the great Dave Allen, about whom I wrote a few entries ago – once told a joke about somebody dying and going to heaven, where he was shown around by St Peter.  Passing through the heavenly throngs, St Peter pointed out a group of people who were Jews, a group who were Hindus, and also Buddhists, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Episcopalians, Methodists, etc.  Then the newcomer saw a high wall and asked what was on its other side.

 

“The Roman Catholics,” explained St Peter.  “It’s so they think they have the place to themselves.”

 

I hope that if heaven exists, God has also seen fit to build a smaller enclosure to house the members of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, which was founded by and had as its moderator for 57 years one Reverend Ian Richard Kyle Paisley – so that they think they have the place to themselves too.  Otherwise, folk in heaven might have to spend all eternity listening to Paisley raging about them letting in ‘heathens’, ‘pagans’ and ‘idolatrous’ Catholics.  Folk in Northern Ireland, after all, have had to listen to Paisley fulminating for most of his 87 (and counting) years against this, that and everything else, and that’s been painful enough.

 

This week the Reduced Shakespeare Company was supposed to stage two performances of its play The Bible: the Complete Word of God (Abridged) at the Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland.  Now, however, the Newtownabbey performances of the play, which reviewers have described as being a bit silly but certainly not blasphemous and which hasn’t attracted a single complaint at any of the other 42 venues on its current UK tour, have been cancelled.  This was thanks to pressure put on the local borough council’s artistic board by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – another prominent body in Northern Ireland set up by Paisley.  Indeed, it shares much of its membership with the Free Presbyterian Church.  The Belfast Telegraph reported the cancellation with the headline BIBLE SPOOF PLAY BAN MAKES NORTHERN IRELAND A LAUGHING STOCK.  That’s a pretty international laughing stock, by the way.  The ban has been reported in journals as distant as the New York Times.

 

It’s depressing but I suppose it isn’t surprising.  The DUP / Free Presbyterians in Northern Ireland have always been quick to mobilise, rush out, picket and shout down anything that offends their pronounced senses of morality and holiness.  In the mid-1970s, I remember seeing crowds of them on the TV news demonstrating outside a Belfast theatre that’d dared to mount a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, the satanic musical show that’d been authored by the Antichrist himself, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Then in 1982 somebody tried to open an Amsterdam-style sex shop in Belfast, which had them protesting on the streets again.  (I suppose to the DUP / Free Presbyterian mind-set, Holland hasn’t exported anything of value since King William of Orange in the late 17th century.)  That year, incidentally, saw approximately 110 people die because of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.  No wonder at the time of the sex shop furore someone wrote to one of the local newspapers and politely inquired what the problem was with people wanting to ‘make love, not war.’

 

In the Bible Jesus famously said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone” (John 8:7).  So I assume those DUP members who’ve cast metaphorical stones at musicals, sex-shops and satirical plays over the years, being well-versed in the teachings of their Saviour, are devoid of sin themselves.  That presumably includes the party’s leader, the Northern Irish First Minister Peter Robinson.  That presumably also includes Robinson’s wife Iris, who has served as a DUP councillor, a DUP mayor and, from 1998 to 2009, a DUP member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.  In fact, Iris Robinson has declared that “the government has the responsibility to uphold God’s laws,” and has been quick to condemn unbiblical activities such as homosexuality.

 

Oddly though, Iris’s own holiness wasn’t enough to prevent her, back in 2008 when she was in her late-fifties, getting embroiled in an extra-marital affair with a 19-year-old youth and in a financial scandal.  This was an unwise move for a member of an organisation as sanctimonious as the DUP, and indeed the laughing stock it made of the DUP at the time was 100 times greater than the laughing stock that its members made of Northern Ireland last week with the Reduced Shakespeare Company farrago.

 

Of course, having an extra-marital affair with a man 40 years her junior was also an unwise move for someone whose title happened to be ‘Mrs’ and whose surname happened to be ‘Robinson’.  And now here’s a totally unrelated youtube video.