A tale of two clerics

The first cleric in the story below (Very Rev. Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow) is a trifle eccentric. He wants us to pray that Prince George will be gay.

Well, as someone who was delighted (and relieved) when Tom Robinson sang “Glad to be Gay” in the 1970s, I wouldn’t want to deny George that experience. But he wouldn’t have to be forced into it by a higher power – not because of a gay gene (I’m not a big fan of that theory) but because, as he grows up, he will sort it out for himself. It’s mostly a social process, in which he will have his own strong part to play.

The second cleric (Rev. Gavin Ashenden, a former Chaplain to the Queen) says that Holdsworth’s prayer is “unkind”. This suggests that we are unfortunate to be gay, perhaps should be sad to be gay – and to some people (not necessarily Ashenden) it might mean that we should get therapy to stop us being gay. Well (you’ve guessed it!) I’m not with Ashenden.  I’m with Tom Robinson. (Incidentally, I once knew a Chaplain to the Queen who wrote that being gay was like having a club foot. But this was in the 1970s. Things should have moved on by now in royal chaplaincy circles.)

Ashenden also says that to pray that George will be gay “is to pray in a way that will undermine his constitutional and personal role” to produce an heir to the throne. It is, he said, “the theological equivalent of the curse of the wicked fairy in one of the fairytales. It is un-Christian as well as being anti-constitutional.” Perhaps this is the key to Ashenden’s harrumphing. On the same day that news reached us that Morgan Stanley fears that a Corbyn government would be detrimental to the financial and economic status quo that we have all come to love (and Jeremy agrees the fear is justified), so Ashenden claims that a gay prince would seriously undermine the royal privilege that allegedly holds the system together (I doubt it would be enough). But if they think that’s what’s at stake, George, if you turn out to be a gay prince, watch out for the therapists!

But surely, even in this bizarre world of wicked fairies and things that go bump in the night, Ashenden has nothing to worry about. Whatever theology lies behind Ashenden’s mish-mash of prejudice and defence of a constitutional monarchy, Holdsworth’s prayer couldn’t work. For it would entail God acting against his own “divine right of kings” (and queens), which he surely couldn’t do. And on the question of fairytales, we are dealing with two of them here. The first is the royal fairytale (nowadays largely taking the form of a soap opera, which no one should actually believe in, even if the plots are fun; the second is one that Ashenden should acknowledge, since he has introduced talk of fairytales. In the run-up to Christmas, there will be much singing, and many readings from the Bible, about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. A close reading of that story (full, as it is, of invention, contradictions and fantastic images) should at the very least make us very sceptical indeed of its value as history. What, then? Is it myth? (myths can be helpful). Is it a fairytale? I think it’s a fairytale. So Ashenden should be careful about what he says about Holdsworth’s prayer. Because people who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones.

Here’s the story:



Children or thugs?

There are two explanations for what happened here:


If Hammond and the Treasury really shook their rattles (as this story implies) and said, “We were going to give you the money but now you’ve asked for it so rudely and embarrassed us we’re not going to give it to you after all – so there,” then we’re governed by children.

If, however, this is the government warning off heads of public services, leaders of local councils, union reps and generally pissed-off workers from speaking up and telling us the truth, then we’re ruled by thugs.

I think we’re ruled by thugs.

I don’t get it.


Whenever housing is mentioned, a national programme for the building of council houses for rent, once again, is a very popular idea. So much so as to be widely considered a no-brainer. And it is, isn’t it? Proper public housing, that is, not houses owned by private developers and called ‘social’ to make it sound reasonable.

Housing supply is inadequate for the demand, by the numbers, the type and affordability – actually affordable, relative to wages. Prices are high. Deposits alone can be more than the total cost of the two-bed flat I bought in the mid-eighties. This market means rents are also high. Work is precarious, pay is too low and life’s basics are expensive. Anyway, we know this.

There are the usual and perfectly valid supply/demand concerns over such issues as negative equity, preservation of an older home-owning voter-base, protection of asset values, rising interest rates, the ‘freedom of…

View original post 189 more words

Amsterdam 1 – Milan 0

London is losing the European Medicines Agency to Amsterdam now that we’re leaving the EU. Brexit has led to a scramble for agencies – so far, the Medicines Agency and the Banking Agency. It was all a bit of a gamble, rather like greyhounds or horses. Or, in the case of the Medicines Agency, a cross between football and the way they choose who goes first in Snooker championships. According to The Guardian:

“Italy’s Europe minister Sandro Gozi said Milan’s loss to Amsterdam in a tie-breaker was like losing the World Cup on the toss of a coin.”

The European Medicines Agency sounds like an important institution to me, yet the language describing its fate would be familiar in the betting shop down the road in any European city. There were “fancied contenders”, says the Guardian report, and “outsiders”; the result was “very tight”, said Dutch minister Halbe Zijlstra; French minister Natalie Loiseau was saddened that Lille had “lost out in the race” (we are, I think, back to horses); Malta, Zagreb and Dublin are said to have “dropped out of the race” for the Medicines Agency, with Ireland hoping to “boost its chances of winning” the Banking Agency.

I suspect this is not good for any of us, and Daniel Zeichner argues, in a separate article, that “losing the European Medicines Agency is bad news for patients, jobs – and the NHS”, which reminds me: it’s not just about the Medicines Agency – it’s about health care in general. Our free-at-the-point-of-use NHS is very expensive at the point of purchase, with all kinds of outfits vying to become its “private partners”, its “providers”; faceless drug companies foisting their goods on to our doctors, with pressure to persuade all patients to take this or that medication whether they need it or not; and has the medical centre chosen the right computer system? Or have they been sold a pup and need to look for another “provider” next year? And will this year’s flu jab work?

It’s all a bit of a gamble.


London loses EU agencies to Paris and Amsterdam in Brexit relocation


Why losing the European Medicines Agency is bad news for patients, jobs – and the NHS



Poor decision-making, Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) and PIP appeals

Henry Brooke

Last night I spoke at an event in Gray’s inn which bore the title: The Citizen and the State: Poor decision-making and the role of the pro bono Bar.

View original post 1,838 more words

No answers, please – just bring on the clowns

An exchange between Emily Thornberry and Boris Johnson today in parliament slowly degenerated into yah-boo childishness. She shouldn’t let him draw her into his antics. Speaker John Bercow, after some incoherent yelling from Johnson, then joined in the circus: “I cannot believe the right honourable gentleman behaved in this way in his schooldays – or perhaps he did, which may explain a lot now.” He then told Thornberry off for calling the foreign secretary “Boris”.

Meanwhile, anyone in the real world who wanted answers to serious questions could be forgiven for despairing: the Foreign Office team got away with defending the rule of law in Spain (by which they meant the police beating up voters and wrecking polling booths) and refusing to say they would oppose Sudan joining the Commonwealth on the grounds of that country’s human rights abuses: any decision, apparently, would be up to the other Commonwealth members. But as many of them are human rights abusers themselves, we’d better not hold our breaths.

So at the beginning of this afternoon I am in favour of closing down our useless parliament and dismembering the “Commonwealth”. As for the EU, don’t ask. In any case it got lost amid the Johnson-Thornberry double act.


We have ex-hurricane Ophelia on our doorstep, well, Ireland’s doorstep mostly. Nothing like in the Caribbean, Texas or Florida, but bad enough. There are 3 people dead, I think. And as far east as London, and briefly in Hull, the sky turned orange because of the dust that it created. Why orange? I don’t know. But perhaps it has a symbolic significance in that the effects of climate change are the same colour as Trump’s face. Goodbye to the Paris agreement? Goodbye to the Iran agreement? All our faces will turn orange. Goodbye to us all.


Poets, Poetry, News, Reviews, Readings, Resources & Opportunities for Poets and Writers

The Conversation Room

Ideas worth exploring

Between Truth and Hope

travel, social justice, art & culture

Archive Mined and Freshly Spun

A sprinkling of Poems by Malcolm Evison

Politics and Insights

Public interest issues, policy, equality, human rights, social science

Save Our NHS Hull and East Yorkshire

Defending Local NHS Services and Jobs!

Kevin Ovenden's Blog

Journalism, progressive ideas and left-wing activism

The Colossus

With just enough learning to misquote


Welcome to my online sketchbook


Challenging for Equity above all

Miguel Costa Matos

politics, economics and whatever else comes to mind


The official page of the artist created to host the project 'CUT OFF'.

Refugees, Capitalism and the British State

A Marxist perspective on international migration and settlement in Britain

I'm a JSA Claimant

Now working part-time, volunteers part-time. Cares what happens to UK society full-time


Evangelical Society of Devout & Militant Atheists (E.S.D.M.A)

Dan O' Neill

@Activdan: #Humanrights and #Workersrights • Campaigns and Communications • Believes the best society is one built on #cooperation, #democracy & #solidarity • Views my own

Raw Jottings.

Reports, notes, and thoughts on the untimely present.