Saturday 27 August 2011

Tories can't stand 9% muscled Liberals

There are poor Tories who are all concerned that nice Mr Clegg is showing too much Lib Dem muscle since the loss of the referendum in May.

They are concerned that Lib Dems are making them steer a more liberal course on human rights; business regulation; immigration; green issues; pro-growth measures; the timing of spending cuts; Europe; NHS reforms; family policy and tuition fees.

Yeah that list is right, our dear blue painted leader was attacked for actually not doing as much on Tuition Fees that some Tories wanted to do if they had been a majority government. They want to cut faster, but have been held back by the liberal democrats. They want to take away your human rights and if you look at their stance towards Europe and Immigration you can guess how appeasing to UKIP and even slightly to the BNP and EDL this might be when they reinstate their alternative. They also wanted to make dramatic changes until Lib Dem conference reps, myself included, told our MPs otherwise and told them they couldn't go that far. Some called this last a U-Turn but conference reps did allow our party's MPs to go further than our manifesto and the coalition agreement, just not as far as the Tories wanted to take things. Of course the NHS muscle was flexed before the AV referendum was lost.

Seems like the Tories are all very good at kicking sand in others people's faces when they can, which actually is most of the time they have a Prime Minister. But as Alex Wilcock points out the electoral maths hasn't given them that muscle, yet they still want to kick sand on their junior coalition partners when they can, or secretly rejoice when Labour do it for them.

So yeah the Lib Dems are sick of both our government partners and the opposition kicking sand at us. We're beefing up, because people need to know just how liberal we are, just what changes we are bringing in to the Tories preferred trajectory. If Tories think this is only because we lost our part of voting reform, the AV referendum, while their reduction in seats went through on a common's vote, then maybe they should have just let us win that.

But of course it is not the case that the Lib Dems are only flexing muscle because of the AV referendum defeat. We flexed it in the general election and people voted for us. We need to keep flexing it to show people why they should continue to do so. If the Tories themselves are saying we are moving them leftwards, then surely we must be doing something for the people, so vote Lib Dem, you know it make sense.

I can't be in two places at once

I'd rather be up in Londonderry/Derry right now like I was last August taking part in the Foyle Pride Parade. But As you can see from the league table below, every point, indeed every shot counts before we at North Down take on Markethill next week.

As it is I'll be in Carrickfergus for the penultimate game of the season. However, I will be up in Northern Ireland's second city a day too late tomorrow delivering wedding presents ahead of a wedding in two weeks time.

To everyone taking part in Foyle Pride today hope you have a good, safe day. As for the protestors remember that Jesus loves them too, just pass on his love to them.

Wish I was there walking from the Train Station to Guild Hall Square like last year.

Foyle Pride 2010

Time for FCC to get the Picture #ldconf

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Apparently there are a growing number of people whose submitted picture to Liberal Democrat Conference has been turned down by Greater Manchester Police (GMP). Over the last 24 hours I have heard of a number of them. Either the pale background wasn't to their liking, ie not white, off-white or grey, or the picture was in black and white or some other reason.

Most of those I have heard of are not first time attendees. One is a former councillor, one is a prominent Liberal Youth member. But with just three weeks to go to conference people who will have paid for travel and accommodation are being turned down because their pictures aren't up to spec. Why?

The only reason that a picture would need to meet the 12 carefully laid out criteria (and I have yet to hear about mine taken at conference for 2010 election purposes) as in the situations above is that the GMP are you face recognition software on our delegates as elected by their local party to represent them at Birmingham. This is Big Brother going too far for the attendees at our own conference. This is the police with very little time left telling certain members of our party that they cannot attend conference, and it is far too late into the process.

Or course in July of this month this process started. Some of those mentioned were dual applications, that is they applied and attended in March, along with September conference. They were then given a whole lot of new hoops to jump through to comply. People have been receiving emails to confirm that they will allowed to attend conference having been proved acceptable to GMP, others are being told now that their application is not sufficient at this late stage. Some, like me are waiting to find out.

On Tuesday when the conference team are settling into their new surroundings in Great George Street they will be inundated with angry conference delegates if this sample of my friends is anything to go by. When it comes to the debate on Sunday 18th September, providing many of us can actually get into the debate, there is a debate to discuss this issue, which is proving to be too late, too draconian and leaving too many good Liberal Democrats scratching their head about how they will get to conference and if they need to look at getting money back for travel and hotel fees out of the party's coffers.

Update As I was eating breakfast I was listening to the Kaiser Cheifs who were in town here this week. I think I might adopt some of their lyrics.

We are the democratically elected angry mob of conference reps,
We read our papers every year,
We vote how we like
Oppose what we hate
We're not so easily waylaid.

The author has yet to have his accreditation confirmed or rejected yet. But flights and hotel were booked months ago and as a claimant attendee (still claiming JSA) I cannot afford to be out of pocket to this amount. There are other issues which I may yet have to write about should there be another reason/s that I fail.

Friday 26 August 2011

Maybe the wrong coloured paint from Stuart Rodger

 I did start to try and write this last night but couldn't get around to completing it until now

It is a pity that Stuart Rodger* felt he had to resort to such a cheap stunt a throwing an egg full of blue paint to try and get a message across to Nick Clegg. He is a bright and intelligent young man. Yes in his brief time in the Lib Dems I did get to know him and debate with him, both at that time and since he left.

He has the intelligence to frame an argument against what the Lib Dems did. I know me and him had that debate on Facebook in private messages. I'm all for people entering into the debate, if they can only offer an alternative. Apparently as the egg was hurled though Stuart shouted "No Shock Doctrine for Britain" in relation to Naomi Klein's book.

As an economics graduate Klein's theory that neo-cons and neo-liberals rode on the back on manufactured crisis to maintain laissez-faire economic success strikes me as ranking up there with all manner of conspiracy theories, as where is the null hypothesis. If Klein in correct the UK economic growth wouldn't have been stable for so long in the 50s. Ok it was on the back on a crisis, yet she fails to call World War II a monetarist created 'crisis'. How an intelligent politics student at one of Scotland's top universities can fall for that one sided evidence without looking at the historical context objectively is beyond me.

However, liberalism to me has always been about more economic liberalism. In my debates with Stuart since he left the party that seemed to be his only focus. He forgot that the Lib Dems were and are a party that will stand up for universal individual freedom, something that as he appears in Glasgow Sheriff's Court today he may well be thankful for. Indeed as Tim Montgomerie has written today on ConservativeHome, it is Nick and the Lib Dems who are taking the Conservatives away from some of their election pledges.

So maybe it was the wrong colour paint at the wrong leader, not that Stuart with his narrow obsession of what he thought it meant to be liberal would see that.

Read also

Mark Valladares Rhapshody in Blue (paint) ....
Caron's EXCLUSIVE Pictures of the Greater Spotted Rennie

* Some of the media are asking if he is a member of the party. He came to us from Labour but left again shortly after the 2010 General Election, burning his membership card.

Thursday 25 August 2011

We apologise for the inconvenience - Edinburgh Labservatives

Work for the trams on Princes Street
Douglas Adams may have written:

"They rounded the foot of the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains, and there was the Message written in blazing letters along the crest of the Mountain. There was a little observation vantage point with a rail built along the top of a large rock facing it, from which you could get a good view. It had a little pay-telescope for looking at the letters in detail, but no one would ever use it because the letters burned with the divine brilliance of the heavens and would, if seen through a telescope, have severely damaged the retina and optic nerve.

"They gazed at God's Final Message in wonderment, and were slowly and ineffably filled with a great sense of peace, and of final and complete understanding"

It read of course We apologise for the inconvenience today or at some point in the near future we may expect to see the same message in large letters in the side of Castle Mount in Edinburgh overlooking Princes Street, seen as the store holders from Shandwick Place or Leith Walk pass by. Because that is the message that Labour and Conservative councillors have sent to them today.

Not just to them but to every bus traveller, every car driver, indeed everyone who has ventured into Edinburgh City Centre in recent years.  Yes millions had already been spent. £15m a year is still going to have to be paid back by the city of Edinburgh over the next 30 years for a Tram network that doesn't go out as far as the Airport and originally intended at one end, but is also now 11 stops short at the other end. All those distuptions to the traders in the venues I've listed above to make preliminary works. The laying of track along Princes Street, the relaying of cobbles on Princes Street.

Now it will end at Haymarket way out West and even three stops short of St Andrew's Square close to both Waverley Station and the Bus Station where it would of been of greater use. The cutting short of the line is estimated to cost £4m loss in revenue, when and potentially if a tram actually runs on the line from the Western edge of the City at Gogar. It will serve those that work in Edinburgh Park and the residents of Saughton as it heads into Haymarket, but then people will have to get off the tram and seek alternative transport to go further. It won't go the whole way down to Newhaven and the new apartments where many who work in Edinburgh Park aspire to living.

What will become of the tracks laid eastward of Haymarket station. Will they remain as a constant reminder of how Labour and Conservatives pulled out of making even a viable go of what had already been spent. Lumbering the people of Edinburgh with debt without a really unusable alternative public transport spine. More just a limb, slightly dislocated, partially paralysed, but certainly not a spine.

It seems that the Labour and Conservative councillors in the city have had a medullaectomy in voting the way they did today. No spinal chord was evident in them backing the negotiations that had gone on to get the best out of what had become of the Trams project. So they cut even more of the route making a real white elephant instead of the mythical one that some people seem to think already existed. The SNP of course are also not out of the water, they abstained so as they could back their national stance.

So a project started as a great white hope under the previous Labour administration has ended up consigned to a white elephant graveyard west of the City Centre by the current Labour opposition in collusion with the Conservative party. Watch out for how they try and spin this in their literature ahead of the elections for council next May.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

It's is Day Two of Tennents Vital 2011

Well yestereday saw 20,000 turn up for the Tennents Vital Festival today they are expecting 40,000 for day two.

Today's acts include Jimmy East World.

Then I hope there isn't the predicted riot as The Kaiser Chiefs. But you know what every day I love them more and more.

But the headliner is a coup indeed. As Marshall Mathers III takes to the stage. "Who?" says you, the reall Slim Shady, none other than Eminem.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

It's is Day One of Tennents Vital 2011

I know I normally do these things on a Friday, but hey when you have the biggest outdoor gig in Northern Ireland happening on your doorstep and disrupting your bowling activities. I thought I'd better hightlight today's performers (there are more tomorrow). So here are some of the artists that will be performing in Ward Park this evening for part of Tennents Vital 2011.

There will be The Wombats, I choose this video as an 80s music geek because of the Moog synthesiser, especially as the 6th Anniversary of Robert Moog's death was on Sunday..

There is also local band Two Door Cinema Club (who says we're all Snow Patrol)

Tonight's headliners are The Script and this is my favourite song of theirs.

Monday 22 August 2011

Arab Spring to late Summer: Libyan Fall

I remember watching the Wall come down in Berlin. I remember on Christmas Day in 1989 watching the evidence of the end of the Romanian dictators. I was watching when the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled. Last night was another of those days.

For hours, into the small hours of this morning, I was engrossed on the rolling news. Not the BBC which seemed so far behind it may well have been reporting on England winning the World Cup, or Mr Chamberlain saying he had no concerns with Herr Hitler. Ibit the bullet and watched Sky News to get the most up to date news. For while Alex Crawford was a vehicle with the rebel forces surging towards the centre of Tripoli, the BBC correspondents were caught up in the Hotel Rixos which was under Gadaffi's government control and spewing out the sort of half truths via press conferences similar to those that were coming from Chemical Ali as Baghdad was falling.

The coverage was so different. The BBC were saying it is reported that the rebels are now here. Sky where saying they were, because they had the coverage of it live from Alex Crawford in bullet proof vest and helmet. As much to protect her from celebratory bullets in the air than any snipers. But that changed as they entered Green Square. There the driver of her vehicle did reverse for a km up the road when gun shot, the first of their advance, was aimed at them, not into the sky in celebration. The crowds that had surrounded them dispearses, but only brielfly as they all eventually returned.

Two of Muammar Gadaffi's sons have been detained, but there is no news of where the man himself is. He had been seen in Triopli on TV last night and had made a radio call for support from the rest of Libya late last night.

Gadaffi's flag has been being taken down at embassies around the world (in Valetta, Ankara) and replaced with the rebels flag of the new and pre-Gadaffi Libya.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Hola, la bienvenida a la Vuelta

Hola. ¿Qué tal?

Excuse my Spanish start to today, but I did the same early in July for the start of the last Grand Tour, and today is that start of tyhe last Grand Tour of the 2011 season. Yes today sees the start of the Vuelta a España.

There may be a BMC Team without Cadel Evans, a Schleckless Leopard-Trek, no Contador in the Saxobank Team and as for Thomas Voeckler well Europcar don't even take part. However, there are some names that are targetting the Vuelta this yearwho started in the Tour de Francee.

Sky see Bradley Wiggins, Omega Pharma Lotto have Jurgen Van Den Broeck both back in the saddle after their horrendous crashes before the Pyrenées in this year's Tour. Nicolas Roche is also there for AG2R trying to shake off that bad day he had in the Alps this July. As for the sprinters well there is Tyler Farrar (Garmin), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampré) and Tom Boonen (Quickstep) all experienced guys, but there is also the winner of the London-Surrey Cycle Classic last weekend over the Olympic Course, of course HTC's Mark Cavendish. Last year Cav wore the leader's Red Jersey for the second day, but more importantly wore the Green for longer and more importantly in Madrid at the end after winning three stages. As the current holder of two points classifications of the three Grand Tours he may well be going to defend as built up to the World Championships this September, in the Netherlands.

Today though is the individual time trail around Benidrom, so some Brits won't be lazing on the beach and one, Wiggins, may even be hoping to pull on the Red jersey at the finish.

Friday 19 August 2011

Salmond may not have gone mental but still in denial

As I blogged late on Wednesday there was a little dispute between First Minister Alex Salmond and Dunfermline and West Fife MP Labour's Thomas Docherty. Well his special advisor Douglas Chapman, leader of Fife Council and candidate from the 2006 by election candidate for Docherty's seat has stepped in to deny that the First Minister went mental.

In fact he went so far as to say that Mr Docherty had prepared a fantasy press release. This is good from the man who's team on polling day in Dunfermline and West Fife pulled together a fantasy stake board message that suggested that there was going to be a shock SNP win on the day. His full statement that appears in the Dunfermline Press is:

"Any suggestion that Mr Salmond lost his temper is absolutely incorrect.

"I was in the room along with guests and senior council officers and nothing untoward happened, other than Mr Docherty's approach was totally inappropriate given that the focus of the visit was making children feel really proud of their new school.

"In fact, most people in the room were unaware of any supposed incident and Mr Docherty and his press office are guilty of pure fiction. If anything, it was Mr Docherty's inappropriate approach to Mr Salmond that was aggressive and the First Minister's response was a model of restraint.

"Mr Docherty's childish behaviour was questionable in raising a political issue at the opening of a new school, which was a day for the proud pupils, parents and teachers.

" Mr Docherty then left - presumably to prepare his fantasy press release - and didn't even have the good grace to stay to share the day with the children.

"These actions will be seen by many of his constituents as being not only juvenile and inappropriate but wholly crass and opportunistic.

Mr Docherty's response was:

"If Douglas Chapman's happy putting his name to this statement for Mr Salmond that's fair enough but he was in the room and he knows what really happened."
What I find strange about the whole thing is that  both Alex Salmond's statement on the day and Douglas Chapman's statement now are about image management of the leader and not of the party. There has still been no SNP leadership about the question of Mr Walker's comments yet they are scurrying to build the image of Alex Salmond. From the stories I have heard on doorsteps of Linlithgow while campaigning there I can fully believe that Alex Salmond could lose his temper when he believes he is in private.

Thursday 18 August 2011

At last the Olympics are coming to Northern Ireland

The London 2012 bid promised that the games would be the games of the nation and not just the capital. However, despite many sports facilities in Northern Ireland being ready on being built there had been no team commitment to train in Northern Ireland until today.

Four teams, all aquatic sports, had commited to train in the Republic of Ireland, despite a new Olympic sized pool being developed here in Bangor due to be opened in Spring next year. The teams are the Hungarian and British water polo teams, US synchronised swimming team and the UK Paralympic swimmers. Yes two parts of TeamGB aren't even training in GB&NI despite the team and games supposedly representing the who nation.

However, we will welcome the Australian boxing team to Northern Ireland next year, to use some of the facilities that helped gain 3 golds and 2 silvers at the last Commonwealth Games and topped the table for boxing. They have signed a letter of intent to train here ahead of the games and are the first team to do so. We hope that some others will follow.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Salmond! Calm down and go and wait outside the headmaster's office

 "You don't bring politics into a school, that's just daft."

Was the comment made by a politician at the end of a visit to a school. Yeah, you heard that right some daft politician tried to stop an opponent asking him a question while he was on a school visit. The daft eejit to say something that daft was none other than the first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond.

Here are the facts, well at least both STV and the Dunfermline Press are having to report what happened as the incident happened away from teachers and pupils and possibly also the press.Thomas Docherty the Labour MP who defeated Willie Rennie in 2010 apparently asked the First Minister to condemn the Nazi comments of the MSP for the area Bill Walker (who was also present) about some of the LGBT groups challenging his support of the John Mason amendment to the Equal Marriage consultation. This is the sort of action that any MP or MSP could expect to recieve on an regular basis.

Apparently the First Minster apparently got angry and asked Docherty, 'How long have you been an MP son?' before one of his minders stepped in.

The full quote from Mr Salmond to the press afterwards was:

"I think he's only been an MP for a year or so and he'll learn as time goes on that there's a time and a place for everything and you don't bring politics into a school, that's just daft.

"However, it certainly didn't mar the day. I think it's a reflection of his inexperience."

Ironically the man he was defending Bill Walker has been an MSP for only 3 months as opposed to 15 of Mr Docherty. Mr Salmond could have said the comment from Mr Walker, which the Dunfermline MSP has since retracted, was a reflection of HIS inexperience. Yet the First Minister has yet to pass any comment after this issue has been going on for a week.

Maybe Mr Salmond needs reminding that his party have currently only promised to consult on the issue as in their manifesto. Surely he could have reminded Mr Walker of that, while reprimanding him for his comments. However, there may a million reasons why the First Minister isn't prepared to take a public stance on the subject of equal marriage, or maybe any LGBT issue, if he is in the pay of Brian Souter on such issues he is not fit to serve as First Minister of a diverse and progressive Scotland, either as part of the UK or as an independent state.

Of course this isn't the only time that the brasqueness, duplicity and stupidity of Alex Salmond has caused tensions this week.

Update Friday 19 August Today the First Minister has denied "going mental" as Mr Docherty put it, however there is still no cendemnation.

Posted Elsewhere: It may be Free Derry, but she's not free to come speak there

Cross posting from LGBT Lib Dems Northern Ireland

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesra may have won the the 2011 Martin Ennals award for Human Rights but she has been denied entry into the UK to be a keynote speaker at Foyle Pride.

This lesbian campaigner was due to kick off the Foyle Pride festival on 24th August. The limited resources of the Pride committee of Northern Ireland's second city were looking to increase on the spalsh they made last year with the first Pride Parade in the city. They booked and paid to get the Executive Director of Freedom and Roam Uganda, a main lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights organization, to the festival. But the UK Borders Agency has denied her a visa to enter the UK.

Read the rest here

What the Party manifestos said on Same Sex Marriage

Before we get into too big a brouhaha about the consultation on equal marriage by the Scottish Parliament let's take a look at what the different parties actually said in their manifestos.

The big two were quite similar both only saying they would start a consultation.

The SNP page 17 under the header A more equal Scotland

"We recognise the range of views on the questions of same-sex marriage and registration of civil partnership. We will therefore begin a process of consultation and discussion on these issues."

Labour page 67 under the heading Championing equality, celebrating diversity

"Scottish Labour wants to end the unjust situation that has seen gay men, who were previously prosecuted for consensual acts, continue to suffer the prejudice caused by these convictions - long after the offences themselves have been decriminalised. We will investigate the best way to implement the 'Alli Amendment' in Scotland, to give religious organisations that want to, the freedom to hold civil partnerships in their buildings for the first time. We also believe that the time is now right to consult on options to provide genuine equality for same-sex couples and their families, by addressing the different status of civil partnership and marriage. We are clear – Scotland shouldn’t be left behind on these issues."

Two of the others also had policies that were very similar, both saying they would actually take action.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats page 82 under the heading Freedom and Liberty Action Plan based on the policy motion which I reported on here.

"Extend legal marriage to gay couples and civil partnerships to heterosexual couples."

Scottish Green Party page 19 under the heading Diversity, tolerance and creativity

"We'll introduce legislation for equal partnership – opening marriage and civil partnership up to mixed-sex and same sex couples, and allowing religious celebrants to conduct civil partnership. We'll begin a dialogue with the UK Government about the need for cross-border recognition of relationships on the basis of equality."
In fact looking at what Patrick Harvie of the Green's said back in January this year, the Greens are similarly to the Liberal Democrats position of not forcing churches to do anything. I particularly like his phrasing in the last line.
"The idea that same sex couples are second class citizens is deeply offensive and on the wane, but it still needs to be challenged. The Equal Marriage campaign is an attempt to remove one of the last elements of discrimination in law, and deserves our support. The antiquated notion that same sex couples are in some way morally inferior needs to be put to rest once and for all.

"The progress made toward equality over recent decades has been dramatic, but prejudice and discrimination are still very real in our society. It's important that the law should recognise that love is love, that family is family, and that a "separate but equal" system of family law is still giving cover for prejudice.

"It would be relatively simple for Scotland to open civil marriage up to same sex couples and civil partnership to mixed sex couples, so that people can make their own choice on their own terms. The churches would also be free to reach their own view, instead of being banned by law from recognising all relationships equally."

Then there was the Conservatives 



Yeah a distinct lack of anything there.

So you have two parties that were committed to bringing in equal marriage, neither of which were going to force churches to carry it out, but allow them to be "free to reach their own view, instead of being banned by law from recognising all relationships equally". Plus two parties who consultation would have lead them to realise there are gay Christians who want the option, religious groups that want the option and those that don't want to be forced in to anything.

All three can be accommodated in the one motion and it won't affect the sanctity of marriage any more that the current divorce rate amongst heterosexual marriages, that is something that both the Greens and Lib Dems already have come to a consensus on..

Monday 15 August 2011

Vote Andrew Reeves 1

Yeah it is that time of year where I have to decide whether I should be upfront and blatant of like Uriah Heep and ever so humble. This year for the Total Politics Blog Awards I have have no such qualms.


Yeah I've lost a great friend and the world has lost a great blogger. Many of my readers will probably also have been readers of Andrew's blog either because you follow me since I'm a fellow Lib Dem, spent time in Scotland or are a fellow politico. If you did you should also have been aware of Andrew Reeves' blog. If not Caron has a good summation of what he covered over the last year until his untimely death in early June. As she says "Andrew wrote punchy, pugnacious posts which made their point with all the subtlety of a pneumatic drill." The most fitting tribute I could have for him is to finish behind him for the first time in the Total Politics Blog Rankings.

So follow the link the survey you have to fill in at least 5 blogs for your vote to count but you can vote for 10. Just remember.

Of course as you have to vote for at least 4 more a preference for me would be appreciated.

Who do you think you are kidding Mr Walker?

The above sign off  or something similar on a email was what was described by Bill Walker MSP (who had already caused a furore over his comments) as "as quite intimidating actually because ... it reminded me of the pre-war Nazi-type stuff banning things." It is a comment that he has since withdrawn saying it was "intemperate".

However the fact that looking to end homophobia, which is what a cross through the word homophobia would clearly convey as anything akin to Nazism is a sign of an out of touch person, sadly this one is sitting in Holyrood. Surely looking at ending a negative and hateful human attitude cannot be same as promoting one? Yet that is what his original statement would have implied.

The problem that the MSP for Dunfermline had in his original comments was that he went on to say:

"It sort of reminded me, I've seen the old films of people, you know, having marks painted on them and all sort of symbols. I just think it is pretty awful."

 I agree with Mr Walker that the marks and symbols painted on people and their homes by the Nazis was not just pretty awful but a damn disgrace. These were later used in the concentration camps to designate the types of prisoner the Yellow Star on the Jews, the Purple Triangle for Jehovah's Witnesses, the Brown Triangle for Romany travellers and of course the Pink Triangle for homosexuals.

It seems a pity that Mr Walker should associate a campaign to end one type of such prejudice with the people who most notoriously prosecuted that prejudice to the point of putting into concentration camps.There were 100,000 who at times from 1933 wore the pink triangle. 10,000 of these were interred in concentration camps of whom 6,000 perished. Maybe Mr Walker should read about that rather that just garnering information from old films, Heinz Heger's The Men with the Pink Triangle would be a good place to start.

The problem did not end there though. After the liberation of the camps many of those marked with a pink triangle were still imprisoned as the Nazi change in the law from a minor offence to a felony still stood on the statute books of the liberated Federal Republic of Germany for some time. Not until 1969 where these laws repelled in the FDR, it wasn't until 1988 they were revoked in the DDR.

Mr Walker is quite correct that such a comment in 'intemperate' especially in light of the history of those who were marked with the pink triangle. However, Germany managed to change their laws, at least for those over 21, in 1969. While England and Wales benefited from the Sexual Offences Act (1967), the gay community in Scotland had to wait until the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 to get the same rights*. Therefore the Germans managed to decriminalise homosexual acts long before the Scots did.

As for the debate on equal marriage Walker has said:

"It is important that this debate is conducted in measured terms, and I have therefore withdrawn the intemperate comment made by me. I will be commenting dispassionately from now on."

I couldn't agree more. I hope he does some reading up on the matter so that he is well informed before it comes into the chamber. Maybe he can meet some of those groups that are campaigning for equal marriage and hear their views and maybe even engage with some of the LGB Christian Groups to hear their views. 

* Two years before Northern Ireland.

Friday 12 August 2011

Is it not bigotted to disallow freedom of religion to all Mr Walker?

Of course I was sad when Jim Tolson was one of the Liberal Democrat MSPs to lose their seat in the elections today. I was even more saddened this morning when I saw that his replacement the SNP's Bill Walker appears to not believe in equality.

He has signed John Mason's amendment to the Scottish Parliament's Equal Marriage motion, which in itself failed to see the equality of all and freedom of religious groups to decide if they wish to offer same-sex marriage that was enshrined in the motion itself. He claims that he has received some "highly abusive messages" saying he is being intimidated and almost threatened. While I doubt that such behaviour may have been taken from concerned citizens writing to their MSP I would ask any that have done anything other that state a clear point to desist. What I suspect that the MSP has encountered though is a sheer volume of correspondence on the issue, seeking him to change his mind, possibly more than on any other issue that he has faced before. If he finds that intimidating that the public write to him then he is clearly in the wrong jobs as neither Jim Tolson nor Willie Rennie as the MP who was unseated in 2010 found correspondence from their constituents intimidating but a challenge to be seized.

What has saddened me is Mr Walker's response as published in the Dunfermline Press.

"I'm very upset about it. I feel I’ve been intimidated and almost threatened.

"I have been called a bigot and all sorts of names, saying I live in the dark ages.

"The irony is I got married a few weeks ago. Needless to say it was to a woman!

"There are things called civil partnerships, which I accept, but I'm really concerned about the use of the term 'gay marriage' because to me it’s a contradiction in terms and anything that puts homosexual relationships as any way equal to male-female marriages is just not right."

Tim Hopkins, of the Equality Network, told PinkNews:

"By saying that same-sex relationships are not in any way equal to male/female ones, Bill Walker is expressing homophobic prejudice. 

"His remarks are an affront to many of his constituents, and not just the LGBT ones. He is free to express his opinions, but must expect those opinions to be criticised if they are prejudiced and offensive.

"Bill Walker claims to have received 'highly abusive and bullying' emails from 'gay rights organisations'. However, the national LGBT organisations in Scotland – ourselves, Stonewall and LGBT Youth – invariably engage debate with anyone without abuse or exaggeration – unlike Bill Walker, it seems."

There is an arrogance about some of these in religious groups, Mr Walker is a member of the Church of Scotland but claims this does not affect his decision, that only the stance of their religious group is the right one. There are religious groups the Quakers, Unitarian and some liberal Synagogues plus the Humanists that wish to carry out marriage for all, whether mixed-gender or same-gender. They do not have the issue over the word.

Even calling it 'gay marriage' shows an element of separation in Messrs Walker and Mason's minds. I don't want to have a gay marriage that is separate from a 'straight marriage' I just want the option of a marriage. I'd also like it not to be separated into a civil partnership section and then a religious element (as has been proposes by David Cameron at Westminster to try and get around objectors) if 'we'* choose to have it in a church building, but fully integrated as all current church weddings are conducted.

There are religious groups that are prepared to offer not just their building to same-gender partnerships, but to fully integrate same-gender marriage to all into their ethos. These are welcoming people of faith, yet their beliefs and desires for religious freedom are being blocked by a few who disagree with their interpretation of the word marriage. The only people being forced to do anything are those open religious groups from turning away same-gender couples from the marriages they wish to perform. That surely is bigotry that we cannot condone.

* There is no other half of that we statement yet, but obviously the choice of service will be down to two of us in the end. So you can all stop thinking of buying a hat for the wedding just now.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Artful Thursday 8 - Christof Plümacher

As I went past the Waterfront Hall in Belfast today the following picture along with a couple of others got my attention. Can't think why. Maybe if you do you can tell me in the comments.

So British....#6

The pictures on display were by Christof Plümacher a German photography that is part of the Belfast Photo Festival. Here are some more of his pictures.

So French....#1
So Spanish...#2

Enjoy! Do a google image search to find some more examples of this work if you do.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Parlimentary recall and what it could mean

Since 1948 there have been 24 recalls of Parliament, Thursday's will be the 25th and the second within a month. Here is the rundown of those other recalls and what they were to discuss.

  1. 27-29 September 1949 to discuss devaluation of the pound
  2. 12-19 September 1950 Korean War
  3. 4 October 1951 Prorogation - followed by dissolution
  4. 12-14 September 1956 Suez Crisis and Cyprus
  5. 19 September 1959  Prorogation - followed by dissolution
  6. 17-23 October 1961 Berlin blockade
  7. 16 January 1968 Government spending cuts
  8. 26-27 August 1968 Czechoslovakia, Nigeria
  9. 26-29 May 1970 Prorogation - followed by dissolution
  10. 22-23 September 1971 Northern Ireland
  11. 9-10 January 1974 Fuel
  12. 3-4 June 1974 Northern Ireland
  13. 3 April 1982 (a Saturday) Falklands
  14. 14 April 1982 Falklands
  15. 6-7 September 1990 Kuwait Invasion
  16. 24-25 September 1992 Government economic policy; UN operations in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia
  17. 31 May 1995 Bosnia
  18. 2-3 September 1998 Omagh Bomb: Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill
  19. 14 September 2001 International terrorism and attacks in the USA
  20. 4 October 2001 ditto
  21. 8 October 2001 ditto
  22. 3 April 2002 Death of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
  23. 24 September 2002 Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction
  24. 20 July 2011 (day after raising) Public confidence in the Media and Police
As you can see it in unprecedented for there to be two recalls in such close succession that are not as a result of war or terrorism. But that also shows the state of affairs we are in this week, must of the above were for time of war, the others were to end a Parliament, financial issues or to mark the passing of a Queen.

Dan Falchikov blogged that Lib Dems should vote against the possible introduction of the draconian measures as laid out, as I blogged earlier, in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. As he said:

"Anti-terror powers would appeal to the right wing mob - but have little practical effect other than to curb the liberty of the 99.99% of Londoners who are going about their law abiding business. Lib Dem MPs should vote against these draconian powers if proposed by the Tories (and no doubt supported by Labour)."
Having heard some MPs today call for military, water cannons etc, many of which measures can only come if a senior Minister of the Crown were to call for a vote to enable the Act in the debate on Thursday. As Dan points out many of the Tories may see it as stringent policing, many of the Labour members opposite who brought the Act into being may see it as a chance to show they were 'right', but Dan is right the Lib Dems need to stand up for liberty. We need to stand up for the vast majority of people who are law abiding.

Yes, we need to discuss what needs to be done, but we need to discuss that is a way that people can go about their lives as normal. Places shutting early is a sign that the rioters have won in a way that terrorists haven't done. Having been raised in Northern Ireland I know that our city and town centres were shut to traffic except for access and public transport at the height of the troubles. It is also only recently that Belfast city centre is reasonable alive to a late-ish hour (still nothing compared to Edinburgh or London but a whole lot better).

If we give in to shutting up shops, restaurants etc early, we are letting the yobs win. We are giving in to an urban terrorism far more easily that we did to those that planted the 7/7 bombs. Of course we have to take action to bring those guilty of the various crimes to justice, we have to protect those who are going about their daily business. A lot of that will come from family members turning in those who recently acquired plasma screens, new training shoes and whatever when there was no means to acquire these.

Our Lib Dem MPs must stand up for the balance of Liberty and Justice. It is a fine line (much like the Met have had to tread over recent days) but one that I trust our MPs will balance well. I look forward to some strong contributions from them in the debate on Thursday and a truly liberal stance on whatever comes out on the day.  We need to show the public as well as those that are doing the looting, arson, pillaging and civil unrest that we really are the party of new politics. That we have listened to all sides and want to defend our way of live, our people and business but do it with an essence of liberty.

Update I hear that PSNI armoured landrovers are being leant to the Met, on the local news here in Northern Ireland.

Are the rioters about to get anti-terrotist emergency powers enacted? #LondonRiots

COBRA are meeting at the moment but the media while awaiting the Prime Minister's statement are speculating that there may be a recall of Parliament on Thursday.

Why would such a recall be made? Possibly to enact the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. It is clear that the definition of an emergency certainly covers what we have seen in recent days.

(1)In this Part “emergency” means—
(a)an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in a place in the United Kingdom,
(b)an event or situation which threatens serious damage to the environment of a place in the United Kingdom, or
(c)war, or terrorism, which threatens serious damage to the security of the United Kingdom.
(2)For the purposes of subsection (1)(a) an event or situation threatens damage to human welfare only if it involves, causes or may cause—
(a)loss of human life,
(b)human illness or injury,
(d)damage to property,
(e)disruption of a supply of money, food, water, energy or fuel,
(f)disruption of a system of communication,
(g)disruption of facilities for transport, or
(h)disruption of services relating to health.
(3)For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) an event or situation threatens damage to the environment only if it involves, causes or may cause—
(a)contamination of land, water or air with biological, chemical or radio-active matter, or
(b)disruption or destruction of plant life or animal life.
(4)A Minister of the Crown, or, in relation to Scotland, the Scottish Ministers, may by order—
(a)provide that a specified event or situation, or class of event or situation, is to be treated as falling, or as not falling, within any of paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsection (1);
(b)amend subsection (2) so as to provide that in so far as an event or situation involves or causes disruption of a specified supply, system, facility or service—
i)it is to be treated as threatening damage to human welfare, or
(ii)it is no longer to be treated as threatening damage to human welfare.
(5)The event or situation mentioned in subsection (1) may occur or be inside or outside the United Kingdom.

There are sweeping powers in the Act. It allows under the monitoring of Parliament and/or the devolved powers for emergency powers, necessary for the overcoming of the emergency to be enacted. There is a quite a scope for just what those powers entail

Section 22
(1)Emergency regulations may make any provision which the person making the regulations is satisfied is appropriate for the purpose of preventing, controlling or mitigating an aspect or effect of the emergency in respect of which the regulations are made.
(2)In particular, emergency regulations may make any provision which the person making the regulations is satisfied is appropriate for the purpose of—
  • (a) protecting human life, health or safety,
  • (b) treating human illness or injury,
  • (c) protecting or restoring property,
  • (d) protecting or restoring a supply of money, food, water, energy or fuel,
  •  (e) protecting or restoring a system of communication(e)protecting or restoring a system of communication
  • (f) protecting or restoring facilities for transport,
  • (g) protecting or restoring the provision of services relating to health,
  • (h) protecting or restoring the activities of banks or other financial institutions,
  • (i) preventing, containing or reducing the contamination of land, water or air,
  • (j)preventing, reducing or mitigating the effects of disruption or destruction of plant life or animal life,
  • (k) protecting or restoring activities of Parliament, of the Scottish Parliament, of the Northern Ireland Assembly or of the National Assembly for Wales, or
  • (l)protecting or restoring the performance of public functions.
(3)Emergency regulations may make provision of any kind that could be made by Act of Parliament or by the exercise of the Royal Prerogative; in particular, regulations may—
(a)confer a function on a Minister of the Crown, on the Scottish Ministers, on the National Assembly for Wales, on a Northern Ireland department, on a coordinator appointed under section 24 or on any other specified person (and a function conferred may, in particular, be—
 (i)a power, or duty, to exercise a discretion;
(ii)a power to give directions or orders, whether written or oral);
(b)provide for or enable the requisition or confiscation of property (with or without compensation);
(c)provide for or enable the destruction of property, animal life or plant life (with or without compensation);
(d)prohibit, or enable the prohibition of, movement to or from a specified place;
(e)require, or enable the requirement of, movement to or from a specified place;
(f)prohibit, or enable the prohibition of, assemblies of specified kinds, at specified places or at specified times;
(g)prohibit, or enable the prohibition of, travel at specified times;
(h)prohibit, or enable the prohibition of, other specified activities;
(i)create an offence of—
(i)failing to comply with a provision of the regulations;
(ii)failing to comply with a direction or order given or made under the regulations;
(iii)obstructing a person in the performance of a function under or by virtue of the regulations;
(j)disapply or modify an enactment or a provision made under or by virtue of an enactment;
(k)require a person or body to act in performance of a function (whether the function is conferred by the regulations or otherwise and whether or not the regulations also make provision for remuneration or compensation);
(l)enable the Defence Council to authorise the deployment of Her Majesty’s armed forces;
(m)make provision (which may include conferring powers in relation to property) for facilitating any deployment of Her Majesty’s armed forces;
(n)confer jurisdiction on a court or tribunal (which may include a tribunal established by the regulations);
(o)make provision which has effect in relation to, or to anything done in—
(i)an area of the territorial sea,
(ii)an area within British fishery limits, or
(iii)an area of the continental shelf;
(p)make provision which applies generally or only in specified circumstances or for a specified purpose;
(q)make different provision for different circumstances or purposes.

Yes in the midst of that are the powers to declare martial law more or less and to make it an offence to fail to comply. It is possible that the rioters may have ended up bringing about such a threat that is even greater than any overseas terrorist threat to the UK in recent years.

Update As I was writing this the Prime Minister said he would be recalling Parliament on Thursday. What powers and actions they discuss on that day we shall have to wait and see.

Update The Hon Lady Mark has told us that his wife Baroness Scott of Needham Market has been told that the Lords will also be recalled tomorrow. Does this mean that there will be some sort of primary legislation, or a vote required on Thursday? Does this mean that the draconion parts of the Civil Contingencies Act may be asked for?

Worst night of deliberate fires across London since the Blitz #LondonRiots

Croydon! Yes, Croydon last night
If I was still working in retail in London who knows where I may have been sent to this morning to help with the clean up. As I was listening and watching the news last night I knew that three of the shops that I have worked in as temporary cover were affected, or close to an area affected one way or another. The trade I worked in would have been one of those that would have been a favourite of looters.

Also I watched I saw or heard of addresses where friends live or lived. I saw two separate flats where friends used to live burn down as a result of the worse fires across London since the Blitz. The London Fire Service was severely over stretched as was the Metropolitan Police. There is just no way that they could be everywhere in the numbers required to stop another outbreak or to get to another fire on time before it really caught hold. As I watched I couldn't believe it was London rather than Belfast I was watching.

What is all this looting, razing and pillaging of London business and the housing above them is that people will have been watching their jobs disappear on screens. Small shop holders that are getting looted, or having their businesses burnt to the ground may not be able to set up store again, not just soon but ever again. There was wanton vandalism on cars parked in streets all across the City. This 'pure criminality' as it was called last night, is taking the guts out of local businesses. Many of these have been struggling in the economic climate as it is and now find that their premises and stock have gone. This has very little, if anything, to do with the original protest in Tottenham after the shooting of Mark Duggan. This has now become opportunist burglary, vandalism and rioting.

There is the #LondonCleanup hashtag that is telling people where cleanup in going on. Bear in mind that some can not be done until the police and insurance companies have taken their evidence. But if I were in London today I would be seeing where I could be helpful, even if I wasn't working in retail and being sent to one of the chains other stores.

Friday 5 August 2011

Five for the Fifth August 2011

It is that time of month when it is time to take part in Stephen's Five on the fifth. This months theme is My Town so here are some pictures taken around Bangor, not only where I live but where I was born and brought up. Not that I have always lived here.

Parks, houses and retail parks

Old Tower House and Boat House

Reflections on the new Library Extension

Floral Contrast in Ward Park

Seafaring Town

Thursday 4 August 2011

Death knell for the progressive DUP continues

Jeffrey's former NI Assembly picture
The first Northern Irish MP to support the restoration of the death penalty, even partially, is from that supposedly progressive new DUP we're heard so much about, yet in recent days appears to be notable in its absence.

It is Jeffrey Donaldson who is the first to raise his head over this particular parapet. He has said:

"We (the DUP) have stated consistently that in cases of terrorist murder, we believe that there should be the death penalty.

"One of the reasons why I think it should be debated is because I want to hear the contrary arguments.

"We haven't as parliamentarians debated this issue now for 30 years.

"A lot has happened in that time, terrorism has become much more sophisticated, much more deadly and I think it is time parliament debated this issue again." 

So if the MP for Lagan Valley is right the DUP will all not only want a debate but will be supporting a partial at least restoration of the death penalty.

The death penalty was abolished in 1969 in England, Wales and Scotland but not until 1973 in Northern Ireland. The last executions for murder in the UK occurred in 1964. Not surprisingly therefore the last person to see the judge don a black cap in a UK court was William Holden in 1973, he was removed from his death cell in May of that year before the abolition in Northern Ireland on 25 July.

On 20 May 1998 the UK Parliament voted to ratify the 6th Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which prohibiting capital punishment except "in time of war or imminent threat of war." On the 10 October 2003, effective from 1 February 2004 the UK acceded to the 13th Protocol, which prohibits the death penalty under all circumstances. Whilst the UK adheres to the ECHR it can no longer legislate for a death penalty. The Conservative Party were the only party to campaign on a withdrawal from the ECHR at the last election.

Strangely on the first of these there was vote in Parliament. However, Mr Donaldson (then with the UUP) and all of the other Unionist MPs, with the exception of Martyn Smyth (UUP), were absent from the chamber and unable to take part in the debate or cast a vote.

Of course the main point here is to look at the nations where the death penalty is still in force. China, Iran, North Korea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria are all prime examples of where capital punishment still persists and quite regularly. Also people cite the USA as a country where capital punishment is still allowed in the 'western world', however in states which practice capital punishment incidents of homicide are higher than US states which do not. Also the cost of keeping in a death row and the legal costs of petitions against the sentence lead to higher cost of capital punishment compared to life imprisonment.

The death penalty isn't the easy or cost effective alternative to our current system. Indeed when you look at some of those who are campaigning for its reinstatement you can see them as opponents of the ECHR which has a lot of  good protectionist points to it. There are also a large number of people campaigning for the reinstatement who want us out of the European Union altogether.

I think it is time to look at the motivation behind the people who want the death penalty back. Are they stirring up emotions on the back of the Norway tragedy to get their own ulterior motives fulfilled?

As a Liberal Democrat I believe that no-one should be enslaved by poverty ignorance and conformity, nor for that matter should they be hung or otherwise killed for it. Even if Mr Donaldson only wants it returned for terrorism let us not forget that the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six where two high profile cases where terrorist murder sentences were later overturned.

Are Mr Donaldson and the DUP prepared to have the possibility of innocent blood on their hands by supporting such a motion? What now of the new progressive DUP?

Wednesday 3 August 2011

He'll travel to the Falls but not down the corridor - is that repugnant?

Now there was a time that a DUP elected politician attending a debate at St. Louise's School on the Falls Road would garner nothing but applause. Let me add that of course I'm delighted that the DUP send representatives to the Féile's West Belfast Talks Back event it shows an inclusiveness and more towards normality that was still somewhat lacking a few short years ago.

The problem comes from the DUP representative at this year's event. Yeah Jim Wells is the one who will happily attend a discussion on a wide range of issues on the Falls Road, but wouldn't attend a similar event in the Long Gallery just down the corridor and down some stairs from his Stormont office. Now I'm pretty sure that the behaviour of both audiences will be similar. Respectful of all the speakers, asking questions and listening to the answers. The clothing of those at both these debates will be normal summer street clothing I'd hazard as the weather today is as good as last Monday.

Yet Jim Wells is quite prepared to cross into one section of Northern Ireland society for a discussion of issues that a few years ago he wouldn't have been seen in, yet he wasn't even prepared to head to a different part of the building he works in to talk to another. What is worse he turns down the invite to the other with a message that had veiled meanings that he has refused to comment on or clarify. The different treatment of two different sections of the community that are protected under the two different parts of Section 75 of the Belfast Agreement is something that should be shown up and shouted about for what it is.


A politician who were to show such overt prejudice in another part of the United Kingdom would be condemned by his party leadership and would not be considered suitable to hold front bench office. The fact that Mr Wells is earmarked for an office that will have the health and social well being of the LGBT community within his remit is something that is abhorrent to a large number of the LGBT people I have spoken to since Jim's comments were made public. However, he is in the DUP and the position is one that the DUP have chosen under d'Hondt so sadly there is little chance of castigation from on high in his party. Ranks have already been closed, no comments are being made except to lie about the amount of notice given of Pride on the Hill.

Now is the time to engage Jim. If you don't I expect you are going to be picketed wherever you go. Something that he is well aware of happening when people are angry about not being consulted or appearing to have their views taken on board, and if "passions run high" who can tell what takes place. Not that I'm expecting the physical presence of this young DUP protester this evening but a peaceful protest and picket.

Monday 1 August 2011

Jim Well's response watch Day 7

Me with QUBSU VP Welfare Adam McGibbon
As we know last week Jim Wells said:

"I understand that you [Belfast Pride] contacted my Kilkeel office regarding what is termed a 'Belfast Pride' debate.

"As you are probably know I find the behavior of those who take part in this march totally repugnant.

"I do not thereforee wish to be association in any way with this event.

"My position on this matter will not change in the future and I would politely suggest that any further requests of this nature will be a total waste of your time."

As one of the Northern Irish LGBT community, and the LGBT people of faith community who has also been to a Wells' family event I thought I'd give him to the right to clarify just what he meant in that statement and his subsequent comments to Diana Rusk at the Irish news.

It is now 7 days on from the Pride on the Hill event and Mr Wells has yet to answer the following questions that I posed to him on 26 July.

1) You turned down an invite to a debate as part of the festival not to the parade itself by saying that you found the behavior of those at the parade totally repugnant. As the areas covered included the higher level of LGBT teens who commit suicide, adoption by L&G couples, heteronormative views and traditions within schools etc some of this is within a Health remit. Does your statement that your "position on this matter will not change in the future and I would politely suggest that any further requests of this nature will be a total waste of your time" mean that you are never likely to meet with LGBT groups to discuss such issues?

2) You said you found the costumes and behaviour of those who take part in such parades repugnant. I'll be wearing my kilt with daywear sporran and casual shirt, my activities will be to march in beat to the music and represent my party. How is this anymore repugnant than many other parades that take place in this wee country of ours?

3) Diana Rusk reposted that you were asked if it was the behaviour of the participants that he felt were "repugnant" and not the activities of gay people, to which you said you had no comment. That is a political evasion that the LGBT community see as avoiding giving an awkward answer. As John McCallister said yesterday "The DUP don't condemn same sex cohabitees, or everyone who has sex outside marriage, bacause there are too many of them." The implication being that your party's refusal to meet and answer questions of the LGBT sector under part 1 of Section 75 is to do with electoral maths rather than a matter of principle. How do you respond to that and do you want to answer Diana's original question?

4) There is anger in the LGBT community at the DUP's continued marginalisation and apparent demonisation of the community. While the party talks about being newly progressive, how can continued non-attendance or no comment on issues raised about the LGBT members of our shared society be seen as condusive from the party with the largest level of support?

Still no response. I don't think there is anything in these questions that could be construed in anyway repugnant. We wonder if we will ever get answers.