Saturday, 28 May 2011

Christianity Is Not The Saviour Of Secular, Liberal Society

There is well-founded concern among LGBT folk of Islamic prejudice against us. And it's a topic not without it's controversy as the East End Gay Pride fiasco showed. It's certainly something that needs more discussion and, even more importantly, action given the anti-gay poster "campaign" and the faux gay "frighten the Muslim vote" leaflets of late.

However I draw the line at what I see as a "brewing" reaction among certain LGBT people; namely a desire to get back to "good old British values". It's the equivalent of a collective thought along the lines of "Bugger, look at what we've done. We beat the Christians into submission and now look what's taking their place!" We saw some of that in the rhetoric from some supporters of the East End Gay Pride. Now we have a Telegraph piece being even more explicit.

Last weekend, the papers convulsed over the case of a Christian GP, whose avowedly Christian approach to medical practice had been found to involve, er, discussing Christianity. I'd rather discuss antibiotics, but still: the overreaction is a displacement activity, isn't it? We can safely worry about peaceable, well-meaning Christians, and demand a more and more un-Christian state, because that's what all rational people want, isn't it?

Not me, not any more. I'm not a believer. But to paraphrase G K Chesterton, when a Christian society stops believing in God, it's not the case that it will start to believe in just anything. If you want to see what does fill the vacuum, get on the bus to the dear old East End.

Well I feel I must cry "Bullshit!" at the top of my lungs to all who can hear. This view of Christianity as somehow "nicer" than Islam is more a case of wishful thinking rather than a sensible piece of political positioning.

I come from the rather coldhearted, but at least consistent, position that ALL religion is (at best) silly. There are many kind hearted souls who believe all sorts of weird and unusual things who I have no personal problem with. There are also all sorts of nasty people who believe all sorts of weird and unusual things who I do have a BIG problem with. Deciding who falls into which (admittedly blurred) category is not a case of finding out which imaginary sky fairy they worship. It's a case of listening to what they say, and seeing what they do and making rational decisions based on that.

Item: Homosexuality is still deeply controversial even among the relatively liberal Christian sects,

Item: Homosexuality's still seen as something to be cured by some true believers

Item: You only need to read some of Warren Throckmorton's writings on what one Christian gets up to in the name of his saviour to see how some Christians give those "radical Muslims" right-wing types are so scared of (and left-wing types a little too eager to court) a run for their money.

Even Richard Dawkins, a man who I find is usually right but damn smug about it, has fallen into this fallacy of "Christianity = good, Islam = bad".

We didn't spend years fighting Mary Whitehouse and her brigade of moralising numpties just to give up in the face of another challenge. This isn't a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" moment. There's just another enemy of secular Britain to add to the one's we've always had. We must work with secular, liberal minded people of all faiths, and of none, to fight intolerance everywhere be it in the form a rabidly anti-religious atheist, a Muslim fundamentalist, the EDL or the Pope.

The saviour of our secular society will be our secular population!

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Friday, 20 May 2011

Chris Bryant's Fighting The Wrong Fight Again

Chris Bryant returned to one if his favourite topics (last picked up by me here); religious readings and music in civil marriages.

His support for heterosexual liberty would be endearing if it wasn't for his past acceptance of the separate but equal civil partnerships:

I do not want same-sex relationships to ape marriage in any sense—several people have used the offensive phrase—because they are different. Although the two share similar elements, they do not have to be identical, so the legal provisions should be distinct. Source

He seems to be offering conflicting messages, on the one part pointing out civil partnerships are not the same as marriage (and also now belatedly, and once he was out of a position to be influential in the matter, calling for marriage equality) but on the other suggesting civil partnerships give additional rights to LGBT folk which is unfair on heterosexuals and this needs to be changed. Indeed, I agree. It's just sad Chris Bryant has taken this long to realise.

Perhaps he doesn't know, it's always possible, but the Government is about to begin a consultation on opening up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples and marriage to same sex couples. Perhaps he might add his suggestions to this consultation. Perhaps he might fight for some legislation to amend the pertinent marriage acts to allow same sex couples to marry at which point he would have a perfect opportunity to also amend marriage law to allow religious texts and readings.

Two birds. One stone. Sadly I think Bryant, as I said in this post, isn't really interested in marriage equality and just gives lip service to it. His obsession with, again, creating a "separate peace" on this issue (i.e. solving just a small facet of the problems of our currently discriminatory partnership rights system, which he helped create and as quoted above approved of), rather than a complete overhaul to create equality for heterosexuals and LGBT people, is indicative of his lack of vision or leadership.

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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Closet: The Glory And The Hypocrisy

The Closet, and the inseparable Coming Out experience, is a near-universal commonality between LGB people throughout the world. This powerful shared experience is paradoxically unique to each individual. At once it marks us a person and as a member of a group. This makes reactions to negative discussion of individuals and their own "Closets" often rather illogical and emotional.

I've nothing against the Closet in general. No one chooses to be "in the Closet". It is where people are forced to be. And I've always said you are never more than one question away from a Coming Out moment (in my case "Do you have a girlfriend?"). When I criticise closeted people in the public eye, it's not because I am critical of anyone who is hiding their sexuality for any reason but because their situation is rare and full of symbolism worthy of discussion. I hate having to state this, but I need to because I know from past experience even thinking of suggesting we don't allow Coming Out to erase the political sins and missteps of people's pasts is akin to ripping up some commentator's most beloved teddy. I understand how traumatic it can be, but that doesn't mean we should go lightly on those who have things to answer for.

Take Nigel Evans MP for example. He came out in December 2010. When I dared suggest we berate him for his past transgressions (i.e. support for Clause 28), which now seemed that much worse in the light of his personal circumstances, I was told I couldn't imagine how hard it must of been for him. My heart still bleeds. I never did receive a response from him when I asked exactly how he thought, based on his comments, Clause 28 would protect children and, especially, LGBT children. I suspect his silence is because that was a hastily created excuse to cover up for the real fact; he voted with the whip and had no scrupples about the problems it'd cause LGBT kids. This is the man we should have compassion for? Since then he had an interview with Rhona Cameron:

RC: It does stun me that you can be gay and be in the Conservative party. How did you feel as a young person knowing you were gay, being involved in a party that put into force draconian measures like section 28, and the legacy of that? The reason people like me were bullied at a young age, which affected me for the rest of my life, was because we grew up in a climate of persecution and oppression. Are you telling me that when you heard the beginnings of section 28, you didn't take a hit for that, you didn't feel something in your heart?

NE: No, because I was going through denial, and what I would describe as my Neanderthal phase. It was just stupid, I clearly wasn't thinking. I probably thought, wrongly, that this is what the public want and we should concede it [Evans backed section 28, and once voted against lowering the age of consent]. Of course, I was completely wrong. I said it when I came out, I showed absolutely no leadership, whereas David Cameron has. When you say you can't work out how there are so many gays in the Tory party – David is hugely instrumental in that, because of his approach to gay issues and equality.

Oh, he was in denial! Forgiven. I think not. I have a great deal of respect for those who have deeply held beliefs that oppose my own. I have a deep respect for those who are persuaded by force of argument to change their beliefs.  But to simply say "Oh well I was in denial and it was what the people seemed to want" to explain a political decision is, as I said in my original post on Nigel Evans, spineless.

Then we have David Laws. Unlike Nigel Evans, Laws didn't come out; he was dragged out. Also unlike Nigel Evans, Laws has an exemplary Parliamentary record on LGBT rights. So at least he wasn't a hypocrite whilst in the closet. I think Laws dealt with his situation with dignity considering what happened last year, and I don't really have a problem with him personally. But again, his supporters dragged out the "glory" of the Closet to attempt to excuse his actions with regards to his expenses. And this is where we get to the crux of my problem with some people and the Closet. Their coming out experience is used, sometimes by them or as in this case by their supporters, as a shield to stop criticism and derail debate. Coming out is not something to be glorified, people who come out aren't heroes. Coming out is something we should be ashamed has to still happen in our country. Coming out should be viewed as a necessary evil. We need to stop treating those who come out with kid gloves. All gay, bisexual and lesbian people have to do it, constantly. Sympathise by all means, but don't suggest some millionaire coming out is somehow as damaging as some working class kid in a secondary school. It's insulting. Well at least Laws admits, like Evans, his errors.

Did his obsessive wish for secrecy send a poor signal to gay young people? “Yes I regret that. I don’t think that as an MP and somebody who was education spokesman for the party that I set a very good example in that regard,” he says.

It's 2011. You can come out now. You should have come out 10 years ago. You're not safe now but some of us who came out decades ago can tell you, it's a bloody lot safer than it used to be.

Also it's really time people stopped using their sexuality as an excuse for their other transgressions (looks at Chris Bryant and his expenses issues in 2009 for example). It's insulting to every decent LGBT person out there.

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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

IDAHO: Lib Dems In Government = LGBT Rights Win

Lynne Featherstone talks about what the Coalition has done and plans to do in an effort to push forward the evil gay agenda. (We're coming for your children next...)

And ILGA-Europe published a "Rainbow Map" which gave the UK top marks on LGBT rights (when compared with others, no European country got full marks) moving up from joint 6th place last year. The fight for freedom continues... but we're closing in...

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Friday, 13 May 2011

This Is Likely To Be The Least Popular Post I've Ever Written; Republished

Republished as Blogger lost it during their recent issues...

Sure, that title is rather presumptuous given the hatred poured out on me after that time a post of mine was quoted in the Guardian insulting Simon Hughes. That was not a fun time. But I suspect, among my fellow Lib Dems, this post will be met with hostility, defensiveness and censure.

Let me get the "Don't hate me too much" stuff out of the way first.

I do not hate David Laws. I do not, in fact, have strong feelings in either direction regarding him. Despite my reading of his 1997 election leaflet here in Folkestone and Hythe being one of my earliest political memories, he's just not been on my political radar.

And I do not think he intentionally robbed the public purse for financial gain. I do not think he is in the same league as those who flipped their homes or used their expenses for frivolous things. I am firmly of the belief most of them have got off scot-free and I find this disturbing and upsetting.

And I applaud David Laws for accepting what he did was wrong

I accept the conclusions of the Inquiry and take full responsibility for the mistakes which I have made. I apologise to my constituents and to Parliament. Each of us should be our own sternest critic, and I recognise that my attempts to keep my personal life private were in conflict with my duty as an MP to ensure that my claims were in every sense above reproach. I should have resolved this dilemma in the public interest and not in the interests of my privacy.

However, from the moment these matters became public, I have made clear that my motivation was to protect my privacy, rather than to benefit from the system of parliamentary expenses, and I am pleased that the Commissioner has upheld that view.

I have also, from the very beginning, made clear that I believed that my secrecy about my private life led me to make lower overall claims than would otherwise be the case, and this has been confirmed by the Parliamentary Commissioner and by the Committee. The taxpayer gained, rather than lost out, from my desire for secrecy, though I fully accept that this is not an adequate reason for breaking the rules.

This last year has been a difficult one, and I am grateful to family, friends, constituents and colleagues for their support and understanding.


I am deeply disturbed by the defence many, not Laws himself I hasten to add, are making for Laws' behaviour and against his punishment. The defence stinks of special pleading and is very unbecoming.

1) attempting to hide your sexuality is not a get-out of jail free card. I'm sorry, I know I can be heartless about closeted men in power, but it's not acceptable to think that one can bend the rules to hide some personal secret. I don't care if it'd upset his family to find out the truth about him. That's their failing. There are rules that need to be followed and using his sexuality to suggest they shouldn't have been followed is an insult both to him and to gay men in general. He made a bad decision, he has accepted he made a bad decision. Move on, and stop trying to drag his sexuality into it.

2) just because others were not punished doesn't mean you shouldn't be. Some are aghast that David Laws is being punished whilst worse offenders got away with it. I too am aghast; aghast they got away with it. We should be campaigning to get them properly punished not for leniency on David Laws to ensure some sort of bizarre fairness.

I understand the urge to defend someone who, according to all reports I've heard, is a lovely, charming man. I'm sure he is a good person, I've no reason to believe otherwise. But he made a mistake, and he is, with great dignity I must say, making up for it. This is the situation as it stands, please STOP bemoaning this fact as if it's a travesty of justice.

Every time someone, through a great love for David Laws personally, stands up and declares how awful and wrong the decision to suspend him is, they serve only to remind the public of the "private club" nature of politics and of the selective defence for someone based on your personal feelings rather than what is right and what is wrong. If you remember during the expenses scandal many Labour blogs were full of this sort of stuff "But they are such a lovely person, I'm sure they only flipped their home because....". We aren't interested in excuses. A person in such a position must be beyond reproach OR prepared to take the consequences.

I hope David Laws returns to front bench politics, I believe he'd be an asset to our Government and our country. But I also hope he and others learn from his mistake.

Don't hate me too much...

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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

No Apologies: LGBT rights and UK Politics Rantathon

I often wonder if the LGBT community isn't it's own worst enemy. We allow all sorts of morons to speak on our behalf on a national level, who really don't hold our interests at heart. Stonewall is, of course, one such example but I think they've pulled their head in a little sheepishly after last years stupidity and are keeping a lower profile politically. Sadly some individuals and organisations are still working against the community at large's interests in pursuit of their own rather narrow agendas.

Step forward Iain Dale. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I try to have as little to do with this man as possible, to the point of reminding people to, please God, not retweet his stuff into my timeline. I'm sure he's a nice enough fellow but I've not seen any evidence of that and thus have been perfectly happy to ignore his writings and tweets. But after it appeared in my timeline a few times yesterday I gave in and read an interview So So Gay did with him.

How, then, is the Coalition performing – particularly on gay rights? Before the election, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats made a number of pledges to gay people about, for example, considering marriage equality and deleting criminal records for homosexual ‘offences’. A question about marriage equality draws a quick response. ‘To me, a civil partnership is a marriage in all but name. If the Government wants to call it marriage, fine – but I can’t understand why people get so hung up about it.’

Yes. That old chestnut. He even called me out on it on Twitter asking me what the differences were, and suggesting it was all "semantics". Yes, Mr Dale, it's only semantics when you have your marriage dissolved because you change your gender. Doesn't affect anyone really does it? What an appalling thing to say. I thought I'd let that pass without further comment (beyond sending him a link to the relevant post on this blog), he's of little interest or importance in the grand scheme of things after all.. and then So So Gay printed a little Coalition debate piece today.

Tom Burke, chair of LGBT Labour said:

We are also calling for marriage equality for same sex couples. Civil partnerships were a significant step forward in the legal rights of lesbian and gay people. The time has come to build on this and to give same sex couples the right to get married on a comparable basis as heterosexual couples. It would also ensure that married trans people can transition to their new gender without having to divorce. The government has kicked the issues into the long grass, whereas we think it’s time for action.

A couple of points there:

1) the article is written to suggest marriage equality is Labour policy, it's not. It's just LGBTLabour's only very recently (last year) adopted policy!

2) "The time has come" totally gets my back up. It suggests there is no right to equality. It's all about getting what we can, when we can, at the discretion of others. It's what I was hearing from Labour for 5 years "Now isn't the time to be fighting for marriage equality". How fucking insulting is that? I don't often swear but I think the situation calls for it.

3) "The government has kicked the issues into the long grass, whereas we think it’s time for action." - This issue wasn't even on the Government agenda, LGBT Labour's agenda or anyone else's agenda in the House of Commons this time last year. It was only through the HARD WORK of activists on the ground during the Labour leadership elections and other opportunities, and through wide publicity given by Pink News to the Stonewall troubles and other marriage equality stories that we have even got them to give us a consultation. They aren't kicking it into the long grass and, in fact, equality supporters IN the Government are desperately pulling the issue out of the long grass (too slowly for my liking I admit) from where it had been despatched by New Labour in 2004.

And then it gets worse:

The only reason why gay rights would take a back seat in this Tory-led government is if Cameron and Clegg allowed it to; it would be their choice to let equality slip. Traditionally the Liberal Democrats have been very supportive of LGBT rights, but I know from former Lib Dem members who have joined the Labour party how disillusioned they are with Nick Clegg and with the fact that the Lib Dems in Parliament are supporting Tory policies, and working with people like Theresa May who voted against gay adoption in 2008 and opposed the repeal of Section 28.
This is total utter bollocks. An attempt to link the Coalition's troubles with trust (over tuition fees etc.) to the Coalition's record on LGBT rights is a disgustingly partisan attack. There is no excuse. Can you see now why I despise Labour's constant harping on about being the LGBT community's best friend so much? They use us, for political point scoring and nothing more.

The Coalition have, with issues on each move I agree, stopped deporting gay asylum seekers, partially lifted the gay blood ban, begun a consultation on marriage equality and removed the convictions of men for "sexual crimes" that are no longer crimes. Each one of those has not been done perfectly. But then again Labour's record was exactly the same so attempting to point score is pointless. We must continue to press for perfection.  For a new blood donation policy that is about sexual health rather than sexuality. For more oversight on what is happening to LGBT asylum seekers, for a faster move towards marriage equality and for a total deletion of spent criminal convictions for things that are no longer illegal. But let's not pretend the Coalition hasn't already done a lot for LGBT people in a very short amount of time. I remain hopeful that with the sensible support of some in Labour this can continue.

It's time the LGBT community started truly speaking up rather then letting these partisan, divisive and out of touch politicians speak for them. I cry out for the day we get a decent LGBT rights organisation working for our rights. And even more for the day it's no longer needed.

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Sunday, 8 May 2011

One Day

If you know where this is from let me know... credit where credit's due. 

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

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Where Do We Go From Here?

I doubt it needs to be said but... being a liberal, Folkestonian, unionist electoral reformer has not been a very pleasant or comfortable experience these last two days. But now the feelings of sadness, depression and disgust have calmed to a mere numbness, it's time to see where we go from here. (Note I may not actually suggest where we go from here and may just get distracted by ranting....)


What I'd hoped wouldn't happen has happened. The Liberal Democrats have been wiped off the council , and the only opposition to the triumphant Tory administration are two People First councillors (to 44 Tories). I won't doubt the commitment of those two councillors to represent their constituents well but that majority gives the Tories the ability to ignore campaigns against projects they support.  Residents are now the people responsible for scrutinising the workings of Shepway district council.

We must not shy away from those responsibilities. From the small (such as my other halves quick call to the council to get some illegal "No Parking" cones removed from our streets yesterday) to the big (Fisherman's Wharf ring a bell? Public meeting attendance a must). We must hold them to account.

The Shepway Liberal Democrats are reeling right now, and many will sympathise with our own dear Sam's words on Newsnight last night I'm sure, but we must take heart that there was no "Labour breakthrough". We can, and must, come back fighting. I know the former councillors have a truly deep love for Shepway and whatever happens to the party, they won't just stop caring.


It was awful. There's no sugar coating our performance at the local English elections, the Scottish Parliament elections and at the Welsh Assembly. It was dire. I believe a "collapse" or a "disaster" might be overplaying it somewhat, we still got 17% of the vote at the local elections and got 1056 councillors elected. It was, however, a wake up call. The Tories didn't get punished for the Coalition because they didn't do anything that their supporters wouldn't expect of them! It's not because they've used Lib Dems as human shields. It's not because the Coalition policies are generally popular.

We as Lib Dems suffered such a dismal fallout because we haven't listened to voters, OUR voters, since the 2010 election. You don't get to air a video like this:

And then expect your supporters to swallow a love-in with the Tories, a reversal on tuition fees and etc. etc. I know, it's tough to say this, but things have got to change.

I'm not advocating a sulky withdrawal from the Coalition. I'm advocating what I've been advocating since last year... grown up politics! We must call a spade a spade, and be brutally honest with our coalition partners. It might already be too late. Nick Clegg may not be the man for the job (but I do hope he is!). Tough decisions lie ahead.

When the media try their "OMG coalition split" stupidity we must call them out on it, not pretend the divisions are minor and gloss over them. The divisions are real, and it's time we said so. We are DIVIDED and working together. It's not a contradiction. Next time the Tories ask us to vote for something our supporters do not want don't say "Sure okay we'll vote for it but cross our fingers whilst we do". We do not vote for it. We get bigger concessions. We fight for every drop of Tory blood. Excuses like "it's in the national interest" "we didn't win the election so we can't do everything we want" and the old "look at all the other pretty things we got" lines DO NOT WORK ON THE PUBLIC. They are not stupid. They feel betrayed. And quite honestly following an election ad like the one above, can you blame them?? In lots of cases our supporters did not switch sides, they just didn't bother turning up. Disaffected and miserable. We need to speak to them, apologise for getting carried away and sort ourselves out. Now. I truly wish our ministers would stop spinning and start listening.

But... we must stay strong as a party. We do not agree with each other on our future direction. We need to listen to each other and learn. We need to really work together and fight to recover our lost support (and more!) if we have any hope of securing a more liberal future for this country. We cannot split and I urge all members to stay and fight for the party they want. I've faltered these last few months, but I'm no longer going anywhere.

We have a duty to keep up the struggle, to protect our country from the excesses of the conservative and illiberal forces that too often get their hands on the reins of power. We must not let the Tories target minorities in this country like they have done in the past. We must not let Labour take away our rights "for our own good". We have to survive as a party to ensure someone is able to scream for justice and fight for freedom.

We must not continue on blind to the message the public have clearly sent to us. But we MUST continue on.

Electoral reform

Heart. Broken. I don't think that quite covers it but the AV loss, expected though it was, was a bitter blow. The gloating from the No to AV side didn't help and the spinning from the Yes to AV side almost made me violent.

Clegg-hate was obviously a factor, but I think it is naive to blame everything on our leader. We need to learn from this referendum and really study what lay behind the No vote. Was it just to punish us? Or was it that the system wasn't liked? Or worse... do the British just not want electoral reform? These are the questions that lay before us. The answers will tell us what we do next, but they may not be what we want to hear. The public has spoken, and it's time to try and listen (although with any referendum it's next to impossible to really hear what's being said). I've been listening to colleagues who truly believe the system was just too complicated. That might confound election geeks and students of politics but I think this actually goes a long way to explaining the no vote. I think we may have lost the argument on my beloved STV already. Additional Members might be our best bet. :(

In the meantime, we must focus on achievable goals. House of Lords reform. That's what we need to get, and we need to do it properly.

The State Of The Union

Whilst I was lying battered and bruised on the floor following the election results somebody came up and stabbed me through the heart. The SNP's stunning victory in Scotland (managing to achieve a majority in a PR-lite system is no mean feat) puts the existence of our Union into question. A real question. That people will vote on. Seeing the stupidity on both sides of the AV debate (from the campaigns themselves I mean), and the downright misrepresentations they perpetuated I have grave concerns about the conduct of a referendum on such an emotive subject as Scottish independence. Whilst the polls don't suggest Scottish people back such a singularly final move, I worry greatly for what might happen if the debate is not kept above board (by both sides!).

I believe in democracy. I must support the concept of a referendum on the subject. But, with a bearded dragon as my witness (the house is empty right now and I don't believe in sky fairies), I will fight to try to keep this union together. I will not let the country of my birth, the country I love, disappear easily.

Our islands ,and their many varied people, must not be split apart based solely on where you happen to live. Instead we must fight the forces of nationalism by addressing the remaining, genuine grievances of all in a new federal structure. Devolution was a typical British compromise. We must move beyond it to something more stable (please oh bearded dragon let it be federalism not independence).

Other views;

Crawling from the Wreckage
What went wrong
How to implement full Lords reform, now that the referendum is lost. 
When Nick and the LibDems balloon was well and truly burst

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Friday, 6 May 2011

My First Election

Seeing your name on a ballot paper is an experience in itself. Of course this wasn't a real election "fight" as it were. The need for me to be there for my other half due to his ongoing health problems meant I wasn't able to even help out in the competitive wards let alone big up the vote in Harvey Central. So the results were of little surprise.. But there are obviously 233 astute, and probably tweeting, residents of Harvey Central!


Hugh Anthony Barker - Conservative - 539 (elected)
David Stephen Johnson - Conservative - 481 (elected)
Nicola Ann Keen - Labour - 388
Edward Louis Le Fanu - Labour - 328
Jason Kay - Liberal Democrat - 233
Kay Ann McLoughlin - Independent - 220

Considering Kay McLoughlin's rather nice leaflets, and near celebrity status, the residual Lib Dem vote seems to have kept up remarkably well during the wipe out that occurred at Shepway District Council.

The count was an interesting and enlightening experience (if you have never been to one and get the chance grab it) and I learnt a lot about the election process just from observing how the count progressed and the occasional "Hmm... should we count this one?" question.

It was sad and upsetting to see so many good councillors, and candidates, who had worked far harder than I could even bear, both in the normal run of things and in campaigning for re-election, fall to the Tories. My worst fears, a Tory administration without any real opposition, has been realised. But that's the democratic will of the people (even if the turnout was so low... 28% in Harvey Central, disgusting really) and the only way to win is to win the trust of the residents of Shepway once more. The Lib Dems, Labour and the other parties who stood failed to do that (whatever the reason, be it local or national).

Onwards and upwards I say, it's now down to residents to hold the Tories to account. Do not let them railroad through developments without scrutiny!

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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Gay Rights And Leicester South Dirty Tricks

With all the arguing over AV and the rubbing of hands by Labour over the local elections one might be forgiven for having forgotten the by-election occurring in Leicester South. Sadly the news emanating from there today is disturbing at best.

It would seem someone has decided to use the Lib Dems very good record on LGBT rights against them among the more conservative (small-c) voters of Leicester South. That it can be regarded as a smear to promote the Lib Dems record on LGBT rights is probably the most disturbing part.

Lib Dem Voice and Political Scrapbook have some reactions. The leaflet is below...

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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Why I'm Voting Lib Dem On Thursday

Because the Lib Dem I'm voting for is me of course! But I'll pretend I'm not going to be putting a cross by my name on a ballot paper for a moment.

I left Folkestone in 2005 for five years of city living up in London. When I returned things had certainly changed: the high street was decimated, there were plans afoot to revitalise the harbour area with lots of posh houses and a marina but very little of much use to local people, and there was no genuine sense of purpose anywhere. That's the difference a few years of Tory misrule in Shepway makes.

Contrary to what many naysayers might think, I believe there is a future for Folkestone. Some of the work of the Creative Foundation and independent businesses has been remarkable in bringing a very real sense of improvement in some quarters. But the issue is there seems to be no ultimate vision or purpose, no real leadership pointing us towards a better quality of life.

We need jobs not expensive houses. We need development that's done with the approval of local people, not against it. . The HS1 isn't just a way to make Folkestone a dormitory town for rich people, but a way to encourage London businesses to move to Folkestone to take advantage of our cheap rents and give jobs to our residents. Should we really be turning existing, and possibly useful, infrastructure like the harbour railway into a "green path"?

Folkestone need not just be good, it could be great!

The problem is this; the Tories are conservatives. I know that seems blindingly obvious but they like things the way they are. It's their nature. They don't really care about leading Folkestone, they are quite happy to sit back and let it be. It's time to tell them that's simply not good enough.

I'm not going to pretend there won't be a Tory administration after Thursday. But what there can be is a strong, united opposition in the form of the Liberal Democrats. No other party has the number of candidates or experience necessary. If we have a strong opposition we may be able to force the Tories into taking Folkestone's future seriously.

We've seen what the Tories did in Hythe and in Shepway with their overwealming majorities... they forced through the Fisherman's Wharf development against the will of local residents. Do not allow them to laugh all the way to the bank as they do the same again and again over a divided and tiny opposition. The next few years are going to be FULL of developments and we need to make sure only the ones that benefit the people of Folkestone get through.

A vote for a Lib Dem in Shepway is not a vote for the Coalition. It's not a vote for cuts. It's a vote for a strong alternative to Tory misrule. It's a vote for a strong voice for the residents of Folkestone. And it's vote for Folkestone's future.

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

Monday, 2 May 2011

A Ban On Same-Sex Kissing Pre-Watershed? I Doubt It.

A Daily Mail story came out way below my radar yesterday (no surprise as I avoid that newspaper as much as I can). Titled "'Indecent' lesbian kiss scenes face watershed crackdown", it poses the worrying possibility that an independent report, initiated by the Government, might recommend a same-sex affection ban on pre-watershed television.

A review launched with the backing of David Cameron is expected to recommend that sexually suggestive scenes currently allowed before the 9pm watershed – such as the famous lesbian embrace on soap opera Brookside – should not be shown until later in the evening. A ban on explicit advertisements on high street billboards is also being considered.

It came to my attention today thanks to this reaction from Coronation Street star Brooke Vincent

"I swear David Cameron's meant to be supporting equal rights. I just think if same-sex kisses are what he is prioritising and concentrating on changing, our country's in trouble." - Brooke Vincent

It's all part of a much larger review and David Cameron's support of it is inferred only from his original backing to the principles of the review not, so far, on any comment on it's suspected content.

I have major doubts that David Cameron would countenance a ban on same-sex affection, pre-watershed. It is, I believe a misunderstanding of the reporters. David Cameron surely couldn't be that politically stupid. However... I'm very much concerned about political interference in the content of television programmes in the first place and will be watching with interest the proposals and the Government's reaction to them.

And if it so happens David Cameron does support a ban on same-sex affection on television then it'll be time to hit the streets... and based on the reactions I've seen in many different forums I would be by no means alone.

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

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Lib Dem Gordon Macdonald's Not Very Convincing On Marriage Equality

It is a great shame to have the below article brought to my attention (yes I know it's a week late in getting it to you but life intervenes!). A Lib Dem candidate, standing on a manifesto that includes introducing marriage equality, suggests he'll vote according to his conscience. A conscience that seems dead-set against such a liberal move. The original story is here.

Now for a LibDem candidate who is being taken to task for sticking to his beliefs. The problem is that his beliefs seem to run counter to official party policy. Paul Brownsey of Bearsden asks Gordon Macdonald, the LibDem candidate in his constituency: “If you are elected to the Scottish Parliament, will you support full marriage equality for gays and lesbians in accordance with your party’s official policy or will you oppose it in accordance with the policies of Christian Action Research and Education for whom you work as parliamentary officer?”

Macdonald made this submission to Holyrood in 2000: “CARE for Scotland considers that sex is properly enjoyed within the context of a marriage relationship between a man and a woman… We consider that homosexual practice does not equate with heterosexual intercourse. We commend and support homosexual people who are living celibate lives in order to obey and honour God.”

That seems like a no to full marriage equality for gays and lesbians.

In answer to the current question, Macdonald replied: “I’m campaigning to represent Strathkelvin and Bearsden in the Scottish Parliament for the LibDems, not my current employer! I think this is a matter of conscience and would say so if the issue came up for a vote in the Scottish Parliament.” 
If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist