Saturday 30 March 2013

Just what is aggressive secularisation?

In today's Daily Mail comment piece Lord Carey the former Archbishop of Cantebury talks about Christians who "feel they are part of a 'persecuted minority'".  Before going on to say that he is "very suspicious that behind the plans to change the nature of marriage...there lurks an aggressive secularist and relativist approach towards [the] institution."

Strange that, you may recall my post from last Easter when I felt like the persecuted minority in the very congregation that I grew up in. Later on that year when things were attempted to be resolved, I felt even more misunderstood, marginalised and a minority of one that nobody very few cared about losing. What I didn't post about, until now was that I walked away from that congregation and only now am looking to set down new roots, if that is possible, in a church now that I have moved away.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury is going to use his Easter Homily tomorrow as another attack on equal marriage, his Christmas one compared these plans to Nazism and Communism. So why is the chuch so fixated on this at Easter, the event in the Christian calendar when Christ turned to the the thief dying for his crimes at his side and promised him forgiveness and eternal life. Yet the church at this Easter season as it appeared last year seems to lack that welcoming love to all. But because all are more likely to be there on two Sunday's of the year they are going to condemn the few who are gay and or faith and the many more who are of faith and support the notion of marriage equality. 

Yeah the church has got captive audience syndrome and only rattling on with one message. Not one of feeding the hungry, dealing with the AIDs pandemic that is crossing Africa. But attacking couples forming a loving relationship bringing security and peace of mind to both of them and any children they may have or bring into that family setting.

Earlier this month I missed most of the debate at Scottish conference on mental health issues, as I was in a meeting at the time. But for many years the state of my own mental health was in flux and that was because of the persecution of the church. The telling me that what I was feeling had no place in the life of a Christian. It made me feel so small every time I failed in my mind to get rid of the attraction to other men. It made me contemplate taking my own life on occasions. But is also made me look fully into what the bible actually said and that is a discussion for another day.  

This Easter though I will be celebrating those church leaders such as Steve Chalke and others who are prepared to say that the church needs to look long and hard at that stance towards LGBT people. People like that saying that the church is erecting its own barriers that prevent it going into all the world and welcoming all the world to join with it.

This is Easter when that invite should be thrown open, yet once again it appears to be a season that the church is mounting the barricades.

 Do you hear the Bishops sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of the preachers
'Gainst the gays and lesbians!
When the beating of your fist
Echoes empty around the land
We'll forget the Easter message
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Barring the gays from standing here in church?
Beyond the barricade
Is a world that we no longer see?
Then join the fight
That will only let in who you want!

Thursday 28 March 2013

Save the Aggregator

Come on guys!

At the time of writing Ryan Cullen needs £20 of donations to keep the Lib Dem Blogs Aggregator alive. For many of you today is payday so make a little contribution.

I already had earlier in the month, the joys of being back in paid employment.

Update over lunch and we're back on the web. Thanks to whoever it was that made the necessary donations.

Friday 22 March 2013

Nick right to address but wrong conclusions on immigration

Currently to access the Lib Dems website you have to go through an image of our manifesto from 2010 to highlight our fairer tax manifesto pledge which has been announced in this week's budget. Maybe we should make Lib Dems go through a copy of the preamble to the party's constitution instead.

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.
Why you may ask do I think that? The reason is in the words that Nick Clegg uttered today on the subject of immigration.

Far a start we aim to safeguard a free, fair and open society. Yet we appear to want to put up  barriers for others to enter that society, unless they afford a £1000 bond. Which to me suggests that we are enslaving future immigrants to poverty.

He also seems to suggest that they should know English to a level that they can understand all the legal documents that their moving here would lead them to face. Yet all of us who have any involvement in politics know that often our friends, who were born and bred here and speak English as a native tongue will often come to us with queries about some complex form and often we too are flummoxed by the legalese. So when he asks Mark Harper to look into whether we should ask immigrants to pay for translation services, is he not enslaving those who cannot afford it into ignorance.

You see by acknowledging that "many migrants...have contributed to our country" while being immensely proud of this nation's wonderful diversity and openness" you need to walk the walk. Somehow what Nick is saying just isn't it. He appears to be appeasing a certain part of the electorate that do not hold Liberal Values instead of coming up with a truly liberal solution to the problem. While Lib Dems would be remiss not to acknowledge these concerns from some we should the ones coming up with Liberal solutions that reflect the benefits that we in the UK gain from having migrants and being able to emigrate ourselves when we desire to do so.

As he says part of the problem of the legacy of both the Major and then Labour Governments is a lack of management of the issue, and keeping monitoring the numbers. Not knowing who is in the country and has exceeded their right to stay is a concern that needs to be a addressed. As Lib Dems we did believe that one way to deal with that was to pragmatically allow those who have spent over a decade contributing to our society the right to remain. It wasn't some automatic reward,it was for those who spoke English, had a clean record and wanted to stay here. It was an historic promise and not something that those coming after 2010 were going to be able to achieve, it was a plan to help deal with the mess.

But what about the point-based system that would allow immigrants to work where they were needed. There was no mention of those regionally based worked having to pay a bond in case they strayed to another region, but we expected to be able to keep a track on them better with the systems back in place. It was a system that we promised in our manifesto could deal with the regional variations in needs for workers while at the same time allowing those that we needed to fill skill gaps to come into our country to fill those voids. It was liberal, it was fair and it didn't require a financial barrier to entry, if you were employable you could have the right to come and fill one of those gaps.

Thursday 21 March 2013

The countdown has finally begun

So now I know what I'll be doing on the day before my 45th Birthday.

Yes today it has been revealed that the last day that I am 44 is also going to be Referendum Day.

On the day I turned 40 I was interviewing Nick Clegg ahead of Liberal Democrat federal party conference on the day I turn 45 I shall probably be exhausted and most likely at a count. At least there is the weekend to celebrate hopefully not just my birthday and the boss's wedding anniversary (also the day after) but I trust that the people of Scotland will know that they are better together and not some separate identity.

I've yet to see what that other politician with a link to Linlithgow will do should the raison d'être of his whole political identity falls apart. At least as a Liberal Democrat while I recognise the rights of individuals to self determination, and I accept that there are some in my own party who support the independence line of this, my political identity goes beyond a decision on whether we should declare independence or not. I joined a party that was set up for fairness for all.

To build a strong economy and a fair society you need leaders who will honest and open about the situation that you are in. Sadly the SNP, even with a former energy economist as leader, believe that the price of oil can only reach its maximum potential and all will be well for an independent Scotland. Sadly Big Eck's 'long walk to freedom' has meant that he and the SNP government have taken their eyes off other things while their eyes are focused on cloud cuckoo land.

I know what it means to be liberal and that will apply no matter what the outcome in 2014, do the SNP have any idea what it means to be pro-Scottish and part of the UK if they lose on that day. The Lib Dems are already talking about what will come after when the people of Scotland speak and are determined to bring more powers to Scotland within a Federal UK, we have 545 days from now the tell the people of Scotland why that is better for them than the uncertainty of so much from going alone.

Monday 11 March 2013

International Women's Day doesn't stretch to Northern Ireland

Friday may have be International Women's Day but tomorrow in the Northern Ireland Assembly it is likely to be anything but.

At the last minute the DUP and SDLP have added an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill.

Amendment 1
New Clause
After clause 11 insert -
‘Ending the life of an unborn child
Ending the life of an unborn child
11A.-(1) Without prejudice to section 58 and section 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and section 25 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 and subject to subsection (2) any person who ends the life of an unborn child at any stage of that child’s development shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to a period of not more than ten years’ imprisonment and a fine.
(2) It shall be a defence for any person charged with an offence under this section to show-
(a) that the act or acts ending the life of an unborn child were lawfully performed at premises operated by a Health and Social Care Trust, or
(b) that the act or acts ending the life of the unborn child were lawfully performed without fee or reward in circumstances of urgency when access to premises operated by a Health and Social Care Trust was not possible.
(3) For the purposes of this section a person ends the life of an unborn child if that person does any act, or causes or permits any act, with the intention of bringing about the end of the life of an unborn child, and, by reason of any such act, the life of that unborn child is ended.
(4) For the purposes of this section ‘lawfully’ in subsection (2) means in accordance with any defence or exception under section 58 and section 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and section 25 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945.’
The reason for this amendment if because for the first time last year a private abortion clinic was set up.Marie Stopes say that they are acting within the very strict Northern Ireland rules on terminations. But of course they operate outside the remit of the Northern Ireland Health Minister, who happens to be a male DUP MLA.

On Sunday Nicky Campbell's: Big Question came from Derry and the first issue was abortion. I heard one of the first contributors say that there was no demand or need for abortion on demand in Northern Ireland. However, there are 1000s of women from the island of Ireland who every year travel to England, Scotland or Wales to seek help with termination. But also there is an open letter that was published today, which over 100 women in Northern Ireland have been brave enough to sign.

We, the undersigned, have either taken the abortion pill or helped women to procure the abortion pill in order to cause an abortion here in Northern Ireland.  We represent just a small fraction of those who have used, or helped others to use, this method because it is almost impossible to get an NHS abortion here, even when there is likely to be a legal entitlement to one.  We know that Stormont Ministers and the Public Prosecution Service are aware that such abortions have been taking place in the region for some years, but are unwilling to prosecute for a range of reasons, at least partly to do with not wanting an open debate around the issue of when women here should have a right to abortion.

We are publishing this letter now because of the Givan/Magennis amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which we believe is aimed at closing down the debate on abortion here, as much as it is about closing down Marie Stopes.  We want to emphasise that medical abortions happen in Northern Ireland on a daily basis but without any medical support or supervision. We were delighted when Marie Stopes came to Belfast as it meant that women who are unwell, and therefore eligible for a legal abortion, can access a doctor to supervise what we have done or helped others to do without medical help.
We live in the only part of the UK that still does not have a childcare strategy. We face huge cuts in children’s living standards if the Assembly passes the Welfare Reform Bill without major amendment. If our politicians showed as much zeal in protecting the lives of children who are already born, perhaps we would have fewer women seeking abortion because of poverty.
This is over something as small to those in the rest of the UK as taking an abortion pill. Something that women in the rest of the UK have the right to choose to do. But Northern Ireland never enacted the 1967 Abortion Act. Back street abortions still take place there, others scrap together the money they need to head over the water to get the help that those in England, Scotland and Wales take for granted up to the 24th week. In Northern Ireland it is only up to 7 weeks and only in the case of a medical necessity either for the baby or the mother's well being.

Tomorrow the Alliance and Green parties will be joined opposing this amendment by Sinn Féin, who say they are "not in favour of abortion" but believe that termination should be available where a pregnant woman's life was in danger. This amendment seems to take things back even further than that, which can happen with knee jerk reactionary bids to stop something just for the sake of it.

Nobody should be enslaved by ignorance or poverty is part of the Lib Dems very being and that is what this amendment is going to do. Enslave Northern Irish women not only in ignorance and poverty but also in fear.

It is time that the MLAs cared more about the lives of those born. Even if that means allowing same sex couples in stable relationships to adopt, like single LGBT people can (due to another badly thought out amendment). Instead they hastily work to try and protect the status quo when there is a need and desire for change in a growing number.

There are of course some who believe that "Every Sperm is Sacred" and that the progress of such along the fallopian tube is an hindrance to is an intention to bring about the end of the life of an unborn child. So while this rather badly worded amendment is debated will anyone question Boots, Tesco et al stocking condoms, or them being given out free at gay venues as a way that becomes illegal under said amendment.

In the meantime, here is a preview of the points made in tomorrow's debate from the DUP side of the chamber.

A step back towards Section 28

As the Scottish Parliament heads towards Equal Marraige the menace that is some of the most vocal of those opposed is seeking to set the clock back. Scotland for Marriage in their response to the consultation have raised concerns about how the subject of same sex marriage and have urged that parents should have the right to remove their children from the classroom whenever such issues are to be discussed.

It is a step back to Section 28, which even now many of the Tories who voted to bring it in say was a mistake. But is also means that there will be some children in classes who will not learn that the family of some of their class mates is normal and allowed. Some of those who have two parents of the same sex will by those children who are excluded by their prejudiced parents been seen as odd, out of the ordinary. Also because they are not allowed to have heard about it with the rest of their class they will think it is disgusting and that those children are to be kept away from, shunned even bullied.

You see while those who fail to acknowledge that the next generation growing up do not come from homogenous families of one man and one women, those that do not fit into that mode, that they fail to let their children learn about will continue to be put under pressure from their kids. It is a self fulfilling prophecy that kids with same-sex parents will be picked on at school. If the attitude of some is to take their kids out of classes that discuss the issue those prejudices will be passed down.

As the victim of bullying at school, because I stood out as different, even though at the time I didn't realise (or maybe just didn't want to acknowledge) why I know that life can be tough. If some children are not allowed to discuss these issues in the midst of those that are affected they will not see them as normal and will therefore react in just the way that bullies have done through the years.

So Scotland for Marriage are merely going to propagate the continuation of homophobic bullying, not only of kids who are LGBT but also those perceived to be and those whose parents are known to be, if they achieve their goal.

I hope the Scottish Government stands firm. It is important that we do not slip back into a Section 28 like quagmire. For the well being of all our school children it is important that everyone learns about the fact that some people have a mum and dad, some two mums or dads, some multiples of one or both due to divorce and also that some only have one parent. Just as some are fostered or adopted. It doesn't make any of them any different from each other, nor the love of their parents is any less for any of them. That is the key, that is what the lessons will be trying to teach.

Saturday 9 March 2013

It's official, I'm now in Orkney

The email from BT confirming I will have a line and broadband from Monday, the letter from Scottish Hydro confirming my contract with them, the email version of my new TV license, even the notification from Orkney Islands Council about my council tax are not enough.

This is the proof that I have finally arrived in Orkney.

Thursday 7 March 2013

The other Westminster by election

Last week at this time I would have been 3 hours into my polling day, this week I'll most likely still be under the covers waiting for my alarm to go off. But it is polling day and this time it is in Mid Ulster the seat vacated by Martin McGuinness.

Unlike last week's 14 candidates there are just 4, which in itself is small for a Northern Irish seat.

It has long been suspected and known since December last year that Sinn Féin would be standing Francie Molloy. He has been one of the MLAs for the area since the first Assembly elections, and seeing as Sinn Féin don't take their Westminster seats if he is elected to succeed his party colleague it will not been seen in their eyes as double-jobbing.

The DUP, UUP and TUV have gathered together to agree one Unionist candidate and on Valentines Day the two big unionist parties said that they would be supporting Nigel Lutton a local victims campaigner and undertaker. But more intriguingly his father Eric was killed by the IRA back in 1979, the Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson, for who Lutton once worked used Parliamentary privilege six years ago to name Molloy as a suspect in the killing.

The SDLP have also chosen their MLA for the area Patsy McGlone. Although he has only served in that role since the  second elections in 2003. During the election campaign in 2011 his car was attacked by a petrol bomb outside his house.

The Alliance Party have chosen former headmaster Eric Bullick as their candidate. But as in many such polarised seats the Alliance base from 2010 is not good, only taking 1% of the vote then. The following year their candidate was eliminated after the third round in the Assembly elections.

As I said far too many times during the yes campaign Mid Ulster was one of the only three Northern Ireland seats that had elected an MP with a majority rather than a plurality of the vote. So even the Unionist attempt to put all their vote in one basket is unlikely to garner much more than the the 32% that their three respective candidates took between them in 2010. So a third of the vote will be unlikely to take this seat off a republican or nationalist.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

This Lib Dem One week on

This time last week you would have seen me as somewhat of a whirling dervish. Even good friends, were greeted with the following phrases.

"Can you sign in please."

"How long do we have you for?"

"Do you have a car?"

Once all these questions were asked they were dispatched out the door either with someone they may not have known who had a car, or with the people in the car they came in, with either leaflets or canvass boards. I'm sure that seeing the result in the early hours of last Friday morning none of my friends old or new will hold it against me just how little time I allowed them to loiter in the Front of House when they first turned up. Subsequent returns allowed them to savour tea, coffee, biscuits and cakes.

This week when I see 20 people heading towards me it is not the arrival of a coach from London, Manchester or the Midlands, but is most likely the rush hour as I near the end of my 3 minute commute home from the office. And I do mean walking along the street, it is narrow, cobbled and one way and cars can't hurtle down it. Yeah the pace of life has slowed.

I don't have anyone to enter my data for me, I have to do that myself. Steve Jolly isn't going to produce lovely leaflets for me that is what my own copy of PagePlus is for. I do actually have time to go to the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea or coffee and more importantly I've drunk everyone of them completely in the last week, something I singularly failed to do in the previous three weeks.

One thing I did realise earlier is that standing almost still for almost three weeks isn't the best marathon training. So I am having to radically rethink my training schedule and what work I need to do to be able to keep moving for 26 miles in 2 months!!

But yeah live is settling in here in Kirkwall. I'm sure it will still take some getting used to, but it is an ideal place to relax, even when you have to go into work, the week after a hectic by election.

I have acquired a futon, so should anyone get up here and need somewhere to stay that can be arranged. Live goes on and it is good to be back at work, and back sitting down takes some getting used to as well, but is a welcome relief on the old legs.

Saturday 2 March 2013

Still blogging new venue

Many of my readers will know I have been busy for a while, and yes way too busy for blogging.

A lot has happened since I last blogged, a Pope has resigned! Who would have seen that coming?

The voice and creator of Roobarb and Custard both died.

Oh and of course the Lib Dems won a by election on Thursday, in the Berrylands ward of Kingston Borough Council my old stamping ground.

There may have been one of two other things that have happened too. Of which I will say more later, but one colossal thing that has happened was that this morning I was handed the keys to my new flat, and sent a email of tasks for my new job.

The flat is in Kirkwall, which is rather handy as the job is as Parliamentary Assistant to Alistair Carmichael based in his constituency. My commute to work will be a tiring 3 minutes irregardless of traffic. However, for this weekend I am staying in a hotel, while I get things settled and that of course includes sorting out broadband for the new place. So I shall be blogging again when I can, but it may yet be intermittent in the short term.

Stay tuned.