Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Time after Tim


This evening Tim Farron has announced that he will step aside as party leader at the time of the Parliamentary recess so that the Liberal Democrats 104,000 members at last count can have a say in the new leader.

In his resignation statement Tim says:

"From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I've tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

"At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again - asked about matters to do with my faith. I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.
...

"A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment."

I did come out in support for Tim's bid to become leader very soon after the last general election. Indeed I had written to him as soon as I got back to Northern Ireland after that horrible night two years ago to encourage him to stand.

It is a sad day for our society and our Liberal Democrat party if someone of faith does not consider he is able to lead the party and be true to both. Long before Tim stood as leader I did have discussions with him about his faith and the work on LGBT+ issues that I was working on.

As a fellow Christian but also a gay man I was convinced then, as I am now, that Tim Farron is no homophobe and in no way stands in the way of LGBT+ rights. Indeed at every step of the way he has backed every reform wholeheartedly. I was ashamed with the way the media and especially Cathy Newman would continue to drag up question they dared not ask the rectors daughter with a record of voting against LGBT+ advancement who resides at Number 10.

For the past 2 years I have been proud to be one of the Lib Dem cockroaches that Tim mentioned early in his leadership. One of those who would be hard to kill off as we started to fight back.

I am sad that he felt the need to step down and list his faith as one of the obstacles he saw in leading our party. I wish him well in the future and for the moment while I have my own idea who should be next I would encourage all members to think carefully about who can continue to lead the fight back our party still needs.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Nicola Sturgeon's Second Referendum

I may only have been in from work less than half an hour, but I already know that what I say is going to upset some of my good friends within the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Nicola Sturgeon is right to call for a second Scottish Referendum after the deal is known and before the UK pulls out. What follows is the reasons why?

Firstly the dynamic of what it means to be part of the UK has changed. Many of those, including myself, while part of the last No campaign said that one of the uncertainties for Scottish Independence was their future having to renegotiate with Europe. That is no longer part of the issue because Theresa May is taking the UK out of Europe while Scotland voted to remain.

That other lady of politics Theresa May today is talking about the tunnel vision of Nicola Sturgeon. But since the Brexit vote and her taking control has failed to acknowledge that the people of Scotland and indeed Northern Ireland whose interaction with Europe is different from a lot of England took a different view from the Brexit result.

Scotland is pro-Europe, but Theresa May is taking us away from Europe, yet somehow she talks of tunnel vision while all her talk of taking the UK out of every aspect of Europe and heading for a hard Brexit is just that.

I myself did say after the last Scottish referendum that Nicola Sturgeon should have stuck to her pledge that this was a once in a generation opportunity. I have however changed my mind, the seismic plates have shifted in UK politics. While I would have vote No last time, I personally would be voting yes next time (if the rumours of what Theresa May is heading for turn out to be true).

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Trump Horcrux unearthed by Northern Ireland election #AE17

Let's face it yesterday was a disaster for unionism in Northern Ireland politics. The Assembly shrank from 108 members to 80 but the Unionist members shrank in number from 56 to 40! Yes that is right 18 seats were taken away and the unionists lost 16 of them, 10 by the DUP the other 6 for the UUP.

Now last night time after time DUP representatives came on and talked about the media being the reason they were doing badly. Some even blamed it directly on the BBC while being interviewed by the BBC. Arlene Foster at her count was even hidden away in a room and refused to speak to the BBC all day. This is the so-called "leader" of Northern Ireland skulking away in a room and blaming it on one of the major television news channels. It's all sounding rather Trump-like.

The BBC were the local news that investigated the RHI scandal, they were also the same station that investigated Arlene's predecessor Peter Robinson over property speculation and his wife's affair. Yet through all of that Robinson still spoke to the BBC. The DUP were also claiming that people were still responding to their message, that it was transfer policies of other unionists that were costing unionism and that is was a nationalist surge that was doing them out of seats.

Let's look at some of those claims.

Was it what the media said. A lot of the time the BBC has reported exactly what Arlene and her team have said. They have been in debates not just for the election but in other mediums through the last 10 months. Of course there are also times they are invited unto The Nolan Show or The View or other shows and refuse to turn up to put their case. When they do turn up they talk about being progressive yet their policies by many are viewed as anything put. When they are challenged on this they become all defensive.

While they say that they lost seats because of what Mike Nesbitt said about transferring his vote to the SDLP is it not just possible that they did'y gain as many of that 10% higher turnout as the other parties because of what Arlene and her colleague more that what anyone else said? Maybe that 10% that came out to vote this time for parties that were prepared to break from the sectarian trenches. Maybe they wanted to stand up against Brexit. Maybe they wanted to stand up for equality. Maybe ther did want to send a message about the Renewable Heating Initiative or maybe it was a combination of all of these.

But yeah there are 40 Unionists, 39 Nationalists and 11 Others in the new Assembly. The DUP have lost their ability to lodge a Petition of Concern with just their own MLAs signing it.

But with all of the excuses and actions coming from the Donald Trump book How to Win Elections and Govern, maybe the DUP have been turned into a Donald Trump horcrux. There are only six more to find but I think the following is probably another of them. But the DUP horcrux has not been destroyed just yet, but it has taken damage.



Monday, 6 February 2017

Jim Shannon needs to learn the facts of LGBT life in Northern Ireland

All over the weekend the people of Derry/Londonderry have be scouring the banks of the Foyle searching for the body of Jack Glenn the Grandson of one of my dad's cousins. Today also marks the tenth anniversary of my father's death. About this time 31 years ago I very nearly did what Jack Glenn did and end my own life by jumping into freezing cold water. While the reasons 31 years on are different the depth of the individual's despair is something that resonates on.

Seeing the love extended to and the grief experienced by members of my expanding family makes me glad I didn't become another statistic in some data base to some. But a deeply regretted loss to those nearest and dearest to me then, and the new ones who have joined our family since.

Today in the House of Commons the MP for Strangford, Jim Shannon said:

"We must also allow teachers who are uncomfortable discussing and promoting British moral values that might undermine their own dearly held personal faith to withdraw from teaching those values, with no penalty and no fear of losing their job. We have many examples of that. 
"There is the example of Ashers in Northern Ireland. We have the case of the bed and breakfast owners and that of the Christian registrar. It is not enough for our Prime Minister to talk about freedom to live one’s faith; we must now have the support of the law to do that. Any legislation must protect the right of teachers to withdraw from promoting values that undermine their faith."

Sure Mr Shannon you want those who are Christian teachers to not tell children than being gay is OK. Well those 31 years ago I was a student at the largest secondary school in your constituency. I was coming to terms with being gay but did not know who I could talk to about it. You see the thing is like so many other LGBT+ teenagers in Northern Ireland through the years I came from a Christian family. I didn't know where to turn to and at the time I didn't know that there were other people struggling the same struggle as me.

If only someone had been able to tell me at that point that it was ok to be gay. I wouldn't have been suicidal, looking for a way out of a conflict that was going on inside me. Indeed you know what was worse. It wasn't that long before that time that the DUP were telling me they wanted to safe Ulster from Sodomy. Some of them even said that we should lock up people for being gay. I was still a virgin and feared for my freedom, my ability to find love.

So Jim Shannon is quite prepared to defend the jobs of Christian teachers, but isn't let those same teachers express Christ-like love that is needed to make people feel accepted and possibly not consider suicide as an option. Is there not a moral code about loving everyone, about trying to stop people from killing themselves, showing them love, understanding and even sitting and eating bread with them.

WWJD, doesn't stand for "what would Jim do?" it stands for what would Jesus do and I know it was him who turned me around from staring into that abyss where I contemplated taking my own live and then showed me that he still loved me. I believe that Jesus wants the Christians of Northern Ireland to get alongside the LGBT+ young people and show them love, not judgement. Show them compassion not condemnation.

Northern Ireland needs inclusive age appropriate sex education. We can't leave it to families who may be as anti-LGBT+ as the DUP are, as they make the entire church out to be. If we do many other will take their own life.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Identity - my choice, my right, my decision

Yesterday I posted a tweet in light of the Article 50 vote in the House of Commons.


As I live and was born in Northern Ireland I have the right under the Northern Ireland Act to identify as British, Irish or both. On legal form for the last 19 years (including the last 2 Census forms) I have identified as British and Irish, sometimes having to fill in other when the option was not open to me in the non-Northern Irish forms to choose that option.

Well last night the assistant editor of Conservative Home Henry Hill took exception to this.


As you see from my first response I took exception to this. But it soon escalated.

Mr Hill soon declared that I had disowned Britain, ironically he had claimed it was an over-the-top smear. Strange when all I had done what chosen how to identify as was my Westminster given right as a subject/citizen in Northern Ireland.

He then went on to claim that I was trying to break up the United Kingdom. Claiming I was anti-Lib Dem in not being pro-UK. I responded by referring him to part of the preamble to the Liberal Democratic constitution.

We therefore acknowledge their right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs and commit ourselves to the promotion of a democratic federal framework within which as much power as feasible is exercised by the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. We similarly commit ourselves to the promotion of a flourishing system of democratic local government in which decisions are taken and services delivered at the most local level which is viable.
But he insisted that I should ignore the fact that in the debate James Brokenshire the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has promised there would be no special status for Northern Ireland. Or that he and Theresa May have ignored evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that their fiction of a frictionless, custom free border with Republic of Ireland cannot exist as out side the EU and any part of it there are things like outside EU taxes and duty that have to be considered. Trust me the fall in the price of Sterling affected my monthly underwear delivery yesterday from Australia add £11.58 to a £17.60 order!!

The ones who are breaking up the UK are the ones who have ignored the reasons that many voted to Remain in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland many voted to remain in the UK only because of uncertainty over whether an independent Scotland would be able to benefit from EU membership, with that gone they may now vote for Independence, The majority in Northern Ireland probably along with London are two of the most entwined areas of the UK with the EU. They knew the complexities that faced them personally and those around them. They knew how enmeshed a lot of what happened in their areas is with the EU and to untangle it would be a never ending puzzle and certainly not something that can be done successfully within 2 years.

To be clear I've never wanted to see the UK break up. But I'm living in the reality of the situation. My UK passport has lapsed and I'm not minded to renew it at this point anyway as it will need to be renewed again after Brexit, so I am down to one passport my Irish one. This also allows be greater freedom to travel within Europe and in a few years time I'll be one getting the coffees in at the other side of customs while I wait for my fellow Brits to join me.

Of course Mr. Hill can spout his alternative facts about me. But those who have known me, know I'm proud of all aspects of my heritage and have done all I can to keep them all together. But yesterday as Jacob Rees-Mogg said it was a turning point in British history, sadly I don't see it in the glorious terms in which he wants to frame it.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Tam Dalyell 1932 - 2017

In the dedication of his autobiography The Importance of Being Awkward Tam Dalyell wrote:

"To the men and women of West Lothian – Labour, SNP, Conservative, Liberal, Communist – who, whatever their political opinions, were kind to me in all sorts of ways over 43 years as their representative in the House of Commons."

As one of those Liberals in West Lothian who in the latter years would have been included in that tribute I can know why the people of all political persuasions were kind to him. It was because he was always kind to them. In today's politics where pro-Independence and RemaIN Scots are at loggerheads and Brexiteers and Remainers similarly it says something that the MP for one area for 43 years was so universally respected.

That respect went well beyond just Tam and indeed before the recent rise of the SNP in the last decade and the call for independence it was still thus in West Lothian politics. Sometimes you would see three poster teams all at the same location and the ladders would stay put when the climbers moved between them. At counts and hustings there would be a camaraderie between all of those who were involved in politics of whatever hue.

Tam and I would have disagreed on a number of policy issues. But we both agreed on the importance of scientific evidence and factual evidence to base our policy on, even if the end results were different. It was something that I did write in a letter that I had in my pocket at my first Westminster count in 2005, the election that would for the first time in over 4 decades not see Tam Dalyell on the ballot. I wrote that while we disagreed on policy in a number of way I respected the way he had represented the people of West Lothian for all those years. I added that whoever filled his shoes would have a hard task, but if they put the people first as he had done they would earn the same respect that he himself had done.

His handwritten response (once I deciphered his scrawl) is still one of my greatest possessions. He wrote that he thought I had a bright future in politics, something that has been echoed by other Labour representatives in that area. But there are other comments in that that show why the people of West Lothian of all political hues respected him. He respected them, put them first and stood up for them whoever they may be, whoever they had voted for.

By all accounts he enjoyed his decade away from the daily hustle and bustle of Westminster of politics. The former Guardsman, hereditary Baronet with a famous ancestor of the same name, was first and foremost always just Tam to everyone whose life he impacted on.

Rest in Peace Tam.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Trump's Presidential Oath

News is coming from the head of Donald Trump's hacking de facto transition team that the Presidential Oath will be slightly different from those of past Presidents. Here is the exact wording:

Перед тем, как войти в исполнении его канцелярии, он должен принять следующую присягу или торжественное обещание: - "Я торжественно клянусь, что буду добросовестно исполнять должность президента Соединенных Штатов, и воли к лучшей из моей способности, сохранять, охранять и защищать Конституцию России

Melania will be holding this bible for the oath taking ceremony.