Justin here. A rather chastened Justin, I must admit. I have been encouraged by our creation of church-based credit unions to successfully combat payday lenders like the notorious Wonga. In fact, I can now reveal a very small part of my exchanges with one Len Smootharse, the then head of Wonga.
“Listen Bish”, said Mr Smootharse, “Why shouldn’t we make a bob or two out of idiots?” My hackles rose. I do so hate “Bish”. Well, we settled Wonga’s hash, did we not? Mr Smootharse left and has been replaced by Ms Penny Niceperson who I haven’t met but am assured smells of lavender and new mown hay.
So, on the basis of a battle won, I rose in the House of Lords the other day to make what I considered to be a perfectly reasonable moral suggestion. Of course, I had run through the gist of my speech with my lady wife, but at the time she was shouting at Hull Kingston Rovers to “For pity’s sake get hold of the ball, you bunch of sissies!” on the television, so perhaps I did not have her full attention.
However, in the long car on the way to the House I outlined my proposed address to the young man with the wire in his ear. He immediately laughed – quite derisively, I thought, and said, “Look Archie (much nicer than Bish, I have always thought), yer landed gentry and stately homes mob aren’t going to go for that in a month of Sundays. It’s a lemon“.
What would Jesus have done, I thought. No matter. I pressed on. So that, dear reader, you may judge my heartfelt plea for yourselves, here is a précis of what I said.
“My Lords, Ladies, Peers of the Realm, fellow clergy, Her Majesty’s Government, The Lions Rampant and all who draw nigh… (Intros do go on a bit in the Upper House). I stand before you as a man of God acutely aware of Our Lord’s teachings on mercy and compassion. Do unto others…" (I let that bit hang in the air for a few seconds), then continued…
“Presently the free world is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the form of thousands, nay, millions fleeing to our borders so as to escape hunger, imprisonment and death.” At this point I did notice several snowy heads nodding. Whether this was in agreement or the onset of sleep I cannot say.
I went on... "I therefore respectfully propose that all of us who live in grand houses, palaces even, should set aside as many rooms as we possibly can so as to accommodate homeless, penniless, starving migrants, and thereby demonstrate for all to see the essentially British maxim of Fair Play For All.“
I am sorry to say that at this point I could not continue because of shouts of “Bollocks!” and “Get lost, Bish!” (I do so hate Bish). Various items were thrown in my direction and the Leader ordered all amplification and recording devices switched off. My mortification turned to fear as I spotted Eugenie, Lady Pinchbeck, a one-legged woman of at least 102 summers, bearing down upon me waving her zimmer frame whilst shouting, “I’m not having any of that swarthy mob anywhere near Crabbers End!”(her family seat) “You’re nothing but a God-bothering do-gooder!” Fortunately for me, the young man with the wire in his ear stepped in and felled Lady Pinchbeck with a very respectable short left hook before bundling me from the building and back to the relative safety of the long car.
This unfortunate episode may well not make it to the media, but I don’t mind admitting that I found it frightening and most revealing. Well, for good or ill, I have decided to do what Jesus would have done. Next Tuesday, unbeknownst to all but myself and the young man with the wire in his ear, Lambeth Palace will take delivery of 35 Portakabins, 100 chemical toilets and a canteen. The young man with the wire in his ear supports my madcap scheme, but does keep muttering something about fans and manure.