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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What I learnt when my wife and I went to Brexit: the Musical

This week in the media, from laughing as the world order crumbles to what Tristram Hunt got wrong – and Leicester’s big fall.

As my wife and I watched Brexit: the Musical, performed in a tiny theatre above a pub in London’s Little Venice, I thought of the American novelist Lionel Shriver’s comment on Donald Trump’s inauguration: “A sense of humour is going to get us through better than indignation.” It is an entertaining, engaging and amusing show, which makes the point that none of the main actors in the Brexit drama – whether supporters of Leave or Remain – achieved quite what they had intended. The biggest laugh went to the actor playing Boris Johnson (James Sanderson), the wannabe Tory leader who blew his chance. The mere appearance of an overweight man of dishevelled appearance with a mop of blond hair is enough to have the audience rolling in the aisles.

The lesson we should take from Brexit and from Trump’s election is that politicians of all shades, including those who claim to be non-political insurgents, have zero control of events, whether we are talking about immigration, economic growth or the Middle East. We need to tweak Yeats’s lines: the best may lack all conviction but the worst are full not so much of passionate intensity – who knows what Trump or Johnson really believe? – as bumbling incompetence. The sun will still rise in the morning (as
Barack Obama observed when Trump’s win became evident), and multi­national capital will still rule the world. Meanwhile, we may as well enjoy the show.

 

Danger of Donald

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t deny the risks of having incompetents in charge. The biggest concerns Trump’s geopolitical strategy, or rather his lack of one. Great power relations since 1945 have been based on mutual understanding of what each country wants to achieve, of its red lines and national ambitions. The scariest moments come when one leader miscalculates how another will react. Of all figures in recent history, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, with his flamboyant manner and erratic temperament, was probably the most similar to Trump. In 1962, he thought President Kennedy, inexperienced and idealistic, would tolerate Soviet missiles in Cuba. He was wrong and the world only narrowly avoided nuclear war.

How would Trump respond to a Russian invasion of the Baltic states? Will he recognise Taiwan as an independent country? Will he scrap Obama’s deal with Iran and support a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear ambitions? Nobody knows, probably not even Trump. He seems to think that keeping your options open and your adversaries guessing leads to “great deals”. That may work in business, in which the worst that can happen is that one of your companies goes bankrupt – an outcome of which Americans take a relaxed view. In international relations, the stakes are higher.

 

Right job, wrong time

I rather like Tristram Hunt, who started contributing to the New Statesman during my editorship. He may be the son of a life peer and a protégé of Peter Mandelson, but he is an all-too-rare example of a politician with a hinterland, having written a biography of Engels and a study of the English Civil War and presented successful TV documentaries. In a parallel universe, he could have made an inspirational Labour leader,
a more thoughtful and trustworthy version of Tony Blair.

No doubt, having resigned his Stoke-on-Trent Central seat, he will make a success of his new job as director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. If nothing else, he will learn a little about the arts of management and leadership. But isn’t this the wrong way round? Wouldn’t it be better if people first ran museums or other cultural and public institutions and then carried such experience into parliament and government?

 

Pointless palace

When the Palace of Westminster was largely destroyed by fire in 1834, thousands gathered to enjoy the spectacle. Thomas Carlyle noted that the crowd “whew’d and whistled when the breeze came as if to encourage it” and that “a man sorry I did not anywhere see”.

Now, with MPs reportedly refusing to move out to allow vital renovation work from 2023, we can expect a repeat performance. Given the unpopularity of politicians, public enthusiasm may be even greater than it was two centuries ago. Yet what is going through MPs’ minds is anyone’s guess. Since Theresa May refuses them a vote on Brexit, prefers the Foreign Office’s Lancaster House as the location to deliver her most important speech to date and intends to amend or replace Brussels-originated laws with ministerial orders under “Henry VIII powers”, perhaps they have concluded that there’s no longer much point to the place.

 

As good as it gets

What a difference a year makes. In January 2016, supporters of Leicester City, my home-town team, were beginning to contemplate the unthinkable: that they could win football’s Premier League. Now, five places off the bottom, they contemplate the equally unthinkable idea of relegation.

With the exception of one player, N’Golo Kanté (now at Chelsea), the team is identical to last season’s. So how can this be? The sophisticated, mathematical answer is “regression to the mean”. In a league where money, wages and performance are usually linked rigidly, a team that does much better than you’d predict one season is likely to do much worse the next. I’d suggest something else, though. For those who won last season’s title against such overwhelming odds, life can never be as good again. Anything short of winning the Champions League (in which Leicester have so far flourished) would seem an anti­climax. In the same way, the England cricket team that won the Ashes in 2005 – after the Australians had dominated for 16 years – fell apart almost as soon as its Trafalgar Square parade was over. Beating other international teams wouldn’t have delivered the same adrenalin surge.

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era