The United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) has made some significant electoral advances since the 2010 General Election, when they secured 3.1% of the popular vote. Not only did the party go on to win the 2014 Elections to the European Parliament with 24 MEPs elected on 26.6% of the vote, but they currently have 430 councillors across 76 local councils, and recently secured their first elected MPs to Westminster following Conservative defections and victory in two volitional by-elections. At the time of writing they are regularly scoring between 12-15% in opinion polls. Christians are deeply divided about the party’s perceived ‘undercurrents’ of racism, nationalism and isolationism which, some aver, put them beyond the pale of religious respectability. But despite episcopal denunciations(1), the party is attracting Christians from across the denominations, including the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church(2). Continue reading →
The 1970s were a dispirited, discordant and fractious decade of industrial unrest, strikes, blackouts, three-day-weeks, piles of unburied corpses, and kerbsides strewn with mountains of uncollected rubbish. I didn’t care: I wasn’t even really aware. I used to love power cuts because they meant darkness and adventure. I was far too young to worry about wages, fuel shortages, Commie unions and inflation. I didn’t know that the country was on its knees, but I loved the warming glow of candles, and the wonder of carrying one “up the rocket” to bed. Continue reading →
On April 23rd 2016 – and probably throughout the entire year – we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. By ‘we’ I mean not only England and the English, or the United Kingdom and the British, but all nations and cultures of the world where Shakespeare is a passion, pastime or of any scholarly interest. And that necessarily embraces the whole of civilisation. As the holder of the Guinness World Record for performing the Complete Works single-handedly non-stop (five days without sleep – never again), I’ll certainly be raising a glass or two to the world’s greatest poet-playwright.
My record still stands after 25 years, and has just been re-published in the 2013 edition of the Guinness Book of Records. I will forever be grateful to those fine English teachers I had at school – Roger Calvert, Daphne Cooper and Jean Tidy – who between the years that spanned my O-levels and A-levels introduced me to Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, Antony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Measure for Measure and King Lear. From the academic confines of the classroom to the emotional exuberance of the school play, I found my soul simultaneously steeped in dramatic greatness, lyrical beauty and profound wisdom: ineffable, noetic, passive – it was like a religious experience. Every visit I made to Stratford-upon-Avon became a pilgrimage: sometimes wrestling with darkness and devils, and then rejoicing with angels and ministers of grace. Continue reading →
Historic, patriotic, intoxicating, mesmerising: “Team GB’s heroic success seems to have re-awoken in us our sense of national pride,” wrote Sir Roger Bannister, the first man ever to run a mile in under four minutes, “a realisation perhaps that, as a people, we have the ability, the drive and the determination to be great.”
Sir Roger is one of Britain’s greatest sporting legends, into which pantheon can now be added the likes of Mo Farah, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy – people whose achievements are not merely exceptional, but truly and monumentally great. And that greatness is measured not only in the extent to which a triumph or victory enters the national consciousness – which is ephemeral – but also in proportion to its longevity in the league tables of history: to surpass is admirable, but to pioneer is unique and non-replicable. There is only one who can be the first. Continue reading →
Day by day, minute by minute, speech by speech and word by word, the United Kingdom Independence Party looks and sounds increasingly like the Conservative Party in exile – on the economy, law and order, education, defence, patriotism, Christianity, immigration, over-regulation, tax reduction, and their support for private enterprise, traditional marriage and the family, and (of course) the thorny question of the European Union. There is no longer any credible assertion that UKIP is a ‘single-issue’ protest party or pressure group.
And now, just as we have our long-held suspicions confirmed that the Foreign Office is essentially Arabist and ever so subtly anti-Israel, with government officials outrageously asserting that Benjamin Netanyahu uses ‘the incitement issue as a delaying tactic in peace talks’, we hear that Nigel Farage is confronting the ‘strong bias’ against Israel that exists within the European Union. Continue reading →