After Beeching, where are the bisexual Christians?

Vicky Beeching’s decision to come out publicly as a lesbian is so important because she is such a prominent figure in evangelical circles. As I mentioned on this blog yesterday, there is good evidence that the news has given many other gay Christians the confidence to come out.

Of course, there have been comings-out before this, including among evangelicals. Sally Hitchiner, an evangelical Church of England priest, was outed as gay on national television last month. I confidently predict that the number of comings-out, among Christians generally and evangelicals in particular, will increase over the next few months.

The phrase “coming out” tends to be used as short hand for “coming out as gay”. I find this slightly irritating, as there are lots of things you can came out as, whether to do with sexuality or otherwise. I hope we will also hear about the coming out of bisexual, asexual, trans and other Christians who have been wrongly excluded from equal inclusion in the Christian Church.

I admit this desire is influenced by the fact that I am bisexual. I know lots of bisexual Christians, but I cannot think of any prominent Christians in the UK who are openly bisexual (please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this).

Sadly, much of the media, and even parts of the LGBT movement, seem to regard “bisexual” as simply a variant on “gay”, and barely worthy of being mentioned in its own right. I’ve been introduced on the radio as a “bisexual Christian writer”, only to be described as “gay” a moment later by the same presenter who has introduced me. While most gay and lesbian people are very supportive of bisexual people’s rights, there are a small number of gay people who are just as prejudiced against bisexuals as any homophobe is against gays.

I sometimes come across Christians who say they are OK with people being gay but have a problem with bisexuality. In some cases, this is because they believe that gay people “can’t help” being like that, but bisexuals could simply choose to enter only a mixed-sex relationship. This is as offensive to gay people as to bisexuals, implying that attraction to members of the same sex is some sort of pitiable condition.

All these issues relate not only to whether LGBT people are given equal inclusion in the Christian Church, but why they should be. There are a range of arguments in favour of equality and inclusion, some of them contradictory. Pro-equality Christians hold the views they do for varied reasons and I sometimes find myself disagreeing with liberal Christians on sexuality just as much as conservative ones.

The more Christians talk about their varied sexualities and gender identities, the more it will be possible to have a real discussion on Christian sexual morality and how it relates to life, faith, ethics and politics today.

London LGBT Pride – giving publicity to human rights abusers

This week, I’ve seen two movements that I love become sullied by complicity with the arms trade. First, Church House (a leading Christian conference centre) hosted a gathering of arms dealers and generals. Now, London LGBT Pride are about to allow a section of this week’s march to be used to publicise a company that is complicit in homophobia– and other human rights abuses – around the world.

BAE Systems, a multinational arms company that sells weapons to dictatorships, has been allocated its own section at the Pride march in London on Saturday. This is a march to promote and celebrate the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. Yet BAE’s biggest customers include Saudi Arabia, one of the most viciously homophobic regimes in the world.

Thus the Pride march will include the symbols and branding of a company that actively works against the very things that the march is calling for.

BAE is not one of the “official sponsors” – though these include some very unethical multinationals, such as the tax dodgers at Starbuck’s and Barclay’s. BAE is one of the companies that have been allocated a section on the march for their workers. BAE have an LGBT employees’ group and it this group that will be on the march, in the same way as there will be other groups of workers from John Lewis and the Direct Line Group. There are also religious and cultural groups (most of them placed near the back, as usual). I will be marching with Christians Together at Pride.

I don’t want to stop BAE’s workers marching at Pride. If BAE employees support LGBT rights, I’m pleased to hear it (especially as their bosses clearly don’t). But they will undoubtedly be wearing, carrying or otherwise displaying logos and publicity from BAE. This will help the company’s bosses in their relentless drive to present themselves as being ethical and pro-human rights.

I tweeted the organisers of the march (@LondonLGBTPride). I’m grateful to them for replying very quickly. However, their reply made a very unclear argument. It said:

“Organisations apply and BAE have an LGBT group. Change can come from within. We will not abandon and disengage with LGBT groups who strive for the right and the freedom to express themselves”.

I’m pleased if the LGBT workers at BAE strive for the right and the freedom to express themselves. I’m glad they’re coming on the march. But it’s either naïve or misleading of the organisers to overlook the fact that by listing BAE Systems as one of the groups on the march, and allowing BAE branding to appear, they are actively helping the company to promote itself.

Of course, I accept that this issue is part of  a wider problem with the commercialisation of Pride. There are various other unethical companies involved. I wouldn’t rate Barclay’s or BP as much better than BAE. You could make an argument that this is just as bad. However, I suggest the nature of an arms company is different.

An arms company cannot become ethical, because of the very nature of the arms trade, which involves selling weapons to virtually anyone who will buy them (if they can get away with it, which they usually can). Further, BAE actively promotes homophobia by arming homophobic governments that oppress their own people. I don’t know what “change” the Pride organisers imagine will “come from within”, unless it’s by the active rebellion of the workers against the BAE bosses (which would be great, but seems unlikely).

Despite the commercialisation of Pride, despite the excessive alcohol, the high prices and the vacuuous celebrities, despite all the things I don’t like about it, I must admit that the Pride march in London has played an significant part in my life. Going toPride was an important moment for me as I decided to be public about abandoning my former homophobia. London Pride was one of the first places in which I told a stranger I was bisexual. In 2011, when I walked from Birmingham to London as a pilgrimage of repentance for my formoer homophobia, the Pride march was the last leg of my pilgrimage. The significance of the Pride march for me makes me feel even sadder and angrier about its misuse by arms dealers.

Please tweet @LondonLGBTPride, or otherwise contact them, about this issue. And remember, you can always wear a Campaign Against Arms Trade badge on Saturday.

Mainstream parties have been defeated by the monster they created

Nigel Farage’s smug grin is all over the media this morning. But the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have been defeated by a monster of their own creation.

They have failed to speak up for the benefits of migration, they have not provided decent housing, they have bailed out banks and punished the poor, they have pandered to the super-rich. It’s no surprise that people look for an alternative.

Unfortunately, the alternative is provided by Nigel Farage’s ragtag army of racists, sexists, homophobes and climate change deniers. Farage, a privately educated former stockbroker, presents himself as anti-establishment. UKIP’s policies include a tax system that would harm the poor and those in the middle while slashing taxes for the rich. UKIP politicians also advocate a big increase in military spending at the same time as greater cuts to the welfare state.

Most of these policies are barely mentioned in the media, which concentrates on UKIP’s views on migration and the European Union. The BBC must bear some responsibility for UKIP’s success. Fascinated with Farage, keen on sensational change, they have given the party vastly disproportionate attention.

Not that this is any excuse for voting for UKIP. I won’t patronise UKIP voters by suggesting they don’t know what they’re doing. Let’s not forget, however, that around two-thirds of UK voters did not even vote in this election. UKIP have received the support of about one in ten of the adult population. Even the majority of those who did vote supported parties that favour EU membership.

The Tories have already shown their willingness to cave into UKIP’s agenda, attacking migrants and the EU at the same time as they demonise the poor to justify their austerity agenda. Labour have a chance to speak up for migration and point out the real problems of spiralling poverty and inequality. Sadly, Labour politicians are already mentioning the need to talk more about immigration – a euphemism for being more anti-immigration and blaming migrants for problems they have not caused.

Thankfully, there is more to politics than choosing between four parties that marginalise the working and middle classes in the interests of the rich. There are alternative ways of voting – such as Green, Plaid Cymru and others.

More importantly, we can aim for a better world in our own lives and communities – by refusing to scapegoat migrants, Muslims or benefit claimants; by staging grassroots campaigns against austerity, prejudice and war; by supporting each other in resisting poor working conditions and dodgy landlords; by choosing kindness over consumerism. We can defy this rotten system not just on polling day, but every day.

British Baptists take a step foward on sexuality – but need to go a lot further

Ministers in the Baptist Union of Great Britain who bless same-sex partnerships will no longer be disciplined for doing so if they have the support of their local church. I think this is brilliant news.

The news has been misreported in some places, with the decision being overstated as a sudden change of Baptist attitudes to same-sex marriage. However, the Baptist Union’s own spokespeople are downplaying the news, implying that they’ve just made a minor tweak to the regulations. To me, this seems to understate the significance of this development.

To be clear: I’m no expert on the Baptist Union of Great Britain and I’m still struggling to understand just what has happened. The key point to grasp is that Baptists believe strongly in the autonomy of the local church. The Baptist Union is not a church in the same way as the Methodist Church and the Church of England. Rather it is a union of churches.

As Stephen Keyworth, the Union’s team leader for Faith and Society, put it in a recent interview with Adrian Warnock, “The supreme authority in all things is the person of Christ, as revealed in scripture, discerned in community, through the power of the Holy Spirit… each church has liberty to discern that for themselves. This is the basis by which churches belong and function within our union.”

Because a lot of Baptists are passionately committed to this structure, there are Baptists who do not personally endorse same-sex relationships but who believe in the right of each local church to make its own decisions on the matter.

Despite this, many Baptists ministers have until recently feared that they would be disciplined for blessing same-sex partnerships. Some seem to be claiming that the position was unclear and that the Baptist Union was merely clarifying things. I am not convinced by this, as I know of Baptist ministers who have feared for their jobs after effectively blessing same-sex partnerships in secret.

I must thank Adrian Warnock for asking lots of questions to the Baptist Union’s Stephen Keyworth and thus getting some answers about what’s going on.

Keyworth said:

“First I need to correct you, there was no decision made last weekend. What happened was a very small part of a very long, thorough and prayerful journey… We are not a denomination that makes central decisions and policy – we discern the Mind of Christ through the prayerful deliberations of His people gathered together in church meetings.

“On this issue, over the last year or so we have encouraged churches, minsters and associations to engage in conversations through a whole series of approaches, and what was offered last Saturday, was a very simple update from the Baptist Steering group – which in essence said to the wider Baptist Community – this is what we believe to be your view on this matter.  This is what we think we have heard.”

This answer suggests that the Steering Group discerned that most people within the Union wanted ministers and churches to be allowed to follow their differing consciences on the subject and therefore made clear that ministers would not be automatically disciplined for blessing same-sex partnerships. This is fair enough. Nonetheless, there are two ways in which I find the statements of Baptist Union spokespeople to be highly questionable.

Firstly, there is Stephen Keyworth’s insistence that “no decision was made last weekend”. This is not really believable. The steering group may have been responding to what they discerned to be going on within the Union as local churches discerned the mind of Christ. But in doing so, they made a decision. They changed – or at the very least, clarified – the regulations concerning ministerial discipline.

However much they try to play it down this is potentially very significant for Baptist ministers who want to affirm loving same-sex partnerships, as well as for gay and bisexual Baptists who want their relationships to be blessed in their own church.

Of course, it does not go nearly far enough for those of us who wish to see equality in Christian churches.

This leads on to the second problem. At the same time as saying that Baptist ministers would not be disciplined, the Baptist Union reaffirmed “the traditionally accepted biblical understanding of Christian marriage, as a union between a man and a woman, as the continuing foundation of belief in our Baptist Churches”.

I find it hard to see how this could not be contradictory. More worryingly still, the Baptist Union still maintains that its ministers are required to follow guidelines that state that “a sexual relationship outside of Christian marriage (as defined between a man and a woman) is deemed conduct unbecoming for a minister”.

So it seems that ministers can bless same-sex partnerships but not enter such a partnership themselves. This is an incoherent position (reminiscent of the sort of baffling compromises adopted by the Church of England).

Furthermore, it remains very unclear what will happen if a Baptist church wants to go further and carry out a legally recognised same-sex marriage. The legislation allowing same-sex marriages in English and Welsh churches seems to say that the national body of a religious organisation has to apply for permission to hold them. As I pointed out when the legislation was going through Parliament, this would rule out an individual local church applying for permission, even in a denomination such as the Baptists in which authority has always been located in local congregations.

This week’s news does not indicate a sexual revolution in the Baptist Union of Great Britain. It does not mean that Baptist ministers and churches are truly free to make their own decisions about loving sexual relationships. But it is a far more significant step forward than some seem to think. The chance to celebrate your love in the context of worship is not a minor thing, and I’m sorry that anyone should imply that it is.

During his interview, Stephen Keyworth said, “I’m tired of speaking about sexuality and its complexities when what I would like to do is tell the world about Jesus. I’d like us to be known as spirit-filled and spirit-led communities who are able to make a difference in the world living as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

I can understand Keyworth’s frustration. But I’m sure he would agree that following Jesus in our daily lives has a deep effect on our relationships. This includes relationships with friends, colleagues, enemies, and strangers as well as sexual relationships. We can’t avoid talking about them by talking about Jesus. Those of us who believe that Christ has freed us from the law to live by love will keep resisting regulations and structures that prevent this from happening.

UKIP and the “abnormal” gays

People who defend themselves by saying “My words were taken out of context” sometimes have a good point. It is possible to misrepresent someone, either deliberately or accidentally, by quoting their words out of context. However, a UKIP candidate in Portsmouth has stretched this defence to breaking point. He has also attempted some creative redefinitions of common English words.

Douglas Denny is a member of UKIP’s National Executive Committee and a candidate for Portsmouth City Council in next month’s local elections. He was involved in a discussion on a UKIP members’ online forum, apparently about whether or not it is right to describe gay and bisexual people as “sodomites”. It says something about UKIP that this discussion was even happening.

In the course of this online discussion, Denny reportedly described same-gender sexual acts as “disgusting” and wrote:

“What irritates me is the way they and their leftie, neo-Commie followers seem to want to force the rest of us to consider them as normal. I just wish they would keep their homosexual nature and practices to themselves and stop trying to ram it down my throat telling me they are ‘normal’ when they are not.”

When the comments were published by the Sunday Mirror, Denny did not deny using these words. Instead he claimed they were taken “out of context”. I’ve tried thinking about how these words could possibly be used in a context that is not homophobic, but I’ve so far failed to think of one. Please feel free to offer suggestions.

But you can’t accuse Denny of giving up easily. He’s tried to justify his words by saying that by “normal” he simply meant “in the majority”.

Now I realise that not everyone uses words in the same way and that one word can carry several shades of meaning. Nonetheless, some shared understanding of a word’s meaning is necessary for us to use language effectively. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone who thinks “normal” means simply “in the majority”. By this definition any minority could be declared “abnormal”. To be normal is to conform to a norm, an acceptable standard, not simply the most common form of something.

To be fair to Douglas Denny, he told The News (a local paper in Portsmouth), “I believe homosexuals have a perfect right to live their lives and wander around like everyone else and do not deserve any discrimination because of their sexuality.”

You might have expected Douglas Denny to leave it there and to try to move in on, but in the same interview he decided to add, “I wish that they wouldn’t try to keep ramming it down my throat that they are normal in their sexual practices.”

Stuart Potter, chairman of Portsmouth UKIP, decided to back Denny, insisting “He isn’t a homophobe”.

All this comes shortly after Nigel Farage promised to remove people with “extremist” views from being UKIP candidates. He made the promise after David Silvester, a UKIP councillor in Oxfordshire, argued that the recent floods were a result of God’s judgement on same-sex marriage.

Denny’s comments are a reminder that Farage has failed to remove candidates who express these sort of views. Some UKIP members have started a petition calling for Denny’s removal. This is not something that I support – because it implies the problem is simply about an individual. So many examples have been reported of homophobic and racist comments by UKIP members that it is clear that such views are very common in the party.

This is not a surprise. This is a party so right-wing that they believe the Tories’ vicious cuts have not gone far enough, that climate change is not real and that UK military spending (already the sixth highest in the world) should be increased by 40 percent. They also want to withdraw from the UN Convention on Refugees and the European Court of Human Rights – currently backed by every country in Europe except Belarus. They are more than a group of clowns banging on about Brussels or a convenient way of registering discontent with mainstream parties.

However much Farage tries to remove embarrassing candidates he cannot get away from the reality that UKIP is a far-right party with a nasty agenda rooted in prejudice. It’s not Douglas Denny that’s the problem; it’s UKIP.

Welby, homophobia and the lives that are at risk

Justin Welby has declared that acceptance of same-sex marriage could lead to Christians being killed in South Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan and elsewhere.

In his comments, Welby made some valid points. But the conclusions he drew from them seem to me to be severely mistaken.

The archbishop told LBC Radio that he had “stood by gravesides in Africa of a group of Christians who had been attacked because of something that had happened in America”. In the incident in question, in Nigeria, the murderers had allegedly said “If we leave a Christian community here, we will all be made to become homosexual and so we will kill all the Christians.”

Welby is right to say that “We have to be aware of… the impact of that on Christians far from here.” As he pointed out, “Everything we say here goes round the world.”

It would be naïve and uncaring not to think of the possibility that same-sex marriage in British churches could be used to incite anti-Christian hatred elsewhere in the world. Welby rightly reminds us that we need to take that into account.

However, when something is used to incite hatred, this does not mean it is necessarily the underlying cause of the hatred. I am sure Welby would acknowledge that anti-Christian prejudice in Nigeria, Pakistan and elsewhere is due to complex social, historical, economic and political causes. The same can be said of homophobic prejudice.

I dare say that some Nigerians assume that Christians in South Sudan all share the views of Christians in the US. They show as much prejudice as those British people who assume that all British Muslims are comparable to the Taliban. I am sure the majority of people in Nigeria, like the majority of people in Britain, have the sense to realise that this is not the case.

Much of the British reporting of African homophobia has racial undertones. An assumption that all Africans are homophobic (clearly not true) is accompanied by an implication that Africans will naturally behave in a prejudiced, irrational and ill-informed way.

I am not suggesting that Welby shares this attitude. Nor, to be fair, does every British media report. But it is nonetheless a common attitude. At its worse, it combines appeasement of homophobia with underlying racism.

Bigots who attack Christians in South Sudan, Nigeria or Pakistan have no more excuse than the bigots of the English Defence League attacking Muslims in Britain.

This does not mean that we should be callous about things that might provoke them into turning their hatred into violence. We should not be naïve or thoughtless about the effects on Christians in these countries of decisions taken in Europe or North America.

Nor should we allow this to become a convenient excuse for British Christians who oppose same-sex relationships in any case. If Christians in Pakistan were attacked by Islamic fundamentalists shouting that the doctrine of the trinity is blasphemous, I doubt we would see any British church leaders arguing that we should abandon belief in the trinity.

While talking about the implications of our decisions for Christians in Africa, there was one aspect of the issue that Welby sadly did not mention. He did not point out the consequences for gay and bisexual Africans. Many African cultures were accepting of homosexuality prior to the arrival of western armies and missionaries. As Davis Mac-Iyalla, a gay Nigerian Anglican, points out, it was not homosexuality but homophobia that the west brought to Africa.

The many LGBTI Christians in Africa need our support and solidarity. They don’t need the double curse of homophobia justified by racial, colonial assumptions.

Farage still scaremongering about same-sex marriage

During his recent debates with Nick Clegg, UKIP leader Nigel Farage found time to make a baseless prediction about same-sex marriage and religion.

In his first debate with Clegg, Farage said that UKIP opposed same-sex marriage “while we are signed up to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and where we have the risk that our established church, and possibly other faith communities, could ultimately under discrimination laws be forced to conduct services that they find anathema”. 

He went further in a statement released by his office, to correct any perception that UKIP now supports same-sex marriage. He said, “We note that some gay rights activists are already talking about taking legal action in Strasbourg to force this issue.”

Are they, Nigel? Can you name them please?

I’m not sure they exist outside Nigel Farage’s fantasies, but I am ready to apologise if he or anyone else can point them out to me.

The fear that faith groups may be forced to carry out same-sex weddings against their will has been whipped up over the last two years by groups such as the “Coalition for Marriage”, certain conservative Catholics and UKIP.

These claims are less believable than ever. They had largely died down since the legislation on same-sex marriage was passed by Parliament last year, as it became clear that legal challenges were not happening.

By reviving these claims, Farage raises the spectre of the European Court of Human Rights. He does not, of course, explain why the Court has not forced faith groups to carry out same-sex marriages in all the other European countries that already recognise same-sex marriage.

Despite working on these issues for several years, I know of no LGBT rights group that wants to force faith communities to carry out marriages they don’t believe in. I have never met any individual who wants to do so either. Anyone attempting such a legal challenge would almost certainly have to begin it in the UK courts; not in Strasbourg. Furthermore, they would receive no support from any of the major LGBT rights groups in the UK, and very little from anyone else.

In November 2011, Christian Concern (one of the lobby groups behind the “Coalition for Marriage”) commented on new legislation allowing churches to host civil partnerships. Christian Concern’s director, Andrea Williams, said “It is almost certain that homosexual campaigners will commence litigation against churches that refuse”.

No such litigation was commenced. No organisation came out supporting such litigation. I wrote to Andrea Williams on 4th November 2011, asking her to name any groups or individuals of whom she was aware who were planning such litigation. Two and a half years’ later, I am still waiting for a reply.

It’s no surprise that the Christian Concern website currently has a picture of Nigel Farage on the front page, with an article saying he is “right to the fear the consequences” of same-sex marriage. Both UKIP and Christian Concern are fuelled by fear. Their baseless claims must be challenged.

Opponents of equal marriage resort to dirty tactics

It must be unusual to find that somebody objects so much to your wedding that he has travelled half way around the world to do a series of media interviews criticising it. All the more so if you don’t know him and possibly have never heard of him.

This is the experience of the same-sex couples in England and Wales who married today. They are the first same-sex couples to have their marriages recognised under English and Welsh law. Pro-equality religious leaders have been among the first to welcome the news. My congratulations and best wishes to them all.

Professor Bobby Lopez, a right-wing US activist, arrived in Britain earlier this week to campaign against these people’s weddings. He is here at the invitation of “Gay Marriage, No Thanks”, a bizarrely named campaign backed by homophobic lobby groups such as Christian Concern and so-called Anglican Mainstream. These groups are so extreme that they tend to embarrass the more moderate opponents of equal marriage.

The particular emphasis of “Gay Marriage, No Thanks” is to claim that children are harmed by same-sex marriage. This repugnant tactic is Lopez’s specialism. He was brought up by a female same-sex couple and claims that the lack of a “male role model” hindered his personal and social development.

I cannot of course comment on Lopez’s parenting. I am sorry to hear it was such a negative experience for him. What I can say is that growing up without a father is not a new or unusual experience. I am not speaking primarily about single parents in the sense the term is now understood. I am thinking of the many places and cultures in which it has been normal for a father to travel a long way to find work, sending money back to his wife and children, who may rarely see him. During both world wars, millions of children were effectively brought up by single mothers, because their fathers were away fighting. The lucky ones had more time with their fathers when the war ended. Others had only a distant grave to visit.

It is typical of anti-equal marriage campaigners to portray modern nuclear families as the “natural” way for bringing up a child. This is misleading in the extreme. Those who claim to be defending “biblical values” are of course ignoring the fact that no-one in biblical times would have recognised a nuclear family. They also skip over the controversy that Jesus caused by challenging biological notions of family, insisting that all who do the will of God are his brothers, sisters and mothers.

Some would point out that wartime mothers or single parents involved other people in the bringing up of their child, such as a grandparent, neighbour, aunt or uncle. This is exactly the point. Children do not need to be raised solely by parents (whether one or two, whether biological or not). Throughout history, extended families and communities have played a much bigger role in raising children than they do in much western culture today.

I have doubts about the notion of “male role models”, a phrase that implies that children should be taught to conform to narrow and unhealthy understandings of gender. Nonetheless, I accept the point that it is helpful for children to experience a range of role models and encounter loving adults with varied personalities and views. If this is what Lopez and “Gay Marriage, No Thanks” really want, they shouldn’t be opposing same-sex marriage. They should be opposing the destruction of communities under capitalism, the narrowness of nuclear families and the shallow, commercialised approaches to relationships that lay down restrictive and unhelpful roles and pressurise parents to conform to impossible ideals.

This would promote children’s rights, and all our rights. But it wouldn’t satisfy those who confuse the needs of children with their own hatred of same-sex relationships.

British racist group backed by Egyptian embassy official

The military government in Egypt has received the enthusiastic backing of Tony Blair. The UK government, while using more cautious language, has continued to license arms sales to this regime, which imprisons its opponents and attacks peaceful demonstrators.

If we needed another reminder of the reality of this regime, one of its press officers has now tweeted – with approval – a link to the website of Britain First, a violent, racist group that split from the British National Party (BNP). 

In January, Britain First held a rally outside the London offices of a group linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Shortly afterwards, Sohair Younis, Press Counsellor to the Egyptian Embassy in London, tweeted (in capitals): “Demonstration: Britain First holds successful demonstration at London HQ of terrorist Muslim Brotherhood”. This was followed by a link to a story about the protest on Britain First’s own website.

Younis is clearly implying that she supports the demonstration. If she had made a statement about the event with no comment or link, she might get away with claiming that she was merely noting that it had happened. The link to the group’s own account of it, along with her willingness to use their own description of it (“successful”) make clear that this is not a neutral tweet.

I admit I would not have noticed Younis’ tweet were it not for a good friend of mine who campaigns against Egypt’s military regime. She uses Facebook under the name Sarah Antideepstate. Many thanks to Sarah for drawing this tweet to my attention.

You may well not have heard of Britain First. The group’s website is so full of half-truths, fantasy and lies that it’s difficult to know how much of what it says about itself is true.

It was founded by former BNP members who argued with BNP leader Nick Griffin. This appears to have been in part due to Griffin’s decision to allow non-whites to join the party. However, Britain First seem to emphasise religion at least as much as race.

Its members include Paul Golding, a former BNP councillor in Kent, and Jim Dowson, a former BNP treasurer and Christian fundamentalist minister with links to extreme loyalist activities in Northern Ireland.

The group say they want to preserve “British and Christian morality”. They describes themselves as a “patriotic political party and street defence organisation”. They clearly hate Muslims (who they lump together as terrorists and sexists). Their website declares that they are “overtly proud” of putting “our own people before foreigners” (how this fits with “Christian morality” is not explained). The website includes several attacks on homosexuality and applause for Vladimir Putin, the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and countries that have passed laws against LGBT rights.

Despite all their hate-filled, racist, homophobic rhetoric, they say they want to “restore Christianity as the bedrock and foundation of our national life”.

It may be argued that Sohair Younis is not supporting everything Britain First stands for. However, if she does not agree with the group’s other views, she at least regards them as tolerable enough to overlook them for the sake of unity against the Muslim Brotherhood.

I’m no supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, although it is absurd to suggest that all its members are terrorists.

The current Egyptian government is a terrorist regime. So why am I bothering to mention this tweet? You might point out that the regime’s violence against its critics in Egypt, its murder of opponents and its fixing of a referendum are far worse than a tweet about a small group of right-wing extremists in London. You would be right.

However, what’s significant about this tweet is that it’s a comment on British politics. It’s a reminder that when Blair and Cameron get friendly with this regime, their friends’ friends in the UK include racists, Islamophobes, homophobes and fundamentalists who don’t think that the BNP is extreme enough.

If you think UKIP’s members are extreme, read its official policies

Nigel Farage has thrown out the latest UKIP member to provoke controversy through bigoted opinions. Farage says he wants to get rid of candidates with “extremist, barmy or nasty” views. But it is not individual candidates who are the problem. UKIP’s official policies are extremely nasty, based as they are on an ultra-Thatcherite free-market extremism.

Earlier this week, I blogged about David Silvester, a UKIP councillor in Oxfordshire who attributed the recent floods to God’s judgment on the legalisation of same-sex marriage (rather than the real sin of human-fuelled climate change). I have now lost count of the number of UKIP members that have been expelled due to racist, sexist or homophobic comments. Farage’s insistence that there are bigoted individuals in every party is true but now wearing thin as an excuse for the number of them who appear to have joined UKIP.

You only have to look at the policies of UKIP to see why. They want to make even greater cuts than the Tories. They are committed to workfare (forcing people to work for benefits, instead of paying them a wage). They want to withdraw from the UN Convention on Refugees, meaning the UK could turn back people fleeing persecution. They would also remove the UK from the European Court of Human Rights, meaning it would join Belarus as the only other European country that is not signed up to it.

Despite slashing the welfare state, a UKIP government would increase military spending by forty percent and push ahead with the renewal of Trident. The party’s education policy includes the promotion of a biased, pro-imperial teaching of history in British schools. They would not, however, teach about climate change, as they deny its reality. Their policies include investment in several new gas-fired power stations.

Shortly after his comments about expelling “extremists”, Farage gave us a reminder of his own perception of reality by claiming that women can succeed just as well as men at the top levels of big business – if, he added, they are prepared to sacrifice their families. Why anyone should be expected to sacrifice their family to “succeed” was not made clear.

Of course, the debate on the number of women on boards of corporate directors conveniently obscures the reality of sexism for people on low and middle incomes. But given the power of corporations, it is telling that Farage is happy with those who are wielding that power.

It is not individual UKIPers who are the problem but the party itself and its own policies. Expelling right-wing extremists from UKIP is like expelling sand from the desert.