Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Surge: Beyond Mere Politics

We stand on the cusp of something. Something that could be immense. As the Tories and Labour begin to recover themselves from the shock of two weeks ago, we must accept there are now two possible futures:

1) the Liberal Democrats are pushed back and either the Tories win outright or the Lib Dems are forced to prop up a Labour Government and not get much in return, a bit like in the seventies.


2) the Liberal Democrats hold their ground or gain more and return to Parliament more powerful than previously conceived possible, and perhaps in charge.

The first option would be a disaster, not just for the Lib Dems but for the country. Our politics is dead. The Lib Dem surge has shown that our politicians are more corrupt than we could ever imagine and that the media truly believe they control our country. The sheer arrogance of this is enough to infuriate anyone. If we fail to seize the chance for fundamental change now, we may be trapped in our stagnant pendulum politics for another generation. And after Thatcher's war on the working class, and Blair's war on basic freedoms (and Iraqis) we've seen how destructive that can be.

The second option might not be one the majority would be happy with. Of course not. No party can expect to have a majority of people agree with it. If they did it'd be concerning. We live in a country full of many divergent opinions and views... that is healthy but they have no voice. I'm not saying the Liberal Democrats are that voice... we are more the voice box. With the power in our hands (however that occurs) we shall introduce PR (hopefully Single Transferable Vote) which shall finally allow the MAJORITY of people to get their voice heard. Whatever you believe in, the time has come to seize the chance to change our way of life, to throw off the chains of the status quo and finally secure a political system that might not be perfect but will allow different points of view to mold policy.

I'm a true believer. I love the Liberal Democrats. It hurts me to say this... but if you are a Tory, a UKIPer, a Green, a Labourite, a Socialist etc. etc. hold your nose. Vote Lib Dem. Get the chance to throw out our "past it's sell by date" system.

Seize the day. You might not get another chance.

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Monday, 26 April 2010

It's Not Just Murdoch and The Daily Fail Who Spin

Last week saw a feeble flurry of attacks on the Liberal Democrats, and specifically our leader Nick Clegg, by the "right wing press". The Torygraph, the Daily Express, the Daily Fail and the Sun pounced and then drew back (no doubt in wait for another opportunity to attack again shortly).

That is unsurprising. As someone who is in a centre-left party, a homosexual, a sceptic, and a Europhile it is hardly shocking to me to see them launching these sort of attacks. Par for the course, as they say.

I've been a Guardian reader since, at least, the year 2000, I'm under no illusions as to what sort of paper that is and, knowing the editorial slant, can usually read between the lines to the kernel of truth at the heart of any story (or even comment). I assume (no... pray!) that those who read the right wing tabloids do the same.

However even taking into account the Labour bias of the paper, I was disgusted to see today's headline story. What they implied was that Nick Clegg would not form a coalition with Labour if they came third in terms of popular vote. This is not what he said.

"It seems to me that it's just preposterous, the idea that if a party comes third in terms of the number of votes, it still has the right to carry on squatting in No 10 and continue to lay claim to having the prime minister of the country," he said.

"What I'm saying here is pointing at a very, very irrational possible outcome of our potty electoral system, which is that a party that has spectacularly lost the election … could nonetheless according to constitutional tradition and convention still lay claim to providing the prime minister of the country.""

He's said here, in a nutshell, "If the election throws up a rogue result of Labour losing popular vote and coming third but winning most number of seats, they shouldn't get Number 10". Therefore, implying, they don't get their guy (Brown or whoever) to be Prime Minister (a job Mr Clegg will certainly want for himself, he is a politician after all!).

Simples. But the Guardian chose to spin it, and for very transparent reasons; they are terrified Labour is about to collapse. This was no less a smear on Nick Clegg than calling him a Nazi, and in smearing him by suggesting he'd only consider the Tories suitable partners the Guardian was trying to terrify wavering Labour supporters into sticking with the tired old, authoritarian party that Labour has become out of fear of a Tory victory.

I know, it's ridiculous, but I felt almost personally affronted by the article. It's sheer CHEEK in suggesting what it was suggesting in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary was infuriating. I expect more of the paper I read, and have thus made the sad decision to give up on the Guardian. I'm turning to the Independent, whose editorial line I've always found confusing and whose website truly sucks but at least I know my money won't be going to support some backward, regressive paper who is willing to spin a story to prop up a war-mongering, civil liberties destroying, half-heartedly reforming mess of a party.

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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Songs Of The Revolution

We don't want Labour any more, but do we will really want the Tories back? Probably not. Of course I don't (Liberal Democrat and proud of it!). However I think more people are also coming to that conclusion... musically...

Song for Democracy

Common People

Nick Clegg - Liberal Democrats Song

Vince Cable Is Right About Everything - The Attery Squash

Vince Cable's Way

Liberal Democrats - dedicated song

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I May Be A New Atheist But...

....I've got no problem with people living their lives as they see fit. I'm anti-religious in terms of religion having any part in Government or control over our legislation. I dislike the idea that someone's unproven beliefs can influence Government policy. Policy should be based on proper research and scientific findings.

But I am never more repelled than when people attack others because of their personal choices. For instance... the idea of banning certain styles of Islamic dress, such as the burqa, is one born from sheer hate.

There are those who argue for such a ban on feminist terms, but their concept of feminism is somewhat silly... denying a woman the right to wear something she wants to IS illiberal. Personally I do not understand why any sane person would walk around covered in a sheet but that is my personal prejudice and not one I would wish to impose on anyone, just as I would expect them not to expect me to pretend to be straight in public. We all have our unique features and must respect them.

I find religious people forcing their beliefs on others to be quite disturbing. But I also find people imposing their beliefs on religious people to be just as disturbing. I'm a liberal, and proud to be one. That means giving freedom to others to be whoever they wish to be... not to conform to others petty bigotry's.

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Monday, 19 April 2010

The Cleggist Uprising

Iain Martin feels that "short of an earthquake or a Cleggist uprising across the country they will not get enough votes to secure an overall majority." They obviously being the Liberal Democrats.

Well I think Cleggism is a good phrase to describe the people who have created the Lib Dem surge. They aren't true believers like the one in five people who normally vote Lib Dem. They are protesters, people turned off by the expenses scandal and the real lack of responsibility that the two "old parties" (as Nick Clegg likes to call) have taken for those problems. That's why they've turned to the Lib Dems. Not because of our policies, and I don't think attacks on our policies will turn them off. They believe, rightly, that the Lib Dems aren't after half hearted change... they want to shake up the corrupt political system and start afresh.

It's no surprise the rise began just before the debates and just after the manifesto launches... launches that made clear Labour and the Conservatives just didn't get it. The people of this country are bored of more of the same. Whatever happens now, I really don't think the Lib Dem surge will truly recede unless the Tories and Labour really face up to the fact that they must support REAL political change.

The smears are starting from "Nick Clegg's not British" to "the Lib Dems will give paedophiles a vote". They will not stop. Let's see how Clegg gets through the next few days and the next debate before we can tell whether this surge is blip or whether change will is on it's way.

Interesting articles today including how Murdoch would be locked out of politics for first time in decades if the Lib Dems got into Government, a rather good break down of voting patterns and changing preferences based on the British regions (which shows the nationalists down, long term readers will know how much that makes me smile!) and is YouGov push polling?

And let us finish with another song...

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Sunday, 18 April 2010

I Believe in Fairness

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Reaction To The Lib Dem Surge

Well I think you've had quite enough of my opinions on the whole thing, so time to show off some excellent articles on the same subject:

Europe – Nick Cleggs Biggest Hurdle suggests the Liberal Democrats should embrace Internationalism over Europhilia. I might not agree but he certainly makes a good point that Europe is a "weakness" for the party if not handled correctly.

Why the Clegg Factor means the progressive consensus will have to wait is a great general overview of the events before, leading up to and soon to come in terms of the "surge".

Do Conservatives have the upper hand over Libdems? is really a look at why the Lib Dems might have to join up with the Tories in a hung Parliament and what that might cost us. Obviously, I think we can do better than that!

And don't forget to check out the latest Youtube craze.... I Agree With Nick!

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Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Polls Are Tolling The End Of Politics As Usual

I can't help it. I'm going to write a post that shall no doubt be proved totally and utterly wrong. I'm giving in to the excitement, and throwing off the shackles of past disappointment. Now is the time to hope for change!

The polls are coming. Yesterday evening they showed the Liberal Democrats move into second place, pushing Labour into third. Now polls have come out 1) confirming that and 2) we have two more showing us moving into first place ahead of the Tories! This is unprecedented. This is miraculous. Sure... it's all very 1983 like. But there seems to be something in the air. Revolution almost.

Yes, I'm under no illusions. A lot of people are thinking of voting Lib Dem to punish the reds and the blues. Can you blame them? Even more are keen to get the Lib Dems in so that they can overhaul our political system and put in place Proportional Representation. Some are right wingers. Some left. As a "true believer", I wish they were voting purely based on our policies and skills alone. But I understand also this is a wider movement coming to OUR side in our hour of need at last. And we cannot say no to that.

After expenses and the half hearted reforms of the Labour Governments since 1997 people are ready for something HUGE. They no longer want just revenge. They want reform forever. And the Liberal Democrats offer that.

The attacks have already begun and fight them off we shall. The angry and confused Tory and Labour supporters seem unable to comprehend that there has been a shift and their attempts to play politics as usual with their manifestos (offering choice between the two for once but not addressing the root cause of the corruption of our political system) have forced people to look elsewhere.

The young have finally woken up and decided it's time to seize their moment (I'm a little too old to include myself with them now.. damn it!) and if you want to follow the new movement for reform check out http://www.libdem2010.com. The Liberal Democrats official site is here

Now time for a song...

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Friday, 16 April 2010

I Agree With Nick!

Yesterday evening we had something brand new in British politics... a "Leaders Debate". It was, actually, rather interesting.

No one made any news worthy gaffes (although David Cameron did very vaguely suggest China's rise was a reason to support Trident and made a great deal of his, perhaps unique, experience of meeting an actual, real life black man) and all had prepared well. But Nick Clegg, a man previously considered as unconvincing and weak, managed to show he was actually a rather good speaker who could get his points across very well. And the country went "Oooo....".

Of course it's being downplayed. That's partly realistic and partly incomprehension on behalf of both the media and the political class. I got the feeling from the ITV News follow up that they just hadn't planned for this eventuality and trying to fit the idea Nick Clegg was considered to have done the best into their prearranged format was near impossible for them.

I'm a Lib Dem. I come with built in "success scepticism". I'm under no illusions. Over the next week there will be attacks from both sides, especially from the Tories, who will seek to discredit, by any means possible, Nick Clegg, the party and it's policies.

But the attacks so far have been very strange. Gove came in with claiming the Lib Dems would take the country into the Euro, blithely forgetting to mention the fact we would never do that without support from a referendum. Very odd. Very weak so far. Which is concerning in so much as the Tories are still likely to be the biggest party in Parliament in less than a month. Where's their usual killer instinct?? Hmm.. I suspect we'll see it soon enough.

But Nick does seem to have livened up the election, and reignited some of the embers of the rebellious feelings that had been created during the expenses scandals.

The next three weeks could be business as usual. Or they could just make electoral history. Pictures taken from http://www.libdem2010.com which is a Facebook group to keep an eye on!!

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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Even More Lib Dem T'Internet Goodness!

There's a new internet site launched today called Positive Voting which is dedicated to breaking the negative "You can't change things" attitude so deeply set in our political system. Very well designed and very worthy.

Nice little article on Nick Clegg's interview with Jeremy Paxman last night from a floating voter

Nick Clegg is trying to sell you a tax cut you can believe in! No tax on your first £10,000 of earning. That'll make a huge different to a lot of people. Unlike the marriage allowance from the Tories.

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Monday, 12 April 2010

Rage Against The Election

This election is the first election since the social media explosion. In 2005 Youtube was still in it's very earliest days, Twitter was a dream and Facebook was limited to American college campuses.

Now... Facebook is almost universal in Britain. I'm pretty sure my Nan will be on it by the end of the year. Twitter is "the in thing" still, despite near media Twitter saturation last year and Youtube probably has more hours watched per day by British people than most television channels.

This offers amazing opportunities for parties, activists and even, shock!, your "average" voter. But it also comes with some major dangers for everyone too.

The dark side of campaigning on Twitter is a great little article about the pitfalls of trying to spread your political message on Twitter. It's very easy to turn someone off in 140 letters, but not easy to convince. Even the most innocent of Tweets can come across as an attack or as defensive unintentionally and just in the last few days I've lost a few followers over Tweets I thought were just expressing my opinion.

But the real power isn't in convincing people who to vote for. Oh you can help, and the internet allows you to have instant contact and near unlimited resources to help educate people on your point of view. Friendly debates take on a whole new meaning when you are able to fact check on the fly. But really the power is in engaging people. People who feel unable to engage with your staid suit wearing politicians on the doorstep and who are uninspired by bland political advertising.

Take "We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!". Here's a humourous Facebook group, set up ato emulate the success of the Rage Against The Machine getting to Christmas #1 campaign. It may be humourous, but I think it really does tap into something important... the complete and total disregard politicians have for young people. Why should they take an election seriously when they are the people who are out of work, paying tuition fees, facing disconnection thanks to the Digital Economy Bill, they are the "Great Ignored" as the politicians woo the grey vote. They are the people most likely to be continually searched by police and security guards wherever they go. They are the people who will have to pay, ultimately. So their "fuck it, let's have a laugh" attitude is actually a good sign. They are being engaged. They are being informed. They are making electoral decisions. And perhaps they might throw a spanner in the works of an already crazy election.

And other independent, and not so independent, campaigns are springing up to encourage people to take part this election. Invincecable launched with a Youtube video, Labservatives with a "real world" poster campaign, and MyGayVote allows a quick reference to previous Commons votes on GLBT issues. Even the Greens are getting in on the act: OnlyGreen.

All of this raises an interesting question: what affect will this have on the result? Will it be negligible? Or could it, especially in this tight of a contest, tip the balance one way or another?

Personally I think the ultimate power of the internet, for good or ill, in this election will be to focus a magnifying glass upon candidates history, and their social media interactions. Those who enter politics with things in the closet or think they can get away with unfounded smears are already discovering the power of the internet. That might have some downsides... but it'll help keep them honest!

I think, perhaps, the changes under way now might not affect this election too much. But the lessons learnt may shape the future of our political system and our very society in ways we cannot foresee.

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Sunday, 11 April 2010

In Vince Cable We Trust

(via Su Butcher)

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Tory Gay Marriage Overtures Can't Be Ignored

As much as I would love to ignore just about anything the Tories say, we must welcome George Osborne's most recent comments:

The Tories would be "very happy" to consider same-sex marriage if elected, George Osborne has told gay activists.

The shadow chancellor met gay rights leaders including Peter Tatchell ahead of a protest outside Conservative campaign HQ by equality campaigners.

Mr Tatchell said the meeting showed Mr Osborne had "good intentions" but was still "weak on coherent policy".

But let us be clear here, very clear, the phrasing of this is by no ways a commitment to do anything and to me comes across more as an attempt to sooth angry GLBT folk than to actually propose something real. And, although this is more a personal viewpoint, I find the phrasing to be insulting; "to consider" suggests they might deign to offer GLBT people the rights they deserve. How kind of our soon-to-be heterosexual overlords!

Anyway, give them their dues this now leaves the marriage equality question firmly in Labour's ball court. The Liberal Democrats firmly support marriage equality. The Tories are thinking about it (rubbish!). Labour... has so far come out against it! Actively against it, which now puts them at the bottom of the GLBT rights pile. Come on Labour! Keep up. When you're behind the Tories on gay rights you know you are getting out of touch!

I want to make my opinions quite clear, although I think they already are: I believe this Tory promise to be nothing but hot air. I give them credit for saying the right words, but we have no evidence, based on past form, that they will follow through. So for now I continue to say that the only vote in favour of marriage equality is a vote for the Liberal Democrats (or the Green Party but let's not get too carried away!).

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Saturday, 10 April 2010

Marriage Equality: Cameron Vs. Clegg

I suppose I should be celebrating. David Cameron has come out with some more GLBT friendly soundbites. But many of the answers there are a little... half hearted and can we really trust him? Personally I think the Tories have not shown they have changed and no amount of wheeling out gay supporters/candidates nor apologising for whatever their latest homophobic gaffe was is going to make up for that. The Tories are still too socially conservative at heart even if they say the right words.

Here is David Cameron's take on the very important question of marriage equality (don't even get me started on the "patronising drivel" about tax breaks)...

Mr Cameron, do you support marriage equality in this country? Civil partnerships were a great step forward and I admire your support for it but until there is marriage equality in this country and the union of same-sex couples will be recognised as a 'marriage', then I will not be satisfied. Neil Young
I am so glad that we now have civil partnerships. They have helped remove discrimination and have given gay people the rights that they deserve. I want to do everything I can to support commitment and I'm open to changing things further to guarantee equality. But I also accept there are some gay people who want civil partnerships to be a distinct status from marriage. Whatever view you take, I think we should support any arrangement which is built on shared love and commitment, which is why we would give a tax break to both married couples and those in a civil partnership.
Hmm... hardly a ringing endorsement, and very much sidestepping the question. The closest we got to support for marriage equality was "I want to do everything I can to support commitment and I'm open to changing things further to guarantee equality." which is wonderful except he'll be one of how many in the Government? And no doubt it'll be a "matter of conscience" and there'll be no party whip. Do you think marriage equality legislation would get through a Tory majority Government?? Me neither.

What does the Liberal Democrat leader say on the same subject?

The number one question submitted by our readers was on whether Nick Clegg and his party support gay marriage. Mr Clegg said last month he supported civil partners calling themselves husband or wife but would he change the law to allow gay civil marriage?

Yes, I support gay marriage. Love is the same, straight or gay, so the civil institution should be the same, too. All couples should be able to make that commitment to one another.

And more from Nick Clegg:

There are still battles to fight – getting full marriage rights for gay couples and reviewing the blanket ban on blood donations by gay men. Above all, we must tackle homophobic bullying – which scars pupils’ lives throughout the country. At the moment, only 6% of schools have specific policies to deal with this – this just isn’t good enough.

"We also need to do more to tackle homophobic and transgender violence and to give victims the right support – which we will do, as well as stamping out homophobic language among a minority of police officers with a zero-tolerance approach. We’ll make sure that gay and lesbian refugees are never again deported to countries where they face persecution. And, because diversity in politics remains hugely important to me, Liberal Democrats are also working to make sure the LGBT community is better represented in parliament with our “Out to Win” campaign.

"I honestly wish none of this was a party-political issue; it would be far better if all parties were united in their determination to achieve full equality for the LGBT community. So the inconsistency of today’s Conservative party on this issue is deeply worrying. The Tories say they’ve changed – and I’m glad if David Cameron accepts he got it wrong on these issues in the past. But warm words aren’t enough if the Conservatives fail to live up to them every time.
Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats stand for the one final push for full equality. The Tories, and Labour, stand for complacency and smugness. They will sing the praises of the past achievements whilst ignoring their past transgressions and will avoid rocking the boat to make GLBT (especially the T!) people truly equal.

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Friday, 9 April 2010

Labour Are Lukewarm Liberals: Don't Be Fooled

Lord Adonis is one of my favourite Labour Ministers. No doubt about it, being a train loving young fogey I think he's been a good Transport Secretary.

But his comments today in the Independent are a bit much. Basically they are a plea not to let the Tories back in and to vote Labour to support "progressive" politics.

Now I have no idea if Lord Adonis has been paying attention but the Tory party and New Labour have moved very close together on a lot of issues that separate the Lib Dems from them both. When New Labour made it's voter winning shift to the right it leap frogged us Liberal Democrats, whose own changes had moved us only very slightly to the left after the merger between the Liberals and the SDP. We are now the opposition party, in contrast to the, only slightly different, agendas offered by the two big parties.

Sure, both Labour and the Lib Dems want to reform Parliament and the voting system. But the difference is one only wants to go so far and has a history of backsliding on said reform and the other is famous the country over for it's single minded devotion to the cause of PR. It might not be clear blue water between our policies but it's at the very least an English Channel between us.

And both parties support GLBT rights, but the difference is one felt the need to compromise to conservative elements and fall at the last hurdle (gay marriage) and the other has come out loudly and proudly in favour of real equality.

Or the Iraq War? You know, the one that probably shouldn't really have happened because it was just a tad illegal? Well one party continues to support it wholeheartedly (alright two, the Tories might not like reform or GLBT rights but hey they love war!) and the other has come to it's senses and makes it quite clear it stands for those who were opposed to it, even if we weren't against it at the start.

A vote for the Tories is distasteful for any progressive person. But a vote for Labour is almost as bad. Labour are the faux progressive party who offer tidbits to both sides just to gain power. That might be practical but it leads to muddled policies like PFI. And it's not exactly honest.

Vote Liberal Democrat, even if we stand "no chance" in your area, if you truly believe in the Lib Dem agenda. Don't sell out your soul just to placate your fear of the Tories. Don't give in to a compromise too far. This is the election to follow your heart, not your head. This is the election where we stand against TWO rather unpopular parties. If we stay true and hold our course, and hopefully convince people to join us, we stand to gain so much.

This is not 1997. Whether Labour or the Tories win, little will change. So don't be afraid to be different. The Lib Dems are the party who really want fundamental change across the board.... all you need do is vote for them!

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Thursday, 8 April 2010

I Want More Women In Politics... But Not Like This!

I don't really know how to express something; the very uneasy feelings I have over the paper's coverage of the leader's wives.

I've no problem with leader's having wives/husbands who like to campaign for them. That is surely only naturally part of a relationship, one supporting the other. But I am quite disturbed by the newspapers focus on what the leader's spouses wear, and on some perceived competition between them.

As she arrived with her husband at community centre in the East End of London, journalists shouted questions not at the Prime Minister but at her. “Are you going to win it for your husband?”, they yelled. “Can you take on Sam Cam, Sarah?”.

Mrs Brown ignored the questions, but suddenly found herself in an unwelcome spotlight. Two hundred miles away in Leeds her Conservative counterpart, Samantha Cameron, was out campaigning solo, inevitably raising the issue of whether Mrs Brown should follow suit. The Times

Is this what our politics and our journalism has come to?

The Guardian, THE GUARDIAN!, is running... Stylewatch. I'm hoping that this is some very subtle satire of how the wives are being treated that is going over my head. Bless let that be the case. If even the Guardian has descended to that level, what hope is there?

There are so many good female politicians out there and that makes the fact the media (and perhaps some of the party machines) are focussing on two women just because of who they sleep with even more outrageous.

This not a very well worded piece, nor one that makes any sort of sense. But it's a brain dump of the feelings I've had the last two days... it's time we focussed on events in the campaign and (heaven forbid) the party's policies rather than what dress Mrs Cameron is wearing or whether Mrs Brown is "as good" as Mrs Cameron.

Don't you think?? Am I the only one who feels there is some deeply unnerving low brow reporting and, often, sexism beginning to sink into this General Election in a far greater way than ever before?

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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Watford: Day One General Election 2010

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a paid up Liberal Democrat. And today, to mark the calling of the 2010 General Election, I headed up to Watford to help out on Sal Brinton's campaign. When I say help out, of course I mean a couple of streets of leaflet delivering, a bit of envelope stuffing (with Baroness Scott, random but she is really very nice) and hold a really big sign (my campaign speciality) during a quick visit by party leader Nick Clegg. Well it didn't seem all that quick when I was holding that bloody sign (Hugh Annand did try to help but he was quickly pulled away for more important duties)!

Anyway. It was a good day, there was a very positive feeling among the Lib Dems, and from following some of Tweets about the speech itself in the local church there seems to be a positive feeling further afield too. This election feels very different to 2005 and whilst I am a Lib Dem and prepared for the usual disappointments, I really think this election is ours to "lose" (obviously winning and losing for a Lib Dem is different than for a Tory and Labour supporter!)

Plus good to see an old friend, and meet a few more. One thing you can never say is that Lib Dems aren't a bloody welcoming bunch!
Good luck to Sal Brinton, check out her site here.

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Monday, 5 April 2010

Gay Marriage: The Dream That'll Never Be?

WARNING THIS IS A RANT. As always, take it with a pinch of salt.

One thing that has irked me greatly, during the whole Chris Grayling/B&B story, is the smugness of Labour supporters (especially GLBT ones). They've wallowed in this scandal eagerly, lambasting Tories left, right and centre and shouting about how "liberal" their party is.

Well I won't argue that the Labour party hasn't tried when it comes to gay rights. They started off so well. But where they went wrong was that they focussed on basically illiberal, from a certain point of view as Obi-Wan would say, equality legislation.

Instead of fighting for the one thing that would make us fully equal citizens of this country, marriage equality, Labour did something well-meaning but ultimately destructive; they introduced apartheid like conditions upon us with "Civil Partnerships". This one single thing has probably done more damage to the cause of GLBT freedom in this country than any regressive legislation the Tories ever dreamt up in the 1980s.

I've had discussions with GLBT members of both Labour and the Conservatives. In both cases they offered sympathy for my position (marriage equality is non-negotiable, and a matter of human rights AND religious freedom) and professed belief, based on absolutely no evidence, that not only will their parties change their positions (which, in both cases, is against gay marriage) but, even more unbelievably, gay marriage is merely a matter of a "few more years" away.

This is too much for me. What evidence do they have for this? None. They are deluding themselves to make themselves feel better for their general political positions. Instead of saying "Yeah, we don't support gay marriage. Sorry, but there are more important things for me to worry about" (a position I would have some understanding of) they pretend things will somehow magically change (when there is no movement for it to do so, even Stonewall isn't asking Labour to introduce gay marriage!) .

I think it is wrong that members of these parties are spouting false hope to GLBT people, offering soothing words to make them feel better whilst on the other hand continuing to fight for a party who will not deliver on their promises.

I've said it before: civil partnerships are not a stepping stone to gay marriage. They are a dead end. We are now stuck there. We either accept our second class status, or we break out.

I don't believe in supporting/not supporting a party on single issues. But I do believe self-delusion is wrong. Either accept that the Tories will never deliver gay marriage and that New Labour might do but not in this decade or realise we cannot achieve our freedom through them.

I have little faith that gay marriage will be legalised in this country before I'm 40. I have little faith I'll be able to join with my boyfriend in a publicly recognised equal union before he is in his 50s! That makes me angry, and very sad, and I cannot tolerate the lies that the two main parties supporters delude themselves with.

If you want true equality VOTE FOR IT. There are parties out there who truly believe that GLBT people should just be treated as equal members of society. Those parties are not the Tories nor Labour.

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Sunday, 4 April 2010

Chris Grayling And The Bed And Breakfast

Every year, almost without fail, we have a news story about a gay couple being refused service in a bed and breakfast. Hey, we've even had a "Hotel refuses soldier" story before, because their policy was not to accept members of the military.

There's a problem in these stories for liberals. That problem is a conflict of individual rights. On the one hand I believe no one should be allowed to refuse you service just because of "what" you are. On the other there's the right to refuse to serve someone, for whatever reason, that a business owner should, in theory, be allowed.

So when Chris Grayling, Tory Shadow Home Secretary says:

"I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences. I personally always took the view that... if you look at the case of 'Should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from their hotel?'

"I took the view that if it's a question of somebody who's doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn't come into their own home.
"If they are running a hotel on the High Street, I really don't think that it is right in this day and age that a gay couple should walk into a hotel and be turned away because they are a gay couple, and I think that is where the dividing line comes."
I find it hard to not, at the very least, see where he is coming from. But here's the problem... one right must be lesser than the other. We cannot have two rights left in conflict as that is absurd. So which is the one that must, sadly, be relegated?

If we look at the world where a business owner must serve everyone, except in cases of legal age requirements and bad behaviour, this does not affect their business detrimentally. It does not stop them making money. It does not impede on their rights ultimately because they can refuse to operate that business if their morality stops them from serving certain people (with rights, sometimes there come responsibilities).

But if we look at allowing them to pick and choose what types of people they serve, we can see a slippery slope. Would it be okay for a B&B owner to turn away a couple in which one person was black and the other white? Would it be okay for a gay B&B owner to turn away a Christian? Did you think it was okay for the hotel to turn away someone just because they were a soldier (who wasn't even in uniform, might I add!)?

By allowing that right we open up a world of closed businesses in which we shall have confusion, upset and bigotry allowed to spread through our land once more. If it is not right for someone to be allowed to refuse someone service because they are black, then it's not right for them to do so to a gay person, or a Christian, or even to clowns.

Ultimately Chris Grayling's comments seem to come not from a liberal, progressive place but from a small-minded old fashioned view of people being allowed to take out their bigotry in a very physical way upon others. No one is saying personal beliefs (homophobia masquerading as a misconceived form of Christianity) can be banned. But what we are saying is if you wish to be homophobic, you'll need to do so in a private place and not in your working life, and well away from anyone who might be hurt by it.

This is not just a misjudged comment. It also opens up some light on the strange, backward attitudes that we all know continue to lurk in some Tory MPs minds. As I've said before, 25% of the current set of Tory MPs were around in the 80s and voted FOR Section 28, that clearly shows that the Tory party has a long way to go before it truly sheds it's infamous "nasty party" image. I wish they would just get around to it so we can just move on with politics, past all these silly 1950s attitudes they seem unwilling to give up.

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

Friday, 2 April 2010

General Election Excitement!

Yes, yes... in that lull between Eurovision selections and the Eurovision contest itself, I'm far too open to outside influences.

Right now, the outside influences mostly getting my attention are those ramping up the excitement over the upcoming general election. Ever since I moved to Greenwich my interest in Westminster politics has been extremely low. But it's being inflamed once more and I'd forgotten how much I love the stats, polls, and policy u-turns that an election invariably throws up.

I've been amusing myself with messing around with some fun election sites and thought I'd share them with you...

Vote Match operates on a rather simplistic method of answering yes/no to different statements to give you an idea of how closely your beliefs match those of the big parties. My results were, rather predictably, 78% to the Lib Dems, 56% to the Labour Party, 43% to the Green Party and 41% to the Tories.

Vote for Policies is a little more interesting offering anonymous packages of policies from which you choose the one you agree with most. I got 75% Lib Dem, 25% Labour.

Rate My Tory is great fun, allowing you to view some of the more dubious records of Tory MPs and PPCs.

There's UK Polling Report, of course, which is one of those stat-porn pages so beloved of psephologists (and me).

The Times 2010 Election Map is quite fun too.

And don't miss the Labservatives inspiring campaign!! Time for... more of the same?

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