The Reformist Saga – Part Three
A Reformist Winter
by Nick Lucas
“You are bloody kidding … right?” Samantha Fitzgerald asked her mother, in obvious disgust, just about managing to keep her voice down in the quietly busy store. It was not the sort of place she liked to shop, and she could never remember ever being on the fourth floor of Bachelors before. It was the ladies department, according to a sign hanging from the ceiling in front of her, and it looked like it had not changed in about a hundred years.
“Church clothes are hardly unusual around here.” Mrs Fitzgerald replied calmly, flicking through a rack of dresses looking for her size. Except these were not really dresses. She checked the label of one and it was called a matins gown, with another tag stating that it was fully compliant with the Christian Reformist doctrine. In other words modest, of course.
“Only if you go to church, which I don’t … damn it, Mum, you only go about twice a year.” Sam pointed out, tossing her mane of blond hair in annoyance.
“Ok then … you are quite happy to change schools then? So we have a choice of two failing comprehensive schools, which one do you want to go to?” Mrs Fitzgerald asked evenly as she checked the prices. Expensive, but manageable. She had attended one of the local churches for five years to get Samantha, her younger sister and her older brother into a good church primary school and she was quite prepared to do it again to keep them all at the church high school, but the kids would have to go as well, and that was going to take a little longer to organise.
“No … But … ”
“Samantha, there are no buts. We got in because we said we were regular churchgoers and sort of drifted away after you all had your places and we had the vicar’s signature on the application forms. Now they are threatening to withdraw your places because we don’t go to church regularly.” Mrs Fitzgerald sighed, still examining the display of gowns. “So, we either start going again or you change schools … it’s that simple.”
Samantha grunted and walked off down another aisle. She did not want to argue. It was not her mother’s fault, and everyone at her school was faced with the same decisions. She could not even say that the church authorities were being unreasonable. It was all true. People blatantly lied to get their kids into good schools, and then reneged on the deal when they had got what they wanted, which was not really fair. But she was a teenager. She did not care about fair. She did not want to go to church every Sunday and she certainly did not want to wear anything like what she was seeing in Bachelors. But those were the options. She had friends who were saying that they would rather change schools, but the local state schools were gruesome. Meadvale was a rich commuter area, with a range of excellent private schools, great church schools and then a couple of neglected, underfunded state schools which ended up with all the dregs. Samantha knew that one of them had twenty seven different languages being spoken in it, with English being the minority. Both schools were definitely on the wrong side of the wrong side of the tracks, and she knew she would hate to go to either of them, but she was not about to say so.
Emma Stone watched the girl in the jeans and the black coat stomp down the next aisle and then turn to come back towards her. Emma turned her head, slowly and gracefully as the teachers at the College kept telling her, but her mother was busy with a sales assistant and she was not watching her daughter. It was not a dangerous situation, of course. Emma was hardly about to be threatened, but she was a maiden and the girl approaching her was obviously a heathen, exposing Emma to sin just because of the amount of skin on display and the way she was dressed, in provocative, inappropriate garments. Emma decided to move closer to her distracted mother, just to be on the safe side. She was wearing her muzzle, her mantle, a proper matins gown with a full cloak, a bonnet, mittens and several layers of veils, but she closed her eyes, to protect herself from sin, her relentless lessons at the College already starting to change her. She had been in the Christian Humanities program at the Christian Ladies College for just three weeks.
Her mother and the sales assistant seemed to be talking to someone else. A lady, Emma noticed, when she stepped around a mannequin and returned to the sales counter. Not quite as bad as the heathen girl, because she was wearing a skirt of a fairly good length, and a hat which was probably more about the freezing weather than her modesty. For three weeks she had been learning about modesty, piety and obedience. She found herself counting the sins the poor lady was committing just standing there talking to her mother. She could not help herself, the voice of her teacher was right there inside her head, teaching her to turn herself away from sin and lose herself in God’s love.
“Of course, I want to do things properly … right from the start … I don’t want to cause any offence,” Mrs Fitzgerald said, entirely unaware that she was already causing extreme offence. Women should not talk in public. Even though there were no men on that floor, because of its very nature, it was immodest to do so. It was permissible for a gentlewoman to talk to the sales assistant in order to make a decision about a purchase, but that ought to be kept to a minimum and could really be done with a written note by preference. Mrs Stone was veiled and mantled but not muzzled. She also wore gloves rather than mittens, because she would need to be able to handle her purse, and open doors and things for her daughter. In essence, she was acting as a guardian as well as a dutiful wife and mother, and Emma knew that she ought not to be chattering away like she was. But Mrs Stone was not as educated as her daughter already was, and she was a wife, not a maiden, so things were a little easier for her.
“Only modest dress is mandatory.” Mrs Stone replied keeping her voice quiet, presumably because she realised that she ought not to be talking at all, Emma thought. “For family services at the small satellite churches, at any rate … most of them are now also holding first congregation services too, because the Cathedral is standing room only these days. For those, you would need to wear a mantle … and veils would be appreciated, I am sure.”
Emma glanced up at the heathen girl again, almost guiltily, as if just looking was sinful in itself. She was female. She knew that she was, therefore, prone to temptation, a willing receptacle for sin, simply because of her sex, and her inherent weakness. Pastor Michael, the soft-voiced teacher who she listened to via a web link for hours every day at College, said that maidens had to shut their minds to the actions and appearances of others. She ought to think only of God, and of earning his blessing and love. She was being saved by God, and for God, to build a brighter future for everyone. She could not afford to be tempted by the sight of a sad little heathen girl with no respect for herself, or the others who had to look at her. Emma knew that the pangs of envy she was feeling inside only proved how weak she was. She had never worn jeans in her life. She had been brought up to believe that it was just wrong for a woman to wear the clothes of a man, a heinous sin, but the sight of the girl, just standing there, as free as a bird, made her so jealous. She closed her eyes tight shut and started to say a prayer, asking for forgiveness.
Samantha felt the Reformist girl staring at her, as if she was a piece of dirt on the end of her shoe. She stared back, but could not even see the outline of the girl’s eyes. She was just a mountain of dark red velvet, with the ridiculous cape hanging from her slim shoulders and billowing out over the wide-skirted gown like something out of the movies. It reminded her of something or someone. Batman maybe, or Star Wars, she remembered it from when her brother used to make her watch them, that man in the black helmet with the long black cape. No one ever seemed to see his face either. Samantha stared at the mittens on the girl’s hands. They were huge, much larger than her hands could possibly be, more like balls than gloves. She had seen loads more Reformists around the town over the previous few months. More and more, as if they were multiplying all the time. But not people like her. Her mother was losing it, big time.
The Political Plan
“Sixteen out of twenty councillors voted in the schools plan … I think every one of them will fight the next election under the Christian Democrat flag as long as we handle them right, Charles.” David Harrington reported, handing Charles Buckingham a written note outlining his profiles of the gentlemen concerned, for future reference. “If you can make the time, you should meet them all, one-to one. I reckon at least five of them would fight a parliamentary seat given some support. Have you decided how many candidates you want to put up?”
“To be honest, no … I am torn between cherry picking seats where we are pretty sure we would get a fair proportion of the vote and putting out as many as we can manage. Either way we end up with one potential seat … me here in Meadvale … and the control of one council, again here in Meadvale. It feels parochial, even if we can argue afterwards that the number of people voting for us is meaningful, we will be dismissed as a protest vote.” Charles sighed, sipping at his gin and tonic. “Quite honestly David, we have punched above our weight in the press, because they started off wanting to portray me … us … as fanatics, but of course our core policies resonate with middle England … so we have some momentum. But in a first past the post system we are not going to win more seats. Not even with the massive advertising campaign Pastor Winstanley is putting together. Political change is simply not going to happen overnight.”
“Of course not, but we are making some progress. All the faith schools in this area are supporting our attendance campaign and our congregations are growing week on week … by the time then campaigning starts for real you are going to have a lot of ammunition to fire. If the Pastor can raise the necessary funds … and let’s face it, he always has before; we should be making quite a splash come the spring. The independence party is a one policy mess, but our manifesto is rounded and full of what most people see as common sense. I really think that we will do better than you imagine.”
“If we are going to fight every seat, we will have to.” Charles grinned, still a bit daunted by the task, but enthused by his friend’s confidence.
Tea and Sympathy
Elizabeth Buckingham smiled at her friends as Miss Ford settled them in the drawing room, making sure everyone was quite comfortable and calm before removing their muzzles. Henrietta and Georgina were there, of course, and as Beth and her parents were still living with the Harrington’s, and her step aunt, Alice Craig, but Miss Ford had also invited Sophie Maynard and Emma Stone. Sophie was a dear friend, and Emma’s father worked for Mr Harrington, and although they were both at the Christian Ladies College they were both considered suitable companions. All six girls were wearing the usual velvet matins gowns, complete with mittens, and the guardian took her time arranging their full skirts to their best advantage. Beth sat quite still, as she had been taught, and her friends did the same. Maidens ought not to fidget, or do anything else to draw attention to themselves, and all of them knew that Miss Ford would be watching them closely.
“How are things at the College, Sophie?” Beth asked, once Miss Ford had removed their muzzles and taken them away to clean, leaving the girls to chat.
“Oh the same … hard work … and there are forty of us now. Four more girls have turned sixteen since we got back from Paris Elizabeth, and Mrs Walker is hoping to start a third class after Christmas.” Sophie replied, sitting next to Beth, as they were close after spending two weeks in Paris together, whilst Mr and Mrs Buckingham enjoyed their honeymoon.
“Are you enjoying it, Emma?” Alice asked, genuinely interested as she could not imagine what it would be like to attend a college. Like Henrietta and Georgina, she was born into a rich Reformist family and had been home-schooled, so a college with forty girls sounded like a bit of an adventure.
“It is hard work, as Sophie says … but I know it is good for me.” Emma lied, but saying all the right things. She hated being part of the Christian Humanities program at the Christian Ladies College, but her father owed his promotion, and the much larger salary he was earning as a result of it, to signing up for the modern renaissance. Like so many Meadvale girls, she was being forced into a more virtuous life. She was told she was blessed, and that she would be part of a brighter future for everyone, but all God’s love seemed to bring her were restrictions and dependence. She had never imagined herself living like someone like Alice Craig. She had attended church happily enough and by modern standards she had lived very modestly, but she had never ever imagined joining the first congregation, and could not believe that she was there, in the drawing room at Broomwaters, the Harrington’s magnificent mansion, dressed as a maiden. But like so many parents, Mr and Mrs Stone had been attracted by Pastor Winstanley’s vision for the future of the church, and rewarded with a new job. Pastor Winstanley and the church elders like Mr Harrington, and the politicians like Mr Buckingham, were following a strategy of the carrot and the stick. Moderate or casual churchgoers were being encouraged to step up their commitment, either by stark threats such as having their children removed from excellent church schools if the whole family did not attend every week, or by dozens of charitable initiatives and programs designed to help everyone live by the doctrine. Meadvale was a church town, and it was working extremely well, as far as Emma could see.
“Of course it is … and it looks like the church will be able to help more people … less privileged people, now that Meadvale School is being taken over by the church … it is such good news for everyone.” Georgina suggested, and the others all nodded in agreement, although Emma doubted if the pupils of Meadvale School would think it good news. Some of them would, she supposed, because there were some people who were pious and modest enough to yearn for the life of a girl within the first congregation, but the Church was reaching deep into its more moderate, even casual membership. Emma had thought that was her level, but her parents were being influenced by promotion, more money and a rash of invitations to some of the best houses in the area, for a whole range of social events. Meadvale had always been dominated by the first congregation, but in a quiet, benevolent sort of way as far as she could remember, but all of that had changed in just a few months. Pastor Winstanley was calling for a modern renaissance, but it was more like a revolution, and lots of people were having their lives turned upside down in a fanatical hurricane.
“I hear it is splitting into two … a boy’s school and a girl’s school … that will be so much better.” Alice said, again getting lots of nods from around the room. It was true. Emma’s father had told her that the boys from Meadvale School were being transferred to the other church high school, Oakwood, whose girls were all transferring to Meadvale. Single sex education was a vital plank of the Christian Democratic Party’s education policy, because not only did girls do better when they were separated from the distraction of boys but they could not tempt anyone into sin if they were kept apart. It seemed typical of most of the policies that Beth’s father was proposing on every television and radio program that would have him, in that it proposed something that fitted in with the doctrine whilst also having some basis in reality.
“Yes, Papa says the girl’s school will have a new uniform, a more appropriate one of course … and that the Church will be helping provide uniforms for some girls. Miss Scott says we will be taking them around to some people, and offering help and encouragement. It is exciting times for the Church … for everyone.” Henrietta gushed, and Beth knew what she meant, because like her friend she listened to their father’s discussing their work most nights over dinner. Meadvale was their blueprint for the start of this so-called modern renaissance. They had enough supporters on the local council to push their policies through, even though her father’s party did not hold a seat anywhere. Beth had been transformed against her will, and so had Sophie and Emma, but they would certainly not be the last ones to suffer.
Church for Everyone
Samantha Fitzgerald stood in line with her mother, queuing to have her school diary signed by a Pastor. It was a cold Sunday morning and she pulled her cloak around herself in an effort to thwart the icy breeze. Her mother had bought them both new church gowns for the occasion, after much soul-searching and saving of pennies. Plus a matching cloak, bonnet and mantle, all of which they were both wearing to their local Reformist church, the one the whole family had attended years ago, to get the three Fitzgerald children into their church schools. Samantha’s sister, Rebecca, who was just twelve, stood with them, dressed in a fairly ordinary modest dress because she was still officially a child, and their brother, Christopher, was standing with his father in the boy’s line, both wearing smart, modern suits. It was all so unfair, Samantha thought, but she had to admit that she was not the only one. Lots of families seemed to have made the same decision as the Fitzgerald’s. The local state schools were horrid, quite rough places where no one wanted to go. It meant a long bus or train journey into the next town and the quality of education was definitely worse. But staying at Meadvale School meant going to church every Sunday and getting her diary signed to say that she had been there. And there were no excuses. They had got a letter from the school saying that any absence had to be covered by a doctor’s note or agreed with a Pastor in advance, if it was a family holiday for instance. And her mother was going along with all of it; including making Samantha wear a mantle. It was not compulsory of course, but the Pastor’s were making it clear that it was preferred, because even the local churches, the second congregations, were going on and on about the ridiculous doctrine.
“Good morning ladies … please do not feel the need to speak … if I could just have the diaries?” The Pastor said, smiling at them as they reached the front of the queue. “However, the girls should make an obeisance … out of politeness.” Samantha received a nudge in the ribs from her mother, and performed a hasty curtsey, closely followed by her younger sister. “Good … I am sure that they will soon get the hang of it, Mrs Fitzgerald … perhaps with a little more regular practise. Samantha and Rebecca will both be expected at Sunday school after the service. I don’t know if you are aware, but fittings for the new school uniform will be taking place later as well … and if I might suggest … gloves for children and maidens are not … recommended … I would suggest getting them both a decent pair of mittens for next weekend … for church at the very least … muzzles are also preferred, and will be insisted upon if there is any unnecessary chatter.”
Emma curtseyed to Miss Sarah, as she had been told to call her classmate. She was all ready to go, but Sarah Clarke asked Mrs Stone if she could just check her nervous charge for the week over, just to make sure. Miss Sarah was one of nine girls within the Christian Humanities program earmarked as a possible guardian, and they had been assigned to take care of one of the other girls for a week as work experience. Emma understood that it would largely be an experiment confined to college, but the trainee guardians were being encouraged to organise some afternoon activities, and offer to help with anything else that their charges parents might feel appropriate. But first of all she had to be collected and guided into the college. Miss Sarah was very thorough as she was being taught to be. She did not undress Emma, but she lifted her skirts and checked both her corset and her diaper, and then made sure that everything was hanging properly. She had to check, as she explained to Mrs Stone, because she was responsible for Emma’s appearance and behaviour for the entire week, and she would be marked down and possibly punished if Emma did not meet the required standards.
“So Emma will get a lot of attention from you, I am sure.” Mrs Stone smiled as Sarah tightened her daughter’s muzzle. “She is usually a good girl, but we have agreed that you will have every right to admonish her in conjunction with Mrs Walker … Emma can only benefit from having a guardian for a whole week and we are happy for you to do anything with her after college, as long as we know what is going on, of course.”
“Of course, Mrs Stone. I was hoping to take her out after college, and then bath her and put her to bed when I get her home, if that suits you?” Miss Sarah asked, and Emma groaned into her muzzle. It was bad enough visiting with girls who had guardians without having one of her own, even for only a few days. “She does have a sleeping gown, doesn’t she? I can borrow one from the college if not … ”
“She has everything you will need, Miss Sarah … I promise.”
“Maidens are all easily distracted and prone to indolence.” Miss Scott told the attentive students. “Every moment should be filled with prayers, bible studies or suitable pastimes. Watch your maidens closely and help them concentrate. We do not unveil them at home as a treat, but so that we can see their faces … and especially their eyes. If their mind is elsewhere, all the benefits they can possibly glean from God’s lore is wasted in their daydreams. A good guardian never misses a trick … get to know them as well as you can, so that you can tell when their minds are starting to wander. Some people have a knack for it … Miss Ford, a most recent graduate of this very college is one of those … but knowing your maiden gives you a huge advantage. Miss Henrietta and Miss Georgina here have been with me for over three years, and I can assure you that I can predict their behaviour long before they even think of disobeying my instructions. I am usually able to keep them out of trouble by pre-empting their lapses and adapting their routine. It is not good enough to just put their headphones on and leave them for hour after hour. That is totally counterproductive. Whilst a routine is important, we must keep their interest and help them to concentrate.”
Beth stood between Henrietta and Georgina, fully dressed in her gown, cloak, bonnet, mantle and veils, including a blinding veil, and she could hardly hear Miss Scott’s words. The three maidens were at the college as exhibits, not participants. She had to concentrate on standing still, running through a prayer in her head like a good maiden should, and setting the right example. It was hard work, and she felt disorientated, because she did not know exactly where she was or who else was in the room with her. Not that it should make any difference, she chided herself, because Miss Scott and Miss Ford would look after her. She did not need to see or hear as long as they were there. She just needed to earn God’s love.
“Miss Elizabeth is an interesting case. She was not born into the cradle of Reformism, but saved just six months ago, thanks to her father’s strength and wisdom, but she is a fast learner. Converts will face challenges, and many of you may well start your vocation with a convert, or a less experienced maiden from the second congregations, which is almost the same thing in most cases. Extra vigilance is required with them, because they will not only have the same propensity to sin, but they will surely also question what is good for them … they will lack conviction and even faith at times. It is your job to hold firm for them at those moments, because the devil works on idle minds … a good guardian gets the balance right and never lets doubts and fears fester in her maidens. My girls work hard, but I always let them have an hour or two of relaxation … I give them something to work for if they behave. Be firm, but always fair. Do the right things for the right reasons … a guardian never punishes, she corrects and guides her maidens along the one true path to salvation … that is God’s will … it is our joy to obey His commands.”
Emma did not like Miss Sarah by the end of that first day of guardian work experience. She was not patient or gentle. Not like Miss Ford and Miss Scott always were when Emma visited Broomwaters. Emma was nervous and had needed changing after lunch, and Miss Sarah scolded her for letting herself down in public. But it was not her fault that she could not use the toilet on her own, and Miss Ford had told her that she should never be embarrassed about messing herself, because that was exactly why she wore a diaper in the first place. Miss Sarah did not agree. She made it clear that she expected her unwilling charge to last until bedtime. Emma was smacked like a naughty toddler and then spent the last twenty minutes of her precious recess in disgrace after Miss Sarah stood her in the middle of the playground and covered her with a blanket. After school, Miss Sarah walked her home via the town centre. Clearly the trainee guardians needed practise, and handling a helpless maiden in public was a large part of the job. It was a miserable experience. Emma was used to being with her mother, who wanted her to behave but not at any price. Even veiled and muzzled, they enjoyed shopping together. But with Miss Sarah, it was as if Emma was not even there. She was not consulted about where to go or what to look at, and she just followed her guardian around like a red velvet ghost, performing as instructed, but without involvement or pleasure.
Sophie Maynard fared rather better with her trainee, Miss Gayle. She did not hate her, at any rate. She had behaved during the day for her, and she was rewarded when she got home with an hour unmuzzled with her mother, before dinner. Mrs Maynard had asked if Miss Gayle would look after her too, which was actually a suggestion from the school to enhance the work experience, and they were both given their needlepoint and left to work and chat in peace. Mrs Maynard longed to be able to afford a guardian, like her rich friends within the congregation, and she was enjoying herself, letting Miss Gayle cook the meal she had prepared during the afternoon, whilst she talked to her daughter about her day. Mrs Maynard knew that their decision to join the first congregation had shocked Sophie, but she had been in the Christian Humanities program for several months by that stage, and there was already a positive difference for all to see. She was no longer demanding and opinionated for a start. She was not given any chance to be. She was never idle, either. Sophie always had homework, and through their church friends she was often invited to tea or sleepovers, so she did not have much time to brood or worry. Indolence was the breeding ground for sin, according to Pastor Winstanley, and they were seeing the benefits of occupying Sophie’s mind. She was not a bad girl before, by any means, but she could be moody and insolent at times, but that person had disappeared in God’s love. She was respectful, obedient and eager to please, and Mrs Maynard enjoyed a happy hour talking to her daughter, and working together on such a suitable pastime.
“Excuse me, Mrs Maynard, but it is time to muzzle you both and settle you for evening prayers before I can prepare you for dinner with Mr Maynard.” Miss Gayle said, with more confidence than she felt, returning to the lounge with two sets of mittens in her gloved hands.
Emma sobbed silently into her muzzle as Miss Sarah laced her into her night corset. She had never been laced so tightly before, because her mother did not want to hurt her, but she was not crying because of the corset. She had just received fifty strokes with the paddle for her general attitude. She was almost glad to disappear into her sleeping gown for the night, the bleak darkness matching her mood, because she had the feeling that it was going to be a very long week. But her parents seemed to think that Miss Sarah was doing a good job. Maidens need a firm hand, she had told Mrs Stone. Emma had to learn that only her best was good enough if she wanted to earn God’s love.
Toeing the Line
Samantha Fitzgerald sat awkwardly on the sofa, finding it impossible to get comfortable. Her mother was being so impossible and unreasonable. She could just about understand that they had to make an effort about church, and she knew that she had to wear the new school uniform, but mittens and muzzles were not compulsory. Just because the church had given them some did not mean she had to wear them, and certainly not at home. But arguing with her mother had ended up with her trying everything on, just for practise.
“Someone is going to have to learn to do as she is told.” Her brother suggested, grinning at her as she tried to find a position that did not make her mother’s old corset dig into her side.
“You don’t have to wear it, do you?” Rebecca, Samantha’s younger sister pointed out, sitting beside Samantha and putting a comforting hand on her knee. She was well aware that she was staring at her own future. She was still a girl, with puberty yet to come, and other than wearing a new dress as a uniform for school, and another for church with the addition of thick gloves, she had several years before she had to submit to the church doctrine. Her brother had no such concerns, and seemed to think it was amusing to see Samantha brought down a peg or two.
Samantha glared at them both, but she knew she was not the only one. Hardly anyone had decided to change schools and all of her friends had the new uniforms ready for the big change after Christmas. Her parents were not fanatics, but they liked the status quo. It was suddenly as if they were competing with friends and neighbours to see who could fit in best at church, as if it was suddenly like a competition, and every communication that came from the school or the church seemed to be adopted enthusiastically by everyone. Samantha had seen the latest letter from the school, and it made her heart sink just to think about the dire contents. Prefects would be chosen on piety and obedience. Pupils in year’s seven to eleven would not be able to wear mittens to classes, but gloves would be compulsory. However, muzzles would be allowed and encouraged, and both mittens and muzzles would be compulsory in year twelve. It was like a nightmare. The world seemed to be closing in around her, and her attempts to argue with her parents had just made them react even more.
The Weekend at Chequers
Beth blinked in the sudden light as Miss Ford finally removed her outer mantle. She had been blinded in the car and walked inside the house, up some stairs, before she was allowed to see. Her guardian smiled as she started to remove her other veils, to tell her that she had done well, as always. Miss Ford could be strict, but she always praised her charge. Beth knew that if she pleased Miss Ford she would get a treat when it was possible. Nothing needed to be said, but Beth yearned for a smile or a flash from those pretty blue eyes.
“Once I have made you comfortable, I will take you downstairs.” Miss Ford said as she unlocked Beth’s muzzle. “You will be taking tea with your mother and the Prime Minister’s wife and daughter. You will not speak at all unless you are spoken too, but you may say good afternoon to start with, of course. I shall be present, and I shall expect your manners to be perfect, Miss Elizabeth, no excuses.”
“Yes Miss Ford.” Beth murmured as soon as she could. Her father had been invited to spend the weekend at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s official country residence, and Madeleine and Elizabeth were invited too. She knew it was important to be on her best behaviour, and Miss Ford did not really need to remind her. In a few moments, dressed in the heaviest, most lavish matins gown she had ever owned, Miss Ford took her downstairs to join her stepmother and be introduced to their hosts, Mrs Henderson and her daughter Catherine.
“Our husbands will talk for hours, no doubt.” Mrs Henderson smiled as she poured tea. “And obviously we will need to go off and dress for dinner at some stage, but I thought this would be nice first, to get to know each other.”
“So kind of you, Mrs Henderson … and we are delighted to be here,” Madeleine Buckingham replied, enjoying the chance to show Miss Ford and her stepdaughter how important she really was. She was desperate to impress her husband, to stop him putting so much trust in their annoying guardian, and the weekend was her chance. Miss Ford could not keep her muzzled all the time, if she was to socialise with the Henderson’s, and Charles had told her how important it was to make a good impression on the Prime Minister. Henderson was frightened of the success the Christian Democratic Party was having in the opinion polls. Despite all attempts to portray them as fundamentalists and fanatics, the policies Charles Buckingham promoted were seen as popular, commonsense solutions to obvious problems. Not that Madeleine understood any of that, but she knew that she was expected to sparkle. In a modest, pious way of course.
“Catherine and I greatly admire your dresses, Mrs Buckingham … ” Mrs Henderson continued, and Elizabeth noticed that her daughter was staring at her. She stared back, shocked by the girl’s knee length skirt and tight fitting blouse. She could hardly even imagine herself wearing anything like that, although it was only five months since she had, and as she looked at Catherine she could hear Pastor Michael in her head, urging her to reject the sins of immodesty. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel … 1 Timothy 2:9.
“My stepdaughter and I merely conform to the dictates of our doctrine, Mrs Henderson … but we are glad that you like them so much … I hope many people feel the same.” Madeleine replied, glancing briefly at Miss Ford, who nodded her approval of the response.
“Charles … many of your policies are unworkable. I must admit that you have struck a chord with your recent church schools campaign, but that in itself is putting pressure on the system to cope with the amount of children being pulled out of church schools. It is costing the government a fortune … the system cannot cope.” Philip Henderson sighed, handing Buckingham a glass of sherry before collapsing into the armchair opposite.
“So change the system, Philip. In Meadvale, very few have changed schools.”
“Oh if the rest of the country was like Meadvale, it would be much easier.” Henderson admitted, letting a bit of frustration show in his voice. “Meadvale is the epicentre of your movement, and has been for thirty years, like minded souls have drifted into the area … that is why you are standing for the parliamentary seat there. It is hardly a microcosm of society in general and the vast majority of people will not be forced into doing anything they don’t want to do.”
“I believe they will, if you stand firm and give them no viable alternative. People pay taxes … keeping their children in good schools is a powerful motivation, and we are only asking for the same commitment they made in gaining their little darlings a spot in the first place. Our figures suggest that the number refusing to comply are less than ten per cent, and it is not the church that has broken their side of the bargain, remember … it is the parents themselves.” Charles said confidently. He was enjoying the Prime Minister’s discomfiture. It showed the Christian Democrats were hurting the established parties.
“Charles, you are too extreme. I have held off attacking your own beliefs up until now because I did not wish to cause offence but I cannot let you continue making a monkey out of me.”
“So you are threatening me?”
“No … not as such … I am a Christian too. I agree with you that a succession of Archbishops of Canterbury have failed to deal with falling congregations, and that evangelical political activism is a worthwhile cause … but just as the anti-Europeans rocked the boat playing to the popular vote with no coherent plan for change behind them, you are a one cause nuisance.”
“Our manifesto will be complete by the time you decide to go to the people.”
“Yes, and then you will force me to ridicule most of it in public and the middle class vote will be polarised again … we will be stuck with another coalition government for five years. If you put up a candidate in every constituency you will split the vote and the people will suffer.”
“Getting Christian policies on the agenda is worth such a fate to us. Do you know just how many of your backbenchers are talking to us, Philip? Reclaiming this country as a Christian democracy is not extreme. Indeed, I have rather less problem with the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities than you do … they share many of our core values. It is the Godless masses that are the main prize. In the past, when Sundays were sacrosanct as God’s day, this country was a better place. People had a positive influence in their lives at least once a week, and a clear direction to follow. Our young people are out of control, and we propose legislation to stop that … not populist legislation, but basic commonsense. You call me an extremist, but I am not suggesting that a Reformist doctrine is better for everyone. Most politicians are hypocrites … I mean, look at Blair, he was a Catholic all along but he refused to admit his own faith when he was in your position … but we are being totally honest about our beliefs and how we will try and interpret them into everyday life. How far people go with that is up to them, and I agree that Meadvale is quite unique of course … but we will make inroads elsewhere, and we will provoke a debate. People want their children safe … they want ludeness and drunkenness off the streets. Modesty, decency and faith are not rude words, Philip … it is not defensible. The free speech brigade will accuse us of breaching human rights and all sorts of things, but in the end no father wants his daughter walking around looking like a tart, or mixing with undesirables. No one wants people drinking on street corners or shagging in public parks. No one wants children left at home alone. No one wants to hear obscenities on the streets. No one wants to be scared of rape, or hear about teenage pregnancies, or dysfunctional families living on benefits. They want a party to stop beating around the bush and put a stop to it, and to help them stop it themselves. If you don’t believe me, get one of your focus groups to ask the right questions, and then you will see just how much of a nuisance we might be in May or June.”
“Is it true you were at Deepdene?” Catherine Henderson asked Elizabeth Buckingham as the two young women took the garden path away from the house. It was the Saturday afternoon, and Catherine was expected to be sociable. She had suggested a walk in the gardens, and after some consultation with her minder, the rather stern-looking Miss Ford, Elizabeth had agreed to come. But she had to put on a cloak, bonnet, mantle, mittens and veil first, and Catherine felt as if she was talking to a mountain of dark red velvet.
“Yes, I left last June, after finishing my GCSE’s, Miss Henderson.” Beth replied politely.
“So, you were normal then? I mean I know Deepdene … a couple of my friends at university went there.” Catherine said, not really meaning to be rude.
“God called my father and I during the summer, Miss Henderson.” Beth responded as Miss Ford had suggested, because she would be asked, and anything derogatory Miss Henderson might say about her was bound to get back to her guardian one way or another.
“Yeah right, and you like dressing like that, I suppose.” Catherine sneered, looking at Beth’s blank, velvet and gauze face as she spoke.
“Sometimes not, but it is God’s will, and I live for God’s love,” Beth snapped back, a little more sharply than she had intended to do. She had been taught that heathen’s liked to criticise. They did not understand God’s will, and were the poorer for it, so she ought not to rise to the temptation, but the tendency to sin was always high in her. She said a silent prayer, begging forgiveness as she fell into step beside Catherine. Miss Henderson had just put a trench coat on top of her simple skirt and top, and she wore no hat, as God preferred women to do. Beth looked at her in horror, her vision clouded by her veils, but she also felt something stir inside of her. Not quite jealousy of course. She was not the jealous type. But she recognised that Miss Henderson was smartly dressed by most standards outside of the Reformist movement, and that most people would not consider her immodest in any way. But she was displaying her face, in an area where they could meet security personnel, or gardeners, and her legs, albeit hidden in thick tights and boots. She clearly had no respect for herself, or love for God, but Beth still felt a pang for such freedoms deep down inside.
“Well, you can do what you like, but if anyone tried to make me dress like that I would tell them to fuck off.” Catherine Henderson insisted, fishing her telephone out of her pocket as she felt it vibrate. She looked quickly at the text and almost feinted on the spot, her face suddenly pale.
Elizabeth found herself looking forward to her first Christmas in Meadvale. It represented a change in routine if nothing else and her days were rather ordered and predictable. Broomwaters was a hive of activity, not least because her father was using it as a centre of operations for the political party, but she was kept well away from those sorts of things. Miss Scott and Miss Ford kept their girls occupied in the private areas of the house, and they only got an inkling of events at dinner, if their fathers decided to discuss a little business in front of everyone. It was six months since Beth arrived at Broomwaters, and she was a very different girl by that stage. Not quite as pious at Henrietta and Georgina perhaps, a fact that her dear stepmother never failed to point out to her, but certainly suitably obedient and passive. Miss Ford always seemed pleased with her. She had learned that her guardian rewarded good behaviour, and as such she was always eager to please.
“She is past the first stage.” Miss Scott told her protégé when they stopped for a cup of coffee. Miss Ford liked to discuss her work with her experienced superior, always welcoming her advice. “She was an unwilling convert, of course. Her father more or less tricked her into coming here, but she is a good girl, and I think she is learning that her new life is the best thing for her. It is quite natural, of course. Like litter training a kitten, or teaching a dog to walk to heel … and she clearly responds to your gentle touch … the next challenge is to make her responses automatic. She is well-trained now but she needs to become an instinctive maiden, like Henrietta and Georgina. It is easier for them, because they know no other way.”
“So, I should develop a plan for her … a series of tests, perhaps?” Miss Ford asked, risking a smile.
“Oh you learn fast … and I will be happy to run through your ideas, if you will help me with my charges. I shall have my hands full with a guest, and I shall need your assistance.”
“Of course, Miss Scott … anything for you … but I have not heard about a guest?”
“It is very hush-hush … quite a coup for Mr Buckingham, I believe.”
Catherine Henderson forced herself to move. It was not easy. Not only was she dressed as a Reformist maiden, but her corset had been laced so tight that it hurt to breathe, let alone move. She tottered slowly to the door, but it was locked, of course. She banged on it half-heartedly without expecting anyone to answer. With her hands trapped within her mittens, she tried again to remove her headphones, but they were buckled in place. She had no choice. She had to listen to the annoying Pastor reminding her of her sins. She had let everyone down, and herself down, and she had embarrassed her father. She had been a fool, and she had to make amends and repent her sins. It had been going on for hours, ever since her father had lost his temper with her for still refusing to admit her mistakes. She had been overpowered and sedated, and when she awoke, she was locked in the room listening to the voice, trapped in a living nightmare.
She had no idea where she was, or why her father had chosen to force her into such a farce. It was ridiculous. He was a Christian in name only. She had not been to church other than on official occasions with her parents since she left school, and all he was achieving was keeping her out of the way. But he would not change her mind about Marcus. She loved him and he loved her. He would never have used her to pass on confidential information, she was sure of that, and her father could not stop her seeing him if she wanted to. He could not keep her imprisoned against her will. Not for long at any rate. She had to admit that he was doing a fairly good job of it so far. Trying to take her mind off of the voice in her head, she realised that she was totally helpless. She could not make a sound, she could not use her hands and even moving around the small bedroom was difficult in her heavy, cumbersome clothes, hampered still further by the corset, and the strange feeling of the diaper between her legs. She remembered almost taunting Elizabeth Buckingham, but now there she was, all of a sudden, dressed exactly the same. She knew that her father wanted her out of the way whilst he dealt with the scandal, or tried to stop the press turning it into one, but he would never go that far. Would he?
Samantha Fitzgerald sat quietly in the corner of the lounge as her family gathered for Christmas. It was much the same every year, but she did not join in with the usual greetings, because somehow it no longer seemed appropriate. She was not muzzled and she said hello to her grandparents, her aunt and uncle, and her cousins, but she stayed in her seat, her best Sunday gown arranged neatly around her, with her expression of distaste discreetly hidden by her mantle. It was stupid, of course. Her mother was taking everything to extremes, like the stupid church, but she had not been given a lot of choice. She had got into trouble at school, and at Sunday school, and the Pastor had told her mother to take a stronger line. She would get suspended otherwise and her parents were not happy. She had to learn, they said, and as a punishment her mother had dressed her and put her in her mittens, to remind her of her responsibilities. It was not just her school place at risk, of course. The Pastor had made it clear that if Samantha did not behave, her brother and sister would be expelled as well, as the church would not tolerate bad apples. She was annoyed, but her parents were not giving her any choice.
“School is important for all of you, Samantha dear.” Her grandmother said a little later. Everyone was sitting down and eating Christmas cake. Except Samantha, of course. Her mother and sister were both wearing their church dresses, and her brother and father were both wearing shirts and ties, but only Samantha was wearing a mantle and mittens. Her cousin’s fiancé was present, and a maiden should not be uncovered before a man who was not a part of her family. It was a poor excuse. She knew it was part of her punishment, but it made her feel apart from things. “In my day we respected our teachers, and the church was a big part of our lives … it’s no bad thing that people are trying to return to those days.”
“Most of the changes have not even been made yet, but we can already see the difference.” Mrs Fitzgerald said, cutting a piece of cake and slipping it under Samantha’s mantle and into her daughter’s mouth. “Rebecca is getting much more homework and Christopher is being really pushed in all subjects. It is already much more like a private school … I am so ashamed that we didn’t carry on taking the children to church after they got their places, because it’s made it harder for Samantha, but she is going to learn her lessons.”
“Everyone is talking about the church … even at home.” Mrs Carpenter, Samantha’s aunt, commented, staring at her niece as if she was an exhibit, as she sipped her tea. “I still go once or twice a month, to the church in the village. But it is really not quite as extreme as this, Caroline.”
“Are more people going now?”
“Well yes, actually … and there is a Reformist service starting in a few weeks.”
“Our Pastor says it is a fresh start … people have forgotten the word of God … and some things only feel extreme because people are lost … the Church should be the centre of our lives.”
Elizabeth sat next to her stepmother in the main drawing room at Broomwaters, working on her needlepoint and listening to Henrietta playing the piano. Mr Harrington had invited guests for the weekend, culminating in Christmas Day, and people had just started to congregate. Mrs Harrington was present, as was her other daughter, Georgina, and Miss Scott and Miss Ford had them all muzzled, as their guests would need to rest and recuperate from their journeys. It would be a full house, Elizabeth understood, and Miss Ford had urged her to be on her best behaviour. She was the daughter of an important man, and she really needed to act as such, to set the right example. She was wearing a new gown of gold velvet, matching her stepmother, the former Miss Madeleine Craig, which required a tighter waist than normal, but she could manage. All she had to do was sit there and enjoy the afternoon, her first Reformist Christmas.
Emma Stone arrived a little after four o’clock, and Miss Ford settled her beside Elizabeth, before connecting a drink to her muzzle. Mr and Mrs Stone were thrilled to be invited to the house party and were more convinced than ever that they were right to join the church, if it meant moving in such elite social circles. Mr Stone was also doing very well at work, and they really thought that they might be able to afford a guardian early in the new year. Mrs Stone proudly took her place beside Mrs Buckingham, smiling awkwardly around her muzzle. It was so serene in the drawing room, as the piano played and some of the more well known ladies in the area took refreshment and relaxed together. She was the envy of all her friends, and she had high hopes for her daughter. But then the door opened again, and Miss Scott entered the room, leading another young lady by the arm. Mrs Stone thought she recognised her at first, but it could not be who she thought it was.
Catherine Henderson tottered into the room, still finding it hard to move. But Miss Scott did not let her hesitate. She was more or less pulled to a chair close to the piano and sat down, whilst the guardian arranged the folds of her dark red velvet gown around her. She still could not believe she was there. It had been three days of absolute torture. But she had learned to do as Miss Scott said, or everything just got worse. She had started to count her blessings. She could hardly walk, and the corset seemed to be cutting her in two, but she did not have headphones on, and the voice in her head had gone. She was muzzled and she was wearing mittens, but she had her mind back, and that seemed better than nothing. She had been kept muzzled almost all of the time and no one was telling her anything at all. She had not seen her parents. She had not seen anyone except for Miss Scott and Miss Ford, who were making her pretend to be some sort of Reformist fanatic.
Elizabeth knew that it was rude to stare. She glanced at Miss Henderson, and nodded out of politeness, before returning her attention to her needlepoint. She had been a maiden for six months, and she knew her place. She heard a voice inside her head and began to pray for her saved sister, rejoicing that another soul had turned herself to accept God’s love. Her father was part of a great revolution, a modern renaissance, and she was lucky enough to be a major beneficiary of that resurgence. She prayed that Miss Henderson was as happy as she was.
Samantha Fitzgerald wore her Christmas presents to Church on Christmas morning with her family. Her parents wanted to show the Pastor, and therefore the school authorities, that they had their headstrong daughter under proper control. They did not want to risk losing their children’s school places of course, but they were also concerned about Samantha’s attitude. It was as the Pastor’s said, modern children craved the perversions of modern life. Every Christian had to take stock, and decide if they were going to allow their loved ones to continue down the slippery slope. Mr and Mrs Fitzgerald were starting to realise that they had allowed their family to follow the herd, like sheep. Samantha expected to finish school and go off to university, after a hedonistic gap year backpacking around Europe. She had spent half of her free time on Facebook, or her mobile, and was far more concerned about having a good time than she was with anything else. It was not her fault, of course. Her parents obviously recognised that, because their beloved daughter was a product of the world they had helped create. People like them were, as the Pastor’s described it, users, who took from society without investing in it, and the future. Even their reasons for returning to the Church were selfish, and they were starting to feel ashamed of themselves.
Mrs Fitzgerald had tried to explain how she felt to her eldest daughter as she helped her first born into her new corset, muzzle and gown, preparing Samantha for her own renaissance. It was not all about her. It was not even all about keeping all three children in good schools. She admitted that they had been forced back to church, but only because they had cheated God in the first place. It was hard for Samantha, of course. She had been allowed to grow up thinking that she could do what she wanted but that was a mistake. It was the fundamental fault in the foundations of modern life. Millions of Christians, all seduced by the devil’s promises of freedom and self-indulgence, had turned away from God’s eternal love. No one was free. The bible was the word, and the word was God, and God had plans for his people.
Samantha did not argue. She did not see the point, as her parents would not let her disagree. Her protests were sin, seeping out of her corrupted soul, and she needed to be purged and protected, as befitted a daughter of Eve.
“Catherine is safe.” Charles Buckingham told the Prime Minister. “Isn’t that what matters?”
“She must hate me.” Philip Henderson sighed, looking tired as he reached for his glass of wine.
“She jeopardised your career and her virtue.” Charles responded without emotion, reaching for the bottle. “She is, as you have agreed, an example of everything that is wrong with this country Philip. She is a clever girl, at a good university, from a good loving home, but she has been mixing freely with undesirable characters and getting involved in things that could embarrass you and damage the reputation of your government and the British people. In time, once she is shown the error of her ways, she will thank you for saving her, Philip. It is vital that we have the courage to act for the sake of our children, and people like you and me have to set an example. Elizabeth and Catherine were not bad girls, but they were misguided, and as loving father’s we have acted in their own interests to protect them from themselves, and the world we have helped create. This is a reboot for all of us, my friend … a chance to return Christianity to the core of our nation, as its soul and moral compass. Catherine fell in love for goodness sake … it is not her fault that the man was a Chinese spy. But we can make that go away and ensure that she is never put at risk again, Philip. But she should never have been in that position in the first place. That is the message we have to get across to people, together. Prevention is much better than cure. We must all learn to protect our wives and daughters from sin and the evil influences of the devil and his worshippers.”
Inside the crowded parish church, Samantha sat quietly beside her mother, staring at the future. She had got used to the other members of the congregation since they started going to church again, and she could see how things were changing around her like a developing disease. It had all started as an annoying joke. Just like her, girls were forced back to church, to stop the schools withdrawing their places. Everyone made an effort of sorts. Everyone had to dress modestly but most tended to do the absolute minimum required of them, even when the church started giving out free items, such as the new school uniforms. It was just a bit more than paying lip service to the regulations, but no one went too far. Muzzles and mantels were rare. Mrs Fitzgerald was one of the first to take those steps, but not the only one by any means. Samantha had lived the process at home, and witnessed the effects at church, all around her. But the Christmas service represented a sea change. The first day proper of the new single sex schools was just days away and more people than ever had taken another step towards visible piety. She could no longer reliably recognise other girls, or their mothers. Instead, she had to place the men to identify the blobs of velvet beside them, as all the female faces seemed to be hidden behind veils and mantles.
Mr and Mrs Fitzgerald were clearly well thought of by the Pastors. Their apparent eagerness to follow strict church lore was recognised, encouraged and rewarded at every opportunity. Samantha was an issue, but the way they were dealing with it seemed to earn them general approval, and the family were given tickets for the cathedral the following Sunday. Services at the cathedral were so busy that the Pastor’s had to issue tickets to one of four services that took place every Sunday morning. It was considered a huge honour to be invited, and Mrs Fitzgerald could hardly believe their good fortune. She celebrated when they got home by settling Samantha in the lounge. Her daughter could spend an hour or two whilst lunch was cooking listening to Pastor Michael, covered with a blanket so that the rest of the family could not distract her. Samantha needed to concentrate more than ever.
“People are like sheep.” David Harrington suggested, showing Charles the figures on his laptop. “Once they see someone else adopting the doctrine, and being rewarded for it, they follow on … like lambs to the slaughter. For every matins gown we give away we sell ten, for every invitation to the cathedral we get one hundred ticket applications, regardless of the cover charge or the wait, which is now about seven weeks. Most shops in the town now expect their female assistants to wear gowns and mantles for fear of offending customers. We are adding a class to every year at the girl’s school, because we have had applications from dozens of parents who did not have places before. It is working perfectly Charles.”
“So it seems. Philip Henderson is torn between fear and gratitude. Getting his daughter out of the way has helped him a lot and her conversion, horrified at the betrayal of a man she thought she loved, will send the newspapers into a positive frenzy when we let them in on the secret, but our successes here scare the hell out of him … he can see us getting a large share of the popular vote.” Charles Buckingham sighed, sitting back in his chair. “Church attendance is up by thirty per cent across the whole country David, thirty bloody per cent, and even the archbishop of Canterbury is starting to sound as if he actually believes in God, rather than some socialist manifesto. In six months, we have put Christianity back on the political agenda, but we have to keep up the pressure. The general election is still five months away and I don’t want our campaign to run out of steam … Philip Henderson has given us his daughter in a moment of weakness, we have to keep her to take a position of strength.”
Elizabeth and Catherine followed Miss Ford obediently into the shop. Elizabeth was used to it, of course. She walked into town with her guardian three or four times a week, often with the Harrington girls, and she knew how to behave. She was in her mittens, and heavily cloaked and veiled, but it was always a treat to be outside. Catherine Henderson just copied Elizabeth, as instructed by Miss Ford, because she had no choice. She was, effectively, a prisoner. Clearly with her father’s collusion, but a prisoner all the same. She had been denied the use of her hands ever since she arrived at Broomwaters. She was kept tightly corseted all the time, except for half an hour a day in the bath, and slept in a sleeping gown at night. She was muzzled almost all the time, only being freed for dinner, and if she said a word out of turn when she was she received a paddling of such severity that she learned to hold her tongue. For several hours a day she was forced to listen to sermons from the church, words that seemed to get deep inside her head, and she was not at all sure that she was getting them all out again afterwards. She could not escape. Even in the town, where there were other people around, her clothes and corset restricted her movement and her veils and muzzle made it almost impossible to attract the attention of anyone else. Even if she could manage to convince someone that she was being kept against her will, almost everyone in Meadvale seemed to be connected to or dependent upon the Reformist Church, and she doubted if they would help her. So she was another mountain of velvet, following her guardian around town, curtseying to strangers.
Emma Stone was in disgrace. Even in the middle of the festive season, her parents would not tolerate insolence. Her rather ungrateful attitude to her main present had caused some offence. Mr and Mrs Stone felt that they were working hard to give her the best in life, and by offering Miss Clarke a full time position as guardian they intended to help their beloved daughter make up for lost time. She needed constant supervision to make suitable progress at her age. It was difficult for her, of course, and they did recognise that, but it was not for a maiden to decide on the employment of a guardian, and therefore Miss Clarke’s first task as a full time guardian was to punish her reluctant charge. It had to be severe. Emma had performed well for Miss Scott and Miss Ford during their short sojourn at Broomwaters, but it was different accepting a guardian full time, in her own home. Miss Clarke gave her charge a severe paddling upon arrival, and then dressed Emma to kneel and pray beneath a blanket until lunch time.
“This New Year is the dawn of our modern renaissance.” Charles Fitzgerald told his audience. “Six months ago people tended to laugh at us, and dismiss us at freaks or extremists, but the truth is we are committed to our cause. This country … like so many other so-called first world nations … has been rotting on the inside for decades. In the name of progress, we have allowed our children to run amok … every generation has allowed the next to run headlong into a crisis. Before we asked the question, people used to say what can you do? It’s just the way it is … its modern life. But that is wrong … that is a dereliction of duty. It is up to us to draw a line in the sand here. It is up to us say enough … this has to stop right here, right now. Gentlemen, if you don’t like the way your daughter dresses, make her change. If you don’t like where she goes, or who she goes with, don’t let her go. You can say no to your children, my friends. There is an alternative. My party has a number of policies which we will need help to turn into law after the election, but you need to vote for change, and as masters in your own house, you need to encourage change. I believe in modesty and my wife and daughter are modest, pious women who respect themselves and others, but I am not saying our way is for everyone. But I am saying that it is wrong for anyone to be out in public half-dressed, which demeans themselves, puts them at risk and tempts others into sin … this is not right and it is not acceptable. It was not acceptable when I was a child, so why is it acceptable now? Is that progress? My friends, the devil is in the detail, as always. It is the little things we let slip that tempt us into the bigger problems. Many public parks are almost no go areas after dark, full of teenagers drinking beer, maybe taking drugs and generally terrorising the good people of our towns. But they are there because individuals allow them to be. They have money in their pockets that their parents put there. They get served in shops because the law is not respected, and as it is ‘ok’ to have a boyfriend, and ‘make out’ it just gets worse and worse. My daughter does not ‘make out’ because I do not allow her the opportunity my friends. My critics say that we are against personal freedoms, but I prefer to call it protecting our children and the moral fibre of this country. Our manifesto is not Draconian, I do not demand that you believe what I believe, but I do expect all adults to take responsibility for what happens at home. Every father should know where their children are, and that they are safe. Parental negligence, or perhaps parental apathy, give our children to opportunity to sin … to ruin their lives before they even have a chance. Nowadays, far too many women want a career … but only after a hedonistic few years of travelling and partying at university. But they have a career mapped out for them from the moment they are born, my friends. They are born to be wives and mothers, to spread God’s seed and God’s love. Everything else in our lives is the work of the devil, and we must resist it and purge ourselves of the permissive society once and for all. I want a world where families stay together and raise children in God’s love. I want to eradicate our drugs culture. I want to eradicate teenage pregnancies out of wedlock. I want to improve our education system so that the morals and standards of our country are passed onto all our children, and I want laws that support all of this built around us, so that we can the few that stray from the path of righteousness. I want a Christian country that embraces all cultures, as long as they embrace ours. I want a safe place for everyone. My own religious views are an irrelevance of course. I will not be making the laws, the House of Commons will, so you are not voting for a church … you are voting to reclaim the society we lost in the sixties. You are voting to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough … things have gone too far. Happy New Year my friends … in May you will get your chance to vote for change.”
The Reformist Saga is continued in part four A Reformist Spring.