Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Gay Agenda

Being gay (or any form of LGBTQ, or even just sympathetic to said people) can be hard. I'm not just talking about the abuse, the torture, the murder nor the legal discrimination. No, no, those things are as old as time itself and whilst disgusting, outrageous and indefensible, at least we have come to expect them. Fighting them is a daily exercise. What really tires me out though is the suggestion that LGBT people are involved in some sort of organised conspiracy.

Just read the letters between an American fundamentalist and an African counterpart that can be found here (regarding the proposed state murder of homosexuals in Uganda). When I read those I feel the same way I feel when I read about the moon landings being faked or that Pearl Harbour was a false flag operation... i.e. I feel like I'm reading the mutterings of the insane.

Let me make this quite clear. There is no gay agenda. We have no plans to seize your children, it is not possible to convert someone to homosexuality, our organised pressure groups do not sit around at meetings going "Oh yes, whilst they all think we want marriage equality, our real plan is to break up heterosexuals marriages and pick off their children one by one".

We want homosexuality to at least be allowed to be mentioned in schools because

1) it's something that's real. People will encounter situations in which they meet gay people. Perhaps they should be taught they exist and are just normal people before they do?
2) there will be gay people in the classroom. Shocking I know. I remember my days at school under Section 28. Homosexuality was mentioned twice. Once in a rather confusing (to me) sexual health book that said it was just a phase. This left me wondering just how long a phase might be. The second time was when my English teacher(a fabulously intelligent and thoughtful man) at the all boys school I attended, told us to write a love poem as it'd be a skill we'd need for when we were "courting our girlfriends or boyfriends". When some sniggered at the back he shouted "It's true, I might be talking out of turn but statistically there will be a least a couple of future gay men in this room and there's nothing wrong with that". It was one of those moments at school that will stick with me forever... someone acknowledging the truth of my situation. Mr Swan, thank you. I feel denying other gay young people the right to acknowledgement during their education is wrong. School is about learning new things, not desperately denying their existence.

We do not want homosexuality to be taught in school because:

1) we think it'll turn people gay. If you think learning about homosexuality's existence is enough to turn someone gay then you are quite insecure in your sexuality. I went through nearly 13 years of heterosexual education. Didn't turn me straight did it??
2) we want access to schools so we can abuse children. Homosexuality does not work that way. I think you are confusing LGBT people with the Catholic clergy.

Other things: we do not wish to destroy society and remake it in our image. We don't want to destroy your right to believe in silly, non-existent entities (as long as you don't mind me worshipping a certain time travelling alien). We don't want to force our way of life down your throat, we just want to right to talk about it and have it considered normal (given how often I have to sit through heterosexual love making scenes on the television, I find annoyance at occasional inclusion of homosexual ones very irritating).

I really, really don't understand how I can make this clearer. It was hard enough hearing the crazy gay agenda stuff when I was at school. Now I'm an adult and basically being accused of being some paedophile with a revolutionary streak I really can't take it. It makes me so angry. It's not just homophobic. It's INSANE. And yet it's accepted among some rather influential groups in various countries and organisations. It's the basis, based on those letters, of a proposal to introduce the death penalty for homosexuality in Uganda. Generally people don't die over the "faked moon landings" stuff. It's the sickest of the sick.

The real Homosexual Agenda

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Thursday, 20 May 2010

Marriage Equality: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This week has seen three issues relevant to the fight for marriage equality.

1) The Good: Portugal has joined the 5 other European countries who have legislated for marriage equality. This is yet another supposedly "Catholic country" who has taken the brave step of granting equal rights to it's citizens in the face of religious opposition. Portugal... we salute you!

2) The Bad: The Coalition has presented it's programme for Government. Like this blog post it's a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the ugly. However with regards to LGBT rights it is yet another step (but just a step) forward. There is, unsurprisingly, no mention of marriage equality (it wasn't a manifesto commitment of either party which is a crying shame. If we'd managed to get this through conference last time we might have actually been able to argue the case now). Where there are Lib Dems in Government there is hope but I suspect this Government shall be busy with all it's proposals and I highly doubt there will be any movement on this issue during this Parliament. Alas. 5 more years.

3) The Ugly: In Malawi, two men were convicted just for being gay and sentenced to 14 years hard labour. Our politicians make all the right noises about equality now (a big step in the right direction) but they are powerless to help Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20. In these awful countries there is no struggle for marriage equality, there is just a struggle for life and the freedom to be yourself. As the LGBT people of Portugal celebrate their victory, and we in the UK limp closer to the light, darkness still reigns in much of the world. Steven and Tiwonge (and the many others like them) are not going to be saved without fighting. Amnesty International have adopted them as prisoners of conscience and I urge you to join them if you are not already a member to support their work.

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

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Nick Clegg's New Politics Speech

Today Deputy Prime Minister Clegg (yeah I say that a lot now :p) laid out the reforms he hopes to bring about during his time in Government. Nothing amazingly new in the speech but plenty to smile about anyway. Here it is in full:

I have spent my whole political life fighting to open up politics. So let me make one thing very clear: This government is going to be unlike any other. This government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state. This government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair. This government is going to persuade you to put your faith in politics once again.

I’m not talking about a few new rules for MPs. Not the odd gesture or gimmick to make you feel a bit more involved. I’m talking about the most significant programme of empowerment by a British government since the great reforms of the 19th Century. The biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy, for the first time extending the franchise beyond the landed classes. Landmark legislation, from politicians who refused to sit back and do nothing while huge swathes of the population remained helpless against vested interests. Who stood up for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few. A spirit this government will draw on as we deliver our programme for political reform: a power revolution. A fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge.

Today I want to talk about how we’ll get there. Three major steps, that will begin immediately:

One: we will repeal all of the intrusive and unnecessary laws that inhibit your freedom.

Two: we will reform our politics so it is open, transparent, decent.

Three: we will radically redistribute power away from the centre, into your communities, your homes, your hands.

Big, sweeping change. Not incremental, not bit by bit. Our democracy has suffered at the hands of encroaching centralisation and secrecy for decades. Take citizens’ rights: eroded by the quiet proliferation of laws that increase surveillance, quash dissent, limit freedom. Take executive authority: consistently increased by successive administrations to the point that we now have a neutered parliament and government that enjoys almost untrammelled control – over precisely the people who are meant to keep it in check. Take the welfare state: one of modern society’s greatest liberators – but now so utterly different to that envisaged by Beveridge, because it has been distorted by the sheer degree of centralised control and micromanagement.

Britain was once the cradle of modern democracy. We are now, on some measures, the most centralised country in Europe, bar Malta.

So, no, incremental change will not do. It is time for a wholesale, big bang approach to political reform. And that’s what this government will deliver.

I’m a liberal. My starting point has always been optimism about people. The view that most people, most of the time, will make the right decisions for themselves and their families. That you know better than I do about how to run your life, your community, the services you use.

So this government is going to trust people.

We know that, when people see a real opportunity to shape the world they live in, they take it. Just think of the election we’ve just been through. Thousands of young people rushing to register to vote before they missed the deadline. When people have power they use it.

And when they are denied it, there is anger and disappointment. We saw it two weeks ago when across the country hundreds of people were turned away from polling stations on election night. I am eagerly awaiting the findings of the Electoral Commission’s review into that fiasco; not least as an MP representing a Sheffield constituency where it happened…
We must make sure this never happens again. You must be confident that, come polling day, your voice will be heard. And – more than that – that the chance to be heard doesn’t just come round around once every five years. You should be able to use your voice, exercise your power, every single day. Under this government’s plans, you will.

Repeal infringements on freedom:

So, three steps to new politics. First, sweeping legislation to restore the hard won liberties that have been taken, one by one, from the British people.
This government will end the culture of spying on it’s citizens. It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide. It has to stop.
So there will be no ID card scheme. No national identity register, a halt to second generation biometric passports. We won’t hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so. CCTV will be properly regulated, as will the DNA database, with restrictions on the storage of innocent people’s DNA.
And Britain must not be a country where our children grow up so used to their liberty being infringed that they accept it without question. There will be no ContactPoint children’s database. Schools will not take children’s fingerprints without even asking their parent’s consent.

This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state. That values debate, that is unafraid of dissent. That’s why we’ll remove limits on the rights to peaceful protest. It’s why we’ll review libel laws so that we can better protect freedom of speech.
And as we tear through the statute book, we’ll do something no government ever has:
We will ask you which laws you think should go. Because thousands of criminal offences were created under the previous government; yet taking people’s freedom away didn’t make our streets safer. Obsessive lawmaking simply makes criminals out of ordinary people. So, we’ll get rid of the unnecessary laws, and once they’re gone, they won’t come back. Because we will introduce a mechanism to block pointless new criminal offences.
And, we will, of course introduce safeguards to prevent the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation, including a review of existing powers and legislation. There have been too many cases of individuals being denied their rights, and whole communities being placed under suspicion. This government will do better by British justice. Respecting great, British freedoms; which is why we’ll also defend trial by jury.

Reform politics:

Second, reform of our politics. Reform to reduce the power of political elites, and to drag Westminster into the 21st century.

Starting with the House of Lords. Did you know we’ve been talking about reforming the House of Lords for over a hundred and fifty years? It’s one of the areas where all the parties agree. The time for talk is over. This government will replace the House of Lords with an elected second chamber, where members are elected by a proportional voting system. There will be a committee charged specifically with making this happen; but make no mistake: our committee will not be another government talking shop. This will be a dedicated group devoted to kick-starting real reform.
The same haste will be applied to fixed-term parliaments. It’s just wrong that governments can play politics with something as important as a general election; cynically picking the date to maximise their own advantage. So this government has already set the date we think the next election should be: May 7th 2015 – no matter who is where in the polls.
That is unless parliament votes to dissolve itself first. As we legislate to fix parliamentary terms the details will of course need to be worked out; but we believe that the support of 55% of MPs or more should be required for parliament to opt for an early dissolution. That is a much lower threshold than the two thirds required in the Scottish Parliament. But it strikes the right balance for our parliament: maintaining stability, stopping parties from forcing a dissolution to serve their own interests. Now this last week, former Labour Ministers who were once happy to ride roughshod over our democracy but are now declaring this innovation some sort of outrage are completely missing the point: This is a new right for Parliament, additional to the existing unchanged powers of no confidence. We’re not taking away parliament’s right to throw out government; we’re taking away government’s right to throw out parliament.

Parliament’s power will also be strengthened as we bring forward the proposals of the Wright Committee, published in November. Starting with provisions to give MPs much more control over Common’s business.
And, in addition to strengthening parliament, we will of course make sure we’ve cleaned it up. Which is why I have already commissioned work on introducing the power of recall. If you’re MP is corrupt, you will be able to sack them. You will need the support of 10% of people living in the constituency, and your MP will have had to have been found guilty of serious wrongdoing. But it happens in Switzerland, in Canada, in 18 US states, and it’s going to happen here.
We will regulate lobbying in parliament. It’s wrong to present all lobbying as sleazy. Much of it serves a hugely important democratic function, allowing different organisations and interests to make representations to politicians. But it is a process which must be completely transparent. But let’s get real: this is a £2bn industry, where, according to some estimates there are MPs who are approached by lobbyists a hundred times every week, and that activity needs to be regulated properly. Which we’ll do, for example, by introducing a statutory register of lobbyists.

More broadly, as long as money plays such a big part in our politics, we are never going to end the tyranny of vested interests. That’s why David Cameron and I are determined to reform party funding.
All of the parties, all of the parties, have had their problems, and governments have been stopping and starting on this issue for years. But so long as big money continues to hollow out our democracy, everybody loses. So we will pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party funding in order to deal with this once and for all.

And, in our big clean up, we’ll act to tackle electoral fraud too, speeding up the implementation of individual voter registration.
And no programme to reform our political system is complete without reform of our voting system. This government will be putting to you, in a referendum, the choice to introduce a new voting system, called the Alternative Vote. Under that system far more MPs will have to secure support from at least half the people who vote in their constituency, and, hand in hand with that change, there will be new constituency boundaries, reducing the number of MPs overall and creating constituencies that are more equal in size.
David Cameron and I are very relaxed about the fact we may be arguing different cases in that referendum. But my position is clear: the current voting system, First Past the Post, is a major block to lasting political change. According to some estimates, it ensures that over half the seats in the Commons are “safe”, giving hundreds of MPs jobs for life, meaning that millions of people see their votes go to waste.

Is it any surprise that, with a system like that, we end up with politicians who are seen to be out of touch with the people they serve? New politics needs fairer votes. This referendum will be our opportunity to start to make that happen.

Redistribution of power:

The third, and final step, is the redistribution of power away from the centre. It’s something the Prime Minister spoke about yesterday, and it is something we both strongly believe in. All politicians say they want to give people more control over their lives. This government is going to make it happen.

In fact, if there is one area, where the differences between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are almost impossible to spot, it’s here. We don’t, unlike Labour, believe that change in our society must always be forced from the centre. Unlike the previous Labour government, we’re reluctant to relinquish control.

So rest assured, you will get more control over the hospitals you use; the schools you send your children too; the homes that are built in your community. In our legislative programme we will be setting out plans to strip away government’s unelected, inefficient quangos; plans to loosen the centralised grip of the Whitehall bureaucracy; plans to disperse power downwards to you instead.
And we are serious about giving councils much more power too over the money they use, so they depend less on the whims of Whitehall, and can deliver the services and support their communities need. We know that devolution of power is meaningless without money.

Our plans to disperse power also include strengthening devolution to other parts of Britain: Working with Holyrood to implement the recommendations of the Calman Commission; working with the Welsh Assembly on introducing a referendum on the transfer of further powers to Wales; supporting the continued success of the devolved government in Northern Ireland. And, of course, asking what we can do about the difficult issues surrounding the old West Lothian Question.

So, the repeal of illiberal laws, the reform of politics, and the redistribution of power. Our very own Great Reform Act.
Not everyone will like it. Not every MP, not the vested interests that want government to stay closed, opaque, easily captured. But this new government, this new kind of government, creates an enormous opportunity for those of us who have spent our lives fighting for political reform. This is a moment to step back and look at every bit of damage that has been done to our democracy, before we launch into the most radical programme of reform, empowerment, enfranchisement in over a century.

A programme so important to me personally that I will take full responsibility for seeing it through. And as I do, I will be open, I will be ambitious, and I will listen. I’ll still be holding my town hall meetings that I’ve been holding for the last two years around the country, where you can come and ask me whatever you like. The next one is actually in Sheffield on Friday. As I lead the transformation of our political system, I want you to tell me how you want your politics to be. Power will be yours.

That is new politics.

Thank you very much for listening to me.

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

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Ed Miliband Makes Worrying Noises Over Immigration

Sure us Lib Dems have, sadly, had to concede our immigration policy for the Coalition. But that doesn't mean we give that policy up (despite what some ill-informed people think). We will continue to fight elections on that policy until such time it is democratically voted out at conference (and knowing us Lib Dems, that'll be when hell freezes over).

But I am concerned about a paragraph from Ed Miliband's leadership bid speech:

"Britain’s diversity is an enormous strength: economically, culturally, socially and we should never cease saying it and we should say it more often. But the truth is that immigration is a class issue. If you want to employ a builder it’s good to have people you can take on at lower cost, but if you are a builder it feels like a threat to your livelihood. And we never had an answer for the people who were worried about it."
Pardon? Sounds like a diversity friendly BNP-lite sort of statement. "Let's not let those nasty cheap workers come and steal all our jobs". Would be very concerned at the direction he might take Labour (a party already tarnished by it's poor stance in Government on immigration when they had a majority). Very concerned. Let's hope Labourites don't choose this isolationist as their next leader.

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Don't Get Caught in a Bad Hotel

A video that combines Lady Gaga music, workers rights protests, San Francisco and flash mobs? It's practically made for me! Watch this, it is absolutely awesome. And if you're planning on attending San Francisco gay pride this summer, take note of the end.

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

Personal Liberty And The Coalition

There is a very strong utopian streak in me, that leaves me fascinated with ideologies such as Communism, Mormonism and Fascism. Before you all start clicking the exit button, relax. My fascination goes no further than philosophical interest, for one thing plants my feet firmly in liberalism; individual liberty. Whilst I might pine for a world of sunny, happy people I know (with evidence from history to back me up) such a world can not exist. So I look for the next best thing; a world within which people can be whoever they wish to be as long as their liberty does not come at the price of another's (a complicated but necessary equation).

I broadly support the Coalition but I know where the real test of my faith will be; the Tories own nannying tendency.

The Coalition agreement sees, thankfully, a lot of Labour's "nanny state" laws being pushed back and, if the legislation actually passes, restores much cherished civil liberties. This was one of the issues that sold me on the agreement. Whilst Labour like to interfere with civil liberties in a more public sphere, some on the Tory "moralist" right would, if given half a chance, like to interfere with your personal life behind closed doors.

Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Justice (also a home to failed Tory PPC Philippa Stroud) is something set up out of a real sense of worthy purpose. IDS' new found belief in improving the lot of the less well off in society should be applauded. Alas, it comes at the cost of letting the state into your house and into your bedroom.

Firstly, as a child of a single teenage Mum, I hate this knee jerk dislike for single parent families. Yes there are certainly statistics that show there might be issues. But these are issues such as bad parenting, abuse and poverty. These things don't need the state to start telling people how they live their lives. These issues require better education, more opportunities for affordable child care and more flexible job opportunities. A parent with the knowledge they need, an income and the knowledge that their child is safe and cared for is going to be a good parent and a good citizen. They don't need to be told when to have sex, or who to live with or who to "marry". Which leads me on to...

Secondly, incentivising people to get married and using a rod to keep them married is an unsightly intrusion into the personal lives of each and every one of us. I have some radical views on partnership rights (see Page 14 of this for an explanation from Peter Tatchell), but basically believe the Government should keep it's mitts out of our lives and who we choose to enter into a partnership contract with. That legal contract can be dealt with by the courts and the Government should steer clear. Any attempt to dictate how and when we should enter into and get out of such contracts is a fundamental invasion of that very contract between two people.

I will hold my tongue until we see what direction this Government goes in.

I'm also steering clear of mentioning homophobia for now, but this issue too will be a make or break one for me on the Coalition. I'm willing to let bygones be bygones and forget the past of various Tories. But I will be waiting to see how the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition deal with the first case of Tory homophobia to crop up....

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Saturday, 15 May 2010

Reform Is Never Easy

The 55% rule, needed to ensure a fixed term Parliament under our dodgy uncodified constitution, is causing a lot of confusion (thanks mainly to the media) and upset (thanks mainly to conservative members of the Tory and Labour parties). What to actually know what it means? Here's a serious explanation and here's a fun one.

I think the boo-ha-ha from the old guard, on this issue alone, illustrates how hard the fight for reform is going to be. If they get upset about fixed term Parliaments, how will they feel over an elected House of Lords?? Time to get down to business and fight the good fight for radical political reform... against rebel members of the Coalition and against the Opposition. It's going to be fun!

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

Thursday, 13 May 2010

So Now: Where Do I Stand?

With the Cabinet now having had it's first meeting and the Coalition Agreement being published, I suppose I can finally make a decision on exactly how positive I can be about this new Liberal-Conservative Government (as our new Prime Minister Cameron likes to call it!).

Well... on the Cabinet positions? I'm not exactly thrilled but then again the majority of the Cabinet positions were going to be Tories anyway and I was never going to be happy about that. Heard this morning that Philippa Stroud might be working as special advisor to Iain Duncan Smith. Quelle surprise. However this is the "new politics" now (neue Politik, surely?) and the past of the Ministers shall thus be put to one side and I plan to judge them on their future actions. Forgiveness is the key, let's move on and keep a close eye on them all.

On the agreement? I'm actually EXTREMELY positive about the agreement. Sure there's some issues I don't agree with (keeping the marriage tax rebate for example) but mostly it seems to be all good ( although confusion and distortion seem to be clouding the issue of the 55% vote required for dissolution). Yes, I accept that electoral reform is just not there. A referendum on AV is next to useless. But two things keep me positive on that front:

1) the issue is now "out there". What was previously one of our "wonky policies" that everyone smiled and winked about whenever it was mentioned is now in the public eye and getting debated. That is healthy, good and the work of people such as the Electoral Reform Society and Unlock Democracy shall now be easier.
2) the issue of reforming the House of Lords is mentioned and turning it into a full elected House. And the election will be by PR. That is a huge leap forward. If people can see the benefits of PR there, then we surely shall start to see movement towards it at a House of Commons level (plus AV will get people used to numbering candidates.. another step forward perhaps?)

The agreement isn't our manifesto. And that's to be expected. I'd rather it was but that's not going to happen. What I am glad to see is Lib Dem policies helping mitigate Tory ones. Sure there will be a cap on immigration but there will be an agreement that children aren't held in detention centres. This is a step forward.

Section 10 on civil liberties sold me on the coalition of change. If everything on it comes to pass all of this, and what is to come, will have been worth it. Rolling back the big brother state and restoring our freedoms is deeply important to me personally.

Plus the joint Cameron/Clegg press conference yesterday really sealed the deal for me. I really think they mean it!!

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

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Coalition Agreement??

Appears LibCon has crashed so here's a back up copy of their latest story:

I’ve been sent this document from a source who wishes to remain anonymous.
They say this document forms the basis of the agreement between the Libdems and Conservatives. I’m not going to publish the Word document, but here it is in HTML format.
Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition negotiations
Agreements reached
11 May 2010
This document sets out agreements reached between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on a range of issues. These are the issues that needed to be resolved between us in order for us to work together as a strong and stable government. It will be followed in due course by a final Coalition Agreement, covering
the full range of policy and including foreign, defence and domestic policy issues not covered in this document.
1. Deficit Reduction
The parties agree that deficit reduction and continuing to ensure economic recovery is the most urgent issue facing Britain. We have therefore agreed that there will need to be:
  • a significantly accelerated reduction in the structural deficit over the course of a Parliament, with the main burden of deficit reduction borne by reduced spending rather than increased taxes;
  • arrangements that will protect those on low incomes from the effect of public sector pay constraint and other spending constraints; and
  • protection of jobs by stopping Labour’s proposed jobs tax.
The parties agree that a plan for deficit reduction should be set out in an emergency budget within 50 days of the signing of any agreement; the parties note that the credibility of a plan on deficit reduction depends on its long-term deliverability, not just the depth of immediate cuts. New forecasts of growth and borrowing should be made by an independent Office for Budget Responsibility for this emergency budget.
The parties agree that modest cuts of £6 billion to non-front line services can be made within the financial year 2010-11, subject to advice from the Treasury and the
Bank of England on their feasibility and advisability. Some proportion of these savings can be used to support jobs, for example through the cancelling of some backdated demands for business rates. Other policies upon which we are agreed will further support job creation and green investment, such as work programmes for the unemployed and a green deal for energy efficiency investment.
The parties agree that reductions can be made to the Child Trust Fund and tax credits for higher earners.
2. Spending Review
– NHS, Schools and a Fairer Society
The parties agree that a full Spending Review should be held, reporting this Autumn, following a fully consultative process involving all tiers of government and the private sector.
The parties agree that funding for the NHS should increase in real terms in each year of the Parliament, while recognising the impact this decision would have on other departments.
The target of spending 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid will also remain in place.
We will fund a significant premium for disadvantaged pupils from outside the schools budget by reductions in spending elsewhere.
The parties commit to holding a full Strategic Security and Defence Review alongside the Spending Review with strong involvement of the Treasury.
The Government will be committed to the maintenance of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money. Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives.
We will immediately play a strong role in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, and press for continued progress on multilateral disarmament.
The parties commit to establishing an independent commission to review the long term affordability of public sector pensions, while protecting accrued rights.
We will restore the earnings link for the basic state pension from April 2011 with a “triple guarantee” that pensions are raised by the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5%, as proposed by the Liberal Democrats.
3. Tax Measures
The parties agree that the personal allowance for income tax should be increased in order to help lower and middle income earners. We agree to announce in the first Budget a substantial increase in the personal allowance from April 2011, with the benefits focused on those with lower and middle incomes. This will be funded with the money that would have been used to pay for the increase in Employee National Insurance thresholds proposed by the Conservatives, as well as revenues from increases in Capital Gains Tax rates for non-business assets as described below. The increase in Employer National Insurance thresholds proposed by the Conservatives will go ahead in order to stop Labour’s jobs tax. We also agree to a longer term policy objective of further increasing the personal allowance to £10,000, making further real terms steps each year towards this objective.
We agree that this should take priority over other tax cuts, including cuts to Inheritance Tax. We also agree that provision will be made for Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain on budget resolutions to introduce transferable tax allowances for married couples without prejudice to this coalition agreement.
The parties agree that a switch should be made to a per-plane, rather than per-passenger duty; a proportion of any increased revenues over time will be used to help fund increases in the personal allowance.
We further agree to seek a detailed agreement on taxing non-business capital gains at rates similar or close to those applied to income, with generous exemptions for entrepreneurial business activities.
The parties agree that tackling tax avoidance is essential for the new government, and that all efforts will be made to do so, including detailed development of Liberal Democrat proposals.
4. Banking Reform
The parties agree that reform to the banking system is essential to avoid a repeat of Labour’s financial crisis, to promote a competitive economy, to sustain the recovery and to protect and sustain jobs.
We agree that a banking levy will be introduced. We will seek a detailed agreement on implementation.
We agree to bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector; in developing these proposals, we will ensure they are effective in reducing risk.
We agree to bring forward detailed proposals to foster diversity, promote mutuals and create a more competitive banking industry.
We agree that ensuring the flow of credit to viable SMEs is essential for supporting growth and should be a core priority for a new government, and we will work together to develop effective proposals to do so. This will include consideration of both a major loan guarantee scheme and the use of net lending targets for the nationalised banks.
The parties wish to reduce systemic risk in the banking system and will establish an independent commission to investigate the complex issue of separating retail and
investment banking in a sustainable way; while recognising that this would take time to get right, the commission will be given an initial time frame of one year to report.
The parties agree that the regulatory system needs reform to avoid a repeat of Labour’s financial crisis. We agree to bring forward proposals to give the Bank of England control of macro-prudential regulation and oversight of micro-prudential regulation.
The parties also agree to rule out joining the European Single Currency during the duration of this agreement.
5. Immigration
We have agreed that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. We will consider jointly the mechanism for implementing the limit. We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.
6. Political Reform
The parties agree to the establishment of five year fixed-term parliaments. A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will put a binding motion before the House of Commons in the first days following this agreement stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.
The parties will bring forward a Referendum Bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the Alternative Vote in the event of a positive
result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. Both parties will whip their Parliamentary Parties in both Houses to support a simple majority referendum on the
Alternative Vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take
during such a referendum.
The parties will bring forward
early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to
force a by-election where an MP was found to have engaged in serious
wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed
by 10% of his or her constituents.
We agree to establish a committee
to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber
on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will
come forward with a draft motions by December 2010. It is likely that
this bill will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely
there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim,
Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second
chamber reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political
parties in the last general election.
The parties will bring forward
the proposals of the Wright Committee for reform to the House of Commons
in full – starting with the proposed committee for management of programmed
business and including government business within its scope by the third
year of the Parliament.
The parties agree to reduce
electoral fraud by speeding up the implementation of individual voter
We have agreed to establish
a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’.
The parties agree to the implementation
of the Calman Commission proposals and the offer of a referendum on
further Welsh devolution.
The parties will tackle lobbying
through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists. We also agree
to pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party
funding in order to remove big money from politics.
The parties will promote the
radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local
government and community groups. This will include a full review of
local government finance.
Pensions and Welfare

The parties agree to phase
out the default retirement age and hold a review to set the date at
which the state pension age starts to rise to 66, although it will not
be sooner than 2016 for men and 2020 for women. We agree to end the
rules requiring compulsory annuitisation at 75.
We agree to implement the Parliamentary
and Health Ombudsman’s recommendation to make fair and transparent
payments to Equitable Life policy holders, through an independent payment
scheme, for their relative loss as a consequence of regulatory failure.
The parties agree to end all
existing welfare to work programmes and to create a single welfare to
work programme to help all unemployed people get back into work.
We agree that Jobseeker’s
Allowance claimants facing the most significant barriers to work should
be referred to the aforementioned newly created welfare to work programme
immediately, not after 12 months as is currently the case. We agree
that Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants aged under 25 should be referred
to the programme after a maximum of six months.
The parties agree to realign
contracts with welfare to work service providers to reflect more closely
the results they achieve in getting people back into work.
We agree that the funding mechanism
used by government to finance welfare to work programmes should be reformed
to reflect the fact that initial investment delivers later savings in
lower benefit expenditure.
We agree that receipt of benefits
for those able to work should be conditional on the willingness to work.

8. Education

We agree to promote the reform
of schools in order to ensure:
  • that new providers
    can enter the state school system in response to parental demand;
  • that all schools
    have greater freedom over curriculum; and,
  • that all schools
    are held properly accountable.
Higher education
We await Lord Browne’s final
report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals against
the need to:
  • increase social
  • take into account
    the impact on student debt;
  • ensure a properly
    funded university sector;
  • improve the quality
    of teaching;
  • advance scholarship;
  • attract a higher
    proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
If the response of the Government
to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept,
then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain
in any vote.
Relations with the EU

We agree that
the British Government will be a positive participant in the European
Union, playing a strong and positive role with our partners, with the
goal of ensuring that all the nations of Europe are equipped to face
the challenges of the 21st century: global competitiveness,
global warming and global poverty.
We agree that
there should be no further transfer of sovereignty or powers over the
course of the next Parliament. We will examine the balance of the EU’s
existing competences and will, in particular, work to limit the application
of the Working Time Directive in the United Kingdom.
We agree that
we will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any proposed
future Treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences, would
be subject to a referendum on that Treaty – a ‘referendum lock’.
We will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that the use of any 
 would require primary legislation.
We will examine
the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill to make it clear that
ultimate authority remains with Parliament.
We agree that
Britain will not join or prepare to join the Euro in this Parliament.
We agree that
we will strongly defend the UK’s national interests in the forthcoming
EU budget negotiations and that the EU budget should only focus on those
areas where the EU can add value.
We agree that
we will press for the European Parliament only to have one seat, in
We agree that
we will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice
on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security,
protecting Britain’s civil liberties and preserving the integrity
of our criminal justice system. Britain will not participate in the
establishment of any European Public Prosecutor.
10. Civil liberties
The parties agree to implement
a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil
liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.
This will include:
  • A Freedom or Great
    Repeal Bill.
  • The scrapping of
    ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation
    of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.
  • Outlawing the finger-printing
    of children at school without parental permission.
  • The extension of
    the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
  • Adopting the protections
    of the Scottish model for the DNA database.
  • The protection of
    historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.
  • The restoration
    of rights to non-violent protest.
  • The review of libel
    laws to protect freedom of speech.
  • Safeguards against
    the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
  • Further regulation
    of CCTV.
  • Ending of storage
    of internet and email records without good reason.
  • A new mechanism
    to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

11. Environment
The parties agree to implement
a full programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for a low
carbon and eco-friendly economy, including:
  • The establishment
    of a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters.
  • The full establishment
    of feed-in tariff systems in electricity – as well as the maintenance
    of banded ROCs.
  • Measures to promote
    a huge increase in energy from waste through anaerobic digestion.
  • The creation of
    a green investment bank.
  • The provision of
    home energy improvement paid for by the savings from lower energy bills.
  • Retention of energy
    performance certificates while scrapping HIPs.
  • Measures to encourage
    marine energy.
  • The establishment
    of an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power
    stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient CCS to
    meet the emissions performance standard.
  • The establishment
    of a high-speed rail network.
  • The cancellation
    of the third runway at Heathrow.
  • The refusal of additional
    runways at Gatwick and Stansted.
  • The replacement
    of the Air Passenger Duty with a per flight duty.
  • The provision of
    a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move
    towards full auctioning of ETS permits.
  • Measures to make
    the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence.
  • Measures to promote
    green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats
    and restore biodiversity.
  • Mandating a national
    recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
  • Continuation of
    the present Government’s proposals for public sector investment in
    CCS technology for four coal-fired power stations; and a specific commitment
    to reduce central government carbon emissions by 10 per cent within
    12 months.
  • We are agreed that
    we would seek to increase the target for energy from renewable sources,
    subject to the advice of the Climate Change Committee.
Liberal Democrats have long
opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are
committed to allowing the replacement of existing nuclear power stations
provided they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects
(under a new national planning statement) and provided also that they
receive no public subsidy.
We have agreed a process that
will allow Liberal Democrats to maintain their opposition to nuclear
power while permitting the government to bring forward the national
planning statement for ratification by Parliament so that new nuclear
construction becomes possible.
This process will involve:
  • the government completing
    the drafting of a national planning statement and putting it before
  • specific agreement
    that a Liberal Democrat spokesman will speak against the planning statement,
    but that Liberal Democrat MPs will abstain; and
  • clarity that this
    will not be regarded as an issue of confidence.

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The Coalition Of Change

Well. This is a turn up for the books. Who would've believed way back on April 6th that we'd have a Tory-Lib Dem coalition in office? Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister? John Cleese in his rightful place in the Ministry of Silly Walks at last? Me either. But guess what? We're there!

As I've said before, I would have preferred a Lib-Lab pact. But Nick Clegg's gambit of reaching out to Labour on Monday proved that Labour would not have been a stable coalition partner even before considering that the numbers just didn't work out. Their MPs were already briefing against it by Tuesday morning and my mind was then made up that support for the Conservatives was the only way forward. Alas.

The rumblings of discontent are far less than they were at the weekend. I think Clegg's Labour deal gambit (very well conceived) brought the Progressive Left Coalition people (like me, but more enthusiastic) back to reality. Some members, councillors etc. will, I'm sure, defect. I just hope they don't defect to New Labour whose record in office in attacking civil liberties and war mongering renders such defections morally suspect. Defect to the Greens people. THE GREENS! At least they have souls.

Anyway, I for one won't be defecting, or even moaning that much. This is our chance to prove our way of thinking and to move beyond mere partisan politics. To be grown up about Government and maybe, more personally, move beyond my tribal hatred of Tories. If we can take some of the rough edges off the Tories policies and sneak a few of our own in too, all the better. My major concerns from what I've seen so far are:

1) the marriage tax breaks are still going ahead (with Lib Dem MPs abstaining). This annoys me greatly but it's only a small matter (£3 a week wasn't it? HA!)
2) the referendum on AV. It's not really even a step forward is it? But it's a change in the political language which I hope people like TakeBackParliament can exploit as we all continue our fight for real electoral reform.

I'm broadly positive, yes I said it, positive that this new Government may lead to some really good changes. No ID cards will keep me happy for now, and I hear rumours of an STV elected House of Lords. And this is NOT a Tory Government. It's a coalition!

Let's look to the future, be constructively critical and keep a beady eye on the right wingers in the Tory party... and cross our fingers that this leap into the dark is the good decision I'm beginning to believe it is.

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Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Things That Piss Me Off About Hung Parliaments

Well not about hung Parliaments themselves but people's reactions to them and perception of them.

1) "Unelected Prime Ministers". This is a hold over from before the election. The sort of idiotic issue that only the uneducated journalists of our rotten press could come up with. But when I heard William Hague, one of the great Parliamentarians of our time, mutter those words I knew something was up. There's no way anyone with his experience could use that phrase except for politically dubious reasons. Obviously he wishes people to accept David Cameron as our "elected PM" but in so doing he makes things very "constitutionally" wonky and really sets the Tory party up for future falls if our system isn't reformed. Let's be clear here... under our system we do not elect Prime Ministers. The Prime Minister is the person who commands the majority support in the house. That is it. That could be Mr Cameron. Or Diane Abbott (please God no). Clear? Me either... but that's our unwritten constitution for you.

All this talk about how awful unelected leaders are, puts our monarch in a nasty situation (and who elected you Ma'am?)... which does not please this old royalist one bit. Be warned Mr Hague.

Personally I think all this "unelected PM" and "illegitimate Government" stuff the Tories are banging on about is going to lead to a constitutional crisis. And quite frankly, I agree with the Queen.

2) Proportional representation. Have ever so many people been so deluded for so long? I don't mind positive arguments FOR FPTP but the negative arguments against PR (whatever your flavour) just do not hold true. MOST Governments in the developed world work under some form of PR. And let's face it... those countries are just fine. Sure each system comes with it's own problems but FPTP is far from perfect and doesn't even win "best of a bad bunch". So let's stick to the facts and not mind-numbingly stupid suggestions that coalitions don't work etc.

3) The voters voted for... This is currently journalists and politicians favourite one. The public voted for... cheesecakes on a Thursday. The public voted for... power sharing, alternating daily between Cameron and Brown with Clegg taking over every other Wednesday and Bank Holidays.

I'm truly amazed they were able to deduce what this strange creature called the public wants simply based on a combination of our votes. Like reading tea leaves. FPTP allows people only to express their preference for who their MP is. Nothing more.

4) All coalitions in a hung Parliament where no party secured more than 50% of vote or seats will be a coalition of the losers. Simple.

Sigh. I don't think this is going to end well for anyone, as the level of intelligence required for this sort of politics seems quite beyond our politicians and journalists. Look... if the Irish can do this, so can we!! :p

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Monday, 10 May 2010

Damian Collins MP Blocks Me - Confusingly

So... I avoided following Damian Collins, newly elected MP for my soon to be home again constituency of Folkestone and Hythe, on Twitter during the campaign as I hoped my preferred option (the lovely Lynne Beaumont) would be elected ahead of him. Sadly this was not the case and thinking I might want to keep up to date with my MP's movements (and also having just gone on his website to send him a letter regarding electoral reform) I decided to follow his Twitter account. I was rather astonished to find I had been blocked.

Now I racked my brains for any unreasonable, heated comment I might have made to him/against him. It's not unknown for me to be a little OTT sometimes in the heat of the moment (the comments I made in the Guardian about Simon Hughes a few years ago spring to mind... that was a mess...). But I honestly couldn't remember anything. I'd had very little to do with him at all, barely mentioned him as I've been out of the constituency for so long and even remembered once seeing one of my friends giving him grief on Facebook and, being the better person, did not get involved.

So I did a little search through my Tweets and only came up with this:

It's also nice that Damian Collins campaign is getting support from our least fave former MP http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2a07cUyW73M

Is this why I was blocked? It wasn't even insulting against him and sweet Jesus if I can't rank MPs by which ones I like and which I don't then what can I do? Does this not speak volumes for the sort of relationship this man is going to have with his constituents?

Very annoying. Very concerning. Sadly all too expected. Tories go on about free speech and being against political correctness but can't even take the mildest criticism from a, at the time, future constituent (and let's admit that Tweet was milder than mild!).

So anyway... very much doubt I'll be hearing anything positive back about electoral reform from him... but suggest any Folkestone and Hythe person concerned about electoral reform keeps up the pressure as he's our only hope.

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Sunday, 9 May 2010

Where I Stand

I come from Folkestone, a place where the Liberal Democrats form the main opposition to the Tories. A deep, tribal hatred of the Tories is engrained into my very soul.

On top of that, I'm gay. I fear for what a Tory Government will do to my personal liberty, based on their previous record. (my thoughts on that from the general election are here).

Despite my similar reservations about Labour's record on a wide range of subjects, my own view would favour an alliance with them over one with the Tories. But that is not what the situation we have been lumped with allows us. We have the Tories as the only viable single partner for any sort of agreement. And based on our principles and our belief in a "new politics" that PR would give us, we have no other choice than to at least pursue talks with the Tories.

Personally I feel a strong coalition would be good for the country. No one outside of political circles wants another election. A two-way coalition is the best option open to us. And thus I strongly support the negotiations ongoing at the moment... on one basis only...

Whatever compromises we must make, whatever policies we must put to the side, it is quite clear that now is the time for political and electoral reform. The Tories moaning about "It's the economy stupid" is ridiculous. How political and electoral reform will get in the way of dealing with our economic problems is unclear. If the economy is so important then the Tories will have no problem giving up their sacred, malnourished cow of FPTP? Any coalition or agreement MUST come out with promises of a referendum within the year... in my opinion.

With the Lib Dems keeping them honest I think the Tories will be able to sort the economy out without destroying our welfare state or harming our civil liberties. So I'm broadly supportive of what Guido Fawkes calls "the coalition for change", if not enamoured of it.

Many members of the party have threatened to cut up their cards over a coalition with the Tories, especially if PR is not given. I will not be so drastic. I respect the democratic process within our party and if the Federal Executive agrees to the deal without PR I will remain a member. An unhappy, grumbling, moany, unhelpful member. But I won't abandon the party just because the result of the negotiations don't go the way I'd like.

It's a difficult time to be a Liberal Democrat, I think that goes without saying. But hey... life's never simple! And if we do finally get PR, this sort of "grown up" way of thinking, without tribalism or intransigence will become ever more important.

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Saturday, 8 May 2010

Electoral Reform: Nick Can't Give Up On It

Not that I think he will. Unlike a lot of rather ungrateful members of the party who have pre-judged our leader's mindset even before it's made clear; I still support our leader, the Parliamentary party and the Federal Executive.

However I think it is quite clear, both from talking with non-members behind such projects as the RATM-LD Facebook group and my own feelings, that Nick Clegg cannot give up on electoral reform. He must champion it. That is the the role we must take in this Parliament... whereever we are....

This is the issue of our time... economic crisis' come and go (despite what the Tories and the press might think). Our country and democracy are more important issues, in my opinion.

Fair votes now. Nick Clegg for Prime Minister!

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Friday, 7 May 2010

Tough Times Behind And Ahead Of Us

Well. That wasn't pretty. I settled down in the pub last night and, stupidly, had allowed Cleggmania to go to my head. I wasn't expecting too much, a slight rise in seats. But what we got... well it was a bloodbath really. Oh sure, we're still better off than in 2001. No doubt about it. But we lost some very good MPs, especially Dr Evan Harris. But, BUT, we still gained an extra percentage point in terms of share of the vote which again highlights the ludicrous nature of our electoral system.

Now our party leadership faces a choice...

1) allow a Tory minority Government which will limp on for a few months before another election.
2) prop up a Labour Government i) with Gordon Brown ii) without
3) prop up a Tory Government i) in coalition 2) on supply basis.

None of these choices appeals to me. In fact all would make me unhappy. Which sort of helps me make up my mind in how I will argue away my concerns about what the leadership decides; I'll accept anything the leadership decides and give support to it. Not that that changes much, being a lay member with no power whatsoever, but I've seen the anger brewing between different groups of party members already, and feel I don't wish to become one of those people. We have a chance to push for something this country desperately needs: electoral reform. I trust the leadership of our party will pursue which ever of the offers we receive gives us the greatest chance of this.

That is what is important. That is what matters now. This is what we should be pursuing. I'm putting aside great misgivings about both the Labour and *shudder* the Tory parties because I understand that now is not the time for self interest but for what is in the best interests of this country.

Let's get behind Nick Clegg and the federal executive and support their decision. Whatever that turns out to be. And may God have mercy on our souls...

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Wednesday, 5 May 2010

What has #ge2010 taught us about marriage equality?

Just before the start of this general election I wrote "Gay marriage: The Dream That'll Never Be?". Have I changed my mind on the hopes for marriage equality following a month of politicians campaigning? I have to say... no I haven't.

Thanks mainly to Pink News readers pushing the question with the party leaders, we now are clear on where they stand.

Clegg: 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.

Pretty clear.

Brown: In response to Downing St online petitions to introduce same-sex marriage, it was stated that the "government has no plans to introduce same-sex marriage", because it has to "balance the right to live free from prejudice and discrimination with the right to freedom of speech and religion". In what ways does same-sex marriage affect freedom of speech and religion? Andrew Archer

"At the moment there’s a distinction drawn between civil and religious unions, and when civil partnerships were being introduced they took the same form as a civil union which a heterosexual couple would have. We later made it illegal to discriminate on partnership status – so it is illegal to treat someone in a civil partnership different to a married person. That makes no practical difference in terms of rights and responsibilities, but does recognise that religious groups have the right to a certain degree of self-organisation on questions that are theologically important to them, including on the question of religiously-sanctioned marriage. So the provision of ‘marriage’ as opposed to the provision of same-sex or heterosexual civil unions, is intimately bound up with questions of religious freedom."

So gay people can't organise a religious union because....?

Cameron: 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... could be read in a lot of different ways. Thankfully, or perhaps not, he's now clarified his party's policy.

A Conservative Party spokesman said Mr Cameron's response did not contradict the equality manifesto and said he had focused on the part of the question which suggested the Tories were definitely going to legalise gay marriage.

The spokesman added: "We're not planning to rename civil partnerships at the moment. We are considering it. We recognise there is a case to consider but we're not at that point, there has been no firm decision."
Here is what we have learnt:

1) All three party leaders agree civil partnerships are different to marriage. This helps clear up some of the arguments against marriage equality.
2) Gordon Brown and David Cameron both confirm they do not plan to introduce any legislation to introduce marriage equality. Gordon Brown and the Labour Government appear to confirm they are actually dead set against it, for "religious reasons".
3) Nick Clegg is the only one who actually gave a nice, simple, clear answer to the question presented to him, whereas the other two went round the houses... mainly because they knew the answer they'd give would not be one the audience wished to hear.

If we want marriage equality, we'll need to fight for it. Lobby and bug and press this issue. We cannot rely on the Tory or Labour parties to just do this for us... that is the main lesson we can take away from this election on that issue.

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Why I've Voted Liberal Democrat

So thanks to my favourite labour saving invention of all time, the postal vote, the 2010 General Election is a done deal for me.

Caveats: I'm not really a "tactical voter". I find it difficult to bring myself to vote for people/policies that I do not agree with. Obviously I don't agree with anybody on 100% of the issues so I have to base my vote on who I agree with the most. I'm a Liberal Democrat member, but I'm not going to pretend I have always voted Lib Dem in the past nor in the future. I have a brain and an independent spirit (which I suppose is why I'm a Liberal Democrat ;) ).

This time my mind was made up mainly on the strength of the policies (simply because I just don't know my candidates up here in Greenwich and Woolwich).

Our political system is dying. The conventions that underpin our system were fine when no one gave too much scrutiny to them and when events didn't undermine them. But our world now allows people to watch events in detail and live as they happen. And worse, for a system reliant on two party politics, even the smallest of political parties is able to attract members and support thanks to the internet and 24 hour news eager to fill space with talking heads. This has created a great deal of fragmentation and our system may well slip from one constitutional crisis after another unless we work to fix it. The Tories plan just to patch it up and hope for the best. Labour plan to reform it radically but then they always promise that and it never happens. The Liberal Democrats are the only party who have consistently favoured a "great reform" from top to bottom of our political establishment: a written constitution, electoral reform, an elected House of Lords etc. etc. I believe this great reform is the issue of our time. Economic misfortunes come and go... but we must not lose sight of building a firm foundation for the future of our country's Government.

Saying that... I believed the economy would be in good hands with Vince Cable. And the manifesto confirmed that for me. The most important part of the Liberal Democrat economic policy plan is to remove income tax from the first £10,000 earned. That, I know from experience, will mean a lot to a lot of people and will remove the unfair tax credit system and apply discounts to everyone who needs them rather than just those in certain circumstances.

I once read a book called The World Without Us. It really opened my eyes to the real effects our actions have on our planet and on our children's future. And it made me realise that whilst nuclear power might be quite safe and very good for our environment now, it poses untold risks to our world and our children in the future. And nuclear weapons pose an untold risk to the children of whoever our enemies happen to be at a particular time. So the Lib Dem policy against nuclear power and to reconsider, if not get rid of, the nuclear deterrent, is one I can't help but agree with. It might be difficult, it might be uncomfortable but it makes sense.

The Liberal Democrats are also the only party with sensible policies on Europe. Like me they are europhiles. But like me they want reform. And they even go one better than me... they want a referendum on Europe to end all the moaning one way or another. The Tories are eurosceptic but they aren't offering that. Labour can't make up their minds.

And on immigration they are similarly refreshingly frank. You might not like it. But they have a point, either we accept them and let them stay or they stay anyway. Simples. Well there is the third option but that costs billions and we just don't have that money and I think removing all those people might cause a few negative images to be sent out about our country to our international friends and allies.

And top this off with their strong focus on civil liberties, LGBT rights and foreign affairs and you have the reason for my vote for the Liberal Democrats. You might have other priorities. You might want to vote for someone else. I'm not going to tell you how to vote *VOTE LIB DEM*, just vote for what you believe in. ;)

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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Tories Flip Flop On Marriage Equality

Sometimes I hate being proven right. And I hate that the Tories, who moan about Nick Clegg "flip flopping" over what he'd do in a hung Parliament, start to flip flop over an issue themselves.

In the first week of the election George Osborne said that a Tory Government would "consider" marriage equality. I gave him some kudos for this but also a warning:

"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!)."

Since then we've had plenty of Tory mishaps with regards to LGBT rights but even as recently as yesterday, with the launch of their equality manifesto, were sticking to the "considering marriage equality" line.

But now we know the truth. David Cameron has said they are "not planning" to bring in marriage equality.

A Conservative Party spokesman said Mr Cameron's response did not contradict the equality manifesto and said he had focused on the part of the question which suggested the Tories were definitely going to legalise gay marriage.

The spokesman added: "We're not planning to rename civil partnerships at the moment. We are considering it. We recognise there is a case to consider but we're not at that point, there has been no firm decision."

Seriously. Not planning but considering. What a load of old tripe!

We cannot trust the Tories with our rights, let alone with our country. Shocking.

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What Tory Non-Reaction To Philippa Stroud Really Means

The Philippa Stroud story rumbled on on Twitter, a very low level rumble that is, but didn't get into the mainstream media. I think any chance it will do is now extremely small. But that doesn't mean we can't extrapolate a few truths from the incident.

1) Here's a little paragraph from this article yesterday on why the media ignored the story:

"It’s interesting that today the Conservative Party quietly launched an equality manifesto, which among other things suggests that a future Conservative Government would “consider” the case for full gay marriage. But there was no press conference, so no opportunity for the mainstream media to question the Tory high command on the revelations relating to Mrs Stroud, so no opportunity to “move the story on”, something that is a pretty important task to achieve within a news story. Although a spokesman told me that there was never due to be any events or questions and answer opportunities relating to the publication of the equality manifesto."

So whilst the Tories launch their equality manifesto they keep absolutely silent on their position on Philippa Stroud, not even to defend her against her critics (nice party that). Disgusting, yet another sign they cannot be trusted on their promises to stand up for LGBT rights (or human rights in general)

2) Then there is this story on the hypocrisy of the Tories position on homophobia and PPCs. Basically they sacked Philip Lardner because he had no chance anyway, but won't talk about Philippa Stroud as she actually has (or is that had?) a chance in Sutton and Cheam. So homophobia is bad when it doesn't affect the Tories chances but okay to be ignored when it might. Principled? Me thinks not.

Don't be fooled by the Tories. As I said before the change is only skin deep.

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

Monday, 3 May 2010

Lib Dem Flashmob - Trafalgar Square

So after a morning in Blackheath stalking Nick Clegg, I popped by Trafalgar Square to witness the London Liberal Democrat flashmob. Certainly got some attention from where I was standing and seemed to go very well. Although one man watching asked "This is all very well, but anyone here able to tell me who this Nick guy is?". Bless him. 

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