Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Maybe Gregory Campbell should look to the future

Sean McGlinchey
Double jobbing MP and MLA for East Londonderry Gregory Campbell had the call to object to the new Sinn Féin mayor of Limivady Sean McGlinchey by saying:

"It doesn't lend itself towards a party committed to looking to the future whenever Sinn Féin keep appointing people who are a very stark reminder of the past."

He goes on to say:

"If we saw some remorse, regret or apology for what they did in the past that would be a start but we haven't seen any of those things."

Now surely keeping raking up someone's past is just as much clinging to it as a stark reminder for those who are looking to a future. We have Jim sorry James Hugh* Allister using people previous connections in the Assembly Chamber yet he doesn't call the First Minister, incursionist into Clontibret.

Take it back 4 years and you see that McGlinchey actually spoke to the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in 2007 in favour of the policing of Northern Ireland by the PSNI.

Now McGlinchey did serve 18 years for his part in the 12 June 1973 bombing at Railway Road, Coleraine, which killed Francis and Dinah Campbell, Elizabeth Craigmile, Nan Davis, Robert Scott and Elizabeth Palmer. But surely ex-prisoners are allowed the same opportunities as others. Ex-terrorists are just that, ones who have given up bombing, some of them have taken up democratic means to pursue their goals. If they are to be denied the right to take up any elected office we are living in the past and not striving for the future just the same.

Gerry Kelly MLA last week speaking on the point of an ex-prisoner being appointed a special adviser to another ex-prisoner now Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín MLA said:

"Almost half our [Sinn Féin] Assembly team are former political prisoners.

"Many more ex-prisoners have played critical and positive roles in bringing the political process to where it is now and will continue to do so."

Forgive me it I'm naïve but during the troubles we were told if only the paramilitaries would put away their weapons we could start to talk with them. Now that those that have put away weapons are now achieving high office some of those same people refusing to talk to them.

Isn't that just living in the past on old rules, not looking to the future?

* Only proper names to be used, as per Mr Allister.

Titantic hits the water 100 years on

Exactly 100 years ago today the hull of the second Olympic class vessel to be built on Queen's Island in Belfast loomed large under its Arrol Gantries and over the former Lord Mayor of Belfast William Pirrie, Chairman of Harland and Wolff. He gave the order from the head of the slipway, "Release the triggers"and 62 seconds later the 882ft length of the RMS Titanic's hull, without her upper decks, funnels and engines on board had slid into the water of the River Lagan. Titanic was first afloat and apart from a few short weeks in dry dock in early 1912, she was to be afloat for less than a year when she sank on 15 April 1912.

Titanic hitting the water

 Cornishman and Cornish Telegraph report of the launch

I had the good fortune to be on the Titanic Walking Tour last Friday when the BBC's Mark Simpson joined us on the slipway to record some coverage to mark today's centenary, you may have seen it and me on the BBC earlier. Seen to the left interviewing our guide Rev. Chris Bennett. Yeah, it seems that even when I am having a fun day off with the family I can't help but run into a TV crew. Has it really been 3 weeks since I last appeared on screen, when this camera crew turned up.

Anyway if you are in Belfast or ever get a chance to visit Belfast I would highly recommend taking the walking tour. Try and do it before they redevelop the slip way pictured below when they will lay out the footprints of the Olympic and Titanic to give visitors an idea of the layout and scale, as well as unearthing more of the industrial archaeology of what was the Harland and Wolff car park for many years when we in Belfast were ashamed of the worlds largest yet most ill fated liner.

In fact I would also recommend a second visit after 2nd April 2012 when the new Titanic Museum is opened to the public. Here are some of the pictures I took of that new structure last Friday.

From inside the drawing office

The south corner

With the Odyssey and head of Titanic's slipway

Monday, 30 May 2011

Those we lost over the weekend

Three entertainers were lost over the weekend.

The first is Jeff Conaway who passed away at only 60. He is best known as Kenickie in the film version of Grease the T-Bird who was second only to Danny Zuko. Then he moved on to the TV series Taxi in which he played the struggling actor Bobby Wheeler, and appeared as Sergeant Zack Allen in Babylon 5.  He died from pneumonia with sepsis, which his  dependence on persciption drugs meant it was discovered too late how ill he was.

So here he is with John Travolta in Grease Lightning

Next up a change in pace and style was Chicago born Gil Scott-Heron a proponent of the spoken word, before rap really was the thing. His style is more poetic than rap. But still speaks of the stuff that affects Americans. Here is a the title track of his 2010 album, his first in 16 years I'm New Here.

Finally Felicity 'Flick' Colby one of the original Pan's People, who went on to choreograph the TOTP replacement dance troupe Legs & Co and then Zoo. In the days before music videos if a band couldn't appear on Top of the Pops  often their song may have been danced to by one of the dance troupes, quite often Flick was one of the choreographers. I love the fact that 70s costumes from prime time TV are considered too risque for a YouTube audience, as this clip will ask you to verify you are over 18.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Tattooing in Church

The Tattooed Priest from Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet
I was rather surprised this morning when the first words of the children's address were:

"Does any of you have a tattoo?"

I think I was almost as shocked as the Minister finding out that one little girl's hand went up in the affirmative response. Fortunately hers is a temporary version, probably picked up at some party yesterday.

The reason I posted it was that, as I've blogged before,Leviticus 19:28 says:

"Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord" New International Version

I said then that it was selective theology of the guy who had Leviticus 18:22 tattooed on his skin, i.e.

"You shall not lie with a male, as one does with a female. It is an abomination." New American Standard Bible

So how am I to react then? If the same man who asked if I were a homosexual before saying he could not recommend me for membership, then turns around and gives a children's talk mentioning tattoos. Even so far as implying that some in the church have them, and talking about David Beckham's in a positive not negative way. Is this not also selective theology?

Where was the condemnation or cautionary notes about tattoos at a talk aimed at ones so young? Nowhere! Just the repeating of what one youngster said that "Those tattoos were for grown ups."

When all I want to do is be open to the possibility that I may fall in love with someone why do I stand condemned in the tattoo parlour of church. I'm told to be celibate, or not be open and honest about my sexuality. Yet in the words of Paul:

"If they cannot control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It's better to marry than to burn with lust" 1 Corinthians 7:9 New Living Translation 2nd Edition
Is it double standards? Double standards that I know don't apply in all Christians or in all churches. Is it time to look for somewhere where I can feel accepted as who I am?

For clarity The point being made was about Isaiah 49:16, where it says. "See, I [The Lord] have written your names in the palms of my hands" New International Readers Version

...and not a flux capacitor in sight (apparently)

This week around Belfast those of us who are car freaks, or even just sci-fi fans are having a great time spotting a certain icon of Belfast past.

It seems to be a week that Belfast is actually getting to grips with some of the disasters from its past. But a certain gull-wing, stainless steel car is starting to appear everywhere we look. Not have so many been seen in one place in the city since they stood in the lot at the factory in Dunmurry. The event is Eurofest 2011 in which over 80 of the iconic DMC-12 cars are in town. We even spotted a couple of them taking the Dunmurry turn off of the M1 yesterday as we were heading to Dublin.

There have been convoys of the Delorean sports car through the city, a Delorean car autotest to test the driving skills of the owner (one wonders if getting out to fill the car at a petrol pump c. 1981 was included), drive on the original factory test track and other events to mark the 30th year of the first car rolling off the production line.

But they have also been doing the tourist trail hitting Carrickfergus Castle, the Titanic Quarter, Royal Court Hotel, Dunluce Castle, Giants Causeway, and Old Bushmills Distillery. They even turned up at the the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum were test car #514 and a wooden mock up reside.

Thankfully the PSNI have not been reporting any of the cars disappearing at speeds of 88mph on the provinces roads.  So either they were not equipped with a certain optional extra or they didn't have the nuclear fuel required to generate 1.21 gigawatts of energy that are required to operate one.

Anyway it has been a case of Deloreans, Deloreans everywhere and not a flux capacitor in sight here this weekend.

It seems only fitting the play a video of the only song to pay allusions to the cars starring role as the time machine in the Back to the Future film franchise. Well I don't know of any other song that uses flux capacitor in the lyrics.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Sorry I've not been blogging the last couple of days

I've been rather busy.

Yesterday with all the family we went on the Titanic Walking Tour this is a part of our history that Belfast is coming to terms with. We here now say "She [Titanic] was alright when she left here."

Indeed she first left from here, of which more will follow.

I then had some discussions with Michael, before heading out for a drink (or several) at the continental market, almost a year to the day since we first had a proper chat in the same venue, then across the road at the Appartment. I had to ensure I caught the last train home as this morning I was off to Dublin.

"Why?" you may ask. Because I was playing against Leinster Bowling Club in the Irish Cup.

So please forgive me for not being on top of the recent goings on in the world, but I have been rather busy and having a good couple of days.

Now I have to go and catch up with Doctor Who.

Friday, 27 May 2011

It's Friday...so two centenaries and someone turning fifty

There are a number of centenaries today.

The first is the man who said these words before adding his maniacal laugh

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom

And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller

Yes, Vincent Price was an unlikely rapper but that is just what he did on Michael Jackson's Thriller. But he had a film career of over 50 years making his name in the horror genre. Here is a tribute to his career, set to the song he had no small part in making memorable.

The man who lost to Richard Nixon in 1968 was Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, who was over his father's drug store in Wallace, South Dakota 100 years ago today. He is the only second generation Norwegian (on his mother's side) to have served as either PotUS or VeeP. Here is his acceptance speech for nomination to be Johnson's running mate in the 1964 election.

Finally, no she's not 100 years old, but Peri Gilpin the actress who played Roz Doyle in Frazier is half way there today. Many happy returns, so to celebrate here is a montage of Roz moments.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Comhghairdeas Ard-Mhéara Béal Feirste

The last time I saw the newly elected Lord Mayor of Belfast Niall Ó Donnghaile was at the verification process for the East Belfast votes on May 6th. I was in Newtownards for the Yes! campaign and it was a veritable who's who of local poliltics who stopped by to chat to me that day.

On of them was fellow Tweeter and Blogger Niall, he was one of a number of mini tweet ups that were happening that day. So many of  the political activists who tweet follow each other but in the heat of campaigning we rarely get to meet up apart from the stage managed events or at hustings. Of course on the day after the election we all are concerned but our own little piles of papers but there is very little you can do but stand around and observe once the verification process is out of the way.

As a pupil of Regent House in the town, less than 5 minutes from the Leisure Centre which was the count centre talking in a group with a someone about to be elected as a DUP Councillor and the next Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast, but that is what happened that day.

Therefore I want to say Comhghairdeas Niall. I hope that you year with the Mayoral chain of office is good for all of the people of Belfast/Béal Feirste.

Mladić suspect detained - last of Bosnia Serb trio may be ready to face justice

Mladić on the trio's wanted poster
We may have pulled out of Iraq and been left with Afghanistan but a previous war, that of Bosnia, is one that the Hague are still trying to try all the war criminals of. Along with the late Slobodan Milošević and the detained Radovan Karadžić the third of the trio of most wanted still at large was the Army Chief General Ratko Mladić.

Well this morning they may be a step closer to getting another of their men. A man who bears a resemblance to former Bosnian Serb Army Chief Gen. Mladić has been arrested in Serbia. DNA testing will be carried out to see if the man who shares some physical characteristics with the General is indeed he. Sebian President Boris Tadić is expected to make a statement shortly.

Mladić was indicted on 24 July 1995 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and various war crimes. The war crimes he committed included an alleged sniping campaign against civilians in Sarejevo. Further crimes were added to the indictment on 16 November 1995, again genocide, crimes against humanity and various war crimes including an attack on the UN declared safe area of Srebrenica.

Mladić is also believed to have been responsible for the kidnapping of UN Peacekeeping personnel. If the suspect he found to be Mladić, he will be extradicted to the Netherlands to face trial at the Hague.

Artful Thursday 1 - Constable

 Somewhat inspired by oneexwidow's virtual gallery on his blog I decided that I might start to do a weekly work of art on my blog. Although I did do a special in advance yesterday with Towel Day.

This morning's picture is one that I stumbled upon as a student while traipsing through the National Gallery. It was a room with many far more famous works of art by the same artist, but they well all somewhat familiar to me having been prints on somebody at home's wall. It was also  the furtive glance of the main object that drew me in. So much so that I wrote the poem that follows. A post card of this picture was on my wall for many years as I've never managed to find a print of it.

On Seeing Constable's 'The Cenotaph to Reynold's Memory, Coleorton'

My friend of fleeting foot where do you dream of
You pass into myglade for just one clock tick
And soon into the darkness you'll be off.
Oh, friend of mine don't leave me so quick.
Yet I know you want to dart off to your shelter
And security from the fast approaching storm.
Don't stare so, for I long to see your face for longer
Don't lets separate and go each to his own home.
But stay a while and give me a happiness
That only your appearance brings to this place.
Rest here a while within the wooded quietness
And stand there full of your majestic grace.

My friend you only add to the perfect memory
Already that's bestowed within this glorious shrine
And this perfect scene seeps into life so perfectly
I only wish the memory could have been mine.

© Stephen Glenn February 1989

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Bowling this evening: I know where my towel is #TowelDay

Tonight my team North Down are hosting Balmoral in the NIBA (Northern Ireland Bowling Association) Senior Cup. I love playing bowls as it is a sport where I can always know where my towel is.

Most of the time my towel resides in my left had (seeing as I need to bowl with my right). Occassionally if is placed on the ground when I am a back end player and have to get down to measure, you don't want grass stains on your white trousers. Sometimes I dangle it above the jack when it is hidden from view from the mat for my next team mate to see what s/he is aiming for.

However, if I am on the mat and about to deliver a bowl and my towel is not in my left hand (as pictured above) you'd better beware. This means I am not going for a nice draw or even a controlled weight. I'm going full out for a drive. My bowl will end up in the ditch, if it doesn't hit anything or anyone in the way. It is how I got the nickname Demon Drawer.

So if you know that my towel is on the ground behind me and I'm about to bowl you'd better watch your ankles, don't say you haven't been warned.

The art of the camera: do you know where your Towell is? #TowelDay

Larry Towell is a Canadian photographer, poet and oral historian. For Towel Day I'm going to show you a few of his pictures.

With all the wind we had earlier this week, this image encapsulating the wind of this group of girls holding unto their hats as there is a dust cloud swirling in the wind, shows how us humans do all we can to deal with weather. 

 A photographer is always looking for that interesting angle on a normal scene to make it just that little bit special, that little bit different. A group of people walking down a road is nothing that is iconic or unique. Until you add an element of reflection.

 Or lets take in the other way and look through a lens at something as simple as a dog, and you get one of Towell's iconic images.

Larry captured this image of the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. Even now it seems surreal that anyone would pick up a scrap of paper that had fluttered down from the falling Twin Towers to read it amongst all the horror that was going on, but Larry Captured that moment.

Of course the great publishing house of Megadodo Publications once sat on Ursa Minor Beta, that is until one of the Towers containing Galactic President Zaphod Bebblebrox was lifted and transported to Frogstar World B.

As Frogstar World B was later developed into Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, I think we should retire there and toast our absent friends,"So long, and thanks for all the fish."

Musical montage for Towel Day #TowelDay

Do a search for Towel in Spotify and you get quite a surprisingly large selection. However, for Towel Day here are some hoopy bands who really know where their towel is.

First up is Elevator Suite whose debut single could well have been written with Arthur Dent in mind Man in a Towel


The Future Dead certainly know where their towel is, it is in the kitchen. Which does seem to be an homage to Swedish band Loosegoats Towel

Going a little instrumental, well auditory certainly here is Heyoka The Way of the Blue Towel

Finally as I'm Irish here is a Celtic tune A Towel to Dry Your Face.

Pour yourself a Pan-Galatic Gargle Blaster and enjoy my tunes for Towel Day. Share and enjoy.


Finally, finally as Towel Day is to honour Douglas Adams, and his favourite band was Pink Floyd, who were rather remiss in never including the word towel in any of their song titles, don't really fit into this tribute...

...apart from the fact that Douglas once appeared on stage to play one of his many guitars (he had almost as many as Macs) with them. So here is that performance.

Space: Do you know where your trowel is?

Any fan of Time Team will know that a lot of actually archaeology* is down to the final trowel work. The geo-pys and all the other work is pure guess work it's not until you actually unearth something that you know what it really is, indeed on Time Team how often over the three day excavation does what is being looked at change in the eyes of the experts.

Well we now have taken archaeology to whole new heights. Infra-red images taken from space have revealed more than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements. Early excavations have shown that some of these finds are precisely what the archaeologists believe them to be.

So as this is Towel Day it seems appropriate that NASA is getting archaeologists all excited about knowing where their trowel is.

* Like the famous British Telecom advert from the 80s I too got one Ology (related to this story), though I did pass rather a lot of others unlike Anthony.

Do you know where your towel is? #TowelDay

On the 11th May 10 years ago the world lost Douglas Adams.

On this day ten years ago I gathered, with my towel, with many other Hitchhiker fans, and there towels.

We sassed that hoppy Douglas Adams. There was a frood who really knew where his towel was? And here he is to explain just why that is so important.

So join me in the immortal toast.

To absent friends. So long...and thanks for all the fish.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Why we need to elect the Lords - Bryant stumbles into a Labour induced reason

Earlier today it seems that Labour MP Chris Bryant's objection to a fair, egalitarian House of Lords, based on the result of the election result left him standing there in just his underpants. Oops, that's another thing altogether.

However, here is what he said in Questions to the Deputy Prime Minister:

The thing we find most bizarre about all this is that it is a priority for the Government at this time. The coalition agreement states that they will continue to appoint peers to the House of Lords

"with the objective of creating a second chamber that is reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election."

There are currently 792 unelected peers, after a year of the fastest level of appointment of new peers in the history of this country. To get to the objective set out in the agreement, the Deputy Prime Minister would have to appoint another 269. Are there another 97 Liberal Democrats to make peers in the House of Lords? Should there not be a moratorium? 

Now when the New Labour regime first got elected, with the most sizable majority of ANY Labour Government they promised to reform the Lords and get an elected element to it. In thirteen years, including a second term with the second highest majority of Labour members, the only elected element they managed to secure for the Lords was the remaining hereditary peers. 

What they did do was lead to the inflation of the size current second chamber, which of course was to bring it more into line with the votes of the people in the previous three general elections. The moratorium in appointed more peers would keep a disproportional number of Labour peers to their popularity in the last General Election.

Here is Nick Clegg's response:

Every time the hon. Gentleman asks a question, I find it more and more baffling why anyone should want to hack his phone and listen to his messages. It is quite extraordinary. The point he has just made illustrates why we need to reform the House of Lords. 

So yes for thirteen years the only Lords Reform that Labour brought about was to largely get rid of the hereditary element, down to 92. Ironically if there hadn't been by elections to replace this number with fresh blood there would be only 78 hereditaries remaining. There are 512 creations of Life Peers since 1997 who are still alive, this is more than the 465 (187 of whom are still alive) who were in the House then. 830 Peers now compared to 616 (taking the Life plus 92 Hereditaries, 26 Spiritual and 26 Law Lords as of 1997).

As both Nick said and I agree, the fact that more 'appointments would currently be need to rectify 13 years of Labour creation of peers shows just why we need to Reform the Lords and do it NOW!

Allister hoisted by his own hyopcritical naming petard

Jim Allister really had better be more careful of what he asks for when he wants Northern Ireland to be called "Northern Ireland", and not "the North", "North of Ireland" of "Six Counties", in matters pertaining  to the Northern Irish Assembly.When he said:

"In light of that ruling, I invite you to consider the logical and necessary extension of that approach to references in this house to the state of Northern Ireland so that the proper name - namely that of Northern Ireland - is used on all occasions."

So I thought I'd look at his own record reciprocating that with the Republic of Ireland (Poblacht na hÉireann if referring to its official title in its native tongue). I thought this would be a shared precedent that he would follow and one that the Speaker William Hay MLA might like to consider in making his judgement. After all if Jim is wanting this to happen out of principle and integrity what better place to look that his own experience (see the slogan on his poster pictured).

On his own website I found his own response to the St Andrews Agreement Review of North/South Implementation Bodies and Areas for Co-operation. As there are plenty of references there to the Republic of Ireland and indeed Northern Ireland there.

Would you be surprised to learn that Mr Allister isn't consistent (I'll highlight references to the Republic in Green, Northern Ireland in Red and misnaming of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or Great Britain in Blue:

Page 10 yet another unwelcome layer of Southern interference in the affairs of this part of the United Kingdom

Page 15 There is provision in the South for similar arrangements in relation to the Oireachtas 

Page 16 In truth, there is a mutual veto which can be exercised by Nationalists as well as Unionists. And an analysis of Sinn Fein [sic]/IRA controlled ministries shows that what the DUP described as “freelance cooperation” with the Republic continues apace. (editor's note I may be being a bit mischievous here, but surely The Republic is a truncation of The Republic of Ireland just in the same way as The North  is a truncation of Northern Ireland.)

Page 17 However, if Northern Ireland is marketed as a single entity with the Irish Republic obvious
complications arise when a disease arrives in the Irish Republic of which Northern Ireland and Mainland UK are free. (editor's note again mischievous perhaps but the official name is The Republic of Ireland not The Irish Republic.)

Ibid Why did the Republic get off so lightly? (see also pages 18, 19 and 20 on numerous occasions)

Ibid Like her party college [sic] Ms Gildernew, Caitríona Ruane has displayed an enthusiasm for all things south of the border 
  • In December 2007 Ms Ruane and her southern counterpart Cornor [sic] Lenihan 

Page 19 I would suggest that the bias of the DRD minister* – a convicted terrorist who is working to see the destruction of Northern Ireland's place in the Union** – provides an answer. 32 It suites the Irish Republican agenda to see to it that Northern Ireland’s transport links with the South are maintained and kept in pristine condition while those with GB mainland are neglected.

Note I've ignored all the mentions of North/South as this was the title of the paper that he was referring to.

So so get this right on all count.

Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone = Northern Ireland, Tuaisceart Éireann or Norlin Airlann
The remaining 26 counties on this island = The Republic of Ireland or Poblacht na hÉireann
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales = The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
England, Scotland and Wales = Britain
Mainland England, Scotland and Wales (without any islands) = Great Britain (being the largest of the British Isles)

Although also to be fair shouldn't we be calling Mr Allister by his proper name of James?
* I elongated this quote to illustrate the point which Mr Allister got pulled up on in nothing new.
** I'm assuming here he means the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but is using a truncation for his own devices.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Kirk to look theologically into homosexual clergy

It's been two years since the Church of Scotland's General Assembly upheld the calling of openly gay minister Scott Rennie to be minister at Queen's Cross, Aberdeen. However, it was followed by a two moratorium on any other openly gay people applying to join the ministry in the Kirk.

This week the General Assembly were finally going to decide on the commission that was set up to look at the issue of sexuality and being in a pastoral position over a congregation. As I blogged earlier this month there were two options on the table. The first of which was to implement a ban on homosexuals training to be ministers — despite such discrimination being illegal — while the second was to allow people in a same-sex relationship to train for the ministry but set up a theological commission to come up with a definitive answer in 2013.

Earlier today the General Assembly in Edinburgh decided to set up the theological commission to look into this issue and give a definitive answer by 2013. They also voted to accept gay and lesbian clergy provided they had declared their sexuality and were ordained before 2009.

At least the barn door is still open, as I blogged 2 years ago I don't expect the Church to totally come to terms with things overnight.So to continue to look into it is certainly a step in the right direction. They cannot ignore the fact that there are some of us out there who are Christian and LGB, some of that group also have the leadership and pastoral skills that are essential to be a Kirk minister. Some of those people feel called to serve as a minister, not only to a LGB community but to the community as a whole. No minister will ever experience every experience that his congregation goes through, because not all ministers are called to have the live of Job, but they learn from the word and from their own experience what is required in each circumstance.

No doubt I'll be returning to this subject again in two years time.

Obama gets a taste of Ireland which the Queen didn't

Last week the Queen was actually at St. James Gate brewery home of the most famous stout of the world. She was poured a pint of the black stuff but didn't even touch the glass, now did HRH the Duke of Edinbuirgh.

However, in a small pub in County Offaly earlier the following conversation took place.

Leader of the free world "I have been told that is makes a difference, who the person behind the bar is. I mean, that people are very particular about who is pouring your Guinnesss. Am I right about that?

His many cousins in the bar "Yeah"

The Leader of the free world "The Perfect pint. So can people vouch for this guy?"

Cousins Yeahs and laughter

One of the counsins "He's the Greatest, the best just

Leader Just like Mohammed Ali, he's the greated. Well we like that. It is quite an honour for me. You think it's ready?

Fiddlers Start playing in the background

Leader Now I want to get it perfect now. What do you think? Alright. Sláinte.

He then tips the pints of the men behind the bar, before putting the pint of Guinness to his lips and supping his pint. To cheers all around.

He promises to buy one of the ambassador and then jokes that "The President always pays his bar tab."

The first lady asks how many of the staff were in here. To which the President joked "How much advance work did they do?"

You can view Barack Obama enjoying the hospitality of the Irish in his Great-Great-Great-Grandfather's village of Moneygall here on the BBC Website. I expect there will be plague outside the door very soon honouring the place where the USA's first black president drank his first pint of the black stuff.

So yet again the Daily Fail has failed.

Update Later at College Green in Dublin he greeted the crowd with the words. "I'm Barack Obama, of the Monegall O'Bamas. I've come to look for the aportrophe that we lost somewhere along the way."

Another tragedy for cycling

Following the death of Wouter Weylandt earlier in this years Giro d'Italia, which enters it's final week today after a rest day yesterday, come the news of another tragic death of a professional cyclist.

This time it is the sad demise if Xavier Tondó. At the age of 32 his Palmarès* doesn't read like the stuff of legends, this was a cyclist who was a workhorse of his teams, lately Moviestar. His best performance in a Grand Tour was 6th in last year's Vuelta a España. Although he had won a stage in the Paris-Nice race and was the overall winner of the Volta a Portugal in 2007.

What is tragic is the way in which he appears to have died. He was preparing for a training ride with Beñat Inxtausti and possibly Alejandro Valverde, but apparently was killed by the garage door falling on him as he was preparing to leave.

Xavier Tondó 5 November, 1978 - 23 May, 2011

* List of triumphs.

Next!...Another week another head of state visits Ireland

It doesn't seem that long ago that Ireland rolled up the red capret as a head of state left Irish soil. That is because it was only Friday. But today it has been rolled out again.

President Obama has arrived today ahead of a three day State Visit to last week's visitor the Queen and the UK. He will meet with President Mary McAleese and then hold talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny. But the highlight of his visit to Ireland will be the trip to Moneygall, Co Offaly.

"Where?" you may ask.

Well here.

So yeah it is a little off the beaten track. But if Falmouth Kearney the President's Grear-Great-Grandfather came from there, it does mean that yet another American President with Irish blood in his veins. He joins the line of Andrew Jackson, James K Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Harry S Truman, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Fáilte abhaile Uachtaráin. Welcome home Mr President.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The best supporting actor and a Vulcan Hobbit

Earlier today oneexwidow got an excellent song stuck in my head when he posted his Sound for Sunday. Go take a listen and enjoy.

However later on his undid his hard work when as Martin Freeman lifted the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, he tweeted "Ah, good for Bilbo". Of course Martin will be filming with Peter Jackson in New Zealand for The Hobbit, which I believe to be excellent casting.

However, what then got embedded in my head was this:

Now oneexwidow is of course denying all responsibility.

Now he may be right.

It may be my fault for having a brain that links phrases to song lyrics no matter how inappropriate.

It may be the fault of Peter Jackson, or his casting supervisor for casting a BAFTA nominated actor for such a role.

However, I know that Harry Cole is currently working on the theory that is down to Chris Huhne and the failed super injunction on Leonard Nimoy's singing career, especially where it led to the need to get There and Back Again* in as hurry to avoid the dread of Mordor (aka Vicky Pryce) since it is obviously all Nick Clegg's fault.

* This was the name of Bilbo Baggins's memoir of his earlier trip that he is writing at Rivendell when Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring are formed, on which J.R.R. Tolkein based his book The Hobbit.

Guess who? The new superinjunction version

The front page of today's Sunday Herald in Scotland seems to be playing the children's game of guess who.

There's something about the man behind the censored tag, I just can't put my finger on it right now.

His name in on the tip of tongue.

Maybe you might be able to work it out for yourself.

(BTW I'm fully aware who is in the pic I'm just not going to name them here, like the Sunday Herald I'm sort of doing the next best thing)

In other football news any manager out there fancy the Chelsea job. No job security unless you win the league, cup and champions league in twelve months time.

The thrills, spills and scares of the 2011 North West 200

The thrills were supplied in the Superspsort 600 race the first of the day. Alistair Seeley and Cameron Donald were racing neck and neck, often side by side, over the course that stretches from Portstewart out toward the University at Coleraine and Portrush. In the end it looked like it would be decided by who took the last Juniper Hill chicane best. Donald went in too hot and Seeley who had been outbraking for most of the previous circuits eased off and over the line.

The spills sadly was a oil leakage on the damp course due to the rain. Despite the best effort of steward and track officials to clean up this spill it brought an abandonment to this years racing. Seeley was leading Robert Dunlop's son Michael in the Superbike race after one lap when the second race was abandonned.

The scares wasn't any of the riders careering off their bikes into a lamppost or into the crowd. No it was just after the conclusion of the 600 race, and before the sighting laps for the Superbike race. When somebody called in a bomb scare for a hoax device in the paddock. This lead to an evacuation of racers, their crews, officials, and spectators while the PSNI had to check the area.

With so many people from not just Northern Ireland but further afield travelling for the NW200 the fact that some desident thinks that he can use this family event as an excuse to spread fear is a disgrace. The fact that there was a later abandonment due to racing conditions was not known at the time. The people of Ireland North and South no longer what this sort of thing, we're sick and tired of people thinking that setting devices like the other one yesterday can hold us ransom. The people are saying No More and Not in my name people from all sides. We want a peaceful Northern Ireland and Ireland as highlighted by the way that Her Majesty was accepted over the last week in the Republic.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

A little light rapture magic

Just remembered that Tom Lehrer has the ideal song for this day of all days.

For a little lighter relieve here is Daniel Radcliffe singing perhaps Lehrer's most famous song.

Just in case I'm gone here's a little Blondie for you to remember me by.

Stephen's Six for Saturday Episode 1

I'm going to bring you best of the Northern Irish blogs from the past week in sort of a Saturday blog review going forward. Here is my first weekly offering of the best Norn Iron had to give.

The first two posts reflect on the Queen's visit to the Republic during the week.

Conall McDevitt MLA has recounted a poem by Percy French about the last Queen's speech in Dublin, Victoria in 1900, and gives us a poem along the same lines as it by Seamus Murphy to mark the latest one.

A hUactaráin, sez she
And everyone, sez she
It’s great to be here, sez she
I mBaile Átha Cliath, sez she
After 800 years, sez she
And it is a fair city, sez she
More bustling than pretty, sez she
As for traffic, well please, sez she

read more
 Gerry Adams TD reflects on some of the events disrupted by Her Majesty's visit to look at why it is for the people of Ireland to decide their own future

"no matter how we shape our society, the new Ireland must embrace our islands diversity in its fullest sense. This includes English and Scottish influences, the sense of Britishness felt by many unionists, as well as indigenous and traditional Irish culture and the cultures of people who have come to Ireland in recent times.

"Ireland and England are not strangers to each other. We should build on what we have in common while at the same time respecting each other’s sovereignty and independence." read more

Another big story of the week was Ken Clarke's comments about rape, I'll leave it to Paula Bradshaw to give a reasoned response.

"Kenneth Clarke’s attempted explanation of his comments about ‘serious rape‘ have only made an already bad situation worse. His line today was: ‘I phrased it very, very badly because I upset a lot of people who want to give more priority to rape‘ – a line which strikes me immediately as insincere and disparaging towards people who justifiably lobby on single issues with reference particularly to women."  read more

Michael over at Lib Dems NI looked at the IDAHO events here in Northern Ireland and beyond.

Today we’re all in IDAHO. No, we’re not in the United States for the day, we’re commemorating International Day Against Homophobia. For a number of us, this started at the weekend when we attended the IDAHO service in St George’s Parish Church, in Belfast’s High Street on Sunday afternoon.
Those of us in church on Sunday heard from The Rev’d Brian Stewart, Rector of St George’s that
at this time each year we join with brothers and sisters throughout the world who are concerned that Christian conscience cannot accept that God’s love embraces only heterosexuals. read more

On an environmental note here is an account of the Rethink Waste Event held at the Europa last weekend.

"the event was a fantastic opportunity to shares ideas and to get feedback from how other parents, grandparents and individuals go green in the home. It was also an great means of getting some professional insight from those who work in waste management" read more
Finally here is Ed Simpson's take on Melanie Phillips comments on Question Time on Thursday.

"As ever, she was on her usual form, making statements of certainty backed up by anecdotal evidence. This time, she was absolutely sure that Overseas Aid was not actually doing any good, rather it was only serving to  make matters worse. Her solution to this was simple - stop all overseas aid immediately. " read more

That's it for this week. I'll bring you another six next Saturday, I hope to bring as diverse a spectrum of opinion every week.

The Pre-Rapture Will and Testement of Stephen Glenn

I Stephen Glenn, being of sound mind am writting this will and testement before the rapture reported to be 21 May 2011. However, as Matthew 23:36 says:

"No one knows about that day or hour. Not even the angels in heaven know. The Son does not know. Only the Father knows." New International Version

I'm fully expecting it to be another false alarm just like Matthew 23:23-26 says:

At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Messiah!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. "So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the wilderness,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it." New International Version

Of course my will and testement pertaining to my death names some people of faith as beneficiaries and therefore I need to appoint a temporary will and testement of my non-believing and heathen friends*. However, just in case I've thought long and hard which other bloggers, who appear likely to not be raptured, should get my key possessions.

Therefore my CD collection I leave to oneexwidow. He does after all have a Not an A-Z list of his CDs as well as an A-Z of his CDs. Some of his omissions will be dealt with by the acquisition upon rapture of my CDs, although there are some duplicates in both our CD collections. Therefore I give Andrew permission to disperse of them to worthy bloggers left post-rapture.

My DVD collection I leave to Caron Lindsay. She has always been keen to see some of the films, TV series or gigs that are included in my collection. I know that on occasion she has bought some of her own, therefore as with Andrew above I give her permission to allocate the duplicates to worthy homes.

My soft toy collection, with one notable exception see below, has to be left to Daddies Richard and Alex of Millennium Dome. I trust  that they will along with Millennium be good guides to my fluffy menagerie in fluffy liberals.

The exception to the above is Lionel de Livi, whom Millennium has met but as Millennium has a fear of cats, I will allocate Lionel to the home where I will be sending my football programme collection, which I leave to setindarkness. As Paul first came to be my friend through looking up Livingston Football Club to take his son along to games, I'm sure they will both appreciate my extensive collection of Livingston and Meadowbank Thistle and other programmes. A history of many of the clubs good and not so good moments.

My library I shall have to bequeath to Jonathan Calder of Liberal England. I trust there is a cosy corner in the library of Bonkers Hall where these can be kept and made accessible to any member of the Liberal Democrats who wishes to peruse them there near Market Harborough. 

My laptop, hotel booking for Birmingham conference, mobile broadband dongle and cash in my account I leave to Miss_S_B as I'm sure all of these will help Jennie to keep blogging for a little longer. And a short walk to a decent hotel in Birmingham I'm sure will be appreciated.

My other worldly good I shall donate to Andrew Reeves safe keeping. He may even be able to sell my stamp collection and guitars to help toward the cost of a few of the lost deposits in the Scottish Elections earlier this month.

Of course I'm fully hoping to still be around on the 22nd May, after all I have to play bass in the service on Sunday morning and there are still 2 episodes to the end of this half series of Doctor Who. I'd also like to sing The Land and shout out "Tony Blair can f*** off and die" at Glee one more time at least in Birmingham. 

Of course this will and testement becomes null and void if I have not be raptured along with a number of other people at midnight on the 21st.

UPDATE You may be pleased to know I am still here at 20:00

* No offence guys you've all self confessed on that score ;-)

Friday, 20 May 2011

My g***** s*** is b***** than t*** and other legal rulings

If you've ever stood on the terraces of a football ground (although sitting is now the default position at many grounds) you will have heard a variety of chants.
  • Some question the marital status of the official in the middle's parent on the occassion of his conception
  • Some question the sexual preferences, or orientation of certain players, their WAGs or BAH*s
  • Some question the ability of players to perform at a standard greater than an elderly female relative
  • Some question the real estate value of stadium fans are visiting and believe larger accomadation could be found at the nearby garden centre
  • Some also question the visual health or mental health of any of the officials
If you've ever been to a game you will quickly work out just which chants go with just which of the comments above.

All of these are of course a fiction, at least they are intended to be.

It is possible that some of the officials were born out of wedlock. Some of the players with their WAGs and certainly with their BAHs may engage in anal sex. Somebody's granny may well be an international standard player and better than some poor guy on display that day. Your garden shed may well be bigger than the stadium your Lordship. Maybe the ref should have checked out the 2 for 1 offer at a well known optometrist, or read the rule changes for this season in some greater detail.

However, never once have I heard of a footballer or an official suing a fan because of announcing these fictions to the world. Strange then that a player is suing Twitter and other persons unnamed for breaking the super injunction(s) that was(ere) set up to protect the names of player(s) that may have had an affair with Imogen Thomas (and or other misdemeanours).

Since when has having an affair been such a matter of national security that the press should be stopped reporting it. When has cheating on your wife or partner with someone else meant that you could hide behind a judges gown (propably another super injunction there). If even John Perfumo can't get away with it nor should anyone else, it is not a matter of national security merely a wealthy person being able to stop his wife/partner from finding out he is a cheating scum.

If the wife/partner takes scissors to the players wardrobe, or throw his clothes out unto the street for his infidelities a judge is likely to say, "You had it coming, didn't you?". So is the case for trying to hide his miscreants behind a super injunction. I'm hoping the judge ruling on this case will notice the impossibility of stopping anyone hiding something this quasi public from everyone with a computer. That super injuctions even prevent the other party on occassion from even talking about what they are up to with trusted friends.

* This relies on the sexual orientation being proven correct and there actually being a gay player on the pitch with a Boyfriend and Husband on the pitch. This may be subject to a super injunction for all I know. For all the non-outness of the top leagues it may well be.

It's Friday...it's Queen in Ireland

Of course all this talk of the Queen being in Ireland ignores the Queen visit of 25 years ago. On that occasion Queen appeared to many thousands of people.

You'd have thought from the news coverage that Royalty was a rarity to visit Ireland not to that little corner of Meath they aren't. In 2003 some Queens of the Stone Age were unearthed in Meath in May.

Then next weekend their majesties the Kings of Leon will be making their stately progress to Slane Castle, Co. Meath.

Parts two and three of this performance are available here.

My apologies if I have her Britannic Majesty and her heirs and forebears mixed up with a bunch of men with guitars, drums and large amounts of amplification equipment.

Dear Confused Chris Bryant

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
I read today that Chris Bryant is wading into the issue of Civil Partnerships in religious buildings. However, he seems to be wading in with ignorance and getting caught up in some quick sand.

Now as a Liberal Democrat I believe that no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity so let me release the Labour MP from his ignorance induced slavery.

The consultation that has gone out, allows the religious symbols that are embedded in a religious building to remain in place, it does not allow them to be used in the civil partnership ceremony. 3.23 of the consultation paper page 31.

Bryant thinks the use of the 'hymn' Jerusalem would be allowed in a civil partnership in a religious building, read on to section 3.24 (page 32).

  • The ban on the use of religious service while a civil partnership is being
    registered will remain in place as removing it was not the intention of this
    provision in section 202 of the Act.
  • A religious service, clearly distinct from the civil partnership registration,
    would be able to take place as agreed between the registrar, couple and
    minister of the religious premises.
So there has to be a clear distinction. The minister or religious celebrant cannot take part in the civil partnership registration, nor the registrar in the religious element. See what section 3.25 says:

It is currently possible for couples to have a religious service to celebrate or mark the formation of their civil partnership. What is new under these proposals is the scope to hold the registration itself on the same – religious – premises. We expect that the religious service will take place after the civil partnership registration to celebrate its formation. This will ensure that there is a clear break between the civil and religious elements and will allow the civil partnership registrar the time to establish in advance of the proceedings whether there is any reason why the registration cannot proceed. The exact details of the ceremony will be a matter for the couple to discuss and agree with the civil partnership registrar and minister leading the religious celebration. The service following the registration could be led by the minister of religion, include readings from religious texts, the singing of hymns or other religious chants; in short, all those religious elements that must not take place during the registration itself.

So therefore there will be a separate service in a place of worship after the registration. It can happen in the same building. Now of course there are a group of heterosexual couples who may have a civil marriage and then a religious blessing. These are normally people who are divorced marrying another partner. Their marriage in a place of worship is not banned by civil law, look at Princess Anne getting remarried in Grathie Church near Balmoral as an example, but by canon law as laid out in the Church of England as the prime example.

Where the difference lies is that where a religious group want to allow a religious same-sex marriage with the interlinking of the legal necessities and the religious elements as with all religious marriages that is not possible. That is where the House of Commons can provide enabling legislation to allow that to occur. That is where religious groups that wish to do so can be freed to provide the service that some same sex couples of faith would desire.

We'd rather be led by aristocats

Everyone on has them the Uncle or Aunt you really want to lock away at parties, preferable not in the same room as your storing the booze. The Duchess of Cambridge had hers on best behaviour at her wedding, the Duke managed to keep his Aunt well out of the way, although her daughters' headware almost stole the show, thankfully saved by his new sister-in-law's derrière.

Well today it is the turn of Sir William Dugdale 2nd Baronet the maternal uncle of another attendee at that wedding the Prime Minister.Today he is telling the Telegraph that the people prefer to be led by an aristocrat. After all as a friend pointed out cats are developing opposable thumbs.

"The thing is, and the Labour Party underestimate it, but, if you ask the working classes who they want to lead them, they prefer to be led by a duke.
"I know it’s an unpopular thing to say these days, however I have learnt this from my own experience."

He was launching his own memoirs, Settling the Bill, and probably was chairman during Jasper Carrott's nadir years as a Birmingham City supporter of cross city rivals Villa. Of course Ron Saunders who had led Villa most of the way there resigned in February 1982 mere months before Villa lifted the European Cup for the only time due to a disagreement with the Club about his salary. Clearly he didn't like being led by a particular aristocat.

Sir William further says that his nephew shouldn't be ashamed of his association with the white ties and tails of the Bullington Club, of which Sir William himself, despite also being an Old Etonian wasn't invited. What he did do instead was join protests with Bullington members....against the Trade Unions.

Yeah you heard it there right. The man advocating that the working classed should be led by a Duke was making war against the labour movement that had fought to give them some rights that had been lacking for centuries if not millennia.

Probably the 2nd Baronet is biting out against the Lord's Reform Bill.

By the way the last time the UK was lead by a Duke was 34 days in 1834 when the Duke of Wellington was the provisional leader of his second brief stint.

Céimeanna ar ais i iontas (Trans. Steps Back in Amazement)

The Queen opened her Speech in Dublin Castle on Wednesday night with the words "A Úachtaráin agus a cairde (President and friends)"

Well it appears that one politician in attendance has followed her example and somewhat shockingly it the DUP First Minister Peter Robinson. He said "Sin é*", meaning "That's it" at a press conference after the first meeting of the new Northern Ireland Executive.

Maybe there are hidden depths to our First Minister that none of us new about before.

Slán Peter. Maith thú.

* A correction from the Belfast Telegraph making it one word and no fada on the e, and thanks to Michael for correcting my SPG in the comments

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Garret Fitzgerald 1925 - 2011

Garret Fitzgerald 1925-2011
When I was growing up there were two men who dominated the political scene in the Republic of Ireland Fianna Fáil's Charles Haughey and Fine Gael's Garret Fitzgerald.

Garret was the Taoiseach that set up the New Ireland Forum in 1983 which although rejected outright by Margaret Thatcher led on the path to what would that eventually led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Fitzgerald had previously played a part in the 1970s Sunningdale Agreement as well.

For the formative political awakenings of a Northern Irish born politician like myself these were the events that would separate the course of someone's political future for years to come. One would either as the Unionist MPs did in 1985 resign en masse at the move to a reconciliation across the island of Ireland started it seemed by the Republic, or been seen as a step towards putting the last 60 years of division and tension into a working framework.

Fitzgerald was a second generation senior Irish politician his father Desmond being the first Minister for External Affairs in the newly independent state. Although his father was London-born and raised and his mother Mary Washington McConnell was actually of Ulster Protestant descent, despite being an ardent nationalist and republican herself.

The son would eventually succeed as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the 70s before twice serving as Taoiseach in the 80s. He served as an elected Teachta Dála (TD) from 1969-1992, having previously served in the Seannad Éireann from 1965. However, he proved his liberal qualities not just by his response to the Northern Ireland question but also in taking on divorce (he failed to introduce through a referendum defeat) and contraception (where he was successful). However, a Pro-Life Amendment stating to recognise the 'Right to Life of the Unborn, with due regard to the Equal Right to Life of the Mother' was added to the Irish Constitution via another referendum against his advice.

After his retirement from 'politics' he was involved in both the Treaties of Nice and Lisbon. Wrote a weekly Saturday column for the Irish Times and was on the board on directors of Election.com which held the world's first public online election in 2000 for the Arizona Democratic Primary won by Al Gore with voter turnout up 500% on 1996.

He had taken ill earlier this month and was rushed to hospital in Dublin and placed on a ventilator. The fact that the man who set in motion the reconciliation between North and South should die while a UK Sovereign is present on Irish soil, the day after she made her historic speech in Dublin Castle may well have been because his life's work is completed. He always lived in the hope of progressive change, and did what he could to bring it about where he could.

Garret Fitzgerald 9 February 1926 – 19 May 2011

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A closer look at the draft House of Lords Reform Bill

Since I blogged earlier about the draft House of Lord Reform Bill I've decided to look further into it.

First of all is what was said in the programme for government:

"We will establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motion by December 2010. It is likely that this will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers."

The committee met 7 times from June to December, reached agreement on a large number of issues, but differences in opinion remain on the size of the elected element and the type of electoral system.

So it is those two differences which may seem minor but are quite major as far as laying out primary legislation goes. The draft Bill is laying out that 80% of the second chamber be elected (this is in line with Conservative thinking) but leaves open the scrutiny of an 100% elected chamber in line with the coalition agreement (and indeed the Liberal Democrat manifesto). The system used for elected that system is laid out as Single Transferable Vote (in line with Lib Dem manifesto) but allows for scrutiny of other electoral systems such as a open list system (which the Conservatives and indeed Labour may well prefer).

The electoral system dilemma

 Looking at the electoral system first. STV electing multiple members in a constituency allows the people to choose on their preferences by their own preferences. Bearing in mind that some of the people who prefer the open list system said that they thought AV was a complex system, clearly don't understand how much more complex the open list is.

AV has one quota, 50% of the valid votes in whichever round you are in. There are two quotas in the open list. The first is the quota for acquiring a seat in that constituency. This will determine how many quotas and therefore seats are gained by each party.

The second is the quota within the list, this is first ranked by the party, but then there is a quota for the number of first preferences within that list. Any candidate who personally gains that number of preferences will be elected. If the number of seats are not filled then the empty seats will be filled by order on the list.

Let's say that this party secures 5,000 votes, the quota is 1,000 vote so therefore they secure 5 seats. Say the requirement for being elected off the list is 25% of a quota or else 25 votes.

  • Candidate #1 3,500
  • Candidate #2 65
  • Candidate #3 75
  • Candidate #4 450
  • Candidate #5 175
  • Candidate #6 200
  • Candidate #7 350
  • Candidate #8 35
Candidates 1,4 and 7 are elected from the list. Candidates 6 and 5 have the next highest first preferences but because they FAILED to  reach the quota it is back to the ordering of the list. Therefore candidates 2 and 3 fill up the remaining seats.

Therefore if the open list system is adopted at the behest of the people who told you AV would let losers into Westminster via a too complex system you will see just what hypocrites they are. STV is the system that like AV leaves the real, indeed only power, in the hands of the voters. Even bigger losers could get elected under an open list system, someone might actually hypothetically get no votes on the open list yet because of their placing by the party still get elected.

The size of the elected element

The number is set at 300 members (plus instead of 26 just 12 ex officio Lords Spiritual). However, whether that 300 is fully elected of just 240 of them are is an important issue. If the latter there are 20 seats that are up for appointment by the Prime Minister at the time of each election (bear in mind both the election to the 'Lords' and the Commons will be occuring at the same time). It may not sound like much until you think if one party wins each of the three elections that make up the terms. They would have, persumably a majority of the elected 2nd chamber and then have the appointments as well. It could well give the push over the 50% majority of seats in the second chamber, those extra 60 seats, that would be harder to achieve under a purely proportional system without any remaining appointments.

It is clear therefore that both the systems preferred by the Conservatives are actually the parties trying once again to grasp and retain as much power as they think they can get away with. Appearing to be progressive at one hand but giving themselves just enough retention of control to get who they want into the 2nd chamber.

Complementing the House of Commons

There is a section in the draft bill that talk about the second chamber complimenting the House of Commons, still deemed to be the primary chamber that the second chamber.

It says:

  • A long term for members of three normal Parliaments;
  • A single non-renewable term;
  • An appointed element (in an 80% elected House of Lords)
  • A different voting system for elections to the reformed House of Lords from that used for elections to the House of Commons.
Whoa!! I've just spotted something. That final phrase in a bill that comes to life after the AV referendum for the House of Commons. Remember the No 2 AV team tried to persuade some people, like the Unionist Parties here or some PR supporters that if they vote no to AV they are saying yes to PR. This Bill would seem to rule out the same sort of PR at any point in the future for the two houses.

This means that if we get STV for the second chamber you can wave that goodbye for the Commons. That is not what the Lib Dems, Alliance, SDLP, Sinn Féin or certain Unionist parties stood for in the Westminster elections. Nor is it why those parties supported the AV referendum. Failed though it may have been they have all said they will carry on the fight for reform.

More thoughts to come perhaps

There are 174 pages of the proposed Bill, but just are just some of my initial thoughts....for now.

It's only taken a century but we're getting to Elect the Lords

For a number of years on 10 August many bloggers, including myself, have remember the 1911 Parliament Act which stated:

"it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation."

Well it hasn't been immediate but  yesterday there was progress in a draft House of Lords Reform Bill which says:

  • a reformed House with 300 members, each eligible for a single term of three parliaments
  • elections using the single transferable vote (STV), electing a third of members each time with elections normally taking place at the same time as General Elections
  • multi-member electoral districts, to be drawn up independently based on national and county boundaries
  • a continuation of the presence of Bishops of the Church of England in the House of Lords, reducing their number from 26 to 12
  • a transition staggered over the course of three electoral cyclesThe White Paper sets out three different options for the transition period and acknowledges that the case can be made for other proportional representation systems including the open list. The draft Bill and White Paper are clear the powers of the reformed House of Lords will remain the same, with it continuing to provide scrutiny and expertise, complementing the work of the Commons.
Apart from the retention of the Lords Spiritual (even at reduced numbers) this would appear to be a fully elected second chamber. The issue of their Lordship Spiritual is that they are not chosen by popularity but would be annointed appointedby some Bishop's Court no doubt, or at lest the 10 lesser places will be as I assume the two Archbishoprics of Canterbury and York would lay claim to two seats.

The Government yesterday stated that

"The draft Bill sets out firm proposals, while the White Paper considers alternative options on which the Government remains open-minded.

"The Government is committed to a wholly or mainly elected chamber and both options are reflected in what is published today.

"The draft Bill illustrates how a reformed House of Lords with 80 per cent of elected members could look, with the remaining 20 per cent appointed independently to sit as cross-benchers. Alongside this, the White Paper sets out the case for a 100 per cent elected chamber."

The 80 per cent figure mentioned is a pandering to the Conservatives who unlike Labour or the Lib Dems only promised a "mainly-elected second chamber to replace the current House of Lords". I'm hoping that the other two main parties with otther of the smaller parties will join forces to ensure that the 100% figure is succcessful.

The three term limit, and the election largely at the same time with the genreal elections means that there will be a 15 year limit on their Lordships, or whatever they may be called, sitting in the Upper Chamber. Electing in thirds by STV will ensure that this chamber should always manage to be a chamber with no overall control and therefor maintain its legislative reforming role that it currently does without hyperinflation of the number of members.

It may have taken a hundred years, hopefully it won't be another hundred years before this substitution is madee. It should be complete within 14 years time. The will of this government must now be to get this change through both Houses so that the reform we have long be waiting for will come about.

The one downside is that here we will have Tories saying that is ok to elect one third of the members of the Houses of Parliament by a proportional system, one which isn't first past the post, just shortly after they were saying that the Alternative Vote was an unBritish way to do things.

If a Lord were to pass away, how would they be replaced, would there be a by-election in that constituency? If there were an STV seat by-election for a single position that is actually an Alternative Vote election, much like we currently have for by-elections for the 'hereditary' positions in the Lords.