Richard Ingrams' Week: Here comes another daft American idea

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It was a view confirmed by the pronouncement this week by the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in America, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who in her first sermon told the congregation: "Our Mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation - and you and I are His children."

The public has got used by now to the possibility that Jesus was gay, while many millions seem to be convinced that he was married to Mary Magdalene and had children. But I think this is the first time it has been suggested that he was a woman. So we are not dealing here with heretical Anglicans so much as barmy Americans. And there will be many, whether traditional or liberal, who will feel no qualms about cutting all ties with the Episcopal Church of Bishop Schori and letting it float away like the orchestra at the end of that Marx Brothers film.

Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen. Experience has taught us that daft American ideas - gay marriage, Scientology, tree-hugging - tend eventually to reach this country after two or three years. And, more often than not, they tend to catch on.

My prediction, therefore, would be that the C of E will not excommunicate the Americans, and that before very long it too will be headed by a female archbishop who will likewise be telling us that Jesus is a woman and that we are His children.

A major reform of the police is long overdue

Politicians of all parties who bang on about law and order, as Blair was doing yesterday, will never suggest that the police force in this country is grossly incompetent. Yet the reform of the police, not new legislation or guidelines, is the one thing needing to be tackled.

Why is there this general reluctance to confront something that is obvious to almost everybody? I have for a long time believed that the reason politicians pussyfoot around the problem is that they personally are frightened of the police - and MI5 for that matter.

Who knows what information about politicians those two organisations might have in their confidential files? And if there was any kind of confrontation, would they think twice about leaking such information to the press?

Not that the press should be allowed to escape censure as well. Papers over the years have formed a very cosy relationship with the police and, as happened with the recent Forest Gate raid, are happy to print without question any titbits of misinformation put their way by coppers.

It was reported this week that the police may finally have identified the killer of Rachel Nickell, left, who was savagely stabbed to death on Wimbledon Common in 1992. When Colin Stagg, the police's one and only suspect, was acquitted after a farcical trial, the police let it be known that their man had got away.

But there were a great many papers which were happy to support them in their vendetta against Stagg and continued to suggest with many a nod and a wink that he was the guilty man. No mention of that, however, in this week's reports - least of all in the Daily Mail, which spearheaded the anti-Stagg campaign.

* "Those who write badly, think badly," William Cobbett wrote in A Grammar of the English Language. "Confusedness in words can proceed from nothing but confusedness in the thoughts which give rise to them. These things may be of trifling importance when the actors move in private life, but when the happiness of millions of men is at stake, they are of an importance not easily to be described."

Cobbett, who made a habit of criticising the language of politicians, would have seized on one sentence in a letter sent recently to Tony Blair by the organisation Military Families Against the War. Justifying the continued presence of troops in Iraq he says: "The Iraqi government has stated that they want us to stay in Iraq until they can deliver security themselves." If it "has stated" then it cannot be "they".

As if to prove Cobbett's point, Blair, in the same letter goes on to say that British soldiers "died defending their country", by which he means Great Britain.

Here we pass from bad grammar to gross falsehood. This country never needed defending against Iraq. It is nonsense to suggest otherwise and an insult to the intelligence of those soldiers' families. Any danger to this country was caused by the presence of soldiers in Iraq which helped to promote the kind of terrorism which had not existed hitherto and for which Blair and Bush were personally responsible.