Why we need more council houses

The chart below shows the income distribution in the UK (latest figures available from government statistics) and the corresponding amount that you can borrow if you have a 10% deposit (using the Halifax building society mortgage calculator).

Two thirds of the working population would be earning too little to buy a house for £150,000 by themselves. If you do not have the ‘bank of Mum and Dad’ then you have no chance.

Your only option is to rent, from the private sector, at a cost that is higher than your mortgage repayments would be if you were able to get a loan.

That is why we NEED more council houses.

That is why I’m voting for a Labour government. (see Pledge 2)

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How can Theresa May call herself a Christian?

“If someone had enough money to live well and sees a brother in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person?” 1 John 3:17

The Conservative party have overseen the rise in homelessness and food bank usage, hardship caused by severe sanctioning of benefits, zero hour contracts, deep cuts in public services.  Yet Mrs May has called herself a Christian.  I don’t understand how.  Jesus said “If you love me, obey my commandments” John 14:15 yet I see no sign of that.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbour, not to exploit them.  He noted that the widows offering of a few small coins was worth far more than the trumpeted gifts of the wealthy.  She gave all she had to live on.

Unfortunately the Conservative government have demanded all from the poorest in society.  There have been plenty of opportunities for a change of heart – now it is time for a change of government.

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Why the media and the establishment hate Jeremy Corbyn….

“This is the message that you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.  We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother.  And why did he kill him?  Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. So don’t be surprised dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”

I don’t really need to add anything.  We can all recognise who is who in this story.

(There really is a lot of wisdom in the Bible. This was written by St John.)

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How to approach the General Election campaign.

“Stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbours the truth for we are all part of the same body.”

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you”

“Live a life filled with love”

“You can be sure that no immoral, impure or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God.  For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.  Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse their sins, for the anger of God will fall on all those who disobey him.  Don’t participate in the things these people do.  Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”

In the run-up to this latest election, here are instructions from St Paul on how to behave.  They are as valid today as when they were written, and I long for politicians and those in the media to listen to them.  Let’s encourage them to behave like this when we can.

But they are also a challenge for each one of us.  I find myself getting angry and bitter at what I hear from the campaigns, and I can let it control my responses.  Look at most of discussion threads and you will see the same.  But it does not help to use harsh words or slander; let’s try to put our arguments graciously.

And finally there is the message of justice: “no immoral, impure or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God” and “the anger of God will fall on all those who disobey him”.  We don’t know how – it may be simply that they become bitter and unhappy individuals, or it may be something more painful.  But if we know that justice will be done then it helps us restrain our own feelings of anger, and perhaps be moved to compassion and mercy instead.

Please share this message to try to make the next few weeks more bearable for us all.

(Quotes are from the book of Ephesians)

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“Forgive me my sin, as I forgive those who sin against me.”

Think about this carefully.  It is the route to national and individual healing.

If we are a wealthy banker and are angry and unforgiving of those who voted for Brexit, then this prayer gives the Brexit voter permission to be angry and unforgiving of us, as we maintain the system of oppression of the poor.  The country tears in two, hatred spreads and we are all worse off.

If we are poor and homeless and are unforgiving of the uncaring nature of those who are financially safe, then that gives those in power no incentive to change the situation.  And we can expect to be punished for any bad behaviour on our part.

If we are unforgiving of less than perfect service from (say) hospital A&E, teachers, or waiters then we can expect no forgiveness when we fall short of perfection in our work.

If we cannot forgive our friends or family when they say or do something that upsets us, then we must be perfect in our behaviour towards them.

The prayer asks that we are forgiven in the same way that we forgive others.  If we cannot forgive others, we must maintain the same demand for perfection in ourselves; a demand that we will never be able to live up to.  If we want to free ourselves from feelings of guilt or inadequacy, we must choose to forgive others first for their shortcomings, and then we can know then that we are forgiven.

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A tale of housing exploitation, but with a hopeful ending.

Here is a tale of the exploitation, told from the point of view of a young single girl trying to find a home…. but it has a hopeful ending.

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How to really make Britain great again.

The headline tells us “Brexit to send UK tumbling down world economic league table…”.  and we ask “Is this making Britain great again?”

But the headline, indeed the whole question of where Britain ranks in the world economy has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether Britain is great.  What matters is whether Britain is becoming more human.

Being human has nothing to do with the economy or wealth, but everything to do with values. It is about valuing everybody equally, irrespective of colour, class, wealth or religion. It is about selfless behaviour for the good of others. It is about acting with integrity and speaking truth. It is about doing what is right, irrespective of the consequences.

Britain will become great when those who are well off are willing to contribute enough to ensure the wellbeing of those who are not well off,  when we are willing to give up our own comforts for those who have nothing,  when we are willing to give sanctuary to those fleeing war dispite the risk of personal harm.

Britain will become great when we stop expecting a political system that gives everyone all the rights that they demand, but encourages us all to self-centredness. We cannot demand perfection from public services that we are not prepared to fund. We need to stop demanding perfect treatment from others, when we cannot give it ourselves.  We need to stop demanding that teachers work until midnight to keep up.  We need to stop expecting to be treated in A&E within minutes when we have drunkenly staggered into a lamppost.  We need to stop abandoning our personal responsibility for our own circumstances.

Britain will become great only when we choose to love one another; when we learn to contribute what we can, and to keep our expectations of others reasonable.  That is my hope for 2017.  Make it yours.

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The ethical way to balance the books

If the government makes ‘savings’ of £1million, what does it actually save?  Well, by savings we mean job cuts, and almost all of the job cuts are from lowly paid workers.

A person on (say) £12000 a year will pay £673 in tax and NI contribution.  They now do not have a job and so will receive (at least) jobseekers allowance of £73.1 a week, or the equivalent of £3801 a year.  So the immediate saving is not £12000 but £7525 a year.

But someone on a low income will not be saving, but spending their money to live.  The government will therefore lose VAT on their spending, let’s say on average 15%.  Applied to £7525 a year this reduces the saving to £6397.

On top of that, anything that they buy will add to the profits of the business who sell them the product – and the business will be paying tax on the profit. The business will employ someone to get the product to them and serve them – and that person is paying tax too.

So for every £1million that the government claims to cut the saving is probably only half at best.

In terms of human suffering this seems to me to be a very cruel and inefficient way of balancing the books.  Surely it is better to increase the contributions from the wealthy who will not suffer any hardship, but simply see a reduction in the amount of money that they squirrel away?

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“Sorry Jesus, you got it wrong”

Two children are in a fight, and when we separate them both point at the other and shout “well he started it”.  We might respond “well even if he did, you carried it on!”

But as we grow older we forget to apply Christ’s simple but profound wisdom to our own lives.

 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.

 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Of course, as we become adults our disputes are less likely to be over schoolboy issues.  We might have a ‘neighbour from hell’ who takes advantage of us and tramples over our ‘rights’.  And when we respond in kind, and when the conflict escalates we say ‘well he started it’.  And perhaps ‘who are you to criticise what I do?’.

When,  was a Christian,e find ourselves in this sort of situation, do we respond by justifying our actions? Do we argue that Jesus’ teaching is wrong and doesn’t apply to our case?  Or do we admit that we are in the wrong, perhaps too tired or weak to do what we should.  Do we accept that we are falling short of his instruction to be ‘perfect’ (i.e. do we repent) and humbly ask him to work with us to correct this flaw in our character?

If we look elsewhere at Jesus’ wisdom we find that he has already given guidance on how to love our enemy.  Again, we have a choice of arguing that he must have got it wrong, or we can choose to work with him to try to follow his words:

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.  If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.”

 “But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.  “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

None of us are yet perfect and we all fall short of Jesus standard.  But the critical question is, do we want to be perfect?  Do we want to change and allow Jesus sacrifice and grace wash us clean.

If we want to hold on to our hatred, anger and right to hit back at our neighbour then Jesus cannot help us.  A pastor often told me “Sin cannot get into heaven” … if we want to hold on to our sin, we can do – but we could not be allowed into heaven; we would spoil it for everyone else.  If we choose to hold on to our hatred then we are choosing to separate ourselves from the infinite goodness that is God.

To be clear, I am not judging or criticising anyone who finds themselves in a difficult situation with an enemy. None of us know how we would respond if we were in someone else’s shoes.  None of us can tell another to remove the speck from their eye!  Judgement is for God alone.  But hopefully this post points out simply and lovingly what Jesus tells us.

“the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

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Immigrants!

“A business man was coming back from a sales trip overseas.  His flight was delayed and he managed only to get the last train back to where his car was parked at the station.  It was late at night, and as he took his keys to open his car he was set upon by robbers.  They beat him up, stole his keys, wallet and computer, and left him lying there in the station car park.

The car park was quiet, for it was late at night and he lay there, hunched up and groaning in pain.

Another late train drew in. The first into the car park was a wealthy land owner and landlord.  He saw the man lying there and muttered under his breath about how drug addicts were spreading everywhere.  As he clicked the central locking on his 4×4 he made a mental not to write to the leader of the council about cleaning addicts out of the area.

The next person into the car park was a middle classed lady coming back from a day shopping.  She looked across at the man, and in the dark assumed that he was one of the homeless, turning to drink to drown his sorrows.  She kept her distance; she was worried for her own safety.  Why doesn’t the government do something to help these people she thought to herself.  I might have to think about voting for one of the other parties next time.

No more trains came in, but later that night an immigrant was walking by on his way to his night shift at an out of town warehouse and distribution centre.  He saw the man still slumped there, and went across to him.  He saw the state of the man, and tried his best to bandage the wounds and make him comfortable, wrapping his own coat around him and giving him a sip from the hot drink he’d brought with him to keep out the cold on the walk home.  He called the emergency services and waited with the man for the two hours until they came.  Finally some paramedics arrived and told the immigrant that they would now look after the business man and that he should go on his way.

He walked the two miles to his warehouse job, but when he arrived the supervisor berated him for lateness and summarily dismissed him.  His story of helping the injured man was treated as such – a story made up to cover his laziness, and he was told that he was a shirker who should go back to his own country.  He sadly walked back to his shared room, wondering how to break the news to his family, and worrying about how he would now be able to afford this month’s rent.”

Which of these people was making our nation great again?

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