Day 14: Runnymede to Walton-on-Thames

The Mystery of Faith

Alec Douglas-Home, prime minister from 1963 to 1964, and a devout member of the CoE reticent, was once cornered in a lift by a woman who roared at him, “Have you been saved?” 

A nervous Douglas-Home said thanks for asking and that he thought he had.

“Then why aren’t you leaping up and down and waving your hands above your head with pure joy?”

The PM anxiously replied, “I thought it was such a close-run thing, I had much better keep quiet about it!”

Winning Souls

Many attempts to evangelise can seem insensitive and impertinent. Alastair Campbell famously said, “We don’t do God!” and I sympathise with his sentiments because the harsh and cynical world of politics, particularly political media management, and “God” are not an easy mix. Christian sentiments can all too easily be mistaken for virtue signalling and are a short ride to mockery.

I think it’s patronising and profitless to badger people we hardly know about God. I was recently asked by a friend how she could persuade her son to take an interest in Jesus? I was astounded by the question, for to my mind, it’s wholly fruitless to even try. Attempts at religious coercion are not something Jane or I would ever have tried on our children. In our (long) experience, children pretty much bring themselves up and the best thing that parents can do is pray (if they are so inclined), try and live decent lives, teach children the basics and otherwise keep out of their way. Persuading the young to slouch out of bed before 11am is hard enough, but hectoring them to go to church, read the Bible, or take even a vague interest in “religion” is highly likely to be counterproductive.

More young people have been put off “God” for life by insensitive parents frog-marching them unwillingly to church and banging on about the Bible than any other factor. Calvin had a point: either we have the religious “gene”, or we don’t; either we are “ripe”, or we aren’t. If parents draw a blank, they should just accept that their child’s time has not yet come – and indeed, may not come in their lifetime.

Whether people come to faith or not is a mystery, and it’s vanity to think family agency has much to do with it.  We have known “churchy” children from ostensibly orderly and devout families, only to watch them slide off the rails into promiscuity or drugs – one even ended up in the slammer. And we have seen parents whose lifestyles were far from ideal (as far as we could tell, for how can one ever judge the integrity of other people’s lives?) produce “model” children, who ended up as hand-waving believers. 

There is a story about a woman who longed for her son to become a Christian. She prayed that whatever was blocking him from accepting Jesus into his life would be removed. Her prayers were answered and she vanished!

I told my friend this anecdote and she looked rather thoughtful. Perhaps I was a bit unkind? 

Day 13: Eton to Runnymede

The penultimate day, spent with delightful ZANE supporters. We discussed a range of subjects, including Brexit and the current political turmoil.

We ended up in Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed. When they get their faces out of screens, I wonder if the young are taught the importance of this vital key to history that set the foundation, not only for our legal system but that of the US? Do they know that people have died to win freedom of speech, the right to freedom under the law, and the right to vote? Do they care?

Hocus Pocus

When I was chairman of the Milton Keynes Health Authority – many moons ago – the incidence of drug abuse there was higher than anywhere else in the UK. The town (now a city, of course) wasn’t then regarded as an attractive place to live, as it has now certainly become. 

In the final months of my term, we were required to recruit someone to head up the drug abuse department. As chairman, I was part of the selection committee. 

After “due process” – whatever that means – we were obliged to select someone from, as I recall, a very thin list. In the interviews, we were given a list of questions we were permitted to ask about any candidate’s private life. Undaunted, I asked one dreary looking candidate with pale blue eyes and a small ginger moustache what he did in his spare time? It seemed a harmless enough question to me. I suspected pigeon fancying or perhaps square dancing?

Then an extraordinary thing – the air was sucked from the room and the temperature dropped.  “I’m a witch,” he replied. 

Silence. He had to be joking? 

“Broomsticks and all the trimmings?” I innocently enquired. (Reader, what would you have said?)

The chief executive clicked his teeth disapprovingly. 

The man said nothing. It transpired he was being totally sincere, and I had offended him deeply. Apparently, there is a flourishing coven somewhere near Milton Keynes and the whole thing is a deadly serious business! 

I forget most things, but this event and the man’s face and name are tattooed on my memory. It transpired he was a leader of the coven, no less. 

I couldn’t think of a darn thing to say, so I bowed out of the meeting and let them get on with it. Soon afterwards, I left the authority to become director of another one, but not before I was told by my chief executive that being a practising witch doesn’t preclude you from holding a public post in the UK. Sure enough, the witch subsequently took up his new day job in the drug abuse department. I can’t help wondering if he had declared his Christianity instead, would he have been appointed? I doubt it.

Anyway, if you are driving along in Milton Keynes one dark night and a man suddenly flashes by on a broomstick… please remember I left before this curious appointment was confirmed!

Ho ho! From the perspective of years, I can make silly jokes about it now – it makes a good story. But it wasn’t funny at the time, and, if truth be told, it still bothers me.

Boys Will Be Boys…

Half a lifetime ago, Jane and I were almost content with the birth of our two daughters, Clare and Camilla. But we both wanted to try and complement the family with a boy. How to go about it?

One evening, an aged maiden aunt silenced a supper party with the advice that if we wanted a son, steps would have to be taken – by me! I was curious enough to ask what on earth she thought I should do about it.

“I was told by Great Aunt Hetty that you should eat a vast quantity of kidneys and liver. Then each night, drink a glass of port with a raw egg switched in it!”

“Ho ho,” we laughed. What a farce. What did Great Aunt Hetty know about anything? I forgot the episode.

Sometime later, I wondered why we were eating so much liver and kidneys – always followed by a glass of port and orders to drink up. In fact, Jane would stand over me until I had drained the glass. Afterwards, I wanted to be sick!

Ten months later, our baby son was christened “Thomas”.

I promise this is true!

Day 12: Marlow to Eton

Trust No One

I have just read a remarkable book, The Great Post Office Scandal by Nick Wallis.

The Post Office, that core member of the establishment – slightly dull, yet a deeply respected British institution – prosecuted around 900 sub-postmasters for theft, false accounting and fraud. After a vast court case, it was found that 99 per cent of those prosecuted were wholly innocent and that many of them were maliciously prosecuted.

The prosecutions were based on evidence drawn from the Post Office’s software system, Horizon. The PO had proclaimed the system to be infallible when in fact it was as full of holes as a rotten Swiss cheese. But it gets worse – the accountants, the solicitors and the managers all went on prosecuting even after the directors had been reliably informed that the system was flawed. The lives of those ensnared in this misery were destroyed – they ended up bankrupt, divorced, disgraced and suicidal. Then, during the trial, the Post Office managers used taxpayer money to try and run the sub-postmasters’ action group out of funds by playing legal games. Of course, none of those responsible for this carnage have been prosecuted. Most are still sitting on their plump arses to this day drawing their wages and seemingly couldn’t care less.

As far as the prosecuted sub-postmasters are concerned, the empirical evidence suggests that those from a minority ethnic background received harsher sentences than their European counterparts.

And, oh yes, I nearly forgot. The Post Office CEO was an Anglican priest. She says she’s “sorry”.

You wouldn’t believe this ghastly story if you had read it in a novel.

Russian Roulette

I’ve been here before. Years ago, against acute establishment resistance, I founded the Association of Lloyd’s Members (ALM) to represent the investors towards the owners of the enterprises that were meant to make them money. It was, I imagine, rather like starting the first trade union for horny handed mill workers. The mill owners were pissed off.

I was amongst the first to expose the scandal where half the investor market (made up of the posh boys) was dishonestly shafting the other half (the common twits) with the losses.

We litigated and won all the cases. I had to fight two defamation cases personally – thank God I settled both before trial.

But my experience tells me that I’d be better off chancing my luck on the Las Vegas roulette tables than relying on justice in the UK courts. At least in Vegas, they lay on drink and entertainment, more than they do in the High Court – and the odds are better in Vegas.

Those fighting the Post Office mafia found – as we did all those years ago at Lloyd’s – that the first implacable barrier that had to be overcome was the iron curtain of certainty of innocence that prevailed. Both Lloyd’s and the Post Office were at the heart of the establishment and virtually synonymous with “respectability”. Allegations by the plaintiffs alleging greed, corruption, deception, institutional ignorance, ingrained superiority, gross dishonesty and venality on the part of the posh boys seemed simply impossible. 

So dear ZANE supporters, I’ve two things to ask of you.

One: Please read the Post Office scandal book and thank God you weren’t a sub post-master under that cruel and wicked regime.

Two: Imagine you are in the office of an institution that’s been around for a generation. You are led through a marble hall into a meeting room with expensive paintings and a crested Latin motto on a wall plaque. The suits are smart, the smiles reassuring, and the overall ambiance is one of deep respectability, honesty and integrity. Before you write the cheque, just remember a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.”

Day 11: Henley to Marlow

Dry and a beautiful walk. Chains of pleasure boats. I wonder if I would be bored on a boat. I think I would be.

I was going blind recently. Seriously I was unable to read, and it got worse quickly. Then a consultant in Oxford lasered my eyes; once I was blind, and now I can see. It was a miracle. We are so fortunate to live in 2022, and we are inclined to take it all for granted. So thank you to those who invented this procedure.

A Family Affair

When I started my campaign to wed Jane in the late 1960s – in those days, marriage was the only way I could possibly get her into bed! – I was obliged to ring her home and say, “Hello, this is Tom – can I please speak to Jane?”

Jane’s parents were delightful and would never have tried to stop the relationship (unless, perhaps, if I’d worn a pigtail and walked a dog on a rope). The point is that because of my repeated calls, they knew I was after their beloved daughter Jane!

In time, after endless calls, the relationship hotted up and Jane’s parents held a dinner party to meet me. Later, there was another party so her vast family could meet me and do what families usually do (i.e., pass judgement and say, “Surely she could have done a lot better than that?”) In time, there was an engagement and a wedding, both accompanied by more parties. Then, when the four children emerged, there were more yet more celebrations.

To cut to the chase, mobile phones today mean that the young can start a relationship without their parents or families knowing a thing about it. No parties – and indeed, no family involvement of any kind until long after the event.

I think that is immensely sad.

His Finest Hour

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is the hero of the hour. I wish him well, and I really mean that. Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

The world desperately needs a hero who can lead, and Zelenskyy is that man today. However, I have learned in a long life that when someone is praised to the skies, the hype is rarely justified. And, in turn, when someone attracts the hiss of the world, I only half believe anything I hear or read. We are all a mix of virtues and faults, and most of us have done things we would rather not read in a banner headline. When the media builds someone up and praises them as if they can do no wrong, it’s usually only a matter of time before they find a reason to tear them down again. Cracks are detected, and faults and mistakes gleefully paraded.

I hope that when Zelenskyy’s enemies have a go at him – and they will – his descent from hero to ordinary man does not destroy him or Ukraine.

Day 10: Reading to Henley

Queen Elizabeth is dead: Long live King Charles 111

Sad day and a great loss of a magnificent woman.

The only time I met her was unfortunate.

As a Scots Guards officer, I was asked to go to Dane in Holyrood to dance with Edinburgh maidens,

Highland reels are a sort of war, not a dance.

I found to my astonishment that I was dancing with the Queen. To my horror, I kicked her sharply, and she was forced to hobble off the floor.
Years later, I mustered the courage to write and apologise. I received a delightful reply saying that I had long since been forgiven!

Our ten-year-old granddaughter Annabelle Benyon wrote a prayer that seems to sum it all up:

Lord Jesus, we are so sad that the Queen died today.
As I speak to you right now, you are likely to be speaking to her as you welcome her into heaven. Please would you make her feel very welcome. Would you tell her what an incredible job she did and that everyone in the world is crying and missing her.

Who Packed my Parachute?

Charles Plumb was a US Navy fighter pilot and Vietnam veteran. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy territory. Captured, he spent six years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived and went on to lecture on the lessons he learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table approached him.

“You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

“How on earth did you know about that?” asked Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied.

Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man vigorously shook his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”

Assuring him it had, Plumb reflected, “If the shute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be sitting here today!”

Unsung Heroes

That night, Plumb couldn’t sleep. “I kept wondering what the sailor looked like in a navy uniform: a white hat, a bib at the back and bell-bottom trousers. I wondered how many times I must have seen him, but never bothered to say, “Hello, how are you?” or anything, because I was a self-important fighter pilot, and he was just a lowly sailor.”

He thought of the hours the man must have spent in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silk of every shute. Each time, he held in his hands the fate of someone he didn’t even know.

Plumb went on to give many inspirational lessons to people. He would point out that he had needed many different kinds of parachute when he had been shot down in enemy territory: his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute and his spiritual parachute. He had called on all those supports before reaching safety.

Having read about Plumb, I ask myself how often do I fail to appreciate the help I am given? How often do I fail to say hello or thank you, to congratulate someone when something wonderful has happened to them, to pay a compliment to someone, or just do something kind for no reason at all? How many crucial jobs by kind workers go unnoticed by me? Or what about the people who work so hard behind the scenes, yet get so little reward for their efforts?

I look back at my childhood: my old teachers (one in particular), or an aunt who read to me when I was unhappy and lonely. Fast forward to now – what about the people who have tolerated me, supported me and prayed for me?

There are a good number of people who have been packing my parachute. And, of course, there are the people who have been packing ZANE’s parachute.

Many have worked hard for ZANE, both in the UK and in Zimbabwe, to make this charity a success. It would be invidious to name names – they know who they are, and so thank you!

And our supporters must be thanked too, for without their great generosity and financial parachute packing, ZANE would have been in free fall long since.

The unsung kindness of so many is overwhelming.

Thou Shalt Not Eat Meat

I thought I’d seen it all. However, now I see that the Liberal /Green / Labour majority of Oxfordshire County Council is imposing veganism by diktat. Meat is banned at the council’s official events and only plant-based food will be on the menu. This is on grounds that it will do us all the power of good and benefit future generations. I am all for vegans eating whatever they want, but this is daft gesture politics, a tedious lesson in how not to promote a cause to voters.

Oxfordshire is crowded with farms crammed full of cattle. Such suffocating moral certainties arise from the tyranny of a tiny minority. When did consuming dairy products and steak imply that you are not a good person, or that you don’t want to leave the planet a better place for future generations? Politicians of all stripes need to keep their noses out of other people’s food choices.

Left-Wing Social

Author Robert Conquest has a famous law of politics. If you add the world “social” to any noun, it both demeans the word and at the same time politicises it in a “left-wing” way.

We all revere justice – but what about “social justice”, a lefty degenerate that usually leads to the exact opposite of true justice?

If you remove the word “social”, you get a far more honest (and less left-wing) noun. Try removing “social” from “social market”, “social enterprise”, “social policy”, “social care”, “social housing”, “social media”, and so on.

See what I mean?

Day 9: Streatley to Reading

The Scots call it “drookit”, and that is good enough for me. We were drenched in a proper downpour. We went from drought to Noah’s Ark in a single hour. Neither Jane nor I mind walking in the rain, as we were brought up in the Scottish Borders and in Edinburgh, that is what one does. And as sensible Princess Royal said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing.” Incidentally, I can’t help wondering what that sensible woman thinks of Meghan.

While walking down the Thames Pathway, we were passed by several coppers, all chasing towards an “incident.” I immediately wondered if we were involved in a Telly film.

Notes From a Proud Island

Many years ago, George Orwell warned us that the “most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history”. We should not be surprised, then, that destroyers in our midst are promoting a false narrative. These critics claim that Western history is a litany of cruelty, greed, patriarchal oppression, sexism, racism, transphobia, theft, snobbery, and much more. They praise all other cultures (provided they aren’t Western), and then wonder why anyone should wish to live here in the UK when so much bigotry, racism and hatred is baked into our DNA?

Why these individuals behave thus is a mystery. Perhaps it’s because they hail from countries that have contributed little to the overarching wellbeing of mankind and, knowing that the West has contributed so much, are consumed with envy and bitterness? I am reminded of that old, cynical saying, “Why do you dislike me so much? What favours did I ever do for you?”

Her Crown is Honour…

Here, under the Crown, human life is regarded as sacred, people are endowed with dignity and wrongs are addressed in honest courts. Just consider the eternal beauty of Oxford and Cambridge, or of Salisbury and Ely Cathedrals. Think about Shakespeare and our rich cultural and artistic achievements. Then imagine what life would be like without our social services, our freedom of speech and religious freedoms, and democracy and the rule of law. Has this bounty been exceeded anywhere on Earth, in all recorded history?    

Our critics fail to express gratitude for these blessings, instead expressing resentment and bitterness at all the things they lack. The countries from where many of them come are places where lives are brutish and short, where corruption is endemic, where the young have no chance to make a difference to the way things are run, and where thinkers and critics rot in jail. And they are often places where racism flourishes – but it’s black on white, so no one bothers to comment.

Under our monarchy, citizens experience a form of liberal government and access to justice for which they ought to feel profound gratitude. The blessings of our monarchy are summed up by the chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis:

“Her crown is honour and majesty; her sceptre, law and morality. Her concern has been for welfare, freedom and unity, and in the lands of her dominion, she has sustained justice and liberty for all races, tongues and creeds.”

Citizens in the West experience a form of liberal government and access to justice for which they ought to feel profound gratitude. Of course, our Western freedoms and ways of doing things aren’t perfect, but they are better, by far, than any of the alternatives on offer elsewhere. 

The West is under relenting pressure to accept growing numbers of immigrants struggling to get to the UK. In terms of newcomers, we apparently add a city the size of Newcastle to our small and crowded island each year.

I can’t help but note the lack of immigrants desperately risking their lives to settle in Russia, Africa, India or China. Funny that!

Pure Poetry

I recently visited a vicar friend dying of cancer in Oxford’s John Radcliffe hospital.

“Please will you read a psalm?” she asked.

I read the best-known psalm of all, “The Lord is my Shepherd”.

A nurse nearby listened with great care. “That was lovely,” she said. “Did you write it?”

“Oh yes,” I replied, “I knocked it up in the lift on the way up.”

Day 8: Rest Day

The Limits of Forgiveness

How can we offer forgiveness on behalf of people we don’t know or have never even met? The famous Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal illustrated this with a story that began on 10 October 1944. At the time, he was a young architect incarcerated in Janowska Concentration Camp, just outside Lviv, in Ukraine.

One day, Wiesenthal was summoned by guards to the bedside of a young Waffen-SS officer, Karl Seidl, who wanted to “speak to a Jew”. Mortally injured with burns, the dying Seidl whispered to Wiesenthal that the SS had herded dozens of men, women and children into a house, set it alight and shot all those who tried to escape the flames. Seidl admitted his involvement and claimed he was tormented by his conscience – he needed to confess his sin to a Jew and begged for forgiveness.

Wiesenthal listened to this tale of horror, pondered for a minute and said nothing. Then he walked out of the room.

For years, Wiesenthal was tormented by the memory. Had he had done the right thing? Should he have offered the dying Nazi his forgiveness?

However, when he told his story to Jewish friends and rabbis, they agreed that he had been right not to offer forgiveness. How could he do so on behalf of victims he had never met? He was right to walk away.

By the same token, the alleged “sins” of our ancestors should not be visited on subsequent generations.

Day 7: Shillingford to Streatley

Woke World

Napoleon said that you should never disturb your enemy when he’s making a gross mistake.

Why do our enemies, such as Jihadists, Putin and the man in North Korea with the funny haircut, bother to bomb or poison us in the UK when we are making such a good job of destroying ourselves?

Our “gross mistake” is to allow an absurd and destructive ideology to sweep our land unchecked. Unless we face it down, it will eviscerate the few scraps of what’s left of our moral fibre. The champions of this nonsense describe themselves as “social justice warriors”. This is “WOKE!” – it’s pernicious rubbish and it’s intensely damaging.

Hearken to this. More than half of those born after 1996 believe that “systemic racism” is endemic in our society; 64 per cent think that rioting and looting are justified to some degree; 41 per cent support censorship of so called “hate speech”; and 23 per cent would support violence to prevent people being offended.

Cancel Culture

“Woke” nonsense is at its height. Careers are being destroyed or “cancelled” by wicked people on what is politely called social media. The police’s record of detecting the perpetrators of fraud or theft is poor, in part because the cops are concentrating on rooting out so-called “hate crime”.

Authors – google the alarming story of what happened to writer Kate Clanchy – are frightened of describing how women look in their novels in case their books are censored by weak publishers who cannot see a parapet without ducking beneath it. Comedians are struck dumb with fear. Scientific biological certainties are avoided – is a man a man and a woman a woman – for sheer terror of giving offence to the ranting blob trawling the net.

While our enemies are threatening Ukraine and Taiwan with rockets, bombs and tanks, and while the spooks in Teheran are well on the way to perfecting a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel – and anyone else while they’re in the mood – we in the West are obsessing about pronouns, rewriting history and planning to “decolonise” mathematics.

Then, as a treat, we spend time arguing whether men dressed as women should be allowed to use women’s loos.

You couldn’t write this plot line in a novel. Well, if you did, it would probably be censored.

National Treasures

Judy Dench
Maggie Smith
Matthew Parris
The Duchess of Cornwall
Michael Heseltine
Nigel Farage
Diane Abbott
Billy Connolly
Gordon Brown
Elton John
Ed Balls
Ian McKellan

Pleased to never hear of again…

Nicola Sturgeon
Meghan and Mr Markle
Prince Andrew
Many serving Anglican bishops
Donald Trump
Vladimir Putin

Day 6: Abingdon to Shillingford

Name Dropping

With apologies to Mark Twain, I have been involved in many startling events in my time – some of which actually happened!

On 10 April 1994, I took tea with Mother Teresa. She had heard from a friend that I knew the Minister of Housing (I did), with whom she wanted a meeting. She hoped he could facilitate the purchase of a house in North London to shelter what she described as “fallen women”. (Incidentally, I would like to hear today’s cancel culture trying to correct Mother Teresa’s politically incorrect language. What sanitised name “fallen” women are given today is anyone’s guess.)

Such was Mother Teresa’s fame that she didn’t need me to facilitate a meeting with Sir George Young – or anyone else for that matter. She only had to tilt her rosary and the entire government would have danced a gavotte before her if she had demanded it. But I was told she wanted to see me – and who was I to refuse such a request?

Tea With Mother T

Mother Teresa answered the door of a non-descript house in Tottenham and led the way to tea in the lounge. By that time, I had rung the housing minister and he soon arrived with a buzzing swarm of anxious civil servants. The nun stared unblinkingly at George.

“I need a million pounds… I should tell you the French were generous. The Germans gave me twice what I requested, and the Italians gave me a row of houses in Milan. Now, in the name of God, I appeal to you for a million pounds!”

George muttered something about times being tough and there being no money available. He would need to consult.

With a laser look, the nun knelt down and announced she would pray. Meanwhile, George “consulted” with his team.

After 10 minutes of busy praying had passed, Mother Teresa gazed at George expectantly. He muttered something about only being able to find half the million. She decided to pray for the other half.

Then the photographer from the Sun newspaper arrived. A short time later, George announced he had found the additional funds in a contingency reserve: game, set and match to Mother T! George’s misery was now complete. Meanwhile, the nun gave thanks.

“Allelujah! Praise the Lord – the power of prayer be praised!”

After George left, Mother Teresa prayed for me and my family, and presented me with several medals of the Blessed Virgin Mary. My umbrella began to grow green shoots.

Some years later, I heard that HMG’s offer of a million quid was never taken up because there were too many conditions. Instead, Mother Teresa managed to persuade some allegedly corrupt Irish builder to stump up the money.

Mother Teresa never minded too much if donations to her causes came from dubious sources. She claimed good works would sanctify the money – and I’m sure they did.

I should add that I have photos of my meeting with Mother T. Beat that for name dropping!

Day 5: Port Meadow to Abingdon

Talked to Jacqui on the way and she is a delightful English teacher from Oxford. She tells me her mother is a ZANE supporter and she wondered what else her Mum might do to help the cause? I suggested she might leave a large chunk of her estate to ZANE. Jacqui looked thoughtful.

A long brisk walk with three jolly ZANE supporters.

Long Live Stigma

To boast “left” sends a virtuous signal of being warm and kind, earnestly embracing social justice. On the other hand, mention “right” and you run the risk of being branded a Nigel Farage type on a bad day.

This concept is arrant twaddle. The truth is that the “left” are tribunes of “non-judgmentalism” who demand “lifestyle choice”. And they have taken an axe to the roots of the nuclear family, once the bedrock of society.

All major institutions swing left: look at the Church, Amnesty International, OXFAM, the National Trust and the Church of England. Nothing annoys the left more than the stigma created by “judgmental morality”, but that’s the only kind of morality there is – and the removal of morality has radically gutted the concept of family.

Imagine that your son or daughter is a student at Durham University. Their authorities have decided to make it easy for little Jemima or Piers to participate in the sex industry – how nice for your family. The aim is to remove the stigma faced by prostitutes by rebranding them as “sex workers”. But the blinding reality is, of course, that all people involved in that pernicious trade are hookers, rent boys and “escorts”. Durham is acting the pimp, ignoring the fact that prostitution is rightly stigmatised because the trade is disgusting, immoral, exploitative, illegal and spiritually demeaning. This is not to say that the people involved should be regarded as outcasts, of course not – we must draw a distinction between the sinner and the sin, and we must hope they will turn away. But for goodness’ sake, we must be able to condemn the trade itself as sinful and ghastly and refuse to cast a benign gloss over it. Stigmatising whoring is a good thing, and I suspect that for most people the stigma will not abate.

Everybody’s Doin’ It

Next, the stigma that once surrounded divorce has all but been expunged. People today just shrug as if it didn’t matter. I am sorry if this offends any ZANE supporters who may have suffered divorce as the innocent party (ZANE supporters are always innocent). However, experience tells us that divorce is usually accompanied by mendacity, guilt, sadness, bitterness, and financial hardship, as well as the incalculable damage inflicted on children. As the stigma abates, of course, the number of divorces rise.

Nor is there any stigma now to “living in sin”. Remember the old song “Everybody’s doin’ it, doin’ it”? Today, “hooking up” outside marriage is what everyone’s doing and anyone who claims it’s a bad idea is mocked as an old-fashioned Victorian prude. But’s it’s us who are paying the price, not the Victorians. They knew what they were doing. The stigmas that used to exist surrounding promiscuity, divorce and living in unmarried sin were inherited from Christian teaching and existed mainly for the protection of children. That protection has gone with the wind. The bleak indicators are damning, with children born to cohabiting unions more likely to see their parents separate than if they were married. Parental separation damages a child’s education and future life chances – those brought up by a single parent get worse grades at school, are more likely to suffer addictions or from mental health issues, are far less likely to secure a high-earning job and are more likely to end up in prison. This all costs a fortune, to be paid by the poor old taxpayer.

For years, the left has been sawing at the branch on which the family sat. It has now fallen, not into a bed of scented roses but into a pool of raw sewage, crisscrossed with barbed wire. It will cost a fortune to hook it out.

Long live stigmas! And, oh yes – cross out Durham from your list of preferred universities.