What’s really going on?

Why on earth is Jeremy Corbyn still Leader of the Labour Party and potential future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?

On Venezuela, he refused to directly criticise his old “socialist” ally, President/Dictator Nicholas Maduro who has locked-up political opponents, unleashed police violence against desperate protestors and sought to bypass democracy by rigging elections to a new body that aims to re-write the constitution. Corbyn could only manage a feeble objection to “violence… by all sides”, completely ignoring the reality of what it must be like to live in increasingly impoverished communities that are not being served by their government and have no means of redress. His moral equivalence on this issue bears comparison to Trump’s reprehensible comments after the outrages in Charlottesville, USA. How would Corbyn react if his Labour colleagues in the UK were incarcerated and the House of Commons bypassed as the primary decision-making body of our nation?

Then, there is his lamentable failure to stand-up for Sarah Champion, hounded out of her job as shadow minister for women and equalities for simply stating the facts: “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.” Instead, he accused her of “demonising” a “particular group”. Maybe the ex-minister could have expressed herself a little more carefully but she was rightly outraged and upset about a cancerous culture in our society.

Sarah Champion argued insightfully that people are “more afraid to be called a racist than they are afraid to be wrong about calling out child abuse.” We’ve become so obsessed with political correctness and avoiding truths we find offensive that we’ve allowed evil to advance unchecked. It’s easier to look the other way but the results are tragic. We should be shocked and appalled that so many Asian men have been involved in these grooming gangs and ask (sensitively, yet searchingly) why? Social workers from Rotherham who raised concerns about the safety of children from these predators were instead sent on “anti-discrimination” courses. What is going on?

Firstly, we must address the rampant sexualisation of society, especially our young people. We need to restrict online pornography, which is easily available and frequently encountered by Primary age children (at least 44,000 individuals, according to 2013 research). Similarly, one NSPCC survey found 65% of 15-16 year olds have seen pornography. The harm caused is increasingly well-documented and contributes to people being viewed as sexual objects for someone else’s gratification, rather than precious human beings. Another example of this is the sickening practice of “upskirting”, which England and Wales don’t even have proper laws to prosecute. Of course, the “raunch” culture expounded in music videos where skimpily-clad, almost-naked women, especially the artists that girls idolise like Katy Perry, strut their stuff must also be tackled. Then, we should be zeroing-in on those parents/carers who let their children roam free on the streets, encountering all kinds of dangers, without any proper supervision or debriefings.

Back to those Asian gangs. There is an insightful article on this issue back in 2010, which demonstrates how entrenched this problem has become. Perpetrators of this horrific child abuse apparently referred to their victims as “white trash”, which sadly echoes the views of the Prophet Muhammed who claimed that the “majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were women” because they “lack common sense.” Note, moreover, the numerous reference in the Islamic writings to Muslim soldiers being permitted (even encouraged) to have sex with female captives and slaves, who “their right hands possess”. This rape would have, of course, often occurred after male family members were murdered as Islam was spread by the sword. It’s disturbing that there is so much ignorance about the roots of this religion.

So, what needs to happen? Well, ultimately, as individuals, communities and nations, we must come to Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace, the Lord of love, who rejects utterly what is evil and rejoice in all that is good. He is the one who welcome little children, fiercely warns against anyone who would lead them astray and insists that sex is only for marriage. When we see the moral filth, bitter hatred and vile abuse all around us, wouldn’t we rather embrace His path of righteousness? Same initials as Jeremy Corbyn but a world of difference!

Forcing diversity?

I was really disappointed to read that Google fired an employee who wrote an internal memo questioning the utility of their policies on gender diversity.  He argued that perhaps tech companies that try diversity programmes to get more women into the industry are looking at things the wrong way.

It’s not just because of recruitment practices or education or discrimination that more men than women work in the tech industry, he contended, but because of biological differences.

Women are “on average more interested in people” as opposed to things, he claimed, “more co-operative” and “more prone to anxiety” – all things that stop them going into the tech industry or rising to the top of it.

Moreover, he said this couldn’t usually be said by people who worked for Google, because of an “ideological echo chamber” and a “shaming culture and the possibility of being fired”.

Well, that last point proved true, but what about the wider thesis?  There does seem to be evidence supporting his arguments and please note the crucial caveat – “on average”.  Of course, there are exceptional men who flourish looking after children and women who love coding, but that’s not the norm.  Any speculation that there is absolutely no biological component to these kinds difference, especially given the blindingly obvious fact that women have mammary glands, has never been proven and is purely hypothetical.

Over time, all the efforts made in schools and companies to remove any obvious barriers to employing women (i.e. childcare, work placements) should bear some fruit but there should never be any direct, positive discrimination – hiring a less able woman simply because of her gender and to make the ratios look better on company audits.  That’s an insult to everyone and totally counter-productive.

Incidentally, I’m not sure about the “more prone to anxiety” comment but this former Google employer is merely trying to articulate a position we urgently need to hear.  If society keeps trying to destroying a key very foundation on which our personhood and identity is built, male and female bodies, then we will be causing untold damage and misery.  It’s like Canute trying to hold back the tide.

I would urge you to read the employee’s actual memo.  I sincerely hope that this case is taken to an employment tribunal and some sense starts to prevail in these matters.

Thinking about self-building? WARNING

Please read this if you are thinking about self-building.  There are so many pitfalls and risks that you really need to be aware of what could happen.  Keep your eyes wide open and don’t let smooth sales talk and breezy optimism mask what could cause your costs (and stress levels) to spiral.

I know this is very different from the usual content of this blog but I feel so strongly that it’s important to warn people about these dangers, so I’m willing to share my personal experience and I hope you can learn from this, if you find yourself in a similar situation.

I live in Elgin, Scotland, and I applied for a self-build mortgage, making exploratory phone calls to find out how this all worked from December 2015 onwards.  It soon became clear that there was very little competition in this market and I would be forced to deal with Buildstore to access the finance necessary for my self-build.

Due to the fact I’ve remortgaged my current home and have some savings, I did not need any upfront capital to purchase the land or pay for architect/planning fees, but I thought it was important to secure a measure of certainty regarding funding the full project.  Working with my budget I required a self-build mortgage of £220K (of a total £420K), which was all explained to Buildstore.

Of course, I paid my £600 brokerage fee to Buildstore (plus various other valuation and application fees to Newcastle Building Society totalling an additional c. £1500) and I was swiftly accepted (significantly quicker than I was led to believe).  The focus of my complaint is that I was never once properly informed, until at least £1000 of fees were paid, that I needed to start drawing down the self-build mortgage from – at the latest – THREE MONTHS after the mortgage offer was made.  Moreover, another reason that I was “rushed” into applying for the self-build mortgage with NBS was that the advisor told me that the deals were all due to be refreshed at the end of February – he claimed that the interest rates and terms could/would all worsen, advising that I apply before the deadline to lock in the 4.99% “Accelerator” product.

Admittedly, at this stage, mid-to-late March, I was fairly confident (as a complete novice in these matters and going on the upbeat sales pitch of our architect) that we would be actually building by this point, so the money would be required shortly thereafter the 23rd June date for releasing the first £80K from the mortgage (80% of the land value and non-negotiable).

However, by mid-October 2016, with winter fast approaching, the project is now out to tender with various builders and I am paying £332.67 EVERY MONTH in interest (thus far totalling £1,330.68).  After the Bank of England reduced their base rate to 0.25%, I contacted NBS to ask if they could reduce their rate by a corresponding amount – to be told the sum was fixed, which admittedly was in the contract but (to my mind) demonstrated contempt for their customers.

It should also be noted that – as a condition for my self-build mortgage – NBS demanded that I take out site insurance for what is STILL merely a plot of land, costing £1132.  All that has happened on site have been a few hours of exploratory test digs to work out how best to put in foundations.  Afterwards, the hole was filled right back-up.

Between January and March 2017, the ground works were finally completed, costing about £46K (considerably more expensive than the £30K that we were advised by the person who sold the plot).  We were still able to cover this with our original funds, not using a penny of the money that we continued to pay such extravagant amounts of interest on.  Even the first payment to the builder for the actual construction of the house, £70K paid in June 2017, a year after the Building Society lent the £80K, we could still have met with our own monies (thanks to a very generous gift from my father-in-law).

If we’d been properly advised, I would have sought Buildstore’s services over one year after I actually did.  Given my experience, they seem far too eager to lure in customers, without any appreciation of the risks and then take no responsibility if things do not go as anticipated.

So, to summarise my complaint against Buildstore:

– poor advice resulting in self-build mortgage application made much earlier than necessary and costing me serious amounts of interest paid to a company that has no concern for the plight of their customer.

– terms of self-build mortgage, specifically the THREE MONTH window from application accepted to funds transferred and interest accruing, not properly explained and warned about.

What of Newcastle Building Society?
– typically, residential mortgages are very flexible but – for some reason – their self-build mortgages (I’m not sure if this applies to other providers?) seem designed to milk as much cash from their customers as possible, making building projects much more difficult than they should be.

– why am I paying for self-build site insurance when nothing is happening on my plot?  I simply cannot fathom the logic of this charge and I’m outraged that there is not a more tailored approach to individual customer’s unique circumstances.

It’s also disappointing that I’ve pursued this complaint with the Financial Ombudsman, the fact at least two companies are involved in the financing means they can duck any blame.  They also claim to know little about actual house build – why should they be expected to foresee the problems, is their defence to the FO?  Well, they are lending the money, making these projects possible and I think they should take some of the risk (or at least properly advise against the potential pitfalls).

So, please, ask the awkward, difficult questions before starting a building project.  Don’t accept anything less than a proper quotation in writing as actual evidence of what your plans will cost.  Be careful – it’s a jungle out there!

Hated, reviled and destroyed

Who are the most abused, victimised and persecuted group of human beings in the world?  Who are the most oppressed in our society today without any voice of their own and virtually no rights in law?  Who is consistently ignored by politicians, news media and the general public?  Surely, when you dig a little into the horror that is the abortion industry, you must conclude that unborn babies face this horrendous injustice.

Once again, the UK government has legislated to undermine the rights of unborn babies, promising to fund abortions for Northern Irish women travelling across the Sea to seek a termination, undercutting the laws in Ulster that protect these vulnerable, innocent babies.  Why?

Well, proponents claim that this will primarily benefit those who are adjudged by medical professionals a “non-viable” pregnancy – these are the cases publicised and designed to extract maximum sympathy.  Whilst this must be a truly awful prognosis to receive, does that justify murder?  Consider that doctors do make mistakes, as demonstrated by (amongst many others) this case of Jett Morris who “survived for five weeks in the womb after his mum’s waters broke when she was just 20 weeks pregnant. He was born prematurely at 25 weeks weighing just 1.4lbs – less than a bag of sugar – and has now grown into a healthy one year-old.”

Then there’s the instances of women who have survived breast cancer and given birth to healthy babies, again defying prevailing medical opinions.  There is lots of research into exactly how pregnancy and cancer interact with some evidence suggesting that the former can actually help against the latter.

Note that in Northern Ireland currently, an abortion is offered if “a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.”  That’s clear and unambiguous, rightly stating what should be the only permissible reason for this last resort.  The sad fact is that as “health” is virtually impossible to define, a woman who is even mildly upset that she is pregnant can abort her child under this ambiguous phrase, which is the only legal check in Scotland, England and Wales.

For all the other objections raised to restricting the “choice” of women, pro-life defenders blow their arguments out of the water but are systematically ignored by the mainstream media.  For example, did you know that cases of “rape or incest” account for less than 1% of all abortions in the USA – yet for the amount of coverage they receive, you would think this was an epidemic.  Yes, the zygote (created at the moment of fertilization) is unique being that is distinct from the mother; he or she has 46 unique chromosomes and is internally driven to grow into more mature stages.

So, just because the foetus (technical term for baby from nine weeks) cannot speak for themselves and is dependent on their mother, doesn’t mean they can just be destroyed without any thought for the consequences.  A baby also requires round-the-clock care but no-one (thankfully) suggests a mother should be aided and abetted to get rid of what might be perceived as an unwanted nuisance.  I am deeply saddened that our politicians are increasing funding for and access to state-sanctioned murders whilst, for example, we cannot seem able to properly fireproof our buildings.

There have been about 1.5 billion babies aborted worldwide since 1980, a mind-boggling number that dwarfs the Holocaust, Stalin’s purges and the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia.  Let’s speak, work and pray for true justice.

What is church all about?

Apparently, Mark Zuckerberg has been suggesting that Facebook could fill the gap in people’s lives left by the decline of churches, as well as other organisations: “A lot of people now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.”

Peter Ormerod‘s article in the Guardian gives an excellent critique of this proposition to which I would only add – the true Church is not driven by money or profit.  Facebook made $10 billion in 2016 but followers of Christ are not concerned about building a bank balance.  Instead we seek to share the greatest news of all time for free – Jesus died for sinners, that includes me and you, so that we might be able to enjoy life in all its fulness.

Peter, Paul and company were not motivated by garnering the most likes or creating the grooviest of memes, but were ready to die for what they believed would transform the world from darkness to light.  God’s gospel declares to those who recognise their spiritual poverty: “release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind; to set free those who are oppressed; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour” (Luke 4:16-21).

The mission of Facebook – “to bring the world closer together”.  Not quite the promise of salvation. Of course, social media is a great tool that does connect people and can help accomplish much good, but what is of much more importance is what motivates our hearts.  Only Christ Jesus, working through His people (aka the Church) offers to perform the radical surgery that truly changes and redeems us.

 

Increasingly illiberal

For those who watched leader of the UK Liberal Democrat, Tim Farron, give his resignation speech and question just how liberal Britain actually is, I sincerely hope that his words resonated, penetrating the fog of hazy assumptions about the supposed superiority of secular humanism.  In the words of a man who has been hounded and persecuted for his faith, finding such a prominent position in public life impossible to maintain: “we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.”

What a sad indictment.  This one man’s political fate is only the tip of an iceberg. I have previously written about the vilification of Andrew Turner, which ultimately also led to his resignation.  Two Christians in the House of Commons both being forced out in the space of a couple of months is not a blip, but a wider trend in our society where disagreeing with the recently inaugurated status quo is the ultimate sin.  No-one is allowed to mention that, for example, 61% of HIV infections are accounted for by 2% of the gay population in the USA or that 29% of adult children of homosexual parents had been specifically subjected to sexual molestation by said person who should be caring and protecting them.

Another very recent instance of an attempt to close down the debate on issues deemed too sensitive to challenge is abortion.  Thankfully, an Ontario judge rejected an attempt to hide abortion statistics from the public, stating that there was no justification for suppressing information vital to having an informed debate on a matter of life or death.  I thought liberals liked Freedom of Information and believed in reasoned discussion, based on the evidence.  Clearly, that’s only the case when the facts suit their prejudices.

I could go on, but I’m sure you see the problem.  What kind of society are we really creating and what horrors are we storing-up for ourselves and future generations because we refuse to listen?

Terror strikes again

I’m so saddened and shocked that the United Kingdom has again experienced carnage and slaughter as a result of Islamist terrorism.  The butchery on London Bridge and Borough Market is sickening and must be utterly condemned.  People, whatever their beliefs or behaviours, are made in God’s image and precious to Him.  As each individual walks on this earth, they need those who profess faith to demonstrate the superiority of the One they follow. This is accomplished through living a life of love for everyone, and hating only the twisted ideologies that ensnare and entangle those who have not yet seen the Light.  I hope and pray that we who seek to walk in the way of Christ Jesus will display His amazing grace to this hurting, broken world.

Looking at some of the responses to this outrage, there are some important points to make.  Theresa May repeatedly mentioned “tackling extremism” was her priority.  But what does this actually mean?  Previously, several commentators and even government ministers have indicated that this term encompasses those who express negative attitudes about homosexuality.   Polly Harrow, who works at a college in Huddersfield as Head of Safeguarding and Prevent, voicing any opposition to same-sex ‘marriage’ could be against the law.  Privately-held belief is “your business” but “if you speak it out loud you might be breaking the law.”  Really?

So, we should just ignore the numerous studies that highlight the dangers faced by those who indulge in deviant sexual behaviour.  It’s a kindness to warn people of the consequences of their actions, though this should always be in the context of offering support and help. Sadly, many in power want to ban counselling, talking therapies for those with “unwanted same-sex attractions”, shutting down yet another escape route.

Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan cannot bring himself to even use the phrase “Islamist terrorism”, despite the fact we know very clearly that the example and teachings left by Muhammed motivated the attackers (more than 100 verses in the Qur’an advocating the use of violence to spread Islam). There is also Khan’s disturbing history of links to Islamist individuals and organisations, which has never been properly addressed and explained. Now, all I ask is that these people seriously examine their own beliefs and past actions before leaping into writing new laws that are misdirected and will only sow the seeds of more divisions.

This nation is teetering close to collapse and the only One who can save us is “the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” – the Lord Jesus Christ.  He teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, which is one of the best responses to terror.  Hatred will only make them stronger and us weaker. Only grace can break the chains.

Corbyn – unfit to lead

I am shocked that in all the UK General Election coverage so far there has been so little focus (if any) on Corybn’s appalling record as leader of HM Opposition.  80% of his Party – over 170 MPs – voted against him in a motion of no confidence less than one year ago. One-time economic guru (Richard Murphy) gave this damning verdict on his fruitless time with Corbyn and his cronies: “there was no policy direction, no messaging, no co-ordination, no nothing. Shadow ministers appeared to have been left with no direction as to what to do. It was shambolic. The leadership usually couldn’t even get a press release out on time to meet print media deadlines and then complained they got no coverage.”

There are countless other tweets and comments from prominent Labour figures that all point to one simple message: Corbyn is unfit to lead. Surely, we should listen to those who are closest to this mess and have the most experience of his manifest failures. For the record, I tried to give Corbyn the benefit of the doubt and I do agree with many of his concerns about social justice, the Iraq war and the need to properly invest in public services. However, our negotiations with Brussels on the future UK-EU relationship will be fundamental to our future – we need someone who is capable of reaching a sensible deal and will be respected by those on the other side of the table.

Now, outlets like the BBC ask questions (rightly) about his views on the IRA, Trident and Brexit, but I’ve not heard once – since the election was called – any interviewer confront Corbyn and co with views of those who have seen him up close, in action. Those IRA quotes are about 20 years old; the criticisms of his leadership were made about 10 months ago! Which one do you think is more relevant? So, why does a questioner not just read out the critiques and see how they respond. Here’s just one example, from Scottish Labour candidate (Blair McDougall) on 23rd July 2016 as “utterly unfit to lead. Petty. Irresponsible. Small.” Imagine that plastered on posters across the country!

This is probably the most vital question in this election. There’s no point having an amazing manifesto if you cannot deliver it by holding together a majority in Parliament. Corbyn has given no evidence that he is even capable of doing so. He is a “hypocrite” who “lectures on loyalty, even though for decades he was himself grossly disloyal to Labour on literally hundreds of occasions”.

I struggle to understand how Corbyn ended-up elected as Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. He has narrowed the viable options for government in this country by refusing to realise his unsuitability for leadership. I dread the prospect of PM Corbyn, sincerely hoping and praying that he is never allowed anywhere near 10 Downing Street.

 

Time for change in Moray

I’m disappointed about the dark mutterings aimed by the SNP at Douglas Ross’ refereeing commitments. Firstly, it’s a positive that we have a politician who has a life outside the Parliament and engages in ordinary, wholesome activities, gaining experiences that broaden his horizons and keep him connected to real people. If he misses a Holyrood committee meeting, let’s remind ourselves that these are probably pointless as the indy-obsessed SNP currently represent a massive roadblock to any progress through our devolved institutions.

Secondly, consider the cheek of the Nats – they have two MPs suspended for financial scandals and another, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, being investigated by the Law Society of Scotland. They’re the ones with the worst record of corruption and incompetence – who are they to throw stones in a desperate attempt to rescue Angus Robertson’s electoral prospects? Speaking of which, what has been doing at Westminster for the last 16 years – abstaining on numerous votes, using his position to divide the United Kingdom and claiming £1,119 for a TV on expenses (not to mention £20 for a corkscrew). Do, please, look them all up. As a former journalist and special advisor, I think our incumbent urgently needs a reality check.

The SNP have no coherent vision – they won’t even guarantee that we would re-join the EU as that would upset too many of their core voters. There’s no point in a strong voice for Moray/Scotland if they ignore what 57.56/55.3% of citizens are saying. We know that 300 years of shared history between two nations with a land border is much more important, and will always outweigh, a mere 40ish years in a less cohesive bloc. The fact is the SNP are hell-bent on a disastrous separation and will use any excuse to accomplish their narrow aims, ignoring the damage they inflict on Scotland through their chronic mismanagement. They are unprincipled and unfit for government of any sort (or even Opposition).

Meanwhile, Corbyn says he is “absolutely fine” with another divisive referendum and fails to command the loyalty of his own MPs, those who have seen him in action. Yes, it’s a mess, but – given the current choices – I believe we need to vote for change on 8th June.  We must unite behind the only candidate capable of delivering a message to the ultra-nationalists and actually representing Moray.

Here we go again…

Firstly, let’s deal with those who claim calling an election is unscrupulous. Look at the evidence. There’s the mounting dissent to PM May, from Sturgeon’s unspecified threat of “further action” after the Easter holidays in her quixotic campaign for “indyref2” – would she have called an unofficial referendum in defiance of Westminster? Then, the 2015 manifesto that ties her hands in terms of tax changes (such as fixing National Insurance contributions for the self-employed) and year-on-year pension increases of at least 2.5% (even if we see price deflation and wage growth turns negative).

With a wafer-thin working majority of 17 and no prospect of much happening in Brexit negotiations until after German elections, this was the last chance to address these issues. Yes, I wish she’d not so unequivocally spoken of governing till 2020, but she has now fully assessed the mountain ahead, from a position of being in the driving seat, and realised that upgrades are needed to the engine. We should give her the benefit of the doubt that this represent a genuine change of mind, based on sound reasons, not merely political expediency.

Quite simply, there are many good reasons to call a general election and solidify support for a strong United Kingdom negotiating the best possible relationships with all our neighbours in the “global village”.

Turning to the only potential alternative to Prime Minister May, we must see that Corbyn is a depressing joke. Unable to command the respect of his own Parliamentary Labour Party, who he should be working with most closely and uniting in opposition to the Tories, he is a dismal failure: too busy being friends with Hamas and Hezbollah, unable to articulate clearly a manifesto for change and described by his fellow-MPs as an “insurmountable obstacle to victory”. If he really cared about Britain, he would recognise his glaring weaknesses and step aside, so that Labour can function properly.

So, whilst I sympathise with everyone who feels fatigued by the prospect of more trips to the ballot box, I would encourage everyone to vote strategically. We must send a message that the SNP’s abysmal performance in Holyrood is unacceptable. How can they justify being given a £466 million increase in their budget, whilst simultaneously cutting £327 million from Local Councils, gutting vital public services? This complacency and incompetence must stop now.

Focusing on the General Election, the SNP simply cannot form a government at Westminster, given their fixation on independence and unwillingness to even explore the promising federal options outlined by former-PM Gordon Brown. They are a dangerous irrelevance who draw a generous salary, do next to nothing and were forced to suspend two of their misbehaving members within months of their election in 2015. So much for a “new politics”.

Looking at the electoral maths in Moray from 6th May 2016, if those who voted against the SNP incumbent united behind the Conservative candidate, who was only 2,875 votes behind Richard Lochhead, we’d finally have a proper MP and the United Kingdom would be much secure. Sadly, there’s just one option on the paper where your vote won’t be wasted.

Surely, it is in our best interests to give the current government a strong cohort of Scottish MPs, so our voice is at the heart of decision-making and shapes policy.