Friday, 4 December 2015

Goldsmiths University's LGBT+ SU Group Oppose... Erm... A Human Rights Campaigner #exmuslimbecause

Maryam Namazie is a well-known campaigner for human rights, who is best known for opposing Islamist attacks on Muslims and ex-Muslims alike. She can be quite forthright and, as a member of a Communist party, is hardly uncontroversial. However she doesn't threaten people and is always extremely clear that her problem is with radical Islamists not Muslims and she is clear that Muslims are usually the first and main victims of Islamism.

So when she came to speak to the atheist and humanist student group at Goldsmiths University it was to be expected that the group representing Muslim students would take some offence at her presence. They are hardly without blemish in regard of "controversial" speakers. They, after all, hosted Andreas Tzortzis earlier this year who has compared homosexuality with cannibalism.

Her talk did go ahead, despite the feminist society coming out in support of their Muslim colleagues, and she faced some rather childish protests. Take a look about 12 minutes in to this video (though I do recommend watching it all!)

Despite this fairly clear silliness, today the LGBT group at the university came out in support of... the people who tried their darnedest to silence Maryam Namazie and her message against radical Islam. See their Facebook message here. They appear to have finally stopped deleting comments and I think the fact that some comments are approaching 200 likes and their original statement remains on just 12 likes show how popular their decision has been.

I really cannot begin to describe how disappointing, if unsurprising, I find this. Namazie is standing in opposition to groups who are persecuting and murdering Muslims, ex-Muslims, other religious people, women and LGBT people. As the Islamic State throw gay men to their deaths from tall buildings, Maryam Namazie is trying to educate people on the dangers of their ideology.

And the LGBT group of a university didn't choose to support her, nor to remain silent over this but instead chose to support a group of disruptive young men who used intimidation to try and get their way.

Thankfully Namazie wasn't phased, I get the impression she is used to this, and finished her speech. Sadly without the support of those she fights to protect and, in fact, she finds those most at risk from Islamist violence actively opposing her message.

Truly disappointing stuff.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Going Full Right Wing Nut-Job

I've always been an individualist. No matter what political question I've considered, my response has always been heavily influenced by my belief that individual rights and freedoms are very important. I'm no purist, I'm willing to concede they aren't the be all and end all, hence why I've always preferred the term liberaltarian rather than libertarian.

My beliefs that people do need a "safety net" and that being nice is a virtue caused me to side with the centre-left generally despite my support for free enterprise. I value social freedom over economic freedom (even if it has been hard to separate the two!). The centre-left, I thought, were the people most willing to help fight social conservatives, prudes and authoritarians.

Oh how naive I was. I know my posts over the last few years have shown my increasing disaffection with "progressive" thought, but the last few months have really been a watershed period for me. I can no longer pretend I share common ground with more than a handful of people on the centre-left. How can I when we have people from the left opposing sex workers rights, fighting to ban porn, creating division where there need not be any and generally undermining personal choice.

I left the Lib Dems a couple of months ago. I now find myself politically homeless. I can't even see myself voting Lib Dem again. I would describe myself proudly as a cultural libertarian. I have concerns about my fellow travellers (I'm not a big fan of coarse language or cruel insults) but I accept their "flaws" because... I'm not an authoritarian! I don't want to live in some dehumanised clinical world where every thought is policed. I don't want to live in a world where the sanctimonious thrive and bland corporate statements fill social media. You can't experience joy without sadness, you can't see the beauty in humanity without seeing the flaws. Or as Eric Idle says

"Life's a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true."

I'm tired of listening to debates where the majority value feelings over facts. So I'm coming out... I'm an ex-progressive and I don't give a damn who knows!

Saturday, 31 October 2015

At Last People Are Waking Up To The Tactics Of The New Puritans

It is a shame anything involving Germaine Greer and her vile comments about transgender people seems to have helped bring some sanity back to the world of political commentary. As we have seen there has been a new puritan spirit rising across the nation as politicians try to ban/filter porn, suppress sex workers freedoms and ban some magazines. And it isn't just in those sort of initiatives one can see it... there's a creeping sense of conformity drifting back across various aspects of our lives. Just look at the adulation given to same-sex married couples and their kids on the gay news outlets for an example of this (having children isn't exactly pioneering, my other half has 4).

Anyway. After some students sought to ban Germaine Greer from giving a talk at a university because, well let's be frank, she's a really horrible person there finally seems to be a few more voices rising up to defend free speech (even if its hers). Ironically many of these voices are ones who didn't stand up against porn blocks or other infringements of our freedoms, but hey the number of Labourites standing up for marriage equality prior to 2010 could be counted on one hand. These things change gradually. Referring to the neo-progressives as a cult is pretty much on the nose except I don't really like the word cult. One person's cult, is another person's religion. Certainly neo-progressives, with their love of woo and hatred of the atheist movement, share much with the religious.

Howard Jacobson has also got the measure of the latest type of prude.

Our country is in a censorious mood. The more educated we are, the less we are prepared to tolerate views contrary to our own. Shake any institution of higher learning and a dozen boycotters will fall out of it. If the academic community gets its way, we will soon all be speaking with a single voice.
Others are also getting a sense of just how far things have already gone. In universities the students are cleansing their courses of anything that might offend.

Using tactics like trying to get someone fired to silence them (then getting upset that their own businesses might get hurt in the blowback), we are seeing the real "morality" these puritans are preaching.

But more are starting to stand against the shaming.

Nick Cohen says it all here.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Escalating Criminalisation Of Youthful Sexuality

Last year I expressed concern that Stonewall's advise to teachers and parents would lead to kids being criminalised for expressing themselves sexually. That concern appears very well placed given the latest news that a 14 year old boy sending a sext to a girl (who then appears to have engaged in some revenge porning against him by sharing it around the school) has had his actions recorded as a crime with some serious consequences for his future.

Kids do stupid things. Kids do stupid sexual things. Kids really are dumb. And the job of adults is not to criminalise their minor indiscretions but to counsel and point them in a better direction.

Did I do stupid things as a teenage? TONS. Did I do stupid sexual things? Hell yes (and I don't regret one of them!). I came out the other side alright.

It is time adults stopped outsourcing their responsibility of care for children to the police and instead stood up and became the role models this kids deserve.

It is disgusting that our society is criminalising children who are just discovering their sexuality rather than giving them guidance.

Shame on the adults involved in this case.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Experience Of Watching Ray Comfort's Latest Movie "Audacity"

Like Tim Farron, Ray Comfort believes homosexuality is a sin (equal to stealing, adultery and "fornication"). His latest movie "Audacity" is dedicated to the subject of witnessing to homosexuals. It makes for some uncomfortable viewing.

Uncomfortable mainly because of Ray Comfort's excruciating "gotcha" footage where he wanders up to people in the street and leads them off down the garden path.

Just like watching this video of Richard Dawkins destroying an ill-prepared Brandon Flowers (I love Dawkins but seeing him up against Flowers is as uncomfortable as watching a lorry drive over a rabbit), Comfort bamboozles these unprepared people by playing with words.

For instance he gets them to say whether they think homosexuals are "born that way". If they agree he then asks if they think adulterers are "born that way". This is draw a comparison between betraying the trust of someone you love and loving someone of the same sex. Like deers in headlights they are taken aback by this "logic". Yet Comfort's belief that these two things are both equally sinful is based solely on scripture whereas adultery and homosexuality are facets of human existence that have extremely complicated genetic, social and psychological causes and explanations that require a lot more discussion than just a "gotcha" attempt at conversion.

And his question "Are you a good person?" seems to bring out the worse in people. Who on Earth just says "Yes" or "I think I am"? All of us know we are in some way flawed (and no I'm not suggesting we're all sinners but that we could all be better people), the only way I could ever answer that question is "I try every day to be better". He then uses their silly answer to tell them they are sinners and they need to repent. It is like watching a cat play with mice. Painful.

The movie itself, set around these visual asides, is full of cardboard characters who don't appear fully human. The angry gay. The good Christian boy. The questioning girl. The easily converted gay (okay there are actually a fair number of these). I'm really not sure this movie was aimed at actually converting anyone, it is all very much "soul food" for the converted. Maybe I'm just not the target audience but it just seems to rely too much on a belief that the Bible is true. I mean if you don't accept that, how on Earth does the rest of it make sense?


Monday, 24 August 2015

A Cultural Libertarian? I Guess I Am

After I got off my "EQUAL MARRIAGE NOW!!!" kick I got on to my "Ugh! New Purtians are the worst" kick. From the desperately rubbish lose the lad's mags campaign through to persecuting innocent young people off of university campuses, the new Puritans have been pushing further and further into our lives.

Breitbart (yes I know) has a wonderful article today about the "Rise of the Cultural Libertarians". I have to say that, despite it being a little too fawning in its praise of the movement, I found myself nodding at every "belief" it described.

Yes, many of the Cultural Libertarians doing the loudest shouting are obnoxious and, may I say, odious. But... they are also often pretty spot-on on many political issues. Somehow they manage the seemingly, if you spend any time on social media anyway, difficult task of opposing rape AND opposing false accusations.

I'm not a fan of labels and I guess I share little politically with many Cultural Libertarians. But hey it fits me better than a lot of other labels. And one I feel I can adopt with some sort of pride.

Monday, 3 August 2015

On #CecilTheLion, It Is Time To Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is

Gosh. The articles, blogs and tweets on the agonising death of Cecil the lion have been voluminous (and varied). From hate pieces against the barbarian(s) that caused his death (you might be starting to get a feel for how I feel about this), through the "Twitter mobs are evil" articles and the "You eat meat so don't be a hypocrite!" and out to pieces on the evil of white people and how the trophy hunting industry is a boon to needy Africans.

I'm not here to deal with any of that though. There are more than enough foul-mouthed folks out there after the blood of Walter Palmer (and other trophy hunters). There are more than enough people spot on about the evils of social media hate mobs and how helpful any financial input into some African economies can be.

No I'm here to talk directly to the people who stand on the principle that killing endangered (or at least at risk) animals for fun is morally different to killing for food or population control but don't like being too mean to others and want to do something positive instead.

We'll never stop trophy hunting (and poaching for other purposes such as supply the Chinese "medicinal" industry) if we don't think about how we can stop the reliance on this trade of the local people in the areas concerned and deal with their concerns and issues (like predation of livestock and damage and danger to life and property from the local megafauna). And that is why, if you really care about African megafauna, you need to put your money where your heart is... If you aren't already start donating to one of the many good conservation organisations working in Africa.

I've joined the Born Free Foundation today. Partly because I find their approach to be right and partly because I remember buying a few Born Free books as a kid as a jumble sale and falling in love with Elsa.

Yes we can all sit around waving our virtual pitchforks and call for the death of a total stranger. But if we can start funding organisations on the ground who can help change things for the better for the people and animals of Africa then we'll really make a difference (and honour the story of Cecil the lion).

Let's make Cecil the Elsa of this generation and push forward with making our world a little nicer for everyone and everything.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Homosexuality Is Not A Sin

If I was a gay/bi teenage liberal just coming to terms with my sexuality, reading some of the stuff posted by defenders of Tim Farron would probably be enough to send me scuttling back in to the closet.

So to them I want to be very, very clear: homosexuality is not a sin. It is a not a "condition", let alone one that requires other's compassion. It is not a "second-best" option. It is not inferior. The quality of love between two men (I can't speak for others but I'm sure it is also the same between two women) is not one iota less than that between a man and a woman.

I've seen Lib Dems suggest a Christian's distaste to homosexuality to be akin to most people's distaste for heroin users. I.e. "I believe in the right of someone to inject themselves with heroin but I think it is bad for them and I'd argue that they shouldn't". Well isn't that a beautiful message to send out to young gay and bi people? "You have the right to do what you do, but it's a sin!"

My love for my other half is NOT equivalent in anyway to the love a heroin user has for a needle. And I will not sit silently by whilst that sort of message is sent out to vulnerable young people.

Now Tim Farron hasn't said the above, thankfully, so I'm only directing about 10% of my anger at him for his failure to be clearer. I am disturbed though by those defending the concept of believing homosexuality is a sin.

Some have said "We're liberals, we should support people holding beliefs we find objectionable as long as they harm no one else". Totally agree. But I wouldn't want someone who thinks Africans are an inferior race leading a party I was a member of, regardless of the fact he supports their equality 100% in his public life.

A disturbing number of people, both heterosexual and other, seem to accept the idea that homosexuality "isn't ideal". They very much support our rights and freedoms. But in their heart of hearts they really do not accept us.

My message to LGBT young people is this... THERE IS NOTHING SINFUL ABOUT LOVING SOMEONE OF THE SAME GENDER. Nothing. Not one thing. Our love is not inferior to anybody else's . We must never forget that.

Further reading.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Bye Bye Lib Dems

11 years have come and gone so quickly. Yet those happy days supporting Peter Carroll for Folkestone and Hythe and getting excited about a visit from Charles Kennedy seem like a lifetime ago. 

My membership came up for renewal a couple of weeks back. I put off renewing until after payday for entirely practical reasons. I had been on a bit of a "Lib Dem high" of late with the Lib Dem fightback rhetoric and the prospect of a new leader. I even decided to defend my choice for leader, Tim Farron, from some attacks on his record on same-sex marriage.  

How quickly my mood can change. I must be very fickle. But in the wake of his interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4, I can no longer force myself to give Tim Farron the benefit of the doubt. I'd done that after serious concerns before and this... this is the straw that broke the camel's back.

If someone asked me "Do you think practicing Christianity is stupid?", I'd say no. So I'm not really sure I share others nuanced views of Farron's inability to answer a similar question about homosexuality and sin. I get the theological arguments. I get that "it's complicated" probably is a good answer for a short interview and expressing his views might take forever. But really, ultimately, it is a yes or no question. The fact he couldn't answer broke my liberal heart. How different things are under Farron than under Clegg... 

But far worse than his interview has been watching Lib Dems engage in theological and philosophical debates over homosexuality, stretching partisan apologia into the realms of Christian apologists. This just isn't the party I thought it was. I got it wrong, I'm sure the party is the same as ever. 

As some have said "Well you didn't mind Kennedy?". I didn't. But I thought the way Clegg dealt with religion and sexuality was a breath of fresh air. I've been spoilt and obviously ruined. 

I'd say one of my personal fundamental red lines is "homosexuality is not a sin". I cannot follow a man who believes otherwise or refuses to take a stand on that stance. Thus I won't be renewing my lapsed membership. I hope, for this country's sake, the Lib Dems prosper and flourish under Tim Farron's leadership. I see no other party even close to matching my political beliefs. But I won't be there to prosper along side you. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

If Pitcairn Island Can Do It, You Can Northern Ireland! #equalmarriage

Last month Pitcairn Island legalised same-sex marriage. One small little British outpost (of 56 people) in the Pacific Ocean managed to be more liberal in a shorter space of time than Northern Ireland which is part of western Europe.

Come on Northern Ireland (and the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey etc.). If the Seventh-day Adventist Pitcairn Islanders can do it, you can too!!!

Also they managed to do it in a gender-neutral, and vastly superior way, when compared with England and Wales' attempt.

Not that this is the first time the Pitcairn Islanders have been ahead of the curve...

Saturday, 13 June 2015

A Merger Of Labour and the Lib Dems Would Be Bad For British Democracy

There has been some talk of late of the need for the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats to merge. Such talk is not unexpected. We are in a period of great political uncertainty. Two unions (the United Kingdom itself and its union with the EU) are now at risk of falling apart. Both Labour and the Lib Dems have suffered significant defeats. Nationalists now form the main party in Scotland (SNP) and the third party in England (UKIP). Both Labour and the Lib Dems need to contemplate their next steps carefully.

So a discussion of a merger should not be taboo. I quite agree that all options should be open. But such a merger in order to "gain power" would come at the detriment of British democracy. All the major parties of the United Kingdom are unwieldy coalitions of quite different groups. The Lib Dems don't just break down into Social Democrats and Liberals. There are classical liberals, social liberals, social democrats and people further to the left. All find a home in the Lib Dems for entirely practical reasons... there is no other party that represents their interests better even if it is far from perfect. Whereas, for example, these groups would have 3 or 4 different parties in most northern European countries to choose from that more closely align to their beliefs, here in the United Kingdom our electoral systems mean we must make some uncomfortable compromises.

This is already detrimental to our democratic choices. We should be working to enable MORE choice politically not only to encourage more people to engage with politics but also to allow more diverse voices to be heard in our Parliament and better represent the real feelings of the British people.

Merging the Lib Dems with another coalition of divergent groups (i.e. the Labour party) might make everyone feel like their are being very grown-up and overcoming nasty partisan feelings and able to make those "uncomfortable decisions" that are "for the greater good". But what they will really be doing is denying people a choice of parties with a reasonable chance of affecting Government policy that best fit their beliefs.

I, as a liberal, would find it incredibly difficult to support a Lab-Lib Dem candidate who, perhaps, is of the Bennite tradition. I shouldn't need to put party unity ahead of agreeing with the candidate for my constituency. But that would be exactly what I'd be asked to do. This sort of merger does not decrease partisan feelings. It seeks to curtail diverse voices and replace diversity with conformity to a unified party of the "left". Surely putting such a mongrel of a party before your own personal beliefs would be the very definition of "partisan"?

Better we get a better electoral system which allows for a greater diversity of parties which, though none will ever represent us all, will allow people in this country to stop making uncomfortable compromises at every election and allow their true voices to be heard.

Then the parties will be the ones having to make those uncomfortable decisions and be grown-ups and work together in coalitions "for the greater good". That would be far superior and must be what we all work together to achieve.

There's nothing stopping the Labour and Lib Dem parties working together towards such electoral reform. Better that than an unhappy marriage of convenience for nothing more than power-hungry reasons.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

For The Love Of Europe

"Rather than constituting a model for an ever closer political union or a European state, federalism implies a process of balancing power in a differentiated political order which enables unity while guaranteeing diversity." - Andreas Gross 
Our Guardian reading, Tory-hating, left-leaning friends came to stay over the weekend. I was shocked to discover that they will be voting "No" to remaining in the European Union. I didn't enquire more (I am, after all, trying to get away from political debating especially on a nice sunny Kentish day over some beers). However I was left to ponder how I'd respond to a "No" voter if they asked me why I will be voting "Yes".

My earliest political memory is reading a Tory leaflet about "nationhood" (their term in 1997 for "unionism") and fundamentally agreeing. Ever since, as I moved quickly away from any agreement with the Tory party, unionism has remained a fundamental part of my political make-up. I believe that we are "better together". Humanity must work together if we are ever to change our disagreeable and violent natures. I apply that principle on our country, on our continent and on our planet. That is why I support our membership of the EU. Can things be done better in the EU? Yes. Will leaving the EU give us more opportunities to work with a large number of countries closely? That is very unlikely. 

At the same time I've adopted the federalist spirit of my chosen party, the Liberal Democrats. I believe that decisions should be made at the most appropriate level. Decisions about who collects my bins, what they collect and when should be made at the most local level possible. Decisions about defence should be made at the highest sensible level to reap the benefits of the largest resource base possible. I believe we should have a supranational body within which decisions at the highest levels can be made on matters of foreign policy, defence, international trade etc. I believe that the EU contains a large number of countries whose foreign policy interests and defence plans largely overlap. I think it is better we all work together on these issues on which we broadly agree than separately and risk misunderstandings and miss opportunities for collective defence against threats such as Putin's Russia. 

I also believe that if powers deserve to sit at different levels then most powers deserve to sit with the individual. I strongly support individual freedom. Thanks to European co-operation (though not necessarily the the EU) we have not just got the greatest freedom of association and movement since before the First World War but we also have the European Convention on Human Rights which gives European human rights some of the strongest protections to ever exist. We lucky EU citizens get to choose where we live, where we study and where we work. That is good for individual freedom, good for business and good for inter-cultural understanding. 

Working collectively with our European neighbours protects us from the dreadful calamities of the past. Europe is not yet at peace. But we are closer to that prospect now than we ever have been. The EU has helped support that process. It boggles my mind that within the lifetime of my grandparents there was a hostile military force just a few miles away from my home town. Bombs by the thousands fell on our villages, towns and cities. It is inconceivable now to imagine Germany or France threatening us. My ancestors would've been truly astonished at the peace we have managed to achieve. I don't believe that if we left the EU we'd suddenly find ourselves at risk of some military attack, of course not, but why should we not do everything we can to ensure communication, goodwill and peace continue unabated within our European community. I think the EU is an important part of helping with that. 

The EU has a great many problems; above all sits the need for greater democracy. Reform is absolutely needed (though I'm not sure the needed reform is of the "David Cameron's gets some opt-outs for the UK" variety). In order to reform it our country must throw itself into the fray and get its hands a bit dirtier. No more holding back and moaning from the sidelines. We have been a great European power for centuries. It is time we started acting like one and got on with the hard work of making things better. A "Yes" is constructive. A "No" is a leap into the darkness.

That's why I'll be voting Yes. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

LGBTQ* in UKIP banned from Pride... Hmm...

UKIP's LGBT grouping has been banned from marching in Pride. I was wondering who else we might ban? Catholic gay groups? Labour Brownites (he was after all against same-sex marriage until it became cool)? I wonder if we might ban anyone who ever held an opinion that "progressive" lefties dislike? We might get one or two floats and a smattering of feminist queers for Pride if we adopted that policy though...


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

We're On A Twitter Break

I joined Twitter 8 years ago! From a mere place to chat about crappy TV (Big Brother, of course...) it became a place where I could interact with far cleverer people than myself and learn a little more about the world. I used it to get my message on marriage equality out to a wider audience which was an excellent way to vent some pent up emotions (and logic... lots of logic).

But what a time drain it has become. I hesitate to use that overly used faux-medical term "addiction" but it is certainly a habit. This last weekend I was feeling "low" in a way I haven't for a long time. Most of that is simply work-related stress but it made me think "Who the Hell am I?" and "What do I want?". I want more time to learn, to read and to spend more time engaged with my other half (naughty!).

And Twitter is the easiest thing I can get rid of to see if it opens up some space in my life. I get up at 5am. Leave the house at 5.30am. Walk 40 minutes to a train station, take a 30 minute train to the town where I work. I leave work at 5pm-ish and tend to get back home by 6.30pm. My bed calls to me like a siren to sailors and thus I've only a few short precious hours of "liberty" during the week. Rather than spending time constantly reloading Twitter, trying to think of "witty" things to say (sadly I've still not quite managed to think one up, but I live in hope) and tilting at windmills, I could be reading one of the hundreds (that is not an over-estimation either) of books I need to read. I could get round to learning a language. I could be staring at Jim whilst he plays his PS4. I could be re-connecting with extremely neglected real-life friends. Basically, there's a lot I want to be doing and far too little time.

Plus... I've just finished reading Jon Ronson's "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" which paints an extremely concerning portrait of how social media could be making us little better than the sort of people who took glee in attending public executions. Is it healthy? Is there a better way?

That's what I want to explore... I'm not deleted my Twitter and I'm not even promising to stay away for long. I'm too fickle and weak to give anything up for long (though I've managed to be without a denim jacket for several years now much to the approval of my friends and family who tore the last one off me and threw it away...). But I am taking a break from Twitter. Experimenting with a life lived without the need to comment on every thing I see or do. I hope it turns out for the best!

Of course I decided this all last night but broke my break within 12 hours upon hearing of Charles Kennedy's extremely sad passing. But I'm straight back on the wagon... Baby steps.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Tim Farron And Same-Sex Marriage

If I had been an MP in the last Parliament (stop thanking deities I wasn't back there!) I'd have had many second thoughts about voting for the same-sex marriage bill. I went over my reasons for that repeatedly during the debates but they are summed up here.

I state that as a way of saying I'm open-minded (a rare state for me, as you well know Dear Constant Reader) about those who may have had similar concerns about a very flawed bill and even those who abstained (but I'm far less open-minded about those who voted against it as it was clearly a step in the right direction and not worthy of total rejection!). Cheerleaders who hold the same-sex marriage act up as some amazing piece of progressive legislation will not get much of a warm reception from me.

Tim Farron, in the midst of a Lib Dem leadership campaign, has come under fire from his opponent Norman Lamb on the issue of same-sex marriage. I've seen some less well-informed Tweeple (especially non-LDs) claiming Tim Farron was against same-sex marriage. That is absolutely not true.

Farron voted for the same-sex marriage bill in its early stages. He abstained from voting during it's Third Reading. He states this was because of his concerns over protections for some religious communities and conscientious objectors.

I've expressed a great deal of concern regarding Farron's actions regarding some issues around religion in the past. So I'm no Tim Farron fanboy (though, for full disclosure, I am currently planning to vote for him). But, to give him his due, he has been unfailingly consistent in framing his stances on very clear individual liberty grounds. Some of his positions have made me feel uncomfortable but, I admit, have often made me consider whether I'm holding a position from the point of view of consistency or because of some prejudice I may have. And whenever I've engaged with him he has been willing to listen, to respond politely and to appear to consider other points of view.

Farron has made it clear he regrets that his abstention may be taken as a lack of support for same-sex marriage in principle and that he very much supports it and will defend it should it come under attack from the new Tory Government. We can't really ask for more than that now can we?

Well he could champion some of my concerns with regards to the act, of course... ;)

Friday, 8 May 2015

Let's Stick Together And Get To Work

What a bitter, bitter night for the Liberal Democrats, for the Union and for our future as a member of the European Union. And though it is easy for us to blame 5 years of unrelenting misplaced mud-slinging from Labour and the left, I think it is important that those of us who believe in liberal values take stock of what has happened more carefully.

After the defeat of Labour at the 2010 election they immediately moved into questioning the legitimacy of coalitions and into navel-gazing as they fought the leadership contest that gave them Ed Miliband. They did not engage in a period of proper reflection on the causes of defeat and moved straight back into an oppositional “OH MY GOD LOOK AT THE EVIL TORIES AND FIB DEMS” mode which they hoped would easily see them through the next election.

This sort of brazen disregard for understanding why the electorate didn’t re-elect the Brown Government in 2010 has led the Labour party to an even greater defeat this time. We must learn from their mistakes, the main learning of which is… learn from our mistakes!!! Bitter recriminations or, worse, a warming up of the ongoing cold war between “social liberals” and “Orange bookers” will not be useful in terms of coming to terms with what has happened and why. We must stand together, determined but humble and ask "Why?"

And it is a little unseemly to engage in any sort of recriminations when so many amazing MPs and their teams have just lost their jobs. Lynne Featherstone, a wonderful MP by all accounts, who spearheaded same-sex marriage and made a real liberal mark on the Coalition. Charles Kennedy who is not only one of the nicest guys about but a fantastic MP and my first leader. Danny Alexander and David Laws were instrumental in making the Lib Dems work within the Coalition. All have fallen to the electorates will. We must respect that will but we can still feel a little sad.

And Nick Clegg. Oh Nick Clegg. A man whose mere mention divides the party in half and who is the subject of a great deal of derision from the general public. I didn't vote for Nick Clegg for leader. If you think that's my way of distancing myself from his actions, you'd be very wrong. He won me over. His intelligence, his personality and his ability to convince are certainly something to behold. Yes, his actions may ultimate be seen to be the cause of our downfall BUT you'll never convince me he didn't join the Coalition and throw himself into making it work for anything other than the most decent and respectable reasons. He tried. He succeeded in many things. And ultimately when the judgement of the public was made clear at the ballot box, he conceded. I shall always hold him in the highest regard and thank him for giving our party and our country stability in a trying time.

We should mourn the loss of some great MPs and one great leader. And then we should pragmatically and scientifically breakdown what went wrong and what we need to do to make things better.... Onwards, always.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Steadying Ourselves For The #GE2015 Results

Remember those minutes leading up to 10pm on 6 May 2010? The excitement for Liberal Democrats was palpable. As I took my seat in my then local pub to watch the results, I was so filled with naive optimism. Not too many days before, and only a mile away, I'd witnessed a massive Lib Dem rally and a #IAgreeWithNick flashmob in Trafalgar Square. How could we not make massive gains?

Of course, on the night, despite every poll except the exit poll... we lost seats. Sure we managed to get into Government for the first time (as Lib Dems) but it was deflating and depressing. Yes, I was very naive.

Now we are a couple of days away from the 2015 general election. And I'm struck by a mixture of high excitement, extreme trepidation and a general expectation that the results will ultimately confound all expectations and be utterly dull.

The excitement comes from the fact that there are a lot of angles. The rise of UKIP, the Green "surge" (a huge percentage increase in their vote means they will be struggling even to beat us but still...), the collapse of the Lib Dems, the mediocre performance of the Labservatives and, most thrilling of all, the SNP explosion. These things could make for some exciting moments... Scottish Lib Dem and Labour big fish being taken out by the SNP (see Douglas Alexander, Danny Alexander or Charles Kennedy), Nick Clegg's knife-edge election night, will George Galloway and Caroline Lucas keep their seats? We just have little idea of what awaits us, which makes it possibly the most exciting election since 1997.

The trepidation comes from what lies in store for the Lib Dems. I hope that we can save a fair number of seats, I think anything more than 20 would be marvellous. But we just don't know how it will go. It'll be very depressing to see the party behind the introduction of same-sex marriage lose so many good people (especially sad to see people like Lynne Featherstone be defeated for example). We can hope for a miracle but...

And the thing truly making me worried is the rise of the SNP. Nationalism should be a philosophy consigned to the waste basket of history. Alas. Now we sit at the point where the SNP may form part of a coalition government or offer some sort of deal to prop up a minority government. This is worrying for the future of our union and as a unionist I'm thus not best pleased.

And then we come to the ultimate truth of British elections... the result is likely to be boring. We'll get all excited, expecting some interesting things to happen and then Labour will probably just squeak through and won't we all look silly? An exit poll of depressing blandness awaits us on Thursday evening I'm sure of it, but we can keep our hopes up for something different until those last few minutes before 10pm...

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

If You Are Only Now Realising How Rubbish Stonewall Is, You've Not Been Paying Attention

There's been some minor Twitterstorming over a graphic Stonewall put up yesterday which they have since taken down.

It basically looked at Labour's LGBT manifesto and went through whether other parties agreed with Labour and ticked them if they did. Given Labour's LGBT manifesto is rather flawed (not fixing the issue of people having to apply to get unfair past convictions overturned and completely ignoring the many failings of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act) this is probably not the best approach. As always with Stonewall they never seek to actually question anything important. If it's not about celebrities or sports, they just don't give a damn and when it comes to education and kids... see below!

Well they've got rid of that graphic now after people felt it was a little biased (Stonewall? Biased? Who knew?) but what really struck me was yet again the number of people commenting on how they had been long-term supporters of Stonewall and this was just unacceptable. Where have those people been?

Where were they when:

- Stonewall opposed and hindered the efforts to get same-sex marriage legalised until they realised how unpopular this position was?

- Stonewall advised parents to grass on their LGBT kids to the police for expressing their burgeoning sexuality? (What a fabulous coming out experience!!)

- Stonewall opposed a boycott against a hotel owned by the head of state of a country with severe anti-LGBT laws because it might upset him (again only until they realised how unpopular this position was, fickle as ever)?

And that is just three of a LONG list of issues that have come up just during this Parliament!!! Yet these folks have continued to back Stonewall throughout.


Saturday, 10 January 2015

Brain Dump On Charlie Hebdo Massacre's Aftermath

In the wake of two recent tragedies (the cafe murders in Sydney and the series of murders in Paris) there has been an almost immediate, on social media almost overwealming, movement to stand with "ordinary Muslims" against possible retaliation from the public. See for instance the very worthy "I'll ride with you" trend that occurred during the siege in Sydney.

Whilst I think those behind these movements are just worthy but also right to say they stand with their Muslim neighbours and fellow citizens against any pointless and cruel "retaliation" against innocents, I do find it all a little distasteful. Disrespectful might be a better word. This may be a wrong feeling but it seems we no longer care much for the actual victims of these crimes but care more about sideways affected "might-be" victims. And in some bizarre way it all seems to suggest there is a link between these murders and innocent Muslim citizens who thus need our protection (when quite frankly no such link exists).

Where was the "I'll ride with you" for the police after the murders at Charlie Hebdo? Would've been useful as the next day a police officer was yet another murder victim.

It all creates a narrative that seems to play into the right-wings belief that minorities are perpetual victims. Yes we should stand against attacks (verbal or physical) on innocents of all colours, creeds and religions. But this social media obsession just borders on the depraved.

And there's been a picture going round (one I won't be sharing given its subject matter) of one of the murderers shooting a Muslim police officer dead near the scene of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It labels the murderer as "Terrorist" and the police officer as "Muslim" as if the highlight who the real victim is. But of course both were Muslim (as far as we know, although neither will ever have a chance to tell us what was truly in their hearts on the matters of religion at the moments of their death). This obsession with pretending that these murders had nothing to do with the beliefs of the murderers is only slightly less disgusting than the fact the police officer was labelled "Muslim" as if that summed up his entire existence. It seemed really quite unnecessarily disrespectful to the life of that individual who was murdered in the course of defending others.

Maybe I'm just a bit old-fashioned but when someone is murdered or injured I just think our thoughts should be with them and their families at the first instance.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2015: Can We Please Try To Have A Better Year This Time?

Last year was not only more of the same rubbish; it also contained more awfulness than usual.

Yes, the ongoing rise of the puritans continues. Just in the last week we get the example of the vile Katie Hopkins tweeting something vile yet instead of everyone doing the British thing and shaking their heads disapprovingly, we have the police investigating her! Feminists, conservatives and "progressives" have continued their march against the advances made by sensible folk by supporting things like the recent BBFC changes. Freedom isn't just under threat, it is now on its last legs. The Coalition has failed to live up to the Coalition agreement's very worthy words and has instead continued the legacy of Blair's New Labour in undermining basic rights "for your own good".

Meanwhile... UKIP's rise has seemingly plateaued but they continue to dominate the press. Their witterings against climate change, sexual freedom, freedom of movement and the EU leave much to be desired. 2014 was the year of UKIP. Can we make 2015 the year UKIP collapsed? Let's try that one on for size at least!!

And abroad... Russia, led by a Nigel Farage's favourite person Vladimir Putin, re-emerged on the European scene by invading Ukraine in two separate incidents and fomenting a civil war. Of course the right-wing (and Russia's fifth columnists UKIP) blame this on the EU whilst the left-wingers (see Oliver Stone for example) blame it on Western civilisation generally. Yes Russia is right to feel a little threatened by losing its last buffer states to Western influence. But that doesn't give her the right to militarily invade a sovereign country. The Ukrainians have the right to determine their own foreign policy, we shouldn't play Cold War "spheres of influence" politics with any more lives. The Ukrainian people must have the right to choose in peace what they wish.

And in further upsetting developments the "Islamic State" came into being, formed from some tattered and beaten parts of Iraq and Syria. Their brutal methods and uncompromising beliefs have made news headlines everywhere. Another worrying development we didn't need.

So let's hope that 2015 brings us a little more freedom, a little less violence and a lot less crazy conspiracy theorists among our population (because they are slowly driving me insane).