Tuesday 31 December 2013

14 Predictions for 2014

It is that time of year once again to dust of my crystal ball and try and work out that is going to happen over the next twelve months.

1. An Olympic medalist will make a statement/protest about LGBT rights live on the Olympic Broadcaster. This will be the reason why we were right to let the athletes attend the Games at least one of them will make a protest and it will be the LGBT communities 1968 Black Power moment.

2. After the 400 bomb alearts, some of them viable, in Northern Ireland in 2013 one of the ones in 2014 will lead to a fatality. This is the one forecast I want to get wrong but I'm scared that at some point one of these will go wrong, we had the carrier of one incendiary devise catch fire this month and other brave civilians have carried devices to safe areas before contacting the authorities, so I suspect that as these are not up to the high standards at the end of the troubles that something is going to go wrong.

3. Mark Cavendish will win stages in three of the British Isles capitals this year. It will a unique year of opportunity for the Manxman. He will have the chance to win in the capitals of three nations that can be seen from the Isle of Man. First there is stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia finishing in Belfast city centre and the following day when the race finishes in Dublin. Then in July stage three will finish in London and this time, unlike the 2012 Olympics Cav will have the chance to sign and show Marcel Kittel that he is back at full strength.

4. There will be a coup against Kim Jong-un. I've said this before about the North Korean leader but after a number of eliminations of senior opponents I think that for the sake o self preservation a group will rise up to challenge his leadership this year.

5. Olympians Katherine Grainger and Louis Smith will announce their retirements.  Both these two have taken a long time since the London to get back into action. Katherine did a BBC show in 2013 looking at those who continued and those who have quit while saying she was yet to come to her own decision, at 38 after over 12 months out she is unlikely to fancy getting back into the swing of training. Since the Olympics Louis has won Strictly Come Dancing in 2012 but has yet to compete again on the pommel. With the rising stars of British gymnastics that have been successful in 2013 being multiple discipline it is unlikely that being a pure specialist will suit well with Louis trying to fit back in.

6. Britain will win three or more medals in the Winter Olympics. With changes in the skeleton, short track skating, curling and slopestyle events there are multiple opportunities for Team GB to do well in Sochi so look for the Union flag going up the flag poles on a number of occasions and the National Anthem to play at least once. It will be the biggest haul since 1936 beating the two medal hauls of 1948, 1994 and 2002. Only at the first Winter Olympics in 1924 have GB ever won four medals at one games.

7. A DUP elected representative will actually speak/vote positively about an LGBT issue. The reason that the elected rep will state for this u-turn in their thinking is that a member of their family is either lesbian or gay.

8. Sammy Wilson will spend thousands of tax-payers money defending a court challenge by an same-sex couple who oppose their UK marriage being down graded to a civil partnership. Following the leadership of Edwin Poots the Minister for Finance and Personnel will waste finance and personnel on trying to defend that fact that marriages legal elsewhere in the UK as only being civil partnerships in Northern Ireland.

9.With Haass talks failing to reach an agreement on flags Northern Ireland descends into further acts of civil disobedience. With the lack of political leadership at the end of 2013 to realise that some solution had to be made on flags, both sides and especially the unionists continue to lose control of the situation in Northern Ireland. Alliance continue to be the main focus point of acts of civil disobedience which are on the verge, if not actually illegal.

10. England lose their first two group games in the World Cup in Brazil and are out before they face Costa Rica. After losing 1-0 to Italy in the first game in the heat of Manaus, England slump to a second defeat to Uruguay and the results of both those teams against Costa Rica mean that they are unable to progress before the final match on 24 June.

11. Scotland vote to stay in the UK. My prediction of the result 38% Yes, 62% No to the question that is put. Turnout will be under 50%.

12. As a result of the above Alex Salmond faces a leadership challenge from Nicola Sturgeon and John Mason in the Autumn and steps aside. The eventually contest will see Nicola Sturgeon elected as the new leader of the SNP. It leaves only the Scottish Liberal Democrats in Holyrood to have a sole male leader.

13. David Cameron is told by the EU that he cannot keep restricting free access to Romanians and Bulgarians, so he attempts to call an immediate referendum on EU membership. I use the word attempt as the coalition agreement and indeed act only relate to any constitutional change automatically prompting a referendum. So when David Cameron attempts to call this all the Liberal Democarats resign from Cabinet and the coalition is over forcing the Conservatives to operate as a minority Government.

14. As Parliament rises for the summer after months of failing to get his actual agenda through Parliament David Cameron announces he will resign after his party elect a successor. Immediately Zac Goldsmith resigns his seat and Boris Johnson stands for Richmond Park. But in the ensuing by election Lib Dem Robin Meltzer defeats Boris and his leadership aspirations are over.

Predictions for 2013 how did I do?

There are just 4 hours left of 2013, one thing I didn't predict was that I would spend most of this year in Orkney, but how did I do with what I actually said would happen.

Well as is traditional on this blog it is time to look forward to what 2013 will have in stall.

1. Peter Robinson will be ousted as DUP leader and First Minister. I seriously think that the way that the Protestant/Loyalist/Unionist community has been in revolt this past month will bring about a split within the DUP. The hardliners will be out for more blood and those that want a shared society or are seen too will be further marginalised. The biggest casualty of this will be the leader, who for the first time will be forced from office. Somehow Nigel Dodds takes over as leader. He's still there 0 points

2. We will say goodbye to Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and the Duke of Edinburgh. Yeah a triple whammy but all three have been in hospital this year and all three are far from young. I don't think that any of the three of them will live for a further 365 days. Maggie was the first to go on 8 April. Nelson and the Duke were both hospitalised soon after that. Mandela passed away, after being cared for at home for the final months, on 5 December. ⅔ points

3. Chris Froome will win the Tour de France. After Bradley Wiggins wins the Giro d'Italia Sky decide to name Froome as co-leader publicly for the Tour but in private Froome has been given the nod with Wiggins as his super-domestic, just so he can wear the number 1 for the race as defending champion. Meanwhile in his new team, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Mark Cavendish returns to Paris in Green and yet again manages to win on the Champs Élysées, he also manages 5 stage wins and the sprinters jersey in the Giro. Well Froome was categorically named as leader for the Tour while Wiggins was racing the Giro as race that Wiggins had to pull out of and subsequently not be able to even start a defense of his title in France. Froomey went on to win, but as for the side prediction on Cav he ran into the new kid on the block Marcel Kittel who took the Green Jersey and the win in Paris. 1 point

4. Pressure mounts on Northern Ireland to rethink Equal Marriage with England, Wales and Scotland all passing legislation to allow equal marriage the Unionist politicians come under increased for their sham-Unionism on the matter of LGBT rights. Well when the Constitutional Convention recommended a referendum on Equal Marriage for the Republic of Ireland there was a second unsuccessful debate before the Assembly on 29 April. I think that is one point

5. Andy Murray kisses a gold trophy. Yeah, I'm sticking my neck out here. In July Andy Murray fulfills every British tennis fan's dream of lifting up the silver-gilt cup inscribed with the words "The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World". Well no doubt here he did it 77 years of waiting ended 6-4 7-5 6-4 and the last game was a fight. 1 point

6. Jeremy Clarkson will say something so over the top that he is suspended from presenting Top Gear. Yeah, hard to work out exactly what it is that Clarkson says that could lead to such action looking at his past history, but he will come up with something. No Jezza is still there.

7. A DUP elected politician will be caught in a compromising position with someone of the same gender. Big news for the DUP as they try to carry on an attack on any expansion of LGBT rights is that one of their own is found to have had a secret lover of the same gender for years. No the insitutionalised homophobia of the party continues, still waiting for one of their elected reps to be causght out.

8. Alex Salmond drops the plans for a referendum on independence this becomes inevitable after he is caught telling even more inaccuracies about what an Independent Scotland will look like. An SNP MSP resigns and points out that under his plans Scotland would be a puppet state to too many other nations that being a devolved part of the United Kingdom is actually the most economically and legislatively liberating option that there is. Well the inaccuracies have kept coming and the promising of everything is coming. Although with the white paper Salmond appears to be keeping us in Sterling, UK fleets to be allowed to use Faslane, keeping the Monarchy, the control and bail out of the Bank of England. So nil points here.

9. The Republican Party finally concede the need for gun control... sadly this only happens after an intern working for a Republican Senator kills a number of GOP Senators and Representatives and staff with assault weapons he has sneaked in in parts over a number of months.Nothing

10. Two members of Westboro Baptist Church leave to move in together in San Francisco...yeah turns out that they fancy someone of the same sex after all. One of the members is a member of the Phelps family. Well the year started out well with a former member posing for the NOH8 campaign. So maybe 0.5 points.

11. The 2020 Olympics are awarded to Tokyo. The compact proposal set largely in the harbour area beats Istanbul in the second round of voting at the 125th IOC Session in September. Spot on here. 1 point

12. The Flag Protests will carry on until Easter. The protesters will continue in diminishing numbers to protest against the designated days the Union Flag is flown on  Belfast City Hall until Easter. They run a near riot when on one of the designated days it's lowered and fail to notice as they are charging City Hall that it is being lowered to half mast only, to mark the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. When they carry out one last protest they are shouted at by members of the public for not showing respect to it being the day of the Duke's coffin being transported to Westminster Hall to lie in state. Well the nearest lowering of the flag at Easter was for Margaret Thatcher. But the protests were still going on and escalated with UVF flags being flown. There was of course shock when the flag was raised on a extra day to celebrate the birth of Prince Goerge of Cambridge. With another protest a year on this is set to roll on. There are still protests a year on so 1 point.

13. There will be two by elections caused by MPs being charged as a result of the Jimmy Saville investigations. None of the by elections were caused by operation Yewtree so nil points.

So in conclusion that is 6⅙ out of 13 just under 50% right.

Tune in later for my predictions for 2014. 

My top 10 posts from 2013

This blog is about to enter its ninth year of production being founded in July 2005. However, before I update my copyright declarations it is time to look back at the top 10 posts of 2013, I am restricting this only to posts that were written in 2013 as other two of my Olympic history posts and my first look that the 2020 contenders are in the list. The latter obviously was a push at the selection of Tokyo (which I predicted in that 2012 post) came closer.

So in traditional reverse order here are my top 10 hits that were written in 2013.

10. Dear John Pugh you asked about errors in your reasoning it was a year in which I took a few of our parliamentarians to task over their reason for not supporting the parties policy position on marriage equality, first out of the box in this year's top ten was John Pugh.

9. When Church turns on its own in April after the second debate on equal marriage in Stormont, when David Ford amongst others took a stance that look beyond that which their churches advocated, some in his own congregation rose up against him taking a stand For Everyone.

8. Why the Drewitt-Barlow's going to court have got it wrong #equalmarriage in August the gay couple who paved the way for surrogate co-parency here in the UK said they would take the Church of England to court if they could not be married in their local parish church. I argued about why this was the wrong approach.

7. In response to Simon Hughes after the third reading on Same-Sex Marriage in the Commons Simon wrote about his reasons for his abstention on Lib Dem Voice. I just had to respond and it appears that you lot went to have a read.

6. Lembit, Brent Central and women only short lists in September just after a confluence of events I end up making a totally un-me-like conclusion, warning there is some satire in my conclusion, but some of the points are valid.

5. Some thoughts on the Tom Daley reactions earlier this month Olympic diver Tom Daley came out about his current relationship. There were all sorts of comments erroneous and downright wrong that I decided to write about.

4. I like Steve Chalke cos he is a nice guy back in January Baptist Minister and Oasis Trust Founder Steve Chalke broke from the main Evangelical Christian tradition in this country with comments about homosexuality. It hasn't sparked a flood tide of others doing likewise but the conversation within our churches goes on.

3. Feeling sorry for Mexican Congresswoman's  Sex Life in August Ana María Jiménez Ortiz surprising came to my attention, when obviously trying to avoid sounding homophobic in saying guys shouldn't marry, came out out only those who have sex facing each other should be allowed to marry. I can imagine divorce cases filed when the husband suggested some other positions, and same-sex couples trying to prove that they only had sex facing each other.

2. Say Hello to the Belfast cultural revolution this rant against news that a portrait showing a same-sex kiss from an exhibition in Belfast (before any of us saw the actual picture since added) raised my heckles in good old fashion.,

1. Reponse from the Royal Ulster Academy quite happy for the response that came from the outrage of my number 2 post is actually the top post. That is a rather unique position but good for the story that people appear to have read both. Although over 150 more people seemed to read this rather than the original rant.

2013 wasn't a year that I was able to give a great deal of time to my blog especially considering the job that I moved into in February. I hope that productivity and intensity can be picked up as we head into 2014.

So no Haass agreement

Dr. Richard Haass the American diplomat who was chairing talks in Northern Ireland is flying home after another all night session on the 7th draft of his proposals to deal with Northern Ireland's past, parades and flags.

After seven drafts the DUP came away saying that they agreed with the "broad architecture" of the agreement, but that ""some of the language and detail is not what we would have chosen and in some cases we strongly disapprove of the language".

So what did the other parties think:

Sinn Féin thought there was a "basis for a deal in the proposals put forward".

Alliance said ""We have seen a huge sea change in the level of political agreement which has exceeded public expectation, particularly in delivering for the victims and the reconciliation process." But that there were still major challenges over the issues of parades and flags.

The SDLP said "We would anticipate a general endorsement from the SDLP in due course, that's not to say we're entirely happy... but we do welcome it as far as it goes."

The UUP appear to not be prepared to make a statement at this time before presenting it to their party.

The comment from the SDLP shows something in contrast with the DUPs. Both mentioned that they were not entirely happy. But one was prepared to realise that they weren't going to get everything and where happy with where things had got, the other seemed to lack compromise.

I'm someone who although never involved in talks have been involved in endorsing those agreements. First in the 2003 Scottish Programme for Government and again in the 2010 Coalition Agreement. On both occasions not everything that I would have liked to see was there, but there was enough of key elements in there for me to support the process.

In Northern Ireland we have a statutory coalition so parties have to work together without coming to an agreement as to what that work will entail. The end is that they are in Government together and opposition at the same time, it means that things don't get done as the parties haven't really hashed out those agreements and compromises.

Yesterday as I was watching the news coverage of the talks teams entering the Stormont hotel I heard some of the Protestant Unionist Loyalist community shouting to the DUP "No compromises". It makes me wonder what his, as it was a male voice, married life is like. The thing is to learn to work together, life together and move on together you have to make some compromises and whether that is over some of the language in some areas to get a broad agreement on things that need to be done so be it. I've also seen a comment today which read:

"Nothing in it again for the PUL people, and you can only ignore and walk over people for so long. It cannot be at any price. We deserve better than that."

Now as always that comment ignores the fact that the PUL people used to ignore and walk over those who weren't, the fact is that now we, whoever we are, cannot ignores others. We have to work with each other to work things out. And in working things out we get to a point where normality can come to our wee country, leading to people being prepared to invest in us, employ us and give us security of a financial rather than a military variety.

Friday 20 December 2013

Talk Talk filter is not politically neutral

I was doing some late night checking of Twitter in relation to the fact that the LGBT+ Lib Dems Website was blocked under Talk Talk's porn filter and came across this converstation.

Fortunately for Talk Talk we are outside an election period at the moment or else there could be implications from the fact that they are blocking both the Lib Dems and UKIP's LGBT websites but not that of Labour or the Conservatives. It means that they are able to differentiate sites and someone should have spotted this for the other political parties assuming that the Conservative and Labour sites had to be exceptions for the use of the language especially in relation to same-sex marriage, transgender issues and the like which are the key words that would automatically have been flagged up.

Of course the issue is far wider than this, these filters by the ISP providers are not good enough to differentiate what is health, education and public awareness sites and what is pornography etc. This was the crus of the debate at Lib Dem conference in Glasgow this September when we referenced back the motion on internet safety as it failed to address these issues in a way that the majority of the internet literate members of our party were already aware. The fact that our LGBT+ website is now parked behind such a porn filter is a case in point.

Earlier today someone else Tweeted this showing the BT definitions of what is blocked:

Some of the implications of this especially in relation to sex education have implications that some of our young people may be kept in ignorance as a result of parents not lifting the filter. This is especially true of LGBT youth whose parents are opposed to their child being LGBT and don't want them to find out about help that can be provided for them.

As a Liberal Democrat I don't believe that anyone should be enslaved by ignorance. But when the filters by two of the largest internet providers in this country can block access to some of the LGBT groups of our political parties, or information on sex education, including respect for a partner, STDs and LGBT lifestyle then there clearly is an issue. Thankfully the mainstream media are catching up with something that I know many Lib Dems have been shouting about for years. Some of our LGBT bloggers have found our own websites blocked on certain connections in internet cafes or wifi hotspots.All we are doing is talking about the issues, using language that can be used in good as well as for porn.

On an issue of porn, even notice that the emails selling you sex good get around your spam filter in your email by not using the actual words in full, but use punctuation and spaces to get around this. Guess what some porn does exactly the same.

Read also Alistair MacGregor's piece on Lib Dem Voice about this.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

DUP take the tortoise and the hare too far

Today in the Northern Ireland Assembly in their final plenary session of 2013 discussed this Alliance Party motion:

That this Assembly notes that a sexual orientation strategy was subject to consultation in 2006; further notes that public commitments to publish a document by the end of 2013 were made by the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister in Together: Building a United Community; expresses its deep concern that this document does not appear to have progressed to date; and calls on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to publish a cross-departmental sexual orientation strategy as a matter of priority.

Now you'd have thought that seven years after consultation would be enough time to bring forward any strategy document. I know that when I was working in the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment my branch was responsible for the economic strategy document going forward 10 years. It was published in 1999 less than a year after devolution and was covering all the complex issues of Northern Ireland's economy going forward. One of its recommendations was to produce and Information Age Initiative, this was done in 2000 less than a year later. Both documents were critically received and although some felt they could have gone further in certain directions they were a path finder for what was arguably the most important of the devolved departments.

Now this brings us to the issue of the Sexual Orientation Strategy (SOS). As Anna Lo said when moving the motion:

A consultation took place in 2006, and a strategic action plan was drafted to identify and tackle human rights issues relating to sexual orientation.  Following devolution, it was shelved in 2007, along with the shared future and racial equality strategies.  It is not unreasonable for OFMDFM to want to take ownership of these strategies under devolution, but seven years is too long to produce our own version.  Let me explain.

In 2010, the cohesion, sharing and integration strategy consultation indicated that Ministers were fully committed to publishing a sexual orientation strategy.  At the end of that year, it was confirmed by junior Minister Newton that a strategy would be published.  In 2011, junior Minister Bell told the Assembly that the final consultation process would take place in early 2012, with a view to publishing a strategy before the end of 2012.  In October 2012, the Department outlined that a draft public consultation document was under consideration and would be published in the near future.  In February 2013, Minister Bell outlined to the Assembly that the Department remained committed to publishing a strategy and that it was currently under consideration.  The announcement of the Together: Building a United Community strategy committed OFMDFM to publishing a sexual orientation strategy once the consultation process had been completed.

However, the only speakers and in the end the only MLAs who had objections to publishing a strategy were the DUPO. First Stephen Moutray said:

It is simple:  consultation must take place before the strategy can be brought forward.

Now forgive me for being dumb but the consultation started in 2006. In both 2012 and 2013 we were promised by the Junior Minister for OFMDFM at the time from his own party that the SOS would be published by the end of the year. On both those occasions it was implied that consultation was complete and it was down to drafting. So why has the strategy not been brought forward?

He went on to say:
if the Alliance Party cared to speak with the sector, it would ascertain that that sector is broadly content with the way in which the Assembly is dealing with the matter.
 Now I wonder has Mr Moutray spoken to the LGBT sector, he certainly hasn't been at any of the LGBT consultative forum meetings that have time and time again talked about the frustration that the assembly have failed to publish a SOS. Now was he there when they discussed the lack of SOS being mentioned but in passing in the ludicrous Draft Cohesion Sharing and Integration strategy, which has also since to resurface in the light of day since 2010.

His colleague George Robinson said:

I hope that those who tabled the motion will see the benefit of supporting the current work in progress to achieve the workable solution that I see as critical to a successful outcome.  Clarity, not haste, is the essential factor in producing a workable strategy.  It is for those reasons that I cannot support the motion.

The LGBT do not want a work in progress. Nor do we want a document that has been promised take over what would have been two terms to come to the table if it not published within the next twelve months. The delay in publishing this is already longer than the period that an LGBT teenager is expected to spend in secondary school, without any consideration, nor any mention of homophobic bullying. As we heard in the debate 85% of LGBT youth in Northern Ireland contemplate suicide and 35% have attempted it.

Is it really so awkward to develop a strategy especially when documents exist in the rest of the UK already laying out best practices in the workplace, accommodation, health care and education that can be adapted to the Northern Irish situations? Or is it just awkward for the DUP to face up to their Section 75 obligations and acknowledge that something needs to be done of the LGBT people in Northern Ireland who do not feel save to outwardly express their love for a partner in public as they would do in Glasgow, London, Cardiff and even small provincial towns.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Nelson Mandela's long walk on earth is over

***Breaking*** Former South African President Nelson Mandela has passed on this evening.

The former South African President was born in the last year of the First World War and almost survived to the centenary year of it's beginning. Many will no doubt write full biographical remembrances of his life but I'm going to go through the points that his life bisected with my consciousness. 

One of the first international politicians to grab my attention was Nelson Mandela. of course at the time he was still in prison. His image and presence touched my life in many ways along the way.

In 1984 of course there was the Special A.K.A. song Free Nelson Mandela which was one of the first protest songs that I actually purchased.

When I went on a tour of my first university my introduction to student politics probably came from an induction meeting in the Mandela Hall at QUB. Even though I didn't go there the fact that students in Belfast and as I later learnt up and down the country had gone to such length to make a statement of support for such a great man meant that I had to get involved in student politics and speak in Union meetings.

My first job after graduation saw me walking from Waterloo across the Hungerford Bridge and on to Piccadilly Circus. At that time it meant that every day I passed the statue to Nelson Mandela outside the National Gallery.

Of course before that on 2 February 1990 I watched as he walked to his freedom and the birth of a new South Africa, one of reconciliation. It gave me hope that possibly the same could happen in my own Northern Ireland. Together with F.W. de Klerk who had decided to unban the ANC and allow Mandela to be released he went on the win the Nobel Peace Prize, a echo of John Hume and David Trimble doing the same later for the similar peace established in Northern Ireland. Indeed  the Northern Ireland conflict was something he took an interest in and he helped leaders here to learn reconciliation towards each other.

After graduation I came the closest I ever came to the man in person. When I played for Surbiton Chess Club there was a man across the board from me at time with a South African accent. There was one week that he said he would not be available for the low rating league match that week. It was later that night when I got home from the chess match that I saw Donald Woods, who live is portrayed in the movie Cry Freedom greeting the then South African President.

I bought my first TV on the morning of the first match of the 1995 World Cup match, when I came home to watch the recording of the first match of course there was Mandela in that colourful shirt. For the final he was wearing a Springbok shirt, once a shirt of oppression of the black population of his nation, but by then embraced by the rainbow nation.

Of course I have also read his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. And his walk was indeed long indeed he married his third wife Graça Machel aged 80 after his marriage to Winnie, who was famous for her support of him while he was incarcerated, had broken down. He died today aged 95 having enjoyed a family life denied him due to incarceration and then the political change and presidential period with her children and his own grandchildren and great grandchildren. But of course as with his own children, one daughter died at 9 months and his first born son at the age of 23, there was tragedy when one of them died returning from the opening of the 2010 World Cup died in a car crash returning to the Mandela compound.

It was a long walk for Madiba and now it has run its course.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela OM AC CC OJ GCStJ QC GCH BR RSO NPK 18 July 1918 - 5 December 2013

Tuesday 3 December 2013

The best YouTube reations to Tom Daley

After seeing some of my YouTube subscriptions respond to the Tom Daley news, some good and one extremely inappropriate I decided to see how else people responded to the news. Here are xxx of the best:

This is someone I hadn't come across but makes some really good points. Here is another person who gets the fact that currently the lack of label is down to the diversity of human attraction. Chris Thompson is someone that I do follow, and apart from his putting a label on Tom that he didn't put on himself this is a good comment about honesty in public forums.

Monday 2 December 2013

Some thoughts on the Tom Daley reactions

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

So Tom Daley has admitted that he is dating a man. He has also said that he still fancies girls.

However, as a gay sportsman I cannot believe some of the comments I have seen online since Tom courageously told us this very personal news.

So some of the negative comments that are out there.

How will this affect him in the locker room? Hardly at all, there is already an openly gay man in international diving the 2008 Olympic Champion, Matthew Mitcham, so in his sport at the top level the rest of the guys already have no issue. Indeed this is an issue I addressed some 3 years ago.

Will it affect his training? No, well at least not in an adverse way. Being in a stable relationship, if that is what this is, is actually likely to enhance his training as he has some that will enable him to relax in his down time. Also the fact this he is being honest about himself means he doesn't have to worry about people disclosing details of his personal life before he is able to. So that is possibly one thing that he is now able to put behind him.

Why is he not naming his boyfriend is he ashamed of him? Actually no. As Tom says he likes to have some personal life. Just because someone is in the public eye doesn't mean that their partner either wants to be, or desires to be. Tom is the one in this relationship who is in the public eye, so we should respect the privacy that he is wanting for his partner. On the news earlier Tom was quite rightly called the pop star of British sport, he was on posters for London 2012 in nothing more than his speedo. Anyone either male or female would take some time adjusting to being the partner of that sort of public figure.

Tom Daley is gay! Actually no he hasn't said that. He said above that he still fancies girls but that the person he is currently dating is another man. Tom himself hasn't put a label on his sexuality and for all the bisexuals out there, as Tom says, it shouldn't really matter. He is in love with someone and that is all that is important, the gender of the other person in his eyes is not significant. He says he couldn't be happier and all of us who have like him had to make some sort of announcement about our own sexuality not being heterosexual we are happy for him too. Tom doesn't want any label other than that he is in a relationship.

He's just greedy! I sadly have seen this biphopic comment from a number of gay men. Tom is not greedy he is in a relationship with one person. Even if he was poly that wouldn't make him greedy, he would only be providing the amount of love that he felt he could give and receive the amount he was able to. Thirteen years ago, after I had come out, I fell in love. The individual in question just happened to be female. So I can fully understand that Tom has fallen in love with the person, I can also understand that he is in a relationship and still fancy people of the opposite gender to that partner, I've been there and worn the t-shirt. My partner at the time did not feel insecure about that, but it allowed us to have a lot of honest conversations. Tom is in a monogamous relationship, he is therefore not greedy and gay men (as invariably it is they) who say this are being biphopic and should think about how excluded they feel at times.

As for the way Tom made the announcement it was through his own YouTube channel. It was a way he has spoken to his fans who have followed him for years. It was there that he told us about Splash, recently shared his first experience of an American Football game. In other words it was where like many YouTubers you consider your subscribers as friends. Which is why at the time of writing Tom's "coming out" vlog has over 40,000 likes and only 650 dislikes. People who support Tom don't care.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Sports Personality of the Year: Announcement live blog #SPOTY

From 7pm this evening I will live blogging the BBC Sports personalities of the year as they are announced. However, after last years highs and trying to work out who would make the final 10 from the wealth of achievements this year it may be somewhat easier.

But who is likely to be in the list.

Well Wimbledon has a British gentlemen's singles champion so Andy Murray is bound to be there. Chris Froome won everything that last year's winner Bradley Wiggins did so expect him there too. Also from the world of cycling there is Becky James who rose from being the understudy for Victoria Pendleton to winning the World Championships in the sprint and keirin. AP McCoy has reached the landmark of 4000 national hunt winners and having been nominated numerous times in the past he is likely to feature again. There was success as the World Athletics Championships with Mo Farah repeating his Olympic golden double and Christine Ohuruogu setting the national record and one again showing she is a big stage competitor. Sir Ben Ainslie may not have brought the America's Cup back to Great Britain but he instrumental in the turnaround that saw Oracle Team USA retain the trophy when he came onboard as tactician. Max Whitlock was second in the all around European Gymnastics Championships and took silver in the Pommel at the worlds as well as being just off the podium in the all around missing out by 0.3 marks from a podium.

More to come from 7pm when we know who is actually there.

19:01 The first names to be announced are:

Sir Ben Ainslie: Sir Ben left behind his Olympic Career last year as a nominee in the 2012 SPOTY awards. He was initially only part of Team Oracle USA as the skipper of the test boat to race against the holders to gain race craft in the speedy catamarans that swept across San Francisco Bay. But from race 6 with the holders having lost five of the first six races he was brought into the crew as the new tactician. They lost the next two but were more competitive and then won two which because of a 2 point penalty meant they were only on 1 to the challengers 6 before Team New Zealand took another two wins, leaving them on the cusp of victory. But then in one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history 8 successive wins saw the team that Ben was now part of win the series.

Ian Bell: The England Cricketer scored centuries in the second innings of the first Ashes Test in the Summer and in the first innings of the second test. This made him only the fourth English batsman to score hundreds in 3 consecutive Ashes tests. He missed out on one in the thrid test but got another in the fourth. He was top scorer of the series with 582 and 75 fours in that number with an average of 62.44. None of the Australians managed more than one century

Hannah Cockcroft: Despite a brilliant Paralympics in 2012 Hannah didn't make the 12 strong short list for last year's SPOTYs. But in the World Paralympian Championships in Lyon she retained her T34 100m and 200m titles (the ones she had won in London 2012) from the 2011 Worlds. She has now gone double gold at the last three major championships at these distances as well as the holding the 100m world record (which she took in the Olympic Stadium and bettered later in 2012).

Mo Farah: How can someone follow two memorable Saturday nights in the Olympic Stadium in London. Well if your name is Mo Farah you do it by becoming only the second many in history to hold both the Olympic and World Championship double of 5000m and 10,000m. One other thing he also did this year was take away the 28 year old British 1500m record while the holder Steve Cram was commentating and a previous fastest Brit Seb Coe was watching.

Chris Froome: This year was the year for Chris Froome to emerge from the shadows of his team mate and last year's SPOTY winner Bradley Wiggins. He followed Brad as the winner of the Critérium du Dauphiné, Tour de Romandie, Tour de France, he also won the Critérium International in the year to match the Paris-Nice title that Wiggins also won last year. But a poor performance in the World Championships where not a single British cyclist finished may have knocked some of the lustre of his glorious emergence from the shadows. However, the winner of the 100th Tour de France did so with more individual flare than his predecessor winning on the road and having to defend his first day in yellow on his own.

19:23 and the rest are:

Leigh Halfpenny: The Welsh Full Back scared a try in the opening game defeat to Ireland. But was named man of the match in the six nations tests against France and Italy and with 40% of the international panels vote was name man of the tournament. He went on to the British Lions Tour of Australia where he appeared in all three tests. He scored 49 of the Lions 79, a record for a series and his 21 points in the third test is a record for a single Lions test. He was again named player of the series, but isn't solely looking for SPOTY glory he is also on the shortlist of 5 for IRB international player of the year.

AP McCoy: The jockey from Moneyglass is a previous SPOTY winner, in 2010 the year that he finally won his first Grand National. But that is only one race on the way to the record that he broke earlier this month. On 7 November he was saddled up in his retainer JP McManus's colours on Mountain Tunes at Weatherby it may have only been a novices hurdle race, but when the famous green and yellow colours crossed the line their jockey became the first national hunt jockey to record 4000 wins.

Andy Murray: His tennis year started at the Australian Open by making his third consequtive Grand Slam final recording his first Grand Slam win over Roger Federer in the semi-finals. But he lost to Novak Djokovic in the final to ominously tie Stefan Edberg's record of being three time runner up on the open era. But he is on the list for what he did in the grass court season, he was out with injury for the French Open but came back to win his third title at Queen's but it was at Wimbledon that he ended 83 years of waiting for a home grown men's singles champion that probably makes him favourite for this years award.

Christine Ohuruogu:While Mo Farah may have taken a 28 year old British record Christine went one further in the World Championships. Last year she only managed silver in the Olympics while trying to defend her title. But she came out strong this year and breaking 50 seconds outside of major championships. The record finally came in the World Final and the 49.41s with a dip for the line was enough to give her a second World Championship title some six years after her previous one a feat never before emulated by a British woman.

Justin Rose: Becoming the third US Open champion golfer to be nominated for SPOTY in four years. He is the first English player to win a golf major since 1996. But golfers have not been able to stir the SPOTY voters enough to win since 1989.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

What is Edwin saying? part 456

Today in Stormont the Health Minister was taking questions, this one came from the Alliance's Trevor Lunn MLA for Lagan Valley.

Mr Lunn asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, given his responsibilities, whether he still holds the view, expressed by him and by members of his party, that homosexuality is an illness treatable by medical or psychiatric means. 

Mr Poots: I do not think that I ever said that.

Maybe his comments back in 2005 that is was unnatural in the first instance and abominable in the second instance are the comment that sprung to mind.

Mr Lunn: I will try to find the reference for him.  I will ask the same question again:  does he think that homosexuality is an illness treatable by medical or psychiatric means or does he think that, as has been expressed by another Member of his party, it is an abomination? (Editor: Actually Trevor was being polite here as the minister himself said it while he was only a councillor)

Mr Poots: I do not think that it is an illness, in the first instance.  (Editor: Just immoral and an abomination, eh?) I think that many people have various elements to their lives.  When it comes to sexuality, many people who are heterosexual desire lots of other folks, and those of us who are married should not be doing that, so people can resist urges.  I encourage people to take a sensible, rational view on these issues.  I know that there have been a number of challenges about me and the various stances that I take.  I will make it very clear that my stance on blood safety is purely about safety. 

When it comes to my stance on adoption, I have just come from a midwifery-led unit in Lagan Valley, and all the people who were giving birth in that unit were women, and all those women were not impregnated by other women.  So, whether one believes in God or in evolution, the natural order is for a man and a woman to have a child.  (Editor: Can he be sure that non of them were the result of IVF therapy or that some of them weren't in a same-sex relationship to raise the child?) Therefore, that has made my views on adoption and raising children very clear; it should be a man and a woman who raise a child.  People can criticise me for that, and they can challenge me for that and say that it is backward.  The truth is that still today, in this modern era, it is only a man and a woman who can produce a child.  Therefore, it is in the best order for a man and a woman to raise a child.

Now the sentence:
"When it comes to sexuality, many people who are heterosexual desire lots of other folks, and those of us who are married should not be doing that, so people can resist urges."
 throws up a number of interesting questions as to what does the minister mean.

Is it saying that homosexuals should resist their urges? Is he saying that all married heterosexuals are faithful? Is he saying that all homosexuals are promiscuous? What is also interesting that when being asked about the medical or psychiatric state of homosexual, Poots immediately transposes that into adoption. That is almost as if he is subliminally linking the two.

There is a lot of stuff that is left unsaid. There is also a lot in there that is not actually an accurate reflection of the heterosexual community which clearly Mr Poots has more personal experience of. This therefore casts doubt on his ability to understand fully another section which he claims to not have interaction with and is solely relying what he reads or hears about that community. 

The other thing is his 100% assertion that all the women in the Lagan Valley hospital were not impregnated by a woman. If they were giving birth as a result of IVF it is possible that a woman may have introduced the sperm to the egg and  implanted the fertilised egg into the womb. This is a scientific possibility these days. I have no doubt that all the people giving birth in that unit were women. However, I would suggest that not every woman in that maternity unit every day will be rising that child with the child's sperm provider. 

Indeed I reckon that if Edwin Poots looks through his own family history he will discover that not everyone in it was consistently raised by a man and a woman. There will have been times that the mother died in childbirth and the father raised the children, or maybe the father died before the child was born and maybe the child was raised by its widowed mother and her widowed mother. This is what is perfectly natural and has happened throughout history.

What is in the best order for a child however, is that is it raised in a loving family from as early a stage as possible. The longer a child remains in the care system the more it will suffer academically and developmentally. By delaying dealing with the promised children and adoption bill because of his fight over allowing unmarried and same sex couples to adopt he is hurting those children. Northern Ireland is proportionately slower at placing children the UK average is 69% within 12 months but only 55% in Northern Ireland.

That figures needs to come down, the 4% of adoptions that take place with same-sex couples in the rest of the UK may not be matched here in Northern Ireland, but when you add in unmarried couples adopting together that figure probably would be surpassed and make inroads into the suitable homes for placements.

I will however return to the fact that Mr Poots immediately turned this question and the supplementary into a answer about adoption. As I said above he almost makes a subliminal link between the two. It is almost as if the reason he will not allow same-sex couples to adopt IS because he thinks homosexuality is an illness treatable by medical or psychiatric means and therefore until treated those individuals should not be allowed to adopt.

To therefore start with a first instance of "I do not think that it is an illness" before going on to blood and adoption something that was not asked in this instance is a case of the Minister answering what he thought he was being asked not what he actually was. By carrying on he has actually accentuated his own prejudices, his own lack of understanding of what is going on in heterosexual relationships and in birthing methods. All of which come under his remit.

The Votes are in

It is that time of year that internal party elections kick in from local party, through regional parties to the various organisations that party members are part of. So amongst the various ballot papers I have received was the one that my name actually appeared on.

This morning LGBT+ Lib Dems have officially announced the results of the election of their new committee for 2014. I'm glad to say that along with Wales' Rodney Berman, I have been elected unto a committee that truly covers the whole of the UK.

New chair Ed on left with outgoing chair Adrian
The new chair to succeed the great work that Adrian Trett has done over the last 3½ years will be Ed Fordham who had helped to plan the vigil outside the Houses of Parliament during the debates on equal marriage earlier in the year.

Holly Matthies and Jen Yockney were returned unopposed as Secretary and Treasurer respectively. The rest of the new general committee are Zoe O'Connell, Dave Page, Sarah Brown, Paul Trollope, Nicholas Coombes, Gina Dungworth and Lee Dargue.

I already know that Ed is looking to engage more with the non-English parts of LGBT+ and having Rodney and myself on the exec committee is going to make that process earlier. 

However, I do know that there are LGBT members and supporters in both Scotland and Northern Ireland who are not currently members of the organisation. For just £20 standard, £5 unwaged, £30 two members at the same address it is well worth it to ensure that the party that has been at the forefront of so much LGBT equality continues to be ahead of Labour and the Conservatives on knowing the issues and working out the solutions. You can join online today and be a part of it.

Monday 11 November 2013

Eddie McGrady 1935-2013

Eddie McGrady was the man who finally confined Enoch Powell to a life outside Westminster at the 1987 General Election. But had come close to unseated the controversial former Conservative later Ulster Unionist MP in the previous two contests for the Westminster seat of South Down.The Downpatrick born man had been on 1,842 votes away from the unseating of a second unionist in the 1986 unionism all out by elections but he'd been only 548 behind at the previous General Election.

But Eddie had served almost 50 years as an elected representative by the time he retired at the last General Election. he was first elected as an independent nationalist serving on Downpatrick Urban Council, before it was displaced by Down District Council in 1973. In the late 60s he joined the National Democrats and in 1969 stood in East Down for the last Northern Ireland Parliament but lost out by a mere 1,709 votes to the future and last Northern Ireland Prime Minister Brian Faulkner who served in that role from 1971 until direct rule was restored in 1972.

In 1970 Eddie became a founding member of the SDLP and under all of the first three attempts to devolve power again in 1973, 1975 and 1982 Eddie was elected as a representative for them for South Down. It saw him becoming Head of the Department of Executive Planning and Co-ordination from Jan-May 1974 at the end of that first attempt. He first stood for Westminster in 1979 taking on Enoch Powell as he was first seek re-election for his Northern Irish seat.

He was a strong spokesperson for devolution asking questions about devolving policing and justice in some of his last actions in Westminster and he was elected to the first term of the new Northern Ireland Assembly post the Good Friday agreement. He stepped aside as he later would do in Westminster for Margaret Ritchie after his first term. He would also serve on the Northern Ireland policing board.

I didn't always agree with Eddie, most particularly on LGBT rights, for the majority of his time in Westminster in the latter years he absented himself when any vote was to be taken. But in 1994 on the votes to lower the age of consent for homosexual men he voted to retain it at 21 both against Edwina Currie's failed equalising Clause and Anthony Durrant's clause which lowered it to 18, but then every Northern Irish MP of the time voted in the same way. He didn't vote in the subsequent 2000 vote which equalised the age of consent.

The SDLP these days of course talk up that they have always been for all civil rights yet historically they failed the LGBT community in Northern Ireland just as the unionists still do today. Although people like Eddie may have been conservative on some social issues they did lay the ground work for equality to be debated and discussed in Northern Ireland. They were a voice for the oppressed minority of the time who had to find their feet under the table of democracy and he was respected on all sides.

Friday 8 November 2013

Does S onewall Awards have an anti-Lib Dem bias?

Consider the amount of work that Liberal Democrats have actually done in areas of LGBT equality. Being the first party to back a lifting of the life time blood ban on MSM donors, being the first national party to have actually voted to adopt equal marriage as policy and before that fully supporting introduction of civil partnerships, backing allowing same-sex couple to adopt. You'd think that somewhere along the way as these milestones were achieved that we might have picked up the odd Stonewall award for our politicians.

However, having checked the list I'm rather disappointed.

Politician of the Year:
  • 2006 Baroness Ashton Labour
  • 2007 Alan Johnson Labour
  • 2008 Lord Waheed Alli Labour
  • 2009 Ben Bradshaw Labour
  • 2010 John Bercow then Speaker but previously Conservative
  • 2011Chris Bryant Labour
  • 2012 Ruth Davidson Conservative
  • 2013 Baroness Stowell  Conservative and Yvette Cooper Labour
Even then some of these have been controversial not least one of this year's co-winners Baroness Stowell who controversially upset transgender equality by still maintaining the spousal veto which Sarah Brown outlines so clearly here.

So while they do nominate Lib Dems, their so called independent panel have failed to recognise all the advances in LGBT equality that are only possible as a result of Lib Dem involvement in the process. In the year that Marriage Equality Marriage (Same Sex Couple) has been delivered this is particularly hard to fathom. Especially when members of the both the other parties one who after Lynne Featherstone raised it went to pursue it, the other that very recently like S onewall were saying that Civil Partnerships were adequate and that there was no need for equal marriage.

Their attitude to this issue differs radically from Attitude magazine who for their politician of the year award honoured "Every MP who voted for Equal Marriage" recognising initially the leadership of Stephen Gilbert (Lib Dem), Nick Herbert (Conservative) and Chris Bryant. Their citation also mentions David Cameron and Lord Waheed Ali, but it goes to all 366 MPs who voted in favour.

Monday 4 November 2013

Surprised at Godfrey Bloom

I'm surprised that Godfrey Bloom's attempt at un-universal suffrage on LBC Radio this morning stops at just the 5.665 million public sector workers and the 2.49 million currently out of work and seeking work.

Surely with his views the more than 50% of the population who are women should also be denied the vote as should the 480,000 who actually identified as gay or lesbian in the last census and the 245,000 who identified as bisexual. No doubt the 7.5 million people born outside the UK should also be removed from the electoral role, even if they are Boris Johnson or Cliff Richard, some of course cannot vote in Westminster elections, but providing they are EU residents could vote against UKIP and Bloom.

Now of course some of these groups would overlap. But for the sake of fun let's just assume that they don't. Godfrey Bloom if all his prejudice came to the fore would disqualify at least 39.18 million people. Take out another 100,000 for the prison population and that is 39.3 million people. Which out of 45.6 million people is quite a lot.

However, even without adding in his other prejudices he is denying 17.8% of the population the vote. Of course he is saying he is not denying everyone the vote just generationally socially inactives. However, how is he going to work out who those people are?

As for the public senctor workers who he says:

"Another thing I think perhaps we need to look quite closely at is those in the public sector because those in the public sector naturally vote for increases in pensions and benefits in the public sector."

That is over 1 in 10 voters. However, the workers at Grangemouth recently who were in a dispute over pensions and benefits were in the private sector now. So surely that definition shows how stupid he is being. It also means he is denying Her Majesties Forces the vote along with Doctors, employees of the BBC and what about Members of Parliament and Civil Servants.

Out of the mouth of babes #equalmarriage #lgbt

I've had a pretty bad Monday, three emails turning me down for full time jobs. But then this lifted he up again.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Dear Caroline Flint

Yesterday it appears that Caroline Flint was getting a little desperate. She sent the same email to loads of my Liberal Democrat friends. It started:

Hi Stephen Glenn,

The next general election is going to be won on streets like yours -- so whether you're a seasoned campaigner or a first-time volunteer, your neighbourhood needs your help to defeat the Tories in 2015. 

But Caroline, I'm already have a track record for beating the Tories. It is those other two parties that caused me issues, first in 2005 then in 2010.

So therefore I'll be dialing in to the conference call with great delight to learn of your campaign plan.

Thursday 31 October 2013

Public health warning: Never mix equal marriage, Stephen Nolan show and breakfast

Earlier today Rev. David McIlveen came on The Stephen Nolan Show on Radio Ulster. The reason for his appearance was that the Equality Commission had said that they had come to the opinion that, with movement on the issue in the rest of the UK, Same-Sex Marriage should be extended to Northern Ireland.

But it was some of this comments that caused concern, especially as these were echoed by a number of callers.

Firstly he said that homosexuality should never have been legalised in Northern Ireland in 1983. When challenged by Pink News editor Benjamin Cohen about what would be the penalty Rev McIlveen said that was his place to come up with the penalty. Of course he was stating that the bible should be the basis for the law. The penalty in that is that if men sleep with men they should be stoned. But the Reverend was very careful to say that he did not condone violence against people.

He said he was unaware of what rules applied before 1983. When challenged with the past punishments he said that those were a "totally nonsense response". Well maybe he should read a little more about this. The Labouchere amendment to the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act (which itself lowered the punishment from death to life imprisonment) said the following:

"Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures, or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with an other male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof, shall be liable at the discretion of the Court to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour."

This was the law under which Oscar Wilde was sentenced and was still in force in Northern Ireland in 1983. It did not merely apply to prostitution but where two consenting men were doing anything even in the privacy of their own homes. It was because of this law being in place in the 1970s that Jeffrey Dudgeon was questioned by the RUC which lead to him taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

However, Rev McIlveen went on to say that he would continue to advocate the Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign was an "right and honourable campaign". Before quoting that the court case ruling for his church while allowing the gay community to have their point of view also allowed his church to have theirs. So how is not allowing gay people to be gay people fulfilling that? Which is what the Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign was about.

On the subject of the law, Benjamin Cohen also challenged him when he had quoted that Jesus had come to fulfill the law, that he did not eat pork, or shellfish, and was circumcised as laid out in the Torah. How much of that law did Rev. McIlveen fulfill? You may guess this but Rev McIlveen avoided answering that.

Scarily one of the callers who was obviously listening to the show not far from me in Bangor, came on and said that being gay was a treatable mental illness! Yes, in 21st Century fairly liberal Bangor some people/person think(s) I am mentally ill because I am gay.

I should remember not to listen to Stephen Nolan while eating my breakfast, there are still bits under some of the keys which makes typing somewhat slower than normal.

He is an ex-politician

In light of the latest news about the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath the Monty Python crew would probably say the following:

SCENE: The constituency offices of the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

Constituent: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.
(The case worker does not respond.)
Constituent: 'Ello, Miss?
Case Worker: What do you mean "miss"?
Constituent: (pause)I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
Case worker: We're closin' for lunch.
Constituent: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this member of parliament what I voted for not three years ago from this very constituency.
Case worker: Oh yes, the, uh, the ex Prime Minister...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?
Constituent: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E appears to be dead, that's what's wrong with it!
Case worker: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.
Constituent: Look, matey, I know a dead politician when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
Case worker: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable MP, the ex-Prime Minister, idn'it, ay? Beautiful taxpayer fundes offices!
Constituent: The office don't enter into it. It's stone dead.
Case worker: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!
Constituent: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up! (shouting at MP's office)  'Ello, Mister Brown! I've got a lovely fresh bit of case work for you if you show...
(case worker knocks the door with a broom)
Case worker: There, he moved!
Constituent: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the door!
Case worker: I never!!
Constituent: Yes, you did!
Caseworker: I never, never did anything...
Constituent: (yelling and hitting the door repeatedly) 'ELLO GORDY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!
(Opens the door and sees a model of Gordon Brown sitting in the chair. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)
Constituent: Now that's what I call a dead politician.
Case worker: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!
Constituent: STUNNED?!?
Case worker: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Ex-Prime Ministers stun easily, major.
Constituent: Um...now look...now look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That politician is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not three years ago, you assured me that its total lack of action was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged period of activity in House of Commons.
Case Worker: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for Number 10.
Constituent: PININ' for NUMBER TEN?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he fail to respond to any of my letters as soon as he was no longer PM?
Case worker: The ex-Primee Minster prefers keepin' on it's post bag small! Remarkable MP, id'nit, squire? Lovely office!
Constituent: Look, I took the liberty of examining that politician when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had not been voted out for inactivity was because this government has failed to delivery a recall facility, which with his amount of inactivity and failure to respond would have been quite easily arranged.
Case worker: Well, o'course a recall procedure is a bad idea! If we'd had a recall procedure, it would have cost all his staff their jobs, put us out on the street, there is a recession on after all, and BOOM! Feeweeweewee!
Constituent: "BOOM"?!? Mate, this politician didn't "boom" even when he was chancellor. Ending boom and bust he said, so if things went bust whose fault was it. He wouldn't respond even if he were to get a shot of  four million votes through him! 'E's bleedin' demised!
Case worker: No no! 'E's pining!
Constituent: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This politician is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and not yet gone to the other place! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace, but not on the red benches! If you hadn't nailed his name outside this office 'e'd be pushing up the old Lord and Ladies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' hereditaries!! THIS IS AN EX-POLITICIAN!!
Case worker: Well, I'd better replace it, then. (he takes a quick peek behind the counter) Sorry squire, I've had a look 'round the back of the shop, and uh, we're right out of politicians.
Constituent: I see. I see, I get the picture.
Case worker: (pause) I got a slug.
Constituent: Pray, does it talk? Make speeches in the House? Vote in divisions*? Respond to constituent's concerns? Actually work for its constituents?
Case worker: Nnnnot really.
Case worker: N-no, I guess not. (gets ashamed, looks at his feet)
Constituent: Well.
Case worker: (quietly) D'you.... d'you want to come help elect the next Labour MP?
Constituent: Why? Who is it?
Case worker: Gordon Brown**?
Constituent: Is he LABOUR?
Case worker: Yes!
Constituent: (looks around) Yeah, all right, sure.

 * Since the 2010 General Election Gordon Brown has only voted in 13.3% of divisions, only the Sinn Féin MPs have voted in less.
** he continues to draw his MPs salary and expenses and donates income from his engagements as an ex-PM to charities but fails to carry out the amount of work expected of someone drawing an MPs salary. Reports from his local party are that he intends to stand again in 2015.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Ineos go all in, Unite fold

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

The best analogy of the deal that was reached over the Grangemouth plants future this morning comes from the world of poker.

Ineos possibly sick of the infighting and continuous threat of strikes from the Unite Union yesterday announced they were shutting down the petrochemical part of the plant and considering the future of refinery. It was the equivalent of putting all your chips unto the table and being prepared to lose everything.

Unite had rejected the 'last chance survival' plan offered by Ineos, but this morning with 800 jobs apparently already gone and 570 others threatened they capitulated. Accepted all the conditions laid down by that plan as they say "warts and all". Equivalent to throwing all your cards away in poker.

This afternoon we also saw the new Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael and Scottish Finance Minister John Swinney together in Grangemouth to talk with Ineos this afternoon.

Addressing the press after that meeting Mr Carmichael said:

"We are in a much better place today in relation to the future of the plant than we were yesterday.

"There remains, of course, a great deal to be done."

Mr Swinney added:

"This plant has got a great future, everybody accepts that Grangemouth has got a great future.

"What we need to do is resolve these outstanding issues, get the investment plan implemented and take forward and improve the prospects for the people that that work in this plant."

The past 24 hours has certainly proved to be a long time in the  life of 1,370 highly skilled jobs in Grangemouth and I hope that in the future both sides will sit down and discuss differences in a constructive and respectful manner long, coming to a conclusion long before it escalates to such potentially damaging circumstances.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

The wider impact of the loss of Grangemouth peterochemical jobs

Around 800 people across West Lothian and Falkirk are to lose their jobs with the announcement today that Ineos are to shut down the Grangemouth petrochemical plant with immediate effect. The fate of the remaining 570 jobs linked to the refinery on the same site are yet to be determined.

It is one of the biggest loss of jobs in the area following on the the 3,100 lost with the shutting of the Motorola plant at Bathgate in 2001, the same number lost their jobs at NEC, Livingston the same year. More recently 500 lost their jobs with the shutting down of the Bausch and Lomb plant at Livingston.

But the danger of losing jobs in the petrochemical plant is nothing new. Indeed back in May 1992 my some time sparring partner the MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk mentioned then recent job losses at the plant in his maiden speech:

"The town of Grangemouth is at the centre of Falkirk, East and has been noted for some time as a petrochemical town, boasting substantial production facilities for BP Oil, BP Chemicals, ICI, General-Electric Plastics, and Rhom and Haas (Scotland). My constituents are pleased at the commitment to investment by those companies, notably the £600 million investment by BP Chemicals in an ethylene cracker plant, the process technology labs of ICI and the Rhom and Haas plant upgrade. However, all is not what it once was. Harry Ewing noted the vast expansion of Grangemouth in 1971, but in 1971, when speaking about new employment, he said that the position was rapidly changing. I say without criticism of local management in Grangemouth that, in 1991–92, more than 1,000 job losses were announced in the town. Some 300 jobs have gone at the BP refinery, 250 have gone at ICI and 200 more redundancies are being sought. In addition, there were major job losses in the timber yards, which were made much of in 1971 by my predecessor."

It is sad day for the 800 who have lost their jobs today. However, both sides have been acting like stubborn mules in recent days, if not years. The owners seem to be doing all they can to get what they view as a white elephant off their books, while at the same time the workers are not prepared to take any chance in pay and conditions, fearing their own job without considering that all the jobs in the sector could be gone.

When Ineos came with what they called a survival plan, you would have thought that alarm bells would have been ringing with the workers. The fact that the plant has survived so long without a major change in conditions when others the area have had to accept such adjustments, knowing that if they didn't their job could disappear.

But the Grangemouth plants is almost a fifedom of Unite. The same union that has been at the centre of the Fallkirk Labour Party's election shenanigans. The Union appears to have been promising the workers take a stand and we'll see that everything will be alright, only to have found that Ineos were also not going to budge. it appears that the 570 jobs in the refinery are now also in danger. But with that there is also other jobs in the oil industry and possibly the ability of Scotland to actually process the oil that lies off its shore.

The last element is going to be of extremely great concern to Alex Salmond because part of the way he was going to fund an independent Scotland was through the production and processing off 'Scottish' oil within Scotland. If the Grangemouth plant were to totally close and be mothballed or decommissioned it could take years if at all to be able to get the processing of oil within Scotland up to the speed that would make it capable of supporting Scotland's economy to the extent that Salmond wants it to. If the oil is going to have to be processes and refined elsewhere that would be extra costs and less value added within Scotland causing a rather big hole in his economic plan.

Monday 21 October 2013

Hitchhikers Tour hits financial barrier and quotes God

The tour of the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show, which I had previously tweeted had  been pulled from coming to Belfast, hit the final buffers today. Last night it showed before a full house, somewhat ironically in Kingston, the town that the first UK researcher on H2G2.com to reach 100 solo entries [i.e. me] went to university.

Part of the message from the producers echoes God's last message to mankind


"We're sorry for the inconvenience."

The full message was:

"The Radio Theatre Company deeply regret to announce the immediate cancellation of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show 2013 Tour. Tonight's performance at The Hawth, Crawley and tomorrow's at the Watford Colosseum will not take place, nor will any of the remaining scheduled shows in October and November.  Ticket holders are being contacted and should contact venues for refunds.

"Although a well-loved show, Hitchhiker's Live has been subject to the same extreme economic pressures as many productions touring the UK this autumn. Ticket sales across the board have been lower than average and we have not escaped this trend. A difficult financial environment for such a large and technical show means that covering operating costs has become impossible. As a result in the last 24 hours we have had no option but make the extremely hard and painful decision to stop the tour.

"We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and share the extreme disappointment and frustration felt by many who were looking forward to seeing the show. we sincerely hope that it can be brought back in the future."

While it makes the rumours that us in Belfast heard that the reason for not coming to Belfast was financial turn out to be true, even though 10 days later than being upfront would have been appreciated.

There is on the Facebook page a personal message from the star Simon Jones (Arthur Dent) and director Dirk Maggs:


"With infinite regret, despite happy audiences and 5 star reviews, we have been forced to curtail this tour ahead of schedule due to economic adversity. Having worked so hard to put on a show worthy of Douglas Adams and his devoted fans, we are utterly devastated.

"It has been a pleasure to be a part of a company, band and crew who have become a close knit family. We know people hoping to see the show will be as horribly disappointed as we are, and offer our heartfelt apologies for any inconvenience this has caused."
 As well as the numerous fans who like me had found out that the show they had wanted to see was not longer an option, now of course the actors are also out of work.

As Mitch Benn (Zaphod Beeblebrox) tweeted:

with a follow up...

I'm hoping Mitch's home is a little more secure than that. If not he might be stealing a spaceship near you and going on the run.

Of course the tour was to go on until the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who and Doctor 6 was to have played the book next month. Here is what Colin Baker tweeted:

Sadly not even prayers to the Prophet Zarquon could turn this show into a success in the current situation. It is a rather sad day when top class touring productions cannot manage to reach the regions. We cannot allow top class theatre to end up only being shown in the West End, or maybe in the few major centres around the country.