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Although the late comedian Jackie Mason thought that the UK’s House of Commons was akin to a ‘sanitarium’, there are inviolable rules for suspension from the Chamber.

Criminal charges or sexual harassment will do the trick. Often, the party whip is removed from the MP in question, rendering them Independent unless the whip is restored.

Here are two other ways that MPs can be suspended.

Grabbing the mace

When the Commons is in session, the mace sits atop the desk in front of the Speaker.

Only the Serjeant at Arms is allowed to handle it. He/She puts it in place before the session and removes it afterwards.

On Wednesday, December 16, 2020, the SNP’s Drew Hendry was vexed about the Internal Market Bill, which is part of the post-Brexit legislation.

He claimed that it would interfere with Scottish devolution because Parliament would be taking decisions he believed the Scottish government should take.

Excerpts of his speech and the debate follow, emphases mine (unless otherwise stated):

Westminster Ministers will still have the right to impose lower food, environmental and other devolved standards on Scotland, regardless of the view of Holyrood. This Bill is the biggest assault on devolution in the history of the Scottish Parliament. It undermines devolved policy making, grabs spending powers, and removes state aid from being a devolved responsibility. The Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly refused to give this Bill consent, and it is outrageous that the UK Government are once again ignoring the wishes of the people of Scotland as well as Wales …

The only reason for this Bill as it now stands is to demolish devolution. If the Government take this Bill forward today, as they obviously will, that is what they will be doing. Any pretence thereafter by the Scottish Tory MPs that they respect the democratic rights of the people of Scotland will be blown apart if they support this today. In fact, they have already supported it, because it seems that it will go through. They have done nothing to protect the democratic rights of the Scottish people.

People in Scotland are watching. People in Scotland, when they see the effects of this Bill, will be angry about the fact that their rights are being taken away by these Tory Ministers, aided by their Labour bedfellows. They will be furious about the fact that their rights are being stripped from them. They are listening, they are watching, and they are seeing developments in this place. They are understanding, now, that the only way to protect their Parliament, their rights and their democracy in Scotland is to go forward as an independent nation—and they will be voting for that, I am sure, in due course.

Yet another SNP rant about rights, democracy and independence.

The debate went on for some time. At the end, the presiding minister responding for the Government — Conservative MP, Paul Scully — concluded:

I welcome the contributions and the constructive discussions that we have had in recent days with Opposition Members in both Houses that have got us to this place. We have had some passionate debates on the Bill, because of the importance of the issues. However, the Bill will ensure that UK businesses can trade across the four parts of the UK in a way that helps them to invest and create jobs, just as they have for hundreds of years. I am therefore delighted to ask the House to agree to the amendments, and to complete our scrutiny and consideration of the Bill.

At that point, Drew Hendry stood up and walked towards the centre of the Chamber, a big no-no. Then he grabbed the mace:

Dame Rosie Winterton was the Deputy Speaker for the debate.

This was the exchange between her and Hendry:

Hendry: This is an outrage to Scotland. It is not acceptable.

Winterton: Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat, and he knows that. [Interruption.] This is just showing off. He should resume his seat, otherwise I will name him and order him to leave. [Interruption.] Does he want to be named? Is that what is happening? [Interruption.] If that is what is happening, we can do it. [Interruption.] Okay—I will name him. I know what he is doing. [Interruption.] Oh, for goodness’ sake! Very childish.

Hansard records that the suspension took place under Standing Order No. 44:

Drew Hendry, Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, was named by the Deputy Speaker for disregarding the authority of the Chair (Standing Order No. 44).

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 44),

That Drew Hendry be suspended from the service of the House.—(David T. C. Davies.)

Question agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker directed Drew Hendry to withdraw from the House, and the Member withdrew accordingly.

Guido Fawkes posted the BBC video the next day. His readers were appalled:

It was a costly move on Hendry’s part. One of Guido’s readers recalled that Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle also grabbed the mace. That was on December 18, 2018, also in a Brexit-related debate; he was suspended only for the rest of the day:

Guido’s report explained the £7,000 (emphases in the original):

SNP MP Drew Hendry made a bit of a fool of himself last night, shouting to disrupt proceedings and then seizing the mace – all over the passage of the Internal Market Bill. As a result of his actions he was officially ‘named’ and suspended from the House for five working days. Despite some news outlets claiming the suspension is just 24 hours, Guido’s well placed source says they have got it wrong.

Two aspects of the suspension that have gone unreported are that; firstly it is without pay and secondly it covers five working days. Meaning that after today and tomorrow, the House will have to sit for three more days before Hendry can be paid again. Even if the Commons returns for an extraordinary day or two to ratify a potential Brexit deal, it is unlikely there will be a third sitting day until well into January. It’s possible therefore that Hendry’s five sitting days suspension could end up lasting for a calendar month – costing the MP almost £7,000 in lost salary. A very expensive mace grab.

It’s hard to know what happened in the end, but a £7,000 penalty would have been fitting.

Accusing an MP of lying

Another way of getting suspended from the Commons is to accuse an MP of lying, which is what Labour’s Dawn Butler did on the final day before this year’s summer recess.

On Thursday, July 22, 2021, in the Summer Adjournment debate, she said, in part:

While the NHS was coping with 130,000 people dying from the pandemic, the Prime Minister was making his mates rich. Cronyism is rife and old chums are given jobs regardless of their skillset—some a little bit on the side. This has been one big experiment for this corrupt, authoritarian, racism-laden Government, and I am not scared of saying it like it is

Poor people in our country have paid with their lives because the Prime Minister spent the last 18 months misleading this House and the country.

Peter Stefanovic from the Communication Workers Union has a video with more than 27 million views online. In it he highlights that the Prime Minister says: that the economy has grown by 73%—it is just not true; that he has reinstated nursing bursaries—just not true; that there is not a covid app working anywhere in the world—just not true; and that the Tories invested £34 billion in the NHS—not true. The Prime Minister said

“we have severed the link between infection and serious disease and death.”

Not only is that not true but it is dangerous.

It is dangerous to lie during a pandemic, and I am disappointed that the Prime Minister has not come to the House to correct the record and correct the fact that he has lied to this House and the country over and over again.

Having watched enough of these debates and all of Boris’s coronavirus briefings, he did not say any of those things.

Judith Cummins MP (Lab) was Deputy Speaker while Dame Rosie Winterton was self-isolating with the virus. She did a great job in handling the situation:

Cummins: Order. I am sure the hon. Lady will reflect on her words and perhaps correct the record.

Butler: What would you rather, Madam Deputy Speaker, a weakened leg or a severed leg? At the end of the day, the Prime Minister has lied to this House time and time again. It is funny that we get in trouble in this place for calling out the lie rather than for lying.

Cummins: Order. Can you please reflect on your words and withdraw your remarks?

Butler: Madam Deputy Speaker, I have reflected on my words. Somebody needs to tell the truth in this House that the Prime Minister has lied.

Standing Order No. 43 was invoked:

The Deputy Speaker ordered Dawn Butler, Member for Brent Central, to withdraw immediately from the House during the remainder of the day’s sitting (Standing Order No. 43), and the Member withdrew accordingly.

Guido’s team posted the video:

The accompanying post had this sentence (highlight in the original):

This attention-seeking stunt will work as desired…

Unfortunately, Butler left the Commons at 3:49 p.m., and summer recess began around 5 p.m., so any salary deductions were minimal.

Even so, the left-leaning PARLYappteam thought Judith Cummins did the right thing:

But there was more. Stuart Andrew MP responded to the debate on behalf of the Government. I really like him. He came from humble circumstances and is now the Treasurer of Her Majesty’s Household.

Of Dawn Butler, he said:

I cannot ignore the disappointing tone of the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler). It was disappointing to hear the constant accusation of cronyism and corruption. I took particular offence at being described as a member of a racism-enabling Government. I have faced prejudice in my life, and I have ended up in hospital, as did my father, because of my sexuality. I took offence at being told that I do not believe in the NHS, as I spent most of my working life working for the hospice movement, and at being told that we do not care about poorer families, as my dad spent a lot of time in unemployment—I had to have free school meals. I take exception to such accusations.

I will stand up to anyone who discriminates against any single person for who or what they are, or for who they love. I will defend the NHS for as long as I am alive. I believe that the best way to help our poorest families is to give them the opportunity to have a job that pays well, because being able to support themselves is their best opportunity for a better life.

PARLY picked up on it:

Later that afternoon, Butler tweeted:

She tweeted again that evening with another video:

In between those tweets, The Independent‘s Chief Political Commentator, veteran journalist John Rentoul, hardly a conservative, appeared on GB News to say that Butler’s actions were ‘a cheap political stunt’. Someone replied with a news story about Butler from 2012:

John Rentoul — and Guido — were correct.

On Friday, July 23, Guido reported on the great social media results for the MP:

Dawn Butler’s Commons hissy fit yesterday went exactly as planned: her own Twitter clip is currently on 1.4 million views, though she’s retweeted various other uploads of the clip which total 6.3 million in about half a day. She even had a speedily filmed and produced Byline TV interview out on the strop stunt…

The monetary fine was negligible:

It turns out Dawn’s stunt came very close to backfiring. Thankfully for her she was only suspended for the remainder of the day’s sitting – if she’d been thrown out using a similar standing order, and been suspended until the next sitting day, she would have remained a suspended MP going into the Summer recess, thereby being unable to draw a salary for over six weeks. Six weeks of an MP’s salary would have come to £9453. Commons sources suggest Dawn’s dodging of this unlucky outcome was unlikely to have been deliberate after a careful reading of Parliamentary procedure…

There is much more to write about her, but that will have to wait for another day.

On Monday, July 12, the day after the Euro 2020 final, GB News presenter Guto Harri took the knee in solidarity with the cause.

His co-presenter, Mercy Muroki, looked on, silently embarrassed for him:

Fallout

That was the last the channel’s viewers saw of Guto Harri, a Welshman who used to work at the BBC and also advised Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London.

On July 13, Harri defended his gesture:

On Thursday, July 15, GB News tweeted:

That evening, The Guardian posted an article about the channel’s tanking ratings after the Harri incident (emphases mine, unless stated otherwise):

GB News attracted zero viewers during some of its broadcasts this week, according to official television audience figures produced by rating agency Barb, after a viewer boycott prompted by one of its presenters taking the knee in solidarity with the England football team …

Business editor Liam Halligan and former Labour MP Gloria De Piero attracted no measurable audience to their show between 1pm and 1.30pm on Wednesday afternoon. During the same timeslot the BBC News channel attracted 62,000 viewers, while Sky News had 50,000 people watching.

GB News’ audience again briefly dipped to zero at 5pm, during a late-afternoon programme co-hosted by ex-BBC presenter Simon McCoy and former Ukip spokesperson Alex Phillips.

The Guardian also acknowledged GB News’s aforementioned tweets.

On July 16, Guido Fawkes wrote that no one was sure whether Harri had been suspended for a time or whether he was fired.

In any event, Harri’s Twitter bio no longer mentions GB News.

Programming director quits

That same day, the channel’s programming director, John McAndrew, quit, something that management confirmed only on July 28:

Guido wrote that McAndrew was second in command and disagreed about the channel’s focus:

Apparently McAndrew had been in favour of more local reporting and open discussions rather than the Wootton-style culture war rants.

To be fair, the local reporters appear on the daytime shows. The evening programmes, such as Dan Wootton’s, discuss socio-political issues.

The channel was quick to implement schedule changes last weekend:

TalkRADIO’s Mark Dolan hired

Mark Dolan’s Saturday night show aired for the first time on July 24. Nana Akua, the former presenter in that slot, has been moved to a daytime show.

Nana Akua has no time for wokery, as her last show in the Saturday night slot proved. The Express had the story on Sunday:

A GB News clash erupted last night after host Nana Akua urged Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to “just stop talking please”. This prompted a defence from Tonight Live guests Nicola McLean and Martin Offiah, who argued that Meghan and Harry “were connecting with people”. The trio had discussed reports of new details about Prince William’s rift with his brother Harry.

Mark Dolan was a top-rated host on talkRADIO. The Express reported:

Mark is best known for hosting his own Drivetime show on TalkRadio for the past two years but he is jumping ship to join GB News from Friday, July 23, 2021. With 20 years of broadcasting experience behind him, he will be taking Nana‘s Friday and Saturday night slots to oversee proceedings on his chat show, Late Night Live. It will run from 9pm until 12am and he will speak to numerous guests about topical matters making the headlines.

On joining the network, Mark said: “I’ve had a wonderful time at TalkRadio but the opportunity to shake up the current affairs broadcasting with GB News is just too good to miss.

“My show will tackle the issues that really matter to people across the United Kingdom in a stimulating, informative but entertaining way.

“My one promise is that I won’t be boring,” he concluded …

He certainly was not boring. His is a good show.

Nigel Farage to the rescue — five days a week

The biggest catch of all is Nigel Farage, who is now on GB News five days a week: Monday through Thursday at 7 p.m. and Sunday mornings:

Farage had the Sunday morning show since GB News launched, but the addition of the 7 p.m. slot, which premiered on Monday, July 19, has been a real fillip for the channel’s ratings.

On July 19, Freedom Day, an anti-lockdown protest took place outside of Downing Street. Political correspondent Tom Harwood, who used to work for Guido Fawkes, tried to file a report but Nigel had to cut him off because of all the obscenities being shouted at him. The Express reported:

Spotting the difficulties in the broadcast, Nigel quickly took action and decided to end Tom’s report there.

Cutting him off, Nigel said: “Okay, Tom, I’m sorry, I don’t want to cut you off, I really don’t.”

The camera then cut to Nigel in the studio as he continued: “11 people have been arrested so far,

“But you can see, talk about don’t shoot the messenger, there’s Tom Harwood reporting for us and there are obscenities being shouted at Tom because he’s a member, he’s part of the media

One of the big features of Farage’s weeknight show is the ‘Talking Pints’ segment.

He has had an eclectic assortment of guests in that slot, beginning with Sir Graham Brady MP, who heads the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers:

On Tuesday, July 27, former Conservative MP, Brexit Party MEP and devout Catholic, Ann Widdecombe, who was drinking cola, as she is teetotal. She disparaged Boris as PM but said that he is still ‘100 times stronger’ than Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. I always look to see how much drink both host and guest consume. In this episode, Farage downed the most ever — half a pint:

By Monday, July 26, Farage’s show was climbing in the ratings, beating Sky News’s show in the 7 p.m. slot:

Guido has the ratings from Monday-Thursday last week. Farage’s show beat Sky News Tonight every evening.

On Tuesday, July 27, Farage’s ratings took over the BBC’s in that slot (emphases in the original):

UPDATE 28.07: Nige beat both the BBC and Sky News last night –

    • Farage – 90.8k
    • Sky News Tonight – 55.1k
    • BBC Outside Source – 89.1k

Congratulations…

It happened again on Wednesday, with an even greater figure — 107.7k to 93.3k:

Well done, Nigel!

Digital ratings

Rebecca Hutson, Head of Digital and occasional co-presenter, is keen to target younger audiences via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and — incredibly — TikTok. GB News is the only British broadcasting channel to use the Chinese-owned social media video platform.

On July 21, Hutson explained her strategy to Press Gazette:

the fledgling brand said social media engagement figures show it is resonating with younger audiences to a perhaps surprising extent.

Head of digital and presenter Rebecca Hutson … said GB News is really a “digital media business that has a TV channel attached”

Hutson told Press Gazette: “We know that traditional linear consumption has really changed. People don’t sit at home for three hours and watch a show. Instead they want to snack on the best bits for them on the platforms that they’re already using.

“So that’s why we publish natively across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and we tailor the content specifically for the platform that it’s on so we’re pretty agnostic in terms of how the content looks and feels across the different destinations that we have and the website.”

For example, she added, the brand is more likely to put an eight-minute monologue on YouTube and short snippets on Twitter which is a “much quicker platform”.

“Rather than trying to turn all of our platforms into a homogenous output, we spend a lot of time looking at the analytics and amending how the content appears on there and that’s really paying off,” Hutson said …

TikTok has been useful in attracting younger viewers:

On TikTok GB News has had 24,500 likes and more than 350,000 views across 30 videos and 4,000 followers so far.

Hutson said the numbers may be “quite surprising for people who would maybe think that we don’t have relevance or resonance to that younger audience when we clearly do”.

Hutson said explainer videos decoding the news are proving to work best for TikTok. The most-watched GB News TikTok so far explains who Sajid Javid is after he replaced Matt Hancock as Health Secretary …

Almost a third (31%) of 18 to 24-year-olds use TikTok, and 9% get news on it.

As for demographics:

On TV only, excluding the likes of TikTok and Instagram, almost a third (32%) of GB News’ audience is aged between 18 and 34. Some 39% are aged 55 and above.

Some 62% of the TV audience is in the middle class ABC1 demographic – a drop from the 82% ABC1 demographic thought to have tuned in for Andrew Neil’s opening show on 13 June.

The new shows, higher ratings and digital strategy are welcome developments for GB News, which is an excellent channel. Now that Parliament is in summer recess, I have been watching quite a lot of their output. The shows present alternative viewpoints, from libertarian to left-wing: a good thing.

Dr Colin Axon, Brunel University’s senior lecturer in engineering, has been advising SAGE on ventilation in supermarkets in an effort to minimise the risk of cross-contamination.

On July 17, he said that masks do not help to reduce cross-infection.

The Telegraph reported that he compared masks to ‘comfort blankets’, saying that wearing one is ‘bad behaviour’ (emphases mine):

The public were demanding something must be done, they got masks, it is just a comfort blanket,” Dr Axon noted. “But now it is entrenched, and we are entrenching bad behaviour.

Dr Axon added that the effect of mask wearing is too small to be accurately measured:

All around the world you can look at mask mandates and superimpose on infection rates, you cannot see that mask mandates made any effect whatsoever.

The best thing you can say about any mask is that any positive effect they do have is too small to be measured.

Good.

He said that medics have a ‘cartoonish’ view of the world and do not understand some of the laws of physics:

Medics have this cartoonised view of how particles move through the airit’s not their fault, it’s not their domain – they’ve got a cartoonish view of how the world is.

Once a particle is not on a biological surface it is no longer a biomedical issue, it is simply about physics. The public has only a partial view of the story if information only comes from one type of source. Medics have some of the answers but not a whole view.

Also:

Dr Axon said the public need to be offered a wider view of the science behind face masks, rather than the “partial view” of information being pushed by medics over their effic[acy].

He compared escaping droplets from masks to marbles being thrown at scaffolding:

“The small sizes are not easily understood but an imperfect analogy would be to imagine marbles fired at builders’ scaffolding, some might hit a pole and rebound, but obviously most will fly through,” he told The Telegraph.

Excellent.

I hope that more scientists and engineers start to speak up about masks.

It was with sadness that I read of Jackie Mason’s death at the weekend.

Still, he had a good innings. He was 93 years old.

The Daily Mail had an excellent obituary of one of the world’s most consistently funny comics. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Life before comedy

I did not know that he was born in Wisconsin:

Mason was born in 1928 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, as Yacov Moshe Maza to immigrant parents from Belarus.

In the early 1930s, the family moved to New York’s Lower East Side. All the male relatives were rabbis and young Yacov was expected to follow in their footsteps:

‘It was unheard-of to think of anything else,’ Mason said. ‘But I knew, from the time I’m 12, I had to plot to get out of this, because this is not my calling.’

However, there was no way out for many years. Mason earned a degree in English and Sociology at City College of New York then completed rabbinical studies at Yeshiva University, after which he became a practising rabbi. 

He served several congregations, including those in Weldon, North Carolina, and Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Sometime in the 1950s, he began working summers in the Catskills, a mountain range in New York State, known for its resorts which attracted Jewish clientele. It is known as the Borscht Belt.

He wrote his own material, put comedy sets together and accustomed himself to being on stage.

Comedy career

It was only in 1959, after his father died, that the rabbi pursued a stand-up career full time and changed his name to Jackie Mason.

However, he did not leave his theological training behind. In 1988, he described his style of comedy to the New York Times:

‘My humor — it’s a man in a conversation, pointing things out to you,’ 

‘He’s not better than you, he’s just another guy,’ he added. ‘I see life with loveI’m your brother up there — but if I see you make a fool out of yourself, I owe it to you to point that out to you.’      

From the Catskills, he branched out into the big time, playing clubs in Miami and New York in 1960 after two television appearances on the iconic Steve Allen Show.

I am old enough to remember that Jackie Mason was on television a lot in the early 1960s.

In 1964, he appeared on another iconic programme, The Ed Sullivan Show, which aired on Sunday nights. I remember my mother got very worked up about what happened in one of his appearances, as she was a huge Ed Sullivan fan. We never missed a show. After this appearance she turned against Jackie Mason:

after a terrible misunderstanding in 1964 between Sullivan and Mason involving a perceived obscene middle finger gesture, Jackie’s career hit a major slump.

Sullivan canceled Mason’s six-show contract, refusing to pay him for the performance

Mason eventually filed a lawsuit, and won.

Mason’s career did not recover until the late 1970s:

… it would take him many years to find his momentum once again, with his comeback punctuated by well-received performances in 1979’s Steve Martin film The Jerk, and Mel Brooks’s History of the World: Part I two years later.

People started to think I was some kind of sick maniac,’ Mr. Mason told Look. ‘It took 20 years to overcome what happened in that one minute.’

My mother would definitely have agreed with the ‘sick maniac’ description, unfounded though it was.

He hired a new manager Jyll Rosenfeld, whom he later married. She convinced him that there was an appetite for Borscht Belt humour beyond the Catskills. He launched a long-running show on Broadway in 1986:

Mason decided to bring his one-man comic shows The World According to Me!, to the Broadway stage in 1986.

The hit show ran for two years, and earned him a special Tony Award in 1987, followed by an Emmy for writing when HBO aired a version of the show.

From there, the legendary comedian put close to a dozen other one-man shows on Broadway, with the last being The Ultimate Jew in 2008.

Here is one of his performances from 1986:

Mason also enjoyed an on-screen appearance in Caddyshack II in 1988 and a voice-over as Rabbi Krustofsky in an early episode of The Simpsons in 1992, for which he won a second Primetime Emmy Award, for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance.

In the aforementioned New York Times interview from 1988, he was philosophical in the way only a rabbi can be:

‘I’ve been doing this for a hundred thousand years, but it’s like I was born last Thursday,’ Mr. Mason told The New York Times in 1988. 

They see me as today’s comedian. Thank God I stunk for such a long time and was invisible, so I could be discovered.’

London appearances

For several years, Jackie Mason used to come to London once a year for a stand-up show that was often televised.

I was in stitches.

Guido Fawkes tweeted Mason’s 2002 appearance, which was or was close to being his last over here:

Here’s the video, which is just over 90 minutes long:

The next video is his 1999 performance at the London Palladium. It is just under 40 minutes long:

However, in 1992, Mason did a half-hour set at Oxford University, where he ribbed the students for their total lack of sartorial elegance and fondness of political correctness. He also made fun of the Jewish lifestyle which encompasses self-denial of Jewishness as well as certain material aspirations. The University asked him to do the set for free, something at which he also cavilled, in a humorous way:

This is his description of the video:

This is a clip from a lecture I gave at Oxford University back in 1992. They gave me an award and a fellowship in the Oxford Union Society. The first American comedian to receive such an honor. That’s how they got me to work for nothing. Enjoy!

Here’s the second part, which was a Q&A session:

He talked about his years as a rabbi where people didn’t want the sermon and hoped for a few jokes. He said that Oxford students were very polite and he hadn’t heard one four-letter word yet: ‘I’m waiting, I’m waiting’.

Near the end, he said that England is the most polite society in the Western world with all the ubiquitous apologies one hears. The only exception, he noted, is in Parliament, where the raucous tone reminded him of a ‘sanitarium’.

Politics and talk radio

In 1998, Mason’s biography was published and he began a career in talk radio:

he published an autobiography, ‘Jackie, Oy!’ (written with Ken Gross), and discovered a new venture as an opinionated political commentator on talk radio.

Twenty years later, he issued a series of vlogs against then-candidate Barack Obama. I watched most of them. This one discusses the first presidential debate in September 2008:

His description of the Obama v McCain debate reads as follows:

Here are my thoughts on the first presidential debate. Although neither candidate had a clear victory Friday night, the media is saying Obama won because he didn’t lose. He looked poised and presidential. Well he did look poised as he made no sense! And if looking Presidential is telling bold lies, the Hail to the Chief!

In 2016, Mason was an unabashed Trump supporter:

He was among the few well-known entertainers to support former President Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.

In October 2016, he appeared on Aaron Klein Investigative Radio, which airs in New York City and Philadelphia. Mason contrasted Trump’s words about women to Bill Clinton’s actual violence against his victims.

Breitbart had the story, reporting that Mason said:

What Trump ever did to women is that he called them a name because she gained too much weight so he said she got too fat and he called her a pig. Imagine if the worst thing Bill Clinton ever did was call a girl a name. He called them names after he raped them.

When he got through with them, Juanita Broaddrick wound up with a cut lip. And he had advised her to please go see a doctor. He was very compassionate about sending them to doctors. But he wasn’t too concerned about beating them up in the first place. He was so busy punching them around that nobody knows if he made love to them or he just wanted to beat them up a little bit.

As for Hillary, he said:

He was really a violent, insane character. Now his wife, she had a job. Her job was to make sure that these women were never heard about it. Every time somebody threatened to talk about it she immediately went to work on destroying them. First he punched them around. Then it was her job to wipe them out altogether.

And she’s calling Trump a person who can’t be trusted because of the way he treats women? This is like somebody who crossed a red light being compared to a murderer.

After Trump’s election, Mason turned his attention towards the RINOs, especially the then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan:

In March 2017, Breitbart reported:

In this week’s exclusive clip for Breitbart News, Jackie weighs in on the GOP’s failed healthcare bill, explaining that Republicans in Washington were focused on “repealing and replacing” the wrong thing.

“When they were talking about ‘repeal and replace,’ they were stupid,” Jackie says. “They were talking about healthcare, they should have been talking about [House Speaker Paul] Ryan. If Ryan was repealed and replaced we would have had no problem today.”

Jackie — who was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in Ryan’s home state — says he finds it odd that a Speaker of the House who is supposed to be some kind of “genius” can’t count correctly.

“You know what Ryan should do if he wanted to save this whole country? Get another job,” he says. “Find out something that you actually know. If there’s nothing like that, sit in the House and don’t bother anybody. Mind your own business, you’ll save the country.”

My deepest sympathies go to his widow and former manager Jyll Rosenfeld and his daughter Sheba Mason, from a former union with Ginger Reiter in the 1970s and 1980s.

For more Jackie Mason shows and interviews, visit TheUltimateJew channel on YouTube.

Friday, July 23, 2021 was Historic County Flags Day in England.

Some of the flags — Cornwall (Cross of St Piran), Essex and Middlesex (sea axes) — are old. Others, such as Leicestershire’s, are new:

Wiltshire’s dates from 2009 and features a Great Bustard:

Some have been redesigned, such as Northumbria’s.

Hertfordshire’s is only 11 years old:

Even so, the design must represent heraldry and relevant historic symbols. British County Flags states in its entry on Hertfordshire that the county decided to use its banner of arms as its flag:

A few ideas were produced and contact made with the local council, as a result of which the body decided that the preferred option would be to release its banner of arms … flying at the council’s County Hall headquarters in Hertford, to the public, for use as the county flag.

Hertfordshire County Council, under the leadership of Robert Gordon, passed a resolution on 19th November 2008: “This Council has, for the better representation of the County of Hertfordshire and its people, decided that the banner of the County Council’s arms, namely ‘Barry wavy of eight Azure and Argent an Inescutcheon Or charged with a Hart lodged proper’ is a fitting and proper emblem for the county and its people and will from this day be the County flag of Hertfordshire. The use of the full achievement of arms, with supporters and mural crown as a crest, is still restricted to the County Council and those specifically authorised by it.”

It could be that Middlesex’s, nearly identical to Essex’s, has a crown to represent Hampton Court Palace as a royal residence centuries ago:

Unfortunately, county flags are not used that often other than in museums and in front of county council buildings:

Then there is confusion over what constitutes a county, as in the case of the Duchy of Cornwall …

… but this question also pertains to Sussex, divided into East Sussex and West Sussex some years ago:

I only know about this English flag day thanks to PARLYapp, which featured the county flag tweet on Monday, and the House of Commons.

Yesterday, Tom Randall (Con) discussed it in the summer recess debate. He spoke just after Dawn Butler (Lab) was expelled from the Chamber for the day after calling Boris Johnson a liar. More on that next week. Emphases mine below:

On a lighter note, I hope that before the House adjourns today we can celebrate the colourful display that we can currently see in Parliament Square. Tomorrow is Historic County Flags Day. It has been celebrated for some days now, with the flags of the historic counties of England, Scotland and Wales in Parliament Square. The flags on display span the nation and also time. We can see old flags such as the St Piran’s Cross of Cornwall and the Warenne Checks of Surrey, which dates from the 13th century, as well as some more modern designs.

Here is a video from 2014, indicating that Historic County Flags Day might be a moveable feast, as it was held on June 4 that year:

This video celebrates the Leicestershire flag. Alicia Kearns (Con) was present as was Tom Randall:

Randall continued:

Many of those modern designs are thanks to the work of charities such as the Association of British Counties and the Flag Institute. I declare an interest as a former editor of the Flag Institute’s magazine. People at that charity, such as Graham Bartram and Philip Tibbetts, have worked tirelessly to encourage community groups and individuals to design flags, with Philip Tibbetts in particular criss-crossing the country. I congratulate him on his recent appointment as honorary vexillologist to the Court of the Lord Lyon.

One very good example of a modern flag design is the flag of Nottinghamshire, which was designed following a competition organised by Andy Whittaker of BBC Radio Nottingham in 2011. I am pleased to see that a decade later Leicestershire has finally caught up, and as the vice-chair of the flags and heraldry all-party parliamentary group, I was pleased to be in Parliament Square this week to attend the first flag raising of the flag of Leicestershire there.

I did not know about county days, either:

However, Leicestershire does not yet have its own day. I am pleased that Nottinghamshire County Council has today voted unanimously for 25 August to be Nottinghamshire Day. I look forward to seeing the flag of Nottinghamshire flying across the county, in the Houses of Parliament and, I hope, also across the country.

Randall concluded:

Although we are forever one United Kingdom, as we leave this place I hope that we can admire the diversity of our country, return to our constituencies and see all the best that there is in our counties—and I believe that the best of our counties are embodied in our county flags.

British County Flags has detailed descriptions for flags across the United Kingdom. Fascinating for flag and history lovers!

Time is short today, so here are a few brief takes on coronavirus.

The young

I was appalled to see this video of an infant undergoing a PCR test. What are parents and medical staff thinking?

Why would a tiny baby need to undergo such a test? Yes, I agree that the procedure could cause an infection or, worse, damage. The barrier between the brain and back of the nose must be extremely delicate in such a young child.

The old

Allegedly, last October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent the following message expressing scepticism about a winter lockdown in England. I agree with all of what he says. Barrister Francis Hoar makes a valid point about deaths of/with coronavirus. At the time Boris made this statement, our PCR cycle threshold was >35, thereby picking up anything and everything:

It is true that, in England, at least, the average age for the elderly dying from the virus is greater than the average life expectancy.

I do wish Boris had had the nerve to ‘recalibrate’ and avoid a winter-to-spring lockdown. He resisted, but, as usual, SAGE got to him, it would seem.

This topic came up in the comments to an article on Conservative Home about Boris.

One reader wrote (emphases mine):

If Boris Johnson at the start of this pandemic did say that those dying from Covid were “essentially all over 80” then he shouldn’t have to apologise. He was right! What he should apologise for is locking us all in our homes for 15 months in order to protect those who have had their “three score years and ten” and then some, and (unpalatable truth though it seems to be for some) are going to die of something eventually all the same.

A reply to the comment pointed out the truth about winter respiratory diseases:

I am 82 years old. Pneumonia was always called “the old man’s friend.”

Vaccine passports

Despite the Government denying it for the past seven months, it looks as if coronavirus passports are coming to England.

There is speculation that they will be required at the annual Conservative Party conference this coming autumn in Manchester at the Midland Hotel:

Guido Fawkes says:

The Mail reports the Tories’ September conference in Manchester is set to require Covid passports, in a blow to any libertarian MPs hoping to attend. While most of conference is quite far away from nightclubbing scenes, no doubt photos of a packed Midland’s bar would attract online ire …

Yesterday the Telegraph reported one prominent Tory rebel MP said he suspects if Boris does force them “significant numbers of Conservative MPs and activists will refuse to attend.”

I hope libertarian-minded Conservatives do boycott this. This policy would set a dangerous precedent for civil liberties. It’s a narrow step from a vax passport to a digital ID.

The Mail‘s article reports that the insider said:

‘Some MPs might not like it, but all the polling suggests the public are quite strongly in favour of Covid passports,’ they said. 

‘That looks to be truer for the older generations who are more at risk, and might be wanting to come along.’ 

On their heads be it.

Appalling.

Freedom Day — Monday, July 19 — in England is turning out to be a damp squib with the exception of nightclubs — for now.

Everyone’s preoccupation now is vaccine passports, which France is already rolling out with a grace period of six weeks.

Here in England, vaccine passports are likely to be rolled out in September not only for nightclubs and music venues but anywhere else that can be deemed as a ‘crowded space’.

Julia Hartley-Brewer interviewed the owner of a group of entertainment venues, who said that this is a ‘very dangerous step’ for the Government to take:

She also interviewed a spokesman for the Night Time Industries Association who says that random security guards will be checking people’s health status, something that should be private information:

It is the thin end of a very nasty wedge, indeed.

Oxford’s Prof Carl Heneghan rightly wonders if he will need a vaccine passport if he takes the Tube in London:

Here’s Julia Hartley-Brewer’s opening editorial on the danger such a policy presents:

She interviewed the Conservative MP, Sir Iain Duncan Smith. He is not one of my favourite politicians by a long shot, but he gave a considered 10-minute interview and said that we need a balance of risk, otherwise we could end up like China, where you cannot leave the house without the government knowing about it:

Lord Sumption wrote an editorial for The Telegraph on Monday. He says that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has no coronavirus plan:

We are squandering our vaccination success, which is the best in Europe. Lord Sumption concludes:

Vaccination is an impressive achievement. It represents the best that humanity can do about Covid. If it is not enough, then there are only two options. One is to impose total and permanent restrictions on human interaction, something which even governments realise is impossible. The other is to recognise defeat and allow their populations to live with Covid-19 – just as humanity had learned to live with worse pathogens for centuries before governments embarked on their current unprecedented and ill-advised experiment.

Bob Moran, a cartoonist for The Telegraph, has been concerned about coronavirus restrictions for a long time.

On Monday, July 12, he tweeted:

He had quite the Twitter thread on Tuesday. Politicians, he says, do not like solving difficult problems:

Yes, but Labour MPs, except for a handful, have actually voted with the Government on continuing coronavirus restrictions.

Moran has no love for Labour leader Sir Keir ‘Keith’ Starmer, either:

Bob Moran is genuinely concerned about what is happening:

Also:

If only we could remove the boot on our collective necks.

The next discussion point in England will be vaccinations for children. Even other conservatives, such as James Delingpole, are sounding the alarm:

I have no words for how awful this is.

Although I’m writing about England, Scotland and Wales are no better with their restrictions. I despair.

Freedom Day did go ahead on Monday, July 19, in England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, was told at the weekend to self-isolate. Boris went to Chequers and broadcast from there.

At 5 p.m., Boris gave a remote coronavirus briefing while Prof Jonathan Van-Tam and Sir Patrick Vallance were in the Downing Street press conference room.

Nightclubs

It looks as if Covid passports are coming in September for nightclubs and music venues.

As Dan Wootton said on GB News, Freedom Day will be remembered as the day when the Government took more of our freedoms away:

Note that tweet about the Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone: no vaccine cards accepted, only the NHS app. No smart phone, no entry. That, to me, is also wrong. The Government should not force people to have smart phones.

GB News took a poll on vaccine passports. They had omitted their earlier question on dictatorship:

Reporter Ellie Costello returned to her favourite nightclub, Faces in Essex. She had a ball. She pulled an all-nighter as she gave this update to the GB News breakfast show. She interviewed the owner of Faces who said he was concerned about his obligation to check vaccine passports in future and the possibility they could be faked:

I hope there are enough Conservative MPs to put pressure on Boris not to go down this route:

Travel

Journalist Isabel Oakeshott spoke to Wootton about the draconian self-isolation one has to go when returning from a nearby country such as France, which is on the Amber list. During that 10-day period, one is not allowed to leave one’s house — at all. Police or a third party representative of the Government can go to a person’s home to make sure he is there:

Supermarkets

Yesterday, on Freedom Day, I did a recce of my high street. Mask wearing was 50/50.

I did not wear a face covering.

I won’t be going to the supermarket until later in the week, so cannot speak to that for now.

However, Guido Fawkes’s readers compared notes on what their Freedom Day experience was like.

One wrote:

… let me report the depressing experience of shopping in Morrisons this morning. Less than 1% unmasked amongst the customers (2 apart from me). Plenty of staff unmasked, though, behind the checkouts. And I could see they were happy, as their smiling faces were visible.

Another Morrisons shopper said (emphasis mine):

I was also in a Morrisons this morning, ignoring the pleas over the tannoy to ‘Be kind and show [you] care’. I decided to be kind to myself and abandon the mask. At first I couldn’t see anyone else unmasked, but finally in the milk aisle there was a guy coming the other way, also unmasked. We smiled at each other and nodded like we had just completed a Freemasonry ritual, and went on our way. I wasn’t challenged and no-one seemed to care, not that I care what they think anyway.

A Tesco shopper wrote in:

I’ve just done my start-of-the-week shop at Tesco: normal crowd levels. Most people are still doing their cleaning routines at the entrance. About 75%, including all at the check-outs, remain masked-up. The other 25% were mainly the twenty-somethings with no fear of Covid, either short or long …

And, finally, there was a report about Sainsbury’s:

Sainsbury’s Chesterfield 9am -ish today.

All screens gone staff scraping up the floor markings and unmasked. 😍

Was worried when I read they “REQUIRED” customers to mask up and had decided that if it was the case to boycott.

They keep my business.

Moving goalposts

Presenter Neil Oliver (the bearded gentleman in the video below) appeared on Wootton’s show to say that the Government is controlling the people, when, in fact, this is our country, not theirs.

Wootton pointed out that the Government is continually moving the goalposts in this coronavirus fiasco. Last year, they told us that when we got the vaccines, we would be able to, in Matt Hancock’s words, ‘Cry Freedom!’ Now that we have the vaccines and a majority of the adult population has had the ‘jabs’, we’re still not out of the woods:

In fact, we have less freedom now than we did a year ago.

On Friday, I wrote about Sheffield’s Nine O’Clock Service, a cause célèbre in 1995, adherents of which are now seeking financial compensation for the psychological abuse they endured.

I cited two articles from The Times as sources.

However, I have older Nine O’Clock Service (NOS) sources which present more nuanced information about the group which had between 300 and 500 members.

The first is an article in The Independent. It is dated 2011, however, the wording in it — e.g. ‘last year’ — indicates that it is from 1996.

The article contradicts some of what The Times alleged last week.

Brain’s resignation

For a start, The Independent reported that the then-Bishop of Sheffield, the Right Revd David Lunn, wanted Chris Brain to stand down as vicar immediately when the scandal broke in August 1995 and that the Archbishop of York had already banned him from carrying out priestly duties (emphases mine):

The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev David Lunn, demanded Mr Brain resign after he confessed to having sexual relationships with young women in the congregation.

He quit last November after initially refusing to bow to the criticism heaped on him when the scandal broke.

The Archbishop of York had already banned Mr Brain from acting as an ordained priest.

Brain was quite fragile at the time and sought treatment:

Within days of the revelations Mr Brain checked himself into a psychiatric ward of Cheadle Royal Psychiatric Hospital, Cheshire.

Meanwhile, the women who were his victims could ring a telephone hotline:

Women who were manipulated by him and called a telephone hotline were told the matter would almost certainly be dealt with within the church and only be passed on to the police if there was an allegation of rape.

The Wikipedia entry for the NOS says that the Diocese of Sheffield tried to help the members — and Brain — to recover:

The Diocese of Sheffield, through a seconded pastoral team led by Rachel Ross, the Reverend Andrew Teal and the Reverend Peter Craig-Wild, attempted to manage the pastoral care both of Brain and members of the community wounded by the scandal.

Brain was originally a musician who played in night clubs. He then got involved with St Thomas’s Church in Sheffield and was ordained for his success in leading NOS.

By early 1996, he was ready to re-establish his previous career:

In February, Mr Brain’s solicitor announced the disgraced clergyman had left Britain for America, where he was hoping to make a comeback in music and the media.

NOS resurrected on Easter Day 1996

The Independent‘s article reported that the NOS held a service on Easter in 1996.

Members of the NOS were still getting together, even after the scandal broke.

The service was held in a chapel in Sheffield:

The Easter service was moved from the city’s Ponds Forge complex, where priest Chris Brain once orchestrated rock concert-style gatherings in a basement room.

It was staged instead in a simple chapel in the city, without the lasers and rave music popularised by Mr Brain. The Archdeacon of Sheffield, the Ven Stephen Lowe, conducted a “meditative service”.

There were doubts about restarting the group eight months after the Church of England was rocked by scandal when Mr Brain was accused of sexually abusing more than 20 women members.

Yesterday’s congregation was drawn from remnants of the Nine O’Clock Service which broke up after women complained about being assaulted by Brain.

Diocesan communications officer Canon Roy Arnold said: “I can confirm that former members of the Nine O’Clock Service met together in a Sheffield church for a celebration of the Holy Communion. It was a quiet, meditative service.

Since the activities of the Nine O’Clock Service came to an end last August following the disclosures about their leader Chris Brain, a number of members have continued to meet together for worship and other matters.

They now have an elected church council and the Diocese of Sheffield is at present in the process of appointing a chaplain for the group,” he said.

There were hopes at the time that the NOS could return to its original style of service without the psychological trauma:

Mr Arnold did not rule out the possibility that the rock-style services could be re-introduced. “The scandal was about Chris Brain and not about reaching out in a new and exciting way to a generation lost to the church,” he said. Members of the Nine O’Clock Service have vowed to distance themselves from the controversy last year and have devised a new service.

Last month, alleged victims of Mr Brain held a bonfire ritual to help them overcome the trauma. They lit a fire in the middle of a church hall and set off fireworks in a “releasing ritual”.

An advert in the Church Times for a chaplain for the group has drawn applications from all over the country. But according to churchwarden Alan Gibson, Mr Brain’s successor would not be allowed the same powers he had enjoyed.

“We are not looking for a leader, we are not looking for a guru. We are looking for a facilitator who will tie us more closely with the Church of England,” Mr Gibson said.

Wikipedia says:

A remnant of the community continued to meet, under different leadership, for some years afterwards in Sheffield.

The evolution of the NOS

Sometime in the 1980s, a group of 10 people from St Thomas’s Church began organising NOS services. From there, it grew enormously.

Young, unchurched origins

Wikipedia states:

Beginning as a simple alternative format service under the leadership of Chris Brain, the group responsible for it developed a leadership structure that was endorsed by the leadership of St Thomas’ Church. The average age of the members was 24 for much of NOS’s life. The membership was significantly from non-church backgrounds.

Starting with about 10 people who worked on designing and creating the services, the congregation grew to almost 600 members while resident at St Thomas’ Church. Main themes included care for the planet and concern about its abuse, simple lifestyle and development of relationships with non-churched people.

By 1988, Bishop Lunn authorised the group’s move to Sheffield’s Ponds Forge Rotunda, a sports complex that can accommodate 2,600 people.

The Planetary Mass

One of their big services at Ponds Forge was The Planetary Mass, also known as the Rave Mass:

The Planetary Mass at Pond’s Forge was marked by both bold liturgical experimentation and naive hopefulness.

An unorthodox Dominican-turned-Episcopal priest, Matthew Fox, found out about the service and was eager to bring a form of it to San Francisco.

Matthew Fox also had his problems with the Church. He had been a professor at several Catholic colleges in the United States. When Pope Benedict was still Cardinal Ratzinger and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he began delving into Fox’s writings and asked the Dominicans to investigate. The Dominicans found nothing objectionable, even though Fox was not propagating Catholic teaching. However, because Fox did not believe in Original Sin, Ratzinger forbade him from teaching for a year. By 1993, the Dominicans changed their minds about Fox and dismissed him from the order for ‘disobedience’. He became an Episcopal priest in 1994 and still practises in the Episcopal Diocese of California. He developed the Techno Cosmic Mass — now the Cosmic Mass — which made its debut in San Francisco and has since been performed 100 times since.

Before creating the Techno Cosmic Mass, Fox scheduled a performance of The Planetary Mass in 1994 in San Francisco.

The Christian Research Institute has an article about it. Fox invited 35 members of the NOS to fly in and participate.

The format is environmentalist and pagan:

Inside, at the center of the room was placed an oversized circular altar and a smaller crescent table. Surrounding the tables were a series of concentric circles, tracks marked off in tape, around which the Rave Mass team would walk and dance. Atop the eclipse altar sat a chalice, protected by a clear Plexiglas pyramid.

Above the eclipse altar was an impressive screen — a large sphere of white cloth onto which the organizers projected images of revolving planets, decaying forests, human pulses, and faces.

Several young people emerged from the shadows carrying small flames.

“These people are not pyromaniacs,” said Matthew Wright, 31, who served as a liturgical emcee. “As you can see, they’re using the flames to pray and invite the Spirit into this place.”

Wright encouraged people to approach the flamebearers and use the flames to pray. The flamebearers held the flames inches from people’s faces, slowly lowered the flames to foot level, then slowly raised the flames back to eye level. Some people gently waved their arms at waist level, almost like charismatic Christians. Others stretched their arms high above their heads, then bowed fully before the small flames.

A scantily-clad Briton led a dance piece:

The music cranked up to a pulsating dance beat. The 35 young Brits — including one young woman in a short skirt and a negligee top — led the room in energetic dancing to this bouncy anthem:

Now we feel your lifeforce rising

Raise the passion 10 by 10

Now we breathe you, Christ, inside us

Feel the freedom pushing on!

Chris Brain was also in attendance to celebrate the service. This would have been before the scandal broke in Sheffield:

A young woman read an unspecified passage of Scripture, listing some of the evils that will exclude people from the kingdom of God, including adultery, uncleanness, lust, and sorcery.

Then a video set the Scripture reading in a corporate context. For adultery, the video portrayed the contrast between Third World debt and Third World aid. For lust, it showed images of pollution. For sorcery, it showed the creature almost everybody loves to hate: a TV preacher begging for donations.

The organizers also adapted a reading from chapter 1 of the Gospel of John through the Cosmic Christ filter. The reading repeatedly referred to “the Word” as “it” rather than “he.”

“This is the Word of Christ,” Rev. Brain said.

“Thank you, Eternal Voice,” the congregation responded.

This was how the Communion part of the service went:

After Fox’s homily, Brain celebrated communion — of a sort. Women dancers in four corners of the room turned in circles repeatedly throughout the prayers and communion. Assistants presented fire, water, and soil. Brain immersed his hands in the soil, saying he was washing them. He thanked Mother God for the gift of air.

Brain repeated Jesus’ words about partaking of communion in his memory. Otherwise, Brain spoke no words of consecration, which may not matter to those Protestants who believe the Lord’s Supper is a memorial service, but matters immensely to Anglicans, who affirm what is called consubstantiation. Most Anglicans do not believe the bread and wine literally become the flesh and blood of Christ, but they do believe in a “real presence” of Christ in the elements of the sacrament.

There’s supposed to be a “real presence” in the Rave Mass, too, but it’s the presence of the Cosmic Christ as lifeforce, not the personal historical figure who died on a cross and rose again.

Bishop Swing from San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral attended. By then, one Planetary Mass had already been performed inside the cathedral:

At a news conference, Swing described the service as “the church singing a new song.”

Enough said. How I wish we had St Paul with us today. He would have read them the riot act, straight out of 1 Corinthians.

How the NOS was organised weekly

In Sheffield, organising the weekly NOS began early in the morning and ended late at night.

The University of Huddersfield Repository has a link to an abstract called ‘The Nine O’Clock Service: Mixing Club Culture And Postmodern Christianity’.

Rupert Till’s abstract presents the difficulty in using St Thomas’s Church and explains how the group had to use Ponds Forge:

8. The church service before NOS would end at about 8.15pm, giving NOS about half an hour to clear the church, remove seats, set up equipment, and prepare. They would rehearse services in the afternoon, take everything down and then set it up in the gap between services. Although St Thomas church were regarded as generous in giving NOS time on a Sunday, NOS had to work within heavy constraints, and eventually moved to their own building where they would meet at 8:00 p.m.

 9. As were all of the band for most of the time, carefully situated as they were in dark lighting in the right-hand corner of the church.

11. Members of NOS would record television shows that might have interesting video images. Useful clips would be transferred to new tapes and looped so that a short clip of clouds passing would become a five-minute tape of clouds passing. NOS had a large room with walls covered in shelves full of these tapes of deconstructed decontextualised video images with loop tapes, source tapes, documentaries, and recordings of services. The sampling of secular music and images was a key feature of NOS arts, a deliberate process of reclaiming secular developments in the arts for sacred purposes.

12. A typical NOS Sunday began at five in the morning. A trucking team moved 10 tons of equipment to the church from storage to the empty sports hall. A crew of about 30 would appear by seven to set up the equipment. Late in the morning, some of the artistic team would appear to begin preparing for rehearsals. The ‘performers’ would arrive later to rehearse. After the service, perhaps 10.30 p.m., a team would begin to take down equipment, which would be returned to storage by 3:00 a.m. Unseen would be the hours of rehearsal and preparation midweek, with the highest of standards maintained.

Rupert Till says that the congregation varied in age but were solidly middle class:

17. Despite trying to project an image of authentic, underground, club culture-influenced young people, NOS members were largely aged 18–40, white, middle-class and well educated, and many were generation X Christians dissatisfied with conventional church. DJs and club kids were supported by barristers, theologians, teachers, doctors, and social workers.

The 1995 scandal, he says, involved a subgroup of the NOS:

16. It is perhaps no accident that sex was the organisation’s downfall, choosing as they did to investigate postmodern sexuality in a secretive subgroup, knowing that this was one area that the Christian church would not allow them to explore openly.

I hope this type of church service is dead and buried in the Church of England.

However, I fear it will make a comeback, especially as senior Anglican clergy seek to revamp their denomination post-pandemic. That’s a whole other topic for another time.

In 1995, a Church of England scandal made national news.

Reading an update on it this week reminded me of the Corinthians, whom St Paul reproved for becoming debauched. Their carnal attitude permeated their church services: babbling nonsense ecstatically ‘in tongues’, which was part of pagan worship, and drunken Communion services.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, something similar happened to a church in Sheffield. Unfortunately, there were no senior Church of England clergy to censure the vicar. As it happened, they encouraged a programme about which they knew little.

This week, The Times recapped what happened at St Thomas’s Church in Sheffield at what was called the Nine O’Clock Service, or NOS.

The NOS was held every Sunday.

A young Christian rock musician — and ex-nightclubber — Chris Brain, led the NOS, which The Times describes as:

a radical mix of rave culture, social and environmental campaigning and religion that drew queues of black-clad young followers for its weekly gatherings.

Instead of reminding Chris Brain of pertinent chapters of 1 Corinthians, the clergy wanted to extend the NOS throughout the United Kingdom (emphases mine):

The hierarchy was buzzing at the prospect of a vibrant model of service that might be copied around the country to attract new congregations.

Chris Brain, the charismatic young Christian rock musician who had emerged as leader of the NOS, met Dr George Carey, who was soon to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, and later recalled: “He said to me, ‘I’d be very happy to see an NOS in every town and city in the UK’.”

Carey, who met Brain in 1990, was interested in getting more converts, and rightly so. As the Archbishop of Canterbury, he declared the 1990s to be the Decade of Evangelism. He is best remembered for propagating the Alpha Course nationwide. Alpha started at Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London. It has been an international phenomenon for many years.

Returning to the NOS, in 1989, the Bishop of Sheffield, the Right Rev David Lunn, had confirmed 100 people — nearly all NOS attendees — at St Thomas’s. That is an extraordinary number of confirmands for any church at any one time:

It was a moment of great excitement for the church hierarchy because they were almost all young people, usually thought of as being out of reach.

As a result, Brain became a diocesan star of sorts, seen as being ideal for the priesthood:

Brain was fast-tracked for ordination and invited to contribute to the archbishop’s collection of essays on evangelism. Lunn told the BBC that the NOS had a “permanent significance” and was a “new development in the way we understand the Christian religion”.

The church authorities were either unaware of, or happy to turn a blind eye to some more disturbing aspects of the movement.

Brain’s ordination in 1992 was rather extraordinary:

When Brain was ordained in 1992, the NOS borrowed at considerable expense the robes worn by Robert de Niro in the film The Mission for the service.

He became St Thomas’s vicar.

Behind the scenes, however, carnality prevailed with Brain and some NOS adherents, particularly women. It was turning into a cult:

There were allegations of controlling behaviour and followers handing over thousands of pounds while cutting themselves off from their friends and families. Young women were enlisted as “postmodern nuns” in Brain’s Homebase Team. Some allegedly gave massages and engaged in sexual activity when putting him to bed.

Brain rationalised their behaviour, as one woman later recalled:

One member of the group, interviewed by the BBC, said: “He would talk about how we were discovering a postmodern definition of sexuality in the church. It’s just language — language covering up the fact of what was really going on: one bloke getting his rocks off.”

Things started getting out of hand in 1992:

There had been consternation in 1992 when an NOS service at a Christian festival included a troupe of dancers in black Lycra bikinis cavorting in front of 15,000 people.

A few laypersons and clergy complained to church authorities, but nothing was done until 1995:

Church leaders finally listened in August 1995 after disclosures by three whistleblowers:

One woman claimed that there was bullying and people were “blurring boundaries sexually”. She worried about how money was spent. The NOS charity, the Nine O’Clock Trust, recorded an income of £272,000 in 1994.

That amount of money is something an average Anglican church can only dream of.

Church authorities suspended Brain’s ministry. A month later, he tried to downplay the extracurricular activities of the NOS:

In a September 1995 interview with a Sunday newspaper he said that the sexual contact he had with women followers was “heavy petting” but “non-penetrative”. The Homebase Team had been created to help his wife at home because he was so busy with his work. “It was like any other vicarage, you always get ladies helping the vicar’s wife. They set up a rota but the idea of handmaidens is ridiculous,” he said.

Brain added: “These were relationships which began 10 or 12 years ago when I was part of the nightclub scene. When I became a priest, I should have done something about them . . . I didn’t and that was wrong.”

He said that his ordination never should have happened:

He claimed that it was “utterly ridiculous that I was made a priest . . . I was the breakthrough for the church but it changed everything for me. Everyone became dependent on me.”

Yes, congregants depend a great deal on their vicars. They expect spiritual leadership and guidance. He is their shepherd.

The Times is revisiting this story because, after 25 years, former NOS members are now seeking compensation:

Former members of the Nine O’Clock Service, which was known as the NOS and drew hundreds of young people to nightclub-style evangelical services in Sheffield in the 1980s and 1990s, have approached the church alleging that they endured abuse and exploitation.

The current Bishop of Sheffield, the Right Rev Pete Wilcox, said that:

the survivors had given “harrowing testimonies” about their experiences, and their concerns were being taken “very seriously”.

More ex-members could be coming forward:

to allege sexual exploitation and psychological abuse.

One member explained that the reason for waiting a quarter of a century to come forward was because the Church of England advised them to stay silent:

One former member of the group said: “People have been silent for a long time and it has caused them huge distress and trauma. The church told them at the time that they should keep silent, don’t talk about it, the press will destroy you. I think after the MeToo movement people felt ‘enough is enough’ and they made a decision to come forward.”

Some of those seeking help are considering legal action for damages because church leaders had overtly supported the NOS, believing that it would attract younger congregations.

The article says that the hierarchy even gave the NOS financial backing.

The ‘postmodern nuns’ wore unusual habits and had unorthodox duties:

Brain resigned his ministry in 1995 as the scandal unfolded. It emerged that his entourage included a group of “postmodern nuns” who wore black miniskirts and whose tasks ranged from housekeeping duties to “putting him to bed” at night.

He told a BBC documentary in 1995 that he had been “involved in improper sexual conduct with a number of women”.

Fast forwarding to the present, Brain is now 63. The article says that he has changed his first name from Chris to James. He is currently:

co-director of a “transformation design” consultancy based in Manchester.

The Times reported that he did not respond to their attempts to contact him.

The NOS, The Times says, had between 300 to 500 members. A number of them forsook family and friends for the movement, filling its coffers with large sums of money.

At the time the scandal broke, the then-Bishop of Sheffield, Bishop Lunn, said that:

the hierarchy was not responsible for any wrongdoing.

The current incumbent, Bishop Wilcox, is taking a much different stance:

Wilcox said: “We can confirm a group of survivors of the appalling conduct at the Nine O’Clock Service in the Diocese of Sheffield, which originally surfaced in the 1990s, have contacted the Church of England. Their concerns and harrowing testimonies are being taken very seriously. Support is being offered and the church is working closely with the statutory authorities.”

A large law firm, Slater & Gordon, is representing the former members. One of their solicitors (attorneys), Richard Scorer, said:

The Church of England has a moral and legal responsibility to those harmed by abuse in the Nine O’Clock Service and it must honour that and ensure that the appalling harm suffered by victims is properly acknowledged.

I remember when the story broke. It was in the papers for several weeks. Even the atheists I knew at the time expressed their shock and said that priests should not act like that.

The Times has done an admirable job of returning this harrowing story to the spotlight.

I hope that settlements can be reached and that the Church of England learns an important lesson from this.

However, I have a few old bookmarks on the Nine O’Clock Service, which say that Chris Brain’s departure did not end the movement. Furthermore, The Independent reported at the time that Bishop Lunn was quick to demand that Brain resign as vicar and that the Archbishop of York had already banned him from performing priestly duties.

More to come on Monday.

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