Please don’t vote UKIP

  

Yes, it’s another one of those anti-UKIP blog posts telling you all the same stuff again. No doubt it’ll either be ignored (written, as it is, on a blog which has fewer readers than the Lib Dems now have voters), ridiculed or the subject of a police complaint.

I want to start with a bit of background, though. If there’s one thing UKIP are good at it is pointing the finger at it critics and saying that they are clearly art of the “liberal elite establishment” and are “out of touch with the British public” (or if, like me, they live in Scotland, they are “dangerous Scottish nationalists”).

Here’s why I am none of those things.

I was born in an RAF hospital in, what was then, West Germany, to parents who both proudly served with the RAF (and I am also proud of them for doing so). From the ages of 2-11 I lived in East Tilbury, a small town in the parliamentary constituency of Thurrock, one of UKIP’s main targets and the place they chose to launch their manifesto. My parents did rather well during the Thatcher era and even took advantage of her right to buy scheme with the council house we lived in. I went to a boys’ grammar school, something UKIP are keen to bring back into the education system.

When I was 11 we moved to West Malling, in another UKIP target seat, Tonbridge and Malling. I moved on to a higher education college (which is now a university) in Canterbury where I met the woman I would marry and have three children with. Through her I also became another type of person UKIP rather like, a Christian.

Myself and my wife have worked hard through the years to raise a family and pay the bills. My longest period of unemployment in over 20 years is a week and I have had jobs such as washing dishes in a hotel kitchen, working in various shops, lab technician on an inland oilfield, trainee estate agent (I was awful) and have found my place now as a customer service coach at a wealth management company. I have worked some horrible jobs rather than go unemployed and have spent the last 12 years in the financial services industry, an industry Nigel Farage knows all about.

I, too, am thoroughly disaffected by the main three parties and, after being a Labour and Lib Dem member earlier in my life, have recently joined a party on the fringes, away from the establishment. The Scottish Greens. Yes, they campaigned for a yes vote in the independence referendum, but I didn’t. I have no strong views one way or the other on the matter and, being English, am certainly not a nationalist.

I now live, obviously in Scotland. Specifically, I live in UKIP’s main target north of the border, Falkirk, frequented by their larger than life MEP David Coburn.

The point of all of that life history? Well, it’s my way of saying that not only am I not a member of any liberal elite establishment, not only am I not totally out of touch with working people in Britain (with me being one), but I am virtually UKIP’s target audience. I’ve lived most of my life in three of their target seats, have worked hard all my life, I am a Christian and I am proud of my family’s ties to the armed forces.

Yet, I totally oppose almost everything they stand for.

You see, they say they are standing up for the working man and woman, but many of their leadership are from that same elite that they claim to oppose.

They have valid arguments about the EU. It is full of petty bureaucracy and unelected decision makers. However, it has also been a force for peace in a post WWII world, it has opened up trade between EU countries and the chance for all EU citizens, including Britons, to seek new opportunities in other countries. The EU badly needs to change, but to leave it rather than be central to its improvement is horrible short sighted and insular.

They say that they stand  for Christian values, yet seem to be very muddled on what those values are. They talk about fighting people trafficking by, you’ve guessed it, leaving the EU. They talk about putting advisers into foodbanks with no clear strategy on actually ending the need for foodbanks. They talk about freedom to worship, yet I manage along to Church once or more a week totally unhindered (unlike millions around the world). They talk about breaking a dependency on benefits without addressing the issue of those who will always be dependent on them through no fault of their own. 

Most importantly, for a party who claims to be proud of our Judeo-Christian heritage, they don’t speak of the one thing Jesus put at the heart of his teachings. The one thing Paul tells is is the most important gift. Love.

UKIP’s success is not built on love. It is not built on moving forward together, for the common good. It is not built on looking out for the weakest in society. It is not built on one body, working together for a common aim. No, their success is built on fear and hatred.

Their argument on the EU is concentrated on immigration. This is a cause for concern for many, but it’s been greatly caused by the type of rhetoric and language used by UKIP in their campaigning. They talk about immigrants coming over for benefits, despite migrants claiming less in benefits per head than UK citizens. They talk about health tourism, something there is no evidence for. They talk about a strain on public services, services their taxes go towards paying for. They put up posters with fingers pointing at you, telling you that migrants are after your job. They claim to have nothing against migrants themselves, but attract people to the party who want to “send them all home”. Fear of the unknown, tribalism and xenophobia are the staple of UKIP’s tactics.

They find different groups and demonise them, attack them, ridicule them, tell anyone who’ll listen that they are the enemy, the cause of all our ills. Migrants (especially Eastern Europeans), lefties, the BBC, the EU, asylum seekers, Muslims, Scotland (especially the SNP), Greens, pollsters are all out to curb our freedoms, steal our money, shut down debate. Only UKIP can save us!

Divide and conquer. It’s worked well for many and now UKIP are taking advantage. All the while they act as the plucky outsiders, anti-establishment figures (run by ex bankers and ex Tories, and bankrolled by the likes of news magnate and pornographer Richard Desmond) who are scorned by all. They complain, formally, about any slight, bullying people and organisations into compliance. It’s frightening.

I agree with them on the odd point; scrapping the bedroom tax and bringing in voting reform are good policies. However, their fearmongering, paranoia, neo-liberal, xenophobic, insular, populist, empty policies and language are a genuine danger to this country. They are not for the working person, they are for themselves; they are not Christian, they are cynical impostors; they are not patriotic, they are separatist and elitist. And they must be stopped.

Please, whoever you vote for next week, listen to this plea from a man who UKIP see as their type of person (except the whole leftie thin get); don’t make it UKIP. For all their promises and patriotic words they will tear this country apart. Don’t let them.

I’m fed up

  

I’m fed up.

I’m fed up of so many things which should actually be important.

I’m fed up of politics. I’m fed up of people arguing with each other and it becoming personal. I’m fed up of automatically assuming political opponents must be wrong. I’m fed up of soundbites and pretty posters rather than sound arguments and consensus. I’m fed up of partisan tubthumping. I’m fed up of petty name calling, much raking and negative campaigning. I’m fed up that it is easier to call out others for their failings than to defend your own beliefs. I’m fed up that a straight answer to a straight question is so rare, and is so viciously attacked when it comes. I’m fed up of hypocrisy within politics.

I’m fed up that I find myself dragged into it so easily. I’m fed up of spending more time attacking other parties’ policies than promoting my own. I’m fed up of saying what I don’t stand for than what I do stand for. I’m fed up of arguing with people I’ve never met before just because my chosen colour is green and theirs is purple or blue. I’m fed up of being outraged and feeling helpless to do anything about the thing which has outraged me. 

I’m fed up.

I’m fed up of division. I’m fed up of hearing Christians arguing between themselves about matters of doctrine in a way which ignores the big issues. I’m fed up of people clinging to labels; liberal or conservative, straight or gay, evangelical or progressive, cis or trans, black or white, atheist or religious; ignoring the fact that we are all just human beings. I’m fed up of people being made to feel shame for what they are rather than revel in the beauty of who they are. I’m fed up of sneering, jeering, ignoring, sidelining, insulting and marginalising those we see as different to ourselves. I’m fed up of the fact that we concentrate on our differences so much more than on the many wonderful things we share. I’m fed up of not celebrating our differences, but of jealously guarding them.

I’m fed up.

I’m fed up of all of this and more. I’m fed up of the fact that this post is starting to read like a rewrite of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and that even I am reading it as some sort of “why can’t we all live in peace and harmony” kind of thing.

And I’m fed up of the fact that we see that as silly.

I’m fed up.

But I’m not giving up.

The thing is that we’re not perfect. I’m not perfect and neither are you. So all of these things are inevitable as we blunder our way through life. The trick is to recognise when things are wrong, when things need to change, and to try to do something about it. The trick is not to beat ourselves up when we lapse back into the old ways of doing things. The trick is to try, however hard it seems, to see each person as unique and with their own beauty. It is harder for some than for others, but it really is true about everybody.

And then, the trick is to coax that beauty out until it starts to overtake the grime of outward appearance. Not to mould others into what we want, but to help everybody to mould themselves into what they could be; what they’re meant to be. Including ourselves.

You may say I’m a dreamer…

It’s Friday…

 

I work in pensions…

No, don’t go yet! Please!

Thanks. Now, as I was saying, I work in pensions. Specifically, I work in the new business department of a wealth management company which processes new pension applications. In the UK it is currently the end of the tax year and, as a result, my place of work is currently busier than the person changing the list of candidates on the UKIP website. People are desperately trying to put as much by as they can for their old age without being hit for a big tax bill, something especially this year as the amount you can put in over one tax year is about to reduce. It’s amazing how many people leave these things to the last minute and, as a result, we have an immense amount of applications in which we need to process before 6th April. The whole thing is pressure and stress; the stress of not having enough put by for retirement, the stress of getting in before the deadline, the stress of keeping on top of the work, the stress of worrying what happens if things aren’t done on time…

Stress is a fact of modern life. I guess it was probably a part of life for many in days gone by as well. Some stree about work, some are stressed because they have no work. Some stress that they don’t have enough money, some stress that they have none. Some stress about friends and family, some are stressed because they are alone. Some stress about their home while others are stressed about not having a bed for the night. Some are stressed about their weight whilst others are stressed because they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. It can consume you, leave you feeling isolated and hopeless, as if there is no escape from your circumstances.

So, we rush around, hurrying about to try to get as much done in the shortest time possible because we worry what’ll happen if we don’t. We cram our lives so full of stuff that we don’t give ourselves time to stop, take stock and think. Being busy, doing things, making money, these are things we are expected to do, things we expect of ourselves, so doing nothing except thinking and reflecting are somehow seen as lazy and counter productive.

However, stopping and being still is exactly what we need to do much of the time, just to a low us to cope with what we have to do.

This is Holy Week, the time when Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection. That death is something Jesus knew was going to happen. He knew how he would die and the suffering and shame that it would entail.

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (‭Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭39-44‬ NIVUK)

Now, over the last week I have felt like putting my head through a computer screen, snapping at people who don’t deserve it and throwing all the paper on my desk up into the air in despair. I haven’t at any stage, though, prayed that the work be taken from me and sweated blood! It really is one of those events which makes you take a step back and realise that Jesus went willingly into this situation, but he was utterly terrified of it at the same time.

It’s not death that scared him. He knew that, ultimately, he would be reunited with the father. However, the sheer pain, anguish and humiliation he was about to endure was mind blowing. David Instone-Brewer wrote this insight into crucifixion for Premier Christianity Magazine. It tells of the pain and humiliation from a physical and psychological perspective. It would have been unbearable, and Jesus knew this. This came through in the fear of this prayer; to take the burden from him if there was another way. He knew, though, that there was no other way, and he said that he still submitted to his father’s will.

This is the first point of hope in a semmingly hopeless situation. Luke tells us that an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. I don’t know how that looked or how Jesus was strengthened by this, except for one thing. Jesus was still in anguish, but he kept on praying. Sometimes the times we most need prayer are the times we least feel able to do so. Jesus found the strength in the depths of despair to keep his eyes fixed firmly on his father in heaven, praying for strength and, as we read in John’s Gospel, praying for hid disciples and all believers, knowing what they will go through after his death.

Suddenly, I feel utterly self centred and ridiculous. I have felt under, what I perceive to be, immense pressure at work, then I see Jesus praying for others as he knowingly and willingly approaches the hardest thing any human being has ever had to face. This is astonishing, more so because he is doing this for each and every one of us.

The reason he is able to do this is the reason he is doing it. His arrest, his beatings, his flogging, his mocking, his walk to Golgotha, his hands and feet being nailed to a cross, his shame, his pain and his death were not the end. He cried out that “it is finished”, but it was only his sacrifice for our sins which was finished. There was still one more unbelievable act.

The fact is that hoplessness is temporary. In the case of Jesus’ followers it wAs only a couple of days long. Hopelessness was replaced by hope. The hope that only a miracle can give. Hope that only victory over death can give. Hope that is only there in the risen Jesus, talking to the women by an empty tomb.

Therein lies the whole point. Sometimes things feel hopeless, or just difficult to bear or too stressful to take. They aren’t, they never can be, because Jesus lives.

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!

http://youtu.be/sB2en_C4KGk