Monday 29 April 2013

'For Everyone' caveats may apply

In my humble opinion when you say you stand For Everyone you'd better make the right adjustments to make sure you do stand for everyone.That is what I think the Alliance Party's amendment so today's motion on the constitutional convention and equal marriage aimed to do*. However, it appears that three of the Alliance Party's own MLAs couldn't even do this (Trevor Lunn voted against his party's amendment and Keiran McCarthy and Judith Cochrane abstained by voting in both lobbies). You may recall back in October that these three either voted the same way or were strangely absent. To do so once voters can excuse to do it twice on the same issue loos like a habit.

I have no issue with the three Alliance MLAs who then, after the amendment was defeated, abstained on the substantial motion. However, with Cochrane and McCarthy joining Lunn in the No lobby it makes we wonder if all of the Alliance Party is for everyone, or whether some add too many caveats. As many will know from my past the reason I hadn't up until December last year joined the Alliance was because as I said too often they weren't liberal enough for me, but don't panic I'm going anywhere just yet (well not apart from being the member from Kirkwall).

But then there was the party that brought the motion Sinn Féin. Unfortunately they had ignored one important fact in putting that motion before the Assembly this time around. You need to bring with you those of faith who are on your side, by ignoring part of the motion from October that did that they were not going to get as much support as October, all other things being equal. That is why there were only 42 votes for this time.

When the Liberal Democrats formed their motion which subsequently became party policy and the skeleton of the policies in the rest of the UK, we made sure that faith groups were not compelled to do anything, but also recognised that some were ready right now to carry out same-sex marriage and that others may follow after dialogue within themselves. But you cannot oppose church government from government and the same should be true in reverse.

However, whatever the outcome of today let us not lose sight of the true villians of the piece the Unionist MLAs. With only one exception, East Belfast's Michael Copeland, from the biggest two groupings all the rest voted no. You would imagine that there were no LGBT people in the protestant/unionist/loyalist population the way this group carried on, thank goodness for Copeland along with Basil McCrea and John McCallister.

The DUP have signed up to the St Andrews Agreement adjustments to the Good Friday Agreement. They are still meant to promote equality of opportunity to all, without prejudice to sexual orientation. The more they continue to deny any advance to the LGBT community the more we have to consider that they are not fulfilling their obligations under Section 75 of the Belfast Act.

The conclusion of today is that all parties in Northern Ireland are somehow or other signed up to equality of opportunity for all, yet each is bringing their own caveats to the table on what is, no matter what Sammy Wilson says, a matter of equality.

* However, our churches are exempt from certain areas of equal employment legislation. No woman has ever challenged the Roman Catholic Churches right to not ordain women, and churches are at liberty not to employ LGBT people should they so choose.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

When the church turns on its own

So it appears that Second Donegore Presbyterian Church in Antrim want to turf out one of their elders. The problem of course comes when that elder happens to be the leader of one of the parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly and also the Minister of Justice.

For it is the church of David Ford that apparently has some calling for him to step aside as an elder. Of course being involved in religion and politics doesn't mean you have to take the churches line on everything does it? I mean we live in a democracy and not a theocracy.

Of course being a church elder means that someone is meant to care for those that come across his path, now I know for a fact that David Ford has come across a number of gay people in the course of his parliamentary work. In fact I'm sure the leader of the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign in Northern Ireland fitted that description, if you really must box people. But he, that individual, was also a fellow Presbyterian and the son of not one but two elders in the Presbyterian Church. The reaction of the one who was at the time that I came out I have mentioned before.

Now Christians are all for saying that they will love the sinner and hate the sin, yet they don't want gay Christians to talk about being gay in front of them. They also don't want us to tell them that we have found someone we love, and they certainly would rather we burned in lust as singletons rather than enter a committed relationship.

Therefore I have a few questions to Second Donegore.

Are you prejudging all LGBT people with the worst extremes whereas most of us just want that one person to love? Do you really want to cause Presbyterians who are gay to confound sin upon sin as they try and fit in with what you will accept of them? Would you want them to marry in a sham ceremony to a person of the opposite sex to potential hurt that person and any children when they later admit to who they are? Or you rather that they were honest at the start?

One final thing before you go casting stones. Are you really loving all sinners equally, or are you condemning some more heavily than others so that they cannot stand being around you and your judgemental attitude?

What Mr Ford is doing is casting aside that judgemental attitude and looking at the wider picture. Offering protections for those like Second Donegore who oppose same-sex marriage, while at the same time offering protections to the desire of those elsewhere who want to be treated equally. After all we are all sinners when we stand before God are we not?

Update 24 April 8:30 David Ford has stepped aside from his duties as an elder in the Presbyterian Church at this time.

As I said last night it is sad that the church should hold our politicians to account in this way. There are plenty of things that politicians have to legislate for that are contrary to a literal reading of scripture, but those that are religious and in politics often realise that there are times that they have to reach out and make a change. The bible after all does lay our rules for how to treat slaves and the anti-abolition movement was as much part of the church as anything else. The same applied to the civil rights movement in the USA, white Christians did not want to have mixed-race rmarriages sanctioned or there to be integration. They looked in disgust at those who looked like them who advocated change, much like that elder member of the congregation [correction] quoted in the article did of Mr Ford.

No longer running the Belfast Marathon

It may probably not come as much surprise to some of you but I am no longer going to be taking part in the Belfast Marathon in less than a fortnight's time.

The month of February was wiped out due to a little excursion to Hampshire. Although I lost weight and was on my feet all day, every day I didn't do a great deal of moving, beyond a small area of floor. Therefore my legs were not able to pick straight back up with the required training.

As some of you may recall towards the end of that period I was drinking the occasional Lemsip because I had fallen to a cold which didn't really shift for a full fortnight after that, so training again was unable to start. Then towards the end of March just I was starting on the road I pulled a tendon in the area of my right shoulder.

This all finally cleared up only two weeks ago and four weeks is not enough time to put in the miles I would need to complete the course never mind do myself justice.


...this is not the end of the road. I shall be looking for another opportunity to run and raise sponsorship. I just haven't decided when or where yet. It may be the Hoy Half Marathon in June or some other event later in the summer or early autumn possibly the Cardiff Half Marathon in October. I will let you know more once I know how my body is coping.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Dear Archbishop of Paris #lgbt #equalmarriage

Dear Cardinal Archbishop André Vingt-Trois,

His Eiminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris
I understand that you feel that marriage equality is a step towards inciting violence and splitting society in France. And that you said :"This is the way a violent society develops. Society has lost its capacity of integration and especially its ability to blend differences in a common project."

May I suggest your Eminence that therefore there is a fundamental flaw with the heterosexual community. Now I know we should love the sinner and hate the sin, but this violence against fellow man is contrary to Jesus exhortation to "Love thy nieghbour as thyself". Therefore we must look for a cure to this malaise to our society.

It is clear that simply allowing people who love each other to cause violence is the sign of some psychotic behaviour. How can the happiness of others lead to such bitterness and violence in others. Maybe we should lock up those who perpetrate this violence. Now as we cannot predetermine who will commit such violent acts maybe we should just round them all up and place them in some sort of camp, away from polite society where people can love each other for who they are.

We may also look at treating them while they are there with electro shock therapy to  try and cure them of these violent tendencies. We shall show them pictures of people carrying out violent acts and every time they respond as if wanting to get involved we shall send a spark of electricity through them so as to deter them from contemplating taking such actions.

We should also consider chemically castrating these individuals, just as we do with tom cats or male dogs to make them less frisky, this also would have the added effect of making sure that they cannot reproduce more violent heterosexuals to continue this violent society into a new generation.

However, if they carry on with this violence, even if they so much as form a fist we should lock them away for life. If though they violence is passed on to others we should have them euthanised.

However, if there is violence against those who partake or wish to partake in same-sex marriage we shall continue to pray for those that persecute us.


A gay Christian who would love to have the option of getting married

Note all of the methods listed above have of course been considered ways to treat homosexuality in the last 100 years.

Friday 12 April 2013

Dear BBC, Relax, just do it!

All this kerfuffle over whether or not to play almost 75 year old record this on this week's chart show.

Now to slightly change the most common line in another hit single that the BBC refused to play may be the BBC should "relax, just do it". Because all the publicity over whether they should or should not have played it on Breakfast this morning and News at One at lunchtime and no doubt this evening at six I shall hear another comment about the decision not to play it on the chart show (a five second excerpt will be played on Newsbeat during the show, however).

If they had just got on with reflecting the songs that people had been buying this week it would have been mostly a non-story. But all the debate about whether they should or shouldn't have played it:
  • a) made more people buy it being aware it would land the BBC is even hotter water
  • b) made people who aren't following social media aware of the campaign to get it played
  • c) has actually turned it into a major political story and therefore unto the news pages rather than keeping it in entertainment
But no doubt that logic failed to hit people at the top of the BBC when the news editors sat down to talk about it. Because now the whole issue has far more coverage that it could ever have hoped for if simply things were let to take their course.

Thursday 11 April 2013

What was Paddy Ashdown doing in 1950?

It is amazing what you can find when you are idling flicking through the news from back home while on the phone to your mother.

I found a series of pictures in the nostalgia section of Bangor, but what I didn't expect to see was the answer to the question in the title of this blog post.

Yeah, the future leader of the Liberal Democrats at the age of nine taking part at Garth House Preparatory School sports day. Garth House was located on Maxwell Road which is a continuation of Princetown Road, where my own mother was at the time attending Bangor Collegiate's Preparatory Department in Avoca.

Small world, but at least we do know what Paddy was doing in preparation for a military career and a later career as a Lib Dem campaigner climbing every staircase.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

To boldly fail, where no meme has failed before

When attempted to use a meme for your cause it may be better if you check the appropriateness or not of that meme.

The Yes for Scottish Independence campaign have produced this meme.

Only problem is that in the Star Trek cannon Scotland is not an independent nation, indeed neither is the UK.  Referring to Denise and Michael Okuda's chronology of Star Trek, indeed from 2079 Earth is united under one government in Star Trek lore. This is the United Earth, it is not like the UN at all, but all people are joined together under one big parliament, this also includes Scotland. Indeed keeping the Enterprise's engines doing exactly what the c'ptain is wanting is a wee laddie from Lithgae.

 In 2161 the first four planets Earth along with Vulcan, Tellar and Andoria form the United Federation of Planets, maybe this is a bit like the European Coal and Steel Community,  a post conflict (in this case with the Romulans) community of peoples looking to live peacefully together.

So therefore to have a picture of a c. 2266-69 communications officer talking about Unionist propaganda when she lives happily on United Earth and in part of the United Federation of Planets seems a little bit bizarre. Surely it would be separatist propaganda that would cause more concern on the Bridge of the Enterprise?

Nice try guys  but you’ve probably just lost the geek, and almost certainly the Trekker, vote.

Monday 8 April 2013

Thoughts of the death of Margaret Thatcher

There are some of us who owe our political existence to the recently deceased Margaret Thatcher. As with all political opponents I do not think she is the incarnation of all things evil, there were indeed somethings that she did which should be applauded. But it is in the areas that we disagree Poll Tax, student finance, sacrificing jobs for low inflation, some illiberal social attitudes etc that I learnt to fight my first political campaigns.

Whatever your view of the Falklands conflict, her decisive action 31 years ago this month was to liberate those who self identify as being British. She along with Ronald Reagan did a great deal to bring to an end the Cold War. Also she stood up to terrorism in Northern Ireland, signed into being the first all-Ireland agreement (which of course the Unionists objected to by resigning on mass) but it was a step forward toward the peace that Northern Ireland witnesses today. In fact on that last point she almost paid for her involvement in dealing with the Northern Ireland situation with her own life in the Brighton Bombing.

But going to University in a Conservative held seat and council it was natural that my first Lib Dem battles were to replace Thatcherism with social liberalism, making sure that nobody was enslaved by poverty which she seemed to want to create while letter the richest get more and more out of her. There were also many social issues on which the Conservatives took the conservative approach which I just could not and wound not agree.

So I took my stand and signed up to student politics, yes there was Militant Labour activists on campus but you also had to learn to deal with politics in the real world and on the doorsteps around me that meant telling those who lent their vote to Thatcher of the worse excesses of what the Conservative party were doing.

She has some amazing achievements and no matter how you look at her these can never be taken away. She will always be known as the first female Prime Minster of the UK. She will always along with a selct bacd of others won three General elections in a row.

So the Rt. Hon. Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS has passed away. There is going to be a state funeral, the necessity and merits of which are going to be debated long and hard over the coming days.

But whatever you think of her policies she overcame the misogyny of the 1950s to be selected then elected as the mother of two young children to the safe seat of Finchley. That was on her third attempt to be elected to Westminster she'd stood for Dartford in 1950 and 51 reducing the Labour majority on both occasions, did stand in 1955 having only just before given birth to the twins and narrowly missed out on selection for the 1955 Orpington by-election. She then became for many the surprise candidate who not only challenged Edward Heath in 1975 but out polled him though short of the two thirds of MPs required to win on the first ballot, then beat Willie Whitelaw in the second round.

So she most definitely was a shrewd political operator. Praising her for being such does not necessarily mean I applaud her method, nor execution, nor policies. But she was of her time, of her party able to push back so much of the glass ceiling that before her had precluded too many women from actively being involved in research, science, politics or business. She wasn't so much a feminist as a female who wanted equality because she was the best person for the job, knowing the costs involved for her and being prepared to pay them.

She may have inspired many to get involved in politics (though not all of us on the side she may have wanted).

Baroness Thatcher (Margaret Hilda Thatcher née Roberts) 1925-2013

Sunday 7 April 2013

When the Nationalists don't follow Norway's Example

I'm not saying I'm an oil expert, although I do have a degree in Economics that can help me understand both the macroeconomic and microeconomic consequences of actions. But Ian Taylor is a man who understands the oil industry. He is Chief Executive of oil and gas trader Vitol Plc.

One of the things we hear about from the Nationalissts is that post-independence the oil revenue will allow an independent Scotland to build up an oil fund like the one that Norway has been stockpiling for the last 30 plus years. Indeed Norway is often used as an example by the SNP as to how their model of Scotland will work.

However, as Taylor points out in today's Sunday Herald there is one place that the Nationalists are not following Norway and that is forecasting oil prices.

"Norway, so often held up as an example, are planning on an oil price of $77 a barrel in 2014 compared to the SNP's 'cautious' estimate of $113. Make no mistake – such over-optimistic assumptions would come at a real cost.

"The cash gap between peak and trough of oil revenues in the last decade is equivalent to the entire budget of the NHS in Scotland. I ask everyone reading this to consider one question. What if the Nationalists' optimistic projections are simply wrong?"

That is some gap! That is some hole in the budget for an independent Scottish economy that wants to base itself so dependently on oil revenue. That is something that doesn't need a degree in economics to tell you is going to be disasterous.

Friday 5 April 2013

50th without that daft old face

"Yeah. I'm doing it now. Time Lords, we have this little trick. It's sort of a way of cheating death. Except... it means I'm going to change. And I'm not going to see you again... Not like this. Not with this daft old face."

Those were the penultimate lines spoken by the ninth Doctor. And it appears he was right because Christopher Eccleston has turned down the chance to appear in the 50th Anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who.

Of course Doctor Who is used to celebrating its birthday by bringing back past regenerations of the eponymous hero. Nor is it the first time one of the Doctors has turned down the opportunity to appear.

It all started for the 10th Anniversary with The Three Doctors.  The last time William Hartnell would appear on screen (or indeed in any role) and on screen is how he appeared whether in the TARDIS or the Time Lords space time viewer, he being too ill to hurtle about with Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee.

Ten Years and two Doctors later it was time for The Five Doctors. Hartnell who had died in 1975 two years after The Two Doctors  was replaced by Richard Hurndall, and the other two from that ten year show appeared as did the newest Doctor Peter Davidson. But number four the recently replaced Tom Baker declined to take part, but he did appear trapped in some other time frame through footage of the strike affected and unaired Douglas Adams written story Shada.

Now there haven't been another other reunion of Doctors on the screen since the 20th, though for the 40th Big Finish did produce an audio play Zagreus which features the voices of Peter Davidson, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and some cuts of the voice of the by then late Jon Pertwee. Plus a whole host of familiar companions Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier), Anneke Wills (Polly), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Louise Jameson (Leela), John Leeson (K9), Lalla Ward (Romana II), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Bonnie Langford (Mel), and Sophie Aldred (Ace). Although not everyone was playing themselves because anti-time has affected the Doctor and the TARDIS and invaders from another parallel universe come to the Doctor in the form of his past self and companions. But the relation of the Doctor with the TARDIS in this story before the return to TV was revisted and used again the The Doctor's Wife.

So is Chris Eccleston being small minded to not want to appear in the 50th Anniversary. Well with the exception of McGann his is the shorter tenure in the blue box. His initial contract was only ever for one season, because nobody at the BBC knew if the revival would work or not. So maybe he isn't totally to blame for being replaced with David Tennant. However, when asked how he enjoyed the role he did once respond "Mixed, but that's a long story."

Tom Baker refused to add his voice to any Doctor Who Audio version until 2009, so hopefully, with another 28 year break, we'll see Eccleston maybe appear in the 75th Anniversary story, however he will be 74 at the time being the first actor to play the role born after that first episode.

Meanwhile back home

For nearly 15 years we have been waiting for something to fill the spot where once hotels and business's stood along the sea marina front of Bangor. There have been too many plans for some sort of civic centre, shops, flats combination of various of the above. But all the while there has just been a gaping hole from the Vennel along towards the six remaining premises before you reached Southwell Road.

It wasn't that from from this large absence of anything of note that I caught my first glimpse of the Olympic Torch last Summer. But that absence has been filled for 24 months at least with Project 24. Pods containing 24 mini studios in which local artists can take up residency or display their work.

At the end of that period pods and the artists will be rehoused in another site to sustain the project and hopefully then 17 years after it began the final project for the site will begin.

Here is one of the local artists talking about what this means to Bangor.


I guess next time I am over I shall be busy on Instagram taking some pics of this new temporary development.

Remember Folks You Saw it here first

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Facebook has just shown me this image....

Just remember folks you saw it here first and exclusive in 2010

Indeed here is the detail of what every Tax Payer will benefit from as of next April

We've been building a Stronger Economy and Fairer Society since 2010, and been promising it since long before that. We are delivering on what we and we alone promised in terms of fairer taxes to those hard working people.

Indeed here is what the Tories said about Income Tax in their 2010 manifesto:

Yes the Lib Dems in Government have given people 4 times more than the Tories promised them and lifted millions of the lowest paid, who can only work a few hours a week, out of paying Income Tax altogether. 

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Jeffrey Donaldson launches the TUP (Theocratic Unionist Party)*

*This is a spoof news report

Speaking today on the Stephen Nolan Show Jeffrey Donaldson said he was taking a stand for the things that are Christian. Saying that he is a Christian and a politician he would say that there are certain things that are morally for the good of the people of Northern Ireland even if they are not Christians**.

He said he and the Theocratic Unionist Party would take a stand on such things that are clearly laid out in the bible on moral issues. Staring today he and his party will rid the canteen in the bowels of Stormont of prawns, lobster in line with the bibles teaching in Leviticus 11: 9-12

"These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you."

The wearing of football tops, yes even those of Rangers, Linfield and Glentoran will be banned forthwith also unless the manufacturers can prove that they are of only of one fabric. Yes shell suits shall not be allowed along as people head to the shops in Sandy Row or the Newtownards Road, nor when they turn up at the Brew to sign on. Because the TUP will be making a stand for Deuteronomy 22:11

"Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together."
On the subject of clothing and in a show of all island solidarity May McFettridge John Linehan will be rounded up by the TUP and their colleagues in the Dáil will be asked to do the same with Mrs Agnes Brown Brendan O'Carroll. After all it is time that Ireland took a stand on Deuteronomy 22:5

"A woman shall not wear a man's garment, nor shall a man put on a woman's cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God."

But the highlight is this weekend is when Jeffrey Donaldson and the rest of the senior figures in the TUP go up to the Robinson household as well as the Lock Keepers Inn and take Iris and the proprietor of said premises with them down to Windsor Park where for the half time entertainment the TUP will honour Deuteronomy 22:22

"If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, boththe man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel."
And now for the serious bit

Of course the DUP do not take all of the law of the bible literally. They do not enforce every therein contained with Theocratic absoluteness. Yet on abortion and gays they get particularly hung up.

On abortions which were carried out by the ancient Egyptians as well as the Greeks and Romans sometimes by a blend of herbs like an abortion pill, or sometimes with sharp implements to remove the foetus never once gets a specific mention in all the detailed laws in the bible.

Whilst they do seem to want to put any of us who lay with men to death, they do all they can to prevent us from living life to the full while claiming they are all for Britishness. Yet many Northern Irish gay men as always feel more comfortable being British elsewhere in the UK.

** This bit is not actually spoof that is more is less what he actually said.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

National Minimum Wage

"There should be a statutory level beneath which pay should not fall - with the minimum wage decided not on the basis of a rigid formula but according to the economic circumstances of the time and with the advice of an independent low pay commission, whose membership will include representatives of employers, including small business, and employees"
This was the promise as made in the Labour parties manifesto in 1997 to set up a National Minimum Wage Act (1998). It also said that:

"There must be minimum standards for the individual at work, including a minimum wage, within a flexible labour market. We need a sensible balance in industrial relations law - rights and duties go together."

The current level is below what independent sources call the living wage. But thanks to the increase in teh Income Tax personal threshold the wage is going further now than it ever did, indeed the Liberal Democrats have said they want to see the basic rate rise to match a full time minimum wage.

So therefore the talk earlier today that the minimum wage could be cut obviously led to a lot of  uproar and outrage. Until that is Number 10 were forced into making a statement saying it will not be cut.

So everything is rosy then?

Well not necessarily. Remember that promise that it will be set by an independent body. Well The Daily Telegraph said, "the Low Pay Commission which sets the wage has been told formally by ministers to consider the impact on “employment and the economy”, before agreeing future increases." So the possibility is there for a freeze.

However, considering that even the lowest paid civil servants are not subject to a pay freeze why are those that are earning even less going to be faced with the possibility? Inflation still exists. Therefore a freeze in the minimum wage means that those who are on it will be hit. It is already unfair that they are taxed on their minimum wage, but to then not link that wage to inflation is also unfair (even with the increase in personal allowance to £10,000 next April).

But while Labour did said that the minimum wage is not a fixed formula, it does have to fit into that model of rights and duties  forming a sensible balance in industrial relations law. So therefore is the pressure, if indeed it is pressure that the cabinet is placing on the Low Pay Commission as they renegotiate its remit to consider the impact on employment and economy should not be at the detriment of the employee.

If George Osborne is seen as giving with one hand with the personal allowance increase while at the other taking away with substantially sub inflationary increases in the minimum wage there really will be righteous anger. Of course the Conservatives opposed the National Minimum Wage in the first instance, but the Lib Dems who are their coalition partners were in favour and are looking to make it a better wage for those who are on it with our fairer tax promises. So I hope that they will wind in the worse aspects of these discussions with the Low Pay Commission.