The Tale of Two Cities
Yesterday we walked through Hull past the magnificent Humber Bridge which was wrapped in early morning mist. We walked the line of the old docks and read some history. I had no idea of the key role played by Hull and Liverpool between 1836-1914 as gateway to 2.2m European emigrants fleeing religious turmoil and grinding hardship as they fled to the the New World. They arrived in Hull then to Liverpool to the ship that took them terrified but hopeful to the States. These people were the original “huddled masses yearning to be free.”
We lunched in Ferriby and saw the outlines of two 4,000 year old ships, the oldest vessels ever to sail our coasts.
Two helpful cops were wondering if we are bonkers by telling them we are walking to Liverpool. “It’s a long way you know,” said one hesitatingly checking if we were out on day release. I reassured him we know what we are doing. I don’t think he believed me.
I asked them if they had read Senior policeman John Sutherland’s excellent book “Blue: Keeping the Peace While Falling to Pieces.” John suggested that police do such a difficult job that we should thank them. I did so. He looked even more astonished as he drove off.
The Great Divide
I am well aware that the subject of Brexit leads to argument and ill feeling, which is why I am still not going to say how I voted. I found the choice conflicting and my family divided. There were clearly arguments to be made on either side of the fence, and at the time I wished that Cameron hadn’t called a referendum at all. However, now that we are Brexit-bound, we had just better get on with it.
The next couple of years aren’t going to be easy: staying in had problems, and leaving will hurt. I reckon that the EU needed us as much as we needed them. The younger democracies benefited from our wisdom as a nation state and we have the best civil service in the world. That may sound a bit patronising but it’s undeniably true – and now these countries have something of a wisdom deficit. From now on there are bound to be large road bumps ahead for us all; stops and starts, good days and dreadful ones. Buckle your seat belts and hope for the best.
Counting the Plusses
However, the UK has certain things going for it that make me optimistic. First, we are an immensely resilient people; we have faced vast and intractable difficulties in the past and we have always surmounted them – and so will we now. Second, whatever Jean Claude Junker says – and with his gross style, he was hardly a valuable advocate to the remain campaign – the world speaks English. It’s the language of commerce, the arts, diplomacy, international science and sport. English is spoken in the USA, Canada, Australia (after a fashion), New Zealand, in much of Africa and in South America – and it won’t be replaced by Esperanto anytime soon.
Third, we are sited smack on the most favourable time zone for the rest of the world to do business with. Fourth, people enjoy working in the UK and some even like our weather! We are an immensely stable old democracy and it takes a lot to shiver us to our foundations. Thank goodness, despite the efforts of Heseltine, Blair and Mandelson, we never found ourselves wedged in the Euro – which is headed towards disaster. The reason is that countries are only willing to bail out or subsidise parts of their own country – for example, West Germany made vast capital transfers to East Germany, yet German voters refused point blank to bail out another country in the Eurozone bloc however desperate the need (look at the plight of Greece). Yes, such transfers have to be made. It is only a matter of time before the Euro fails, and when that happens, we will be grateful to be like Macavity… just not there.
And finally, the UK is a basically honest country. If you want to do business, the UK is a top choice, for our courts are incorrupt, and in the main our financial exchanges are well policed and honest. Put it this way, I think I would rather transact business in the UK than in Africa, China, India, South America, Russia, anywhere with “stan” in its name, and many parts of the EU that recently emerged from communism in the 1990s.
Let’s face it, we have plenty of advantages. I am sure we’ll survive somehow – and maybe even prosper.
How has such a fully-fledged ass as Alan Wilson become a bishop in the Church of England? I heard him in the box recently, talking about the row in the early 1980s caused by John Smyth QC – who was accused of causing grievous bodily harm to a number of Christian youths by flogging them unmercifully. At the same time, Smyth was apparently involved in an evangelical group responsible for teaching the gospel to mainly young men.
I have never met Smyth or attended the camps, but at least 3,000 young men attended and many progressed to serve the Anglican Church. Among their number was the great John Stott, Canon John Collins, Canon David MacInnes, Canon David Cook and many other holy men.
There is no doubt that the teaching was gospel-based and fundamental to the success of their subsequent ministry.
Bishop Wilson claims that the non-liberal teaching taught in the camp in some way spurred Smyth to behave as he did. What total nonsense. Smyth is obviously a one-off weirdo. Let’s hope he will be extradited from South Africa, where he now lives, tried, and jailed. But does Bishop Wilson honestly believe that over the years, there have been no sexual crimes committed by liberal vicars? And if he does believe this, when will he be certified?