Chocolate Jesus, Kamikazes and pants to my opponent

My sweet lord, the depths we can sink to when at war and a spot of good old fashioned politics...

Dear Marina,

I was taking a run on the treadmill while watching the morning news when, low and behold, a six-foot, anatomically correct chocolate Jesus appeared on the screen. Now, with Easter weekend approaching, I expect to digest my fair share of chocolate bunnies and cream eggs, but I don't know about the thought of a chocolate messiah! Then I heard that chocolate Jesus was the star of the “My Sweet Lord” exhibit in New York, which had been shut down due to public uproar. I began to ponder whether the exhibit really did go too far, or if cancelling it violated the rights of the artist who created the sweet sculpture.

Your thoughts?

An Easter Bunny, London.

My housemate Tyrone nailed it when he asked: "Would it have been different if they’d made him out of white chocolate?"

How about concrete (concrete production is a huge producer of green house gases)? Is that acceptable? Or blood? Marble? Hard wood ravaged out of a rain forest? Or perhaps two cornflake boxes and a yoghurt carton. Even plastic with a battery powered glowing heart.

What struck me about Cosimo Cavallaro’s six foot sculpture, crafted from 90kgs of milk chocolate was the perfection of the Messiah’s appendage, which did, I confess, inspire me to fall to my knees begging my Adonis for communion: “Sweet Jesus I could eat you!” At that moment this immaculate confection could have converted me to anything - until I realised my salvation would mean the sacrifice of a truly beautiful piece of art. Bad girl!

Given Catholics eat the body of Christ on a regular basis, I’d have thought a change in flavour would be welcome. But there’s no accounting for habitual guilt. It makes people crazy.

If you’re in the UK for the Passover/equinox/Easter season, check out George Heslop’s Chocolate exhibition at Ale and Porter Arts, Bradford-on-Avon from 8th April to 6th May. He too exhibits a full-size chocolate Jesus. But hurry before the Catholics catch on. Honestly why can’t they focus on the important issues such as why Christian society tolerates the notion of an Easter bunny? Happy global chocolate day everyone.

Dear Marina,

I am completely horrified. According to the Sun, British pilots now might be asked to go on Kamikaze missions, crashing their planes into terrorist targets as a last-ditch effort to destroy them. Our young pilots deliberately sacrificing themselves for the war on terror? That sounds far too much like the suicide bombers we are trying to stop! I am all for loyalty to your country, but suicide? In an age where we have rockets capable of reaching within feet of targets, what do you think is the purpose and justification behind using humans as ammo?

Air cadet, Oxford

The trouble with war is you either think it okay or you don’t. Once you cross over the line into acceptance, all humane bets are off. What does it matter whether you use cannon balls or humans beings as ammo once you accept that life is no longer sacrosanct? Indeed one could argue, given the mounting global over-population, that human beings are a greater sustainable resource – and much cheaper - than base metals. As the enemy has already calculated.

We meanwhile are happy to wander in the fog of moral obfuscation, stopping short of absolutes, appointing a sliding scale of values to different races instead. As in: its okay to bomb the shit out of Iraqi civilians but it’s not okay for our boys in blue to lay down their lives to kill those who would retaliate. Although if the RAF manages to blow those foreign bodies to smithereens with a bomb, that’s okay too.

All war is evil. Invading Iraq on false pretences was a crime against humanity. It was wrong in 2003 and it is just as wrong now.

What did we ever hope to gain and what have we lost? Our leaders have failed everyone.

This kamikaze suggestion from the air force is calibrated to wear us down, to lead us into ownership of the idea that a common enemy is out to get us and we must stop at nothing to win. That includes handing over our human rights and personal right to life.

After all, if we can tolerate state-sanctioned suicide bombing why wouldn’t we tolerate war in Iran, ID cards, a terminal NHS, stealth taxes, failing education, the growing poverty gap, increasing low-level crime, pollution, inaction on climate change and all the other failures this government would have us believe are GOOD THINGS!

Die for this government? I wouldn’t piss on it if it was on fire.

Dear Marina

As you know I am standing for election to Telscombe Town Council. I really want to win. What are the key messages we should be telling people? I only ask because I know there are important issues, but when I knock on peoples’ doors they just want to talk about you not wearing knickers. Did I miss something in the Focus leaflets?

Tyrone Harewood, East Saltdean

It is always gratifying when a candidate uses their initiative to maximise media exposure in the run up to the election. Well done Tyrone. I promise, if we win on 3rd May you’ll be let off delivering the Rapunzel round. Why people have to have more stairs than a Take That comeback video leading to their front doors is beyond me. I’d lose the will to pop out for milk.

Our three core messages, Tyrone, are our three core strengths. Only local Liberal Democrats have reduced crime, addressed the difficult issues of Climate Change and delivered power back to the people.

It is a credit to our local party (aided by opposition dirty tricks) that my underwear status has become the focus on the doorstep. Proof positive, surely, that there’s not much to moan about in these parts.

“I wear no underwear beneath my short cotton skirt” is the opening line to an article on climate change, published in the Viva Lewes Handbook (check out The main thrust of the piece is that while there are seemingly positive aspects to climate change – such as roses in winter, warmer temperatures and exposing our saucy bits - this is no excuse for doing nothing about global warming.

The column ends with a quote from the great revolutionary Tom Paine writing about Edmund Burke in The Rights of Man. Paine said: “[Burke] is not affected by the reality of distress touching his heart, but by the showy resemblance of it striking his imagination. He pities the plumage, but forgets the dying bird.”

Proclaiming trumped up moral opinions over my right to express myself with naked honesty as a writer, a campaigner and yes even as a politician, makes Burkes of us all. Now’s the time to be a Paine. Take the bird in hand and focus on revolution. Vote Liberal Democrat this time.

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
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Hannan Fodder: This week, Daniel Hannan gets his excuses in early

I didn't do it. 

Since Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy...

When I started this column, there were some nay-sayers talking Britain down by doubting that I was seriously going to write about Daniel Hannan every week. Surely no one could be that obsessed with the activities of one obscure MEP? And surely no politician could say enough ludicrous things to be worthy of such an obsession?

They were wrong, on both counts. Daniel and I are as one on this: Leave and Remain, working hand in glove to deliver on our shared national mission. There’s a lesson there for my fellow Remoaners, I’m sure.

Anyway. It’s week three, and just as I was worrying what I might write this week, Dan has ridden to the rescue by writing not one but two columns making the same argument – using, indeed, many of the exact same phrases (“not a club, but a protection racket”). Like all the most effective political campaigns, Dan has a message of the week.

First up, on Monday, there was this headline, in the conservative American journal, the Washington Examiner:

“Why Brexit should work out for everyone”

And yesterday, there was his column on Conservative Home:

“We will get a good deal – because rational self-interest will overcome the Eurocrats’ fury”

The message of the two columns is straightforward: cooler heads will prevail. Britain wants an amicable separation. The EU needs Britain’s military strength and budget contributions, and both sides want to keep the single market intact.

The Con Home piece makes the further argument that it’s only the Eurocrats who want to be hardline about this. National governments – who have to answer to actual electorates – will be more willing to negotiate.

And so, for all the bluster now, Theresa May and Donald Tusk will be skipping through a meadow, arm in arm, before the year is out.

Before we go any further, I have a confession: I found myself nodding along with some of this. Yes, of course it’s in nobody’s interests to create unnecessary enmity between Britain and the continent. Of course no one will want to crash the economy. Of course.

I’ve been told by friends on the centre-right that Hannan has a compelling, faintly hypnotic quality when he speaks and, in retrospect, this brief moment of finding myself half-agreeing with him scares the living shit out of me. So from this point on, I’d like everyone to keep an eye on me in case I start going weird, and to give me a sharp whack round the back of the head if you ever catch me starting a tweet with the word, “Friends-”.

Anyway. Shortly after reading things, reality began to dawn for me in a way it apparently hasn’t for Daniel Hannan, and I began cataloguing the ways in which his argument is stupid.

Problem number one: Remarkably for a man who’s been in the European Parliament for nearly two decades, he’s misunderstood the EU. He notes that “deeper integration can be more like a religious dogma than a political creed”, but entirely misses the reason for this. For many Europeans, especially those from countries which didn’t have as much fun in the Second World War as Britain did, the EU, for all its myriad flaws, is something to which they feel an emotional attachment: not their country, but not something entirely separate from it either.

Consequently, it’s neither a club, nor a “protection racket”: it’s more akin to a family. A rational and sensible Brexit will be difficult for the exact same reasons that so few divorcing couples rationally agree not to bother wasting money on lawyers: because the very act of leaving feels like a betrayal.

Or, to put it more concisely, courtesy of Buzzfeed’s Marie Le Conte:

Problem number two: even if everyone was to negotiate purely in terms of rational interest, our interests are not the same. The over-riding goal of German policy for decades has been to hold the EU together, even if that creates other problems. (Exhibit A: Greece.) So there’s at least a chance that the German leadership will genuinely see deterring more departures as more important than mutual prosperity or a good relationship with Britain.

And France, whose presidential candidates are lining up to give Britain a kicking, is mysteriously not mentioned anywhere in either of Daniel’s columns, presumably because doing so would undermine his argument.

So – the list of priorities Hannan describes may look rational from a British perspective. Unfortunately, though, the people on the other side of the negotiating table won’t have a British perspective.

Problem number three is this line from the Con Home piece:

“Might it truly be more interested in deterring states from leaving than in promoting the welfare of its peoples? If so, there surely can be no further doubt that we were right to opt out.”

If there any rhetorical technique more skin-crawlingly horrible, than, “Your response to my behaviour justifies my behaviour”?

I could go on, about how there’s no reason to think that Daniel’s relatively gentle vision of Brexit is shared by Nigel Farage, UKIP, or a significant number of those who voted Leave. Or about the polls which show that, far from the EU’s response to the referendum pushing more European nations towards the door, support for the union has actually spiked since the referendum – that Britain has become not a beacon of hope but a cautionary tale.

But I’m running out of words, and there’ll be other chances to explore such things. So instead I’m going to end on this:

Hannan’s argument – that only an irrational Europe would not deliver a good Brexit – is remarkably, parodically self-serving. It allows him to believe that, if Brexit goes horribly wrong, well, it must all be the fault of those inflexible Eurocrats, mustn’t it? It can’t possibly be because Brexit was a bad idea in the first place, or because liberal Leavers used nasty, populist ones to achieve their goals.

Read today, there are elements of Hannan’s columns that are compelling, even persuasive. From the perspective of 2020, I fear, they might simply read like one long explanation of why nothing that has happened since will have been his fault.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.