Friday, 11 April 2014

Sue Townsend RIP

Here are some of the Obituaries from the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Echo today.

TOWNSEND, Sue 10th April 2014. Dearly loved literary mother of Adrian Albert Mole chef, antiquarian book dealer and author of Offally Good formerly of Ashby-de-la-Zouch but now resident in London. Departed too soon, just over a week, after my forty seventh birthday. I don't know what I, my darling wife Daisy or my sons Glenn Bott-Mole, William Mole and daughter Gracie Pauline Mole will do without you.

TOWNSEND, Sue 10th April 2014. Deeply missed by Dr Pandora L.E. Braithwaite M.P. for Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Thank you for introducing me to the love of my life Prof. Jack Cavendish, not so sure about Nigel Hetherington, Adrian Mole and Julian Twyselton-Fife not that as New Labourite I have anything against gay men, but two of them, where was my perception. До тех пор, замечательный рассказчик

TOWNSEND, Sue 10th April 2010. Sadly missed inspiration of your fellow author Baz Kent. The way you constructed words helped to inspire my masterpiece Dork's Diary which although there are accusations of similarities to other members of Neil Armstrong Comprehensive are purely coincidental.

TOWNSEND, Sue 10th April 2010. Missed by Pauline Hilda Mole. Thank you for helping me through the breaks up of my marriages to George Mole. Also the tough times with my second husband Martin Muffet and the sad passing of my husband Ivan Braithwaite. You will be sorely missed by me, my husband again George and Animal. Although you did seem to know about my son that I did which is highly uncomfortable.

TOWNEND, Sue 10th April 2010. Sadly departed literary mother of Rosie Germaine Mole. Although you seemed more infatuated with my brother you gave me a sense of how women can stand up to the misogyny we see around us in the world dominated by men, including my birth father. Now that you are gone I might have regretted aborting Aaron and mine's baby but as he wasn't ready for me I wasn't ready for it.

TOWNSEND, Sue 10th April 2010. Not since I lost my best mate Robert Staniforth on active service in Iraq have I missed someone as much as you, Sue. With deep regret and much love Glenn Bott-Mole.

Here is the real one from The Independent.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Equal Marriage for Northern Ireland: Take 3

Mark the 29th April 2014 in your diaries.

Yesterday Sinn Féin lodged yet another motion with the Northern Irish Assembly that will be debated one month on from the date that the first same-sex marriages took place in England and Wales. The motion is rather more robust that the one that tried to bring to the house after the Irish Constitutional Convention decided that they would hold a referendum on the matter in the Republic of Ireland. It reads:

That this Assembly notes that other jurisdictions on these islands have moved forward with equal marriage rights for same-sex couples; believes that all couples, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, should have the same legal entitlement to marry and to the protections, rights, obligations and benefits afforded by the legal institution of marriage; supports freedom of religion by allowing religious institutions to define, observe and practise marriage according to their beliefs, granting them the freedom whether or not to conduct same-sex marriages; calls on the Minister of Finance and Personnel to introduce legislation to guarantee that couples of any sex or gender identity receive equal benefit; and further calls on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to ensure that all legislation adheres to the Executive’s commitments to protect equality for all. 

This motion allows the freedom of religion that everyone will no doubt go on about, allow freedom of the individual and bring about parity that was lacking from the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act. of course it leaves us a month to try and lobby unionist politicians that have thus far voted overwhelmingly against any legal advances for the LGBT community.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

What is Sainsbury's policy on modesty for magazines?

Apparently the picture on the right from last month's Attitude is too racy for customers of Sainsbury's customers to view as they browse their magazine stands.

Bear this in mind next time you walk in past a poster advertising Tu's swimwear collection as you walk through the door, or maybe a biography of Tom Daley being advertised right at the entrance (like the last one was). In both those occasions in recent years Sainsbury's has a bare chested man on display prominently as you entered the store not tucked away in the magazine racks. In the case of Tom Daley of course at the time he had yet to come out as being in a same-sex relationship, unlike Robbie Rogers pictured here, but he was wearing even skimpier swimwear than the footballer is wearing in this picture.

In fact there is nothing in this picture that anybody wouldn't expect to see at the beach, swimming pool or even in the park (maybe on the street) when the summer finally arrives here in the UK. Men in shorts and topless, often sunburnt, is a sure sign that the sun has actually made an appearance across this country.

The reason I am bringing this up is that I stumbled across this post from a female Twitter user in Manchester. You know the gay capital of Northern England. She took the following picture:

Yeah just to the left where you see the stop of Robbie's eyes and quiff you will see Carmen Electra on the cover of FHM magazine. She is not wearing swimwear, that is lingerie that she is wearing, and that is a push up bra accentuating her bosom. Is there double standards at play here?

What Carmen Electra is wearing is not something that women would typically be seen wearing as outerwear. Yet somehow this particular store did not find it necessary to protect her modesty.

Sainsbury's did replay to the original poster with a reply spanning two tweets:

Hi, we use modesty covers for a range of publications – including Loaded, Zoo, Nuts, Bizarre, Front & Attitude. We do regularly review the titles covered and we’ll look into this. Thanks

Do Sainsbury's also cover up Men's Health or other sports magazinessee update below should they display a topless man? You know I reckon they don't.

This month's Attidude comes in its own modesty pouch, it is one of their naked issues, so the choice of five cover stars1 are all nude. But even then the cover is somewhat self censoring and the cover is to prevent people scanning through the issue looking for the actual nude pictures more than anything else. This is a policy that both Attitude and GT follow wherever they have one of their raunchier cover shoots, they self censor, yet somehow these gay lifestyle publications with their self censoring policy get further censored by supermarkets.

Indeed my local Asda appears to have stopped stocking these two publications, I do wonder if this is down to over zealous DUP (maybe even defected to UKIP) councillors over the proximity of this store to a number of schools, as well as the train station. The net effect is that about £10 of business a month from my wallet leaves the town centre and is most often2 spent in Belfast instead, so well done for those who got these titles removed from Bangor's Asda and giving my trade to another part of Northern Ireland altogether.

Update: There is an update to this particular stores position. There is now a hastily made modesty cover over FHM. But as this angle shows Men's Fitness which has a far more bulked up topless male model on the front cover this month was not while Robbie Rogers was. It does therefore appear that there is one rule for the straights and that Sainsbury's haven't got a clue of how offensive they are being in this. For a start Attitude should not have been covered up for the cover at the top, but the fact that Men's Fitness that give a far more unrealistic male body image every month through its topless cover models remains uncovered is ridiculous considering the action this particular store has been taking.

1Yes I did choose the one with a Strictly Come Dancing winner especially for Caron Lindsay. 2On other occasions I do make the short walk to my local Sainsbury's from home, where these titles are not covered!

Bisexuality and a lesson for the Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland

Speaking in The Newsletter today the public policy officer of the Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland (EANI) David Smyth said:
"While Saturday was a day of celebration for some, it was a concerning day for many. 

"Christian opposition to same-sex marriage was never just about protecting churches. It's always been about the wellbeing and welfare of family and communities for generations to come.

"The whole idea of "equal" marriage comes from a premise that many outrightly reject, that marriage is an inequality to be corrected.

"This change in marriage law was argued on the grounds of equality and love.

"What about 'equal marriage' for the bisexual person who is 'banned' from being able to marry both their male and female partners?"

First a definitions for Mr Smyth:

bisexual (baɪˈsɛksjʊəl) adj
1. sexually attracted by both men and women from
Note this is merely the attraction to both sexes. Under no definition of bisexuality will you find that that attraction is to two people of opposite genders simultaneously or concurrently. Bi-sexual people have the same propensity to monogamous relationships as any other individual, indeed 89% of those in a ten year study in 19971 found that to be the case. Considering the number of unfaithful straight people who are cheating on their wives and partners this is probably about the norm, but something that the EANI would probably want to sweep under the carpet.

Another fact about the new marriages that came into law in England and Wales at the weekend is that there is still the point in the ceremony where anybody present knows of any lawful impediment why they cannot be married. This includes an non-dissolved marriage or civil partnership to another individual (even the one that is standing opposite them). So the current law does not allow for anybody to be married to two partners of different genders, they would be subject to the same bigamy laws that apply to heterosexual couples.

What Mr Smith appears to be worried about is polyamorous relationships. Definition time:

polyamory (pä-lē-ˈa-mə-rē) noun

the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time  from

You will notice here there is no reference to sexual orientation of the couples involved. However, there are plenty of examples of such relationships in the bible all of which are one man with two or more wives and/or concubines.

However, the one thing that does strike me from this statement is actually the line which says, "it's always been about the wellbeing and welfare of family and communities for generations to come."

Now I certainly have the support of my family, whether as the gay son, brother, cousin or uncle. However, my well being is often under threat from those in the church who condemn me or them for giving that support to me. The same applies to the other LGBT people I know who have grown up and exist in or on the periphery of church life.

Now by outrightly rejecting the idea of marriage equality as the EANI are they also condemning those in the church who are LGBT to a lifetime of singleness without love, or into a marriage with someone they are not attracted to (damaging to two people long term and their family). In doing this are they also condemning love that those individuals may find how can this be good for the wellbeing and welfare of those in families that they claim they want to help.

I have been to a number of funerals in churches in recent years where one of the children of the family and their same-sex partner have been present. Some of these churches are members of the EANI, they are there to offer support to the whole family even the gay child and their partner (whether in a civil partnership or not). This is looking after those LGBT church members and those on the fringe support for their well being and welfare, yet somehow the church wants to continue to fail them day to day on the matter of love.

However, single people in the church after they reach a certain age are always getting asked by the church who and when they are going to marry. There is pressure from well meaning church members to pair up to both spinsters and bachelors at least while they are still in their 30s and 40s to pair up. Yet when you are gay and get asked are you not married yet, the fact that the true reason is because you're not allowed to be married here, is liable to draw a mixture of reactions.

I say mixture as unlike what Mr Smyth ascertains there is not outright condemnation of marriage equality. There are people within the churches even here in Northern Ireland who feel for those LGBT people that they know in person and their inability to be treated equally in this regard.

So while it may be a concerning day for some when equal marriage was brought in throughout England and Wales:
  1. It is not condemned outrightly by all in Northern Irish churches
  2. Polygamous marriage is a separate issue and not solely a subject for bisexuality so should not be used as an argument against for monogamous same-sex marriages.
  3. If you are really concerned about families and their members wellbeing and welfare support equal love and let them marry the person they love, not condemn them to hatred and denial of support.

1Spalding, L. R., & Peplau, L. A. (1997). The unfaithful lover: heterosexuals’ perceptions of bisexuals and their relationships. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 611-625.

Friday, 28 March 2014

All people are equal, but some are about to be more equal than others

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
In a few short hours same-sex couples will start to get married in England and Wales. They could honeymoon in Scotland as a married couple, but should they want to visit the Giant's Causeway, the Titanic Quarter or the Marble Arch caves here in Northern Ireland they will only be civil partnered.

"What??" I hear you say.

Yes one of the lesser known parts of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act is that those wonderfully new same-sex marriages that everyone is celebrating getting closer to reality will not been seen as marriages in part of the UK.

Of course many people know that Northern Ireland is not for the time being following swiftly on the heels of England and Wales, as Scotland is, by introducing equal marriage. But did you know that is a place that fights over whether the Union Flag is to be flown or not. Where the First Minister is a staunch defender of the Queen, her flag and all things British that not all UK marriages from 29 March 2014 onwards are going to be recognised in the most staunchly loyal part of Her Majesty's Kingdom.

If a same-sex couple from Northern Ireland get married in England or Wales tomorrow (or any time after that), or if a same-sex couple from England, Wales or Scotland relocate here their marriage will only be a civil partnership.

So while you are celebrating all the new marriages that are possible from midnight please don;t forget that we are far from equal here in Northern Ireland and a lot of work still needs to be done.

Monday, 24 March 2014

In the press again #equalmarriage

On St. Patrick's Day the following letter appears in both the Belfast Telegraph and Newsletter under the headers: "Gay 'marriage' plans: the bill will be millions" and "Gay 'marriage' causing fiasco over legislation."

The British Government now realises that same-sex 'marriage' will require a massive rewrite of legislation dating back to 1285.

Over 2,000 laws referring to marriage have to be changed at a cost of many millions of pounds and all to support a whim of David Cameron, who is determined to push ‘gay marriage’ through despite the majority of the population objecting to it, including many gay people.

The Government plans to take the word 'husband' and 'wife' out of legislation and replace them with 'partner' or 'spouse'.

he proposed change for the word 'widow' is the phrase 'woman whose deceased partner was a man'.
Other legislative changes are to be made to prevent a man becoming queen in the event of a king 'marrying' a man, to stop a man from becoming the Princess of Wales, should the Prince of Wales enter into a same-sex ‘marriage’ and to ensure the 'husband' of a male peer is not referred to as lady, duchess or countess.
This ill-thought-out fiasco is to be funded by the taxpayer.

The Republic of Ireland, and other countries, need to be on their guard to stop their governments foisting similar misguided legislation on them.

Dr Owen Gallagher
Co Antrim

The first thing I noticed was the highly accurate estimate of many millions of pounds. Now  as an economics graduate and the former employee of a Member of Parliament this was like waving a red rag to a bull. Especially as this was coming at the time that Ben Summerskill was back in my attention with his cost of legislation quote from the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats fringe event in 2010. Where had this figure been plucked from?

Therefore the first place I went to check was the Government's own impact report, something that is carried out by civil servant statisticians (oh yeah I was in a Government department stats branch too in my working life) for every piece of new legislation. So yeah there is a current estimate of cost of implication of between £3.3m and £4.7m. However, as a economist you do not merely factor in the cost but also the benefit. Further down on the same page comes the estimate of benefits between £0.1m and £15.7m.

These figures are over the first 10 years of the legislation and there is notes that the costs of the legislation are not expected to continue past the initial 10 year period but of course that the benefits to the economy will. Indeed the cost of only £4.7m is actually quite small in the grand scheme of things, during the week, after I'd pressed send, we learnt that the new pound coin was going to cost hundreds of millions to implement.

So it was that I took to my keyboard nad had my responses in The Newsletter on Saturday and the Belfast Telegraph today. The unedited text appeared in the former and I include that below, but I was glad that The Newsletter gave me the heading "Economic benefit of equal marriage outweigh the cost" and the Belfast Telegraph "Marriage law costs warning 'a scare' tactic".

Here is the text of the published letter:

I note that Dr Owen Gallagher takes the highly accurate figure of “many millions of pounds” in his letter (March 17) as a reason for Government to think carefully before introducing equal marriage.

However, all new legislation will incur a cost. That is why statisticians work out the impact that legislation will have.

I can only assume that Dr Gallagher is drawing his figure from the Government’s own Impact Assessment of the legislation from August last year which does indeed give a figure of between three and four million pounds as the cost.

However, this report also lists the economic benefit as well, which is put at between four to five times as much as the cost over the first ten years.

While the cost will be up front the benefits will continue beyond that 10-year period.

I would hazard a guess that by merely quoting the costs and not the benefits that Dr Gallagher’s doctorate is not in economics.

However, the costs of the introduction of this legislation are not great in the grand scheme of things.

To try and use this figure, which comes to about five pence a person, as a means to scare people is a cynical misinterpretation of the facts.

You can read more of my published letters down the years on the published letters tab.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Sky falling in on St Patrick's Day

Regular followers of me here or on my sporting blog will be aware of my love of cycling. But something that has happened as a result of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York has thrown me a moral curve ball.

Guinness decided at the eleventh hour yesterday to pull their sponsorship of the parade in New York. This was after they requested that the organisers allow LGBT Irish Groups to march in the parade. Before others say they are allowed to parade, or that other groups don't march behind a banner, this is not the case. Groups do march behind the banner indicating who there are. Many of Ireland's LGBT people did emigrate some to the UK others to America when those places were less LGBT friendly than they are today. Like all such immigrants to the states they are as staunchly proud of their Irish roots as anyone else.

Guinness as part of their decision said:

"Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year's parade.

"As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation. We will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that future parades have an inclusionary policy."

This is good and a brave decision especially as there was a 1.4% drop in share price of Diageo (the  parent company). However, it is the reaction of one media tycoon that leads to my dilemma.

Rupert Murdoch has said on twitter:

Where will this end? Guinness pulls out of religious parade bullied by gay orgs who try to take it over. Hope all Irish boycott the stuff 

It is a pity that Murdoch appears to be boycotting the 21st Century, I think we should boycott all of his stuff. This is easy as Eurosport cover cycling. But there is one issue. The title sponsors of both the GB Cycling Team (pictured) and the British UCI World Tour team is Sky which of course if out of the Murdoch stable. Most of the top British cyclist race for them, they are coming to Belfast in May for the Giro d'Italia and Yorkshire in July for the Tour de France.

After comments like this from Murdoch I'm going to find it very hard to support my favourites with a clear conscious.