Tuesday 17 September 2019

Well Being Economics: First Reflections on Jo's FIrst Leader's Speech #JoSwinson #LDConf

The key thing that made me jump out of my seat during Jo Swinson's leader's speech was when she questioned why we measure the state of our country by GDP (Gross Domestic Product). It took me back to one of my first Economics tutorials  a little over 30 years ago.

In that tutorial the tutor said that economics was basically powered by everyone getting out of it what is best for themselves. I questioned that said what about those who were concerned about giving others a fair chance, cared about the environment etc. It will probably not therefore surprise you to know that in my elective courses in my second and third year I focused on Environmental and Developmental Economics along with my third choice European. The fact that after the second year and carried all three on deeper shows you that I have been tuned into this for over 30 years.

As Jo said with the level of well being for our planet and indeed everyone in our society we need to act now. We are in a climate emergency, we need urgent action. We have a President in the White House and another in Brazil who seem to not see the importance and actually don't want others to see this either. But the facts have been there for years and looking at some of my Environmental Economics books from 30 years ago even the predictions then are way sort of the disaster we are in now. 

However, as Jo points out if we have any Brexit, especially if we have a no deal Brexit we will be furiously kicking under the flood waters to keep ourselves afloat without the time, energy or resources to be able to deal with such big issues. We'll be in survival mode, like those developing countries I learnt about 30 years ago, who said they had to follow our path to development burning fossil fuels, massive factories, chopping down their forests. This was because we refused to share with them the benefits their resources had given us in colonial times and they now felt left behind. But that will be the Britain post-Brexit. 

We need to deal with things in the round, in conversation and coalition with other nations to deal with these issues, not heading to isolation behind the hulking, shulking Boris running from people who think differently from him.

We need to act. We need to demand better. We need to do it now.

Thursday 5 September 2019

Stigmatising HIV and Hepatitis isn't an Ecumenical Issue...or even a Health Issue

The resignations of my friends Jennie Rigg and Sarah Brown resigned from the Liberal Democrats over the joyful acceptance of Philip Lee into the party it gave me pause for reflection.

It wasn't that long ago that another "health issue" caused a lot of hurt here in Northern Ireland when Iris Robinson mentioned that her friendly psychiatrist could cure Northern Ireland of Sodomy it seemed. Quite rightly the Liberal Democrats were up in arms about those comments.

However, when someone's views in the past that we should stop people coming to this country who have HIV or Hepatitis, some of those same people brush it under the carpet as a health issue. Then reject the anger and hurt that is felt by LGBT+ activists and campaigners. You see many of us who are LGBT+ have been told to our faces that we have a health issue. Usually as with Iris Robinson this is referring to our mental health. People have told us there is a cure, some of us even have tried the so called "cure" so know even more how much this hurts.

Refusing people entry to this country because they have HIV or Hepatitis is a mixture of Homophobia and Xenophobia. It is based on ignorance like in the 1980s that these are just gay diseases. It ignores the many millions from Sub Sahara Africa who have been infected by their partners or parents. It legitimises a certain amount of asylum refusal, in much the same way that many LBGT+ asylum seekers have been turned away by the Border Force for not being stereotypically "gay" enough to warrant asylum.

CIS, straight people telling LGBT+ people that they shouldn't be offended. That our lose would be unfortunate is stirring a pot that should not be stirred. We can feel this oppression because we still face it ourselves. We are still anxious about public signs of affection in areas we don't know well. We have faced the name calling, we have faced the accusing looks, the ignorance, the hatred.

Unlike from Father Ted this isn't so much an Ecumenical Issue. We are a party that believes nobody should be enslaved by conformity.

When you base you standards of conformity of misguided health guidelines; without realising the fact about undetectable viral loads or the health nightmare that some of the poorest in this world face, you are not allowing everyone to achieve the best that they can be. If you do are you truly Liberal.

Saturday 20 April 2019

The Good Friday Generation #LyraMcKee Legacy

Yesterday one of the quotes from Lyra McKee that really struck home was this:

“We were the Good Friday Agreement generation, destined to never witness the horrors of war but to reap the spoils of peace. The spoils just never seemed to reach us.”

Today on the day after she died of the gun shot wound she received on the streets of Derry we learn that two others  of that Good Friday Agreement generation have been arrested for her murder. These are three young people who should have been able to reap the spoils of peace.

Twenty one years ago after that other Good Friday they was a feeling of hope about the future for Northern Ireland. Our politicians were talking about talking responsibility for our health service, our economy, our education and all the other departments. Trust me as someone who was in the civil service either side of devolution I know the enthusiasm that local politicians had (yes even those who were opposed to the Good Friday Agreement).

But this weekend after hearing about the ages of those arrested I got thinking. Is it really because the Good Friday Agreement generation didn't really reap the spoils of peace that we know have these young people taking to arms.

We have to acknowledge that there has been some unrest in certain areas for a while. We have to look at why this has allowed to escalate.

Our politicians have to take some responsibility, only last week Arlene Foster again used the scare story that unionists have to vote DUP to prevent Sinn Féin being the largest party. When our politicians still talk about us and them there is still division and not a shared future. Yesterday she was united with all the other parties standing in the Creggan at a vigil for a victim of violence in Northern Ireland.

The issues that impact the poorest in Northern Ireland whether in the Creggan or East Belfast, whether Protestant or Catholic, gay or straight have been put on hold for over 2 years now. Decisions that cannot be made without a Minister are not being made. The spoils of peace are at a standstill. Partially this is down to the two largest parties still posturing with us and them redlines.

Twenty one years on from the people of Northern Ireland voting to allow their politicians to take back control of our future. Twenty one years on from us trusting them to be able to share that power they are failing to act in our interests. At the moment there is too much playing at party politics rather that dealing with the real politics and sadly here in Northern Ireland too often that means making everything into a green or orange issue. If you are into consensus politics and agree with something that one side suggests you are even accused of the worst excesses of them uns.

This is not healthy, we need to step away from all of this name calling and work on making things better for the generation that didn't experience the horrors of war, we need to be able to provide with the opportunity to enjoy the spoils of peace.