Saturday, 30 April 2011

Reform Cat For Parliament! That's What I Say #yes2AV

Hilarious video featuring... cats! Plus it's all about why AV is awesome.

My main reason for voting Yes to AV is now to ensure I can rank Reform Cat and Battle Cat by preference as it'd be shame for either one of them not to get my support... ;)

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Monday, 25 April 2011

I'm Saying Yes!! #yes2AV

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Sunday, 24 April 2011

Marriage Equality And The Scottish Parliamentary Elections

So pretty much all the manifestos are out from the various parties fighting for seats in the Scottish Parliament. It's time to see where they all stand on my favourite/least favourite issue: marriage equality.

The Liberal Democrats are very clear:

“Extend legal marriage to gay couples and civil partnerships to heterosexual couples”

And the Greens are equally direct:

“Develop a more tolerant Scotland, introducing equal marriage.

We’ll introduce legislation for equal partnership – opening marriage and civil partnership up to mixed-sex and same-sex couples, and allowing religious celebrants to conduct civil partnership. We’ll begin a dialogue with the UK Government about the need for cross-border recognition of relationships on the basis of equality.”

Labour are little less clear (despite protestations to the contrary in the pledge itself!):

“We also believe that the time is now right to consult on options to provide genuine equality for same-sex couples and their families, by addressing the different status of civil partnership and marriage. We are clear – Scotland shouldn’t be left behind on these issues.”

“We will investigate the best way to implement the ‘Alli Amendment’ in Scotland, to give religious organisations that want to, the freedom to hold civil partnerships in their buildings for the first time.”

Just what we want... more investigations and consultations. *sigh* But at least it's up for "consideration".

The Scottish National Party are also up for "consulting":

“We recognise the range of views on the question of same-sex marriage and registration of civil partnerships. We will therefore begin a process of consultation and discussion on these issues”

Alex Salmond has also spoken about this:

Bernard Ponsonby: John McKay from Leith asks "Mr Salmond, if re-elected, what stance will you take on the question of allowing heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships, and to allow same-sex couples to marry? David Cameron, Nick Clegg and David Miliband – I think he means Ed Miliband – have already stated that they support the idea."

Alex Salmond: Yeah, I mean, we'll put a consultation paper out, that's in the manifesto. I'm supportive, as long as any individual denomination is not forced into the position. That seems to me very important.

Bernard Ponsonby: Sorry, just explain that last bit.

Alex Salmond: Well you wouldn't have, and incidentally I don't think the gay community are advocating, a circumstance where a denomination would be forced to have a marriage in church, and, you know, some people are confused about that position, but that's not what's being advocated. But I'm supportive and it will go out to consultation.

The Scottish Socialist Party have their heart in the right place:

“The strengthening of civil partnership legislation to full equality with marriage, including religious ceremonies"

But I think the idea of "strengthening" civil partnership legislation is different to introducing marriage equality (which is a separately legislated right). I suspect this is simply a lack of understanding of the issues and a wish to be seen to be on the right side of the argument, rather than some weird alternative view.

Even the "old" Liberal Party is getting in on the act.

“Marriage – should be open to all. Gender-free domestic partnership laws.”

And so it came to pass, that marriage equality would be an almost universally accepted manifesto committment in a UK election. The Tories are conspicuous by their absence among the "Big 4" parties and even among parties likely to get representation at Holyrood. Same old Tories? Or did they just miss the memo?

The Equality Network has been doing all the legwork on this, and I urge you to subscribe to their marriage equality news updates.

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

Thursday, 14 April 2011

AV is not about THEM. It's about US.

It's disappointing that the powers that be, and many political activists, seem to think AV is an opportunity/danger to their own aims and ambitions. Be it the scaremongering about a perpetual Lib Dem domination of Parliament or MPs complaining that they don't like being called lazy, the political aristocracy are missing the point.

AV isn't about outcomes, it's not about stroking egos and it's not about not rocking the boat. It's simply, at it's very heart, about giving voters more choice and more say in who represents them. That's it.

On May the 5th we have an opportunity to make a change that means MPs need to ensure they appeal to a majority of their constituents, not just their partisan core vote. We can't let it slip past us because of scaremongering or whinging among the political class... It's time we showed the political class that we're the ones in charge.

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

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Yes To AV Tidbits

Today saw the launch of the Yes To AV broadcast after various news programmes. It's alright, and at least 15 times more accurate than it's No2AV equivalent

I'm very much a believer in the idea that it shouldn't matter what party might get elected when trying to consider which is the best (or in AV's case "better) electoral system. Cries of "Oh noes... the BNP are coming" do not upset me too much. If you don't think you can stop the BNP through the power of your arguments then you've lost to them already. BUT I have heard, IRL, people talking about AV strengthening the BNP and this is turning them off. So this article from the Guardian serves a useful purpose.

Switch to AV would not boost BNP chances, says thinktank

And finally the truth about the infamous "miserable little compromise" quote comes out..

Nick Clegg’s miserable little compromise.

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Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Lifting Of The Blood Ban... Well Not Quite...

My heart skipped a beat as I clicked on to the latest story on my Google News feed...

UK ban on gay male blood donors lifted

Could it be? Could the Coalition finally be pushing back the last of the homophobic rules that govern our lives here in the United Kingdom?

Thoughts of a gender neutral, sexuality neutral filtering process to replace discrimination with a sensible protection of the quality of the donated blood supply filled my head. The day when those who practice safe sex need not fear rejection when offering to donate blood. What bliss!


Gay blood donation ban to be lifted but only for men who haven’t had sex for 10 years

I don't know what's more insulting. A complete blanket ban on all men who have had sex with men. Or just one on those still practising it (even those who are in long term monogamous relationships!)

The Government, like the Labour one before them, just don't get it do they?

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

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Prime Ministers Who Never Were...

Today I finished reading The Prime Ministers Who Never Were... a collection of counterfactual history essays imagining what the Governments of people who never became Prime Minister might have been like.

Full disclosure: I love alternative history. Some might ask what's the point, but I find it is often quite an illuminating intellectual exercise which helps you see the effects of what actually happened in a different way. Also they can be extremely fun.

The book is actually very interesting, with examples from the early 20th century right up to date. Whilst it's obviously very much influenced by the current political scene today (lots of coalitions and the Alternative Vote gets a mention in just about every other story), there's plenty of interesting perspectives on the what-might-have-beens. Some, such as Phil Woolas' entry on J. R. Clynes, read more like love letters than real counterfactuals whilst others, such as regarding John Smith, leave you wishing the real thing (Tony Blair in this case) was the counterfactual!

It got me thinking about the various counterfactuals we'll be able to come up with all too soon regarding the 2010 election and it's aftermath. The Lib-Lab Coalition, the Tory minority Government, Prime Minister Clegg. It makes me giddy!

I think the greatest "what if" of the 2010 election is what would've happened if Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats had remained in opposition afterwards and spurned any advances from the other parties. Would the country have hailed Clegg as an honourable man or have disparaged him for failing to cease the moment and do something positive rather than sit back and carp from the sidelines? We'll never know...

Anyway... read the book, it's fabulous.

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

Monday, 4 April 2011

So... Folkestone Labour; What Is The Alternative?

A couple of weeks ago I received a piece of paper from the Folkestone Labour Party (and there I was thinking they were some sort of mythical beast...).

Shall we take a look?

Despite: rising food and fuel prices, cuts in wages and benefits and despite escalating unemployment...

What a way to start, going straight for the apocalyptic angle...

"Tory Shepway Council increases rents by a whopping 6.47%"
Hmm... that does sound bad, I wonder why this is and what Labour proposes to do about it...

"In the words of former Lib Dem now Tory Councillor Sue Wallace "I cannot see there is going to be a problem with people finding the money to pay this extra

Give the Tories the problem. Throw them out on the 5th May

Labour is Folkestone's Alternative Vote

Join our fight against the increase
Sign up to Folkestone Labour Party"
So... erm... what is the alternative? What's the plan? Could it be Folkestone Labour Party haven't got that far yet? Opposition is great. But opposition without an alternative is just plain tilting at windmills.

The next side is much the same. Repeating figures and issues without offering a "real alternative" despite their claims.

I want to ask again: what is Labour's alternative? When will they tell us? Is this Labour's cunning plan to not to repeat the Lib Dems tuition fees mistake by not promising us anything at all??

Before I put my cross in a box I'd like to know what exactly the party has planned for Shepway. Sweet nothing?

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

Friday, 1 April 2011

Travel, The Law And Homosexuality

When you go to another country, for a short or long stay, it's always important to keep an eye on some of the more eye-catchingly different laws. For instance if, unlike me, you are into your recreational drugs you might act differently depending on whether you were in Amsterdam or in Bangkok.

In that vein I have one very strict rule regarding my own personal travel arrangements: I will not visit a country where homosexuality is illegal. It's partly out of a sense of personal safety and partly out of respect for those still suffering under such an illiberal Government.

So I have very mixed emotions about the following story:

A British man was arrested and beaten in Saudi Arabia by religious police when they discovered he was gay.

Stephen Comiskey, a 36-year-old nurse, was threatened with beheading and thrown in a cell, the Sun reports.

He says he was tricked by religious police who sent him a text message pretending to be a friend. Homosexuality is a capital offence in Saudi Arabia.

After his arrest, he was throttled until he signed a confession in Arabic and had his passport taken away.

He spent six months in the country, unsure whether he would be killed.

Mr Comiskey, who had been working at the King Fahad National Guard Hospital in Riyadh, was allowed to fly home this week after diplomatic talks.

One part of me, of course, feels a great deal of sympathy for him and righteous anger against the Saudi regime (although I tend to ALWAYS feel righteous anger towards the Saudi regime). The other part wonders: WHAT THE HELL WAS HE DOING THERE???

I know, it's awful of me to question his personal decisions but why, oh why, would someone go to a country in which other LGBT people are oppressed and murdered by the state?

What are your thoughts on visiting countries with backward and oppressive regimes (and not just with regards to LGBT rights but human rights in general)? Is it wrong of me to insist on people observing at least a basic moral code in terms of what countries it's "okay" to visit (note, I struggled to even convince myself a trip to California met my standards and Thailand was alright only during the democractic moments of the 00s)?

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