Thursday 30 September 2010

How Green is Your Salmond?

While I'm more that glad to hear Alex Salmond say that Scotland should be fully supplied by renewable energy by 2025. But it flies in the face of his demands just last month to benefit from the £242bn of tax revenue from the North Sea over the next 30 years, by devolving that tax raising power.

You see it is all well and good wanting to be 100% renewable in fifteen years Mr Salmond, but you are looking at benefiting from a carbon-burning economy for twice that length of time. The problem is of course that since the 1970s part of the SNP cry for Independence is that it is Scotland's oil. The revenue from that oil will fund their independent Scotland. Therefore the SNP are not the green party they are making out to be.

The Liberal Democrats had set target of 2050 for 100% renewables in our last Scottish election manifesto, a figure that we also pledged across the UK in our 2010 manifesto. It was a target we had set with intermediary steps along the way as part of a detailed roadmap to getting there. The pledge from Salmond today cuts 62.5% further off what other parties have said is even an ambitious target, ironically even the Greens only talk about a low-carbon Scotland on their website and have no aim for 100% renewables.

I have to ask myself has Salmond enquired what figures the other parties have and then decided to halve the most ambitious (although through bad maths that should have been 2030)? He has also increase the 2020 target from 50% to 80%. I've yet to see a breakdown of his objectives, conversion and payment plan to achieve this. Figure indicate that renewable energy in Scotland contributed 22% of the total in 2008 (up from 20.2% the year before) with an interim target of 31% for next year.

These are aggressive targets but I'm wondering are they attainable of are these just a promise ready for next May, like the many promises that the SNP have already failed to keep from May 2007?

Some Like it Hot Star Dies

Today comes the news that Tony Curtis the film actor has died aged 85.

There has never been a better excuse to show a man in drag on this blog, there is also a glimpse of Marilyn Monroe in her pomp for any straight male readers.

More to follow.

Tony Curtis 1925-2010

Wednesday 29 September 2010

For the Bible Tells Me So - A Film Review

The other night I was watching the documentary feature For the Bible Tells Me So (2007). It is a very moving and powerful film following the lives and consequences of a number of American Christian families dealing with a relative who realises that they are gay.

It also looks at the actual content and context of homosexuality within the Bible, i.e. those verses used by individuals and groups to end their love or seek to cure what they have failed to understand or investigate. The families include that of Gene Robinson the openly gay Episcopal Bishop in New Hampshire and Dick Gephardt former Presidential candidate and his lesbian daughter Chrissy. But it was the tale of two less prominent families that really struck me.

First up there was Jake Reitan a young man from a Unitarian background. He came out as a teen to his big sister a full year before he could tell his parents. Their initial reaction was one of trying to hide Jake's sexuality from all around them and to catacomb themselves and him from the 'shame' of having a gay son. But Jake wanted to be open and honest about who he was and his family are an ideal example of a family coming to terms with their own inbuilt and learnt prejudices, seeking the truth themselves and coming to understand, love and stand beside and behind their son. They are active advocates as a family for acceptance from families of their LGBT sons, daughters, brothers, sisters etc.

The other is the sad story of Mary Lou Wallner, who couldn't accept the 'gay thing' about her daughter and they became estranged. As with too many gay children brought up in Christian households that led to estrangement and after an exchange of heart achingly terse letters Mary Lou's daughter took her own life. Too late to do anything to her daughter Mary Lou did investigate herself what the Bible actually said, the context it was said in and what it means to modern day life.

Fortunately I had neither of those experiences to those extremes when I came out to my parents. However, it didn't mean that at times I wasn't curling up into a ball, needing to reach out to something/one for comfort or bring the odd tear to me eyes. It was also a truncated version of the 10 years of searching scripture which I myself did. If only I'd taken the answers my 16-year-old self came up with it would have saved so much time, but may not have been so well grounded.

There is a lot of mental anguish because of the way many in our culture still see homosexuality. But as this film showed it is often out of repeated ignorance or selective verse selection that these put-downs that these judgements come.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Ben Summerskill's Webb Ellis Moment

Image used with permission from

Last week Ben Summerskill warned the LGB community (Stonewall doesn't do T) to beware of politicians playing political football with the issue of equal marriage.

Over the last week the tweets and comments have been coming thicker and faster from all political parties and those with none. There is uproar from a broad section of the LGBT community that hasn't been since 1969 and the original Stonewall riots. I think we have noticed that Ben Summerskill is like a poor confused pupil standing on the playing fields of Rugby unsure of what to make of William Webb Ellis's innovation. For those of you who don't know Webb Ellis was the pupil credited with picking up a football on the playing fields of Rugby and creating a whole new game which bears the school's name.

To me that is the ideal analogy of what has happened to Stonewall and Ben Summerskill over the last few months/years. Other groups and even the mainstream political parties have picked up the ball of equality and are running with it in hand. They are holding unto equality tightly, not controlling its passage with taps from their feet. For them equality is not just equalising LGB rights it is about inclusiveness of SLGBTQ* (Staight, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) rights, something that while Stonewall say they stand for equality they seem unable to support.

The right of heterosexuals to have equal access to Civil Partnerships was part of the Lib Dem Policy passed last week. It was also part of the original CP legislation going through Parliament, which Stonewall say they were championing, yet now they (or is it just Ben) say they are not standing for heterosexual equality.

The policy also included Humanist celebrants in the right to marry or civil partner couples in England and Wales. Something that they had only been able to do in Scotland before. An equality of beliefs which Stonewall probably don't want to recognise or support.

The fact is that the equality that is left to fight for has to be fair to heterosexual, homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people. That is the whole new ball game. It is the ironing out of the little things that were once thought separate is okay as long as we step along the right path. It's time to smooth those out, being equal need to be just that, equal opportunities for all.

If Summerskill can't see that maybe it is time for Team Stonewall to select a new captain. Or if Stonewall really cannot see them, maybe they should get out of the game. 86% of the recent PinkNews poll were in favour of equal marriage, 61% of the general public in a recent poll said the same.

It truly is time to work out how to do, not work out the issues for why 'society' can't.

* May even have to add AP
to that for Asexual or Polyamorous.

Monday 27 September 2010

Quote of the Day: Ben Summerskill Part Deux #MoreBS

Image used with permission from
"Stonewall has never pretended to be a democratic member organisation. We have never said we speak for all lesbian, gay and bisexual people."

Ben Summerskill quoted in Pink News

Good because you aren't speaking for me, nor it seems journalist Johann Hari who at the LGBT Labour fringe event today said :

"We are not the government, we are making demands on the government."

Which is good except for the past 13 year LGBT Labour have been associated to the party of Government and haven't pushed them on this issue. Last week was the first time a party of government passed a UK-wide equal marriage policy. Sadly the Labour party this week only placed equal marriage 13th on the list of priorities for debate.

Summerskill is also scared that the bill would fail in the Lords, by "retreating to tradition", all the more reason for the reform of the House of Lords in the current Government's plans.

Summerskill also claimed in response to Hari's comment that disability groups wouldn't deliberate the cost of wheelchair ramps, that "It is perfectly proper to say there are arguments that will be used against us so we can counter them". That would the the £5bn figures that was initially Department of Work and Pensions, then the Home Office then Stonewalls own reckoning as both Government bodies denied this figure.

Read also: This post from Timothy J Moore who was at the LGBT Labour meeting, which suggests that Summerskill was reiterating comments that he made last week at the Delga (LGBT Lib Dems) fringe.

Better Use Google this Year

It is Google's twelve birthday today. But before you cheer too loudly a word of warning that means that next year the world's leading search engine with be a teenager and we all know what they are like.

So here are the top 10 things you won't be able to ask Google in 365 days time.

10. Restaurants - Unless it has a drive through, a bucket of chicken, or a golden arch you'll not find it. The fast food van outside the school will get 3 Michelin stars whereas the Fat Duck will be just 'Bleugh!'
9. Medical advice - You'll only get the really disgusting stuff, if you looking up how to cure a common cold you'll not find it.
8. Clothes - Will return you things you 'wouldn't leave the house wearing that!' at least that is what you'd be thinking.
7. Gay - will just return anything uncool
6. Politics - BOOOORING!
5. Drink - Alcopops, Strong Cider or Buckfast. Hard luck all you wine, whisk(e)y or real ale connoisseurs
4. Education - Meh!
3. News - Very few teenagers when asked about the news will give you the latest goings on outside of X-Factor, Britain's Got Talent or whats in Heat or Zoo. So move over Paxman it'll all be Perez Hilton.
2. Directions - Teenagers have great fun in misdirecting motorists. Therefore Google maps will soon be inoperative.
1. Sex - Like a typical teenager it will run off in embarrassment if you are older than it. If you are fellow teen you will get misinformation or boosting of knowing more than it actually does. Therefore porn will not be searchable, unless you take your laptop under the duvet.

Now on the 27 September next year don't say I didn't warn you.

Forty Eight Hours of Worship!

Over the weekend there was a marquee erected next to Bangor Abbey and inside for 48 hours there was continuous praise going on. It was an event organised by Celts on Fire an organisation founded by dear friends of our family Tom and Iris Ross.

You may think that 48 hours is a long time for a cycle of people to keep up praise to God yet in the 6th and 7th centuries it is believed that for 150 years the practise of Laus Perennis (continual prayer) was kept up at the Monastery in Bangor, close to the present day Abbey.

It was considered to have been interrupted by the raids of the Vikings. So it was fitting that on Friday night at the start of the 48 hours of worship that Scandinavian Christians led the first hour.

Some of you who followed my Twitter over the weekend will have been aware that I spent the first hour I had back in Bangor* (in the early hours of Sunday morning) at the marquee. I also sandwiched in another couple of hours in the afternoon between being part of the Worship Group at Trinity Presbyterian Church for both Sunday services (my first time playing bass guitar, or any instrument, in public for a number of years**).

Some people ask it is possible to be a Liberal politician and a Christian at the same time? It was actually the subject of yesterday's evening's sermon on 1 Thessalonians 4, which at one point made me a little tense. But I say it is, contrary to the sermon last night, though I've come on a long road to get to where I am and I'm sure it's not travelled yet.

But seeing people reaching out and back to the early traditions of our Christianity is invigorating to see (and if you see my current reading material courtesy of Mícheál also intriguing). There is a lesson never lose sight of the past while striving towards a better future, that is true of both fields.

* Having spent most of the week up in Belfast with a post-hospital Mícheál.
** So what better way to do that than with only a brief run through once as the only rehearsal time.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Six Votes In It: Ed Miliband's Margin of Victory

Because the Labour Leadership election is not down under one member one vote just how close was the final outcome. After all1.3% is a pretty close race. But all the talk of the Unions winning it for younger brother Ed need to be looked at in light of the six people who actually cost it for David.

My friend and once upon a time blogger Mark Thompson has actually done the maths.
With just 1.3% in it David only needed a 0.65% swing so from the smallest electorate making up 33.33% of the electorate that was the MPs and MEPs. Each of their votes counted as 0.1253% overall for the entire election. Five of them comes to just 0.6265% whereas six comes to the magic 0.7518% or but another way 50.1018% of the vote enough to have edged out his younger brother.

The Unions Anoint Ed

Well in the end it really was a nail biting finish. It was down to the fourth round of the ballot that decided the result between the Milibands. In the end it came down to:

MPs 53-47 to David;
Members 54-46 to David;
Unions 60-40 to Ed.

Overall Ed 50.65% David 49.35%

Yes I was doing the maths in my head before the result for David was declared first (how much of a geek am I?) even turning and saying it. I knew before that forty nine came out of the Chair of the NEC's mouth which Miliband brother was next in line. But the split is that he lost out in two of the three colleges. The members and MPs/MEPs were not behind him, but the Unions were.

However, Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg were talking over round two declarations and most of round three to tell us that David Miliband was smiling and Ed was looking tense, before Nick 'declared' the result for David. My friend Helen Duffet posted a tweet 'Ed Miliband wins title of Labour's best pokerface. Watch 'im.'

So in honour of the new Labour leader's performance before the count was declared here's this.

Stonewall Give the Facts, the Negative Facts Again #MoreBS

I turned to Mícheál this morning and said I was determined not to do any LGBT blog posts today. I felt that I'd done enough for the week and needed to get the balance of other issues correct on this blog. That was until Andrew, whose flat we're both currently staying in, retrieved his post.

There was a begging letter for Andrew to rejoin Stonewall and the following piece of literature.

Stonewall new literature
In which they are quoting a 2008 opinion poll in the Observer. Here are the same figures as reported in the paper.
The article goes on to explain (and I have corrected the erroneous English.

Same sex marriage civil partnership has been legal in the UK since 2005 , but 45 per cent of Britons still feel that gay couples should not be allowed to get married civil partnered or married. When the same question was asked in 2002, 50 per cent held this view, but the introduction of the Civil Partnerships Act has only changed the views of five per cent of the population.

The argument that Ben Summerskill at least earlier this week was putting about was that this was a minority opinion. However, it would appear that even two years ago it was swinging into the majority opinion. Over the last two years there has been a lot of work by organisations, other than Stonewall, in getting the message across. As indeed this week the Liberal Democrats brought in a proposal that equalises marriage across numerous aspects than simply bringing in 'gay' marriage. Allowing humanists to perform marriage in England and Wales bringing equality with Scotland,

This year all three of the main party leaders have to some extent said they supported the idea of equal marriage. In fact at 4:30 this afternoon whoever is announced a Labour leader supports the idea of equal marriage. If we are campaigning for equality it is a matter that all groups are treated equally, LGBT groups should be interested in gaining equality with the rest of society, that includes extending civil partnerships to heterosexuals.

There is also the comment at the top that says 'Nothing Left to Fight For? You Decide' yet no option for comments.

It also says in begging section "*by donating £20 of more per month, you will become a Close Friend of Stonewall and receive additional benefits". Wonder if those special benefits include the right to gay marriage?

Read also Mícheál has done a similar post on the subject here. We promise not to twin all our blog posts even if we are wearing similar hues today.

Nicol Stephen Stepping Down from Holyrood

The one headline for literature I always had up my sleeve following the election of the Aberdeen South MSP to be Scottish Lib Dem leader was:

Stephen Backs Stephen

Nicol Stephen was the person I had backed in that particular leadership election to replace Jim Wallace in 2005. He was young, vibrant, environmentally aware and prepared I thought to lead our party in Scotland for a long time.

In the end it proved to be only for 3 years before pressures, and we all assume outside pressures, led to his stepping down from his role of leadership. That I felt was a shame and as I blogged at the time was a great regret. He had done a lot to move the party on in those far too few short years and I do regret somehow losing that internal momentum a little when he chose to step down, just at the kick off of the Glasgow East by election.

During the 2005 by election in Livingston when I was missing my usual birthday politics at conference with birthday politics on the doorstep he ended up being present at what ended up being dinned on my Birthday. Which is one of those moments that occasionally makes campaigning worthwhile.

However, as he is stepping down next May I wish him, Caris and the four children all the best as they will see more of their father and husband now and he more of them. Also after 12 years as their MSP I hope that the people of Aberdeen South have an equally competent Liberal Democrat MSP after the elections in May to take their interests forward.

Friday 24 September 2010

It's's what we've been up to this week

As many of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook will be aware I've spent this week up in Belfast. My good friend Mícheál late on my birthday was rushed into A&E and the following evening while we were up visiting he was discharged and me and Andrew have been keeping an eye on him, catching him when he fell asleep in an upright position (whilst the anaesthetic was still wearing off) and generally keeping him company.

Of course we have found many ways to keep each other entertained and our collective spirits up. So here are some of the things we found that have done just that.

Many will know that Bagpuss was the third member of #operationevacuate taking a seat in the front of the cab of the van on the trip home. This week Bagpuss has joined the team here to look after Mícheál and we're hoping the mice on the mouse will help fix him.

We also were searching around for various things, one of Mícheál's friend came over and we found some 'subtitling' to Bollywood songs. This one we have stuck in our heads.

We've also had Mícheál complain about the number of female dancers doing a highland sword dance, so here is the real thing.

Remember the Chartists and Their Call for Equal Seats

You may recall back in July I condemned Labour's objection to equal sized constituencies by quoting from the 1838 People's Charter which gave rise to the Chartist movement.

Well the people at Take Back Parliament have taken up the theme. They are holding a rally at the Reformer Tree in Hyde Park, London this Saturday to remember the Chartists and their aim, relisted below.

  1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.
  2. The secret ballot. - To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
  3. No property qualification for members of Parliament - thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
  4. Payment of members, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the Country.
  5. Equal Constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of large ones.
  6. Annual parliaments, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since though a constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelve-month; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.

So if are you able to get you hands on some appropriate 1830's clothing you can turn up in costume but that's not compulsory go along to support the moves for electoral reform which are still ongoing 160 years after the People's Charter. Go along from 13:00- 17:00 this Saturday, 25th September.

Who's Where in the Liberal Democrats: A Black Hole

I have just been updating my entry for Who's Who in the Liberal Democrats and interesting exercise when your local party chair is sat on the other end of the sofa adding his.

A few things have changed since the last time I updated. A second Westminster candidacy, a publication, one or two minor tweaks to information here and there. Plus of course a change of address and local party.

Of course updating the address details is simple. However, when it came to the party details there was an issue. I could select my new (well once again) constituency as North Down, my local party as Northern Ireland, it was the region that caused me problems. There is no region that matches the local party, which is hardly surprising. As I've just received a new Scottish membership I kept that as my region. However, when you go to the in your area page on the Lib Dem website you can click on Northern Ireland but not get returned any details.

I find this odd and unsatisfactory, not only do I know we exist but as I said I can see the local party chair out of the corner of my eye as I type. I even been in the address that is listed as my local party contact. So I know that exists too. Yet somehow people without that personal knowledge may have a hard time tracking us down.

One other thing, isn't about time that we added a twitter category to the general information. Even adding a blog as well as website section. After all there were all available on the candidates' detail form for this year.

Update: Mícheál was typing his own take on this at the same time.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Quote of the Day: Ben Summerskill

Earlier I saw a Tweet or two that mentioned that this month's Attitude had an article on gay equal marriage, including comment from Stonewall. They have this comment from, I'm sorry it is him again, Ben Summerskill.

"Anyone who's involved in campaigning [for equal marriage] should be very cautious about being seduced by politicians in any party who are looking for political advantage and have have different imperatives from gay people in the wider world."

Now I have a problem with that. I am a gay politician from the party that has just passed an equal marriage policy federally, after I was involved it getting it passed at Scottish level. Do I have be be cautious of seducing myself? I have been listening to the wider gay community, I even had a few thanks yous from various members of that community for the work I've already done on the issue.

Meanwhile, I'm reading from comments on PinkNews story of Summerskill's comments at Lib Dem conference is that Stonewall supporters etc are wondering just where is the consultation with their own 'members' a phrase that seems hard to pin down who it covers.

Update: The original PinkNews article was update and now contains the following disclaimer:

"Comments made during the 21st September have been suspended at the request of Stonewall. It is possible to post comments though on this amended version of the article. is happy to publish the clarifications above and apologises for any confusion caused by the original report."

So Stonewall are trying to censor freedom of expression.

Stephen Gilbert MP on Why He is Backing Tim Farron for President

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Stephen Gilbert MP, who did a brilliant summation on the Lib Dems' equal marriage motion, has come out in support of Tim Farron for party president. Like me his support as an openly gay man has raised one or two eyebrows with his friends. However, like me he has also clarified his position on LGBT rights with Tim himself. On his website he gives Tim's response as:

I am a passionate supporter of equal LGBT rights. But if you look at 'they work for you', I'm classed a s being 'opposed to equal gay rights' because of 2 of my votes on the Equalities bill. This is complete rubbish. I have complained to 'they work for you' about this.

The reality is that my votes on those two amendments were due to me taking what I considered to be a heavily liberal line on freedom of organisation and choice. You might not agree with my take on this, and Stonewall didn't, but Peter Tatchell and Outrage did.

I'm happy to argue whether or not I did the right thing, but please don't think that I'm some kind of homophobe!

Anyone who's known me over the 24 years that I've been a Liberal and a Liberal Democrat knows that this is the most outrageous rubbish.

Long before there was any public majority for LGBT rights I fought for the equalisation of the age of consent and for civil partnerships & the right to marry.

I am a radical liberal to my fingertips - and my anger at inequality caused by poverty and my anger at inequality caused by homophobia come from the same place.

But if anyone still thinks I'm 'a bit of a worry' I'd love them to come and talk to me.

As they say don't judge a book by a cover especially when it is the cover of 'they work for you' which looks at all votes on an issue, even the technical ones. As the man says if you have doubts ask, he's been more than willing to supply answers.

UUP Leader Elect Elliott : My Reader

Last night the Ulster Unionist Party elected Tom Elliott MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone as their new leader. This morning he said:

"What I want to see is a party that actually represents the population of Northern Ireland.

"I want to see for the Ulster Unionist Party the same as I want to see for the people of Northern Ireland - that is a working together, that is an integration, not a carve up between two parties or two sections of our community.

"I want an all-embracing party that actually represents Northern Ireland."

However, how all-embracing a party can it be if the leader of the UUP is not prepared to attend Pride events of GAA sporting events. As my friend and colleague Mícheál pointed out not in certain communities. 3000 Versts asks questions about what direction the UUP is going to take, again asking will it retreat back to Orange Order and the 'unionists'. Over at Slugger O'Toole there is still a warning that the party need to take off the brake and come out of reverse, something that must not be forgotten simply by the size of Elliott's victory.

Slugger carries this analysis of the result, much in line with the feeling on BBC Northern Ireland's Hearts and Minds last Thursday:

"The DUP will be happy tonight. Alliance will be happy that the UUP won’t be steering too far into their centre ground. And the SDLP will be upset that they’ll still not have a credible ally in the centre ground – the UUP and SDLP tend to succeed together and fail together."

So the reforming campaign of Basil McCrea had fallen by the wayside. Does it seem that the UUP have taken the lesson from the 2010 election that being too liberal is not the way to reach out to Northern Ireland? If it is and Elliott retracts to the right the fight for certain parts of the community of Northern Ireland will become harder once again.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

David Laws Doesn't Want to Return to Government

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
It really isn't my attempt to get at Stonewall again it is just a coincidence. When David Laws came out Ben Summerskill took to the air waves and print media saying that gay men who stayed in the closet didn't deserve the same degree of support and sympathy of an organisation such a Stonewall.

Reading the news today, while I was sitting waiting for Mícheál coming out of an appointment at the Royal Victoria Hospital, of David Law's latest statement I think it needs revisiting.

He says he has 'lost the hunger' and is 'unwilling to return to the Government' after the stress of being outed the way he was. There is even talk of him not seeking re-election for his seat in Yeovil at the next election depending on the outcome of a parliamentary investigation into the financial dealings which saw him worse off, but not declaring the relationship with his 'landlord'.

It is a sad case when someone is forcibly outed and loses their va-va voom as appears to be the case with one of the sharpest minds in the Lib Dem parliamentary team. It may be just a matter of time that David still needs to come to terms with his situation, I certainly hope it is, but I hope it is not the onset of some deeper malaise.

As I pointed out shortly at the time public opinion was that the UK didn't care about the sexuality of those leading the country. But it can be hard to have to come to terms with the sudden public knowledge of your sexuality. Most of us get the opportunity to come out to others in our own terms, in our own time. It is an ongoing process as each new contact has to be weighed up for how and when they are told.

To have that decision ripped out of you hands and over the front pages and TV screens must be a traumatic experience and one that takes some time to heal and get over. I'm not saying to David get out there and be proud of who you are right now. I'm sure if he had turned up at the Delga AGM or any of their fringe events* he would have been made to feel very welcome, but he chose to stay away from conference altogether. But I would say don't do anything too hasty. See advice from those of us who are out, gay, candidates or MPs about how we deal with it. Some of us keep it as something we don't talk about, some like me seem to very much at ease as talking about it as part of us, not the whole.

It would be a shame to lose David to politics altogether and I hope that he does reconsider the statement he has made. But I also know that the time has to be right for him.

* Or any part of conference for that matter.

Fisking the Stonewall Response To Ben's 'Comments' #MoreBS #LDConf

Cross posted at Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland

A friend of mine following up on my comments about Ben Summerskill's comments at the Diversity fringe meeting on Monday sent an email to Stonewall. He received a response which linked to this press statement. He forwarded it to me and I think it requires Fisking.

Press Statement from Stonewall Fisking by Stephen Glenn

The story published by PinkNews today is, sadly, a largely dishonest account of what took place at last night's fringe meeting in Liverpool. I took my lead from friends' comments and blogs who were actually there. Multiple sources. Also MPs and a former London mayoral candidate commented on it during the debate yesterday on equal marriage.

We deeply regret that PinkNews chose to publish the story late at night without double-checking a single fact and without having troubled to attend either the meeting itself or a party conference at which such an important issue was being discussed. Zoe O'Connell was at the meeting and blogged not once but twice the second time to pick on some inaccuracies in what others were saying but not in the context or essence of what I posted or what PinkNews said.

Ben made quite clear at the meeting that Stonewall is engaged in a process of listening and consulting with active Stonewall supporters, of whom there are almost 20,000, about the future of civil partnership. This is an issue affecting the broad church of the LGBT community not just the 20,000 members of Stonewall. Are they not also listening to that wider community? Many of that wider community are outraged that Stonewall, a so-called 'leader' on LGBT rights, had so far not said anything on this issue.

UPDATE: There is comment on the updated PinkNews report which says:

Oh and as a Stonewall "supporter" who has contributed financially over the past decade, I have never been consulted about anything from this organisation. The most I have ever received are a) requests for donations b) publicity on events and initiatives c) asked to purchase tickets for gala etc but never once asked for an opinion.

So just has been consulted.

While some lesbian, gay and bisexual people fully support changing civil partnership into marriage Stonewall above commented on PinkNews not checking facts!!! Oops. The motion (now policy) is not a single option for marriage, there is the choice of CPs or Marriage open to ALL., there are others – including particularly some women – who do not want something that is either the same as or synonymous with marriage. Again using a feminist argument to deny others something they want doesn't stand up to scrutiny. It they don't want anything synonymous with marriage they they don't have to same as with anyone else. This is a sensitive area of policy development and not one which is assisted by inflammatory media coverage.

The Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, with whom we have discussed this issue privately, acknowledged in response to Ben's remarks last night that as Stonewall is a supporter-based organisation it could not be expected to issue a response to such an issue until it had built the sort of consensus Ben had outlined. This issue has been being discussed since the introduction of CPs in 2005. The Equal Marriage Campaign is something I have been a member of for over 2 years. The failure of Stonewall to have come to a consensus in that time scale, not the 4 days that PinkNews asked for a mere 400 words, is scandalous.

Ben did not say for one moment that Stonewall objected to the motion that would be debated today because it would cost £5bn. Ah that's all right then. But see what Zoe said in that second post.

Ben pointed out, factually, that there was a cost to including provision of civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples in the motion. He suggested that ministers should publish the Treasury Impact Assessment that will have been carried out. Well if cost is going to be a hindrance bringing equality, we should not have brought in Civil Partnerships for gays and lesbians. We shouldn't have brought in minimum wage or equal pay. At a time when companies are downsizing we shouldn't have brought in the law to prevent employees being fired because they are gay. We also shouldn't have extended the franchise to women, or Roman Catholics or Jews either. GET REAL!!! When has cost ever, or should it ever be an excuse against equality.

This is a policy on which Stonewall expressed and expresses no view (campaigning to end heterosexual disadvantage is not one of its charitable objectives it may not be one of the objectives per se of Stonewall but why are they seeking just to support gays not achieve equality. If LGBT groups aren't standing up for equality who can?, and Ben said that) however, with an estimated cost of £5bn over 10 years, people have understandably raised the question of whether it is likely in the current economic environment that such a policy would be implemented in the lifetime of this parliament. Hang on above you said this wasn't a reason Ben had for objecting yet you appear to say he was doing so here.

Stonewall is determined, as Ben made crystal clear at the meeting, to build – as it has always strived to do on any issue - a policy and campaigning position on the future of civil partnership that has the support of the widest possible number of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain. Yet you seem to be arguing for the small number of women having the right to deter it for others, how bizarre.

For PinkNews to publish and fail to correct a story in this way sadly brings the whole of the pink media, which serves our minority communities uniquely well, into disrepute. I have seen and heard numerous comments from friends who were there, I would have been myself if I'd been able to get to conference. I have read this statement in full I do not think that PinkNews got it wrong. I see no reason for them to correct their story as Stonewall have not denied any of the comments were made and indeed seem to try and defend a number of them here.

Update: The original PinkNews article was update and now contains the following disclaimer:

"Comments made during the 21st September have been suspended at the request of Stonewall. It is possible to post comments though on this amended version of the article. is happy to publish the clarifications above and apologises for any confusion caused by the original report."

So Stonewall are trying to censor freedom of expression.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Next Just Get me to the Church on Time #LDConf

I'm really delighted that my fellow Liberal Democrats earlier today passed the Equal Marriage in the UK motion at conference.

However, sitting here watching it both me and Mícheál were struck by the anti speeches. Now we know our constitution says we shouldn't be enslaved by ignorance but there is a certain amount of reading what the motion actually says that seems to have been ignored. Point 2 of what conference calls for says (emphasis mine)

To allow approved religious and humanist who wish to do so to legally solemnise and celebrate same-sex marriage and civil partnerships in places of religious worship.

The reason I emphasised it that key phrase is that is the key phrase that make this a liberal motion. We are not forcing churches, synagogues, mosques etc to carry out same-sex marriages what we are doing in this motion is enabling them to do so if they wish. If they wish! Yes Kieran who wrote the initial motion for Scottish Conference on which this was based is an atheist, but he consulted with me about getting the religious element carefully dealt with. That little phrase was what between us we came up with to make in a liberal enabling motion rather than a draconian forcing religious groups under their various governances to have to change to accommodate.

I've said before that we are a liberal party but we also must allow religious freedom. As liberal we may not aways agree with the utterances or stances that they take but we have to respect their right to hold them, as long as they do not infringe on others. This motion fully meets my expectation of what a Liberal Democrat motion will entail.

For the record this Northern Irish friend of Sara Bedford was cheering every line of her speech. She'd done her research and asked gay friends of faith and none how they felt about it. It made up for the fact that my speech never got to be heard outside of my room despite two opportunities I could have done so.

But this in only the first step, we now have it as policy now we have to make it government legislation, so we can all start to plan those marriages.

The Speech That Never Was Take 2: Equal Marriage #LDConf

Just about now if things are going to schedule item number F35 Equal Marriage in the United Kingdom is being debated at Liberal Democrat conference. Here, slightly modified, is the speech that I am not able to present for a second time (the first at Scottish because I moved the transgender amendment, now because I am absent).

Conference, it is with great delight that I am able to dust of this speech that I didn't make at Scottish Conference this Spring, on this very matter. Especially because lines 4-5 and 29-31 look very happily familiar to the Transgender amendment I moved there. But I stand before you today to commend the motion as a whole. a

Whilst the coalition government is making moves to allow ceremonies for LGBT couples to be performed in religious buildings. The Prime Minister has said that these will be civil partnerships.

That means that these will not have the appearance of a Church marriage ceremony that you or I would attend for our heterosexual friends, because a civil partnership is not allowed to contain any religious elements. It is just that a civil ceremony. Yet at present if our heterosexual friends want a civil marriage they can do so at the local registry office alongside those self same civil partnerships.

This assumes that I and other gay Christians or members of other faiths are happy just to have a civil partnership in a location that we feel is like home. That is why like our own leader has said we shouldn't me so hung up with the word marriage.

There are some who say that allowing people of the same-sex to have the right to marry will debase the sanctity of marriage. That would be the same sanctity as Britney Spears 24 hour marriage in Vegas.

Love is a many splendoured thing and when I find the man I wish to spend the rest of my life with I want to have the option of marrying him in a church and having our friends sings the hymns we have chosen and the readings we want. That is of course if he says yes and also wants a religious ceremony.

To misquote the bard of Stratford

I am gay! Hath not a Gay man eyes?
Hath not a gay man hands, organs, dimensions,
senses, affections, passions?
Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons,
subject to the same diseases, healed by the same
means, warmed and cooled by the same winter
and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we
not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you
poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall
we not speak out?
If we are like you in the rest, we
will resemble you in that.

You know something conference, as a gay christian I'd love to settle down with the man of my dreams. I'd love to enter the house of my God and join that man in union. But I want the words in the presence of God to be part of that ceremony. Not as a civil partnership in a religious building seems to me, sneaking in when the lights are out and God isn't home.
I want the choice.

I have the choice to be with the man I love.
I have to choice to be partnered with them.
I'd love to have to choice to invite God to the wedding.

And conference you know something else. As a Northern Irish man if the biggest dilemma is whether to have a ceremony that is protestant or catholic or some combination of the two I wouldn't mind. I'd be very happy just as long as I had that choice.

Conference, support this motion and I'll let you know when you can start shopping for hats.

There are some other blogs about speechs. This one from Sarah that similarly was never made about the issue of Gender recognition. Then there is the speech that Sara Bedford actually made yeah if you've read the above you can tell I was that Northern Irish friend.

Monday 20 September 2010

Stonewall Says No

If I'd been at the Liberal Democrat conference today this evening I would have been at Delga (LGBT Lib Dems) diversity fringe event. This would have been before heading to the General Election candidate's reception later.

However, reading what I have just read suspect that I would have been sat in a corner writing what I now am. Thanks to Zoe O'Connell whose blog brought my attention first to what went on earlier.

Twas the night before Equal Marriage was debated in the hall,
And Stonewall weren't stirring they were scared as a mouse.

Well that is what we all thought they refused to respond to Pink News asking them a simple question on their stance on gay marriage. Stonewall weren't being singled out, but as one of the LGBT community's larger group their silence when 9 other groups did was noted.

Well Ben Summerskill tonight broke that silence. But here are some of the bizarre reasons that he gave. My comments in red.

  • Giving Civil Partnerships to heterosexual couples would be too expensive £5bn over 10 years. Since when has cost been a reason to stop equality and correct wrongs.
  • That the feminist movement are fundamentally opposed to marriage. Just because one group is opposed to something while others want it is no reason to stop it being taken up by others.
  • Finally while people are being murdered in homophobic attacks we should he fighting that, focusing on that and not other things. While there is a difference in term for relationship surely that merely sparks the discriminators that there is something different, or 'wrong' in same sex unions.
I'm surprised he didn't use the argument that same same sex unions will ultimately fail. But I would say to that of course they will fail, not every heterosexual relationship lasts until the grave. Yes gay and lesbian couples will have arguments, they will fight, some of the those unions marriages or partnership will end in divorce (some of course already have).

But we need to give them the opportunity to fail so that we can rejoice with those that succeed. Those who in 20 years time celebrate their silver anniversary. Hopefully some having updating their CP into marriage as part of tomorrow's motion enables.

I look forward to the day that young gay men or women dream of their wedding in the same light as heterosexuals do. Look forward being it a ting that brings family and community together and isn't seen as odd or lout of whack, but a natural progression. Maybe when the relationships are normalised the homophobia will die down, maybe not entirely but to a greater extend.

It's Official and the Chair May Be Jealous #NILD

As with the regularity of Federal Conference coming around in September so does the my new membership card turn up. It's usually waiting for me when I return, so there was no surprise that it turned up today.

As you can see the local party name has been changed to Northern Ireland, so its now official my move.

But to my shock the membership card is a Scottish party membership card (see the underlined) not an English one, which the party is aligned to. Just don't tell the local party chair, or should I as a Scottish member call him convener, he might just get a little jealous of this novelty.

When a Defeat's Not a Defeat #LDConf

I'm sure I was watching the Liberal Democrat conference earlier on BBC Parliament, I'm just not sure where the BBC were watching it. Their headline says

Lib Dems suffer conference defeat over free schools


This was a Lib Dem conference. How can a democratically debated and voted upon motion be a defeat?

Not only that the debate as I watched it enhanced Lib Dem education policy as I have heard it debated over the last 22 years of my association. So why is it a defeat?

Also they call it a rebel motion. No it was like all manner of Lib Dem motions coming from the membership not from the leadership. That is the nature of the party, and its conference, not like the Tories and Labour who will simply rubber stamp the will of the leadership.

So the Policy Motion on Free Schools and Academies may be opposed to some of the government

Basically because the membership of the Lib Dems have passed a motion that contradicts that of the coalition Government. So a more accurate headline would have been 'Government suffer Lib Dem conference defeat over free schools'.

But this was a victory for the Lib Dems and their independence as a party, holding the government to account even if some of our representatives serve in that Government. It is just what our Scottish conference did through the eight years we were in government and our Welsh cousins similarly.

So if anyone doubts that the Lib Dems have lost their way, you are now seeing that this is not the case. The party will continue to act in a progressive and fair way.

Sunday 19 September 2010

It's My Birthday...I Must Be at Conference...Oh NO!!!

Birthday lunch
Normally at this time of year my lunches consist of hotel buffets at whatever fringe event I have chosen to attend. Occassionally on my birthday I have been travelling so it is a package of Boots sandwiches or the equivalent that I have eaten while in transit. There have even been the odd occasion it has been by election fayre grabbed when I could be fore getting shipped back out again.

Not today I was at the Cafe Manor, Donaghadee with my mum. Thinking of missing some friends I'd have loved to have seen at conference already I noticed on the specials board Roast Beef, Yorkshire pudding, champ and vegetables (pictures above). So thinking of Jennie Rigg I tucked in.

I was too full at the time for dessert though I think some of my birthday cake is due to be eaten later at afternoon tea. However, anyone who knows me knows of my love of tea so I was delighted that on offer was a wide stock of Teapigs teas so I ended up having the Chilli Chai variety. It is Assam tea, with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and chilli, and it was lovely (see below).

Chilli chai

The Grand Old Miliband

The Grand Old Miliband
He sought ten thousand Lib Dems
He wound them up to the top of the hill
But he'll let them down again

You see there is one issue with being so blatent in stealing the disillusioned of another party as Dave Miliband wants to put it. The fact is that such people want the party that they then support to fit around them, rather that standing for what theye believe in, they are like refugees wanding in the wilderness seeing what fits them best.

What is worse is if you are trying to attract them to something that has lost its way in recent years, that many still within do not recognise as being part of them and their beliefs which many in Labour have found in recent times.

It is why I turn back to that Nick Clegg interview in the Independent yesterday. Not the 'headline grabbing' bit, but elsewhere he said:

"So this [conference] is an incredibly important opportunity for those Liberal Democrats who are in government to show people in the party that they retain the same values, instincts and ambitions – that walking through the door of power does not mean you lose your soul."

If you are coming to us because you share our values we still have thos values he does go on:

"If anything, we are doing the most difficult things now, partly because everything is so obscured by the bad, worrying news about deficit reduction. Rather than it getting worse, maybe over time – after very, very difficult decisions on public spending – the wider purpose and vocation of the Government will become more obvious.

"Both for the Lib Dems as a party and for the country, we need to be more explicit about what a radical, reforming government this is going to be. The worst thing would have been to go into government and be an insipid adornment to the establishment way of doing things."

We are going to make change but we do have this mighty cloud and a think fog left over us, because of the way Labour have left us.

David talks about leading a progressive party in opposition. Yet currently Labour are simply just in opposition. Opposing everything even progressive measures they stood on just a few short months ago. I'm glad there are still no fresh ideas from any of the Labour leadership contenders, because without the ideas there will be no long-term retention of the people you attempt to woo. Labour are

The Lib Dems are a party of ideas, ideas that come from the members as well as the leadership, something that Liberal Democrat conference has already shown and will continue to show over the next few days. Ideas which are progressive. Ideas that we would like to see come into the Government, ideas that can make a real change for the better and betterment of people.

Fluffy Justice, My Deal to End the Curse

The authors of this blog along with Millennium Dome Elephant, his Daddy Richard,
Mr. Iagreewithnick and other bloggers at last year's #LDConf bloggers interview.

I'm a Boston Red Sox fan to I believe that curses can be lifted.

So while I and Lionel welcome Fluffy Justice finally being served we are a little worried about the curse of the BOTY affected the muse of everyone's favourite pachyderm over the next 12 months.

So here's the deal, whoever the judges are for next years BOTY's keep up the StephenGlennPosition curse of not shortlisting me for anything, and the rest of you make it easier by not even nominating me for anything in the first place*. I hope that this singular, small, selfless sacrifice on the altar of the great BOTY will suffice to ensure more selubrious, satirical and hitting the nail on the head post from a ten year old soft toy with two daddies.

* Of course if you chose to ignore these missives and Millennium does maintain writing and I do get shortlisted next year that's alright too. Mind you I'm currently having to focus on being Northern Ireland's top blogger, having usurped the blog whose trophy I collected last year, see I'm cursed I tell you. :)

PS My plan B was to write only 15 really stonking blog posts all year and hope to get shortlisted...but then I think I've written over than amount in the past week alone.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Am I Missing/Missed at #LDConf

Looking at these stats from Tweetminister's following of Conference it appears not so much.

Quote of the Day: Pope Benedict XVI on Love

Wordle created by Mícheál Carchrie Campbell

I have to thank Mícheál for his regular updates of the Pope's public utterances on this trip. I know he would far rather be down in London today rather in a rather damp Belfast. However, part of that is the words that he spoke today. These ones especially stood out:

"We were made to receive love, and we have. Every day we should thank God for the love we have already known, for the love that has made us who we are, the love that has shown us what is truly important in life. We need to thank the Lord for the love we have received from our families, our friends, our teachers, and all those people in our lives who have helped us to realise how precious we are, in their eyes and in the eyes of God.

"We were also made to give love, to make it the inspiration for all we do and the most enduring thing in our lives. At times this seems so natural, especially when we feel the exhilaration of love, when our hearts brim over with generosity, idealism, the desire to help others, to build a better world. But at other times we realise that it is difficult to love; our hearts can easily be hardened by selfishness, envy and pride."

Speaking about love to an open audience is a wonderful thing. Acknowledging that we were made to receive and give love is truly a Christian attitude. It is something that reaches to the heart of the Christian message. But I'm wondering is there are caveats on just what sort of love that might be.

However, as love has made me who we are, it has made me accept that I am someone who yearns for the intimate love of another man. Yes I am wondrously made, but I'm made in that way, to love whom I love and to love my God as well. There is an exhilaration of being in love and of sharing love, agape, Eros or Platonic love (if we are going to the Greek).

Of course I am merely seeing it through my eyes, from a heart that isn't hardened too much but is open. I hope and pray that the Pope, his church and all the other churches can look at the way we should love. That we are made to give and receive that love and that the decision of which gender earns that most intimate of loves is not a socially engineered decision but part of how we were made.

As you can see from Mícheál's wordle at the top 'love' certainly was at the forefront of today's homily, yet has also been the matter of contention of many of those who today chose to Protest the Pope. It can't be fully right in either direction if that is the case.

Read also speaking also of love, my friend Mícheál has found a rather touching and moving letter from a gay priest which he has reposted on his blog.

Cross Post from Clare Sambrook: State-sponsored cruelty

Clare Sambrook the novelist and journalist, who is the pro-bono co-ordinator of End Child Detention Now wrote to be asking if I would cross post this article writen by here for open democracy. I am happy to cross post that article in full and unabridged here today as our party gathers in Liverpool for conference.

State-sponsored cruelty

The Liberal Democrats must fight to salvage their promise to end the detention of children for immigration purposes in the UK.

Ask Boy A what he is scared of and he says dogs, strangers and policemen. He is scared to go outside and play with friends. At night he wets his bed. He cannot sleep without his mother. He is nine years old.

At their autumn conference this weekend Liberal Democrats wanting to rescue their end child detention pledge from Home Office sabotage will find ammunition in a chilling new report from Medical Justice.

Boy A is one of 141 children in the report that takes its title — 'State Sponsored Cruelty' — from Nick Clegg's pre-election definition of the detention policy. Almost half the children were born in Britain, and 62 per cent of all of them were released from detention back into the UK, raising the question, why on earth were they locked up in the first place?

Boy S, aged 9, arrested with his mother in a dawn raid and locked up in Yarl's Wood detention centre, lost one tenth of his body weight in a single month. Another child, bounced in and out of Yarl's Wood time and time again, spent 166 days behind bars before she was three years old. And this, in Britain, a country where dawn raids and imprisonment of families who have committed no crime is unimaginable in any other context.

At their Spring conference six months ago Liberal Democrats voted to make ending child detention an Election promise. ('The Government must find its long lost moral compass and put an end to child detention immediately', said Chris Huhne, then shadow Home Secretary.) Clegg pushed successfully for its inclusion in the Coalition Agreement.

Then the Home Office went to work. Instead of stopping the dawn raids and closing the asylum prisons, immigration minister Damian Green invited selected NGOs to join a 'working party' helping the government; to review alternatives to detention.

Gre>en announced: 'All those who have the most knowledge of the asylum process should play a significant role in guiding us onto the right path.' Behind their backs, he sanctioned ill-thought out draconian 'pilots' of 'alternatives', bundling vulnerable families out of the country without recourse to legal advice.

In a parallel and chilling show of true intent, the Ministry of Justice, ignoring appeals from scores of leading lawyers and the Archbishop of Canterbury, let the biggest provider of legal representation to asylum seekers — Refugee & Migrant Justice — fail, for want of prompt payment of fees owed by the government. RMJ’s collapse robbed many thousands of vulnerable people of legal advice, and thrust the surviving not-for-profit legal aid providers and specialist solicitor firms under catastrophic strain.

As for Damian Green’s review process, its integrity is manifested in the person put in charge of it. Dave Wood, a former police officer with no experience in children’s services, is director of criminality and detention at the UK Border Agency, locking up more than 1000 children every year in conditions known to harm their health.

Such is Wood’s enthusiasm for detention that he told the Home Affairs Select Committee last year that families rarely abscond but should be locked up anyway to deter others from coming here.

He wrote to the committee falsely undermining peer-reviewed medical evidence that Yarl's Wood was damaging children’s physical health and messing up their minds. 'The study was undertaken without any reference to the UK Border Agency or its clinicians,' he told MPs. Not true. Home Office documents attest to the discussions that took place.

No maverick, Wood is a perfect product of his department's culture. As recently as June, an eye-popping safeguarding report criticised the Border Agency for 'fundamental' child protection failings. Dismissing a mother's desperate pleas for medical care for her five year old, sexually abused at Yarl's Wood, the Border Agency (catchphrase: 'treating children with care and compassion is a priority') swept mother and child out of the country.

The Minister for Children and Families, Sarah Teather — a Liberal Democrat — sent a friendly message to last week's parliamentary launch of the Medical Justice report, easserting the Coalition's commitment to ending child detention, but adding: 'We have to be careful not to rush into this as we are dealing with the safety and well-being of often vulnerable children and it is essential it is done properly.'

Quite how children’s safety might be served by not rushing to end a practice proven to wreck their lives is a mystery that suggests leading Liberal Democrats have been gulled by the detention enthusiasts at the Home Office.

Liberal Democrats may take pride in their end child detention pledge. But they must summon the political integrity to fight for it, or else the Home Office will swap one form of state sponsored cruelty for another. As Medical Justice concludes: 'Ending the immigration detention of children should be immediate, and not contingent on any reviews or pilot projects on alternatives to detention.'

There's No Future For...Hang On a Minute...There Is #IAgreeWithNick #IndyFail

This is the front page of the Independent that caused a stooshie around about the time of the 10 o'clock news bulletins and Newsnight. Quite a little bit of mischief was being created from all sorts of quarters. But that isn't the full quote indeed it isn't a direct quote at all. It is a headline truncation of this from an interview Nick Clegg gave:

"There were some people, particularly around the height of the Iraq war, who gave up on the Labour Party and turned to the Liberal Democrats as a sort of left-wing conscience of the Labour Party.

"I totally understand that some of these people are not happy with what the Lib Dems are doing in coalition with the Conservatives. The Lib Dems never were and aren't a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with Labour. There is no future for that; there never was."

Now that does not say no future as a party of the left merely not as a receptacle of dissatisfied members from a party of the left. Which is true. I've always seen myself as a left leaning member of a centrist party, but never as left leaning as the Labour party of my youth. (Younger readers may shocked to learn that once upon a time Labour were a party of the far left in this country, the years BT [before Tony]).

Now I've always described myself as socially liberal with economically liberal tendencies some of my Lib Dem colleagues describe themselves as the reverse. That is neither left nor right over all, but certainly aims to be progressive. Progressive both for business and for individuals. Not hindering one for the benefit of the other as both the Tory and Labour parties tend to do.

That is what being a liberal is all about, however it appears that the front page designed of today's Independent didn't understand that and took their own slant on the quote out of context and changed the meaning entirely.

The result. I still agree with Nick.

Friday 17 September 2010

Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Read Me Now I'm 65

Ok I know the Beatles song is 64, and no I haven't slipped in a few extra birthdays. But hey best I could do because somebody should have given me a slightly higher ranking. Yes I'm looking at you (only joking). Thank you everyone who voted for me in the Total Politics Poll.

Total Politics have announced numbers 51-100 in their poll today and I'm delighted to say that my good friend Caron is not to be seen on that list. Why? Because she was convinced she wouldn't be in the top 50 so this morning I put all the lists thus far into a spreadsheet and proved that I was right and she was wrong.

I personally would love her to be number 42. Then I will certainly have to get my Towel out to celebrate.

However. It is quite tight with three Lib Dems in the 60s Liberal England is at number 62, I'm at 65 hence the title of this post and Jennie Rigg is at 68 (she may be wishing she were one place lower for a jokey title).

Doctor Packula is just ahead of us lot at 57 and Liberal Vision just ahead of him at 58. Meaning that there are 8 Lib Dem in the top 70. Sara Bedford's blog Always Win When You're Singing is in there too at 94 and Andrew Reeves the remaining blog from the Top Ten Lib Dems was at 105 in yesterday's list.

As for the Scots:

53 Cute Greek Baby
61 Bright Green Scotland
65 Me
73 Two Doctors
74 Subrosa
80 Malc in the Burgh
96 Alex Massie

Worryingly though with Slugger O'Toole only being at number 100 (down 49 on last year) I am in essence the top Northern Irish blogger.

It's a little Papal (Catholic) Humour

Oops. I almost forgot the get this sorted out for this week. However, as there is a Papal Visit on guess the theme.

First up from Father Ted who's have thought that Father Jack was beaten to promotion by a Polish guy called Karol.

And Billy Connolly a Weggie and a Catholic is pleased for the Churches stance on birth control.

And the lastly Dave Allen tells us about his first remembrances of his Catholic schooling.

Of course Dave Allen always ended his shows in an ecumenical way with "Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you" so I wish you that today.

Wish I Were There #LDConf

I have a strange feeling in my bones that something is wrong.

It is my birthday weekend coming up and I am surrounded by family!

Don't get me wrong I really love my family but in recent years familial celebrations of my birthday are either premature or delayed. There have been a couple of occasions in recent years that of course I've been fighting a by election, in 2005 for example dinner on my birthday included the Deputy First Minister of Scotland Nicol Stephen at my table at Zaika, Livingston.

But what I really want to be going on a day like today is either packing, travelling or leaving work about now to start the travelling. I'm not doing that, as sadly I have a bad case of candidate induced Post-Election Financial Disorder. It is the primary reason that I am back in Northern Ireland and the disorder wasn't made any easier (£459 worth not easier) by the unforeseen events of #operationevacuate.

That is a hefty chunk of money on top of the expected costs of getting home and therefore eats right away at the contingency fund with with I'd hoped to make it to the first Liberal autumn gathering with government ministers since the 1920s. A little piece of history I am missing out on.

My birthday is also a big day for Liverpool they are heading for the Field of Nightmares (aka Old Trafford) to take on the old enemy. So I shall be missing the BOTYs and many friends old and new. I shall be missing revelling in the new government and in holding them to account. I'll be missing real ale at Liberal Drinks, Delga's AGM, the launch of the Fairer Votes Campaign and oh so many things (some of which I have the invites for).

Watching on TV and following on Twitter just won't be the same. I don't even have the morning dilemma of which tie, shirt and suit combination to go with for the day. I can even get away without shaving as no photo ops will be sprung on this approved candidate in the morning bulletin.

Gay Press in United Statement to Pope

The leading gay titles in UK publishing Attitude, Diva, GT and PinkPaper have joined together for the first time to make a joint statement:

"As our country hosts the Pope this week, we – the leading gay press – stand united against his out-dated stance on homosexuality. We oppose and challenge his view that gay people are unequal, deserve less respect and are a threat to society. Instead, we regard the hate he encourages as one of the greatest threats to fairness and freedom, which should form the foundation of any society, and indeed, religion."
As I blogged yesterday I agree that we have a right to make our concerns known about the intolerance. However, yesterday in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow the Pope said:

"The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a "dictatorship of relativism" threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister."

While I'm not excluding religious belief, like my friend Caron did earlier in her outrage, there is one thing the church has been changing its truth through time. Nor do I think like the other letter in the Guardian this morning which my other friend Mícheál is a co-signatory of that highlighting only some change within the church, sexuality acceptance, while ignoring others, birth control, is truly an upholding of all of society's most vulnerable

Currently there are still those in the Catholic Church fearful of loving the person of the same gender as themselves who they love. Living in fear of being excommunicated from the faith they feel at home in. The Pope in the past has claimed behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations was a "destruction of God’s work". Therefore the assumption is that if you are gay the Pope is expecting you to be celibate and if you are in a relationship for that to be celibate.

However, that is not what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7: 7-9

"I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion."

It is one of those passages that clicked into place with me along with others, that lead me to my personal believe that I can be gay and a Christian in the one breath. It is impossible to stay a gay, passionate man and not act upon it. The same goes for heterosexual men and Paul himself only wished that all could be like him for the benefit of God's work not that all should, but that is separate issue for the Catholic church to deal with.

The assumption and the suppression is what leads to a lot of anxiety in a lot the LGBT community. It is not atheist extremism that is the problem from them but also the religious fervour of those they respect. As it is I don't wholly agree with the Fry, Dawkins et al letter. Indeed I'm actually glad that in recent months both Attitude and GT have run articles on people of faith who also happen to be gay.

Following on from the Issues issue which looked the level and causes of depression in the LGBT community Attitude’s Editor, Matthew Todd added to the above joint statement:

"We receive letters every week from young gay people trying to deal with the shame they feel trying to come to terms with their sexuality. We know that rates of suicide and depression are higher amongst gay teenagers than amongst their straight contemporaries and I believe there is a direct link to the persecution of gay people by religious leaders such as the Pope.

"I will be proudly joining Saturday’s demonstration and I urge all people who want to see equal rights for gay people and women and an end to the Catholic church’s terrifying stance on condoms to do so too."

Not that being gay is a mental condition but the struggle in parts of our society, and most especially the religious elements can lead to mental health issues. There is struggle to be accepted even if we can accept ourselves from others. It is not made easier by repression of churches who are commission to love one another as Christ has loved them and not to judge one another.