Monday, 18 May 2015

Tim Farron And Same-Sex Marriage

If I had been an MP in the last Parliament (stop thanking deities I wasn't back there!) I'd have had many second thoughts about voting for the same-sex marriage bill. I went over my reasons for that repeatedly during the debates but they are summed up here.

I state that as a way of saying I'm open-minded (a rare state for me, as you well know Dear Constant Reader) about those who may have had similar concerns about a very flawed bill and even those who abstained (but I'm far less open-minded about those who voted against it as it was clearly a step in the right direction and not worthy of total rejection!). Cheerleaders who hold the same-sex marriage act up as some amazing piece of progressive legislation will not get much of a warm reception from me.

Tim Farron, in the midst of a Lib Dem leadership campaign, has come under fire from his opponent Norman Lamb on the issue of same-sex marriage. I've seen some less well-informed Tweeple (especially non-LDs) claiming Tim Farron was against same-sex marriage. That is absolutely not true.

Farron voted for the same-sex marriage bill in its early stages. He abstained from voting during it's Third Reading. He states this was because of his concerns over protections for some religious communities and conscientious objectors.

I've expressed a great deal of concern regarding Farron's actions regarding some issues around religion in the past. So I'm no Tim Farron fanboy (though, for full disclosure, I am currently planning to vote for him). But, to give him his due, he has been unfailingly consistent in framing his stances on very clear individual liberty grounds. Some of his positions have made me feel uncomfortable but, I admit, have often made me consider whether I'm holding a position from the point of view of consistency or because of some prejudice I may have. And whenever I've engaged with him he has been willing to listen, to respond politely and to appear to consider other points of view.

Farron has made it clear he regrets that his abstention may be taken as a lack of support for same-sex marriage in principle and that he very much supports it and will defend it should it come under attack from the new Tory Government. We can't really ask for more than that now can we?

Well he could champion some of my concerns with regards to the act, of course... ;)

Friday, 8 May 2015

Let's Stick Together And Get To Work

What a bitter, bitter night for the Liberal Democrats, for the Union and for our future as a member of the European Union. And though it is easy for us to blame 5 years of unrelenting misplaced mud-slinging from Labour and the left, I think it is important that those of us who believe in liberal values take stock of what has happened more carefully.

After the defeat of Labour at the 2010 election they immediately moved into questioning the legitimacy of coalitions and into navel-gazing as they fought the leadership contest that gave them Ed Miliband. They did not engage in a period of proper reflection on the causes of defeat and moved straight back into an oppositional “OH MY GOD LOOK AT THE EVIL TORIES AND FIB DEMS” mode which they hoped would easily see them through the next election.

This sort of brazen disregard for understanding why the electorate didn’t re-elect the Brown Government in 2010 has led the Labour party to an even greater defeat this time. We must learn from their mistakes, the main learning of which is… learn from our mistakes!!! Bitter recriminations or, worse, a warming up of the ongoing cold war between “social liberals” and “Orange bookers” will not be useful in terms of coming to terms with what has happened and why. We must stand together, determined but humble and ask "Why?"

And it is a little unseemly to engage in any sort of recriminations when so many amazing MPs and their teams have just lost their jobs. Lynne Featherstone, a wonderful MP by all accounts, who spearheaded same-sex marriage and made a real liberal mark on the Coalition. Charles Kennedy who is not only one of the nicest guys about but a fantastic MP and my first leader. Danny Alexander and David Laws were instrumental in making the Lib Dems work within the Coalition. All have fallen to the electorates will. We must respect that will but we can still feel a little sad.

And Nick Clegg. Oh Nick Clegg. A man whose mere mention divides the party in half and who is the subject of a great deal of derision from the general public. I didn't vote for Nick Clegg for leader. If you think that's my way of distancing myself from his actions, you'd be very wrong. He won me over. His intelligence, his personality and his ability to convince are certainly something to behold. Yes, his actions may ultimate be seen to be the cause of our downfall BUT you'll never convince me he didn't join the Coalition and throw himself into making it work for anything other than the most decent and respectable reasons. He tried. He succeeded in many things. And ultimately when the judgement of the public was made clear at the ballot box, he conceded. I shall always hold him in the highest regard and thank him for giving our party and our country stability in a trying time.

We should mourn the loss of some great MPs and one great leader. And then we should pragmatically and scientifically breakdown what went wrong and what we need to do to make things better.... Onwards, always.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Steadying Ourselves For The #GE2015 Results

Remember those minutes leading up to 10pm on 6 May 2010? The excitement for Liberal Democrats was palpable. As I took my seat in my then local pub to watch the results, I was so filled with naive optimism. Not too many days before, and only a mile away, I'd witnessed a massive Lib Dem rally and a #IAgreeWithNick flashmob in Trafalgar Square. How could we not make massive gains?

Of course, on the night, despite every poll except the exit poll... we lost seats. Sure we managed to get into Government for the first time (as Lib Dems) but it was deflating and depressing. Yes, I was very naive.

Now we are a couple of days away from the 2015 general election. And I'm struck by a mixture of high excitement, extreme trepidation and a general expectation that the results will ultimately confound all expectations and be utterly dull.

The excitement comes from the fact that there are a lot of angles. The rise of UKIP, the Green "surge" (a huge percentage increase in their vote means they will be struggling even to beat us but still...), the collapse of the Lib Dems, the mediocre performance of the Labservatives and, most thrilling of all, the SNP explosion. These things could make for some exciting moments... Scottish Lib Dem and Labour big fish being taken out by the SNP (see Douglas Alexander, Danny Alexander or Charles Kennedy), Nick Clegg's knife-edge election night, will George Galloway and Caroline Lucas keep their seats? We just have little idea of what awaits us, which makes it possibly the most exciting election since 1997.

The trepidation comes from what lies in store for the Lib Dems. I hope that we can save a fair number of seats, I think anything more than 20 would be marvellous. But we just don't know how it will go. It'll be very depressing to see the party behind the introduction of same-sex marriage lose so many good people (especially sad to see people like Lynne Featherstone be defeated for example). We can hope for a miracle but...

And the thing truly making me worried is the rise of the SNP. Nationalism should be a philosophy consigned to the waste basket of history. Alas. Now we sit at the point where the SNP may form part of a coalition government or offer some sort of deal to prop up a minority government. This is worrying for the future of our union and as a unionist I'm thus not best pleased.

And then we come to the ultimate truth of British elections... the result is likely to be boring. We'll get all excited, expecting some interesting things to happen and then Labour will probably just squeak through and won't we all look silly? An exit poll of depressing blandness awaits us on Thursday evening I'm sure of it, but we can keep our hopes up for something different until those last few minutes before 10pm...

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

If You Are Only Now Realising How Rubbish Stonewall Is, You've Not Been Paying Attention

There's been some minor Twitterstorming over a graphic Stonewall put up yesterday which they have since taken down.

It basically looked at Labour's LGBT manifesto and went through whether other parties agreed with Labour and ticked them if they did. Given Labour's LGBT manifesto is rather flawed (not fixing the issue of people having to apply to get unfair past convictions overturned and completely ignoring the many failings of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act) this is probably not the best approach. As always with Stonewall they never seek to actually question anything important. If it's not about celebrities or sports, they just don't give a damn and when it comes to education and kids... see below!

Well they've got rid of that graphic now after people felt it was a little biased (Stonewall? Biased? Who knew?) but what really struck me was yet again the number of people commenting on how they had been long-term supporters of Stonewall and this was just unacceptable. Where have those people been?

Where were they when:

- Stonewall opposed and hindered the efforts to get same-sex marriage legalised until they realised how unpopular this position was?

- Stonewall advised parents to grass on their LGBT kids to the police for expressing their burgeoning sexuality? (What a fabulous coming out experience!!)

- Stonewall opposed a boycott against a hotel owned by the head of state of a country with severe anti-LGBT laws because it might upset him (again only until they realised how unpopular this position was, fickle as ever)?

And that is just three of a LONG list of issues that have come up just during this Parliament!!! Yet these folks have continued to back Stonewall throughout.

Disturbing.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Brain Dump On Charlie Hebdo Massacre's Aftermath

In the wake of two recent tragedies (the cafe murders in Sydney and the series of murders in Paris) there has been an almost immediate, on social media almost overwealming, movement to stand with "ordinary Muslims" against possible retaliation from the public. See for instance the very worthy "I'll ride with you" trend that occurred during the siege in Sydney.

Whilst I think those behind these movements are just worthy but also right to say they stand with their Muslim neighbours and fellow citizens against any pointless and cruel "retaliation" against innocents, I do find it all a little distasteful. Disrespectful might be a better word. This may be a wrong feeling but it seems we no longer care much for the actual victims of these crimes but care more about sideways affected "might-be" victims. And in some bizarre way it all seems to suggest there is a link between these murders and innocent Muslim citizens who thus need our protection (when quite frankly no such link exists).

Where was the "I'll ride with you" for the police after the murders at Charlie Hebdo? Would've been useful as the next day a police officer was yet another murder victim.

It all creates a narrative that seems to play into the right-wings belief that minorities are perpetual victims. Yes we should stand against attacks (verbal or physical) on innocents of all colours, creeds and religions. But this social media obsession just borders on the depraved.

And there's been a picture going round (one I won't be sharing given its subject matter) of one of the murderers shooting a Muslim police officer dead near the scene of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It labels the murderer as "Terrorist" and the police officer as "Muslim" as if the highlight who the real victim is. But of course both were Muslim (as far as we know, although neither will ever have a chance to tell us what was truly in their hearts on the matters of religion at the moments of their death). This obsession with pretending that these murders had nothing to do with the beliefs of the murderers is only slightly less disgusting than the fact the police officer was labelled "Muslim" as if that summed up his entire existence. It seemed really quite unnecessarily disrespectful to the life of that individual who was murdered in the course of defending others.

Maybe I'm just a bit old-fashioned but when someone is murdered or injured I just think our thoughts should be with them and their families at the first instance.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2015: Can We Please Try To Have A Better Year This Time?

Last year was not only more of the same rubbish; it also contained more awfulness than usual.

Yes, the ongoing rise of the puritans continues. Just in the last week we get the example of the vile Katie Hopkins tweeting something vile yet instead of everyone doing the British thing and shaking their heads disapprovingly, we have the police investigating her! Feminists, conservatives and "progressives" have continued their march against the advances made by sensible folk by supporting things like the recent BBFC changes. Freedom isn't just under threat, it is now on its last legs. The Coalition has failed to live up to the Coalition agreement's very worthy words and has instead continued the legacy of Blair's New Labour in undermining basic rights "for your own good".

Meanwhile... UKIP's rise has seemingly plateaued but they continue to dominate the press. Their witterings against climate change, sexual freedom, freedom of movement and the EU leave much to be desired. 2014 was the year of UKIP. Can we make 2015 the year UKIP collapsed? Let's try that one on for size at least!!

And abroad... Russia, led by a Nigel Farage's favourite person Vladimir Putin, re-emerged on the European scene by invading Ukraine in two separate incidents and fomenting a civil war. Of course the right-wing (and Russia's fifth columnists UKIP) blame this on the EU whilst the left-wingers (see Oliver Stone for example) blame it on Western civilisation generally. Yes Russia is right to feel a little threatened by losing its last buffer states to Western influence. But that doesn't give her the right to militarily invade a sovereign country. The Ukrainians have the right to determine their own foreign policy, we shouldn't play Cold War "spheres of influence" politics with any more lives. The Ukrainian people must have the right to choose in peace what they wish.

And in further upsetting developments the "Islamic State" came into being, formed from some tattered and beaten parts of Iraq and Syria. Their brutal methods and uncompromising beliefs have made news headlines everywhere. Another worrying development we didn't need.

So let's hope that 2015 brings us a little more freedom, a little less violence and a lot less crazy conspiracy theorists among our population (because they are slowly driving me insane).

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Disillusionment

My emotions and behaviours appear to be extremely cyclical. Case in point: the release of the Jurassic World and Star Wars trailers in the same week triggered off my "geeky obsessive" cycle which will eventually peter out to be replaced by a Mormon history or a Scientology obsessive cycle.

A similar thing happens when it comes to my political outlook. I've been quiet on here because, right now, I'm in my disillusioned phase. Our Government is trying to destroy freedom of movement (ironically 25 years after the Berlin Wall fell we're busy trying to put up barriers again) and threatens our relationship with the European Union. UKIP is surging on a wave of anti-immigrant, anti-Westminster, anti-anything sentiment. Labour can't quite decide whether it is still as bad as it used to be or whether it wants to be even worse by becoming UKIP-lite. And the Lib Dems, my beloved Lib Dems, languish at the bottom of the polls (occassionally even overtaken by the Greens) whilst those Lib Dems in elected office have allowed legislation such as this to get passed.

Some bizarre form of feminist, leftie theology is running strong among progressives (who I usually look at pretty benignly) which has turned them into censorious, conservative and aggressive haters against anything that might make a human being smile. Meanwhile much of the right are dribbling over their keyboards typing "EUSSR!". And in Scotland some crazy nationalist creature known as "the 45%" seems determined to tear our country apart despite the outcome of the referendum there.

Where are the good people? The sane people? The nice people?

Where are our leaders? Cameron's current foreign policy is making Britain look stupid in front of the whole world whilst he has failed to stop the gradual removal of our individual freedoms started by Labour. In fact his Government has gone further than Labour dared (not that Labour's complaining).

It is nearly enough to make me resign from the Lib Dems and join the Pirate Party in some sort of last ditch idealistic, but utterly futile, gesture.

I'm British. Get me out of here!