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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There's something missing from our counter-terrorism debate

The policy reckoning that occured after the 2005 terrorist attacks did not happen after the one in 2016. 

“Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department, says Wernher von Braun.” That satirical lyric about Nazi rocket scientists has come to mind more than few times watching various tech giants give testimony in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee, one of the underreported sub-plots of life at Westminster.

During their ongoing inquiry into hate crime in the United Kingdom, committee chair Yvette Cooper has found a staggering amount of hate speech being circulated freely on the largest and most profitable social media platform. Seperately, an ongoing investigation by the Times has uncovered how advertising revenue from Google and YouTube makes its way straight into the coffers of extremist groups, ranging from Islamist extremists to white supremacists and anti-Semites.

One of the many remarkable aspects of the inquiry has been the von Braunesque reaction by the movers and shakers at these tech companies. Once the ad revenue is handed out, who cares what it pays for? That’s not my department is the overwhelming message of much of the testimony.

The problem gains an added urgency now that the perpetrator of the Westminster attacks has been named as Khalid Masood, a British-born 52-year-old with a string of petty convictions across two decades from 1982 to 2002. He is of the same generation and profile as Thomas Mair, the white supremacist behind the last act of domestic terrorism on British shores, though Mair’s online radicalisation occurred on far-right websites, while Masood instead mimicked the methods of Isis attacks on the continent.  Despite that, both fitted many of the classic profiles of a “lone wolf” attack, although my colleague Amelia explains well why that term is increasingly outmoded.

One thing that some civil servants have observed is that it is relatively easy to get MPs to understand anti-terror measures based around either a form of electronic communication they use themselves – like text messaging or email, for instance – or a physical place which they might have in their own constituencies. But legislation has been sluggish in getting to grips with radicalisation online and slow at cutting off funding sources.

As I’ve written before, though there  are important differences between these two ideologies, the radicalisation journey is similar and tends to have the same staging posts: petty criminality, a drift from the fringes of respectable Internet sub-cultures to extremist websites, and finally violence.  We don’t yet know how closely Masood’s journey follows that pattern – but what is clear is that the policy rethink about British counter-terror after the July bombings in 2005 has yet to have an equivalent echo online. The success of that approach is shown in that these attacks are largely thwarted in the United Kingdom. But what needs to happen is a realisation that what happens when the rockets come down is very much the department of the world’s communication companies. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.