Friday 24 May 2013

In response to Simon Hughes

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Today on Lib Dem Voice Simon Hughes outlined his reasons for abstaining on the third reading of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill earlier this week.

He does what Simon does so well and put out an argument that seems to make sense, and it clearly does to him based on his vote on Tuesday. However, there are some holes in his argument.

Primarily it appears his main reason is the establishment of the Church of England. I'm sure like me many Liberal Democrats at fringe events have heard Simon say that with his Welsh roots he is proud to be associated with the disestablished Church in Wales. In his article on Lib Dem Voice he says:

"I believe that heterosexual, gay, lesbian, transgender and non-gendered people should all be able to have the choice of an identical sort of civil partnership or of a civil  marriage or union. This should be separate from Christian or other faith marriages. But the way of reconciling the two is for us first to separate completely in law the recognition of relationships by the state from the marriages conducted by churches, other faith groups – and humanists, but then also to allow those faith communities which wish to recognise gay and heterosexual marriages equally in their ceremonies the ability to do so, and with identical consequences in the law of the land."

To me the only way to achieve that is disestablishment of the state churches church. Sorry there is only one left the Church of England, that would be the same church that is protected behind a quadruple lock that even some of those not taking sides in that Church say is a bit much, and would take so much effort such events change in the future. Now disestablishment is a very liberal ideal, indeed it was one that William Gladstone advocated. But he didn't achieve it beyond the Church in Wales and the Church of Ireland. There was a blockade in the Church of England then and there isn't much clamour for it now. So something that hasn't been achieved in over 100 years of liberal campaigning and some of that with a majority government of our own doesn't bode well. I don't think LGBT couples are prepared to wait and see if disestablishment actually can be achieved.

The other thing I notice in that statement is that Simon is quite prepared for LGBT people to have either a civil partnership or union that is separate from Christian and other faith marriages!

Hang on there, what will happen to civil marriages (even those between heterosexual couples)? What will happen to the faith groups that want to carry out same-sex marriages? Simon appears in the paragraph quoted above to separate church and state and then to separate marriage and some other form of partnership recognition altogether! Surely that is not equal marriage? That is like playing with words in the same way that Ian Paisley junior did on last night's Question Time.

Simon does urge us to read his three speeches (here, here and here) over the second and third readings carefully.

In the first on 5 February he was calling on the minister to proceed carefully, with maximum consensus saying "I will be voting against the timetable motion for just that reason, but I shall support the Bill.", He carries on to say:

"The Bill ought to be amended to make it clear that the principal purpose is to provide for equal civil marriage for gay and straight couples and for others to opt in if the Churches and other denominations so wish, but that is not how the Bill is drafted. The Bill ought to make it clearer that we are not seeking to redefine traditional marriage as previously understood in custom and law. That would be helpful to Church communities and others."

Yet as I have pointed out above not once in his article today does he talk about giving LGBT people access to marriage, merely some other ceremony. Maybe Simon should amend his article on Lib Dem Voice to make it clear if the Bill he was prepared to support in February principally about marriage for all is something he is willing to support. His comments today are backing the traditional and not the radical move forward that Liberals have been renowned for for generations.

On the second occasion on Monday he said:

"not all gay people take a strict view that everything in this set of proposals is absolutely perfect and that there are no questions; not all straight people think that the Bill is a terrible abomination; not all Christians share the view of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church or the Church of England; and not all people who do not have faith might not have problems with the Bill. I hope that we have got across the message that the debate is much more complicated."

I happen to agree with that, like him I had been a member of a church for about 20 years before I became a member of the party. I'm one of those who doesn't share the view of the hierarchy of a church, in my case the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in which I was brought up. I don't think the proposals before the House were perfect, as anyone who heard me move the Transgender amendment at Scottish conference can guess some of the main reasons why.

But he goes on rather unclearly in my view of what he expects teachers to be allowed to do, should the bill come in. The reason may be that he seems to want Churches to me able to say that homosexuality is wrong in the same sentence. So trying to decipher what he means by "getting the balance right" lacks clarity.

On the third occasion he opens:

"I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan). I agree with a huge number of his comments. He and I have voted similarly pretty well throughout the passage of the Bill."

Later he was about to differ on the most important vote, that on the Bill itself, as amended over the two days. But then he goes on:

"Let me put my position on the record. I believe, have believed and was brought up to believe that marriage is ordained by God. I believe that marriage is traditionally ordained by God to be between one man and one woman. I believe that marriage was set up by God for the creation of children. I believe that it was to link the biological needs of children with their biological parents. I believe that it was for biological complementarity. I believe that it was for gender complementarity, and that it was a gift of God in creation. That is why I have taken a traditional Christian and other-faith view on how marriage has traditionally been—for one man and one woman—which was the case long before we legislated for such things in this country and made them the law of the land."

So I'm rather at pains to see how being liberal, a word he used six times in his article, after having said in his second speech that not all Christians adhere to the view of the hierarchies of the Churches of England and Rome. That he can have such a rigid view of what Christian's or those of faith believe. There are some who want to see same-sex marriage, there are even some that want to be able to allow their faith group the be allowed to have the option to carry out same-sex marriages and actually to implement this.

Now Simon is quite entitled to his view. But to propagate it as a liberal view, that is where I take issue. His view to quote himself is for 'traditional marriage', hardly liberal when others are looking to expand marriage to others. As for waiting to disestablish the church so that all church and state is separate that is a wrecking amendment as we are still waiting for that 150 years after Gladstone started the process of disestablishment. Waiting probably means instead of moving towards equal marriage nothing would ever happen.

However, I'm not going to not campaign for any of the abstainers or voters against. What I do want though is to have time talking with them all.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Junior makes his own Irish land grab

Yesterday's debate in the House of Commons makes interesting reading at one point:

"Like the hon. Gentleman, who is also a great Unionist committed to the Union, I believe that the same benefits should flow whether in the north of England or the northern part of Ulster. [Interruption.] That includes Donegal; we will get it back into the Union at some point soon."

For these are the words of Ian Paisley in response to an intervention from David Anderson the Labour MP for Blaydon. Anderson has referred to the North of Ireland and it appears that Paisley was pedantically pulling him up that the most Northern point of Ireland is not the off shore part of his North Antrim constituency, Rathlin, but is Malin Head in Donegal.

But he has gone beyond pointing out that fact as has asserted that Donegal will be back in the Union soon. Now Paisley's party the DUP have recently been telling Sinn Féin there colleagues in the Northern Ireland Assembly that there will be no need in the near future for a border poll regarding the status of the six counties of Northern Ireland. So how, if there is to be no border poll, can he claim that Donegal will be back in the Union soon?

Is he suggesting a county by county poll? Results could lead to an interesting patch work across Ireland is certain counties vote to come back/stay in the UK and others vote to leave or remain in the Republic of Ireland.

Or his he going to launch a military strike on some part of another EU member?

Electorally in the last general election it doesn't look like the voters of Donegal are Unionists. Of the six Teachta Dálas elected two were from Sinn Féin one in each seat* and the independent elected for Donegal South West was previously a Sinn Féin councillor.

Now my family has direct roots in Donegal and indeed the neighbouring  county Londonderry. There would be uproar if both of those counties were no longer border regions. The people of Derry couldn't buy their cheap petrol in Euros just over the border an the people of Donegal couldn't buy cheap electronics etc in The Foyleside shopping centre in Derry City.

So just how is Ian Paisley junior planning to get Donegal back into the Union soon?

The answer my friends is simple.

In his (and only his) dreams.

* Indeed in both seats electing under STV Sinn Féin topped the poll. In Donegal North East it was enough to be elected on the first count, in SouthWest it left them 202 votes short of quota.

Monday 13 May 2013

In response to Dorries and Burrowes

I could go into a long rant about the latest comments of Nadine Dorries and David Burrowes on the issue of equal marriage. But they basically hoist themselves by their own petards so easily this time.

First up is Enfield Southgate MP Burrowes, writing on ConservativeHome today he opines about next weeks third reading like this:

"the news that the issue of gay marriage is coming back to the Commons next week is like those Jaws film trailers. Just when you thought it was safe to return to a new Parliamentary session, focussing on the key issues facing the country, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill returns to infest MPs."

Surely in the 8 years he has been MP since beating the man who beat Portillo he will have noticed that all legislation goes through the process of three readings and votes in the House of Commons, if they pass the first and second reading of course.

So unlike the film Jaws this is how our Parliamentary democracy works week in week out. Just because you''ve voted against a bill twice (in the minority) doesn't make it into a horror movie franchise.

Next up Mid-Bedforshire's MP who carried out surgeries and voted in the jungle Nadine Dorries; who has recently had the Conservative whip restored. She was Tweeting away about Charles Moore's article in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday including asking:

"If gay marriage bill takes sex out of marriage could a sister marry a sister to avoid inheritance tax?"

Now we don't allow brothers and sisters to marry at present, so I'll leave Nadine to work out that answer for herself. Maybe in a cockroach invested coffin simply for asking such a stupid question.

Do UKIP really want Government to stop "meddling" in marriage? - a test of libertarianism

There has been so much in the media over equal marriage over the last week, where do I start?

How about UKIP first?

UKIP's David Coburn has a point when he said last week:

"If so, it [marriage] is clearly in the domain of the churhc and other faiths - and it is none of the Government's business to meddle with it"

When that it is marriage equality he has a point. It should be left up to each religious group to define marriage as they see fit, and also those of no faith to do likewise. Now I come to the test that shows just how libertarian he and UKIP claim to be (comments he made at the weekend).

You see other members of the party including the MEP Roger Helmer have in the past argued that it lead to incest. Yet it is the Government's "meddling" that stipulates which close relatives are not allowed to marry. So are UKIP wanting this "meddling" to be lifted so that whatever any church, faith or non-faith group decide is acceptable is allowed? Because according to Coburn Government shouldn't meddle, so are UKIP actually wanting them the remove the "authoritarian" legislation that prohibits siblings, cousins, parents and children from getting married?

I don't think so.

Just as the Government stipulates which relatives you cannot marry it also stipulates that marriage must be between one man and one women at a time. We have Government meddling against bigamy, you can go to jail for that. Yet Government meddling also allows the vow "to death do us part" to be broken by divorce, a bit of government meddling that Nigel Farage himself partook of in 1997. So if the Government hadn't meddled in marriage to allow divorce Farage would be a bigamist and should be in jail. Do UKIP want to remove one or both of those authoritarian measures in the pursuit of libertarian utopia?

But then there is another crunch issue. The meddling already in place by government is that it can only be between man and women. So if we lift that bit of meddling and leave it up to faith groups to do what they want about marriage equality there is one problem remaining. You see UKIP are arguing for Government not the meddle, allowing civil equal marriage and those faith groups that want to, to do so surely is the logical outworking of Coburn's comments, isn't it?

Finally something else for UKIP to consider,not all marriages in this country, no matter how much UKIP wish they were, is a religious marriage. Another bit of Government meddling allows them to be carried out in a civil ceremony by a registrar. Now sadly that bit of meddling has to be regulated not by a church or faith group, but by Government. So either UKIP are insisting that all marriages are carried out by faith groups or they also want the Government to do away with all civil union ceremonies as well.

UKIP can't have their selected "libertarianism" going only one way.

Friday 10 May 2013

Andrew Simpson Olympic Yachtsman 1976-2013

Simpson on the right with Iain Percy
Andrew Simpson was the crewman who along with Iain Percy won gold in the Star class at the Beijing Olympics and silver in the same class last summer.

He was a competitive sailor in the Finn class before teaming up with Percy, winning silver in the 2001 European Championships and bronze in the 2003 worlds. But of course that was a class where fellow Brit Ben Ainslie ruled supreme so the chance to crew for Percy allowed him to take part in two Olympics.

With the Star class cut from the 2016 Olympic regatta Simpson's eyes turned towards the America's Cup, like those of his teenage training partner and rival Ben Ainslie. Yesterday he was training with the Swedish crew Artemis Racing in San Francisco Bay for who he was the strategist. The catamaran flipped over and he was trapped underneath for 10 minutes and efforts from doctors out in the bay and onshore were unable to revive him.

Speaking after missing out on gold only in the medal race last summer when the wind shifted Simpson said,

"It's a lottery at times. That last run proved it. We didn't get it right. Sorry for everyone who's watching. We tried our hardest." 

Sadly that lottery of water, wind and men trying to control both claimed his life yesterday.

Thoughts are with his wife Leah, their young son Freddie, the rest of the Artemis crew and all his friends and family.

Andrew Simpson 17 December 1976 - 9 May 2013

Friday 3 May 2013

Pretty in Pink #BradleyWiggins #Wiggo #GirodItalia #Giro

Those readers who know me know I love my cycling. In fact later this month I'm looking forward to getting my hands on Mapping le Tour, a book that covers the maps (another of my fascinations) of the previous 99 runnings of the longest running Grand Tour.

But tomorrow sees the start of the 96th edition of the slightly younger Giro d'Italia. It is the race that contains both last years winner Ryder Hesjedal and the winner of the Tour de France last year Bradley Wiggins. But there are three other previous grand tour winners in the mix Vincenzo Nibali  (Vuelta a España 2010), Cadel Evans (Le Tour 2011), Michele Scarponi (Giro 2011). Plus other contenders who have stood on Grand Tour podium, either as king of the mountains or in the top three in General Classification.

The leader of the next three weeks on the roads of Italy will wear the Maglia Rosa (Pink Jersey) you can follow my thoughts of the day's routes and action over on my sporting almanac.

But in the meantime I think this song is appropriate and as for genre almost Wiggo-esque.