How would you describe your own personal beliefs or identity?
I don’t know, I suppose to be fair, topically, I’ve just celebrated Christmas, but I don’t necessarily believe in God. I don’t know, I believe there’s something, but I don’t necessarily believe that’s God. Somewhere between Atheist and Agnostic with a splash of Christmas.
Does that reflect the way in which you were brought up?
Not really, because I was brought up I suppose as a Christian. At primary we used to go to church a lot, I was christened, my grandparents went to church every Sunday and still do, had church funerals. So I suppose I was brought up in a Christian atmosphere, but experiences that happen to you through life make you question things. That’s probably why I’ve arrived at my decision. When I got married I had a humanist wedding. I didn’t necessarily want anything religious, but that seemed to tick quite a lot of boxes with me, the mutual respect for people and all the important stuff. Funnily enough, I’ve done a bit of family tree research and found that my mum’s real dad was a complete non-believer in anything religious, but his brother was a priest. So two absolute opposites which I thought was very interesting.
Do you think that Great Britain is an equal and a tolerant society, especially in relation to religion and belief?
Yeah, I think so. It’s one of the things which makes me really proud to be British and it actually makes me really angry when you see stuff about sending migrants back and all of this hate. It’s a small pocket which gets a loud voice I think. I’m proud to be in a society which I think welcomes people and although when you got some places people don’t necessarily integrate and you get separate sections of a city or town. But on the whole we rub along really nicely and everyone brings something nice to the table. There’s lots of things beneficial about it.
Have you ever experienced any problems living out your own personal beliefs in this country?
No, not yet.
Do you think that the Human Rights Act and generally greater awareness of human rights has been a positive thing for our society?
I don’t actually know really, as I don’t know that much about it. I suppose there’s masses of it that’s very important and should be there. It gets press coverage through the bad bits. Things like giving prisoners votes, I feel that it invalidates my human rights if they give it to prisoners. Aspects like that I don’t agree with, but I don’t really know where it stops and where it starts if that makes sense.
How do you feel about religious individuals being allowed exemptions from discrimination law when dealing with the public?
I don’t know. If you run a bed and breakfast you go into that with your eyes open. In this profession, I had people in the shop who aren’t necessarily the kind of people I’d socialise with, but their money is as good as anybody else’s. Providing that they don’t give me any issues as far as violence or rudeness, I don’t see any problem with it. If you are a business owner, your primary objective is to take money and make money, and if you discriminate against people and I think you are cutting your own nose off to spite your face. And to be quite honest, the homosexual sector of society has a much bigger disposable income!
Obviously, being a business we have all kinds of people come through the door, gay, transgender, all kinds of ethnic origin and to be honest there’s good and bad amongst them all. The homosexual sector is probably one of our most profitable, they enjoy nice things, they don’t have any kids to spend money on so they spend more on themselves.
Anyway, if you open a bed and breakfast you have to take whoever comes. What if someone didn’t like ethnic minorities? There’s no way on Earth you could run a bed and breakfast and say I don’t like black people so I’m not letting them stay. Where would you draw the line if you allowed discrimination? Where do you say what’s right and what’s wrong. There’s all sorts of things that people believe in or don’t believe in. If you don’t like that kind of thing don’t open a bed and breakfast.
What do you think about faith schools?
Is that like a Sunday school?
No, they’re full time schools.
Like a Church of England primary?
Yes, that’s one example. But other groups and religions run them too, so they are where children go for their main Monday to Friday education, but it’s within a particular religious ethos.
Erm, the sensible part of me says that you should allow it, because what would be appropriate here in Louth wouldn’t be appropriate in inner city Birmingham. I wouldn’t my kids to go to a Muslim school, so surely there’s another side to the story and they might not want their kids to go to a Christian school. So surely there is a place for them. But I’ve seen it in the news about putting Ofsted into Muslim establishments, trying to bring them under some regulation. And anything which educates anybody young should come under a blanket of regulation because it’s very easy to….kids are suggestable, which is why we do it. It should be regulated as to what is taught. I don’t have a problem with having religion at the core of a school system if that is the route a parent wants to go down. But I think that you do have to be careful what you do teach so that………….and not just Muslims, if you look at Amish and the way they treat life, I don’t think that’s right either. But a little bit of all sorts dilutes everything. Not taking anything to extreme. But also within education they should learn about other religions too. It shouldn’t just be this is it, you must obey all of these rules, like anything in life you should see the other side as well. Then if they grow up and want to pursue another path they can.
I don’t see a problem with faith schools in the right context.
Do you think that democracy is a good thing, and do you think that the voting system here is fair and democratic?
Yes, I think democracy is a good thing, there is no other fair way to do it. Does our voting system work? I don’t know. You only get feedback from what you’re told, you watch your news and there’s a poll, but I haven’t flicked through it I’ve just taken it at face value. And they talked about changing the vote to PR, but I don’t know that that doesn’t complicate things a bit. From my personal experience when someone is in charge, if you have a committee they make hard work of it. But if you have a chairman of a committee that has the final call and herds everyone together then things work much better. And I think that when you look at how government and local council operate, that’s where they slip up compared to running a business. I know that they have a chief executive but if they were run like a business, where someone is ultimately responsible and puts their neck on the line, things run better. The coalition government that we had was alright as a bit of a wakeup call to Parliament to tell them that everyone was a bit sick and fed up. But it’s much better now there is one party in control and one party properly in charge instead of having to try and come to some arrangement. If they altered it to PR would that increase the chances of having more dilution and too many cooks spoil the broth. But the flip side of the coin is the way that we do democracy, you kind of have two choices. I don’t really agree with either of them and sometimes you have to pick the lesser of the two evils. If you look at PR that gives an opportunity for someone else to come in. But I don’t know what would work, it’s such a big experiment to mess around with.
Do you feel that you have a personal duty to vote?
Yes, and it makes me bloody angry when people don’t vote. A lot of people have worked hard and people have lost lives for me to have my vote. And albeit people say my vote is wasted, because they say if they voted differently if wouldn’t make any difference, if everyone thought like that the whole thing would break down. I was always taught that if you don’t vote you’ve got no room to complain, and I think that’s really true. I do feel a great responsibility to use my vote.
Does it concern you that members of the House of Lords aren’t elected?
Yes, absolutely. Because stuff goes through to the House of Lords and they can throw something out or put something through, and they don’t represent me or my business. Some of them are there as favours from other people, to me it’s not a proper representation. They can cherry pick who gets in there, as opposed to who might really be right.
What do you think about the fact that there are still Church of England bishops in the House of Lords?
I don’t really know. How many alternative religious leaders are in there?
In practice some other faiths are represented, often by very articulate and influential people. For example the former Chief Rabbi is there, some Muslim and Hindu peers. But there isn’t a formal system to ensure this.
Then the bishops are probably there for the wrong reasons. If I was in charge, I would want a cross representation, if you’re going to say if you are going to have a bishop at all times, then you must have a rabbi or whatever as well at all times. So it’s from all of them. In the same way if you wanted to have an elected House I think it would need to be structured so that you had so many people from a certain sector of industry: manufacturing, retail and services, primary like agriculture. Because I think that’s one thing you don’t get in the House of Commons, a decent representation from each individual sector. When you have a Labour government in, they represent the working class, but really more the Trade Unions feathering nests, then when you have a Tory government the opposite lot feathering their nests, so there’s no middle ground. And the MPs to me demonstrate that, they’re not from a broad enough church.
How do you feel about some decisions being made by the devolved assemblies?
The devolved assemblies, as long as what they do doesn’t affect me, I’m not too bothered. With the Scottish Independence argument, I think that if they had spilt off it would have been a real shame, because we all fit together as a really nice kind of family. But I also appreciate that things are a lot different up there to down here, or even further down sound, so there has to be some regional provision. But I don’t agree that…..what I mean is…..they should be able to make decisions that are relevant to how they operate. What Scotland were to spend on gritting roads and snow clearing would be different to Essex, so each should be in charge of their own thing and there shouldn’t be any cross over. But then there’s other things where realistically we’re all in the same boat, like with climate change, so we should all work together. So I think there’s a place there for regional and togetherness.
How do you think that society should hold people exercising power to account?
I don’t know where you’d start. They do need to be held to account, that’s evident with the rocky political road of the last 7 or 8 years. Things like the expenses, people aren’t happy, they all get ticked off and now they’re back at it again. There was one in the news last week. So obviously, the punishment wasn’t enough. But that whole side of our society of discipline and punishment is broken, in schools, prisons, society in general. Start at the top and work down. But if you do away with one MP there’s another one not very far behind. It is very much if you put someone in power and things alter, even people that come from somewhere which means they ought to know better, they still turn into what has gone before. I don’t know….is it human nature? It’s like Trade Unions, the bosses have come from the grass roots, but when they get there, they are just as bad as what they are supposed to be tackling. Maybe it’s inevitable. But I think probably it’s limited the amount of power that someone has. Like in a business sector, if you look at the power of big companies like Tesco, Apple of Microsoft they have far too much power over a massive section of the world. We have a monopolies commission but they turn a blind eye to stuff. Maybe that’s where you start, shaking things up a bit and shrinking it down. And, like MPs and things, the best way to be held to account. The way it works in our business, if something is wrong the customer tells me, I am in the shop every day of the week. If it’s wrong I know about it first, and it’s not nice being on the receiving end of an ear-full. Our local MP, I’ve never met her, I wouldn’t know where to find her and she doesn’t seem to be very proactive locally. So, if she was, she’d be more held to account by her people and you only take a roasting so long before you adjust what you’re doing. So maybe it should be compulsory for MPs to do more time with real people, and see if they’re getting the job right.
What responsibilities do all citizens have?
Lots….it’s a long list. The top would be tolerance to one another. And not to be selfish, our society seems to be moving so far in the direction of selfishness, to me that should be right up there in terms of what people do in their family, their community or whatever, they should think of other people first. So many people say we shouldn’t do any foreign aid, it should all stay at home. Why can’t we do both? We can’t we split it? Why can’t we help other people as we would want people to help us? Without wanting to sound like a vicar! But surely there has to be something good about helping other people and expecting them to help you back. So that is on my list of what everyday people should do. And just respect for other people. And taking responsibility for our own existence, so many people want to blame someone else and expect someone else to sort them out when something goes wrong. And yes, there is a place for that. But there are some things which it is someone’s own responsibility to sort out for themselves, and there isn’t enough of that. People are dead keen on pointing the finger at someone else, and saying it was their fault that someone happened, when really if they looked at the reality they’d be saying it was my fault. And I think those four things all packaged together pretty much cover everything.
Have you personally ever felt so strongly about a particular political or social problem that you’ve done something about it, and if so what?
Yes, lots of times. Well, like car-parking in the town. They decided to do away with the free car parking and put the parking charges up. And lots of people just wanted to brush it under the carpet and say that this kind of thing happens. But I managed to get on the radio and television and various other things and preach on my soapbox. Actually what they should have done was the other way around, to try and get people into the town. The carparks make X amount of money and they waste it up at the council, it is a tiny drop in a big ocean. If they did away with the charges altogether people would come and spend money locally which would recycle itself locally which then means that there is less need for housing benefit and all the other bits that come from the council. That makes more sense than taking money and dishing it out and encouraging people not to do stuff, so I got on my soapbox about that.
It’s like education, we take kids every year for work experience. Last year they sent a girl who was interested in cookery. When she got here she couldn’t read the face of a clock, she couldn’t do basic maths, she couldn’t spell and her writing, my niece who is 3 ½ could do better. And I felt really sorry for her because the school failed her, she was 11 months off leaving education and I thought there was something wrong. So I wrote a letter to them at school and told them that I was appalled at the state she was in as far as readiness for work. Reading, writing and mathematics have to be important for everyone whatever you do.
Is it important to you personally always to act within the law?
No, without saying rules are there to be broken because that isn’t the case. The fundamental important rules are very important, others are not so. In my own mind I rank them in a hierarchy, of ‘do not break’ like do not murder anyone to little things like parking on yellow lines. It doesn’t justify breaking the law, but I put more weight behind some things than others. And I would apply that to others too. Like the law on dealing with burglars, I would quite happily break the law to protect myself or my property. If you feel threatened by burglars, I feel let down that you don’t have the right to take action, and maybe even kill them. There’s time that I think it’s justified to bend or break the rules, depending on what is important to you. Like speeding, there are times when it isn’t safe to speed and it’s absolutely inappropriate, and times when it’s okay. And if you’re driving you make the judgment.
Do you beliefs mean that you feel you have a duty to speak out against injustice, especially ones affecting the vulnerable?
Yes, absolutely. That’s probably a core thing in our society, that you don’t stand and watch something that you don’t think is right. But it does take a certain kind of person to stand up above it and say something, because sometimes things happen that are wrong but are accepted as right because people daren’t say something. But I do think that I have a duty to speak out, sometimes even when it’s not wanted.
Would you say that the Rule of Law is applied equally?
No. Again, possibly this might not PC, but I don’t trust a single policeman that walks this earth. And yes, they’re there the same as the rest of the justice system for the greater good and a lot of the time probably works alright. But I think that there is a lot of bentness inside it, and some people get away with a lot of things which they shouldn’t, whereas other people don’t. But I think it probably goes back to the question about people in power, once you give out that power it gets abused anyway, it’s human nature. But I don’t think it’s dealt out fairly by any stretch.
How do you feel about the general trend towards an increase in police powers?
Good and a bad thing. Obviously the world has changed a lot, especially with technology. There has to be some change in the system, because what you can do with a computer removes a lot of barriers that were once there to communicating underground things. You can communicate at the click of a button with anyone, so someone has to keep a watchful eye on it. But again, it’s when it get abused. It’s fine to keep an eye on things for the right reasons. Like the ‘phone hacking with the newspapers. That was wrong, but if it was the security services doing it would that make it right? I think no, unless there were grounds for suspicion. It is on the verge of having gone too far. Anything which I didn’t want anyone to see I wouldn’t send through an electronic device, but it’s difficult to get around it. In the past if you took pictures, only you and the man in the Photoshop saw it. Now if you use your ‘phone it’s automatically backed up onto some cloud somewhere. I suppose it’s striking a balance isn’t it? I wouldn’t like to be in charge of deciding the parameters. I know there is a necessity for some kind of surveillance, but it is on the verge of being too much. I think that there should be reasonable grounds for suspicion before the authorities go through your emails and stuff. Trawling through for the sake of trawling through is wrong. We had someone stealing here once. In order to use CCTV to catch them we had to have reasonable suspicion, and I think the same should apply.
Anything else which you would like to tell us?
I’m not sure where this fits in but I think that anybody that works in the public service, at a local or national level and whether elected or civil service, I think it should be compulsory that they have done so many years in a profit making organisation. An awful lot of them have never done anything else and have gone straight to be an MP. Not so much local councillors as usually do it on the side of something else, like the chap who has the carpet shop is on the town council, and that’s really helpful. But people like the CEOs of councils and backroom staff. When it comes to spending their departments budget or whatever. They’ve never been in a business where they have to pay staff at the end of the day and make everything work. And you’ve got to attract customers in to spend money to enable you to do that. They get a departmental budget plonked in every year for them to spend as they like. And I think if I had a departmental budget come in customers or no customers I’d have no problem spending it on all sorts of stuff. There should be some experience there, because sometimes they waste moneys crazily, like it’s going out of fashion. Likewise at a national level, MPs and civil servants should have some life experience before they embark on telling everyone else what to do and spending everyone else’s money.