How would you describe you identity and beliefs in terms of religion?
I am a Church of England faithful, because my mother started teaching me lots of prayers when I was three. So, my faith means a lot to me.
What made you remain in the Church of England?
I stuck with it because of a sense of loyalty. I wasn’t attracted to any other religion. I think I had a few beliefs that are not necessarily Church of England, like I actually believe the soul comes back many, many times and you meet someone you know you had met before but you hadn’t. So, I think in a previous life you had… Some people are born complete genius… where does that come from? My son, collects and works all master paintings, but when he was very young, he didn’t know much about the history of painting, but he heard himself saying ‘who is this by?’ when other people asked, and he was right… he knew it! And then he wondered himself, ‘where does this come from?’ I don’t think the Church of England approves of that thought or approves of one’s feelings about ghosts which I firmly believed in and have experienced myself… but I am not so detached from the Church of England to join any other.
Would you describe GB as an equal and tolerant society, particularly in relation to religion and belief?
I believe that Britain is losing its balance between laws and rights. Not everybody deserves what they are allowed to have, and I think this specially applies to speaking. I don’t think it was good taste, myself, that this Paris magazine, who are all Atheists… I mean, it is a terrible tragedy. It shouldn’t have happened… but the feeling I have is that free speech is one thing and bad taste is another… and apparently that magazine offends every religion, a mockery of all of them… that I think it is very hurtful to your religion, it is very bad taste. I don’t think people deserve to be killed because of that in that terrible way, but I think restraint in public speaking or publications should be adhered to.
Are there any challenges in living in accordance with your beliefs? If so, are they social, legal or political in nature?
It is completely fine to be Anglican in the UK. The UK is basically Church of England and there are some Roman Catholics who resent that fact, that Eton and Harrow are the top, smartest schools, and they are both Church of England… Catholics are relegated to a second place. That is lessening now, that division of Catholics living in this country. We are all becoming, hopefully, more tolerant of that religion. I think it is difficult with some other religions, because they seem to us to be two thousand years out of date… when you get these Arab ladies, covered in black, walking behind their husbands, not allowed to drive their cars… it is not for us to criticise or to make a fuss about it, but I do think time has come to move with the times for lots of the world, that is sticking to two thousand year old customs.
How does the Church of England regard human rights?
I never discuss human rights with Church of England clergy or with anybody really. I think up to a point HR should be adhered. The right of the human beings, up to a point…. I do not agree, but this is entirely personal… I can’t say, or perhaps I can say because of my religion. I don’t like the idea of two men getting married or two women getting married. I think the civil partnership in that case is fine. It sorts out finance, it is a partnership, but to bring something as sacred as a marriage to the gay scene, I find it very hard.
Have human rights enshrined in law been a positive thing for our society?
I think human rights on the whole are a good thing for British society. It depends on the Government. The new Archbishop of Canterbury is getting quite involved with the present Government and giving advice to David Cameron on big business, what should be done… He was a business man and his baby daughter got killed in a car accident in Paris, and he was just devastated. After a painful period, he became cleric and he is now the Archbishop of Canterbury. His faith is strong, but he is also a businessman and I hope he is going to show himself more publicly. I think he is going very gently to start with. He has only been in office for a year.
I must say that the Church of England, basically speaking, has lost its way…. It is not taken as seriously as it used to be. I have said that the Archbishop and bishops have a say on human rights, but people don’t go to church automatically on a Sunday like they used to… or take their children on a Sunday afternoon for services… I remember my son was only 3 and a half, and he was then going around with the bag for the collection, and then he saw it was taken up to the altar and he came back to me with tears and he said: ‘I was collecting it for me!’ He was only 3 and a half!
Do public authorities in GB respect human rights?
Absolutely. Human rights are respected by the Government and other public bodies in Britain. I think sometimes too much…
Yes, I don’t think public authorities do enough in terms of freedom of religion and belief. It is going to change from party to party, it depends on which Government we have and it depends… I could tell in the 60s that everything was changing. Up to then everybody went to church on Sundays, they took children to the afternoon services, and I could feel the atmosphere was changing… and I was saying ‘Beatles? What Beatles?’ Pop music took over, celebrity took over, fashion and that is the strongest thing at the moment, amongst the mainstream.
I think now we are really going to have to watch on the internet and any other ways of people being diverted into terrible things, and not really proper religions, but giving themselves like a religion. These two men who shot eleven people in the magazine, that sort of people cannot be allowed to walk around, talking about what they do… far less doing it… that is very dangerous and I don’t really know how we are going to stop it. I think we are going to need a body which watches every word that goes into internet, every programme, everything… I know it will be like Big Brother watching, but we have to stop young people lured into Syria or something, and then finding, when they get there that it is not what they wanted or they thought it was going to be, and then not being allowed back here, in case they bring back all these ideas with them
Is living in a democracy a positive thing, does it make it easier to live in accordance with your beliefs? Is there any system which you would prefer?
There is no better alternative than democracy. I am Conservative, I back David Cameron, because that is just historically. Every time we have a Labour Government we get into financial trouble… They may mean well, but we have to realise that we are an island and not a rich island, and we cannot afford giving money to everyone, looking after everybody. This is where the National Health is failing at the moment, because too many foreigners are coming from abroad for a free operation and I have been going to the National Health hospitals for the last four years because I have a bad back, and I have had to have a spiral operation and the National Health is wonderful, but I don’t understand how they can continue this level of care for their own people, for us, British people, whether we are Catholics or whatever. They cannot keep it up for ever. We can’t afford to.
Do you feel that you have a duty to vote?
Yes, I feel I have a duty to vote, and I also have a responsibility to do what charity work I can. I think that charities are very important. Before I started writing books, I was organising acts of 19 charity events a year, for a wide range of charities, from Guide Dogs to the British Royal Legion, and I would organise a fashion show or get a preview of theatre… hundreds of thousands of pounds for all these charities. I eventually had to give up, because it was very exhausting, but I think giving to charities is very important.
Should Parliament have the final say in making and changing law? Would you like to see judges empowered to strike down legislation?
I wouldn’t like to see judges striking down primary legislation in the United Kingdom. I think that people with a responsibility to do something… things get done, like a committee doing something… I think that Parliament and we can vote them out if we don’t like what they are doing or what they are going to do. I think it is much stronger to have Parliament that makes the decisions and agrees on them.
Is a majoritarian understanding of democracy a problem for minorities? Are there barriers to participation for some groups in our society?
I think a majoritarian understanding of democracy is acceptable, but it is always put to the vote. For example, in Scotland, they are a minority. Well, they want to be independent… Proper madness… but we put it to the vote of the people and people didn’t want to leave Britain… thank Goodness because I am Scottish and I understand that they feel left out. It is very good that there is a voting system in which the majority can get what is right.
I think everyone can participate in the political system if they have the talent and if they have ideas of what the majority wants. That is the secret. This UKIP, it is all airy fairy and promises… the danger is he is saying what people want to hear, but I think he has overdone it now and people will realise that he won’t be in a position, even if he won the next election, Parliament as a whole would not vote for him to go ahead and do mad ideas.
Does it concern you that the House of Lords is not elected?
I don’t think it is problematic that members of the House of Lords are not elected by citizens. Traditionally they were in the Lords because they were a Lord, or a count, or a baron, or a duke… then they became elected for the good work they had done usually as a MP. At the moment, David Cameron has put in one or two friends, but they are extremely talented, and I don’t see any harm in that if the person is a good person.
How do you feel about the presence of bishops in the House of Lords?
There shouldn’t be representatives of other faiths. All stems from the Queen, you see. She is at the top and Church of England, and everything comes down in layers from her. And you are not allowed to marry into the Royal Family if you are a Catholic, and if you do, like Prince Michael of Kent… if everyone got killed, he couldn’t become the King because he is married to a Catholic. It is tradition and it stems from the top. So, if you are going to bring untraditional things, I don’t think it is going to work as well. Why fix it if unbroken?
Do public authorities respect the will of Parliament, as expressed in legislation?
Public authorities try to respect the decisions of Parliament. I cannot think of examples for public authorities ignoring legislation.
What does your faith teach about power and the responsibilities it brings?
I think the Church of England says that we have to be generous to others that haven’t got what you have, but they are more interested in individual beliefs rather than they are about how to behave with people who are less privileged. I have never had a conversation with a clergyman that pointed out that I was luckier than other people.
We are all equal before God… that’s the point, but the CofE don’t make an issue of that. They don’t grudge the rich in the CofE. They are interested in the spiritual side. A very rich man can be very unhappy and need help, whilst the butcher round the street is fine. It is the soul of the person what they are really interested in.
Do you think that Anglicans are appropriately and proportionately represented in public life?
Yes, I think members of the CofE are appropriately and proportionately represented in Parliament and other public bodies. It is history repeating itself.
Do the current checks and balances which we have been the legislature and the executive work effectively?
Our MPs do what they have to do and this works extremely well… Deliberations about the war on Iraq are going on for ever. We know, of course, privately that Tony Blair went to war knowing there were not weapons of mass destruction, sending hundreds of men to their death, and we still haven’t sorted it out, and we won’t until after the elections. I suppose the Labour Party doesn’t want it to come out, because they will all lose votes… if it is confirmed that it was illegal to go to war in Iraq.
Are the judiciary sufficiently independent?
Our judges are absolutely independent, but very slowly… I know it went on for several weeks and Tony Blair had to give evidence and so many people involved, and the whole thing cost millions and we haven’t heard the results yet.
Both parties suck up to the press, befriend them… very dangerous, but television is fair. People are not stupid. It was clear in 2010 that this country was about to go bankrupt because of Labour mishandling of just… giving money to everybody because that made them popular… I remember saying to someone ‘as long as people have cash in the bank or access to cash, they will vote Labour, and suddenly all the banks were closed, because of the recession, and it has taken all these years to partially get out of the mess, but we are not out yet. There will still be cuts to get back to where we should be, but I think people now realise.
How does the Church of England challenge decisions which it perceives to be problematic?
The CofE puts up fights when necessary. Many CofE clergymen said that they wouldn’t comply with gay marriage and I asked a Catholic priest what he would do, and he was gay, this priest… and he was quite calm about it. What the Government decided was that they would pass into law that same sex couples could marry in a church, but if the clergyman didn’t want to carry out that marriage, it was up to the Church. Everybody was happy. I think the whole thing was very political actually. I don’t quite know why David Cameron was all for it. I wouldn’t have thought that the pink vote was that strong, but obviously he wanted to capture it.
Do public authorities have a good understanding of the needs of practising Anglicans?
Public authorities have a good understanding of the needs of practising Anglicans, but the trouble is in mixed schools now, where boys and girls from all different countries and religions go…I don’t know how they manage that, but because we are in England they probably carry on and have an English opening prayer at the beginning of the day or something like that.
Is it important for you always to act within secular law?
I don’t break the law. I wouldn’t break the law. I wouldn’t cheat over taxation. There are no circumstances which justify breaking the law. I am a moral woman.
Do your beliefs require you to speak for third parties, the weak and vulnerable?
I think I speak on behalf of the vulnerable if need be.
Do you think that the Rule of Law is applied equally in our society? Are there some groups which experience either prejudicial or preferential treatment?
The rule of law is applied fairly and equally to everyone in this country. The law is slow, but meticulous in this country.
How do you feel about the general increase in police powers over the last 15 years or so?
I think it is vital that the police are allowed and encouraged to… I mean, they are going to have to keep an eye open, because they are expecting an incident quite soon in London… Poor police… they get bad press at times, but my dealings with the police have been amazing. I was mugged in my own home one night and a Croatian man, masked… I tried to shut the door, but he was very strong and he pushed me against the wall, hitting me… He almost killed my dog… I was yelling and a second one appeared and they dragged me upstairs. The police were around within 10 minutes… and forensic and they asked whether I would need to go to hospital… The burglars took all my jewellery. They nearly hanged my dog… and I just thought… It is just jewellery. Let it go. The police caught them. I was the first person they did it too, and they assaulted a second lady with knives. They did it to vulnerable women alone, late in the evening. Every single time. The only man they ever tackled was Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One, who is tiny. They stole a 45.000 pound watch and he got two black eye. They were three by then…. On another occasion, one woman was wearing a very valuable ring and she was not going to let him take it off her hand and then she scratched him and the DNA under her nail matched him… they were suspects and the three men were charged, found guilty and went to prison and between them got 53 years in prison. So, I keep the door locked, whether I am in or out. I cannot praise the police highly enough. They are very fair.
Are there any legal rules which you find restrictive?
I don’t think I do find any law restrictive. I am driven mad by Google. They are big brother, something else… I only bought a computer to write books on, and I got over two thousand friends on facebook and twitter… five hundred and something… It is much more intrusive… they have to be because they need to protect us from people plotting, shooting and killing people. Google will get more intrusive. It has to, as a way to protect us, and so, I would say I wish I could stop that, but I can’t, but it is probably a good thing.
Is there anything else which you would like to add?
I think you have covered it amazingly from angles I would have never thought of.
Una-Mary Parker always wanted to be a writer and in fact I had her first article printed in the weekly Scotsman when she was 12 in 1942. She went on to take a course with the London School of Journalism and subsequently worked for several newspapers including the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard. Lastly she was social editor of Tattler magazine for 10 years.
She was in her mid-50s when she started writing fiction and was lucky enough to have her first book ‘Riches’ go straight into the bestseller list. She has now written 24 books and still has more stories to tell!