Where the evangelical must stay

Advice for a Christian visiting gay-friendly Brighton plus the woman who wonders if she is a witch

Dear Marina,

I will shortly be visiting the gay capital of the UK, Brighton. On looking for a place to stay for a few nights I noticed a couple of websites had a small note 'Gay friendly'. Now I'm not a homophobe but I am an evangelical Christian and don't want to put myself in any danger, if you know what I mean. Should I avoid sleeping at such places? None of the B&Bs or hotels have been advertised as 'Straight friendly', perhaps you could recommend a few? Or should I come and stay with you, you pagan minx?

Love Bruno, Hampton

Jesus wept man. Surely all that happy clapping you subject yourself to has strengthened your resolve against any preternatural urges you may be harbouring. Get out your tambourine and start bashing. This will surely give you the strength to overcome the dangers of temptation.

Should a blast of Stand Up For Jesus fail, however, all is not lost. Indeed as I understand it your belief system thrives on the cycle of temptation, sin, repentance confession and redemption. A spot of flagellation isn’t out of the question either – which could prove popular in the bijou B& Bs of Brighton. Yes Bruno, it’s a win win situation.

I am sorry to say that staying with me is quite out of the question. What with rising interest rates and energy prices I’ve had to sublet all available space – unless you want to sleep in the bath or on top of the piano – but having surfed the net myself I have a couple of suggestions.

Try Paskins Hotel 18/19 Charlotte Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 1AG Tel: +44(0)1273 601203 Fax:+44(0)1273 621973. I’m sure they’re not fussy about sexual orientation but they do care about the environment – as will any hotel or B&B carrying the Green Tourism Business Scheme mark.

It’s what Jesus would have wanted. . .

Dear Marina,

I loathe giving my boyfriend oral sex, but I love receiving it from him. He thinks it should be reciprocal. What should I do?

Tongue-tied in Taunton

Swallow hard and indulge him. It’s only fair.

Dear Marina

With new PM Brown, I find myself in a crisis of political disorientation. New Labour died, the Tories come off as wannabe hip grandparents, and the LibDems, well they don't want to compromise and as charming as Ming is - he is a bit old. Is my disorientation justified or am I merely apathetic?

David, Lincolnshire

Apathetic I’d say. If you could be bothered you might acknowledge the tentacles of power that are politics reach far beyond clichés of old leaders, image makeovers and party branding.

Peel yourself off the sofa and go find out who represents you locally. Go beyond that to link with campaigners who can make a difference not only to your community but hey, the wider world as well.

I admit it’s difficult. I mean even our prime minister knows we need to engage people – and then at the first opportunity veers off into a debate on the West Lothian question: deemed by the man on the Clapham Omnibus as about as relevant to his life as the Off Side rule at a Mothers Union conference.

But so long as at least two English MPs sit between the Scots and their goals, no offence will be committed. Which is a shame really, since the Scots have no tuition fees, provide free care for the elderly and use proportional representation for elections. Hence a better class of parliamentarian I believe.

Dear Marina

Help I think I might be a witch. At times of the full moon I feel completely out of character and get a bit manic. I'm a Capricorn, does this make a difference?

Spooked, West London

If you were a werewolf it might. Jonathan Caner reckons Capricorns are deeper than people think. So who knows?

Dear Marina

Since the smoking ban has come in i've been forced outside to smoke and have a Butt pouch to keep my fag ends in when I'm done. Problem is where do I keep the butt pouch on me? I have enough trouble finding pockets for mobile phone and wallet. Is it time for a manbag?

Confused
Isle of Man

Nope, it’s time to stop smoking. Well done by the way for being thoughtful enough to pick up your butts which pose a hazard to wildlife and look awful scattered on the ground.

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.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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Why Angela Merkel's comments about the UK and US shouldn't be given too much weight

The Chancellor's comments are aimed at a domestic and European audience, and she won't be abandoning Anglo-German relationships just yet.

Angela Merkel’s latest remarks do not seem well-judged but should not be given undue significance. Speaking as part of a rally in Munich for her sister party, the CSU, the German Chancellor claimed “we Europeans must really take our own fate into our hands”.

The comments should be read in the context of September's German elections and Merkel’s determination to restrain the fortune of her main political rival, Martin Schulz – obviously a strong Europhile and a committed Trump critic. Sigmar Gabriel - previously seen as a candidate to lead the left-wing SPD - has for some time been pressing for Germany and Europe to have “enough self-confidence” to stand up to Trump. He called for a “self-confident position, not just on behalf of us Germans but all Europeans”. Merkel is in part responding to this pressure.

Her words were well received by her audience. The beer hall crowd erupted into sustained applause. But taking an implicit pop at Donald Trump is hardly likely to be a divisive tactic at such a gathering. Criticising the UK post-Brexit and the US under Trump is the sort of virtue signalling guaranteed to ensure a good clap.

It’s not clear that the comments represent that much of a new departure, as she herself has since claimed. She said something similar earlier this year. In January, after the publication of Donald Trump’s interview with The Times and Bild, she said that “we Europeans have our fate in our own hands”.

At one level what Merkel said is something of a truism: in two year’s time Britain will no longer be directly deciding the fate of the EU. In future no British Prime Minister will attend the European Council, and British MEPs will leave the Parliament at the next round of European elections in 2019. Yet Merkel’s words “we Europeans”, conflate Europe and the EU, something she has previously rejected. Back in July last year, at a joint press conference with Theresa May, she said: “the UK after all remains part of Europe, if not of the Union”.

At the same press conference, Merkel also confirmed that the EU and the UK would need to continue to work together. At that time she even used the first person plural to include Britain, saying “we have certain missions also to fulfil with the rest of the world” – there the ‘we’ meant Britain and the EU, now the 'we' excludes Britain.

Her comments surely also mark a frustration born of difficulties at the G7 summit over climate change, but Britain and Germany agreed at the meeting in Sicily on the Paris Accord. More broadly, the next few months will be crucial for determining the future relationship between Britain and the EU. There will be many difficult negotiations ahead.

Merkel is widely expected to remain the German Chancellor after this autumn’s election. As the single most powerful individual in the EU27, she is the most crucial person in determining future relations between the UK and the EU. Indeed, to some extent, it was her intransigence during Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ which precipitated Brexit itself. She also needs to watch with care growing irritation across the EU at the (perceived) extent of German influence and control over the institutions and direction of the European project. Recent reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which suggested a Merkel plan for Jens Weidmann of the Bundesbank to succeed Mario Draghi at the ECB have not gone down well across southern Europe. For those critics, the hands controlling the fate of Europe are Merkel’s.

Brexit remains a crucial challenge for the EU. How the issue is handled will shape the future of the Union. Many across Europe’s capitals are worried that Brussels risks driving Britain further away than Brexit will require; they are worried lest the Channel becomes metaphorically wider and Britain turns its back on the continent. On the UK side, Theresa May has accepted the EU, and particularly Merkel’s, insistence, that there can be no cherry picking, and therefore she has committed to leaving the single market as well as the EU. May has offered a “deep and special” partnership and a comprehensive free trading arrangement. Merkel should welcome Britain’s clarity. She must work with new French President Emmanuel Macron and others to lead the EU towards a new relationship with Britain – a close partnership which protects free trade, security and the other forms of cooperation which benefit all Europeans.

Henry Newman is the director of Open Europe. He tweets @henrynewman.

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