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If the murder, enslavement, torture, beating, execution and imprisonment of Christians worldwide is ever to stop, then a necessary first step is that we must be aware of it.

Last week I had a meeting with Open Doors, a charity which works with Christians worldwide who face persecution for their beliefs. It was, to say the least, an eye-opener for me. I was aware that Christians in various countries around the world are being persecuted for their beliefs. Indeed, I’ve tried to raise some of those cases to the best of my ability with the (limited) power that a Member of the European Parliament actually has (less than you might think, the EU system being designed to keep power in the hands of the unelected). When something is happening, but not right on your doorstep, it’s easy to miss something very serious.

I should point out that Christians are not the only religious group that is persecuted: talking about the persecution of Christians does not preclude the existence of persecution of other groups (and indeed, I also speak out about those matters) In the 2017 reporting period, around 1,200 Christians were killed for their faith. By the 2018 reporting period, the number had grown to 3,000. These figures do not reflect the true situation, because there are many killings that cannot be included. If a Christian is killed for their faith in North Korea, how do we find out about it? Instances across the world may not be reported, for a variety of reasons. The figures I’ve given may just be the tip of the iceberg: more than 200 million Christians face ‘high’ levels of persecution because of their faith.

In North Korea, children are urged to ‘report’ their parents if they suspect them of being Christians; those who do are unlikely to ever see their family again. Afghanistan, perhaps unsurprisingly after the events of recent years, is almost as bad – with anyone converting to Christianity facing a death sentence for ‘apostasy’. Open Doors also claims that Hindu nationalism in India has “embedded the culture of impunity for those who persecute Christians”. With so much hatred in the world, in some cases persecution is the result of a consistent blind eye being turned by authorities to crimes against those of a faith ‘different’ to the majority. It is not organised by a government, but through inaction they permit such things to continue.

In that meeting, one of the people delivering a presentation sat for most of the meeting with her head in her hands, looking downwards and averting her eyes from the rest of the room. She was terrified of being photographed, fearing that she would be unable to continue her work with Christians overseas if she were recognised. I knew of such things in the past, of course: Christians who smuggled Bibles into the old Soviet Union, fearing beatings or being sent to a remote gulag in Siberia from which they might never return. That the same could be the case today, relating to a country I would not have expected (and which I won’t name here), says so much. That’s what is most shocking: beyond the figures and statistics, beyond the stories of lives changed, destroyed or ended by persecution: today – in the 21st century – persecution of Christians (and possibly other religions but I don’t have the figures for this) is increasing rather than decreasing. We feel we live in a civilised world, one in which basic truths of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ actually mean something. Four years ago, North Korea was the only country where ‘extreme’ persecution of Christians was commonplace. Today, 11 countries meet that description.

Those 11 countries don’t share much in common: in practice, if not constitutionally, they are atheist, Islamic, and Hindu, but they do share one thing: a mindset of exclusivity. To me, it’s a poignant reminder of what loving your nation, or religious beliefs, should be all about. I am a Christian myself, but I don’t hate atheists or Muslims. I care about the persecution of Christians, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about persecution of Yazidis or the Rohingya for example. I love my country, but I don’t hate anybody else’s. I’m proudly pro-Brexit, but if you disagree, we should do so amicably. And as a Northerner, I don’t hate Southerners. That kind of yah-boo dislike of the ‘other side’ should be confined to the football pitch where it belongs, where people can yell at the referee and the opposition to their hearts’ content without any actual harm being done to anyone.

If the murder, enslavement, torture, beating, execution and imprisonment of Christians worldwide is ever to stop, then a necessary first step is that we must be aware of it.

LETTERS

Promises to address the transport spending gap between the North and South usually prove to be no more than empty words

Dear Editor,

I am not surprised that a row has broken out about the transport spending gap between the North and South, it is a perennial problem and likely to remain so I’m afraid.

This issue has spanned many successive governments, both Labour and Tory. We have heard countless promises of investment but it usually proves to be no more than empty words.

Whether the think tank IPPR North has got its figures right or not, as claimed by the Department of Transport, there can be no doubt that there is large discrepancy and it needs to be addressed.

But governments rise and governments fall and though I’d love to be wrong about this,I fear this spending gap will survive.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

 

 

Response to UKIP statement

I have read the UKIP statement requesting that I step down as an MEP after my resignation from the Party. In that statement UKIP claims that such a decision is a ‘matter of honour’ because, before I was elected in 2014, I agreed not to step down from the Party.

In employment law, there is a principle called ‘constructive dismissal’. An employer, basically, can’t make your work situation so horrible and intolerable that there’s no reasonable way you could stay in the job – and use this as an underhand tactic to sack you despite having no legal grounds to do so. When I agreed not to step down, everyone knew that this commitment was not binding and it contained an inherent presumption that the Party would still remain broadly the same organisation that it was when I was elected. The Party has fundamentally changed its people, tone, rhetoric, policies, and style to the extent that it is unrecognisable in 2018 from the one for which I stood for election in 2014. Nobody in their right mind could possibly consider this Party to be the same organisation as it was back then.

I am not alone in thinking this. Up to 70% of the members have left; councillors have been resigning across the country, and in many regions the Party lacks even the most basic Party infrastructure because regional officials have resigned. The state of devastation within the Party is hard to underestimate. I stayed within the Party far longer than I should have, precisely out of respect to those members who chose to stay.

For accuracy I should point out that I have had phone calls from three senior people in the Party (and also from a number of MEPs) who have told me the Party is obliged to request my resignation for form’s sake, but that they privately completely understand and respect my decision.

An environment in which it’s not possible to have a straightforward meeting without the contents being leaked to the press is not one in which it is practical to work. An environment where colleagues scream at each other across a room is not one in which it is practical to work. An environment in which NEC members spam each other with vitriolic emails several times a day is not one in which it is practical to work. An environment in which the aim is to attack your colleagues not your political opponents is not one in which it is practical to work.

When I resigned I made it quite clear that I have no intention of creating further unnecessary damage to the Party; therefore, so long as the Party does not dispute the accuracy of this statement, I will keep all corroborating evidence to myself. They know my words to be true; I know my words to be true, but I will not embarrass them by proving what we all know to be the case.

The reaction I’ve received to my resignation was unexpected. I have received dozens of messages of support from current and former UKIP members. There has been a co-ordinated attempt to get members to contact me and seek my resignation; despite this co-ordination, those messages are still outweighed by positive messages I’ve received by a margin of roughly 4 to 1 by those who supported UKIP when I was elected.

A flavour of the messages I’ve received in support can be found below. My advice to UKIP, for what it’s worth, would be not to have a go at me – that would be to fall into the same internal infighting trap that it’s been doing over the last couple of years – but to deal with their own underlying issues. It all shows just how insular UKIP has become. Basic ‘customer service’ principles should teach the Party that. Don’t tell your ‘customers’ that they’re wrong, and that they really want your product even when they don’t: instead, make sure that your product is something they actually want to buy. If UKIP retained any desire to become a professional, credible Party, then it would be addressing these concerns rather than attacking me.

 
If the Party truly cared about its future, should it not have been striving to get people like me, who have served this Party diligently for 17 years, back – rather than acting in a manner which appears designed to burn bridges rather than to mend fences?

[NB: Grammar left ‘as is’. Many more messages omitted including simple ‘well done/good luck’ type messages, most of those on Twitter, some duplication, messages from family, most of those received by email, etc.]

“I am afraid to say that UKIP has lost its way, the party once gave meaning and purpose to thousands of us who were dissatisfied with the status quo in politics. Thank you Jonathan for your loyalty to all us members, you will be missed.”

“Well done, wise choice. A single intellectual with a bucket is never going to save a sinking ship.”

“You didn’t abandoned UKIP, UKIP abandoned you. I know you didn’t make the decision lightly.”

“I can’t say I blame you. I’m not renewing my membership.”

“I’m sad to see you go,but understand clearly why. Good luck in all you do. You can not repair the party alone and neither should you feel the need to hold on when others clearly don’t help.”

“What you said was spot on. I can’t publicise my agreement, but you have my wholehearted support. Well done for saying it.”

“Sorry to hear this Jon but completely understand. It’s a shame that UKIP has not kicked on as it should have. It basically leaves people like me without a party.”

“Best wishes Jonathan you always do the right thing.”

“Principles before party. Excellent priority Jonathan. Well done for sticking with it so long!”

“It’s a shame as you’ve dedicated your life to this but your work was not in vain. It must have been very hard to take this decision.”

“I honestly cannot say I blame you. I’m struggling myself to remain a member. A shame really. It is the only political party I ever joined – as I never ever wanted to get involved in politics.”

“Thank you sir for all of the fine work that you have done. I am afraid that I too have ‘resigned’ from UKIP for very much the same reasons. Best of luck for the future!”

“So sorry to hear this. Another good man leaves. Good luck with whatever you choose to do in the future.”

“Your decision is a massive loss to all the decent people in UKIP Mr Arnott. It is sad that a once great movement has been eaten alive by the cancer within at the very top that has seen so many of the really decent senior people leave.”

“Hi Jonathan, just wanted to wish you the best of luck in your political future, whatever that involves. I totally understand how you feel.”

“Always had a lot of time for Jonathan and he has helped me with his guidance and vast experience and dedication to Ukip People look up to you and when a man of your high standing quits Well I think we are doomed”

“It’s nice to meet genuine people in politics. I too have given up on the Party because of all the embarrassing infighting.”

“Sent you a message in im [Instant Message] you are right the party has changed.”

“I totally understand Jonathon, I have been effectively kicked out by my old Chairman and will not be renewing my membership. It looks like a lot of good people are leaving and all I can say is will the last person in the party turn off the lights”

“You have always been a sane and reasoned voice in an increasingly bizarre organisation and you deserve better.”

“You have to follow your own beliefs. Denying this you become a traitor to yourself. Follow your heart and you will serve your followers truly. Please keep us all informed about what’s going on in Brussels. Best of luck.”

“Tough call for you to make I’m sure and I’m sure anyone who matters wll respect you for what you’ve done over the last 17 years and not the last few hours. Good luck and please shout if you ever feel I can help you in any way.”

“I am so sorry to see you go, you frankly deserved better”

“Sad news Jonathan… I do not wish to say too much (politically) but suffice to thank you for your dedication to UKIP in our region.”

“Sensible move. UKIP has lost the plot.”

“Very sad to see your statement and resignation, it’s a decision I believe many are making right now also. I hope you know I’ll continue to support anything you’re doing”

“You’re well out of it UKIP’s a dead duck”

“So sorry you’ve left. You’ve been a tremendous asset but the last 18 months have been, shall we say, difficult.”

“Its a pity all those who have resigned can’t get together a form a new party.I don’t blame you for resigning I resigned last September as I could see where UKIP was going and it wan’t a nice place. Good Luck to you”

“I understand mate  A lot have not renewed including me . Keep up the fight”

“UKIP left you long before you left them. You’ve done the right thing.”

“We continue to lose good people at ukip sorry to here this news Jonathan”

“Good sensible and honest comments and statement and one almost all UKIP members and supporters can heartily agree with and understand.”

“I agree, UKIP has had some good , honest people at the top but for one reason or another they have been forced to leave. I remember being so enthusiastic when I joined the Party. Nigel was the leader and I was happy to deliver leaflets and stand on street corners in the cold and rain to encourage people to vote for UKIP. I was ecstatic when Leave won the Referendum and thought that the Party was on its way up but then the rot set in!”

“All the best for the future whatever you decide respect your decision and you as a person”

“Sad to hear that Jonathan. It’s a pity the wrong people are leaving, seems the political party of the people has been dismantled from the inside!”

“Well said Jonathan. Congratulations on all that you and UKIP have achieved under Nigel Farage, which will leave its mark on the history of our nation going forward.”

“Most members know deep down that the Party’s refusal to adapt and evolve means the end for it is inevitable…you were one of UKIP’s wisest.”

“At last an honest man in politics. God bless you for your honesty and good luck to you in all you do.”

Statement on my resignation from the UK Independence Party

Politics has a reputation for nastiness, in-fighting, backstabbing, shameless self-promotion and over-inflated egos. That’s not what it should be. Politics should be about helping to make people’s lives better; I happen to believe this is best achieved through less State control of citizens’ daily lives. Many years ago I joined what was then a tiny political party, speaking about how we can bring democracy back to the people, how we can better protect people from crime, and regain control of our own lawmaking by leaving the European Union.

Under the leadership of Nigel Farage, it succeeded in forcing the Brexit referendum, achieving something historic. It was always a flawed party, but it was the only show in town for anyone who – like me – felt let down and abandoned by an out of touch political establishment.

Give me a lever long enough, Archimedes said, and I will move the world. I do not have a long enough lever. I had hoped that I might be able to help that party to realise its true potential as a Party of the people. I fought hard to persuade it to adopt the ‘no tax on minimum wage’ policy which proved so popular with working people. I worked to get it to broaden its horizons to focus more on helping people with true ‘pavement politics’ and working on behalf of local people in local communities. I took, as a member of the European Parliament, a different approach to most. I made sure to have an excellent attendance record, to speak out in debates, and to try to change things. Consequently, I became the only one of our MEPs to get any of my amendments passed by the full European Parliament – to stop British (and other EU) taxpayers’ money being used to subsidise bullfighting through the EU budget.

I tried my best to avoid the nastiness that pervades modern politics. I believed my party to be different, or at least to be capable of becoming something different. I, like so many others, believed it to have potential and I continued to believe in that potential long after the evidence no longer supported it – out of loyalty to the many honest, hard-working members who still believed in it.

Yet the unpleasant nature – the Steven Woolfe fracas, the Diane James fiasco, the Anne-Marie Waters  debacle, the John-Rees Evans bizarreness, the countless leaks, briefings and character assassinations – became almost as bad as the political establishment I had hoped to counter.

Perhaps there have been occasions where I have been sucked into that atmosphere of negativity and nastiness. If that has happened, I unreservedly apologise.

With yet another new Leader came new forlorn hope. Over the last week it has become abundantly clear that the current Leader is not the right person for the job, but likewise that those jockeying for position and hoping to take his job would be no better. Politics has always been like that, but as true believers in a cause, we always thought ourselves to be different. Once, maybe, but no longer.

I’ll continue to work for all the things I was elected to achieve. I’ll continue to speak out against the unrealistic Corbynista world-view, the Lib Dems’ hypocrisy, and the dog’s breakfast this government is making of the negotiation through its negative, surrendering mindset.

My Party has, over the last year, significantly shifted its position on cultural and religious issues. This has, as is a matter of public record, placed it at considerable variance with my own views.

All of this, however untenable my situation became, I would have continued to work from within to change – if the Party were still a vehicle for achieving positive pressure on the government over Brexit. That is no longer the case. The lack of response to Labour’s betrayal over the EU Withdrawal Bill speaks volumes about a Party attacking itself rather than attacking its opponents.

There have been lovely, caring, wonderful people in UKIP over the years – people who are as far from the media stereotype of UKIP members as the North Pole is from the South. Many, like me, have seen no alternative but to take the course of action I must now also take with a heavy heart.

As an independent, I’ll continue to represent my constituents to the very best of my ability. Hopefully, unencumbered by the sewer of Party politics, I’ll have more time to devote to what should always be the most important part of anyone’s job in politics: representing and serving people.

After nearly 17 years of trying to make this Party something I could be proud to represent, I do not take this decision lightly but there is no longer any alternative.

LETTERS

 EU Commissioners are ignoring their own scientific advice by letting Dutch fishermen use electro-pulse fishing on British fishing grounds

Dear Sir, You can’t beat a fish and chip supper, but how often do we stop to think about where and how the fish was caught? We all know that our fishing grounds have been decimated by the EU Common Fisheries Policy and so many of our traditional fleets, including in North East, have literally […]

LETTERS

 The UK is on the brink of a massive recycling crisis

Dear Sir,

It is plain that the UK is on the brink of a massive recycling crisis and it is one the government can no longer ignore.

We had impossible recycling targets thrust on us by the EU under the Waste Framework Directive and this threw our local authorities into a tail spin to try to achieve them without any real hope of success.

Attention has been concentrated on meeting these targets instead of a developing proper detailed proposals to deal with waste, particularly plastics.

The general public are waking up to the menace of plastic packaging – some of it which is not or cannot be recycled – at the same time as China has declined to keep taking our plastic detritus.

This eventuality must surely have been anticipated by the government but according to our recycling industry leaders there seems to be no Plan B.

The concept of incinerating such materials must raise concerns about potential air pollution and landfill sites are already getting full.

There is plainly no easy answer to the existing plastic waste – but meanwhile it is essential that pressure is applied to ensure manufacturers cut right back on using such materials in the first place.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Arnott MEP