Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Year In Marriage Equality

Time for a look back on the year through the eyes of the struggle for marriage equality in the United Kingdom. What a year it's been!

In January, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg came out in favour of marriage equality being the first leader of a major party to do so.

In April I gave up hope for any change, based purely on fact I had no visions of anything other than a Tory or Labour Government being in power after the upcoming general election. I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised to find out how wrong I was, although that was more to do with events rather than being factually inaccurate (I cannot imagine marriage equality being mentioned under majority Governments of the big parties).

In what can only be described as a breakthrough, not more than a week after I wrote the piece above, marriage equality was mentioned in the general election. Sadly it was mainly just a lot of flip floping from the Tories. By the end of the election it was clear that only the Lib Dems supported marriage equality.

Of course we all know what happened in May, with the Coalition coming to power. In June they released an LGBT policy document that finally pushed me to step up my game.

Using every avenue I could find I decided to get marriage equality mentioned EVERYWHERE I could.

I used Your Freedom to create a rather popular policy suggestion. I wrote letter's to Lynne Featherstone, Ed Miliband and David Miliband. I used Yoosk to ask questions of the Labour leadership candidates and Simon Hughes. The response from Simon Hughes got national media coverage, the Labour leadership candidates all eventually came out in support of marriage equality and LabourList agreed marriage equality was now the "next step". At the end of July the Government held sit down talks with "interested parties" to discuss the future of civil partnerships.

It was at this meeting that Stonewall finally made a PR wrong step which would snowball over the summer.  Their inability to make a decision on marriage equality helped bring the issue to a wider audience and created real anger in the LGBT community. This prompted other strange reactions, such as Chris Bryant's weirdly forgetful piece in GT on the subject. A man who told Parliament he doesn't want marriage for same sex couples suddenly claims to always have supported it. Hmm...

Marriage equality became official Lib Dem policy in September and one of the parties new recruits, Stephen Gilbert MP, became marriage equalities champion at Westminster.

In October Stonewall finally came out in support of marriage equality and one of the biggest moves of the year occurred with the Equal Love campaign's launch. Lead by Peter Tatchell the campaign has spent the time since then trying to get heterosexuals civilly partnered and same sex couples married. They are now taking their battle to the courts.

In a nice end to the year, marriage equality was mentioned, by Stephen Gilbert, in the adjournment debate in the House of Commons.

What's the future look like? Rosy, but not certain. The fight must continue. Equal Love UK are doing the hard work but we should all get involved in continuing to push for marriage equality. If we do 2011 might just be the year we've been waiting for.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Time For The Coalition (And It's Haters) To Grow Up

I've been asking for an open and honest Coalition since the start. The way Nick Clegg decided to go (to embrace every facet of the Coalition) was one I felt was not reflective of his "big idea" of the "new politics". I wanted the Tories and Lib Dems to be clear that they believed different things and were simply working together on a joint platform in the country's interests.

I know, I'm a naive idealist whose hopes would have been dashed against the rocks of a cynical population, a deceitful opposition and an idiotic media.

But now is the time for the Tories and Lib Dems to stop the "love-in" and remember we are individual parties who care enough about the future of our country to work alongside each other.

As a Liberal Democrat, NOTHING that has been revealed in the last few days by the Daily Telegraph's "sting" has been news to me at all. Did the media really fall for Labour's narrative about the Lib Dems being "yellow Tories"? Did Labour really believe it too? Why is it so shocking that Lib Dem Ministers have Lib Dem beliefs (and don't really like Tories)?

It's time for us to treat the population like grown ups and show there IS division in Government (no more than the not so secret internal war between Blairites and Brownites that we had for years under Labour) and that is actually part of our strength.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Porn: The Great Litmus Test Of Freedom

Porn is controversial. It incites a great deal of discussion, from those concerned with protecting children and those protecting women, over it's morality. Governments seem desperate to control it, even in the face of it's widespread popularity. This controversy makes it a wonderful "litmus test" for whether a society is really free.

I've talked about it before in the context of wanting some answers over exploitation in pornography. Now we have Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, bringing it back into political debate after suggesting ISPs should force people to opt-in if they wish to view what the ISPs or the Government regard as porn.

Even if you buy into the idea that it's the Government's job to protect children from pornography in their own homes, I think this policy risks overreach (i.e. blocking sites that aren't pornographic especially regarding sexual health and LGBT issues) and would be nearly impossible to successfully implement. Kids don't "accidentally" wander onto porn sites, and those who want to find them will still find them even if most are blocked. So what does it achieve other than sending a signal to the country that the Government cares more about control and less about leaving people to live their lives the way they want?

A silly, nanny-state suggestion from a Government that was meant to know better.

Hands off our internet!

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Another Spineless MP Comes Out

I remember the first time I held a man's hand in public. We had stones thrown at us. It was pretty terrifying and certainly made my 18 year old self feel reluctant to try it again!

So I appreciate that coming out and being honest about yourself is not easy. I came out during the late nineties when things were becoming easier for LGBT people to be who they are, but when things were still pretty difficult. So I can only imagine what bravery and guts it took the men and women who came out before me, or whose attitudes were formed in that dark past. I'm sure being from that generation makes it extremely difficult for many.

So now I've got that out of the way, let's talk about the spinelessness of one Nigel Evans, Tory MP for the Ribble Valley.

This is a man who voted more times against LGBT rights than he has voted for. Hell, he's been absent more times than he has voted for.

He was only trying to protect the children of course, bless him, from dirty people like... HIM!

Yes. He came out. Supposedly due to threats of being outed by a former Labour MP

‘I could not afford it to be used as leverage against me. I couldn’t take the risk. I don’t want any other MP to face that kind of nastiness again.

‘I am sure there are other gay MPs who would like to be open about their sexuality but are fearful of the consequences. I hope this new group will help them to do so.’

So 1) he didn't come out because he was now comfortable with his sexuality, instead it was to continue to protect his career. 2) he seems overly concerned with helping others feel secure in their sexuality yet in the past voted to keep an unequal age of consent and Section 28 thereby causing many young LGBT people to suffer continued hurt.

As I've said before: Never trust someone who will vote against their own rights just for political advantage and partisanship.

We should not welcome this announcement as another victory for LGBT people but should instead hang our collective heads in shame that yet another LGBT person has come out as an "ex-homophobe". Here's a song I think is most appropriate for this situation. You do it to yourself, you do, and that's what really hurts.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The End Of Child Detention

It's taken a little long than I would've liked (a year by the time it's completed) BUT finally the Coalition have overturned Labour's policy of imprisoning children. It's something that it has been very important, for me, to see implemented and I am glad we can finally see an end to this disgusting abuse of minors.

Now we must hope that control orders are axed by the Government in the New Year. Write to your MPs!

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Alright Labour, If You Insist On Our Help

Petulant children. That's what Labour call those of us who turned our noses up at the idea of helping THEM develop THEIR party's new policies.

Well, if they are so desperate to get our input (perhaps they are really struggling for inspiration?) who am I to deny them? So here is a list of my suggestions for some radically new policies for the Labour party.

1) No more torture.

A real headline grabber this one. It's going to be a hard sell within the Labour party, if their last term in Government is anything to go by, but I think this might be a really positive step forward. It's pretty simple really: the Labour party just needs to promise (and keep said promise, I know don't follow Nick Clegg's example on this one!) NOT to torture anyone or aid in the torture of anyone.

Some, in the Labour party, will say this is impossible. That something so radical can be barely be contemplated. But I really think NOT torturing people might work. Let's just give it a go, see how it works out? Go on. Try something new!

2) No more killing innocent civilians just because your weirdo Christian fundamentalist friend in the USA thinks it's a good idea.

War is Hell. We all know that, and I think it's probably near impossible NOT to kill innocents (i.e. civilians) during wartime operations. Now Labour here's where things get complicated so let me spell it out to you:


Indeed the fact they often get caught up in the crossfire means that going to war needs to be a decision made for the right reasons, at the right time and in the right way. Getting it wrong and saying sorry doesn't quite cut it. Killing people with real lives, real families, real hopes, and real dreams for the wrong reason isn't something you just get to say "oops" about. So the new policy would be "No more unjust wars". This is a hard one, and perhaps you might want to get rid of some of the people in your party who still have blood on their hands. It really puts those of us with a conscience off dealing with you at all, knowing you've got killers in your midst.

3) Do not think that your drinking buddies represent entire groups of people

When your drunken friend, who happens to fall in love with members of their own sex, leans across the bar and slurs "You know, not all lesbians want marriage. I think you should set up some sort of unequal civil union instead." don't take this as representative of the entire LGBT community. Perhaps ask around (and not just your friends like David Miliband did), or (crazy idea here) consult your fundamental party values and ask the question "Is this right?". What are fundamental party values, I hear the Blairites cry. *sigh* I'll see you after the lesson.

4) Balance the books

Yes, I know it's fun to hide balances here, there and anywhere and sell off parts of public property to private business but pretend you haven't. BUT trust me this sort of fun always comes back to bite you in the bum. Perhaps work out how much money is coming in, and work out how much money is going out. Then you need to balance those amounts. Yes, it's elementary economics and perhaps an oversimplification of how possible (or desirable) that is at a national level. But promising to keep it in mind this time might go some way to rebuilding trust with the people paying the bills (i.e. the electorate).

5) Don't treat your citizens like criminals.

Relax. Calm down. Breath. Terrorism is not new. It's not something that's going to stop. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be vigilant and we shouldn't try to stop it from happening but perhaps you might want to start balancing freedom and security a bit more sensibly. When the police start stopping people in the street who are simply taking photos, you know you've got that balance wrong. And let's be honest... Labour has that balance really wrong (also see torture and murder, these things are linked). Remember: the public are not here to do your bidding. Your there to do the public's bidding.

Just a few little tips to start you off. Finding a heart or soul may also be of benefit. Any questions please feel free to ask someone who thinks you might actually do even one of the above.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Thanks Mr Miliband But... No Deal

Ed Miliband, realising what an authoritarian tribe he now leads, has called for Liberal Democrats to assist with his policy review. Perhaps we might even join the party, given how our Ministers have "betrayed" us.

Well Mr Miliband, I'm afraid that if we are going to start pointing fingers over betrayal, let's take a look at the past betrayals of Labour Ministers. They colluded with and allowed torture, which I'd say is a betrayal of human rights. They joined a war in Iraq based on false premises which lead to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, which I'd say is a betrayal of life itself. You don't get to say "Sorry" and make it alright there. They betrayed electoral reformers by ignoring a report they commissioned suggesting AV+ be used. They betrayed the LGBT community:

"Mr. Chope: Will the Minister answer the question about why the Government are not legislating for homosexual marriage? If they did that, the problems that I have described would not exist.

Jacqui Smith: As we said on Second Reading, our approach to the legal situation is to say, ''Let us devise a 21st century way, a new legal relationship, which recognises the legal difficulties and sensitivities that perhaps not everybody in this Committee may share but certainly many people with religious views would share, about the particular historical traditions of marriage that might make it inappropriate for there to be same-sex marriages.'' We have identified where the mischief stands, as the lawyers describe it, and that is the legal invisibility of people in same-sex couples. We are attempting to remedy that through the Bill, and our approach received widespread support throughout the consultation period. Stonewall, for example, recognises it as the 21st century, modern way to deal with that particular problem.

The second reason for the Government's approach is our view that for opposite-sex couples marriage is the best framework for stable family relationships. I think the hon. Gentleman would agree with that. The irony of his position is that he would want the state to sanction another form of legal relationship for opposite-sex couples that could be seen only as being in direct competition with marriage. It is a deep irony that those people who hold marriage so dear and consider it to be so important at the same time argue for a legally recognised, state sanctioned relationship in direct competition with it. The Government do not want to do that." Source

So excuse me if I laugh, guffaw and perhaps shed a tear at the sheer disgusting audacity of what Mr Miliband has suggested. Given his party had a majority when it helped kill, maim, torture and betray civilians in several countries, I think I can deal with (even if I'm not happy about it) the compromises of the Liberal Democrats in Government.

What I want to know is why more Labour party members haven't resigned in disgust at all the blood on the hands of those still in the Parliamentary party. I suspect they'll say "We're staying inside to help change it" which actually translates into human as "We're don't really give a shit about some foreigners who died, we just hate the Tories and their collaborators!"

Such is the state of the Labour party.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Conservative Home: Not Talking Bollocks For Once

I know, I know, it's hard to imagine Conservative Home posting anything but paragraph after paragraph of idiocy and anger. But lo! Like the old "thousand monkeys" old wives tale, they've actually done a whole blog post that seems sensible! If you don't believe me, you can read it here:

Seven Steps To A Liberal Democrat Recovery

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Saturday, 11 December 2010

I Agree With Nick

Nothing turns my stomach more than seeing Lib Dem MPs turn against a personal pledge (rather than a manifesto promise) and vote with the Government on tuition fees. Whilst I may now be persuaded by the economic and political arguments about the need for tuition fees, I still cannot understand such a flagrant disregard for a personal promise.

Perhaps I'm just old fashioned and believe an oath to be binding. A pledge of loyalty to a cause should not be broken so easily. And that's why, in a really messed up way, I still agree with Nick.

During the heady days of Cleggmania (remember those happy times?) I stood there at rallies in Watford and Blackheath and supported Nick Clegg's revival of our party. After the Coalition was formed I had reservations, though I was initially supportive, and then declared neutrality. My criticisms then still stand. But that doesn't mean I don't support what Nick Clegg is trying to do. He is trying to make this "brave experiment" of Coalition work. Our party has been in opposition (in various forms) for nearly a century. Clegg has rolled the dice. The worst that can happen is we remain an irrelevancy. The best is that he can prove liberal values, are good values. That we are above petty left-right squabbling and can work with other parties for the benefit of the country. That's a goal worth risking our necks for.

I must say I do find it amusing when Labour supporters scream "You're going to be out of Government for decades, an irrelevant footnote of history!". Have they not been paying attention? That's what we've always been. I know power for the sake of power is important to the Tories and Labour, but the loss of power is not likely to send Lib Dem activists into a collective depression! Perhaps this time, things can be different.

The preamble to our party Constitution states:

"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which noone shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives."

I still agree with that. And I still agree with Nick.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Things I'd Say If I Had More Time (And Brains)

I started a new job this week so have been somewhat too busy to collect my thoughts on some of the pressing issues of the day. Instead I've decided to simply send you off to see other's writings which I, broadly, agree with.

Andrew Rawnsley: Nick Clegg's unexpectedly swift journey from idol to hate figure

Dan Carlin (podcast): It's All Bismarck (RE: Wikileaks)

Millennium Dome: Day 3622 (again): On World AIDS Day… Some People SHOULD be Ashamed


If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Penny Wong: The Return.

Back in July Australian Labor Senator Penny Wong backed her new leader's position on marriage equality with these words:

"On the issue of marriage I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious, historical view around that which we have to respect. The party's position is very clear that this is an institution that is between a man and a woman."

She did not say "This is the party's view and I respect that. However, I hold a different view." No she said nothing about believing in equality here did she? Perhaps she didn't want to rock the boat.

Fast forward a few months:

''There has been some commentary which has confused my position of not commenting publicly on this issue with my position on the actual issue itself,'' she said. ''I have had the opportunity to advocate for equality at the highest level of our party and within our party's processes as I do today. And I will do so again at the next national conference.''

Oh, I see. You've been quietly working for equality behind the scenes but were just too modest to be upfront about your beliefs? Perhaps the real reason is that you believe less in equality and more in Labor's continued electoral success and didn't wish to advocate publicly for your countrymen's freedom because it might embarrass your backwards leader. Yes, Penny Wong puts partisan victory ahead of her actual political beliefs.

Senator Wong criticised the Greens for seeking change by "shouting about it", rather than sensibly advocating for it.

"Sensibly", here means "Shh... don't rock the boat, we'll get there one day if we all just shut up and do as our heterosexual overlords say". Screw that Penny Wong. The Greens, and the Democrats, have the balls to stand up for something they believe in. It might not be politically astute, but at least it's honest and upfront.

Penny Wong remains very, very wrong.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

A Royal Wedding And An Inconvenient Truth

So, full disclosure as always, I'm a royalist. I know, it's mad. I've tried being a republican! I've gone through my political beliefs and found there is no sensible reason for me to be a royalist. I've told myself this in the sternest of words. But I just can't help myself. I have an irrational loyalty to Her Majesty. This reluctant royalism does mean I'm very sympathetic to republicans. I agree with you on the political, constitutional and democratic arguments. You win.

However after the (wonderful) news of Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton yesterday I saw so much stupid on Twitter that I feel compelled to correct some extremely loose understandings of this country's constitutional arrangements with regards to the Royal family's finances.

Don't think of this as some royalist argument in favour of keeping the Royal family, it's not. This is simply a post to put some facts straight. After you've read this, you can have no excuse for continuing to spread these lies.

Why are we paying for an over the top Royal wedding during this time of austerity?

Simple answer: we're not. As this article states (although ignore the bit at the end it's very misleading and I'll show why later), it's likely this money will come from the Civil List, Her Majesty's "reserve fund" (savings from previous Civil List payments) and/or Her Majesty's personal wealth. After the 1990s media disasters, the Palace has learnt it's lessons. It is unlikely to ask the Commons to approve any further spending during an austerity drive, as it has from time to time in the past.

What if it does and doesn't the Civil List get paid from our tax money? Why are we propping up these rich, unelected toffs?? 

This is a false presumption. I know, it's commonly said the Royal family "cost" every person in the country 50p (or more precisely now, 69p). This is not true. Certainly the "costs" that the Government pays are about £40 million. These come from grants for maintenance and from the Civil List. However, these costs don't come from our taxes! When George III ascended to the throne, it was decided that, in return for surrendering the Crown Estates to the Government, the Government would pay his personal living expenses through the Civil List. The profits the Government makes far exceed the amounts given in grants, through the Civil List and through security costs. So the Royal family is actually a profitable venture for us and they can, on the accession of a new monarch, change those arrangements. So it might be best we keep them on side during this age of cuts! 

But hasn't the Civil List been stopped?

Yes. To make the historic arrangement more explicit, the Government will, from 2013,no longer be paying the Civil List or grants but instead pay a yearly one-off payment called the Sovereign Support Grant specifically from the profits of the Crown Estate. In the meantime, the Royal finances have been reduced greatly. 

So. Please stop carping on about the costs of the monarchy. If you want to get rid of them, not only will we have to pay the costs of a President but we'd also lose our profits from the Crown Estate. We'd be looking at a couple of hundred million pounds lost to the Treasury. So remember that and stick to making sensible democratic arguments against the monarchy. Financial arguments make you look ridiculous.

No more "Stop the wedding, build a hospital instead" type tweets please. Deal?

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Sunday, 14 November 2010

NUS Decapitation Plan Flawed (In So Many Ways)

If you're looking to express all your anti-Coalition anger at Lib Dem MPs sometime in the next few years, then the NUS Decapitation plan could (almost) be called sensible. Revenge is a dish served cold they say, and it'll be freezing by the time this succeeds.

If however you're looking to fight the cuts now and trying to avoid a rise in tuition fees then you're pretty much buggered if you'd set your sights on the leadership of the NUS.

Firstly their plan to use the right to recall, which is still not even available for use right now, is flawed in that the right of recall is for use in cases of serious Phil Woolas type breaches of trust between an MP and their constituents (if not it makes the idea of a representative democracy sort of defunct, and we head into delegate territory). It's not going to be useful for getting every politician who votes a different way to the one promised during the election, otherwise every single politician will need to be recalled (and regularly).

Secondly, what does this plan achieve?

i) it's not going to stop the rise in tuition fees from going through. Only lobbying and building as broad a, dare I say it, coalition as possible MIGHT achieve that.
ii) it's unlikely to succeed, as the stringent requirements for a recall will probably not be met
iii) if it did succeed and the Lib Dem MP was removed, what's the best scenario? A Tory MP who will happily screw over students or a New Labour MP who will not care either way, it'll just depend on which way the political wind blows at the time. This progresses the cause of students, how?

Thirdly, it spells out to every sensible person that the NUS isn't interested in students or tuition fees (it's policy on a graduate tax is less progressive than what most students actually want!) but is acting as an offshoot of the Labour party. It risks losing the support of the sympathetic non-student population, like my Mum, who dislikes the Coalition, hates tuition fees BUT who remains firmly unconvinced about Labour following the last 13 years.

For the sake of the fight against tuition fees, the NUS needs to make a stand now fighting against EVERYONE in Parliament who has allowed this policy to exist be they Labour, Tory or Lib Dem. Otherwise it's about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Don't be fooled AGAIN students.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Thursday, 11 November 2010

For The Fallen - Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Phil Woolas: Really Labour? Really??

When Harriet Harman said "It is not part of Labour politics to try to win elections by saying things that are not true." regarding the decision of an election court to overturn the Oldham East and Saddleworth election, I thought it wasn't enough. I made my feelings known that I felt her, and other senior Labour figures, complete disregard for the racial hatred stirring content of the leaflets was unacceptable.

Now I know why she tempered her words, and I feel somewhat sympathetic to her plight. She tempered her words because even what she did say (that Phil Woolas' lying was bad enough to make him person non grata in the Labour party) was controversial enough with her Parliamentary colleagues. They have attacked her for abandoning a "colleague" so "quickly" (!).

To us Liberal Democrats, from our partisan position, this is laughable. But it's understandable that the Labour party stuck by Phil Woolas during the court procedures. However, once he was found guilty, they made the right decision to disown him.

The Labour MPs belief that it's unacceptable to have a court overturn an election result seems silly given it was based on a law passed by Parliament. This wasn't a court creating a new law or interpreting the law in a new and different way. This was a court just going by the book.

The other part of their argument ("it ain't over until it's over") is that Phil Woolas is still planning to appeal the decision and that the Labour party should stick by him until all possible avenues of appeal are explored. This would be fine if it wasn't for the content of the leaflets he issued during the May campaign. They can read them for themselves. By defending Phil Woolas they are, in part, defending these leaflets. They must realise this.

I saw many Labour activists getting angry with their MPs last night, I saw more than a few former Lib Dem voters saying things like "Thanks Labour MPs for reminding me that I shouldn't vote for your party ever again" and I saw a lot of left wingers wondering how MPs could get so passionate about defending a discredited party member when they don't seem quite so passionate about fighting "the cuts".

Harriet Harman called this correctly and the Labour MPs have called it very, very wrongly indeed. With letters like this, they are in danger of annoying their base, their new post-Coalition voters and just about everyone else.

I just hope the angry Labour membership are able to convince them to change their mind before they get any deeper into a pit of burning stupidity.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Can You Hear The Students Sing?

Today students, lecturers and supporters will march against the proposed rise in tuition fees. As someone who had to leave university because of Labour's tuition fees made it unaffordable for me (principally as they were introduced without even allowing families to start saving for them!), I can only offer them my full support.

I may not be a social liberal, and definitely appreciate the Orange Book way of looking at things, but I am with the left wing of our party on this issue. Sara Bedford's excellent post on the subject says all I would want to say, and I'd suggest you read it immediately.

I think the Coalition is doing some important and worthy work, but fighting tuition fees is part of our parties core values. We must remember not to lose sight of that. Even if it means aligning ourselves with hypocritical Labour MPs who slam us even when they INTRODUCED the bloody fees in the first place. Even then, we must defend students.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Child Detention - A Shame On Our Party

The continuing practice of locking up children in immigration removal centres is now not likely to be stopped until March next year (nearly a year after the announcement that they would be stopped).

Whilst it's great that Labour's disgusting policy is being overturned eventually, it's completely and utterly unacceptable that it be allowed to continue for even one day more.

We must loudly and clearly make it heard that we will not put up with bureaucratic delays on issues of basic human dignity. Cruelty against children should not be allowed to continue based on a timetable! I'm writing to my MP today to make my feelings plain. I urge you to do the same.

End Child Detention Now

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Monday, 8 November 2010

No More Apologies - The Return Of The Cleggist Uprising

Remember the euphoria among Liberal Democrats in the lead up to the General Election this year? The excitement, the hope and the expectation would be dashed as the results came in showing an increase in vote but a loss of seats (typical FPTP result!). And to be honest we've been on the back foot since then. Every move we've made has been criticised from the left (TRAITORS!) and the right (OPPORTUNISTS!). And being the nice people we are, many of us have taken these attacks to heart, tried to make excuses, and ended up attacking our leadership to prove our "progressive" credentials.

I say no more! I've decided it's time for us to stop making excuses and apologising for things we're doing, to remember exactly what sort of people are making these attacks and start defending our record. The Liberal Democrats aren't just here to defend the policies of the Coalition, we're here as a real alternative to Labour and the Tories and as a party that is now ready for Government.

Remembering who we are up against is sometimes difficult. The bleeding hearts of Labour supporters seem so genuine that sometimes you really can feel like the bad guy. The claims of Lib Dem attacks on the poor and the needy hurt, because that is not what our party is about. But Labour's holier than thou attitude is betrayed by their record. Just look at the current furore over "forced labour for those on Jobseekers Allowance" (something I have my own concerns about and will blog about separately once the full policy is released on Thursday). You'd think the Coalition was reintroducing slavery given how manic some on the left have been about it. Where were these people when Labour introduced almost exactly the same policy two years ago?? Did these people betray and attack the poor and needy by voting for Labour at the last election based on this record? I'd say so.

Our policy to raise the income tax threshold has been adopted and during every year of the Coalition Government it shall be increased. That will help increase the take home pay of the lowest paid and help make work pay. We've restored the earnings link to pensions. We've introduced the pupil premium. Of course there have been things the Coalition has done that harms the most needy in our society. But when did Labour ever think about them as they poured our money into PFI schemes (that increased the costs to us and helped give massive profits to private companies)? When did Labour care about the students they now claim to represent when they introduced the tuition fees (that helped keep people like me out of university)? When did Labour care for the asylum seeker and the migrant when they were locking up their children, denying them appeals, sending them back to homophobic regimes if they were gay and sending out nasty leaflets attacking other races and religions???

By all means express unhappiness at some of the things the Coalition is doing, but remember not to let Labour forget their own part in backing business over people and pandering to bigots over keeping to their supposed values. Some in the Labour party have recognised this and called for change, but as an outsider looking in this call seems not be heard by most.

So we must remind people that Labour cannot be trusted. We've made compromises because we didn't win the election. We've only been able to stop the worst excesses of Tory ideology because we are the smaller partner in the Coalition. What excuse did Labour have when it lorded it over us all with large majorities? We've not broken promises because we DID NOT WIN nor does our party form a Government on it's own. Has Labour apologised yet for all it's broken promises, on electoral reform, on tuition fees and all the rest? No, and it's time to remind the electorate of that. Labour cannot be trusted.

And then we have the Tories. Our Coalition partners have been rather chummy of late haven't they? That's because they hope (and thanks to Labour and the left wing media they are succeeding) to pin all the blame and pain for their cuts on us! It's a typical tactic of the larger Coalition partner in coalitions across Europe. Don't let them get away with it. Whilst we're happy to support cuts where they are necessary, the Tories have embarked upon slashing and burning the state with a terrible glee. The bad stuff in the Coalition agreement isn't Liberal Democrat policy. It's Tory! We need to remember that we aren't the ones calling for benefit cuts for the disabled or forced labour for the unemployed. It's the Tories! That illiberal cap on immigration? It's not us! Remember our policy on immigration at the election, far more liberal and fair than Labour could even dream of. Of course we didn't want to impose this cap.

We must remind people that the Tories aren't "liberals". They don't believe in a "small state". They believe in a "no state" free for all , where the religious and the rich can dictate terms to the poor and the secular. They don't like Europe, they don't like immigration, they don't like individual freedom to defy social norms. They wish to use the poor, not to help them. We have, very successfully, kept most of these tendencies under control by being part of the Coalition and we should celebrate that. Imagine what the Tories would've done without us. It's time for us to stand up and remind people that if they don't like what the Coalition is doing, there is another way: vote Liberal Democrat next time! Labour will say all the right things in Opposition but their past record shows how they will not do anything different to the Tories, they'll just package measures more nicely. And the Tories on their own will just do more of the same. Much more.

We need to stop hiding in the dark pretending the Coalition isn't happening. We need to stand up and remind people that things can be different. If you are an Orange Booker or a Social Lib, you know the Tories and Labour are both wrong. We must present our policies once more and show people we are the progressive, sensible choice for our country. And we must stop apologising and start shouting from the rooftops: Vote Liberal Democrat. Be proud of what we've achieved in the Coalition and remember that there is much more we could achieve if only people would give us the chance.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Thursday, 4 November 2010

No Other Place To Go

****RANT AHEAD. Always take my rants with a little pinch of salt****

There's no denying it. My personal political compass has shifted significantly since this years general election. My beliefs in individualism, a reduced Government and political reform have strengthened. My admiration (if not acceptance) of socialist ideals, my belief that Government can be a force for good and my tolerance for "the game of politics" have all been crushed.

Mostly the last few things have been destroyed by the reaction of the Labour party to the Coalition. Suddenly, as if by magic, the Labour MPs have converted to worrying about issues that they didn't care about in Government. AV isn't good enough, they scream. We'd never cut like this, they rant. Our regime of spying on and controlling British citizens wasn't all that bad, they lament (okay, so they haven't changed there then!). I have been sickened by this hypocritical attitude, when I was hoping they'd stop playing politics and start working for a better country.

From the party that introduced tuition fees:

Labour's Gareth Thomas said the fee hike represented a "tragedy for a whole generation of young people". Source

Really? Surely their introduction, by YOU, was worse?? And the progressive left, people who I had plenty of time for in the run up to the election when they were open and honest about falling out of love with the New Labour party, have lapped it up like loons. The Labour party hasn't changed! They are just saying what you want to hear, and when they get back into power they will do exactly what the Tories would do. I cannot believe the progressive left are so easily bought.

Let's be clear: The New Labour party was complicit in torture, they set us up as partners to one of the most right-wing US presidency's in history, they took us into a war that was wrong and which lead to the deaths of 100,000 to 1,000,000 INNOCENT civilians, and they made themselves subservient to the interests of the rich. The same people who did these things are still in the party and some are even in the Shadow Cabinet. How can anyone with an ounce of decency not only continue to support this band of murderers (for that is what they are, gloss over it all you like... they helped KILL civilians for no just cause) but try to guilt trip us Liberal Democrats over supporting a Government that breaks a few Lib Dem promises and is making some rather painful cuts??

The Tories are, of course, no better (they are the sort of party that likes to pretend it supports a small Government and individual freedom but really they just want low taxes for the rich and for everyone else to do exactly as they are told. Moralising interference is what the Tories dream of, hence their love of the "Big Society" and it's charitable and religious supporters). I couldn't bring myself to vote for the party of little Englanders if my life depended on it.

The Greens are an honourable party but their political beliefs are now so out of sync with my own I couldn't support them without being a total hypocrite.

So I find myself still a Liberal Democrat supporter. A believer in liberty, but who believes that doesn't mean being heartless like libertarians and Tories, where else is there for me to go? I'm not completely happy with the Coalition. But I am totally devoted to this party's values, and I'm not prepared to put up with Labour's lies any longer. My sympathy for Labour supporters (on a political level of course, I'm not going to be mean to them on a personal level) is now gone. Criticise me all you wish... if you don't support a party who has blood on it's hands. Guilt trips from Green party members accepted.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Saturday, 30 October 2010

A Very Good Week For Marriage Equality (And Stonewall, who'd have thought it?)

You really don't know how much pleasure it gives me when I see some positive movement towards marriage equality. So after the last couple of weeks of news, I'm smiling from ear to ear (tempered only by my other half's kids heading home today after a lovely week here and a stonking great cold).

A couple of weeks ago Patrick Harvie, a Green MSP, introduced the following "motion" (a completely non-binding instrument used to convey an opinion rather than further a legislative agenda) to the Scottish Parliament:

Equal Marriage, Equal Partnership—That the Parliament welcomes the commitment by Ed Miliband to equalise marriage law for same-sex couples, the recent decision by the Liberal Democrat party conference to back proposals to allow same-sex marriage and mixed-sex civil partnership, the longstanding support of green parties in the UK for this position and the support that has been expressed by a number of SNP and Conservative politicians; believes that this step is necessary not only to ensure equal legal rights irrespective of sexual orientation but also to convey the equal dignity of relationships and the equal respect with which the state recognises relationships; regrets that civil partnership is portrayed by some in society as a lesser level of commitment or recognition, and calls on the Scottish Government to investigate the practical steps necessary to allow legislation in the next session of the Scottish Parliament to create equal marriage and partnership in Scotland.
Every mention in official surroundings is music to my ears after years (literally) of complete and total silence on the matter.

Of course we have Stonewall making a rather awesome u-turn on their marriage equality position. Many will shrug their shoulders and say "So what?" but they underestimate the stupidity of our elected representatives who often still think Stonewall speaks for all LGBT people. I will never, ever support Stonewall but I still think it's a major victory to have them on board so they shouldn't (they are very slippery people, and we need to keep our beady eyes on them) undermine other campaigners work on the issue quite as much as they have been previously. Whilst I'm on the subject of Stonewall, I urge you to read this absolutely excellent blog post which says everything I ever wanted to say about Stonewall but does it with far more style and intelligence than I ever could.

And the really big story of the week was Tuesday's launch of the Equal Love campaign. Despite what many will tell you about our recent LGBT history, most advancements in terms of our rights have begun as a court case and this campaign follows in that grand tradition. Opposite sex couples will try to get civil partnerships and same sex couples will try to get marriages. And if/when refused they will begin the process of taking the matter to court. I must say, based both on previous British and EU rulings on the subject, it's very unlikely to succeed but it has already drawn the attention of a great many media outlets. BBC News' most read article on Wednesday was about Tom and Kat, the straight couple who have been campaigning on this for over a year (and from my own experience Tom is a jolly nice man). The idea of heterosexuals wanting civil partnerships is the angle that was needed to start a debate. I've already heard of Scottish newspaper looking for straight couples wanting a civil partnership for a feature article. I've seen a lot of comment on Twitter from straight folk who were either unaware of the ban on opposite sex civil partnerships, or completed flummoxed as to why anyone would want one. This can only be a good thing, even if my never ending quest to educate folks on the differences just got a whole lot harder. You can support the campaign on Facebook here.

So what's the outlook for marriage equality in the near future? Rosy, and getting rosier by the day.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Stonewall Now On The Road To Equality. I Hope.

I desperately want to be nice to Stonewall. They've got rid of Bill Leckie from their award nominations and have now climbed down on their marriage equality position. These are good things.

But I can't help thinking Stonewall hasn't learnt it's lessons. First it continues to crow about it's film "Fit", despite it containing some transphobic elements. And it's new support for marriage equality seems half-hearted. Did they write their press release in a rush?

Stonewall is pleased to be widening its campaigning objectives to include extending the legal form of marriage to gay people. Our policy position on this is as below:

‘We seek to secure marriage for gay people as a civil vehicle on the same basis as heterosexual marriage, available in a registry office but without a mandate on religious organisations to celebrate it. We seek to retain civil partnerships for lesbian and gay people recognising their special and unique status.’

The review of Stonewall’s position followed its biennial supporter survey in October 2010. Stonewall supporter surveys are carried out at the beginning of the charity’s financial year and are part of Stonewall’s commitment to charity best practice.

Last February, Stonewall secured a permissive amendment to the Equality Act 2010 to allow the celebration of civil partnerships in religious premises. We look forward to the government implementing this important next step.
A "civil vehicle"? Civil partnerships have a "special and unique status"? 1) So they don't support religious marriage but do support religious civil partnerships? 2) They don't support civil partnership equality and instead want to stop those dastardly heterosexuals have the same rights as LGBT people?

No apology for their slow uptake on equality either?

I think this is a start. But I don't think it even begins to go far enough. I don't think Stonewall have learnt anything and are instead trying desperately to dig themselves out of a very large public relations hole and trying to appease it's less observant supporters and make them think Stonewall's now "down with the kids".

Personally, I think Stonewall is beyond saving but I live in hope that I am wrong.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

It Get's Better (Spirit Day)

When I was 14 I saw a boy who changed my life. He was a beautiful 18 year old sixth former at school and the moment I laid eyes upon him was the moment I finally admitted to myself that I was gay. There’d been a suspicion in my heart for a long time, but as a newly committed Christian (mainly in rebellion at my family’s rather long history of non-belief) I’d denied it for as long as I could. But it’s hard work hiding something from yourself and finally admitting that I was gay, just to myself, was a liberating experience that I still remember vividly to this day.

It’s not easy. The fear of the repercussions of coming out to others rendered me depressed and suicidal. At the age of 18 I attempted suicide (thankfully in a typically cackhanded and very unsuccessful fashion that resulted in no more than 24 hours of medical drama). But it does get better. It really, really does.

When you’re young you worry too much about what other people think of you (or what you think they will think of you) and think the whole world will judge you forever. Here’s the secret: once you are out of school you’ll find most people don’t care and, even better, it doesn’t really matter what people think of you. You’ll find even if your parents are judgmental it won’t really matter once you’re older; you’ll appreciate that parents aren’t the all-knowing Gods they appear when you are young but are just as flawed as anyone else.

Things do get better. I would not change my sexuality for anything. Not only has it brought me personal joy, but being “different” to the majority gives you an interesting and useful perspective on life. I found it gave me patience and compassion for others who are not like me.

If you’re depressed, if you think the world is against you, if you think no one cares… you are very wrong. Too many young people have taken their lives this year. We don’t want any more. There is hope, and there will always be someone there to talk to. In America there’s the Trevor Project. In Britain there is the Samaritans and the LGBT Switchboard. Contact them if you even think of ending your life. They can help you. There are people who give a damn.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Friday, 15 October 2010

Stonewall - Another Fine Mess

I’m thinking of taking some anger management classes. You know how I always say “I didn’t think Stonewall could make me any more angry, but they just managed it”? Well… it’s that time of the week again!

Let’s look at the latest Stonewall car crash (this week not involving marriage equality, I can hear your hip-hip-hooray’s from here!):

The Stonewall Awards are to be held on the 4th of November at the Victoria and Albert museum. In the running are various individuals such as Joe McElderry, a young X Factor winner, who is nominated for “Hero of the Year” for being… famous and gay? I don’t know if that quite qualifies as being a “hero”, but perhaps I’m being unfairly cynical. Also in the running is one Bill Leckie, who was once criticized for transphobia by Stonewall Scotland (see full story here), for “Journalist of the Year”. If this wasn’t clearly enough to irk me greatly, Stonewall then released one of their hilariously bad press releases. Basically it seems to state that if you’re nice about a celebrity (in this case Gareth Thomas) who comes out as gay, it absolves you from being transphobic in the past without any need to show evidence of no longer being transphobic! No apology or change of heart required for forgiveness for bullying from Stonewall. My own personal anger-based doomsday clock was moved to one minute to midnight after reading that sycophantic article by the Pink Paper.

This whole situation makes a nonsense of Stonewall’s claims to be focusing on anti-bullying! They award bullies, whilst they ignore the pain of entire groups of people. And this is not an isolated case. Two years ago they nominated Julie Bindel for an award, someone who had written transphobic articles. To all those who criticize me for being nasty to Stonewall when they are doing such “good work” in tackling homophobic bullying, I present to you “Exhibit T”. I trust you’ll join me in condemning Stonewall’s backing of bullies, and in calling for them to start leading by example… or get out of the way.

Recently I’ve also been attacked for extolling “middle class gay values” (turns out a belief in actual equality is “middle class”, I need to believe in the repression of LGBT people to be properly proletariat it would seem). Plus someone accused me of believing in the commercialization of LGBT people (with no evidence at all) because I supported marriage equality and didn’t support Stonewall. So I was amused to see that last night Stonewall held a seminar on how to advertise to “LGB” people. Talk about the commercialization of “LGB” people, and talk about middle class values!!! It’s good that Stonewall can find the time and resources to help businesses make money out of the “LGB community” but can’t find the time to simply say “We support the principle of marriage equality” or “We renounce transphobia in all it’s forms”.

If you feel Stonewall need to support marriage equality, stop being transphobic and become more honest and accountable (and employ better PR people) then please come join the protest planned outside the Stonewall Awards ceremony on the 4th of November. It’s time to make a stand for what is right.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Thursday, 14 October 2010

On Easy Terms: Bright House Comes To Folkestone

Some have suggested the opening of a new shop in the old Dixon’s store on Folkestone High Street is a much needed boost to the local jobs market and the struggling High Street. Sadly, I think this might be far too optimistic an assessment because that new store is Bright House, a company that most certainly giveth but also, even more certainly, taketh away.

Bright House sells various household items (be they white goods, furniture or computer game consoles) and was opened with loud music and costumed mascots who welcomed crowds of people through the doors. Excitable people were sat all around the store, on their comfy display sofas, signing up for easy credit and weekly payment plans.

Like most stores, you can buy their goods outright with cash, but the sale price is very high. You’d be better off buying from one of the other shops in town or, better yet for those on a tight budget, buying online. But of course, they don’t expect anyone to buy products from them like that, that price just helps inflate their profit margin that little bit more. What they are really about is offering credit. You can buy your sofa or your kids Christmas present and spread the payments over three years. The interest helps increases the already over-the-top price by another 30% and, if you include their Service Cover, that price increases to almost double.

I’m sure they’d argue that they are offering those who cannot afford to buy things up front, and who have credit difficulties, an easy and convenient way of getting white goods, furniture and the nicest electronic goods. That’s a worthy aim, but is this method really the best one? And can that really be justified given the extortionate pricing policies?

Credit is debt. Debt is not something we should be encouraging those on low incomes (or no income) to take on. We have a town which has hit hard times. Our jobs market is limited and our population poor. We need to be helping those in need to help themselves. We need not for profit Christmas savings schemes, more accessible credit unions, and companies encouraged to set up here who have a more secure job structure. We need to offer ways of enabling people to save and encouraging them to understand the retail sector to allow them to find the best deals out there.

We now have a Money Shop, a Bright House and a brand new pawnbrokers in the town centre. These companies thrive on destitution and help create and continue the debt cycle in the lives of the most desperate and helpless. They will exploit our consumerist lifestyles to line their pockets without compunction, and we need to fight them every step of the way.

Folkestone deserves a better class of capitalist.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Marriage Equality Debate: It's The Little Things That Annoy Me

The Stonewall debacle has done one good thing. It’s finally propelled the marriage equality debate into the consciousness of a larger group of people than previously. Suddenly I’m seeing disinterested parties sitting up and asking, “Why the hell haven’t we got marriage equality and why is Stonewall not supporting it?”.

However, as with all things, I’m still slightly perplexed by the media coverage of marriage equality in the United Kingdom. Be it in Attitude’s latest edition or today’s article in the Independent, the stories seem to lack actual facts and any real journalistic critic of press releases and interviews from those pro or anti equality.

1) Hardly any article even mentions the REAL differences between civil partnerships and marriage. They take as fact the idea that civil partnerships are equality and all the marriage equality proponents are after is a “rebranding”. This is fundamentally false, although I suspect it’s more from ignorance than through deceit. From international recognition, through transgender rights and into the murky world of private pension provision, civil partnerships do not offer the same protections as marriage does. The message civil partnerships are the same as marriage is one that must be challenged every step of the way.

2) They accept Stonewall’s version of events without discussing evidence to the contrary. Ben Summerskill has a long record of making negative statements about marriage equality. Stonewall have been actively consulting with the Government over amending the Gender Recognition Act to solve transgender rights issues arising from marriage inequality, which undermines the fight for marriage equality for all. If that’s not actively opposing marriage equality I don’t know what is! And that’s not even mentioning the fact Stonewall, who’ve made clear they want nothing to do with transgender rights, don’t even have a moral right to be part of any consultation on the future of the GRA. Instead the press parrot Stonewall’s badly thought through press releases that they aren’t opposing marriage equality but “consulting” on it.

3) The acceptance of the “there are more important things” argument without comment is absolutely abhorrent. LGBT rights can’t be a “pick’n’mix” set of rights, chosen by which is politically convenient. They are all interrelated. How can we give LGBT youth hope for a better future if they are depressed or being bullied when they can see that their future is going to be very different to their peers. We must confront bullying head on, and the recent suicides in the USA show why, but we must also work tirelessly on fighting for a world that is fit for our children whoever they grow up to be and whoever they grow up to love. Work on one side of that equation to the detriment of the other will destroy the results of both!

4) Citing Boris Johnson as a marriage equality supporter. When he was confronted he thought civil partnerships were marriage, as the Mayor of London’s office clarified the day after Pride. He is not on record as supporting actual marriage equality (if he does or not, I cannot say). I wish they’d research their “facts” before printing them.

I might be petty, I might be hoping for too much, but God this stuff drives me to distraction.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Stonewall *insert rage here*

Back in May, when the newly formed Coalition Government announced a consultation for next year on transgender rights, part of me smiled and part of me sighed.

The part that smiled was obviously the part that feels transgender equality has progressed far too slowly. The part that sighed, however, knew that considering the rights of transgendered people separately from LGB rights would lead to opportunities for people and organizations to interfere. And I don’t mean that our transgendered friends would try to screw over the LGB population. In fact for too long LGB folks have spent far too much time fighting for their own rights and have left our transgendered fellow travelers in the lurch.

No, what I suspected would happen was that someone, such as Stonewall, would come along and see an opportunity to screw over the LGB community (and probably the transgender community to boot) by enforcing bit part solutions rather than common sense gender neutral amendments to gender specific laws.

Let me paint a picture:

One of the major arguments in favour of marriage equality is the awful situation our current separate but equal system leaves those who change their gender whilst in a marriage or civil partnership. Now imagine if you can “solve” that problem by writing into the relevant legislation that a marriage automatically becomes a civil partnership, and vice versa, the moment someone legally changes their gender. It still wouldn’t be equality but it sure helps shore up the failing arguments of those who wish to deny equality to everyone be they straight or gay, cis or transgendered.

But I thought I was being far too cynical, and only alluded to my paranoid concerns on this blog. But now we discover that Stonewall, an organization that DOES NOT REPRESENT TRANSGENDERED PEOPLE, has been advising the Government to pursue exactly this route. Stonewall aren’t just avoiding the subject of marriage equality, they are actively pursuing a very strange agenda to undermine it. It’s despicable.

Stonewall don’t stand up for equality. Their record on transgender rights is appalling. So what makes them think they have ANY authority to even DISCUSS transgender rights on a Governmental level??

I didn’t think it was possible but Stonewall has left me even more disgusted and depressed at their position.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Friday, 24 September 2010

Marriage Equality: Strangely Welcome Days Are These

In marriage equality news here in the UK:

Well the last week has been “fun” hasn’t it? First up we had the Stonewall fringe event at the Liberal Democrat conference where Ben Summerskill (of Stonewall fame, and of particular infamy here for many blog posts past) may have said he didn’t support marriage equality and civil partnership equality because of the cost and because of some incredibly ridiculous “feminist” arguments about the evils of marriage. I love it when men use feminist arguments to deny choice to men and… WOMEN! I’m always amazed that these people stand up and declare marriage to be an evil institution whilst insisting heterosexuals should not have access to civil partnerships and doing absolutely nothing to advance the cause of marriage reform or privitisation. It’s not just sad, it’s a blatant lack of consistency within their beliefs.

But in happier news Lib Dems, such as Stephen Gilbert MP and Lynne Featherstone (Minister for Equalities), stood up and defended marriage equality in no uncertain terms.

Then on Tuesday the marriage equality debate occurred at the conference itself which resulted in some strong arguments from the podium, followed by a near unanimous vote in favour of adopting marriage equality as party policy. This makes the Liberal Democrats the first party of the big three parties to adopt this position. Good times!

Brian Paddick illuminated an issue I had hitherto been unaware of. Many private pension companies have been treating civil partnerships as worth less than marriage with regards to pension arrangements for spouses after one has died. This is unacceptable and yet another clear sign marriage equality needs to be implemented to ensure no loopholes are available for companies to treat same sex relationships as second class.

In upcoming events:

On Monday there is another Stonewall fringe event at the Labour party conference. I’ve already received word that several members of the Rag Tag marriage equality pressure group (unofficial) will be there to try to get some clarification from Summerskill of his views (which I think he’s made quite clear in the past but that’s just because I’ve been paying closer attention for a longer period of time). I await the results of their enquiries eagerly (whilst I’d love to continue hating on Stonewall, realistically I think it’d be better if they admitted their mistakes and joined the crusade)

And LGBT Labour are currently trying to get a marriage equality debate on to the agenda at their conference, I hope that they can manage it as it would be quite the achievement to convert two parties to the marriage equality cause in the space of two weeks.

All in all, exciting times for marriage equality. Some are dragging their feet (Attitude magazine’s latest article seems to completely miss that Civil Partnerships are different to marriage in real legal and human ways) and this is, in some instances, getting it more attention (such as in the case of Stonewall). But I really think the movement towards marriage equality is growing and this bodes well for future political action.

I just have to say I no longer feel like a lone voice in the dark shouting and hollering about this issue. In fact the momentum has been taken up by far more articulate and awesome people than I and I can now rest assured the issue is being dealt with by some very competent campaigners.
If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

Friday, 17 September 2010

Connecting Atheism And Nazism: Pope Irony?

During the Holocaust thousands of LGBT people were tortured, persecuted and killed. The Nazi's views of family life and focus on procreation rendered those with different sexualities to suffer a great deal (along with many other groups of untouchables be they Jews, Communists, democrats, Jehovah Witnesses, Roma, the disabled, the list goes on).

So it was ironic to hear Pope Benedict XVI criticise atheism and link it to Nazism despite atheisms modern form. His hatred of LGBT folk, his focus on the family and on procreation (which leads to higher STD levels in countries who take his demand they do not use protection seriously), is concerning.

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29).

Some atheists, like me, actually believe in REAL religious freedom. As I said in my last post, I'm prepared to stand up for even the most bigoted person's freedoms. I don't want anyone to be killed, I have no great idealistic dream of nationalism (in fact I despise nationalism), and I don't believe in Social Darwinism.

So who is more like the Nazis? The Pope who seeks to control LGBT people by supporting retrograde laws to keep us in a repressed role in society. Or me, an atheist, who believes people should be free to believe what they like, to practice their religion how they like, and to moan about upstart heads of major religions whenever they like?

Personally the world I hope for, one free from intolerance and stupidity, is a world away from the dark dreams of the Pope for a world where everyone agrees with him.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist