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Happy New Year!

Happy new decade!

I enjoy, albeit with trepidation at times, looking back at the decades I’ve lived through and charting the change from beginning to end.

O tempora, o mores!

1960s

In 1960, growing up in the United States, I remember that things were still quite formal. Most people took care in the way they spoke and in their appearance. They were careful to conduct their households in a respectable manner. By the middle of the decade, that began to change but not too noticeably.

By 1968, a social revolution was underway, including sexually. What was once private became public. Attire reflected that. Women began wearing skirts above the knee. Men’s clothes became more form-fitting.

Sloppiness and drugs became fashionable with the advent of hippies. Even though they were a small minority, they received a lot of media coverage. A slogan connected with them — ‘If it feels good, do it’ — began to pervade society at large.

Cinema and television reflected this change.

At home, Americans moved from watching westerns to tuning into a zany comedy hour. In 1960, Gunsmoke was the most viewed programme. In 1969, it was Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Gunsmoke had moved to sixth place in the Nielsen ratings.

Film genres and themes also shifted. In 1960, the great epics were popular, with Spartacus the highest grossing film and Exodus coming third. Psycho was second. In 1969, while Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was in the top slot, Midnight Cowboy was at No. 3, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice was No. 6 and an X-rated movie, I Am Curious (Yellow) was No. 12. It would have been unthinkable in 1960 that an urban drama about homosexuality, a movie about swingers and one that was pornographic would have been so popular nine years later.

1970s

The cultural shift continued in the 1970s. American magazines and newspapers devoted many column inches to social drop-outs experimenting with communal living. Swingers were becoming popular in suburbia. Again, those were two small sub-groups of society, but everyone — even the most respectable — knew about these two phenomena.

Pop music got bolder, more sexualised. I remember in high school that we talked a lot about sex and could hardly wait to start dating so that we could experiment. Our parents wondered what was wrong with us. The idea of sin and the forbidden went out the window. ‘If it feels good, do it’ had spread to the middle classes. Previously forbidden carnal acts were encouraged as being completely ‘natural’. This furthered the evolution of a shame-free society. Today, I read that some teenagers don’t kiss on a first date; instead they engage in oral sex.

Interestingly, one of the most suggestive singers of the decade, Eric Carmen of the Raspberries, laments where this has led today:

I remember neighbours of ours getting divorced. The wife said that she could earn her own living now, thank you very much. The husband was heartbroken. We felt sorry for their two children. Until then, my family and I personally did not know any couples who got divorced. It just didn’t happen to everyday individuals. However, divorce rates continued to rise and, these days, no one bats an eyelid.

More women started working. What began as a liberating elective would turn out to be a mandatory means of survival in marriage in the years that followed. Few of us knew that then, though.

Returning to music, it was a great decade for youngsters. FM radio produced rather excellent stations devoted to little known genres that never reached Top 40 AM stations. Through them, we discovered prog rock from Britain: Yes, Rick Wakeman, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, to name but three musical greats. There were many more, too numerous to mention here.

Near the end of the decade we had disco. Saturday Night Fever was a huge box office hit and propelled John Travolta from television (Welcome Back Kotter) to cinema fame.

The most popular television sitcoms, such as Welcome Back Kotter, were all set in metropolitan areas. In terms of television in general, The Waltons was probably the only show with a rural setting.

Halfway through the decade, I spent a year in France, which was much quieter than the US socially and still quite formal, even though the more leftist state university students were generally unkempt and unwashed. In many respects, the country was a bridge between the 1960s and the 1970s in the nicest possible way.

1980s

Leaving university, I recall that many of my friends latched onto the Reagan zeitgeist and became conservatives.

They turned into their parents and lost the fun-loving verve they once had. I stayed single the longest, so was more acutely aware of a shift into respectability and suburban living.

I lived in a major US city then, earning my own way in life. For relaxation, I used to go to matinees at the weekend. The price of admission was cheaper and the cinemas were nearly empty, giving me the impression I had the big screen all to myself.

I saw a lot of world films in the first part of that decade, some from Brazil and Australia but mostly Britain and France. French film became a passion. Even one of the UHF television channels showed French films from the 1950s. Bliss.

As far as music was concerned, my favourite FM station played British and European singles apart from reggae on Sunday afternoons. More bliss.

Then, around 1986, something began to change. Although my favourite radio station stayed the same, the movie theatres weren’t showing as many foreign films. Within a couple of years, they stopped showing them altogether. One of my lifelines had vanished, sadly. The American films that replaced them were not very good, either, so I stopped going to the cinema.

Everything became very one-dimensional. America, somehow, had lost the link with the zeitgeist of European culture, which it never recovered. It used to be that people in the 1960s and early 1970s made a two- or three-week trip to western Europe to see the historic sites they learned about in school. It was what we today would call a bucket list item.

Fortunately, by the end of the decade, employment events intervened — and further improved — for me.

1990s

Living in England, I realised that I had an insatiable appetite for history and politics. I learned a lot about both thanks to a gift subscription to The Spectator, which I had read about in English lit class in high school. It’s been around since 1828.

In 1990s, my in-laws told me that Margaret Thatcher’s time was up. She had become too full of herself. We had high hopes for John Major.

I remember the 1992 election, which Major won handily. I could not understand the rage of my female colleagues who expected Neil Kinnock to win. They stayed up all night drinking, waiting for a Labour government that never came. The next day, at work, they were hungover, tearful — and, above all, angry. Why did they think he stood a chance? Perhaps I had been reading too much of The Spectator, but I had no doubt that Major would continue as Prime Minister.

By 1997, most of us felt change was needed. The Conservative MPs on the front bench seemed like tired, bloated bureaucrats. None of them had an original idea. Most seemed to be lining their own pockets. I was most consterned by Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley, who started closing A&E (Accident and Emergency) services at local hospitals. What was she thinking?

When Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997, nearly everyone I knew rejoiced. Change was coming.

And how …

2000s

The first few years of Labour were fine. I was enjoying my work too much to pay any attention.

By 2005, I longed for a Conservative government, especially when Gordon Brown became PM with no general election.

After that, Labour became unbearable, banging on about people’s personal lives and habits. The smoking ban came into force in the summer of 2007. Ministers assured us in television interviews that private members clubs and hotels would be exempt. No, not at all. It was a blanket ban everywhere.

It was during this decade that London elected its first mayor, Ken Livingstone. He served two terms and introduced the city-wide congestion charge for motor vehicles, which we called the Kengestion Charge. My colleagues at the time reminded me that, as head of the old GLA (Greater London Authority), he was known as Red Ken.

Boris Johnson succeeded him, also serving two terms. His administration made the streets tidy again and also lowered crime.

By 2006, I started looking more closely at the EU and the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels who seemed to rule our lives. I agreed with those disgruntled Britons who wanted a referendum on our membership.

Most of all, however, I was sick and tired of Labour, to the point of despair.

I also asked my far better half to cancel my gift subscription to the The Spectator, as it had changed its editorial line considerably after Boris Johnson left as editor. Although more people now read it, it is a former shadow of itself. I would not call it neither conservative nor traditional at all any more.

2010s

Hope came in the May 2010 general election.

The Conservatives had to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. It was the David Cameron and Nick Clegg Show, but at least Labour were out of the picture after 13 years.

David Cameron referred to himself as the ‘heir to Blair’. It took me some time to see it, but he was not wrong.

He set out to reform the Conservative Party and alienated older, faithful members in their local associations. CCHQ suddenly did not need their help.

On a broader level, Cameron will probably be best remembered for opening up marriage to same-sex couples and for offering us the EU referendum, billed by all parties as a ‘once in a lifetime’ choice which they all pledged to implement.

A number of televised debates took place in 2016. I watched them all. Some of my friends were less than convinced by the Leave proposition. The one clincher was Brexit The Movie, which is an hour-long eye-opener about the Brussels gravy train and better than any of the debates, no matter how good:

I stayed up until the early hours of the morning of Friday, June 24, 2016 to watch the result. When it was clear that Leave had won, I went to bed. The next day, my far better half and I woke up to Cameron resigning because he did not like the result. We had a celebratory lunch in London and went to a party that evening that had been planned months earlier. I remember the apprehension we both felt about sounding out the other party guests as to their views on the EU. We later discovered that were not alone. Finally, someone there broke the ice upon his arrival by exclaiming:

Is everybody HAPPY? I certainly am!

At that point, we were free to talk about Brexit.

Theresa May became Prime Minister later that summer.

Across the pond, another sea change was happening: Donald Trump’s candidacy. It was even more of a shock when he won. A startled nation awoke to find that Hillary Clinton was not their president.

The conflicts about Brexit and Trump continue today. Opponents to both have grown ever more vehement.

On September 20, 2019, the British website Spiked issued a thought-provoking documentary on Trump and Brexit. It’s 26-minutes long and well worth watching. To cover Brexit, their reporters interviewed residents of Southend-on-Sea in Essex. To cover the Trump phenomenon, they interviewed Pennsylvania journalist Salena Zito and residents of Erie, which was once a major industrial powerhouse in that state. It has fallen on very hard times, indeed:

The major theme running through both is, as they put it, ‘change’, which I believe they should have called ‘self determination’ and ‘recovering the aspirational dream’.

One thing that struck me was the interview with the owner of a gym in Erie. He said that his father raised seven children on a janitor’s salary:

You couldn’t do that now.

Too right. Both parents now have to work — unlike in the 1960s — and few households can support more than two or three children.

People in Britain and the United States want to work and save more of their hard-earned cash. They also want good job opportunities for their children.

A fisherman in Southend said that, because of EU rules, he is restricted to an ever-smaller part of waters in which to fish. The number of fishing boats has continued to decline, he added, and the number of fisherman has also dropped dramatically. That is why he, and many others in Southend, voted Leave in 2016.

The decade closed with Boris Johnson’s landslide victory on December 12. Historian David Starkey explores what this means for the nation in this 57-minute documentary from The Sun, ably conducted by a young reporter:

Starkey explores the evolution of Parliament since Victorian times, when it became the institution we know today. As many Northern constituencies flipped from Labour to Conservative, Starkey says that Boris’s pledge to revitalise the North will mean little unless he espouses their values of patriotism, which, he says, has been a dirty word for many years.

He says that Boris could well become a figure like Charles II, who restored the monarchy beginning in 1660. Many of their personality traits are similar, he notes, particularly their penchant for bringing a nation together and reforming it at the same time. It is well worth watching when you have the opportunity.

There is much more to Starkey’s interview than summarised here. He talks about the people of the North, Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, David Cameron, Tony Blair and, significantly, Benjamin Disraeli. Starkey hopes that the PM will study his Victorian predecessor’s successes closely.

With that, I must close for now. There are many developments over the past 60 years that I have not mentioned. This is merely to give an idea about the direction that Western society took as the decades rolled on.

Welcome to 2020. Let’s hope it brings many good tidings. I wish all of us the very best.

Since the early hours of Friday morning, I have said many prayers of thanksgiving for Boris Johnson’s overwhelming Conservative Party victory.

The new Conservative MP for Bishop Auckland, which has always voted Labour in living memory, spent the weekend giving thanks, too. God is good:

When I wake up now, this is one of my first thoughts:

This is another:

As is this. What a lovely scene of London, especially with the Christmas tree in the middle:

I am amazed at how the Conservatives were able to demolish the impenetrable ‘red wall’, as they called it, by winning in constituencies that had not voted Conservative ever or for a very long time. Their novice candidates beat long-standing Labour MPs.

This is incredible:

Ballots from St Ives were the last to arrive because of a storm:

This was the result (note the Father Christmas sweater):

Thursday’s election result was truly historic, the best since Margaret Thatcher 40 years ago:

See how true blue the electoral map of England has become post-election (second tweet):

Guido Fawkes has more detail (emphases in the original):

The Tories lost seven seats to the SNP and one to Labour, but won enough new seats to make up for those and more, particularly in the Midlands, Wales, and the North. The one seat Labour managed to take off the Tories was typically metropolitan Putney…

Big names to lose their seats included:

    • Jo Swinson
    • Laura Pidcock
    • Dennis Skinner
    • Chris Williamson
    • Emma Dent Coad
    • Caroline Flint
    • David Gauke
    • Antoinette Sandbach
    • Dominic Grieve
    • Anna Soubry
    • Nigel Dodds
    • Zac Goldsmith

Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, and Sam Gyimah also failed to win new ones.

The Tories won so evenly across the country that Michael Gove was able to triumphantly declare in the Tories’ victory event this morning that “Next year both the Durham Miners’ Gala and the Notting Hill Carnival will take place in seats held by the Conservatives.” The Tories won back Kensington which includes Notting Hill, and astonishingly Laura Pidcock was defeated in her seat of North West Durham…

Commiserations to Nigel Dodds and Zac Goldsmith. I will miss them. UPDATE (Dec. 17): Apparently, there could be plans to elevate Zac Goldsmith to the House of Lords, enabling him to keep his cabinet position.

Guido posted another list later that day, based on the BBC’s research. This one concerns all the MPs who ran as independents, so some of the same names will appear. Explanatory notes in purple are mine:

Research by the BBC’s Laurence Sleator has shown that all 18 MPs who defected in the last Parliament then stood again for this one failed in their endeavours to be re-elected to the House of Commons. Two even lost their deposits…

Liberal Democrat Losers

    • Angela Smith  (ex-Labour)
    • Chuka Umunna  (ex-Labour)
    • Phillip Lee  (ex-Conservative)
    • Luciana Berger   (ex-Labour)
    • Sarah Wollaston  (ex-Conservative)
    • Antoinette Sandbach  (ex-Conservative)
    • Sam Gyimah   (ex-Conservative)

Independent Losers

    • Frank Field  (ex-Labour; elderly, has served Birkenhead well over the years)
    • David Gauke  (ex-Conservative)
    • Dominic Grieve  (ex-Conservative)
    • Anne Milton (ex-Conservative)
    • Chris Williamson (Lost deposit) – ex-Labour
    • Ivan Lewis (Lost deposit) – ex-Labour
    • Gavin Shuker  (ex-Labour)
    • Roger Godsiff  (ex-Labour)

Tigger Losers  (TIG — The Independent Group)

    • Anna Soubry  (ex-Conservative)
    • Mike Gapes  (ex-Labour)
    • Chris Leslie  (ex-Labour)

Turns out voters don’t take too kindly to party-hopping democracy dodgers when their time comes…

I’m sorry about Frank Field, but as far as the others in that list are concerned, good riddance. Many have commented online that this is evidence of ‘draining the swamp’. True.

The ex-Conservative rebels, e.g. Dominic Grieve, David Gauke, Antoinette Sandbach and Anna Soubry, were so certain they would win. Ha!

The Press Association has a great recap of how the early hours of Friday morning unfolded. Note the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon making a fool out of herself when she found out that the then-Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson lost her Scottish constituency to the SNP. Shameful. Furthermore, the big-hitting Conservatives predicted to lose their seats WON. The media were WRONG:

Only Tom Harwood, 23, who works with Guido Fawkes, predicted a Conservative landslide. Guido posted a compilation of Harwood’s appearances on the BBC’s Newsnight where presenter Jo Coburn sneered dismissively, ‘And we’ll live happily ever after’. The media were wrong AGAIN.

Congratulations, Tom. Highly recommended viewing:

It was Tom’s idea to use ‘stonking’ at Guido Fawkes in describing the Conservatives’ majority. Now Boris is using the word, too, as did Sky News’s Kay Burley and Labour’s Ian Lavery:

Another point worth making is that we now have a record number of women MPs!

Before the election, media pundits said the rough and tumble of Parliament would be too much for them. The media were WRONG about this, too:

Here’s another thing the media got WRONG: Boris Johnson was going to be turfed out of the last Parliament.

Let us look at Boris’s Friday the 13th — an excellent day for him:

Late that morning, he went to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen invited him to form a new government:

Then he returned to 10 Downing Street:

Shortly after 3 p.m., he addressed the nation. This video is subtitled. The press await on the opposite side of the street:

This version from the Press Association (PA), also subtitled, is a bit longer:

Meanwhile:

WEDDING RING UPDATE (Dec. 21) — owner found, ring a family heirloom:

On Saturday, December 14, the PA reported that a grateful Boris was visiting some of the constituencies that had voted Conservative for the first time (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson will meet with newly-elected Conservative MPs as part of a celebratory victory lap after winning a “stonking mandate” at the General Election.

The Prime Minister secured an 80-seat majority and many of his gains came in Labour’s heartland areas across the North and the Midlands.

Some areas, such as Bishop Auckland in the North East, had never elected a Tory MP before Thursday.

Mr Johnson, speaking outside Number 10, said he would “work round the clock” to repay the trust of those who “voted for us for the first time” – including those whose “pencils may have wavered over the ballot and who heard the voices of their parents and their grandparents whispering anxiously in their ears” …

Mr Johnson will make the first move to show newly-elected MPs that the concerns of their constituents will be heard with a visit on Saturday to some of those who overturned a Labour majority.

Later that day, the PA reported that Boris poled up in Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s former constituency, which voted overwhelmingly Conservative:

Boris Johnson has vowed to repay the trust of former Labour supporters whose votes helped deliver him victory in the General Election.

The Prime Minister made a symbolic visit to Tony Blair’s old Sedgefield constituency in County Durham – which fell to the Tories on Thursday night – to pledge his commitment to spreading opportunity across the country.

“We believe in giving opportunity to everyone,” he told a crowd of cheering supporters and newly-elected MPs from the region packed into the local cricket club.

“We believe that talent is evenly distributed throughout our country, but opportunity is unfairly distributed.

“We are going to rectify that as a One Nation Conservative government, as a people’s government, that is what we are going to do.”

Sedgefield was one of a swathe of seats across the North, Midlands and north Wales in Labour’s hitherto impregnable “red wall” to go blue as the Tories stormed to an 80-seat majority in the new House of Commons.

Sedgefield residents were over the moon:

We have a lot to look forward to once we ‘get Brexit done’, as Boris says, and begin trade negotiations. That said, I will not be buying chlorinated chicken, especially as free range British chicken is the real thing and so, so tasty. Let’s hope our Conservative victory does augur a landslide victory for President Trump in 2020:

Today heralded a glorious return to Parliament!

Congratulations to Boris Johnson!

Congratulations to everyone in Britain who voted Conservative!

Congratulations to all Conservative MPs, especially the novices!

Onwards and upwards for what Conservatives are calling The People’s Government!

For a change, below are three stories one can file under ‘happy news’.

This little fellow from England has taken his first steps at the age of four. He has a rare form of cerebral palsy and recently underwent an operation to reduce the spasticity in his legs. The video is subtitled, so you can read more about him. The joy on his face is a sight to behold. God is good:

Speaking of walking, the little boy thrown from the third floor of the Mall of America on April 12 is once again fully ambulatory. I bet his and his family’s Thanksgiving was extra special this year. God is good:

On November 23, Fox News reported (emphases mine):

The 5-year-old boy who was thrown from a Mall of America third-floor balcony and survived is “walking perfectly” and could be off his medication soon.

The family of Landen Hoffman gave an update about the boy on a GoFundMe page, saying the open wound on his belly had “finally scabbed over and new skin is growing.”

“Mom has been doing everything she can to speed up the healing of his wound and working toward getting off some of his medications,” the post said.

Hoffman was hospitalized with two broken arms, a broken leg and fractures to his face and skull when Emmanuel Aranda, 24, tossed him about 40 feet during a random attack at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. on April 12.

He was forced to undergo 15 separate medical procedures and surgeries due to the injuries and “severe complications.” He returned home months later.

Now, Hoffman [is] said to be enjoying life and is going to kindergarten with his twin brother and sister.

“He gets out of the car every morning happy and blows kisses all the way in! He’s a strong, happy boy,” the post added. “When his mommy asks him if she can look at his wound or asks how he’s doing, he always responds with ‘Mom, I’m healed, you don’t need to ask me anymore.’ Landen loves life and Jesus!”

It continued: “He tells people all the time when they get hurt, don’t worry, I fell off a cliff, but Angels caught me and Jesus loves me, so I’m ok and you will be too!”

Bless his heart.

And, finally, did you know the adorable baby portraits on the Gerber baby food jars are of real infants? Ann Turner Cook, the model for the original portrait, turned 93 last week:

ABC News reported on an Instagram post celebrating the occasion:

“For over 90 years, it’s been our pleasure to welcome countless babies to our ever-growing Gerber family,” the caption said. “Our dedication to each and every generation of little ones has long been part of our heritage, and we’ll always take time to celebrate a true classic!”

The iconic charcoal sketch was first created by Cook’s neighbor, Dorothy Hope Smith, who specialized in children’s portraits and submitted the sketch to Gerber, according to the company.

The irresistible baby first appeared on Gerber products in 1928 and became the company’s official trademark in 1931.

Many happy returns, Ms Cook!

Interestingly, whilst the Conservatives were at their annual party conference, the opposition benches were largely empty.

Strange. Last week, they voted against proroguing Parliament from Monday through Wednesday because they had serious work to get on with.

Or so they said.

As it turned out, only a handful of the diligent, hardworking opposition MPs showed up on those days.

On Tuesday, October 1, a Brexit-related session headed by George Eustice, the minister for DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) covered the draft Common Agricultural Policy from July 24 which would be used for Brexit. The end of the debate is here. It’s a pity that only the opposition agricultural ministers and a couple of other MPs attended:

On Wednesday, October 2, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab headed PMQs — Prime Minister’s Questions — as Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave his rousing speech in Manchester to the party faithful.

That morning, the Labour Whips issued a directive to their MPs not to ask Urgent Questions that day:

It was even worse when the afternoon’s proceedings began.

Recall — as if we could forget — that the opposition claim to be the champions of the vulnerable, especially women.

So, it was particularly galling to see that very few of them turned up for the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill:

Only a few Liberal Democrat MPs attended that afternoon. Labour produced more, but could have done much better.

Good grief.

Apparently, this bill and some others have been carried over post-Queen’s Speech on October 14:

Therefore, if this is true, the opposition knew full well that they could have easily prorogued for three days during the Conservative Party Conference but chose not to out of sheer spite. Ditto the Supreme Court when they cancelled Boris’s prorogation.

The main and most moving speech of the debate was that of Labour MP Rosie Duffield. Her testimony of a recent relationship is well worth sharing with your daughters or nieces.

Women cannot be too careful when getting involved in a long-term relationship. If this can happen to an MP, it can happen to anyone. Please watch:

This bill is Theresa May’s. She brought it forward as a backbencher, therefore, before she became Prime Minister in 2016. How slowly the wheels of legislation turn.

Theresa May also gave an impassioned speech for the bill near the end.

Debate continues after October 14.

Attendance improved when Boris appeared on Thursday, October 3, to discuss a new proposal for Brussels, sent to Jean-Claude Juncker the day before:

Note the final paragraph about the Northern Ireland backstop on the first page:

This is the European Commission’s announcement about the letter (click on the image to enlarge text):

Many MPs who offered comments following Boris’s address commented positively. Even most Remainers accepted the proposal, albeit with a request for more details, which will be forthcoming. Only two or three diehard Remainers spoke out against it.

Several MPs hoped that the EU commissioners were watching the positive reaction.

Guido Fawkes has more, including this video of Boris’s speech:

Guido gives us the transcript of Boris’s five elements concerning the abolition of the proposed backstop, the crux of the leaving date delay thus far (italics in the original):

  1. In the first place all our actions are based on our shared determination to sustain the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, the fundamental basis of governance in Northern Ireland the protection of which is the highest priority of all.

  2. And from this follows the second principle – namely that we shall of course uphold all the longstanding areas of co-operation between the UK and our friends in Ireland including the rights of all those living in Northern Ireland, North/South co-operation and the Common Travel Area, which predates both the Good Friday Agreement and the European Union itself.

  3. Third, we propose the potential creation of a regulatory zone on the island of Ireland covering all goods, including agri-food. For as long as it exists, this zone would eliminate all regulatory checks for trade in goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

  4. But fourth, unlike the so-called backstop, such a regulatory zone would be sustained with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, as expressed through the Assembly and Executive. They will give their consent during the transition period as a condition for these arrangements entering into force. Thereafter, the Assembly will vote again every four years – and if consent were withheld, these arrangements would then lapse after one year.

  5. Fifth, it has always been a point of principle for this government that at the end of the transition period, the UK should leave the EU Customs Union whole and entire restoring sovereign control over our trade policy and opening the way for free trade deals with all our friends around the world.

In short: no hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Instead, there would be a regulatory zone covering all goods, including foodstuffs. Northern Ireland’s Assembly and Executive would vote on the arrangements in the near future and every four years after that. (I do not know how that will work if Stormont is not sitting, but, no doubt, the government can find a way.)

I’m guardedly hopeful that Boris is onto something positive with this. It won’t please Brexit Party members, but we were never going to get an absolute No Deal. I’m hoping that David Davis’s Canada ++ arrangement can be revived. Theresa May insisted that his plans be superseded by her Withdrawal Agreement in July 2018, no ifs, ands or buts. Davis resigned as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on July 8 that year. It was all downhill from there.

Davis has not tweeted his reaction, but another staunch Leave MP, John Redwood, offered his thoughts on Boris’s proposal:

Unfortunately, the Twitter replies to that were very angry, indeed.

It is essential to keep in mind that trade and other agreements will be in transition once we leave the EU.

It’s not as if everything will change dramatically on November 1 (God willing) or whenever we leave.

The transition period is likely to last anywhere from two to four years, depending on negotiations.

As for prescription drug shortages, some of which are occurring now in the UK and being blamed on Brexit: several EU countries have been experiencing similar shortages of essential medication for several months now. France and the Netherlands are among those nations. We cannot blame Brexit for that.

It was on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, that Theresa May made her final appearance at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons at PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions). Boris Johnson succeeded her as Prime Minister later that day.

Here’s a great video compilation of Boris in action. He was declared the next Conservative Party leader on July 23:

Today’s PMQs session was bittersweet. I remembered liking Mrs May wholeheartedly until March of this year.

Outside of Brexit, she was a very good PM, as MPs from both sides of the aisle made clear during today’s 65-minute PMQs.

The link in the next tweet shows a list of MPs who asked today’s questions. Mrs May did not wear this suit, by the way:

Instead, she wore the royal blue one that matched Angela Merkel’s in colour. As it looks like wool, that must have been over the top when we are not only in July but also in the middle of a heatwave:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid her a brief compliment on her ‘sense of public duty’:

Political pundit Guido Fawkes noted with irony (colour and italics in the original):

Remarkably he will now be onto his third Tory Prime Minister, not that he’s had much to do with that himself…

May asked Corbyn with good humour if he would follow her example:

She said:

Perhaps I could just finish my exchange with him by saying this – as a party leader who has accepted when her time is up, perhaps the time is now for him to do the same.

She also reminded the House of his many political flip-flops:

An Independent MP later agreed with her:

May has taken 4,540 questions during her PMQs sessions since she became PM in 2016. She has spent hundreds of hours answering them.

Both Conservative and Opposition benches gave her credit for:

– lowering public borrowing (the lowest rate in 17 years);

– a stronger economy, despite Remainers’ anti-Brexit Project Fear;

– reducing unemployment;

– actively supporting legislation, currently in place, to combat slavery;

– actively supporting legislation, also in place, to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence;

– supporting law enforcement, although, as always, more work needs to be done;

– promoting a more equal society, as she promised in July 2016;

– being a solid role model for women, including those in politics;

– showing dignified, respectful leadership.

Indeed, Brexit was her only black mark.

After she listened to a warm tribute from Jo Swinson, the new female leader of the Liberal Democrats, May rightly pointed out that only the Conservatives have had two female prime ministers! She added that most of Britain’s political parties have or have had women leaders. She concluded by saying that there is only one party that has not had a woman leader: the Labour Party! (We cannot count the Brexit Party, because they have no MPs yet.)

Philip May was in the spectator’s gallery to watch his wife give her final appearance in Parliament as PM. A Conservative MP mentioned it. You can see that she really loves her husband, because she blushed and smiled broadly at his mention.

When she left the dispatch box, she received one minute of applause and a standing ovation from Conservative MPs.

Theresa May will now sit on the backbenches as a Conservative MP.

Outside of Brexit, she did a great job as PM.

Thank you, Mrs May.

Guido Fawkes has a rundown of what happened next. I’ve inserted tweets from the BBC:

13:00 TM returns to Downing Street to say goodbye to staff.

14:00 TM leaves Downing Street for the last time as Prime Minister, making a short speech outside.

14:15 TM goes to Buckingham Palace to tender her resignation to the Queen.

15:00 Boris goes to Buckingham Palace to be formally appointed as Prime Minister.

16:00 Boris makes his first speech as Prime Minister from the steps of Downing Street.

17:00 Boris heads to his Commons office to begin his Cabinet reshuffle.

Expect the top jobs to be announced by 10pm…

I wish Boris Johnson well as Prime Minister.

On Friday, June 21, 2019, the UK’s Court of Protection ordered a mentally disabled Nigerian woman in her 20s to abort her 22 week old baby.

Fortunately, the following Monday, the Court of Appeal reversed that decision:

The world had followed this story, and police are still investigating the circumstances of the woman’s pregnancy.

Going back to June 21, the Catholic News Agency reported:

The Court of Protection handles cases involving individuals judged to lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

The woman, who cannot been publicly identified, has been described as “in her twenties,” and is under the care of an NHS trust, part of the UK’s National Health Service.

Doctors at the trust wished to abort her pregnancy and argued that, due to her diminished mental capacity, the abortion would be less traumatic for the woman than giving birth, especially if the baby would then be placed in foster care.

The woman’s mother made clear to doctors and the court that she would assume care of her grandchild.

The woman is believed to have the mental capacity of a grade school-age child. She is reportedly Catholic, and her mother is Nigerian.

It is unknown if the pregnancy was conceived consensually, and police are investigating the circumstances of conception.

The woman’s mother, reported to be a former midwife, registered her absolute opposition to the abortion citing the Catholic faith of herself and her daughter. A social worker who cares for the woman also disagreed that she should be forced to have an abortion.

The judge said she did not believe the woman understood what it meant to have a baby.

The Washington Examiner had more on the story that day (emphases mine):

In her ruling for the Court of Protection on June 21, Justice Nathalie Lieven said, “I am acutely conscious of the fact that for the State to order a woman to have a termination where it appears that she doesn’t want it is an immense intrusion … [but] I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society’s views of termination.”

“Immense intrusion” is a remarkable understatement. If the government can force you to abort your child, is there any limit to its power?

The pregnant mother and her family do not want an abortion, but she is under the care of a division of the U.K.’s National Health Service — thus why this matter has gone to court and why they have not already gotten one. But because the pregnant mother is mentally challenged, Lieven said, “I think she would like to have a baby in the same way she would like to have a nice doll,” completely dismissing the mother’s desire for her baby.

Barrister John McKendrick, who is leading the legal team for the pregnant woman’s mother, says the court has “no proper evidence” that having an abortion will be beneficial to the pregnant mother. “Their evidence is premised on a narrow clinical view. The application must be dismissed,” McKendrick said. The pregnant woman’s mother has added that abortion strongly violates her family’s Catholic values and that she would raise her grandchild herself.

I have no idea why the judge, a woman herself, wanted an abortion instead of adoption. Could she not bear to see the baby go to a good home?

A Canadian CEO considered the term ‘right to choose’:

I have no doubt that millions of prayers ascended on this future mother’s behalf.

As is so often the case with prayer, the good Lord heard us and answered our pleas according to His will.

On June 24, Sky News reported on the welcome reversal (emphasis in the original):

Doctors must not be allowed to perform an abortion on a pregnant mentally-ill woman, Court of Appeal judges ruled on Monday.

This is a marvellous result, especially for the people of United Kingdom.

Thank you, Lord, for answering our prayers! Please bless this lady and her mother in the weeks and months ahead. Please also bless the child once s/he is born. To God be all glory, now and forever! Amen.

On Thursday, May 23, 2019, the author Judith Kerr went to her eternal rest.

A survivor of Nazi Germany, she was best known for her children’s book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, a modern classic in Britain and the Commonwealth:

I am unfamiliar with the book and Ms Kerr’s other works. However, from reading and hearing about The Tiger Who Came to Tea, I had the mistaken impression it was for adults. People have been saying it is about the sexual revolution of the 1960s, or feminism, or an unhappy marriage, or alcoholism or depression.

So it was interesting to run across a tweet from the BBC’s Emily Maitlis:

Her colleague Nick Robinson tweeted this reply:

She told me that some told her the tiger was really the Gestapo. Even when she said “No, he’s just a tiger” they said “Ah, you may think that but it’s your subconscious conjuring up the Gestapo”

Sometimes, a story is just a story.

Writers and playwrights have had to deal with readers’ deep introspection for years. Arthur Miller was one of them:

Sometimes a name is just that: a name. Nothing more. No deep symbolism.

In closing, here is Emily Maitlis’s interview with Judith Kerr, who was 92 at the time. She describes her happy childhood in Paris, then London. Her parents, who were going through endless difficulties during the war in Paris, protected her from it all. She did not know that her mother was suicidal for a time. She found out only when she read a collection of family papers as an adult:

Kerr, a former screenwriter for the BBC, told Maitlis that she came to writing books ‘late’, as a wife and mother. Her husband, Tom (Quatermass) Kneale — a fellow BBC screenwriter — strongly encouraged her. She said that, had she not started writing books, she would have become religious.

As it turned out, she said she never was religious. She said near the end of the video that she strongly supported euthanasia.

Maitlis says she was ‘inspired’ by meeting her idol. Oh, well.

I should think it would be impossible not to embrace religion after what she and her family went through. Personally, I would be giving hearty thanks to God daily. Then again, perhaps her parents were not religious in the first place, so she never had the example.

More’s the pity.

Thankfully, Abby Johnson, upon whose life the film Unplanned is based, is a staunch pro-life advocate.

However, it was not always that way.

Many people know that Johnson worked for Planned Parenthood — and, as a local clinic director, was their Employee of the Year — until she had to assist with an abortion herself.

What most of us do not know is that Johnson actually had two abortions before being employed by Planned Parenthood. These episodes are covered in the film.

After reading a Christian Post article by Brandon Showalter, ‘”Unplanned” movie will cause men to repent for mistreating, abandoning women and shift the culture’, I was amazed that any woman who went through two traumatic abortions would even want to work for Planned Parenthood.

One cannot help but think that God was trying to send her a message. When the first one did not reach her psyche, He seemed to have tried again. Incredibly, that one also failed.

These, quite possibly, involved Johnson’s two abortions, both of which involved her boyfriend, then husband, Mark.

Showalter tells us that Johnson’s first abortion took place while she was in college and partying quite a bit with Mark. The inevitable happened, and Mark offered her a lift to an abortion clinic to ‘take care of it’. He couldn’t afford to pay for her abortion, so:

Abby applied for her first credit card to pay for it herself.

Unplanned shows Ashley Bratcher, who plays Abby:

being handed a few crackers as she’s seated alongside several other dazed and traumatized women dressed in pink hospital gowns as they’re herded in and out of the procedure room at the clinic like cattle.

Abby’s father warned her about Mark, but she went ahead and married him anyway. A year later, on Valentine’s Day, he was cheating on her. She filed for divorce, then found out she was eight weeks pregnant with his baby. She went to the Planned Parenthood clinic which later employed her as its director. Perhaps she worked there to improve standards, because this was her experience (emphases mine):

she’s told that because she’s only eight weeks pregnant she qualifies for a chemical abortion that she can perform by herself at home.

Actress Ashley Bratcher turns in a stunningly convincing performance as Abby Johnson. She fully inhabits the role. And in my view, the most unforgettable scene was how she portrayed the grisly, excruciating night of desperation that a young, panicked Abby endures as she bleeds out and discards the pieces of her second pregnancy. One can palpably feel her anguish as she writhes in intense pain, sobbing all alone in the fetal position on her bathroom floor.

Her ordeal was followed by several weeks of severe abdominal cramps and blood clots, health risks Planned Parenthood never warned her about when they gave her the RU-486 abortion pill couched in professional-sounding assurances that she’d be just fine.

Wow.

So she went to work at a place that could have killed her. She also encouraged, even indirectly, other women to have abortions there.

Thankfully, the Lord got through to her mind and heart in the end.

Fortunately, everything ended well. Showalter elaborates:

It’s extra hopeful in that she was fortunate to find a good man in her second husband, Doug, a stay-at-home dad who I interviewed in the latest CP podcast, and with whom she’s now expecting their eighth child.

The one thing Showalter does tell us is that his reaction to the abortions portrayed in the film — Abby’s and the one in which she had to participate — is not unusual for other men who have also seen Unplanned:

The film’s promoters told me that my visceral response to the movie was something they’d seen from many men at other prescreenings around country. If that’s true, then I dare say we are on the cusp of a massive shift in the national conversation about abortion. And it won’t just be about this or that legal restriction and the usual toxic politics we have trained ourselves to tune out or compartmentalize as just another issue.

Go see “Unplanned” this weekend. Take several friends with you. I’d advise taking a box or two of tissues. This one is not to be missed.

Make sure your sons, nephews and their friends see Unplanned. Just because it’s about abortion does not mean it’s ‘only’ a ‘woman’s’ film.

In November 18, my reader underground pewster of Not Another Episcopal Church Blog posted ‘Good News and Bad News: Number of abortions in U.S. hits historic low’ which contrasts abortion and homicide figures for the United States.

As the whole world knows, gun control is a huge topic. These were America’s homicide figures for 2016 as compiled, interestingly enough, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Emphases in the original:

All homicides: 19,362
Firearm homicides: 14,415

The CDC also publishes abortion statistics. In 2016, the Washington Post reported an annual total of:

638,169 abortions …

Is anyone up in arms (pun intended) about that?

No.

In fact, WaPo cheered the news:

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that “fewer U.S. women are having abortions than at any time since Roe v. Wade.” … down two percent from 2014.

Wait a minute. In the run up to Roe v Wade in 1973, abortion supporters told the American public that this ‘medical procedure’, as they called it, would be ‘rare’.

Yet, this is the lowest number of abortions per annum since 1973?

So much for ‘rare’.

In 45 years, there have been approximately 60 million abortions in the US.

‘Rare’, indeed.

In January 1918, LifeSite.com reported the statistics. The 60m figure comes from the Guttmacher Institute, which assumes that CDC under-reports figures by as much as five per cent, exacerbated by the absence of reporting from state health departments in California and New Hampshire for over a decade. Here is a graph comparing the two sets of figures.

Note that in 1973, there were well over half a million abortions that year alone:

So, the next time someone gets triggered over homicides and gun control, ask them if they are equally as worried about abortions.

Remember: 60 million, since 1973.

Then ask that person what the greater worry is: guns or abortion?

A new film about the reality of abortion clinics makes its US debut on Friday, March 29, 2019.

Unplanned tells the true story of Abby Johnson, a former abortion clinic manager. Ms Johnson won a Planned Parenthood Employee of the Year award. Then, one day, she saw just what an abortion entailed — and that the baby was very much alive and moving. She subsequently resigned and became a pro-life advocate.

This moving trailer provides a synopsis:

Unplanned is rated ‘R’ because it shows the graphic detail behind an abortion.

On February 22, Life Site News reported (emphases mine):

“UNPLANNED is an ‘R’ rated film which has no MPAA cautions for profanity, nudity, sex or violenceexcept for violence directly associated with the abortion process,” said writers/directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, reported Movieguide

“Ironically, the MPAA seems to be indirectly endorsing the pro-life position: namely that abortion is an act of violence,” they added. They do not plan to contest the rating.

A double irony of the rating did not go past Solomon and Konzelman.

“Even more ironically, as a result of the MPAA’s decision to give us a ‘Restricted’ rating, many teenage women in this country who can legally obtain an actual abortion without parental permission will be prohibited from going to see our film containing simulated images of abortion, without obtaining parental permission,” they said. 

Abby Johnson, a pro-life advocate, had this to say about the film:

We are pushing the boundaries of what has never been before on such a wide scale by showing America exactly what abortion is — and abortion is disturbing. It’s violent. No one will walk away from seeing this movie and say ‘I didn’t know.’

I would urge everyone with teenagers to get them to the cinema at the end of March to see this film. The Unplanned website lists a number of US locations, so please click the +More box to see additional towns and cities where it will be shown.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, Americans were told that abortion is simply ‘a medical procedure’ to remove ‘a mass of cells’. Now we know better.

I would also highly recommend that readers watch Ashley Bratcher’s interview on Fox News. Bratcher plays Abby Johnson in the movie. She did not have time to speak with Johnson, because she got a last-minute call to pack her bags — for seven weeks — and head out to Oklahoma to begin filming.

While she was in Oklahoma, Bratcher received a call from her mother, who told her that she — Ashley — was almost aborted herself. Her mother and father were in their late teens and did not feel ready for a child. Her father pawned a family shotgun to pay for the abortion. Ashley says that she finds it odd that the price for a human life would have been a shotgun.

In the end, Ashley’s mother felt sick on the operating table and said she could not go through with the abortion.

Oh, the irony of it all — but what a blessing!

Bratcher says that Unplanned has all sorts of elements to it and that it is not a judgemental film, but rather one of hope, forgiveness — and grace.

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