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.