You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘women’ tag.

Those who have missed the first two parts in this series can read them here and here.

Job interview mindset

As I wrote yesterday, think of dating as a type of job interview. Be friendly yet impartial, because not every first or second date will be a success.

Julia Samuel, a therapist, recently explained the work mindset for The TimesIt involves setting emotional boundaries (emphases mine):

We need to bring a different — not robotic — but more robust version of ourselves to work. Work doesn’t need our “whole self” it needs our “work self”. When life is tough, having the familiar structure and purpose of work can save us. Switching off our inner distress at work — maintaining a “stiff upper lip”can be a healthy way to operate. We can switch back to dealing with our problems in the appropriate environment and may have a different, clearer response having had a break from ourselves.

Given the turbulence in the world, finding ways to balance ourselves and not pathologise normal feelings is key. Having the capacity to move between emotional states in different places is helpful for us individually and collectively.

“Private” and “professional” are useful descriptors that support us to recognise the boundary between work and home.

In 2014, Christian Rudder, one of OkCupid’s founders, wrote an article for The Guardian: ‘Seven secrets of dating from the experts at OkCupid’.

He says that data were important to him and the site’s other founders from the beginning:

I was one of the founders of OkCupid, a dating website that, over a very unbubbly long haul of 10 years, has become one of the largest in the world. I started it with three friends. We were all mathematically minded, and the site succeeded in large part because we applied that mindset to dating. I have led OkCupid’s analytics team since 2009, and my job is to make sense of the data our users create. Playing with the numbers helps us run our site. But as people bring technology deeper and deeper into their lives, it can show us profound and ridiculous things about who we are as human beings. Here are just a few examples.

What stood out was the very real comparison between dating sites and job sites. He posts charts and graphs to illustrate his points:

Every dating site has to have a way to measure how good-looking its users are. This helps keep the site healthy – you’re able to make sure nobody’s getting too much attention, make sure no one’s getting ignored. Unfortunately, despite our efforts, people still gravitate to the best-looking people

He then examines data from ShiftGig, a jobs site:

In either case, the male candidates’ curves are a flat line – a man’s looks have no effect on his prospectsand the female graphs are exponential. So these women are treated as if they’re on OkCupid, even though they’re looking for employment. Male HR reps weigh the female applicants’ beauty as they would in a romantic setting – which is either depressing or very, very exciting, if you’re a sexual discrimination lawyer. And female employers view it through the same (seemingly sexualised) lens, despite there (typically) being no romantic intent.

OkCupid’s analysts must have a field day with all their data. This, too, is interesting:

OkCupid matches people by asking them questions – we ask pretty much everything (from how often you brush your teeth, to whether you believe in God) – and the user answers on average about 300 of them. The site lets you decide the importance of each question you answer, and you can pinpoint the answers that you would (and would not) accept from a potential match.

People tend to run wild with those match questions, marking all kinds of stuff as “mandatory”, in essence putting a checklist to the world: I’m looking for a dog-loving, agnostic, nonsmoking liberal who’s never had kids – and who’s good in bed, of course. But very workaday questions like: “Do you like scary movies?” and: “Have you ever travelled alone to another country?” have amazing predictive power. If you’re ever stumped on what to ask someone on a first date, try those. In about three-quarters of the long-term couples OkCupid has brought together, both people have answered them the same way, either both “yes” or both “no”. That’s much, much higher than the expected rate, since both questions evenly split our user base. In fact, successful couples agree on scary movies – either they both like them or they both hate them – about as often as they agree on the existence of God.

Caution on public transport

In March 2022, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan banned staring on the Tube. It was his way of confirming an October 2021 Transport for London (TfL) campaign about sexual harassment.

On March 10 that year, The Telegraph reported:

Staring is sexual harassment, London commuters have been warned, as police and the Mayor told train passengers not to look at each other in an “intrusive” manner … 

TfL, which launched the campaign in October last year, said it aims to “send a strong message to offenders that sexual harassment is not tolerated on TfL’s services”.

“Sexual harassment is a form of violence, most often directed against women and girls in public places,” the transport network said in October … 

“The campaign aims to challenge the normalisation and dismissal of this behaviour as ‘something that happens’ to women and girls on public transport and in other public spaces, making it clear that it is never acceptable and that the strongest possible action will always be taken.”

Yet, in January 2023, TfL posted an advertisement for an app called Genie Connect, which enables Underground passengers to exchange a friendly message, presumably after eyeing each other during their journey. The reply shows the risk involved with unwanted attention:

First date red flags

On October 15, 2022, The Guardian listed 56 red flags on a first date.

I was surprised to find that constantly checking one’s mobile phone wasn’t on the list. That would be my No. 1 turnoff if I were ever going on a first date again.

Justin Myers, the author, probably doesn’t mind phone activity.

In introducing his list, he says:

The clueless romantics among us may struggle to identify ostensibly harmless behaviour as a sign of impending doom, but it all starts with the first date. Can you really tell from the way someone acts that dating them would be your biggest mistake since the night of the seven absinthes? Having observed more courting couples than I care to remember, these are the little red flags no self-respecting singleton can afford to ignore.

Most of the red flags involve a dinner date, beginning with first impressions (green bold emphases in the original):

Looks very different from their profile photos
Our digital mugshots benefit from a brightening filter or dab of the healing brush tool, true, but on a dating app, you must look like yourself, in photos taken within the last year. It’s like people (men) who lie about their height, with 6ft being the default, even for those who stand on a box to reach their bathroom sink. If they can create such an outrageous lie destined to be uncovered within seconds of meeting, what else might they feel comfortable lying about?

Orders something to share
Small plates, with cutlery, napkins and hand sanitiser nearby – fine. It can be fun to discuss what you’re trying, or arm wrestle over the last of the albondigas. But as for the “’scuse my fingers” horror, poking into a mound of sloppy nachos, or, reddest of all flags, a bag of crisps torn open into a greasy foil lotus for you to “help yourself” – I would rather die.

‘I’m not like other guys’
You are, in fact, just like other guys, because all guys say this.

I’m not the jealous type’
Say you need the bathroom and leave by the fire exit.

Reverts every story you tell back to them very quickly
Usually, what they’re saying will have nothing to do with what you were talking about. They’re not having a conversation, they’re broadcasting, and that’s never going to change.

Is overfamiliar
A first date thrives on warmth and relatability, but there are boundaries; you’re in a job interview in all but name. Asking for selfies, or adding you on social media before pudding, denotes a people collector, which would make going to festivals with them intolerable. But if you actually met on social media, they know everything about you anyway; this date could’ve been an email.

Pressures you into agreeing to a second date before the first date is even over
They’re probably worried you’ll catch a terminal case of buyer’s regret in the cab home. A second date plan should be made sober, and electronically, at a distance, so you can pull a face while thinking, message friends, consult your crystals, run all your options past the team working the Large Hadron Collider, whatever.

Future red flags

The article goes on to list other red flags on future dates.

Those who have read and absorbed the content from Part 2 in this series should be able to avoid dating people who exhibit the following:

Lovebombing
Almost sounds nice, like a bath bomb, maybe, or a chocolate bombe. Nope. Lovebombing is a dangerous plutonium blast of love, affection and commitment. Saying “I love you” far too soon, going overboard on gifts or romantic surprises, introducing you to parents or their best friends before it feels natural, angling to move in together before they even know how many fillings you’ve got. Hurtling into the next stage of the relationship suggests they’re more into the idea of you than the reality. The first cogs of commitment clunk into place while you’re still getting to know each other, which means when the fever lifts and the romance fades, you’re stuck in the loveless prison that initial fervour built for you.

Breadcrumbing
Another depressing buzzword of the modern age, a breadcrumber will message you regularly to keep you interested but will be vague about meeting. This is likely to mean they’re “benching” you: keeping you on standby in case something they’re really invested in doesn’t work out.

Needs constant reassurance that you like them
Previous relationships leave scars on us all, and who knows what emotional traumas lurk beneath? If you’re not the supportive type who can help them overcome their insecurities, you may be better bailing out before you make them worse. And, no, “I’m still here, aren’t I?” isn’t enough

Tells you they didn’t like you when they first met you, but really like you now
A compliment so backhanded it leaves knuckle marks. They’re not boosting you, they’re trying to make you feel small, and leave you panicking that you come across as an arsehole when you meet people for the first time. (Even if you are, this feels more like a them problem than a you problem, am I right? We can’t all exude warmth or be instantly adored. Some of us are an acquired taste, like olives, or immersive theatre.)

The complexity of the dinner date

On January 13, 2023, The Guardian posted ‘”It’s just so intense and awkward”: the death of the dinner date’.

This was sad to read about, because, speaking as a foodie, what’s better than a dinner date? While you’re enjoying what you’ve ordered, you can scope out your date’s food preferences and their table manners, important social indicators for a relationship’s future.

The article says:

Whether for financial reasons, the pressure of time or because today’s daters want something more daring, dinner dates, it seems, are dead. A survey by the dating site Match suggests the financial crisis is playing a large part, with 40% of those it polled saying the cost of living crisis meant they were going on fewer dates, and more than a fifth saying they would be put off if someone suggested an expensive dinner, as it would mean they weren’t compatible financially.

However, dinner does not need to be expensive.

Furthermore, why not opt for a late weekend breakfast at a local café or a pub lunch instead?

This article makes me think that sharing a meal together early in a potential relationship is mandatory:

… there’s the always awkward question of who pays, which, if you’re straight, is made even harder to navigate by changing gender expectations, says Mike, 31. He has only ever had one dinner date: “When the bill came, she kind of expected me to take it. And I said, don’t you think it’d be fair to split it?” The woman told him it was “kind of unsexy” that he hadn’t offered, but they eventually each paid their share. Things didn’t go any further.

“A dinner date just sounds to me like I’m wearing a suit without a tie and she’s wearing a dress, and I pull out the chair behind her,” says Mike. “It’s not something I have ever done or would do.”

Dear, oh dear. That’s telling, very telling. Foodie girls should avoid Mike.

Then there’s this:

Changes in dating habits may seem inconsequential, but they’re anything but, says Dr Julia Carter, a senior lecturer in sociology at UWE Bristol who researches romantic relationships. “It’s not trivial because it tells us something about what’s happening in society.

“The idea of a dinner date feels quite traditional to us now, that idea of a man asking a woman out. Actually a lot has happened in our society [since that was the norm]. Dating is one of those aspects where women are starting to assert themselves much more than would have been expected in the past.”

Dinner is also very public, she says. “One of the changes we talk about sociologically is that dating has become much more privatised. Thanks to dating apps, people tend to be sitting in their rooms on their own flicking through profiles, where in the past you may have had a social group where you’d all chat [about who you are dating]. So perhaps more private activities are preferred when you go on a date. Going to the park is much more private than having a meal in front of an audience in a restaurant.”

Is  it? The last place I would want to be on a date is in a park — unless food follows. And it should follow relatively quickly.

One middle-aged dater says that going on a date is like going on a job interview. Well said — and I can see her point about going for a drink instead:

For Corinne, 51 and back in the dating game after the end of her marriage, “there are so many similarities between dating and finding a job”. If thousands send in a CV, she says, “the first step is like a screening, when the headhunters call you up just to check you out. You want to quickly assess whether this is something that is worth exploring or not. And an initial drink is the quickest way to get that over.”

In that situation, she says, you definitely don’t go to dinner. “That’s because you’re meeting strangers, and you don’t know whether you’re going to like them. You want a situation where you can quickly move on.”

However, for foodies, going on a dinner date early on reveals a lot. One soon finds out if one is dating a fellow foodie or someone for whom ‘food is fuel’, full stop.

The things men say, or don’t say

Matthew Hussey, author and YouTuber of Get the Guy has excellent posts for women.

Any woman reading this who is already in a suitable relationship or a good marriage should read this in order to pass it along to family members or good friends who are still looking for lasting love.

What follows is painfully accurate, but any woman who knows about these things can get over her own pain much more easily.

Ghosting

I’m sure there was a word for ‘ghosted’ before social media became the norm. ‘Dropped’ and ‘dumped’ come to mind, sometimes preceded by ‘unceremoniously’.

Hussey gives his advice on ghosting. It’s a bit of tough love, as the ghosted one really does have to get over it, as he tells an anonymous woman whom he has dubbed ‘Deborah’. She wanted closure, and she didn’t get it, which put dozens of questions in her mind:

If you are able to go on Instagram and see that they’re still living their life and that they’re not dead, then you have your answer about this person. That should be a moment where you actually can set them aside. That should be a moment where continuing to agonize over the situation and follow the thoughts of, “But what happened? Why did they suddenly ghost me? Why aren’t they getting back to me? What could I have done so wrong?” That is a form of rumination that is simply scratching the wound.

Our mind can, in situations like that, look for story, you see it in Deborah’s message, she’s looking for that story. Maybe is he struggling with our situationship? Is he thinking about it and there’s something holding him back? That’s attributing story to a situation that doesn’t need to be that complicated. Occam’s razor, the idea that the explanation that requires the least variables is the most likely explanation. In other words, the simplest explanation is the one you should go with.

In this case, the simplest explanation is that this person, for whatever reason, decided that they don’t want to continue, or that they’re not interested, or that they can’t give you what you want. And in that moment, instead of communicating with you about that, decided to take the easiest possible way out that had no regard for your feelings. That’s the simple explanation. It doesn’t need more thought than that.

And, yes, this used to happen in the old days, too.

Hussey says that, even if this man hadn’t ghosted Deborah, he would have been a poor match for her:

I would go as far as to say, if this person really liked you, it still wouldn’t matter. They’d still be a terrible person to be with because if the person that’s capable of ghosting you like that really liked you, that would still be a trait they have. It would still be a way they react when they’re not interested. Do you see that? So even if you got your wish and this person really liked you and went after you in the way that you wanted them to, the likelihood is that would just blind you to this quality that they have when they’re not interested. That would still make them a terrible person for you to be with because that person is a very dangerous person to be with.

You don’t get loyalty with those people. You can’t build trust with those people. You don’t get consistency with those people. You certainly don’t get good treatment when that person sees you as no longer valuable to them. What you are really seeing in that moment is what does someone do when they’ve decided you’re no longer valuable to them, or when they don’t need you, or when something different comes along that arrests their attention? What happens to you? What happens to anyone? Forget you. What happens to anyone in a situation like that that’s in their life?

And that’s really good information, that’s important information to know. You almost have to remove the you from it because the I is the ego in it. How could they do this to me? How could we go from having the connection we had to suddenly, I am not even worthy of an explanation? The me in it, the I it that’s all the ego. But what we have to do is go, “Oh no, what this really is a representation of how this person treats people.” And that should be an incredible turnoff, should be seen as a dodged bullet. It should be seen as in itself a form of closure because I would never want to be with a person who is able to do this, or who’s in a stage of their life where they can’t see that this is really distasteful and bad behavior.

And I’m going to push back here, Deborah. And you sent me a message with love, I’m going to send you a message back with love, but it’s going to be a tough message. I think that your email to me was a bit of a cop-out. I think it was your way of giving yourself a license to keep thinking about this person that doesn’t deserve for you to keep thinking about them

Deborah, you said you had a two-month relationship, two months. And you said there was some misunderstandings along the way. Who knows if it was even a relationship from what you’ve said. But there was someone that was on your radar for two months. And then, they ghosted you and now they’re still on your radar in a big way. Enough for you to email me about this person because you’re in pain and the confusion of it.

This, to me, is not someone that’s worth your life. But you’re making them worthy of it

There are so many stories you could be living, the real tragedy is when we are continuing to play out this story that’s not interesting that has finished, by the way, there’s your closure. It finished. We made a video recently on the nine confusing things men say and what they really mean. Well, of all the confusing things men say, ghosting isn’t one of them. Ghosting is pretty obvious. It’s pretty direct, it’s pretty clear-cut. Our job is to give ourselves the closure so that we can go and live one of those other interesting stories.

The reason I say that what you said is a cop-out is because you’ve made this person responsible for your ability to move on. You’ve given them that power, I can’t move on until I get some kind of explanation and figure this out. Life isn’t that simple. We don’t always get the closure that we want. In fact, a lot of life doesn’t give us the closure that we want. How many people out there watching this video have a parent, nevermind a parent that died that they never felt they got closure from? How many people watching this video have a parent who’s still alive that they get no closure from? A parent, that they don’t feel seen by? A parent that will never truly understand them? Or they’ll never have that great turnaround that you always wished they would have? How many people watching this video will never get that closure? Life is like that

9 confusing things men say — signs of trouble

In his response to Deborah, Hussey mentioned his post and video, ‘9 Confusing Things Men Say (DECODED)’. Excerpts follow:

“You’re the kind of girl you marry, not the kind of girl you date.”

that to me is a way of saying, “And I’m the kind of person who’s only willing to date right now, and therefore I can’t proceed with you.” It might also, if I’m being really honest, be a kind of cue that this person isn’t sexually attracted. “You have wonderful qualities, but I don’t feel that chemistry with you. Otherwise, I’d be trying to jump you right now.”

“I like you too much to be with you.”

… That says to me, “I am absolutely 100% going to hurt you.” I like you too much to be with you is a way of saying, “I’m not really looking for anything serious, so I’m not going to invest in you in any real way, but I do like you. I like you enough that we should probably keep having sex, but I don’t want to go any further than that with you.” But it’s also, again, notice the pattern here, the flattery. “I like you too much to be with you.” Notice it’s flattery, but it’s confusing flattery. If you think about it, it’s quite clever because it says, I’m flattering you. I’m dazzling you with a compliment at the same time as telling you that I can’t give you any more than I’m giving you right now. So I’m simultaneously piquing your interest and giving you a reason to keep trying with me while excusing myself from trying it all with you.

“‘I haven’t loved you these past two years. I was lying to both of us.’ They then ended things and two weeks later he came back and said, ‘I need you in my life. I love you. Let’s try again.’”

… I don’t think he went back out of love. I think he went back out of fear and told you it was love.

The problem with what he said is he said, “For two years I’ve been lying to you and myself.” So now you’ve got in your head that for two years you’ve not been living the same reality as me. How do you recover from that in two weeks? Has he done all the healing necessary in the space of two weeks? I don’t think so. I think he panicked. I think nothing has changed on his side and someone like that, if they are let back in, should be let back in incredibly slowly.

“Let’s just take it day by day.”

Well, look, firstly, that’s the sort of thing that sounds completely rational. It sounds like the voice of reason at the very beginning of dating … But if at the point where you are starting to, or there’s this sort of expectation that you behave like a girlfriend, and that means seeing them regularly, it means comforting them on bad days, it means coming over on a sick day and bringing this person soup, it means meeting each other’s friends or family, it means being involved on a consistent basis in each other’s lives. And when you try to ask where this is going, that person says, “Let’s just take it day by day,” that is someone who wants you very much to live in the present because the present is all they can offer you. They are not looking for a relationship. They are looking for an experience.

“We aren’t really dating, dating.”

There’s no intention behind this. This is just you and me getting to a place, getting to a room where it’s appropriate for us to take our clothes off.

“You’re too independent.”

That says to me, “I am used to feeling important by being with someone who is in need, whether it’s financially, whether it’s psychologically, they’ve got some kind of issue or challenge in their life, and I have some kind of power by what I can give, and that’s what makes me feel important. That’s what feeds my ego. That’s what makes me feel safe and indispensable … I don’t have leverage over you in the way that I’m used to, that I am leavable, that I am dispensable and that makes me feel unsafe and therefore the stakes feel too high in this situation. I need to go to a place where I can feel important and powerful again.”

“I can’t get away with bullshit with you. You’re too smart.”

… it’s a way of saying, “Look at you. You’ve got me all figured out,” while over here I continue to bullshit you.

“I can’t give you a title, but I act like your boyfriend. Aren’t actions enough for you?”

We used to say all the time, and I still believe this, watch someone’s actions, not their words. If someone treats you really badly all the time but says, “I love you,” their actions are what matter. You say you love me, but you treat me horribly. That’s what matters. But there is an addendum to that. When someone is giving you the treatment you think you want, but their words say something undesirable, especially if that undesirable thing they’re saying should hurt their chances of getting a good result with you, you should believe that thing. And what he said falls into that latter category. He said, “I can’t give you a title, but I act like your boyfriend. Aren’t actions enough for you?” This is him playing on the logic that actions mean more than words, but in this case, his words mean everything because his words give away his true intentions.

… When this person says, “I don’t want to give us a title,” what they’re saying is, “I want to experience being in a relationship, but I don’t want any of the commitment of being in one, and I want to make sure that I can leave this easily at any time because I don’t actually want anything with you in the future.” At worst, “I want to be able to sleep with other people. And I think by not giving us a title, I can still do that.” At best, “I’m being monogamous with you, but I have a deep-seated aversion to any real commitment or any real idea of building something. So I am liable to hurt you down the line when I realize that this is all too much.”

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

Any time someone acts really complicated, for good or bad reason, remember that for the worst kinds of people, or even just for the kind of lightly manipulative people, or the people that are just kind of selfish, being complicated actually works because if I think you’re amazing. You’re just so great. I just can’t. You’re perfect. You’re marriage material, you’re incredible. I like you so much. I just can’t because of blah, blah, blah. Complication, complication, complication. Remember that people who give you complications, people who confuse you, they are achieving something very often with that confusion. It’s a bit like if I give you a riddle, you’re so distracted by the riddle and how to figure that out, how to get past this confusion that I’m feeling, or this hurt that I’ve been through in my life, or these complications in my feelings. If you’re busy with that, then you’re not paying attention to how little I’m actually giving you. And for a lot of people, that’s exactly what they’re trying to achieve. Let me distract you from how little I’m giving you by giving you this complicated scenario that your mind is now going to go to work on.

Those are all danger signs. Therefore: terminate, terminate and move on, quickly.

Avoiding commitment: the possible relationship ‘with the right person’

Hussey also has a post, ‘The #1 Thing Men Say to Avoid Commitment’.

To be honest, women are rather good at saying that, too, so it’s also pertinent to men.

Hussey explains:

You say to them, “What do you think about relationships?” They say, “I could be open to a relationship with the right person.” Now, some people may be saying this sincerely. I could imagine someone saying, “Yeah, I’m open to a relationship with the right person.” Or I could imagine the swindley who says, “I could be open to a relationship with the right person. I could be an astronaut, I could be a pillow, I could be a Pokemon, I could be anything, you see. I could be a dancer.”

When that person says it, it’s exploiting a loophole that says yeah, there’s a possibility. Now let’s not talk about it anymore. With that person, you can find yourself going down the path of dating them. Also, it’s not just that they placated you by saying that. It’s that in the back of your mind, it’s a way of pushing off any difficult conversations yourself. ‘Cause if you really want to… We are a biased judge, aren’t we? If we really want to see someone, if we have a lot of chemistry with someone, if we’re excited about them, we’re looking for excuses to see them. So when they say, “Yeah, you know it’s possible.” We go, it’s possible. Now I can go and have sex with them.

So I want you to be very careful. It’s okay to continue to see a person like this, but don’t let the blind hope of something they said early on stop you from measuring the actual progress or lack of progress that you are seeing in those first couple of months. Progress means there’s more consistent communication as time goes on. More frequent, there’s more of it. You feel like you’re getting closer, you feel like you’re getting more comfortable with each other. You feel like you’re being more vulnerable with each other. You’re letting them in. They’re letting you in. Progress looks like him actually inviting you into his world, into what I think of as the constants in his life.

When someone is trying to keep you at arm’s length, often they won’t bring you around the constants in their life. The things that it would be more difficult to extricate you from if it was to end tomorrow. So it could be stuff that’s to do with their work. It could be stuff that’s to do with their friendships or their family. They won’t bring you into that inner circle because it makes for an easier exit the moment they don’t want to put in any more effort. The moment they don’t want to see you again. It works for them to be able to pick you up and put you down at their leisure.

The third way that you can measure progress is whether you’ve actually been able to have a conversation about not seeing other people, exclusivity. Are we temporarily cutting off our other options in order to focus on each other to see what this might become? If you’re not feeling any of those three things, then there’s likely not much progress in the relationship. It’s probably a situation where this person calls you when they want to see you and then is off living their life the rest of the time until they need their next hit.

At that point, you’ve got to be able to say to them, “Hey, I am really enjoying spending time with you when we spend time together. And I know that, for me, I’m looking for a relationship with the right person. And I know you said you were open to a relationship with the right person, but I don’t feel that there’s any progress between us. So it leaves me wondering whether anything has actually shifted for you in the sense of seeing what this can be together or whether nothing’s changed that.”

Tells that person exactly where you stand …

We have to be willing to have that difficult conversation. Remember, if you are looking for a great relationship with the right person, the right person to you is not just someone you are charmed by. It’s not just someone that you think highly of. It’s someone who’s ready. The right person is both right and ready and if they’re not ready, they can’t be right. Someone demonstrates their readiness by actual progression that is seen through their actions, by the ways they invest in moving things forward with you.

People who moan online

I was horrified to read a Times article dated January 16, 2023, about people, mostly women, who post their dating statistics online.

Apparently, it’s the latest thing. It’s more of a moan than a boast. I do not understand this at all. Why would someone want to reveal so much to the world?

In ‘Dating Wrapped: my love life as a PowerPoint slideshow’, Olivia Petter attempts to explain:

When it comes to ways to reflect on the year that’s just past, among the strangest is to count the number of times you have been dumped. Or the hours you have spent agonising over an ex. Or looking at perfect pictures of them — and their new partner — on Instagram. And yet that’s exactly what twentysomethings like myself are doing.

Introducing “Dating Wrapped”, a social media trend that has seen people sharing their romantic highs and lows from last year online. Constructed in the style of its musical counterpart, Spotify Wrapped (an annual round-up of individual users’ listening habits compiled by the streaming service), this exercise has people charting all the things they have — and have not done — in love over the year by way of intricately detailed PowerPoint presentations, delivered to camera and posted on TikTok.

Suffice to say, people are taking it rather seriously. Take the TikTok user Alexandria McLean, whose Dating Wrapped slideshow went viral last month. There were 21 dates in total — 66 per cent of whom she had met on Bumble, 33 per cent on Hinge. Out of those people, 19 per cent ended things with her. She only cried over two of them, though.

Others have made more startling revelations during the process, like the TikTok user Gianna Giovi, whose presentation featured a graph of the number of dates she went on. “Ten of them I was just using for food,” she confessed.

It’s not just women on the Dating Wrapped scene. There’s also the model Chris Olsen, who created a scatter chart featuring all the men he dated in the year — the metrics were “datability” versus “hotness”.

That has so many possible negative ramifications, including with potential employers.

Act in haste, repent at leisure.

Online daters who went offline — successfully

On Wednesday, January 18, The Guardian featured an article, ‘Dating burnout: meet the people who ditched the apps — and found love offline’.

The people interviewed are solidly middle class with good careers and have expanded networks of interests and people, e.g. the music business. Some of them already knew each other on a professional or personal level.

The most interesting story was of the woman who met her boyfriend through her personal trainer:

Rebecca Oliver, 32, a marketing manager from Cheshire, has encountered a lot of dishonest men online …

During the summer of 2021, she threw in the towel on apps and began to focus on herself. “I spent a lot of time getting fit instead,” she says. “Then, later that year, my trainer asked if I’d like to be introduced to a friend of his who I might like.” She was set up on a blind date with Javier Ojeda, 45, who owns a property development business and also lives in Cheshire. “I had more trust in the relationship straight away, because it felt like he came with a seal of approval,” she says.

Javier, who has never tried internet dating, says the concept seems too contrived. “It’s all well and good swiping, but I like introducing myself to someone in person,” he says. “As soon as I met Rebecca, it was obvious that it was going to have some legs.” Within six weeks, they were using a shared calendar; they soon met each other’s friends and family. “We got a puppy together five months later and Rebecca moved in last year. It grew really quickly, but in a very organic way,” he says.

She also believes that meeting through a friend meant they were less inhibited by dating rules. “On apps, people are dating lots of others, so you feel as though you have to follow a certain schedule before you can have a conversation about exclusivity. That didn’t happen offline.”

Good for them and for the other couples.

It’s a shame that Guardian Soulmates is no longer around. Many people formed successful partnerships thanks to that site.

On the other hand, one can equally meet a nutter in offline life.

My advice would be to keep an open outlook and perfect one’s profile to match with someone of a similar outlook rather than the 90 per cent.

Conclusion

As I wrote previously, life isn’t easy. Nothing is easy, because we live in a fallen world.

Therefore, there is no reason why dating should be easy. For some reason, however, for the past 100 years, there seems to be an unwritten assumption that dating and love are simple.

If some of us gave dating and love the same careful attention we do to our work, our worship and our friendships, we would probably see them in a more considered way — very differently.

Dating and love are no different to any other aspect of life. The sooner some of us realise that, the sooner we are to find success in both.

End of series

Advertisement

It’s hard to know where to begin with this year’s Christmas news, much of which is disappointing, to say the least.

That said, there is a bright Christmas message here, so please read on.

Scotland legislation latest

On Thursday, December 22, the Scottish Parliament — or Assembly, as I still call it — passed legislation for Gender Recognition Reform, specifically to grant Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs).

The bill passed in the SNP-controlled government 86-39 with no abstentions. Only two Conservative MSPs voted for it. The rest were SNP (Scottish National Party), Scottish Greens (SNP coalition partners), Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs.

The final contributions were largely made on the basis of feelings. Wednesday’s transcript shows that every Conservative motion proposing greater controls over who can apply for a GRC and under what conditions was defeated. Debate had also taken place on Tuesday in an attempt to rush this through before Christmas break.

The Scottish Parliament thought this so important that it even cancelled their annual Christmas carol service, which, this year, was to feature Ukrainian refugees living just outside of Edinburgh.

A pro-independence — though not a pro-SNP — Scot who lives in England, the Revd Stuart Campbell, summed up the legislation in one of his Wings Over Scotland posts, ‘On the hush-hush’ (emphases mine):

The last few days have been perhaps the most turbulent in the entire history of the modern Scottish Parliament. Proceedings have been suspended repeatedly, members of the public thrown out and threatened with arrest, filibusters attempted, carol services cancelled, tempers frayed and sittings going on until the wee small hours.

All of this has happened in the service of the policy that the SNP has made its flagship priority for the last two years and more – the destruction not only of women’s rights, but of the very CONCEPT of a woman

So you’d imagine the party would have been tweeting about it constantly, keeping its supporters informed about all the dramatic events and the progress of the bill, if only to reassure them that they were determined to get it passed before the Christmas break come what may …

But there wasn’t one solitary word about the thing it just spent three solid days forcing into law. And since it was a thing that most of its own voters, and indeed a huge majority of all Scots, were opposed to, readers might be forgiven for thinking that they just wanted it all kept as quiet as possible, as if they were ashamed.

We suspect, and very much hope, that their wish may not be granted.

The Revd Mr Campbell means that the Secretary of State for Scotland in Westminster might refuse to present the Bill for King’s Assent. Let’s hope so.

Another Wings over Scotland post explains what the Bill actually does:

… one of the most regressive, dangerous and frankly absurd pieces of legislation the modern world has ever seen. Last week, [First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s] government successfully managed to get the word ‘woman’ redefined from an adult human female to anyone to who has a piece of paper that says they are one.

Should obtaining this piece of paper involve a rigorous, measured process that takes psychological and criminal history into serious consideration and prioritises the safety of women and children, this would be permissible to the socially liberal. Alas though, the new GRA has shamelessly scrapped all safeguarding measures. For a man to legally become a woman now – and be entitled to access all female-only facilities, be it changing rooms or prisons, all he has to do is ‘live as’ a woman (whatever the hell that means) for three months followed by a three-month ‘reflection period’.

TRA-adjacent politicians have nowhere to hide with this now. They can no longer deny that sex-based rights will be grievously compromised and that predators and fetishists now have ease of access to women (and children’s) spaces, from bathrooms to sports teams.

In another post, Campbell linked to Tuesday’s proceedings where a Conservative MSP tried to raise an amendment calling for greater scrutiny of sex offenders wishing to change gender. Unfortunately, 64 SNP/Green/Lib Dem MSPs voted it down. In ‘The Disgraces of Scotland’, Campbell wrote:

The events marked simply and unquestionably the most shameful and contemptible moment in the history of the Scottish Parliament since 1707.

1707 was the year when the Act of Union was established between England and Scotland.

He also pointed out that voting down the amendment resulted in:

ceding the moral high ground to the Scottish Conservatives

Anyone who knows the Scots knows that anything Conservative is unpopular there. That said, the Scottish Conservatives are the official opposition party in Edinburgh.

It should be noted that anyone aged 16 1/2 and over can apply for a GRC. It would appear that no formal medical diagnosis will be required with this new legislation.

Campbell’s readers have much to say on the matter. Some say this is a deleterious influence from American pressure groups. Others say that women will be in great danger.

Both are likely possibilities.

None of the MSPs supporting the Bill thinks that women will have any problem with sex offenders or deviants. However, a British substack begs to differ. ‘This Never Happens’ is a lengthy catalogue of gender-changers around the world who have committed horrific crimes, many of a sexual nature. Another site with a similar catalogue can be found here.

It is ironic that a woman is in charge of Scotland and she has overseen this legislation. In fact, she has supported it from beginning to end.

Scotland, like Canada, was such a beautiful country once upon a time. When I say ‘beautiful’, I’m referring to people. Another spirit — the devil — is moving through both nations.

One positive outcome is that the Scottish Conservatives can use this legislation to their advantage during the next election cycle. Unlike the SNP, Scottish Labour and Scottish Lib Dems, they alone voted en masse against it, showing that they are the true defenders of women and girls.

An UnHerd columnist, Joan Smith, says that this will come soon to England, should Labour win the next general election:

The man sitting next to you on a tram in Edinburgh, or turning up for a women-only swimming session, may self-identify as a woman — and the law will support him every step of the way. Centuries-old assumptions about what is real, about what people see in front of them, are being overturned. And it’s coming to Westminster as well, if Sir Keir Starmer follows through on his proposal to ‘update’ the 2004 Gender Recognition Act.

We have less than two years before a Labour government comes to power, weighed down by promises to import the idiocy (I’m being polite here) of self-ID to the rest of the UK. Two years, in other words, to watch what happens when politicians reject biology, common sense and the imperative to protect women against male violence. 

In the meantime, prisons, hospitals and refuges outside Scotland will face the headache of what to do when a man with a Scottish Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) — obtained with far fewer safeguards than elsewhere in the UK — demands access to women-only spaces. The prospect of expensive litigation is terrifying, but women’s organisations on both sides of the border are already preparing for the fight of their lives.

So crazed are MSPs by this ideology that on Tuesday evening they voted down an amendment that would have placed barriers in the way of convicted sex offenders who seek to apply for a GRC, complete with a new female name. They even rejected an amendment — proposed by Michelle Thomson, an SNP MSP who has waived anonymity to reveal her own experience of being raped when she was fourteen years old — that would have paused the process of acquiring a certificate for men charged with sexual offences.

This is an extremely troubling development. Let’s not forget that the SNP-Green government has pressed ahead with the legislation even after Lady Haldane’s judgment established last week that a GRC changes someone’s legal sex for the purposes of the 2010 Equality Act. Scottish women are now expected to accept that any man standing in front of them, waving a piece of paper, is a woman — even if they’re in court and the man is accused of raping them. 

It’s clear that a bill that was supposedly purely administrative has hugely expanded the number of individuals who can apply for a GRC, with catastrophic effects on women’s rights.

The rest of the UK is about to find out what it’s like living alongside a country in which observable sex no longer has any meaning. Welcome to Scotland, where the word ‘woman’ will now soon include any man who fancies it.

Conservatives in England and Wales can take heart from this for the general election in two years’ time, pointing to their colleagues north of the border. Who are the great defenders of women and girls? It certainly won’t be Labour.

Woman arrested for silent prayer

On December 6, a pro-life supporter from Worcestershire was arrested for praying silently in Birmingham in an exclusion zone around an abortion clinic.

Here is the video of her arrest:

A fundraiser is open for her:

BirminghamLive filed their report on Tuesday, December 20:

A woman has been charged with breaching an exclusion zone outside a Birmingham abortion clinic. Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, aged 45, from Malvern in Worcestershire, was arrested near the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton on December 6.

She was later charged with breaking a Public Space Protection Order, said by Birmingham City Council to have been introduced to ensure “people visiting and working there have clear access without fear of confrontation”. Vaughan-Spruce will appear at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on February 2 next year.

A West Midlands Police spokesperson said: “Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, aged 45 from Geraldine Road, Malvern, was arrested on December 6 and subsequently charged on December 15 with four counts of failing to comply with a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). She was bailed to appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on February 2 2023.”

The police must feel threatened by prayer, especially that of the silent sort.

On Friday, December 23, UnHerd ‘s Mary Harrington gave her thoughts on the arrest:

It’s customary in these situations to decry the breach of liberal norms involved in arresting someone not for doing something wrong but merely thinking. But if, as I’ve suggested elsewhere, all politics is now post-liberal, that means it’s once again explicitly the case that state power is aligned with a widely-shared moral order

This is a drum I’ve been banging for a little while, for contra the fond imaginings of some liberals we never really stopped ordering power to sacred values. After all, it’s not really possible to have a functioning polity otherwise. This, I argued shortly before the pandemic, is why hate crime laws appeared a scant few years after the abolition of blasphemy laws: they are blasphemy laws. We’ve just updated what we considered blasphemous

…  Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest makes it clear that the zone surrounding an abortion centre is treated as sacred in a way that’s evidently no longer meaningfully the case (at least as far as the European court is concerned) of a church. She is an activist and director of March for Life UK, and has been previously arrested for protesting against abortion. But this in no way diminishes the growing sense that the activity being protected is also increasingly treated as sacred …

We have sacralised autonomy to such an extent that laws uphold women’s right to it, even at the cost of another radically dependent life. And the issue is growing ever more moralised, as evidenced by the fact that even thinking disapproving thoughts about this radical commitment to individual autonomy is now treated as blasphemous, in zones where its most extreme sacrifices are made

Wherever you stand on the practical issues surrounding abortion, this is indisputably a profound statement on the relative values we accord to freedom, care and dependency — one with profound ramifications for how we see the weak and helpless in any context. That the practice is taking on sacramental colouring, for a religion of atomisation, should give us all pause.

Indeed.

House of Lords Archbishop of Canterbury debate on asylum

On December 9, the House of Lords gave the Archbishop of Canterbury his annual debate. This year, the subject was the UK’s asylum and refugee policy.

I hope that readers will understand if I do not excerpt his speech here. They are free to read it for themselves.

We have taken in a record annual number of illegal migrants crossing the Channel this year, expected to be over 50,000.

We have also taken in large numbers of legitimate refugees and asylum seekers. We have also given visas to many thousands of legal migrants this year, particularly from Africa and Asia, namely India and Hong Kong.

UnHerd had a good analysis of what Welby said and our current predicament:

The Archbishop says he aims to support action that would “prevent small boats from crossing the channel”, but he also stresses that the UK is not taking many refugees and should take many more. 

Astonishingly, he dismisses the provision our country has made to welcome Hong Kong residents — well over 100,000 to date and many more to come — by saying “and that, by the way, is not asylum but financial visas”. It may not involve an application for asylum as such, but it clearly involves flight from oppression. Welby also draws the wrong conclusion from the fact that developing countries host many more refugees than developed countries. This is much cheaper than settlement in the West and makes return more likely. Developed countries should help pay the costs, and the UK leads the way in this regard.

The control Welby claims to support does not presently exist. The small boats cannot safely be turned around in the Channel and France will not accept their immediate return. The Rwanda plan is a rational (if imperfect) attempt to address the problem, removing asylum-seekers to a safe third country, where they will be protected, yet the Archbishop decries the plan on the grounds that it outsources our responsibilities. This makes no sense, for the UK not only accepts that Rwanda must comply with international standards, but also commits to funding the protection of those who prove to be refugees. Welby asserts that the plan has failed to deter. Indeed, because it has not yet been tried at all. 

The UK has good reason to resettle in safe third countries those who enter unlawfully on small boats, which would discourage others from (dangerous) unlawful entry and restore control of our borders. The historic tradition on which the Archbishop relies is alive and well in the provision our government has made, with wide public support, for temporary protection for Ukrainians escaping Russian aggression and for resettlement of the new Huguenots, the Hong Kong residents seeking to escape the oppressive reach of the Chinese Communist state

Lord Lilley — former Conservative MP Peter Lilley — posed the conundrum of loving one’s neighbour and not being able to accommodate everyone, especially those who arrive under false pretences:

This issue raises very difficult dilemmas for Christians. Being a very inadequate Christian myself, I take up the challenge from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop with trepidation: to try to formulate principles for governing our policy on asylum and migration. Not having direct access to the mind of God like the most reverend Primate the Archbishop, I seek those principles in the Bible.

I recall that our Lord said that the essence of Christianity is to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. When asked who our neighbour is, he gave the parable of the good Samaritan, when a Samaritan helps a Jew—from which I deduce that our neighbour is not just the person next door to us and not necessarily a member of our own nation; it can be anyone. The first principle I therefore deduce is that, although charity begins at home, as a lot of my constituents used to tell me, it does not necessarily end at home. I am at one with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop on that.

Secondly, the Samaritan did what he practically could. We may be called on to help anyone we practically can, but we cannot help everyone. Again, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop recognised that and it is important that we recognise that our responsibilities are finite, in this respect.

Thirdly, when the Levite and the Jewish priest reached their destination, I have no doubt that they deplored how, owing to years of austerity, there had been insufficient spending on police and the health service to prevent the problem arising in the first place or to treat the person, instead of leaving it to the passing Samaritan. Therefore, my third principle is that, to be a good Samaritan, you have to give care, help and so on at your expense. We, as politicians, may have to take decisions on behalf of others but, in doing so, we should have consideration for the impact we are having on others and not imagine we are being virtuous when we do good at their expense.

The first principle is that charity begins at home, in how we treat people who have come to settle here. When I was a child, mass immigration into this country was just beginning. The parish in which I lived asked each family to link up with a migrant family, many of whom were lonely, isolated and, at worst, facing hostility. My family was linked up to a delightful Mauritian couple, whom we would invite to supper every few weeks. We became good friends. That was done by parishes across south London. I would love to hear from Bishops who have not yet spoken about what the churches are doing today to help integrate those who are here in our society and to be the good Samaritans to our neighbours from abroad.

But charity does not end at home. I pay tribute to those tens of thousands of people who opened their homes to families fleeing the bombing in Ukraine, while their menfolk remained to fight for their country. We should not imagine we are sharing in being good Samaritans if we throw open the doors of our country to everybody because, if we do that, we are doing good at others’ expense. We are, in effect, saying that migrants, be they legal or illegal, asylum seekers or otherwise, through housing benefit and social housing, will have access to rented and social homes. We all have our own homes, so we will not be affected. Therefore, more young people will have to wait at home or live in cramp bed-sitters for longer, because of what we, as legislators, think we are doing generously, without taking the impact on others into account.

The second principle is that our neighbour can be anyone, but it cannot be everyone. Millions of people want to come here. Look at the impact of the green card system the Americans operate, when they make 30,000 visas to the US available to certain countries and say, “Anyone can apply; there is a ballot.” Some 9% of the population of Albania applied when they heard about that being offered to them, as did 11% of the Armenian and 14% of the Liberian populations. These were only the people who heard about it and responded. The potential number who would like to come to America or Europe, if we open these so-called direct routes, would be enormous. Will we say to those who apply, at an embassy or some place abroad, that they would have the same legal rights, and opportunities to appeal or for judicial review if things are turned down? If so, potentially millions of people would join the queue. It would not shorten but lengthen it, so we have to restrict and to prioritise.

I submit to noble Lords that the priority should not be the boat people. They are not coming by boat from Basra, Somalia or Eritrea; they are coming from France, Belgium and Germany. Why are they coming here rather than staying in those safe countries? They are three or four times as likely to be rejected there. France, in the last year before the pandemic, forcibly repatriated 34,000 people. I find some strange double standards being applied here. There are no criticisms of France for being much stricter than us or of us for being much laxer than them, but one or the other must be the case.

I am coming to an end. If it is morally and legally right for the French to try to prevent people leaving their shores, and for us to pay and support the French in so doing, it should be morally and legally right for us to return them. If they cannot be returned, it is reasonable to try to deter them by saying, “If you come here, you will go to Rwanda. You always have the opportunity to stay in France.” I submit that we do not always consider these opportunities.

Later on, the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, spoke, an excerpt of which follows. The transcript hardly does his indignation justice. He ripped right into Lord Lilley:

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, that everyone is our neighbour. Of course, we cannot take everybody, but that makes it even more important that we have a fair system for everyone.

Dehumanising language promotes fear. Threat of destitution is used as a deterrent. Children are treated as if they are adults. Yet in our own country, among our own people, in our churches, other faith groups and communities, some things have gone well, such as the Homes for Ukraine scheme, where many people have found a home, other family members have joined them, and people have been able to get work. This is really good.

But why has our response to people fleeing other conflicts been different? Currently, the definition of family in our asylum system would not allow someone to join their sibling even if they were the last remaining relative, and being able to work and contribute is a long way off. The tragedy of our system lies in its exceptionalism, meaning that people receive differential treatment usually because of their country of origin. That underpins the Nationality and Borders Act, and I fear that further legislative action will be the same.

But we could learn from what is happening in our communities. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, asked us directly about integration. I do not know where to begin. In hundreds of parishes and schools, and in other faith communities up and down our country, that is what we are doing—in English language classes, in befriending and in teaching people. I would be the first to admit that there are lots of things about the Church of England that could be better, but that is something that we are doing, alongside others, and it shows the best of British.

We need a system that will simply provide safe and legal routes for everyone to have equal opportunities to apply for asylum. All I am saying is that I think that would be good for us, as well as for the people who are fleeing unimaginable conflict and evil.

Finally, when it comes to being able to work, the Church of England, alongside the Refugee Council and the Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee, is a long-standing supporter of the Lift the Ban campaign.

I say all this—like many of us, I would wish to say more, but the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said most of it—as winter arrives, and it is cold, and a cost of living crisis will inevitably affect the British people’s capacity to be hospitable. I say simply that a functioning asylum system is not a threat to our social cohesion as some fear or predict, but a dysfunctional, unfair one is.

As every small child knows at this time of the year, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, mentioned, Mary and Joseph came looking for somewhere to stay, but there was no room at the inn. Saying no, accusing those who are being hospitable of being naive, or passing the buck are easy, but saying yes, with a fair and equal system for everyone, opens up blessings for everyone.

A week later, Cottrell featured in an article in The Telegraph: ‘Forgive my “predictable leftie rant” on asylum, says Archbishop of York’.

It seems he knew he was out of order with Lord Lilley, who deserved the same courtesy as the peers agreeing with the Archbishop. It was good for Lord Lilley to speak politely on behalf of the British public.

Britons are paying upwards of £7 million a day just to house those crossing the Channel.

GB News’s Mark Steyn and his guest hosts have been covering the topic nearly every night:

Taxpayers are deeply upset, especially during our cost of living crisis, which is causing many to choose between food and fuel.

Combine that with taxpayers’ personal expenses for Net Zero, and we are heading for disaster:

Red Wall Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis tried unsuccessfully to raise a Private Member’s Bill to get illegal migrants to Rwanda sooner rather than later:

Hotels across England are being taken over by companies working for the Home Office to house the Channel-crossers:

Hospitality workers in those hotels are losing their jobs as the aforementioned companies install their own staff to manage them:

The December 22 show also featured the seemingly intractable problem:

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie then swung by to weigh in on how much migrants are costing Britons.

The Home Office — read ‘civil servants’ — must do something now.

It’s obvious people are watching GB News, because they beat BBC News for the first time ever on December 14:

Onwards and upwards!

House of Commons recess debate

On Tuesday, December 20, the House of Commons held its Christmas recess debate.

Normally, these are rather jolly affairs where MPs air wish lists for their constituencies for the New Year. However, this year’s contributions were rather grim, including those from Conservative MPs.

Once again, providentially, I tuned in at the right time to hear the member for Don Valley, Conservative MP Nick Fletcher. He closed his speech saying the following, the first part of which came as news to me:

Finally, Christian friends across the House tried to secure a Backbench debate on Christmas and Christianity, but by all accounts we were not successful. While I have this moment, I want to remind those in this place, and anyone who cares to watch, that although Christmas is celebrated in many ways across the world, the real reason is the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ. He was sent as a saviour, and with the promise that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. I do not want anyone ever to forget that. Merry Christmas everybody.

Jim Shannon, a Democratic Unionist Party MP (i.e. from Northern Ireland), was one of the last MPs to speak. A devout Anglican — yes, they still exist — he gave a beautiful speech on the meaning of the season, most of which follows:

It is no secret that I love this time of year—I may have mentioned that a time or three in this House. There are so many things to love about Christmas: time with family; good food; fellowship; and, for me, the singing of an old Christmas carol as we gather in church. But the most wonderful thing about Christmas for me is the hope that it holds. I wish to speak this year about the Christ in Christmas, because, too often, we miss that. It would be good this year to focus on what Christmas is really all about. I ask Members to stick with me on this one.

The message of Christmas is not simply the nativity scene that is so beautifully portrayed in schools and churches throughout this country, but rather the hope that lies in the fact that the baby was born to provide a better future for each one of us in this House and across the world. What a message of hope that is; it is a message that each one of us needs. No matter who we are in the UK, life is tough. The past three years have been really, really tough—for those who wonder how to heat their homes; for those who have received bad news from their doctor; for those whose children have not caught up from the covid school closures; for those who mourn the loss of a loved one; for those who mourn the breakdown of a family unit; and for those who are alone and isolated. This life is not easy, and yet there is hope. That is because of the Christmas story. It is because Christ came to this world and took on the form of man so that redemption’s plan could be fulfilled. There is hope for each one of us to have that personal relationship with Christ that enables us to read the scriptures in the Bible and understand that the creator, God, stands by his promises.

I want to quote, if I may, from four Bible texts. To know that

“my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

That is from Philippians 4:19.

To trust that

“I am the Lord that heals you.”

To believe that

“all things are possible.”

That is Matthew 17:20.

We can be comforted by Psalm 147:3:

“He heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds.”

Isaiah 41:10 says:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

The strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow come only when we understand who Christ is. One of my favourite Christmas passages is actually not the account of his birth, but the promise of who he is. We all know this:

“For to us a Child shall be born, to us a Son shall be given; And the government shall be upon His shoulder, And His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

In a world where our very foundation seems to be shifting, how awesome it is to know that this our God is only a prayer away. A group of people come to the House of Commons two or three times a week, and pray for Parliament. I have to say how important it is to have those prayers.

As we think of this passing year—something that many of us do—we think about what has happened and perhaps look forward to 2023 with renewed hope for the future. I think we should look forward with hope; we have to do that. We should always try to be positive. In this passing year, my mind goes to the loss of Her Majesty the Queen. Many of us felt that so deeply, and yet her passing also carried the message of hope, because of Christ. I quoted this when we had the tributes to Her Majesty. It is important, I think, to put it on the record again.

The wonderful message that the Queen gave in one of her cherished Christmas messages—this one was in 2014—was crystal clear:

“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.”

That was Her Majesty talking.

“A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”

It is my firm belief that this true message of Christmas is what can bring hope and healing to a nation that can seem so fractured. When I look at the headlines, I sometimes despair, but that is also when I most enjoy my constituency work, and getting to see glimpses of community spirit and goodness that are done daily and yet are rarely reported. Her Majesty’s speech in 2016 reflected that, when she said:

“Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me to see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.”

At that point, Conservative MP John Hayes intervened:

It is heart-warming and refreshing to hear the hon. Gentleman’s plain and confident affirmation of his faith, and our faith too. By the way he speaks, he encourages all of us to reflect on the Judeo-Christian foundations on which our society and our civilisation are built, and I just wanted to thank him for that.

Jim Shannon thanked John Hayes before continuing:

The right hon. Gentleman is most kind. I am giving just a slight reminder of what Christmas is about. I think we all realise that, but sometimes it is good to remind ourselves of it. The example of Christ is one of humility, coming to the earth as a vulnerable baby, and of purpose, as we see the gold given that symbolises royalty, the frankincense to highlight his deity and myrrh to symbolise his purposeful death to redeem us all.

I am a strong advocate in this House for freedom of religion or belief, as the Leader of the House knows. She is always very kind; every week, when I suggest something that should be highlighted, she always takes those things back to the Ministers responsible. I appreciate that very much, as do others in this House. I am proud to be associated with that wonderful cause, and as long as God spares me I will speak for the downtrodden of my own faith and others. I speak for all faiths, because that is who I am, and so do others in this House with the same belief.

At the same time, however, like Her late Majesty, I am proud to be a follower of Christ. At this time of year I simply want the House to know the hope that can be found in Christ, not simply at Christmas, but for a lifetime. The babe of Bethlehem was Christ on the cross and our redeemer at the resurrection, and that gives me hope and offers hope for those who accept him and it.

From the bottom of my heart, Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you in particular, since you have presided over this speech and the past few hours. I thank Mr Speaker and all the other Deputy Speakers, with all the things that are happening to them, the Clerks and every staff member in this place for the tremendous job they do and the graceful spirit in which everything has been carried out in the last year. I thank right hon. and hon. Members, who are friends all—I say that honestly to everyone.

I thank my long-suffering wife, who is definitely long-suffering, and my mum—

At that point, Shannon broke down in tears.

Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt stepped in quickly and graciously while Shannon composed himself:

The hon. Gentleman has often summed up how people feel, particularly at this time of year. I know he has had losses over the past few years, and he always manages to sum up the feeling of this House. Many Members in this debate have spoken about constituents or family they have lost, and we appreciate his bringing up these issues, as I appreciate all Members’ doing so. There will be some people thinking about spending Christmas apart from family they are not able to see, or having suffered those losses. I thank him and we are all willing him strength as he continues his speech.

After a pause, Shannon resumed and concluded:

I thank the Leader of the House for that. I mentioned my long-suffering wife; we have been married 34 years, so she is very long-suffering, and that is probably a good thing, because we are still together. My mum is 91 years old and I suspect she is sitting watching the Parliament channel right now to see what her eldest son is up to and what he is saying, so again that is something.

I also thank my staff members. I told one of my Opposition colleagues last week that I live in a woman’s world, because I have six girls in my office who look after me and make sure I am right …

Lastly, I thank my Strangford constituents, who have stuck by me as a councillor, as a Member of the Legislative Assembly and as a Member of Parliament in this House. This is my 30th year of service in local government and elsewhere. They have been tremendously kind to me and I appreciate them. I want to put on record what a privilege it is to serve them in this House and to do my best for them.

I wish everyone a happy Christmas, and may everyone have a prosperous, peaceful and blessed new year, as we take the example of Christ and act with humility and purpose in this place to effect the change that we all want and that is so needed in our nation—this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, always better together.

Mr Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans said:

Your mother and wife will be as proud of you as we all are, Jim. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!] As a person of faith, I thank you very much for putting the Christ back into Christmas in your speech. We come now to the wind-ups.

When acknowledging MPs’ contributions in the debate, Penny Mordaunt said:

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) should never have to apologise for mentioning Christ in this place—especially at Christmas. We are in a place where the architecture is designed to turn our faces to God. I thank him for his Christmas message.

And, finally — best Christmas wishes to Mark Steyn

In closing, hearty Christmas wishes to Mark Steyn who is recovering from two successive heart attacks:

He is recovering in France but told viewers more on December 19. Incredibly, the first heart attack happened before he presented one of his nightly shows on the self-styled People’s Channel. He presented it anyway. Wow:

The GB News host suffered the first one “without recognising” the symptoms, before hosting his show on The People’s Channel.

Speaking on his current absence from GB News, Steyn said: “I’m too medicated to manage artful evasions.

“I had two heart attacks. Because I didn’t recognise the first one, as such, the second one was rather more severe.”

The experienced broadcaster spoke about the shocking ordeal, saying he “doesn’t look right”, looking back at images of himself presenting the Mark Steyn show during the first heart attack.

Speaking on SteynOnline, he said: “The good news is that the first one occurred when I was in London. If you get a chance to see that day’s Mark Steyn Show, with hindsight, I don’t look quite right in close-ups.

“By not recognising it as a heart attack, I deftly avoided being one of those stories we feature on the show every couple of nights about people in the UK calling emergency and being left in the street for 15 hours before an ambulance shows up.

“I had a second heart attack in France. With Audrey [his wife?] helping me in the ambulance, she told me I was 15 minutes from death.”

The presenter also revealed he would remain in France over Christmas and New Year as he is unable to leave medical care and return to New Hampshire.

GB News viewers will be sending Mark every best wish for a speedy recovery — and a healthy, happy New Year! We look forward to seeing him on the airwaves soon!

Continuing my series on Red Wall MPs and, most recently, Lee Anderson, this post gives his positions on various topics in British life.

Those who missed previous instalments can read about his adventures and opinions in Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Rail strikes

This week, England has been crippled by a series of rail strikes, one every other day, which means that on the days there are no strikes, it is still fruitless trying to travel by rail.

On Monday, June 20, 2022, the House of Commons held a debate, Industrial Action on the Railway.

Lee Anderson was the last MP called to speak. He asked the following question of Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary (emphases mine):

This strike is a real kick in the teeth for hard-working taxpayers, who have dug deep over the past 18 months to keep this industry alive. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Labour party—the spineless party opposite—should grow a backbone and condemn these strikes?

Grant Shapps replied:

That is an appropriate place to end. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. People have dug deep—that is exactly what they have done; it was £600 per household. People are furious. They paid out that money to make sure that nobody lost their jobs, and what thanks have they got? Where is the reward? Where is the “thank you” for keeping the railway going? It is a strike that will put people out of pay and hit people’s pockets once again, and Labour Members cannot even find their way to say, “We condemn the strikes.” It is a disgrace.

Immigration

On Wednesday, June 15, Home Secretary Priti Patel made a statement about the fact that the June 14 flight to Rwanda with scheduled deportees never took off. There were originally 37 people who were to be deported. Because of last minute legal delays, only a handful boarded the charter flight and, by 11 p.m., even they were taken off.

The Opposition parties hate the idea of sending illegals to Rwanda for processing. Strange that, as it is called the Switzerland of Africa.

Labour, the Lib Dems and Scotland’s SNP have all said during debates about illegal migration that people can legitimately come to the UK from France. Such a statement implies that France is not a safe country.

In the June 15 debate, Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda, Lee Anderson asked Priti Patel:

Just when you think this place cannot get any dafter, you turn up and listen to the rubbish that the Opposition are coming out with today. Is the Home Secretary aware of the sniggering, smugness and delight shown on the out-of-touch Opposition Benches about the cancelled Rwanda flight? Will she please advise me? I need some travel advice—I am going away this summer. Is France a safe country to go to?

Priti Patel replied:

For the benefit of the British people, the public, I have in my hand just four pages with a list of Opposition Members making exactly that point with glee—basically wanting the policy to fail, condemning it and saying all sorts of things without coming up with alternative solutions.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about France as a safe country. This is a fundamental principle of working with our colleagues more broadly—[Interruption.] Those on the Opposition Front Bench have already had their chance to speak. These are safe countries and there are people who are effectively picking to come to the UK. That is something we have to stop by going after the people smugglers and breaking up their business model.

Moral failings of Tony Blair versus Boris Johnson

Also on June 15, Boris Johnson lost his latest ethics adviser, Lord Geidt, who suddenly resigned.

This month, for whatever reason, Tony Blair became a member of the prestigious Order of the Garter, an honour the Queen decides independently.

On GB News, Patrick Christys asked a panel who was less ethical, Boris or Blair. Lee Anderson was one of the participants. He said that he had canvassed his constituents in Ashfield, Northamptonshire, and all said that Blair was less ethical. Anderson said there is no comparison between a Prime Minister being presented with cake and one who got us into a highly costly war in Iraq. The second tweet shows Blair with his spin doctor Alastair Campbell at the time:

The full discussion follows:

Labour

Anderson was a member of the Labour Party until 2018, when he switched to the Conservatives.

He has no praise for Labour MPs, especially Deputy Leader Angela Rayner. On May 22, she was angry with Chancellor Rishi Sunak for giving more aid to Ukraine.

The Daily Mail reported:

The party’s deputy leader sparked outrage after she told the Chancellor on Twitter to ‘do one’ – a slang insult meaning ‘get lost’.

The message was posted in response to a weekly No 11 newsletter from Mr Sunak, in which he detailed an additional £40 million of aid for Ukraine.

It is not the first time the senior Labour figure has landed herself in hot water for her remarks about those on the other side of the Commons. The former care worker resorted to calling senior Conservatives ‘a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute pile of… banana republic… Etonian … piece of scum’ in a foul-mouthed tirade at last year’s Labour party conference.

Lee Anderson made his views known:

Lee Anderson, Tory MP for Ashfield, accused Ms Rayner of behaving pathetically after the latest controversial outburst.

He said: ‘I don’t know what it is about Angela Rayner and the Left that have it in for successful people running the country, surely it’s much better for successful people who are successes in business to hold the purse strings of the country rather than somebody whose only claim to fame is dishing out insults.

‘She is someone throughout her career who has made childish insults against Conservative politicians and now she’s having a go at Rishi, who by the way is one of the most polite politicians you’ll ever wish to meet. He’s a real gentleman, regardless of your politics.’

Green energy policies

As is the case in most European countries, the prices of home fuel and petrol have gone through the roof.

On January 3, Nigel Farage asked Anderson for his views on what the UK should do. Anderson said that while it was imperative that we leave the planet in better shape for the next generation, he and his Ashfield constituents think that some of Boris’s Net Zero policies need to be wound back. Furthermore, he wants us, rightly, to use our own energy sources during our transition period to Net Zero:

Two months later, Anderson appeared on Farage’s Talking Pints segment of his show. They discussed the necessity of energy independence, which the UK can easily achieve. Instead, the Government prefers a policy of importing coal and gas from Russia:

You can see the full interview here, where Anderson says:

We should be selling gas to the rest of Europe!

The BBC

Anderson remains a firm supporter of Boris Johnson and wants him to be allowed to get on with his job. He accuses the BBC of conducting a witch hunt against the Prime Minister.

This interview took place the day after Boris survived a Conservative vote of confidence. Anderson laid his dislike of the BBC’s tactics on the line. This is short, sharp and to the point:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases in the original):

Lee Anderson provided daytime fireworks as he confronted the BBC over anti-Boris bias live on the channel. He also called them “quite sad” over their refusal to let the Boris leadership question drop, accusing them of spearheading a witchhunt. Agree or not, it was great TV…

Not surprisingly, it was Guido’s most popular post that day:

That night, the question of a BBC witch hunt popped up on Dan Wootton’s GB News show:

Wootton invited Anderson on to discuss the issue with left-wing pundit Nina Myskow, who defended the BBC. Anderson said that his constituents supported Boris. He invited Myskow to speak with his constituents to hear their views. She replied, although not in this clip, that she never travels north of Selfridges:

Russia

On April 27, Anderson was disappointed not to have made the list of 287 MPs that Russia sanctioned.

He wrote a letter to the Russian ambassador to the UK to ask that his name be added to the list:

Crime

Lee Anderson has been outspoken against crime. I posted some of his perspectives last week.

During his candidacy in the autumn of 2019, he proposed creating forced labour camps for noisy council tenants:

After Winston Churchill’s statue was desecrated in June 2020, during the pandemic and ‘mostly peaceful’ protests, Anderson gave a brief interview to a young independent reporter. He ended by saying:

You wouldn’t be stood here today, young man, talking to me if it wasn’t for Churchill.

On March 16, 2021, Anderson participated in the Crime Bill debate. Highlights follow:

Here’s another, courtesy of Guido:

Ashfield’s straight-talking MP Lee Anderson gave the Labour Party both barrels last night in the Crime Bill debate. Effusively supporting the Bill, no-nonsense Anderson took aim at what he sees as Labour’s hypocritical positions:

I find it strange that Labour are talking about tougher sentences for crimes against women, yet in December they were trying to stop us deporting foreign rapists. One Labour MP said we should not deport these criminals in December as it was too close to Christmas. I disagree. I thought it was a great Christmas present.

Guido is fairly sure that the residents of Ashfield will be in overwhelming agreement. For such a short speech, many shots were fired – rounding off on some Labour politicians’ attitude to the law…

Seven months later, his fellow Conservative MP Robbie Moore led a debate on the sexual exploitation of young girls by a certain demographic. Sadly, the ‘grooming gang’ phenomenon is growing to the extent that it is said to be present in every town in the UK.

Moore focused his attention on Bradford.

Guido points out that none of the three Labour MPs for Bradford bothered to show up for the debate.

Anderson contributed and, as one would expect, has strong views on what should happen to such politicians:

Away from the noise of the Budget, earlier this week Conservative MP Robbie Moore led a Commons debate on child sexual exploitation across Bradford, calling for a “Rotherham-style inquiry” into the scandal and claiming it had been “swept under the carpet” by the local authorities. Although the debate only attracted small number of MPs – none of the three Labour MPs for Bradford bothered to appear, despite two previously claiming they would – there was one booming voice lending his support to Moore’s campaign: the Honourable Member for Ashfield, Lee Anderson. Asking Moore to give way twice so he could give the Chamber a piece of his mind, Anderson said:

The only way that we know the full scale of these vile crimes in Bradford is for a full Rotherham-style… investigation, and would he also agree with me that certain local politicians on the council, and the mayor, should hang their heads in shame.

Once this inquiry takes place, and we get to the bottom of this, and these grooming gangs are put away where they rightly belong in prison, then the next call will be these lazy politicians – and they need locking up too.

Even Moore sounded a bit surprised by Lee’s fury…

Guido has the video:

Anderson’s no-nonsense speech might have been partly due to his appointment to the Women and Equalities Committee in May 2021:

Guido wrote:

Guido learns that parliament’s wokest committee – the Women and Equalities Committee – is to welcome two new, perhaps unexpected, members: Philip Davies and Lee Anderson. Philip Davies is making a, no doubt, welcome return after having served on it in 2016 – where he made headlines calling for the word “women” to be removed from the Committee’s name. Lee Anderson is a co-conspirator favourite: from saying nuisance tenants should be forced to live in tents; to recently ranting that he’s torn up his licence fee. Confirming the appointment, Lee told Guido:

The great women of Ashfield have been the backbone of my community for hundreds of years with barely any recognition.

Yes the men have worked down the pits and gone off to war but its our women that have kept everything together.

The women in communities like Ashfield need a voice in Parliament and anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a firm believer in better rights for women. I am a modern man with a modern outlook who is keen to speak up for the women in my community.

They deserve to be on a level playing field with us men which is not always the case. I will still open doors for women and give up my seat on public transport as I am a gentleman first and a politician second, but you can be assured that I will be fighting on all fronts for the women of Ashfield.

Both men will no doubt relish the appointments, which they richly deserve. Guido sends his warmest congratulations to the pair. Chapeau to the 1922 Committee on the wit and wisdom of their appointments.

Returning to politicians, on November 9, he had a go at convicted Labour MPs and recommended that they should work as a condition of their licence:

This morning in Parliament, straight-talking Lee Anderson told Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab exactly how he thinks the government should solve labour shortages:

Prisoners and ex-offenders out on licence should help fill the labour shortage and […] on release, all prisoners – including ex-Labour MPs – should be ready for work and starting work should be a condition of their licence.

Guido has the video:

Nutritious meals on the cheap

As I wrote in my third post on Lee Anderson, he took a lot of unnecessary stick in May 2022 for saying that people can make nutritious meals for only 30 pence per portion.

He revealed that he, too, had been a single parent for many years and lived scrimping and saving. He still got pilloried.

On May 26, however, the Mail profiled a partnered mother of three who makes meals for 29 pence a portion.

Was there any criticism of her from other media outlets, such as the BBC? No, there was not.

Such double standards. Such hypocrisy.

Conclusion

Regrettably, I have run out of Lee Anderson anecdotes.

He is my favourite MP. I would love to see him as the next Conservative leader, if not Prime Minister.

Sadly, that will not happen. He is not Establishment enough and never will be.

I hope that he is re-elected as MP for Ashfield and wish him all the best in his Parliamentary career.

We need more MPs like him.

A profile of another Red Wall MP will appear next week.

At the weekend, two articles promoting marriage appeared in the papers.

N.B.: Adult content follows.

Separately, two Britons — feminist Louise Perry and conservative columnist Peter Hitchens — say it is time to dump the sexual revolution from the 1960s and return to traditional marriage.

Louise Perry’s book, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, is published this Friday, June 3, 2022.

The Sunday Times reported that it is a call to return to the centuries-old tradition of getting married (emphases mine):

She has a piece of simple advice for the young women reading her book: “Get married. And do your best to stay married.”

Perry, who read women’s studies at the left-wing School of Oriental and African Studies in London, was brought up to embrace sexual freedom and personal choice.

Then she began volunteering for the National Rape Crisis Helpline and was appalled by what she discovered, Times journalist Laura Hackett says:

“That was a turning point,” she tells me. All the feminist theory she was studying had “no relevancethere was nothing in there about sexual violence, it didn’t map on to reality.”

It turns out that society’s obsession with pornography has a lot to do with damaging and fractured relationships between men and women:

We are being exposed to more and more explicit content in our everyday lives — everything from lingerie and perfume adverts to Fifty Shades of Grey — and this deadens our responses to actual sex, she argues, destroying our romantic relationships.

Should we ban it, then? She pauses. “I’m not sure if I want to bring back the old classification board . . . but either you have centralised censorship or you have a free market, and the free market is producing this horror show.”

Perry is dismayed that the #MeToo movement has not put people off watching sex scenes. “I really feel for actors. Who would have thought 20 years ago that signing up to be an actor would mean basically signing up to be a porn star?” The difference, of course, is that the sex isn’t real, but Perry doesn’t back down. “From what I’ve heard it’s not far off. And it clearly is sometimes a source of distress for actors and an opportunity for sex pests.”

Rightly, Perry thinks that rough sex, which is prevalent in today’s pornography, is a form of domestic abuse:

The erotic bestsellers women are reading today — Fifty Shades of Grey for mums, and Sarah J Maas’s sexy fantasy fiction for their daughters — are heavily focused on BDSM, which Perry believes is little more than abuse. She helped to found the campaign group We Can’t Consent to This, which aims to eradicate the use of “rough sex” defences to the killing or harming of women.

She also points out that one-night stands give little pleasure to the women pursuing them:

Perry is eloquent, empathetic — and very persuasive. I was surprised to find myself agreeing with her on most things: porn is clearly a dangerous, exploitative industry; prostitution isn’t just a normal job (or else why would we be so outraged by landlords asking for sex as payment?); and hook-up culture has practically no benefits for women (only 10 per cent of women orgasm during a one-night stand; no prizes for guessing that figure is much higher among men).

What is the solution, other than marriage?

“This idea that marriage is inherently oppressive to women I don’t think is true,” Perry says.

In her book she races through statistics highlighting the benefits of marriage: almost half of divorced people in the UK regret it, fatherless boys are more likely to go to prison, and fatherless girls are more likely to become pregnant in their teens. She even lauds the hidden benefits of shotgun marriages and the stigma around single motherhood. “In an era without contraception,” Perry writes, “a prohibition on sex before marriage served female, not male, interests.” I’m not sure how Ireland’s mother and baby homes, for example, which locked up unmarried mothers and removed their children, served female interests. Perry nods. “What haunts me is: do we have to choose between Magdalene laundries and PornHub?”

Perry also laments the ease of getting a divorce, made even simpler now because of a new law that Parliament passed earlier this year:

Perry argues that while it is important to have divorce as an option for people in terrible, abusive marriages, the easy availability of divorce under any circumstances has killed off the institution of marriage — and that’s bad news for women.

Interestingly, given her upbringing and university studies, Perry married a police officer.

She is adamant about tough sentencing for convicted rape:

prison — for life, if needs be.

She says that the male urge to dominate women is atavistic:

She links the crime back to biology, rejecting the prevailing view that our sexist culture encourages men to rape. Evolutionary theory, she explains, shows that rape confers a selection advantage on men, giving them more opportunities to pass on their genes. In other words sexual violence is rational. It’s no coincidence, she says, that women are most likely to be raped between the ages of 12 and 30 — their fertile years.

She believes that the education policy instructing students about mutual consent is wrong because it does not work:

When it comes to prevention, Perry thinks consent workshops, which teach young people how to check that their partner really wants to have sex, are useless. “If we think that the problem is young men being really horny and larger and more aggressive than young women, then things like gender-neutral bathrooms in school are the stupidest things ever.”

Her book also has a chapter on rules for young women, which sound very last century:

“In the earlier stages of writing I had that feeling of walking on eggshells and being worried I’d piss off everyone … But in the end I just wrote what I thought was true.”

The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is explicitly directed towards young women who have grown up in a world of PornHub, OnlyFans and Tinder; 21st-century sexual freedom has not been liberating for them at all, but instead benefited men, Perry believes. She provides a list of 11 rules for young women in the epilogue, including: “Get drunk or high in private and with female friends rather than in public or in mixed company”; “Avoid being alone with men [you] don’t know”; “Hold off on having sex with a new boyfriend for at least a few months”; “Don’t use dating apps”; and “Only have sex with a man if you think he would make a good father to your children”.

It surprised me to read over the past two years — and this was true before lockdown — that young people are having fewer sexual encounters at a time when their hormones and fertility are in their prime. Is it because of pornography? I don’t know.

However, the Times journalist says that Perry could be tapping into something with her book:

The Case Against the Sexual Revolution is unapologetically focused on improving women’s health and happiness. Will it work? The tide does seem to be turning in our attitudes. Young people are having less sex; they’re worried about age gaps and power imbalances in their relationships; and a recent BBC documentary on Mary Whitehouse [censorious campaigner of the late 20th century] even asked if she was ahead of her time. Perry may have predicted a new age of sexual puritanism, and perhaps it will make us happier.

Incidentally, Perry had her first child, a boy, while writing her book. She says that men are also harmed by our anything-goes lifestyle:

Has that altered her perspective? “Yes, to the extent that I had a baby boy. It made me think a bit more about the way that men are harmed by this culture.”

Speaking of children, Mail columnist Peter Hitchens says that broken homes harm their prospects as adults.

We always say that, in case of a relationship breakup, children are resilient, but is that actually true in the long term?

Hitchens says that it isn’t.

He points to the recent release of a report on children’s social care:

Last week great publicity was rightly given to a report on children’s social care. It predicted that the number of children in care, now 80,000, would rise to 100,000 by 2032, costing taxpayers a colossal £15 billion a year.

Of course many terrible things happen to children in so-called ‘care’ apart from actual violence and death. The general outcomes for children deprived of what we would once have called stable family life, and deprived of fathers, are just not very good

No doubt plenty of social workers, foster parents and others do all they can, and I am not trying to criticise these individuals but they just cannot do what a loving, stable home can do.

He, too, points indirectly to the sexual revolution which has seen a continuing decline in marriage and an increase in divorce:

The tragedy of care is a direct consequence of 50 years in which the law, and our culture, have encouraged the idea that lifelong marriage is dispensable – a cruel prison from which adults should be free to escape. The latest loosening of the marriage laws, effectively allowing divorce on demand, follows the same failed view.

I agree. I was appalled to see a Conservative government push that law through the statute books.

Hitchens also says that today’s marriage vows outside of church do not pledge fidelity over the years:

Should we not connect the number of children in care to the fact that, in England and Wales, the numbers getting married fell in 2019 to the lowest rate since records began? Less than 20 per cent of these weddings were in a religious building, where the idea that marriage is for life is still pretty much insisted upon.

Many modern weddings are lavish affairs in beautiful places, but they simply do not demand the commitment that couples used to make. And many modern couples, seeing which way the wind is blowing, never bother to marry at all. Such commitment is generally discouraged, even viewed as foolish.

He says there is a class divide when it comes to divorce and children:

the children are the ones who suffer, and whose freedom from worry and insecurity has been sacrificed to allow for grown-up freedoms to do as we will.

Among the well-off, the damage is generally not so bad, though there is damage. But among the poor, and in the parts of the country where the schools are bad and the streets are grim, it is another story. And that story often ends in care, with all its miseries, loneliness, insecurity and disappointment.

It is not the same sort of hell as the workhouses and the orphanages of the past were, but it can be hell even so. We need a modern Charles Dickens to depict it. If more people realised how bad it was, we might start to wonder if the gradual dismantling of stable marriage was such a good idea after all.

I am delighted to read about two Britons championing traditional marriage. I hope the case they make for lifelong marital vows is heard far and wide. Marriage was instituted for our benefit. We can see that doing away with it has done us precious little good as a society.

330px-john_donne_by_isaac_oliverJohn Donne wrote an excellent sermon which is a good meditation for Easter: ‘The Sedulity of the Devout Women’.

‘Sedulity’ means ‘diligence’. Those women were most sedulous in going to the tomb where Christ lay.

Donne takes for his text Mark 16:2:

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came to the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.

This is Donne’s sermon, which encourages us to be as devoted and diligent towards Christ as these ladies were (emphases mine):

Consider their sedulity — sedulity that admits no intermission, no interruption, no discontinuance, no indifference in religious offices. Consider we therefore their sedulity, if we can. I say, if we can; because if a man should sit down at a beehive or an ant hill, and determine to watch such an ant or such a bee in its work, he would find that bee or that ant so sedulous, so serious, so various, so concurrent with others, so contributory to others, as that he would quickly lose his marks and his sight of that ant or that bee. So, if we fix our consideration upon these devout women, and the sedulity of their devotion, as the several evangelists present it to us, we may easily lose our sight, and hardly know which was which, or at what time she or she came to the sepulchre. “They came, in the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week,” says St. Matthew; “they came very early in the morning, the first day of the week, at the rising of the sun,” says St. Mark; “they prepared their spices, and rested the Sabbath, and came early the next day,” says St. Luke; “they came the first day when it was yet dark,” says St. John. From Friday evening till Sunday morning they were sedulous, busy upon this service; so sedulous, that thinks these women came four several times to the sepulchre, and that the four evangelists have relation to their four comings, and argues that this variety is no sign of untruthfulness in the evangelists, but testifies the sedulity of the women they speak of, going and coming, and unwilling to be far distant or long absent from their devout exercise. Beloved, true devotion is a serious, a sedulous, an impatient thing. He who said, “I fast twice in the week,” was but a Pharisee; he who can reckon his devout actions is no better; he who can tell how often he has thought upon God today, has not thought upon Him often enough. It is St. [unknown] ‘s holy circle, “to pray that we may hear sermons profitably, and to hear sermons that we may learn to pray acceptably.” Devotion is no marginal note, no interlineary gloss, no parenthesis that may be left out; it is no occasional thing, no conditional thing: “I will go if I like the preacher, the place, the company, the weather;” but it is of the body of the text, and lays upon us an obligation of fervour and continuance.

(John Donne, D. D.)

Donne points out the truth of our failings in our Christian walk. So often, for myself included, it has been one of occasion — and, yes, dependent on the celebrant or the weather — when it should rightly be one of constancy.

We can apply the same obligation of sedulity, or diligence, to our reading of Scripture and particularly of prayer. Donne is so right in saying that if we know how many times a day or a week we are doing these things, we haven’t done them nearly enough.

The women wanted to be near their Lord, hence their diligent devotion to Him, even as He lay in the tomb. They, like the other disciples, were not to immediately understand that Jesus would vanquish death and rise on the third day, even though on more than one occasion He said that He would. On that day, they were ‘terrified’ to find the tomb empty, according to Luke 24:5.

As the women acted towards Jesus in death, let us behave towards Him more reverently and diligently as He lives and reigns as the Risen Christ forever.

Of everything in our lives, He is the most worthy of our sedulity, so let us practice unending, diligent devotion towards Him.

Anyone interested in reading more of Donne’s sermons can find a selection of them at Bible Hub.

Warning: mature content below.

Earlier this year, I was saddened to see how much pornography has invaded the British psyche and damaged people’s relationships.

On January 28, 2022, the House of Lords held a debate on the fact that online users of pornography are not required to verify their ages.

Our communications regulator Ofcom should be doing it, but the British Government has not required them to do so. Lord Morrow wants Ofcom to be given permission to proceed with age verification.

I watched part of the debate. Baroness Benjamin — Floella Benjamin, who was a BBC children’s programme presenter decades ago — gave a particularly harrowing testimony at the end of her speech (emphases mine):

… While it is preferable for the Government to implement Part 3 of the DEA immediately, the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, that Ofcom be designated now under Section 17 of the DEA and that it commence work to prepare to be the regulator is reasonable. It would be shameful if the Government further delayed action on age verification and protecting women and girls from the harm of violent pornography by failing to act now. Children and women have waited far too long for these protections. The Government should act now to alleviate any more harm and suffering.

A mother wrote to me telling me that her four year-old daughter was sexually abused by a 10 year-old boy, who told her, “I am going to rape you and you are going to like it”. Now when the daughter hears the word “rape” on the news, she asks her mother, “Did she like it mummy?” It makes me weep to tell this story, because childhood lasts a lifetime. This is why I support the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Morrow. It is a moral issue.

That is simply horrifying in so many respects, yet that is the sad reality for too many young people. To hear that a mere child, barely out of toddlerhood, is assaulted that way by a little boy is shocking, not to mention the lad telling her that she would enjoy rape.

Our society is becoming ever sicker.

A few days later, on Wednesday, February 2, The Guardian had a long article on the adverse affects of pornography on women: ‘”It stopped me having sex for a year”: why Generation Z is turning its back on sex-positive feminism’.

The paper says that the sex-positive feminist movement was supposed to:

free women from guilt or being shamed.

However:

now many are questioning whether it has left them more vulnerable.

The article begins with another child-centric true story:

Lala likes to think of herself as pretty unshockable. On her popular Instagram account @lalalaletmeexplain, she dishes out anonymous sex and dating advice on everything from orgasms to the etiquette of sending nude pictures. Nor is the 40-year-old sex educator and former social worker (Lala is a pseudonym) shy of sharing her own dating experiences as a single woman.

But even she was perturbed by a recent question, from a woman with a seven-year-old daughter who had caught her new partner watching “stepdaughter” porn involving teenage girls. Was that a red flag?

Given her professional training, the story set Lala’s alarm bells ringing. “To me, you can’t take these risks – things like that I’m willing to die on a hill for,” she says. So she was taken aback by some of the comments on her Instagram account, where she asks her 175,000 followers to respond to other people’s dilemmas. “There were people on that post saying: “What people watch in porn is not what they do in real life; how can you be so judgmental?’”

Lala notes that the proliferation of dating sites that make sexual encounters no different from ordering fish and chips make finding true romantic relationships difficult. Furthermore, pornography is now setting the standard for ‘relationships’ (I use the term advisedly):

“Since sex has become easier to get,” she writes, “love has become harder to find.” Through her Instagram account and the dating column she writes for OK! magazine, she hears regularly from women tolerating activities they don’t enjoy in bed for fear of being rejected for someone more willing – an age-old story, except that those sexual norms are now set by pornography.

“Sexual liberation is great, but in some ways we ran with that, and then ended up in a model of sex that has been created by men,” says Lala. “We have got the part where it’s: ‘You can do this without judgment, you don’t have to be married or worry about unintended pregnancies!’ but we’re not balancing that with the education or that sense of what sex really is – how should it feel, when should you do it, how should you do it?”

Lala’s Instagram followers had a lot of complaints about sex — violent sex — but they were afraid to tell their partners:

almost three quarters said they had experienced rough or painful sex but had chosen not to complain about it. “It’s like: ‘I don’t want to disappoint him, I don’t want to be bad in bed.’ If you really like someone but every time you have sex it hurts and you don’t want that, how do you negotiate that when you’re only 18?” For all her professional expertise, she says, she remembers some “pretty horrible sex” when she was younger.

How awful.

Lala is 40. Things don’t get any better for younger women, though. Some begin delving into pornography while they are still young children:

In December, the singer Billie Eilish, then 19, declared that watching porn from the age of 11 had “destroyed” her brain. At first it made her feel like “one of the guys”, she told the Howard Stern radio show in the US, but now she thinks it twisted her expectations: “The first few times I, you know, had sex, I was not saying no to things that were not good. It was because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to.”

… But Eilish is not alone in questioning the way porn tropes have coloured everyday relationships.

The statistics are shocking:

More than one in 10 teenagers claim to have had anal sex by the age of 18, according to the UK’s authoritative National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, which also found under-24s almost as likely as middle-aged people to have had more than 10 partners, despite being sexually active for many fewer years. But the generation most likely to have its first sexual experience via a phone screen seems increasingly willing to question what that means for individuals’ lives.

It gets worse because violent sex is becoming the norm for some because of pornography:

A third of British women under 40 have experienced unwanted slapping, spitting, choking or gagging in bed, according to research carried out for the pressure group We Can’t Consent to This, which campaigns to limit the so-called “rough sex” defence for murder (used by men who killed their partners to argue that the women died accidentally, in consensual sex games) …

… Lala argues, the normalisation of pain in porn may provide cover for some abusive men, and make women feel prudish for refusing potentially dangerous acts like choking. “A lot of young men have co-opted BDSM [bondage, discipline or domination, sadism and masochism]. They’re not into power plays and consent. They just like hurting women.”

I can believe it, sadly, only because a number of parliamentary debates concerning women have often mentioned a phenomenon called non-fatal strangulation, which is a man-on-woman means of punishment or sexual thrill — or both. I’d never heard of it before, so I have no idea how it came to be so commonplace. Perhaps through pornography?

The Guardian interviewed a post-graduate student about her experiences, a few of which were far from being joyful or romantic:

Anna-Louise Adams was in her early 20s, and at university in London, when she experienced a handful of casual sexual encounters that turned rough without warning.

Luckily, she says, she was confident enough to object. “But I did find it quite shocking, and it did deter me from having sex for probably about a year. I’d had two or three experiences of varying degrees of extremity and I just thought: ‘what’s the point of this?’” she says. “I’d come to my own conclusions about sex that wasn’t in a relationship, at least. I feel quite sad for my younger self, really.”

Now 25, and having compared notes with friends who had similar experiences, she no longer thinks it relevant that the encounters that turned sour were casual ones. “I’ve heard about plenty of relationships where it’s happened, and happened unexpectedly.” Speaking publicly for the We Can’t Consent to This campaign has, she says, also helped to channel her feelings into something constructive.

Another woman thinks that the sex-positive feminist movement has benefited men more than women:

Louise Perry, press officer for We Can’t Consent to This and author of The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, due to be published this summer, argues that a movement originally meant to liberate women is being hijacked to serve men’s interests. Perry, 29, held the same liberal views in her early 20s as “most other millennial urban graduates in the west” …

“I’m not anti the sexual revolution per se – I don’t want to go back to having 10 children, or whatever would have been in store without the pill,” she says. “But I think the beneficiaries [of sex-positive feminism] overwhelmingly have been a certain subset of men.”

Perry blames this on certain dating apps and pornography:

The problem isn’t just porn, she argues, but dating apps inadvertently making men less accountable for abusive behaviour. “I’ve spoken to women who have dated men from apps and have been sexually assaulted, then find he’s deleted his profile and they don’t even know his username – that’s the sort of thing that really, really serves the interests of men.”

Lockdown seems to have changed people’s minds about relationships for the better. That’s probably the only positive we can take away from being holed up in our homes for weeks on end:

The dating app OKCupid reported a rise in the number of British users seeking a long-term relationship after the 2020 lockdown while in the US, Match.com’s annual Singles in America report last year found that only 11% of users claim to be seeking casual flings, with qualities such as trust and emotional maturity now prized over physical attractiveness. If only temporarily, the loneliness and insecurity of lockdown may have made cosy coupledom look more appealing.

During that time, sex-positive feminism shifted to include the right to decline sex altogether:

After all, it was never meant to be about just saying “yes” to everything. Indeed, some sex-positive activists are defined by actively not wanting sex, such as the lingerie model Yasmin Benoit, who identifies as asexual or ace – meaning that she never or rarely experiences attraction to others – but maintains she is not anti-sex just because she isn’t interested, personally.

The reality of violent sex is turning some young women off sexual congress altogether:

“I think we’re on the edge of a real anti-sex backlash,” says the activist and writer Laurie Penny, author of Sexual Revolution: Modern Fascism and the Feminist Fightback, who points out that destigmatising sex has freed women to talk about what were once taboo subjects. “A culture where sex is stigmatised is also one where we can’t talk about any of those things and I don’t believe there’s anything progressive about a society that wants to control or limit women’s sexuality.”

Penny, who uses they/them pronouns, also thinks some attacks on sex-positive feminism – such as that it means porn is beyond criticism – are fights with straw men. “There’s a brilliant quote from [the porn star] Stoya, which says that trying to learn about sex from watching porn is like trying to learn to drive from watching monster truck videos. The thing is I don’t often see that argument made, that you’re not allowed to criticise pornography,” they say.

Penny also said:

You have to actually deal with sexual violence in order to create substantive sexual liberation.

Lala agrees with that assessment:

The missing element of this half-finished revolution, Lala argues, is a cultural shift in men’s attitudes. “Sex-positive feminism has laid the foundations, it’s given us a platform and a voice and a space to use our voices. But without getting men on board and proper sex education, we’re all going to be on the same old hamster wheel.”

That won’t happen overnight, she acknowledges.

There is a bright ending to the article when one man confessed he did not like choking his girlfriend — and stopped:

Recently, she counselled a man who had been choking his girlfriend during sex for years. It was only when the girlfriend mustered the courage to say she didn’t like it that he admitted he didn’t like it, either. They were both, it turned out, going along with what they thought the other one wanted, and each secretly wishing the other would make it stop.

I can’t begin to comment on this other than to advise people to avoid pornography and stay away from pick-up dating sites.

If something feels wrong, it is wrong, so don’t do it.

Mothering Sunday is March 27, 2022, which is also Laetare Sunday, the joyful day in Lent:

Laetare Sunday, Mother’s Day and the Golden Rose

Laetare Sunday is Mothering Sunday

Some churches in the UK will be departing from the usual Lectionary lesson and read the latter part of 1 Samuel 1 instead.

Here is the whole chapter, the highly moving story of Hannah and her long-awaited son, Samuel (emphases mine below):

The Birth of Samuel

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite[a] from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[b] saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”

Hannah Dedicates Samuel

21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.”[c]

23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his[d] word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull,[e] an ephah[f] of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

Hannah vowed that Samuel would take a life-long Nazirite vow (verse 11):

… no razor will ever be used on his head …

The only other men in the Bible to do so were Samson and John the Baptist. Most Nazirite vows were short-term in nature.

John MacArthur explains the vow:

That last little part was a Nazarite vow, described in Numbers 6:3 to 6.  If a Jew wanted to take a vow of total consecration to God, he would not cut his hair, no concern for physical appearance, not drink the wine and the strong drink, abstaining from the banquetings and the celebrations and all of that, living an austere, consecrated, God-centered life. 

Commentary on Hannah’s story comes from John MacArthur’s 1987 sermon, ‘Hannah: A Godly Mother’.

Hannah truly had faith. Even though she was sterile, she believed the Lord would reverse her condition, which He did.

The name Hannah means ‘grace’. It befits this woman:

We meet her in 1 Samuel 1.  Hannah, her name speaks of her beauty; it means grace, and indeed she is the emblem of the grace of womanhood She became a mother by faith She first appears, as 1 Samuel opens, as a childless woman.  Then she becomes a mother, the mother of one of the greatest men who ever walked the earth, Samuel.  And as you see the account of the birth of Samuel, you note the profile of a godly mother.

Incidentally, the name Anna is a form of Hannah.

This was not a propitious era for Israel, which was experiencing a time of turmoil:

As the book opens, it is the period of the Judges There is no king in Israel as yet It is a time of turmoil; it is a time of confusion It is a time when Israel is vulnerable to the Philistines It is a time when they are debauched morally It is a time when their religion has grown cold And it is a time for a great man to rise and take the leadership of the nation, a period of religious degeneracy, of political distress.  With the death of Samson the country was divided and leaderless The Philistines were hanging on the edge.  The priesthood was corrupt Moral scandals were rampant among the family of the priests The nation was weak.  The nation was impotent.  And the worst of all, chapter 3, verse 1 says, “word from the Lord was rare in those days, and visions were infrequent.”  God even had nothing to say.  The nation needed a great leader, a great man, and God needed a great woman to shape that great man.  And Samuel, one of the greatest men who ever walked the earth, was not only the product of the work of God, but the product of a godly mother And she gave to her nation and the world the greatest legacy a woman can ever give, a godly child.

MacArthur gives us his perspective on what denotes a godly mother:

As we are introduced to this story, I want us to note three things that profile a godly mother She had a right husband relationship, she had a right heavenly relationship, and she had a right home relationship Those three things stand out and profile her for us.

First of all, let’s consider her right husband relationship And may I say that this is, at the very outset, essential for you to understand.  The most important relationship in a family in raising godly children is not the relationship between the parents and the children, it’s the relationship between the mother and the father What you communicate to your children by your relationship dominates their thinking They are learning about human relationships from the two of you They are learning about virtue, they are learning about sin.  They are learning about love.  They are learning about forgiveness.  They’re learning about sympathy.  They’re learning about understanding.  They’re learning about compassion.  They’re learning about virtue.  They’re learning about honesty and integrity.  They’re watching, and far more important than your relationship to your child in the long run is the relationship you have to your spouse, that’s projected to your child.  And so at the very outset, the Word of God is clear to tell us the relationship between Hannah and Elkanah.

Now, first of all, let me say that it wasn’t a perfect relationship; so ladies, you want to start out by realizing you’re not married to a perfect man.  That’s a given.  I want you to understand what the Scripture says.  Hannah was married to a polygamist Now, I don’t know how that would sit with you as a woman, but I can guess.  And I can also tell you that it didn’t sit any better with Hannah than it does with you, to have a rival in the house, to have another wife in the house And worst of all, she is producing boys and girls and Hannah has none, and so she is the unfruitful, unproductive wife who cannot give to her husband that which her heart most longs to give.

He wasn’t a perfect man.  The very fact that he was a polygamist indicates his imperfection.  But understand this, this is a primitive time, and polygamy was a part of human culture; never God’s design, never.  God always designed one man, one woman, leaving their parents, joining together for life, and becoming one flesh, from Genesis on.  But human society was rife with polygamy, and when the truth of God came into human society, it was so pervasive, polygamy, that it took time to root it out

And so Elkanah created for Hannah a very difficult situation.  We don’t know the details, but it may well have been that he went on to marry Peninnah because of Hannah’s barrenness, and in order to produce a generation who could then possess his inheritance.  And so that would even make the pain deeper, because Peninnah came to do in that union what Hannah could not do.  Not a perfect relationship, but nonetheless a good one, a right one.  Let me show you why.

First of all, they shared worship Now, “this man,” Elkanah, verse 3 says, “would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh.”  It doesn’t mean he went once a year, it meant that every year he went.  In Deuteronomy, chapter 16, verse 16, it explains the prescription; three times a year – yes, it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths The man had to go to the place of worship.  In this particular time, in 1 Samuel, the place of worship was at Shiloh, because that’s where the Ark of the Covenant was located before it was transferred to Jerusalem

Starting out, then, they had a shared worship; so vital.  How you worship communicates volumes of information to your children Are you faithful?  Are you faithful to come and meet with God’s redeemed people, week in and week out?  Are you faithful to make the Word of God the priority in your life?  Are you faithful that prayer should have a high place in your experience spiritually?  Are you faithful to live what you affirm that you believe?  In other words, the attitude of your spiritual devotion is communicating a Christianity to your children that they will have a hard time overcoming, if it in fact is less than it ought to be.

Secondly, they not only had a right relationship in their marriage because of worshiping together, but secondly, they shared love Notice verse 4, “And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed” – one of those times when he took the trip to Shiloh – “he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and all her sons and her daughters, but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah.”  Stop at that point.  He didn’t love Peninnah That’s the implication.  Peninnah was there to produce the children that Hannah couldn’t have Peninnah was there to create a future for his family, his inheritance.  But Hannah was the one he loved, and he made no attempt to hide that And when they went to offer their sacrifices, I don’t know if you know how that worked, but they would go to offer peace offerings, and they would offer the offering on the altar there.  The priest would take a small part, then most of it would come back to the family, and they’d have a feast And when passing out the feast, he would give a double portion to Hannah, because she was the one he loved.  This was a gesture in the East to an honored guest She was the one who had his heart.  And it was not just the love of emotion, it was the love of kindness, and the love of thoughtfulness, and the love of sacrifice, the love of honor.  He loved herAnd this love was her security

Men, if you don’t know it yet, you ought to know it; a woman’s security is in your love for her, not in your bank account, not in a fancy house, not in new furniture, not in a retirement plan.  A woman finds her security in your love, and it needs to be demonstrated so frequently that there’s never a question about it People wonder often why women tend to be suspicious of their husbands, and wondering if they might have some other attraction or be fooling around with some other person, and the reason is because it’s so deeply rooted in a woman that her security is in the love of her man.  And that’s the way it was with Elkanah and Hannah And she was secure in his love, because he took the time to demonstrate his love to her in very public ways, such as he had done at this feast in front of everyoneThey shared love, and thus she was secure in that love; and she needed that, believe me, when he had another wife …

They shared love … There is the absence of anxiety and frustration, so that the woman can give herself to the children, and not always feel that she’s got to be a beauty queen to win the affection of her husband.  Once the husband with his love wraps that woman up and secures her, then she can give herself away to her children, and not have to feel that she must always fight the uphill battle to attract her husband.

Thirdly, they shared another thing.  They shared feelings Shared worship, their relationship to God was a common one.  They shared love, and they shared feelings.  Look at verse 6.  “Her rival, however,” – that’s Peninnah – “would provoke her bitterly to irritate her because the Lord had closed her womb.”  It said that also at the end of verse 5, twice it says the Lord had closed her womb What it’s trying to say is this isn’t Hannah’s problem; the Lord did this The Lord closed her womb.  And this Peninnah would harass her, you know, that kind of thing, “Too bad you can’t have any children, Hannah,” just sticking the knife in And it happened year after year; “as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she would provoke her so she wept and wouldn’t eat.” 

Here she goes to the big feast Elkanah is sympathetically, lovingly giving her a double portion She won’t eat anything, ’cause on the other side of the table, Peninnah’s really rubbing it in that she has no children The response – I would not want to be in Elkanah’s position, trying to pull these two women together.  But Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep?  And why do you not eat?  And why is your heart sad?  Am I not better to you than ten sons?”  They shared feelings.  Boy, he read her feelings and he didn’t pontificate, he asked a question.  Why are you doing this, Hannah?  Haven’t I been better than ten sons to you?He knew the conflict, and he knew the conflict was intensified from Peninnah’s side, and he knew that it was deep and painful and it was a hard, hard place for her to be And so he was tender, and sympathetic, and thoughtful, and he felt her feelings in his own heart.

She has a right husband relationshipThey share worship, the deepest dimension of human life They share love, maybe the next deepest dimension of human life.  They share feelings, maybe the next deepest dimension of human life.  They have a deep relationship.  They move together in the presence of God, with one another, and over the issues of life that involve other people.

As devestated as she was about her sterility — which God had given her — she believed that He could reverse her condition. She never lost her faith. Not only did she pray and pray for a child, she also made a vow to the Lord. Many women would have been bitter and turned away from God, but not Hannah:

The high priest is in the temple.  She goes there.  She came into the temple greatly distressed.  Her soul was bitter, it literally says And she prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly She is just crushed – crushed.  And she made a promise, a vow.  “O Lord,” and she goes on to make her vow.  But notice this about this godly woman: she was a woman of prayer.  It’s a beautiful characteristic.  She understood that God was the source of children.  She understood that God alone could alter her sterility.  Her distinctive virtue was her faith, constant faith.  Verse 12, “It came about as she continued praying before the Lord” – constant.  She remained there.  She stayed there.  Her heart was broken She was pouring out her prayersThis is the spirit of true prayer

So she promised God, “I’ll give You this child, I just want to be fulfilled as a mother, I just want to raise a godly son to give back to Your glory.  And if You give him to me I’ll give him back.”  This is her promise, to present her child to God.  That’s the essence of a godly mother.  While praying for a child, she prays for that child not for a wrong reason but a right reason, to turn that child back to God, from where the child came.  That’s the essence of a godly mother – to give the child to God, to give the child to God.  My mother only had one son, and I am that son Before I was born she dedicated me to the Lord from birth, and told my father that she wanted a son who would preach the gospel That’s a wonderful legacy And that may not be what every son is to do, it is not what every son is to do, but every godly mother will give that child to the Lord for whatever he has; the same with a daughterSo Hannah made her promise.

We also find out more about Eli and his sons. Wasn’t it awful for Eli to accuse Hannah in her brokenness of being drunk?

The next thing we see about Hannah was her purity.  Eli was the high priest, but I’ve got to tell you, he was really a lousy high priest And nothing could be said about his discernment, either.  “It came about when she was praying continually before the Lord, Eli was watching her mouth.”  Sitting off on a – he was a big, fat manIn fact, when his sons died, he was so shook he fell over, and landed on his neck and broke it and killed himself So Eli was sitting there watching her, and she was in there pouring out her heart and weeping and crying.  And she was speaking in her heart.  She wasn’t speaking out loud, it says in verse 13, only her lips were moving.  Have you ever had that experience where you’re really talking in your heart but your lips are moving, though not a sound was heard?  So Eli thought she was drunk Isn’t he discerning?  Now, I don’t know anything about my discernment as relative to other people, or to Eli’s, but I’ll tell you, I think I know the difference between a drunk and a woman broken in prayer

So Eli decided to play the spiritual role “How long will you make yourself drunk?  Put away your wine from you,” he says to her.  And Hannah is so gracious, and answered and said, “No, my lord, I’m a woman oppressed in spirit I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord.  You misjudge me.  Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman.”  That tells us a little bit about drinking wine or strong drink and its relationship to worthlessness regarding women.  That’s an Old Testament attitude.  “Don’t consider me like that.  I have spoken until now out of my great concern and my provocation.”  Then Eli, hearing such a lucid answer, answered and said, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you’ve asked of Him.”  It’s sort of a mild apology But he mistook her for being drunk.  “Don’t think your maidservant a worthless woman” – literally, a son of Belial, profitless.  A common term, by the way, in the Old Testament, associated with idolatry, Deuteronomy 13; rebellion, 1 Samuel 2; lewd, sensuous acts in Judges 19 and 20; a term used to speak of arrogance and stupidity in 1 Samuel 25, and even murder in 1 Kings 21 “Don’t think that I’m in that group.  I’m not that kind of person.”  She was a virtuous woman, like the woman of Proverbs 12:4 and 31:10, she was a woman of virtue.  She was a godly woman, she was a pure woman …

… the rest of chapter 2 into chapter 3 into chapter 4 is the sad, pathetic tragedy of the family of Eli His sons were fornicators They died, and he himself fell over, as I said, and died.  It was a tragic, ugly scene.  And the commentary of Scripture on Eli was that he could not restrain his sons from doing evil; and his wife is never mentioned I don’t know what part, if any, she had, but she was a long way from what Hannah was in producing godly Samuel

MacArthur explains why Hannah was able to enjoy eating after she was so upset in prayer:

I’ll tell you why: because she had patient faith.  She had patient faith She gave it to God, what else could she do?  She wasn’t about to remain frustrated.  This is true faith True faith doesn’t pray, “O God, here’s my problem, here’s my problem,” walk away in utter frustration.  That’s really doubt.  Faith says, “Here it is, God,” and walks away, and is no longer sad.  That’s trust.  “I trust You.”  Very much the mark of a godly mother, one who totally trusts God – she casts her burden on God, and that’s the end of it.  She walks away.  She eats.  She is no longer sad.

Samuel was a little boy — older than a toddler — when Hannah dedicated him to the Lord:

“For she said to her husband, ‘I will not go up until the child is weaned.’”  Now wait a minute.  That’s a couple of years, Hannah.  Three years?  I don’t know exactly how long Hannah nursed little Samuel, but several years surely “I won’t go.”  It was only about a two or three week trip, at the longest, to go up there and be there for a week, traveling there, traveling back.  It’s less than 200 miles from one end of Palestine to the other.  She wouldn’t go, she wouldn’t go at all.  Why?  She was dedicated to the child.  When God gave the child, she was dedicated to the child

Samuel means heard by God And boy, once that child came, Hannah said, “This is the child of my passion, this is the child of my vow; I will not forsake my time with this child I won’t leave this child for several weeks.  I won’t take this little child along and make it uncomfortable,” because they would necessarily walk The child needs sleep, and the child needs the gentleness of home, the quietness of a nursing environment … 

And she dedicates the weaned child to God So verse 24, “When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year- old bull, and one ephah of flour, and a jug of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh, although the child was young.  They slaughtered the bull and brought the boy to Eli, and she said, ‘O my lord, as your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.  For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.’  And he worshiped the Lord there.”

Samuel’s story begins in 1 Samuel 2:

Look at chapter 2, verse 18:  “Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod.”  In other words, he was girded like a priest would be, dressed as a little boy His whole life was ministering before the Lord.  “And his mother would make him a little robe,” verse 19, “and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, ‘May the Lord give you children from this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the Lord.’  And they went to their own home.  The Lord visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters And the boy Samuel grew before the Lord.”

She never really let go of her responsibility; every time she came, she came with a new little robe for her growing Samuel That’s the result of godly mothering And that’s the insight that you never stop being Mother, no matter how old they become God blessed her. To be a godly mother involves a right husband relationship, a right heavenly relationship, and a right home relationship Hannah had all of that.  God honored it, and she gives us a model to follow.

In closing, may I wish all mothers celebrating in a few days’ time a happy — and blessed — Mothering Sunday.

Recently, I’ve been writing about Red Wall MPs in England.

Mark Jenkinson, who represents the Workington constituency in the north west of Cumbria, is among their number.

The constituency was established in 1918.

Until Jenkinson’s victory in December 2019’s general election, Workington had only one Conservative MP, Richard Page, who, thanks to a by-election, held his seat between 1976 and 1979. In the 1979 general election, a Labour candidate reclaimed the seat.

Therefore, Mark Jenkinson is the first Conservative to represent Cumbria as the result of a general election. He defeated Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman by a majority of 4,136 votes.

Jenkinson’s campaign in 2019 saw the creation of a new name for working class voters turning Conservative: Workington man. Wikipedia explains:

Workington man describes the stereotypical swing voter who it was believed would determine the election result.[1][2] Their support of the Conservatives in the 2019 election helped the party break the Labour Party’s Red Wall of safe seats.[2]

And:

Going into the 2019 general election, it was seen as a key marginal seat for the Conservatives to win from Labour. On a 9.7% swing, it fell to the Conservatives on election night, marking the first time the seat had elected a Conservative at a general election.

In his youth, Jenkinson attended a Catholic high school and, afterwards, an agricultural institution, Newton Rigg College in Penrith.

However, he joined British Steel as an apprentice. Before becoming an MP, he was a self-employed contractor in the nuclear supply chain.

Politically, Jenkinson is rather libertarian in outlook. He was the UKIP candidate in the 2015 general election.

He was a founding member of UKIP’s West Cumbria branch but left in 2016, having been concerned about the party’s approach to the EU referendum that year and what his Wikipedia profile describes as ‘internal democracy’.

2019 was a big year for Jenkinson. Having joined the Conservative Party, he was elected to the Seaton and Northside Ward of Allerdale Borough Council, where he became deputy leader. In addition, he was the chairman of Seaton Parish Council, a position he relinquished after having been elected MP in December that year.

Jenkinson is married and has four children.

Despite Boris Johnson’s troubles with lockdown parties, Jenkinson remains enthusiastic about the Prime Minister.

On January 13, 2022, he told GB News’s Gloria De Piero, a television presenter and former Labour MP, that his constituents also like Boris and appreciate his upbeat messages. He says that he reads every email in his inbox. At that time — the height of Partygate, days before Boris’s apology to the House of Commons — he said he received fewer messages about that than he did the Policing and Crime Bill which Parliament was debating.

However, he did say that both he and Boris promised a lot to Workington and there is now a shorter timeframe in which to make those promises a reality. Again, the pandemic put paid to quick action in short order:

De Piero asked Jenkinson about his Private Member’s Bill on careers advice to school students. He said that, as a father of four, he was concerned about students receiving good advice on what to do with their lives, particularly when it comes to training and apprentice programmes. The reply to the following tweet goes to the heart of the issue:

This aspect of education does need to be strengthened, something on which all parties agree, as proved during the debate on Jenkinson’s bill the following day.

I saw the debate, which was heartwarming, as all sorts of little details popped up, not all of which were germane to the proposed legislation.

Private Member’s Bill days are held on a Friday, from mid-morning until 2:30 p.m. The atmosphere is a bit more relaxed and both sides of the House are able to agree on most of the legislation.

I will share some of Jenkinson’s contributions made on January 14 then go into other heartwarming aspects.

Jenkinson said (emphases mine):

I am delighted to present the Bill to the House for its Third Reading. It heralds a sea change in how we prepare the next generation to meet the career challenges that lie ahead. It will serve to embed careers advice throughout the secondary phase of education through the provision of regular and ongoing support for students every step of the way. In short, it is designed to give our young people the best start and to maximise their opportunities.

I am delighted that, through the Bill, I will make a positive difference to the lives of young people in my Workington constituency and across England. As a father of four, it is an issue that is close to my heart. The changes that the Bill will help to bring about are important and overdue, and I have no doubt that its effects will be positive and far-reaching.

At present, the statutory duty to provide careers guidance falls on maintained schools, special schools and pupil referral units but not academies. The Bill seeks to address that anomaly by placing the same requirement on all types of state-funded secondary schools, which will help to create a level playing field. I hope that that will encourage a culture where young people, regardless of social background, can advance through merit and hard work.

It is essential that the advice available to our young people is consistent, of the highest quality and accessible to everyone. As a blue-collar Conservative from a working-class community, I am a staunch believer in the value of meritocracy. The standard of careers guidance should not be a postcode lottery—we cannot leave the education of the next generation to chance—and must be based on a set of clear principles that are clearly focused on the best interests of children.

It is also important to develop a more joined-up system in which careers advisers, education providers and employers work together to share information and signpost young people to the opportunities available. I know how frightening it can be for a young person to make momentous and life-changing decisions about his or her future career, and that process becomes even more stressful if they are not in possession of the information that they need to make the choices that work for them.

In previous stages of the Bill, I joked that I am 39 and remain undecided about what I want to be when I grow up. At the end of the month, I will hit the big four-o and I am even less decided than I was. On a more serious note, it is easy for young people to find themselves on the wrong path or facing the wrong direction, and without the proper guidance, the risk of that happening becomes even greater.

That is why it is important to give our young people the best careers advice we can at the earliest opportunity. Such a crucial decision cannot be determined on the basis of an occasional meeting, but must be part of a long-term process that is continually reviewed in the light of changes in the labour market and the child, and of the developing aspirations of the young people themselves.

He received support from the few Labour MPs who showed up for the debate.

Jenkinson recognised the existing problems plaguing young people. Coronavirus measures made these issues worse:

The Bill is particularly timely given the disruption and disorientation caused by covid-19. It is hardly surprising that young people are worried about their education and employment prospects in these unprecedented times. Uncertainty and change inevitably fuel anxiety, and covid-19 has forced many young people to reconsider their options and look again at their career paths

In my constituency, as in others across England, there are pockets of deprivation, unemployment and sometimes, I have to say, hopelessness. I am acutely aware of the stark disadvantages faced by so many young people. They have so much to contribute, but so often they are written off too soon. If we are serious about “levelling up”—if it is to be more than just a slogan or a soundbite—giving all children access to good-quality careers advice is one of the most important weapons in our fight against poverty and despair. We must leave no child behind.

Providing this enhanced careers education and guidance makes economic sense too, as it will contribute to a high-skills and high-productivity recovery. The Bill will help all young people to develop the skills and attributes that will enable them to succeed in the workplace, and in some cases it will nurture the community leaders of the future.

He went on to discuss the work in this area being done nationally and in Cumbria:

… As a direct result of the Bill, approximately 650,000 year 7 pupils across England will become entitled to independent careers guidance, and we are bringing 2,700 academies into scope. The Bill puts into statute the Government’s commitment in the “Skills for jobs” White Paper for the UK’s post-pandemic recovery. It builds on the important work that is already being done nationally to develop a coherent and well-established careers system—a sector in which Cumbria is a leading light.

As Members will know, the Government are already committed to the national roll-out of careers hubs, and have taken action to support the careers of young people through schemes such as kickstart. As I said earlier, the Careers & Enterprise Company is increasing young people’s exposure to the world of work, and helping schools and colleges to deliver world-class careers guidance for their students in line with the Gatsby benchmarks. The National Careers Service provides careers information, advice and guidance through a website and a telephone helpline. More than 3,300 business professionals are now working as enterprise advisers with schools and colleges, doing a lot of the face-to-face guidance that strengthens employer links with schools. The result is that 3.3 million young people are now having regular encounters with employers, up 70% in just two years.

Education providers, training providers and careers services in my Workington constituency continue to rise to the challenge in the face of often large socioeconomic challenges. The Cumbria careers hub was launched in January 2019 to deliver the Government’s careers strategy for Cumbria after the local enterprise partnership’s skills investment plan identified a significant challenge in developing skills in our county.

The process is accelerating, with 100% of schools in the hub matched with an enterprise adviser from a pool of senior business volunteers. It has been successfully replicated across the country, with 45% of secondary schools and colleges now in careers hubs. We are seeing rapid improvements in hubs, with disadvantaged areas among the best performers. The link between careers and career pathways is essential for developing and attracting talent to Cumbria, owing to the area’s declining working-age population, and their success is to be celebrated.

It is therefore critical that we nurture homegrown talent by giving young people the skills and confidence they need to make the most of the opportunities within a forward-looking global Britain, to help close the skills gaps in areas like Cumbria and to attract investment. It is simply not enough to nurture talent; we must also work to retain it and attract it. Furthermore, careers advice, in line with the Gatsby benchmarks, must be tailored to the jobs market in a local area, which is why conversations and relationships between employers, schools and careers advisers are so important. This Bill ensures that those channels of communication are built upon. The Bill helps to ensure young people are aware of the opportunities that lie on their doorstep, as well as those that exist further afield. Young people often tell us that one of the biggest barriers is not knowing what careers exist

Careers advice has to start at a young age, he said:

We need to start setting out to children, as soon as possible, the options that will be available to them—not just sixth form and university but further education, apprenticeships, T-levels and other technical education qualifications. The earlier our young people start to consider these options and receive the appropriate guidance, the greater their chance of making the best possible choice.

University technical colleges—I have a fantastic one in my constituency—form an important part of the offer, but that could mean changing schools at 14. This option should not be put in front of a child at 13. It should be talked about from a much earlier age. Although it is important that young people are aware of their options, the last thing we want is for them to get to year 9 and feel like options are being imposed on them or, worse still, are non-existent, which is why flexibility must also be built into the guidance.

Engaging with employers from an early age can inspire young people and help them relate to the career opportunities to which their circumstances, abilities and interests are suited. The Bill recognises and makes use of the work already undertaken as part of the national careers system and, more importantly, it continues to raise young people’s aspirations through regular and meaningful engagement with employers and workplaces.

Having spoken in depth with education providers, parents and guardians, careers advisers, employers and, most importantly, young people themselves, I am more convinced than ever that this Bill will help to unlock the potential of generations to come. It is difficult to imagine a more worthy cause than to give our children the confidence and skills they need to be able to fulfil their dreams.

I am grateful to everyone who has worked on the Bill and helped to shape it. Their research, knowledge and observations have been invaluable and have created something that will serve our young people well. This Bill is about helping young people navigate through obstacles and avoid blind alleys, and it will prevent them from ending up in a career cul-de-sac.

Alex Burghart, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, replied on behalf of the Government:

What a pleasure it has been to take part in this debate. We have had some medieval history from me, some family history from my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) and some personal and socialist history from Opposition Members—or the Opposition Member, I should say.

We all thank my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) for this excellent Bill, which will improve a lot of young people’s lives. That is what we are all here to do. The Government are fully committed to education and to careers education and guidance, which is an essential underpinning of our reforms. It has been clear at every stage that the Bill has cross-party support and co-operation, and I genuinely thank the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins) for his party’s support during the Bill’s progress.

We are at an important juncture for skills reform in this country, and I thank my hon. Friends for supporting the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, which will soon return to the House on Report. The careers work we are pleased to be doing with my hon. Friend the Member for Workington underpins a lot of that Bill, and it is wonderful to hear my hon. Friends cite great examples from their constituencies for us to dwell on.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey) made a powerful speech on what happens in alternative provision settings. These young people, on whom so much rests, have too often been forgotten. The most important piece of careers advice I ever heard was on a visit to an alternative provision setting in Wandsworth [south London] about 12 years ago. It was a fantastic setting in which the headteacher had created a number of studios for practical vocational education: a car mechanic’s workshop; a hairdressing salon; a cookery school; and a bricklaying studio. The headteacher said to the gentleman who taught bricklaying, “Will you tell our visitor what your last job was? This is what you tell all the pupils.” And the bricklayer said, “I was an armed robber. I earned £10,000 on my last job and now I earn nearly £30,000 a year working here.” That was an extraordinarily valuable and inspiring careers lesson for young people to hear in such a setting.

We want to make sure that young people in all settings, regardless of their background, have access to high-quality careers education, which is what our reforms will do. We want to level up opportunity, and the reforms set out in our skills for jobs White Paper will give a genuine choice between high-quality technical and academic routes. It is vital that everyone has access to careers guidance of the highest standards so that they are well informed on what will happen afterwards.

We cannot overstate the importance of careers advice, and I thank all hon. Members for their contributions at this and previous stages. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Workington again on bringing this Bill to the House.

Jenkinson responded by thanking all the MPs who supported his bill. He ended by quoting a famous Prime Minister from the 19th century:

It was Benjamin Disraeli who said:

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”

This Bill is true to the spirit of those words.

Now to other heartwarming moments, beginning with ancient English history.

Sir Christopher Chope (Conservative) participated in the debate. He represents Christchurch constituency in Dorset.

Alex Burghart, the Government’s Under-Secretary of State for Education, said earlier in the debate:

I often think of my hon. Friend when I am reading the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which is one of my favourite early medieval texts. As you will know well, Mr Speaker, after King Alfred the Great died, his nephew, a nobleman, tried to seize the throne. He did so by starting at Tweoxneam, which is the archaic name for Christchurch. Whenever I think of that noble rebel of old, my mind sometimes flits to my noble friend from Christchurch today.

We also had a workhouse story from another Conservative MP, Julie Marson:

I want to give a little bit of perspective from my own background. In my maiden speech, I referred to my family background as moving from workhouse to Westminster. My great grandmother was born in a workhouse in the east end of London. She was a foundling and she met my great grandfather in the Foundling Hospital, so they had very modest beginnings. The emphasis in the Foundling Hospital was not on a choice of careers but on set career paths. All the boys who were put into the Foundling Hospital were trained to become Army bandsmen, and all the girls were trained to become maternity nurses—midwives. They did not have a choice in that.

My great grandparents went on to have great careers, in the Army and as a midwife. They met each other in the hospital, and it absolutely changed their lives. They had rewarding careers and their own family, and—workhouse to Westminster—I managed to get here, for some reason. I think that shows the fundamental need for a career and a job to make our lives what we want them to be. That opportunity, which is fundamental to levelling up and everything that we stand for

The Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, cut her off at that point and asked her to stick to the legislation.

However, I’m glad it is on the record. Other MPs had equally moving examples of career development, so interested readers might be moved to skim through the debate.

Returning to Mark Jenkinson, his libertarian side came through when he said that he did not want to attend the 2021 Conservative Party Conference if vaccine passports were mandatory:

In the end, I recall that they were made optional.

In November 2021, he wrote an article for Conservative Home about his concerns regarding sexual identity, a hot topic at the time when the question of cervices came up: ‘My Twitter monstering. I never thought that saying there are two biological sexes would cause such a stir’.

It’s a long and considered article. A few excerpts follow:

I never considered that making a statement of indisputable scientific fact – that there are only two biological sexes, each with their own set of immutable characteristics – would cause such a stir. And then I see the Labour Party eating themselves alive over it, trying hard to lose the votes of the 51 per cent of the electorate that are female.

Gender Recognition Certificates, some based on self-identification, were a topic of discussion in Parliament last year:

I am an instinctive libertarian. Everyone should be free to live their lives, as fully as possible and in a way that makes them happy. Free to live with, sleep with and love whomever they wish. Neither the state or I have any business intervening, other than to stop serious harms. But when I see the direction we’re sleepwalking in, I can no longer stay quiet …

As it is only this year that we’ll start to track prisoners with GRCs, we don’t know how many male-bodies there are in the female prison estate, where some of our most vulnerable women are housed.

We do know that at the latest datapoint in 2019, there were 129 males who identified as transgender held in the male estate, and that 57 per cent of them had at least one previous conviction for sexual offences, compared to 17 per cent of men and two per cent of women convicted of the same.

Despite exemptions for single sex spaces in the equality act, the NHS allows access to same-sex wards depending on how you present not your biological sex. Despite exemptions for necessarily same-sex services, hospital trusts are referring to ‘birthing people’ and ‘cervix havers’ – while also referring to only men having prostates.

The Scottish Government is set to introduce gender self-identification, significantly speeding up legal recognition of gender in all spheres while reducing to the age requirement to 16 – meaning those transgender prisoners can move more easily to the female estate.

Meanwhile, the UK government is toughening up on the recording of statistics around sex and gender, but is also seeking to ban conversion therapy, on the back of an unprecedentedly-short six week consultation.

As Conservatives, it’s time we stopped staying silent because it’s the nice thing to do: emotion cannot trump biological reality.

That debate will run and run.

In closing, Mark Jenkinson was pleased to host the Prime Minister along with four other Conservative MPs during the recent February recess. He took them on a quick tour of Workington and events around Cumberland on Valentine’s Day. Judging from his tweet, all appeared to have had a grand day out.

That month, he was made a parliamentary private secretary for DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. DEFRA needs some common sense, so his appointment is most welcome.

It is good to have Red Wall MPs in the House. I wish Mark Jenkinson every success in his Parliamentary career.

In 1952, newly-wed Margaret Roberts Thatcher wrote an article for the Sunday Graphic about the accession of the young Queen Elizabeth to the throne and what it meant for British women.

On February 7, 2022, The Spectator published the article in full and included a photo of it as well as the front page, which features King George VI and Princess Elizabeth together. The headline reads:

THE KING THE PEOPLE LOVED

THE QUEEN WHO IS OUR HOPE

Mrs Thatcher looked very different to the bouffant-wearing Conservative leader and Prime Minister of later years. The magazine put a photo of her in the Order of the Garter robes.

The photos are must-see images.

The Spectator introduced the article, in part (emphases mine):

… It was published in the Sunday Graphic on 17 February 1952. Thatcher [was] just a few months older than the Queen. As Margaret Roberts, she had already been the youngest woman candidate in the last two general elections and had just married Denis Thatcher in December of 1951. At the time of writing, she was studying for the bar.

Three things struck me as I read the article: women were already in positions of power, especially in Britain; Margaret Thatcher subscribed to ‘have it all’ feminism and, finally, our saying that all women then were ‘oppressed’ is wide of the mark.

Excerpts follow.

Thatcher supported her contemporary, the young Queen, and welcomed a new Elizabethan age for women:

A young Queen, the loveliest ever to reign over us, now occupies the highest position in the land. If, as many earnestly pray, the accession of Elizabeth II can help to remove the last shreds of prejudice against women aspiring to the highest places, then a new era for women will indeed be at hand. We owe it to the Queen — and to the memory of her father who set her such a wonderful example throughout his life — to play our part with increasing enterprise in the years ahead.

I hope we shall see more and more women combining marriage and a career. Prejudice against this dual role is not confined to men. Far too often, I regret to say, it comes from our own sex. But the happy management of home and career can and is being achieved.

There was already a female QC (Queen’s Counsel) — senior barrister — at the time:

the name of Miss Rose Heilbron QC whose moving advocacy in recent trials has been so widely praised is known throughout the land. Unless Britain, in the new age to come, can produce more Rose Heilbrons — not only in the field of law, of course — we shall have betrayed the tremendous work of those who fought for equal rights against such misguided opposition.

The term ‘career woman’ has unfortunately come to imply in many minds a ‘hard’ woman, devoid of all feminine characteristics. But Rose Heilbron and many more have shown only too well that capability and charm can go together. Why have so few women in recent years risen to the top of the professions?

Thatcher said that women mistakenly thought they should forfeit a continuing career when they got married:

In my view this is a great pity. For it is possible to carry on working, taking a short leave of absence when families arrive, and returning later. In this way, gifts and talents that would otherwise be wasted are developed to the benefit of the community.

The idea that the family suffers is, I believe, quite mistaken. To carry on with a career stimulates the mind, provides a refreshing contact with the world outsideand so means that a wife can be a much better companion at home. Moreover, when her children themselves marry, she is not left with a gap in her life which so often seems impossible to fill.

Thatcher returned to the prospects of a great Elizabethan era:

Women can — and must — play a leading part in the creation of a glorious Elizabethan era. The opportunities are there in abundance — in almost every sphere of British endeavour.

She gave examples of powerful women in Britain:

We must emulate the example of such women as Barbara Ward, at 37 one of our leading economists and an expert on foreign affairs. Dr Janet Vaughan, mother of two children and principal of Somerville College; Mary Field who, as president of the 90,000-strong British Federation of Business and Professional Women, is one of our most successful ‘career women’; and Dame Caroline Haslett, Britain’s No. 1 woman engineer and founder more than a quarter of a century ago of the Electrical Association for Women.

That there is a place for women at the top of the tree has been proved beyond question by these and very many others. And if there are those who would say: ‘It couldn’t happen to me.’ They would do well to remember that Dame Caroline Haslett herself started as a 10s-a-week apprentice in a London boiler works more than 30 years ago.

Thatcher pointed out that Britain was ahead of the United States when it came to representation in political life:

American women have only six out of 435 members in the House of Representatives. We have 17 out of 625 in the House of Commons. But it is still not good enough. If we are to have better representation in parliament, the women of England must fight harder for it.

She advocated aiming for the top in political life, although she did not mention the office of Prime Minister:

Why not a woman chancellor — or foreign secretary? Why not? And if they made mistakes they would not be the first to do so in those jobs!

She concluded (italics in the original):

To sum up, I should like to see the woman with a career holding down her responsibility with easy assurance during the Elizabethan age. I should like to see married women carrying on with their jobs. If so inclined after their children are born. I should like to see every woman trying to overcome ignorance of day-to-day affairs; and every woman taking an acting part in local life.

And, above all, I should like to see more and more women at Westminster, and in the highest places too. It would certainly be a good thing for the women of Britain, and I’m sure it would be a good thing for the men too.

Certainly, Margaret Thatcher followed her own advice by serving as Prime Minister from 1975 to 1990.

All credit to the Conservative Party for supporting her and many other women members in their quest to hold political office.

The Conservatives also gave us a second female Prime Minister: Theresa May.

I daresay we’ll get a third Conservative woman PM in our lifetimes.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party lags far behind. They have never had a female party leader.

Credit for Thatcher’s rise to the top also belongs to her husband Denis, who was as supportive of her as Prince Philip was of the Queen by being a confidant and a best friend.

It is unfortunate that Margaret Thatcher didn’t cherish her daughter, Carol, more; she preferred her son Mark.

As for her relationship with the Queen, rumour had it that it was spiky on occasion. The Queen grants serving Prime Ministers a weekly audience, usually in person. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during their conversations.

Margaret Thatcher thought that women could have it all: marriage, career and children. She could not have foreseen that taking marriage out of the equation makes working and raising a family precarious and difficult for many women.

In closing, I second The Spectator‘s thanks to Clarissa Reilly of Digger & Mojo Antiques in Woodborough, Wiltshire, for sending the magazine a copy of Margaret Thatcher’s article, which was illuminating and thought-provoking.

On Sunday, January 9, 2022, the Duchess of Cambridge, popularly known as Kate, turned 40:

Paolo Roversi took beautiful photographs of the Duchess to mark the occasion. They will be permanently displayed in London’s National Portrait Gallery. Prior to that, they will be touring in three places that were pivotal to the Duchess’s life: Berkshire, the county where she grew up; St Andrews, where she went to university and Anglesey, where she and Prince William lived when they first married:

Paolo Roversi definitely brought out the best in his subject:

The portrait of the Duchess in her red dress made the cover of half the Sunday papers:

The third portrait can be seen in an article in The Sunday Times: ‘Kate Middleton at 40: how the Duchess of Cambridge is preparing to be Queen’. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The paper’s Royal Editor, Roya Nikkhah, points out that Kate’s fit with the Royal Family is excellent:

From Diana to Fergie to Meghan, royal brides’ discontent with the institution is renowned. But more than ten years after marrying in, the Duchess of Cambridge celebrates her 40th birthday with a high level of the personal and professional happiness that has eluded some royal wives.

That is no mean feat for a young woman who has been so exposed for so long.

The past two years have been, to say the least, turbulent for Kate and her family …

How Kate copes

The Duchess has borrowed behaviours from the Queen and the late Queen Mother.

She eschews drama:

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, one of the Cambridges’ closest friends and advisers, their former principal private secretary who is godfather to Prince George, assesses Kate’s coping mechanism: “She has that almost old-fashioned, Queen Mother attitude to drama — she just doesn’t do it.”

An image of the duchess arriving at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April last year is telling. Taken a few weeks after Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, which included accusations of racism in the royal family, Kate appears composed but defiant.

The Queen must admire her granddaughter-in-law quite a lot, because she promoted her to:

Dame Grand Cross, the highest female rank in the Royal Victorian Order, awarded personally by the monarch for services to the sovereign — a sign of her gratitude to the woman on whose shoulders so much expectation rests. 

One source thinks that the Duchess takes a lot of her cues from the Queen:

A royal source who has known Kate from the start believes she has quietly observed Her Majesty’s game plan and successfully adopted many of her tactics: “She will be queen for a long time, and knowing her, she will have thought, ‘Who is my role model here, who has done this really well? Who do I learn from to lay down and build the foundations for the long game, to stay solid, strong, calm and confident, without giving up too much of myself?’ I think she has taken a lot from the Queen.”

Prince William’s greatest support

Sources interviewed agree that the Duchess is her husband’s greatest source of support:

A close friend says: “Kate has a way of calming William down and knows how to be really affectionate and gentle. But she is 100 per cent loyal to him and has a shaft of steel running up her back when she needs to deal with stuff that’s unpalatable.” One of William’s closest friends puts it bluntly: “He has had a year from hell and she has been fantastic supporting him.”

William is the first to acknowledge his wife’s diplomacy. “Catherine is a peacemaker,” he told a friend. “She’s much better than me, she wants everyone to be aligned.” When the royal party emerged from St George’s Chapel in Windsor after Prince Philip’s funeral, Kate broke the ice chatting to Harry, leading William to follow suit. In July, when the brothers were briefly reunited again at Kensington Palace to unveil a statue of Diana, Kate did not join them publicly but worked her magic out of sight before the brothers emerged into the glare of the world’s media.

“William was still furious,” says a close friend. “He had taken the view that he’d only give so much. He just didn’t want to go there [with Harry].” An aide says: “[Catherine] was amazing behind the scenes when Harry came.” The event went off without a hitch.

’Twas ever thus, says a former courtier, who points to the royal trio’s Heads Together campaign launched in 2016 to raise awareness around mental health: “It was completely her idea. She was very keen for the three of them to do something powerful together equally. She cared a lot about William’s relationship with his brother.”

St Andrews days

Incredibly, Prince William and Kate Middleton managed to keep the early months of their relationship at university out of the eyes of the media. Throughout it all, Kate remained level-headed:

William and Kate met at the University of St Andrews in 2001, where they were initially in the same halls of residence and reading the same degree, although William switched from art history to geography. Kate briefly dated law student Rupert Finch in her first year. She and William became a couple in 2003, managing to stay under the radar until April 2004 when The Sun broke their cover, publishing photographs of them skiing. Kate’s world changed for ever. Yet she did not. “She was always the same, from when she didn’t know she was going to be William’s wife to after the engagement,” says a close friend of the couple. “She never changed her manner with anybody.”

She can credit her parents’ success in their own party-planning business for her composure:

she moved in upper-class circles that made the transition into royal life a relatively smooth one.

Enduring love

Those who know the couple say they are still very much in love and became good friends first:

That ease came from a solid friendship before romance blossomed. As William said in their engagement interview in 2010: “We ended up being friends for a while and that was a good foundation. Because I do generally believe now that being friends with one another is a massive advantage.”

One of their closest friends says a spark was there from the start. “He found her really attractive and they’re the couple that still really fancy each other, there’s still a strong attraction. She finds him hilarious, they’re very into each other.”

Handling the media

During the couple’s courtship, Kate had no police protection until her engagement:

Kate had a rough ride from the start. After their relationship became public she was hounded by the paparazzi, who camped outside her Chelsea home, chasing her down the street. When it emerged she was working as an accessories buyer for the fashion label Jigsaw, photographers followed her as she went to buy her lunch. A friend tells me Kate was even chased late at night by several men in a car, which she found “terrifying”.

William’s team did all they could to help, but until he put Diana’s ring on her finger Kate was on her own without police protection. “It was constant. She coped with it admirably, given how intrusive it was,” says a former royal aide. The onslaught continued for years. After her job at Jigsaw became too difficult with the paparazzi, she went to work for her parents’ party-planning business and was attacked for being a “Waity Katie” who was biding her time until William made an honest woman of her. Reports that some in William’s circle nicknamed her “Doors to Manual”, in a reference to her mother Carole’s former career as a flight attendant, are said to be an “urban myth” by those close to the prince, but the future queen did not have it easy.

“It was never water off a duck’s back, but she has extraordinary strength of character and resilience,” says the aide. “I’ve never once seen or heard of her losing her temper. She went into it with her eyes wide open and her brain engaged. She is a sound, grounded person who knows herself well.”

Kate displayed the same sang-froid at her wedding. She was composed throughout.

Early married life

The Cambridges spent their first few years of married life in Anglesey. The Prince was an RAF search and rescue pilot.

Kate found adjusting to life as a Royal daunting at times but wanted to do everything properly:

Kate carefully planned her approach to learning how to become a future queen. “She was absolutely daunted by it and it was overwhelming at times,” says one of her closest friends. “Everyone wanted her to be the next Diana — people had this Diana hole they wanted to put her into. There was constant ‘what are her [campaigning] issues going to be?’ William was protective in making sure she had time and space to acclimatise to public life and not feel pressured.”

With charities clamouring for her attention, Rebecca Priestley, a confidante and adviser from 2011 and her private secretary from 2012 to 2017, helped Kate shape her new role. “Catherine knows every decision is for the rest of her life, everything is for the long game,” Priestley says. “She was aware she wasn’t an expert in any one field and she wanted to educate herself first, then shine a spotlight where needed. It was a ‘listen and learn’ approach rather than immediately becoming patron of a charity. We did a lot of under-the-radar visits before the public engagements.”

Some of the media’s obsession with her style over the substance of her work is a source of frustration, one that cut deep when she was starting her public life. A close friend says: “When she goes to the Bond premiere or is at Trooping the Colour, of course she puts on the ‘uniform’ of the role. But what was enormously frustrating and difficult for her, especially in the early days, was she was going out and doing the work she was interested in and was hugely important to her, and people just talked about what she was wearing.”

When Kate made her first public speech in March 2012, at the Treehouse hospice in Suffolk, she wore a high-street dress that her mother, Carole, had previously worn to Royal Ascot. “There she was meeting with hugely vulnerable children and families, and the dress was the story,” says the friend. “She said she found it ‘a bit demoralising’.”

Motherhood

The Duchess does what is best for her family:

Another close adviser says: “How she operates is not reactive. She has stuck to the path that she knows is right for her and her family. It’s not about the quick win.”

She says that she had a happy childhood, which the Prince says has made home life a pleasure:

Family is everything to Kate and she remains close to her parents and siblings. “I had a very happy childhood,” she has said. “It was great fun — I’m very lucky, I’ve come from a very strong family — my parents were hugely dedicated to us.” That stable family unit was a big draw for William when they met, and continues to be his compass. William has told a friend: “Catherine has made me realise the importance of family. As you know, family hasn’t always been an easy thing for me.”

In interviews, the Duchess, mother of three, admits to having the same challenges as any other mum:

Kate has always presented the unflappable demeanour of a mother who seamlessly balances the demands of a very public role with the challenges of raising George, eight, Charlotte, six, and Louis, three. But in February 2020 she let the mask slip a little, in a frank admission of wrestling with “mum guilt” and how parenthood had “pulled” her to the “toughest and most unknown places”. On the Happy Mum Happy Baby podcast she admitted struggling with “the juggle” of being “such a hands-on mum”, being riddled with “doubts and questions about the guilty element of being away for work” and always “questioning your own decisions and judgments”. It took her time to shed the guilt of having a nanny and housekeeper to share the load: “It was a real weight off my shoulders [to realise] that actually it’s not totally my responsibility to do everything because, you know, we all have good days and bad days.”

It was rare to hear Kate nattering away unscripted, and an unusually candid insight into what matters to her: “Is it that I’m sitting down trying to do their maths and spelling homework over the weekend? Or is it the fact we’ve gone out and lit a bonfire and sat around trying to cook sausages that hasn’t worked because it’s too wet?” Kate revealed she adopted hypnobirthing techniques and had “really quite liked labour”, but found the prospect of emerging on to the steps of the Lindo Wing for a photo call hours after giving birth a “slightly terrifying” but necessary part of the job. “We’re hugely grateful for the support the public had shown us, and for us to be able to share that joy and appreciation with the public I felt was really important,” she said.

A close friend gives the unvarnished take on how Kate really feels about sharing the most personal moments of her life with the nation. “She accepts and understands that in their position this stuff needs to happen. But it’s not easy for her, particularly with the babies. Standing there after just having a baby, feeling exhausted, those moments take a huge amount out of her. It’s hard work because she’s a normal woman with all the vulnerabilities and realities all women have. It is part of their life, she doesn’t resent it but it takes a lot of effort.”

What an exceptional woman. I wish there were more women just like her.

Many happy returns to the Duchess of Cambridge!

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post — not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 — resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://churchmousec.wordpress.com/.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,544 other subscribers

Archive

Calendar of posts

February 2023
S M T W T F S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728  

http://martinscriblerus.com/

Bloglisting.net - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 1,703,028 hits