Saturday, 27 August 2022

Follow Up to My Resignation Letter from LDCF

 As I did say at the end of my post of my resignation letter from the LDCF (Liberal Democrat Christian Forum) I did say I would publish a follow up about some of the context before and to answer some the queries that have come up since.

First of all the context.

Last weekend I became aware that the Chair of LDCF has signed an open letter started by Liberal Voice for Women. He had signed it not in a personal capacity as all bar one of the other signaturies had done, but on behalf of the exec of LDCF. The other exception was the Chair of Liberal Voice for Women.

Liberal Voice for Women is a group that is not affiliated to the Liberal Democrats in any way and have been asked to stop using the word Liberal in their title as it is misleading. This, however, does not stop them emailing members of the Liberal Democrats bringing Gender Critical concerns to the fore and sometime leading potentially naive members, councillors, peers and others to be swayed by their argument. Some of whom have later regretted decisions they made supporting the group and have apologised for their action, naivity on the subject and hurt they have caused long standing friends.

The current letter was regarding freedom of speech for the groups LGB Alliance and FiLiA to have stalls at the upcoming Lib Dem Conference. The only people with a right to have stalls at Lib Dem Conference would be the Groups that are made up of Liberal Democrats the groups that represent subsets of our membership. Groups such as LDCF and LGBT+ Lib Dems for example. Other groups, organisations and charities with outside interests will be invited or accepted by the Conference Committee. Some of these are ungoing concerns that share the parties values, other are groups that are relevant to the debate or areas of policy we are focussing on at present. In any event there is finite space for stalls in the exhibition part of conference.

The argument about freedom of speech is one that would sway Liberal Democrats, we love debate especially amongst ourselves. However, with relation to the two organisations in question how do they use the freedom of speech they already have?

Those who support these two organisations use their freedom of speech to spread fear about trans women, never trans men it is interesting to note. They want trans people to use the bathroom of their assigned gender at birth, ie they don't want trans women in women's bathrooms, changing rooms or spaces, but seem to ignore the implication that trans men with their testosterone shots and growing their facial hair would be subject to the same rules and have to be in "women's" spaces. 

They also use their freedom of speech to lambast, copy post, abuse and torment not only trans people but any of us who show support for them. Everytime any of us of LGBT+ Lib Dems twitter account post in support of Trans people we are attacked virolantly.

This letter is asking to allow members of this organisation to operate a stall, to share the same space as LGBT+ members who would have their own stall at Lib Dem Conference. The LGBT+ stall is more than just a stall to promote our organisation it is also a stall that has helped many LGBT+ members of the party feel safe, often for the first time, to talk about their sexuality or gender identity. This safe space would easily be affected by anti-trans groups, who also aren't too keen on trans supportive LGB people or trans inclusive feminists, being set up who knows how far away.

Now when I saw that the Chair of LDCF had signed this letter on behalf of the LDCF Exec I did not accuse the entire Exec of making a misjudgement. I reached out to friends on the Exec of LDCF to get a better picture of what was happening. I was relieved to hear that concerns had been raised by some about taking action as a group to sign this letter. 

There was also an offer to speak to the chair relayed through one of these exec members. As I have a tiring work schedule and other commitments I asked to what end this phone call would have, but heard nothing back through that channel.

Well this morning a statement (since amended slightly) appeared on the LDCF website. The initial wording started with "LDCF unanimously co-signed a letter". I took obvious objection to such wording as I was a member of LDCF and had not given permission for anyone to sign that letter on my behalf as part of LDCF, nor was there any communication with the membership of the whole about such a letter. How this could be unanimous is a party of voting geekery is beyond me.

Clearly as a past member of the LGBT+ Exec, an openly gay three time Westminster Candidate I could not stand by and have myself associated with such a poorly worded statement that seemed to suggest I agreed to such a stance. I announced I would be tendering my resignation forthwith in response to the Twitter post with the statement and drafted the letter.

I said I would publish the letter just over an hour after I submitted the resignation letter. This was to allow peope time to maybe persuade others that the statement should to be taken down from the website before further consideration was given to this matter. When it was still there at 10:30 I hit publish on my accounts.

In the interim I did get question from the LDCF Twitter account, at first anonymously but in a personal capacity. When I enquired who was asking, it was from the Chair. However, when I asked publically if he had reached out the LGBT+ Lib Dems I got the response.

We did reach out to various people including LGBTQ+ in the Party and received no response other than the same ‘they are transphobic’. We have asked very senior people in the Party for their evidence and experience also. Let’s all push now for some clear statements.

So yeah going to the authority on trans issues, being told the organisations in question are transphobic apparently isn't enough clarity. 

I was also asked to share proof that the organisations were transphobic. I face enough of this whenever I do stand up for trans rights, it is an ongoing struggle for many of us on social media. But our party is clear on what constitutes transphobia. But if the chair of any part of our party (and I say this having chaired parts of it myself) can't do some basic research, ask some relevant people and then listen to their answers. Before going ahead and doing something anyway on behalf of that organisation or just exec (not quite clear which, if either), what hope is there?

This is a Saturday I have a two day weekend this week (which only happens 50% of the time). I was hoping for some self care this morning. Thanks to those who have helped provide care to me as I went through this tough time. I may write more on this latter but for now I am taking some time for myself.

My Resignation Letter from LDCF (Liberal Democrat Christian Forum)

 Dear [Secretary],

In light of the recent statement that you have posted in the LDCF website and on twitter I cannot in good conscience as a gay, liberal, Christian remain a member of Lib Dem Christian Forum.

The statement starts by saying the the LDCF has unanimously decided to sign the letter in support of LGB Alliance and FiLiA attending our conference. As a member of LDCF I was not consulted nor did I give authority for you or any member of the Executive to speak on my behalf to make this decision unanimous of the Forum, which I believe as a member includes me.

You talk about holding the right to debate in good tension. I am aware that I and other LGBT+ members of the LDCF have reached out to members of the LDCF exec in recent days about this matter. We have pointed out that the debate we have had with this associated with the LGB Alliance have been far from a good tension. I personally have been called homophobic, mysogynistic, a groomer, a pervert and other things during such "debate" with this group. 

There is no good tension between LGB Alliance and the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats that attack and bombard our twitter and our members and supporters at every chance.Sadly allowing them into our conference exhibition space where our LGBT+ Lib Dem stall is seen as a safe space is not acceptable. As a past member of the LGBT+ Exec who has seen people taking their first steps to "coming out" at our stall this is seriously put at risk by having such a group, which only last week was classed a hate group in Ireland, in close proximity.

It is with regret that after many years of LGBT+ members being welcomed and accepted as members of LDCF. Many years of me personally speaking to many LDCF exec members either at the LDCF or LGBT+ Lib Dem stalls at conference exhibition. I was under the impression that being LGBT+ was not contrary to membership of LDCF. The events of recent weeks make me now think differently. I no longer feel I can hold membership of the LDCF.

Please accept this letter as my immediate resignation from LDCF with immediate effect.

I shall be publishing this letter on my blog in at 10:30 this morning.

Update 28 Aug 12:22 The following was just posted on the LDCF Website

The LDCF statement about the 2022 Liberal Democrats Conference arrangements, which was first issued on Friday (26/8), has been taken down to allow the Forum time to consider further these issues and the responses to it. We recognise that some people have been upset and hurt by our statement. That was never our intention, and we are sorry.
I obviously will wait to hear of the outcome of the consideration that the LDCF Exec take on these issues.

Since I announced my resignation the wording of the statement on the DCF website has altered slightly but the essence is still the same.

I will be writing a follow up post later with more details and answering some of the questions that have arisen since I announced I would be pubishing this letter.

Sunday, 21 August 2022

Is Giving Transphobes Access a Freedom of Speech Issue?

 So let's say that someone uses the argument that they want to give a transphobic organisation access to a space where are large number of LGBT+ members assembly biannually. Let us also assume that they believe this is a Freedom of Speech issue.

Firstly I would ask them to look at the organisation they are seeking to give that freedom of speech to, especially in relation to trans people. Do they use their freedom of speech to dead name trans people? Do they use their freedom of speech to insult, insinuate, libel and slander anybody who defend trans rights? Do they use their freedom of speech with responsibilty or do they echo the tropes that were used against LGB people in the 80s and 90s? 

If they do not use the freedom of speech they already have responsibly. If the LGBT+ members of a group are fearful of the repercussions of allowing such a group access to a space that they consider safe, for some the first space they feel safe to be genuinely themselves.

Then you have to question why you want to allow them freedom of speech amongst a group who believe that nobody shall be enslaved by conformity, where we champion the freedom, dignity and well being of individuals. Where we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, caste, heritage, class, religion or belief, age, disability, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

If you want to sign a letter demanding that such a group is given access then ask yourself why are you a Liberal Democrat in light of what the preamble to our constitution states.

Monday, 25 July 2022

Lord Trimble 1944-2022

Not from from the little terraced house that my father grew up you will see Hands Across the Divide (pictured right). It is a statue that somes up the hope of peace not just in Londonderry/Derry but across the whole of Northern Ireland.

The two men who best summed up that reaching across the divide are probably John Hume from the city of Derry and David Trimble, who coincidently like me also comes from Bangor, indeed his family went to same church as my mother's family and he went to Sunday School along with her. A young David Trimble is actually pictured in the book about the centenary of the current building of Trinity Presbyterian Church as part of the team working to build the church halls.

However, it was building of something more amorphus than a structure that is still standing that will be Trimble's lasting legacy. It was through that reaching out that he formed a sense of purpose, an image of a peaceful future, a vision of a shared future and a pathway to acheiving that. The people had their say and overwhelmingly supported the agreement that the various parties agreed to. That is truly reaching across the divide, that is what a leader should aim for.

It is with sadness that following on from John Hume's death in 2020, David, Baron Trimble of Lisnagarvey has passed away today. In 1998 the two men shared the Nobel Peace Prize and in his Nobel Speach David summed up the state of Northern Ireland poignantly when he said.

There are two traditions in Northern Ireland. There are two main religious denominations. But there is only one true moral denomination. And it wants peace.

Those words are as relevant today as they were back in 1998, more so, as once once again our Assembly is struggling to get up an running. Our politicians need to look as Trimble and Hume and Seamus Mallon who served as Deputy First Minister and the example they gave of working for everyone. Trimble took a lot of abuse from some within Unionism for reaching out to the Nationalist traditions, but the peace has held largely, the devolved Assembly and continued on with several periods of strife, but carries on mostly and the people want it to work.

He was one of the architects of something that many of us thought would never come to be. Even when his party and Hume's lost their prominence in their two communities, the two traditions continued to work together towards that peace.

Tonight the thoughts and prayers are many are rightfully with Lady Trimble and his family. In our tomorrows people in Northern Ireland need to reflect upon what Trimble and Hume helped to bring about and work towards enhancing that legacy to make it truly one moral denomication of working together for all.

David, Baron Trimble of Lisnagarvey 15 Oct 1944 - 25 Jul 2022

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Northern Ireland Protocol 101: From a Northern Irish Perspective

 I see that this morning John Redwood has tweeted:

There are a number of issue with this that many of us here in Northern Ireland take umbridge with. Firstly John is assuming that those conducting the interviews also understand the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and the various subsequent agreements added to the original. You see this whole thing is complex and when in 1998 the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland voted to approve the Good Friday agreement they actually knew what they were voting for. It was written out in full and sent to every home. 

This of course contrasts to Brexit which there was never any clear plan of what it meant and the Conservative Government subsequently has been making up as it goes along. If John Redwood has read the GFA he would know how intertwined Northern Ireland, Ireland and indeed the EU institutions are within the agreement for a peaceful future for the island of Ireland. 

There were only 18 years from the GFA until the vote on Brexit but in that time things in Northern Ireland changed, for the better. Subsequently the people of Northern Ireland, who did know what was involved in the GFA actually voted against leaving the EU. There are number of reasons for that security, ease of access across the border, also realising how much interlinkage there is and that this would be threatened by an EU border stretching over 300 miles around Northern Ireland.

In these days of talk about energy security the fact that most of NI's gas and electricity is actually supplied from Ireland Her Majesty's Government threatening to get involved in some any sort of argument with the EU, by acting unilaterally is worrying.

The other issue that many of us have is that Redwood is saying what the Unionist community think of the protocol in relation to the GFA. By this he means the DUP and TUV rather that the Unionist community but why let convenient shorthand get in the way when making a point about having the facts. The fact that the DUP and TUV were opposed to much of the GFA and are using it to acheive their own ends and on this they seem to be pushing the button of consent. Consent of course that wasn't settled with the withdrawal from the EU in the first place. 

This wee pocket of the UK along with several others didn't consent to our exit from the EU and then the European Economic Area, for many of the reasons about supply of food, services energy etc. In fact since Brexit our supermarkets have had to replace some of their foodstuffs, which have been in short supply in Great Britain also, with some supplied from Ireland, thank you protocol. So the DUP playing the consent card and with holding their consent for the Assembly to form over an issue over which their monirity view was fed into the Tory Government's negotiating position ignores the greater issues and more largely held opinion.

The DUP stood in the recent election on their stance of the protocol as part of a five point plan. Since the election is appears that four of those points education, housing, health service and cost of living are not really important enough right now for them to work on. However, that didn't go down too well with the electorate they lost 6.7%* of their vote and 3 MLAs. Hardly a ringing endorsement for what they were pushing. Yet somehow their performance at this election is now not just enough to hold the majority of NI voters hostage but the entirity of the UK.

Does anyone else remember the Prime Minister saying his deal was oven ready? Incuding the Protocol which Johnson and the DUP said was better than Theresa May's deal.

Does anyone else remember their 2019 election pledge that there would be no more negotiation over Brexit?

Well here we are we have a Government arguing that the Protocol that they agreed to as part of the process is not fit for purpose and that if the EU will not renegotiate it they will unilaterally chnge or scrap it.

We live in strange and worrying times. Can someone in the Coservative Party please listen to the people of Northern Ireland who are not linked the DUP, TUV or Jamie Bryson (now that is a story for another time).

* I will note here that the TUV gained 5.1% but if you also add in the 1.7% that the net loss for the  unionist parties is still 3.3%

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Cooking with Tories

 The latest trend I'm seeing from Conservative representatives is that if poor people knew how to cook properly they wouldn't be facing the cost of living crisis. The Tories that are saying this are clearly living in a High Looking down on the plebs with displeasure.

They have clearly never been in a situation where when you are paid the bare minimum you can get towards the end of a month and face a regular panic. You scrape together all the change you can find to maybe buy enough food, and basic provisions at that, to last until pay day. Or maybe it is to go unto your electric key or gas card for you prepayment meters, or maybe to see if you can afford to get to work. This is not a new occurance it is something I faced at times around 2008.

It was not caused my me not being able to cook. In fact I was not purchasing pre-cooked meals as it was cheaper to buy ingredients to cook. I had a selection of all the dried pulses you could imagine and ate a largely vegetarian diet as meat was so costly. In fact when I was forced to live like this I did spend longer before going to the shops working out how to balance my diet, and within my budget, that at times when I had more disposible income on which to life.

Currently the sitution is dire. There are people whose fuel bills have gone up so much that they are having to ask their energy companies for credit, which is actually debt, to tide them over. This they will have to repay and therefore there is a further hole in their weekly budgets.

There food shop is already going up and the fact that there are now more food banks across the UK than McDonalds restaurants should tell anyone looking at those figures that we are heading towards Dickensian disparities between the rich and the poor.

So Tory MPs telling people how to economise or that they don't know how to cook are not aware of how much scraping around people do when they live on the edge. Food does not get thrown out it is used up, somehow. Basics are there and yes sometimes there is survival with basic bread and basic baked beans. However, when even the prices of the stables, bread, pasta, cooking oil are all subject to price rises due to the war in Ukraine affecting supply, along with a removal of the cap on energy price rises, pay is not keeping up to costs.

Yet in the Queen's Speech provided yesterday there was no major statement about how to help those in need now, nor how to prevent more slipping into a poverty trap.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Empty Chair at Empty Risos - Trubute to Erlend Watson

 (with apologies to Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel) 

There's a grief that can't be spoken

There's a pain goes on and on
Empty chair at empty RIsos
Now our friend Erlend has gone
Here he talked of social justice
Here it was he helped campaigns
Here he sang at Glee with gusto
And regaled us all with tales
From the Riso in the corner
He could see a world reborn
And he rose Riso restarting
And I can hear it now!
The very words he had sung
Became our walking campaign song
On this lonely Good Morning
At dawn
Oh my friend, my friend forgive me
That I live and you are gone
There's a grief that can't be spoken
There's a pain goes on and on
Your smiling face all over Conference
Whispering to Risos from the floor
Empty chair at empty Risos
Which my friend will fix no more
Oh my friend, my friend
We all know what your sacrifice was for
Empty chair at empty Riso
Where Erlend campaigns no more