The Church of England doesn’t like to get its hands dirty by touching women – even though we’re the ones who most keep up the faith

More women than men now believe in God or the afterlife, so why is the Church so reluctant to reach out to us?

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I don’t know why I bother with the Church of England when it treats women so appallingly. History will be made this Monday when the Rev Libby Lane is installed as its first female bishop. But, in an attempt to placate traditionalists, the church has cooked up a ludicrous charade to take place a few days later.

On 2 February, the new male Bishop of Burnley will be consecrated. And at the request of this bishop, the Rev Philip North, the two churchmen who carried out the consecration of the female bishop will not touch him in the “laying of hands” part of the ceremony, as they usually would. Is this really any more modern than sharia law?

It’s as if the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is deemed “unclean” in the eyes of traditionalists because he will have consecrated a woman – a process that was democratically agreed upon last November after decades of procrastination. The Church of England bigwigs can drone on about class, poverty and social inequality, but can’t deal fairly with 50 per cent of the population.

As new research shows, it’s women who are believers, not nit-picking old men. I’m one of the middle-aged (OK, a bit older) females who are not embarrassed to say I believe in God – which is just about the most embarrassing thing you can own up to these days, even more than admitting you fancy someone under 30. Last week, a study that has tracked 9,000 people since 1970 discovered that two-thirds of the women said they believed in God or an afterlife, almost twice as many as men.

A lot of people claimed to be “fuzzy believers”, waffling about a “higher power”, but the fact remains that more women than men have faith. Given that, wouldn’t you think that the Church of England (with its empty churches and declining membership) would be bending over backwards to appeal to, nurture and celebrate women? No, we’re welcome only on a “just visiting” ticket, and anyone who touches us is stigmatised.

Women (of all religions and ethnic backgrounds) are united in faith because we bring life into the world and the notion of an afterlife makes death (and the loss of a child or a partner or loved one) more bearable. We also are far more in touch with our feelings, more reflective, no matter how much guff is written about “new men”. In 2015 we have equal rights and gay marriage, but a female bishop still represents the utterly unacceptable in some quarters.

And some narrow interpretations of Islam treat women as chattels and deny them education and personal freedom, such as the right to drive or attend sporting events. Women have faith, but – all too often – religion treats them as second-rate citizens.

The food of the people? It isn’t a Pret wrap, Mr Clegg

Last week, a respected think-tank announced that David Cameron’s Big Society initiative has been a conspicuous failure. The Civil Exchange report examined our behaviour and attitudes, concluding that far fewer people now feel part of their local community. Since 2005, there has been a decline in the number attending meetings on local issues, talking to councillors or MPs, and going on demonstrations. At the top end of the social scale, however, people are twice as satisfied with the current laws and policies as those at the bottom. And still politicians persist in trying to make us believe we live in a classless society.

Every time they are asked about music, holidays and food, they consult their advisers before admitting to anything. One per cent of the population might control 55 per cent of the wealth in this country, but when it comes to food, we are all equal – according to the politicians.

When asked where he would prefer to go for dinner, the Prime Minister chose Nando’s (a favourite of Prince Harry) over a posh meal at Gordon Ramsay. Not to be outdone, Nick Clegg claimed his “staple diet” at lunchtime was a Pret Swedish wrap, although the Deputy Prime Minister didn’t actually know how much it cost (£4.25).

Ed Balls enthuses over the Olympic breakfast at Little Chef, claiming he especially loves the fried potatoes. Spending more than £4 on a fatty, salty load of stodge seems bizarre to me, and nothing would get me through the doors of a Nando’s. The idea that eating fast food means you’re in touch with ordinary people is just plain daft. Poor people can’t afford any of these places, let alone a £4 wrap.

Wearing only a smile at the best awards show in town

Never mind the Oscars or the Golden Globes, last week I attended a very special ceremony in the City of London, the National Calendar Awards. Actually, it was a case of two ceremonies in one evening, as later I crossed London to the National Television Awards at the O2, where I was accosted by the comedian Keith Lemon, who insists on calling me Margaret. After a couple of hours, my face ached from being a smiley part of the TV “family”.

The Calendar Awards were a hoot – and took place in the beautiful surroundings of Stationers’ Hall, opposite the Old Bailey. In the Great Hall, the best-selling calendars were displayed, including a very popular one of Kelly Brook with very little on, which was voted “the people’s choice”. As the calendar industry is dominated by men of a certain age, this was no surprise.

Nudity is a requisite when fundraising for a good cause, and I was lucky enough to be given two supreme examples of this trend: Naked Warwick Rowers and Naked Grubby Gardeners.

Gay or straight, it doesn’t matter in the City

Could your sexuality contribute to success in the tough world of banking? The boss of HSBC UK, Antonio Simoes, has topped a poll of 50 leading LGBT executives.

Mr Simoes is just 39, and Portuguese – and says these two facts are far more surprising than his sexuality, which he claims has made him “better able to empathise, and with more emotional intelligence”. He adds: “If I wasn’t gay, probably I wouldn’t be CEO of the bank.”

Have you ever heard such bilge? You can’t assume that one’s sexual inclinations determine emotional make-up. It’s like saying all straight people are cold, ruthless, and unsympathetic and gay people are cuddly and friendly. I bank at HSBC and find them annoying, high handed and certainly no better than any of their rivals. People are constantly “on leave”; my business account was switched from one person to another without any consultation, and I can’t honestly see Mr Simoes’ “emotional intelligence” filtering down to ordinary customers.

You won’t catch me joining the hottest trends of 2015

According to a website promoting investment in small businesses, hot new trends for the next 12 months include Peruvian cuisine and high-protein grains such as quinoa. A boom in quirky cafés is predicted. There are already long queues for Cereal Killer in London’s Spitalfields, a new establishment run by two beardies who serve only breakfast cereals. Simply Crispy has also just opened in Belfast serving that gourmet product, a crisp sandwich. Other trends include pet sitting and 3D printed products.

Enter the world of the start-up and a whole new language emerges. Did you know about “protein princesses” who aim to “tone and shred”? The mind boggles. I’ll just ogle naked rowers.

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