Tag Archives: Cameron

Owen Patterson, the Secretary of State for the Environment, on Any Questions

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Patterson, recently graced Any Questionsthe BBC Radio 4 show, with his presence.

I listened to his performance and was utterly horrified. I knew he has quite a history when it comes to climate change but to hear him repeating so many climate change myths in such a short period of time was terrifying.

Luckily for you my dear reader, our friends over at skepticalscience.com have responded to his regurgitation of some old myths. It is worth reading their whole blog but I wanted to draw your attention to the manuscript of Patterson’s tirade where they have usefully hyperlinked every false claim to a separate myth busting page.

“Well I’m sitting like a rose between two thorns here and I have to take practical decisions – erm – the climate’s always been changing – er – Peter mentioned the Arctic and I think in the Holocene the Arctic melted completelyand you can see there were beaches there – when Greenland was occupied, you know, people growing crops – we then had a little ice age, we had a middle age warming – the climate’s been going up and down – but the real question which I think everyone’s trying to address is – is this influenced by manmade activity in recent years and James is actually correct – the climatehas not changed – the temperature has not changed in the last seventeen years and what I think we’ve got to be careful of is that there is almost certainly – bound to be – some influence by manmade activity but I think we’ve just got to be rational (audience laughter)  – rational people – and make sure the measures that we take to counter it don’t actually cause more damage – and I think we’re about to get -“

Peter Hain interjects at this point with the observation: 

“And this man is our Secretary of State for the Environment, for goodness’ sake!”

In ten seconds Patterson managed to discredit himself, Cameron (for it was he who chose him for this position despite knowing his ‘views’), and the entire reputation of the British government as one that takes climate change seriously.

Cameron cannot keep someone in such a key role who holds such fundamentally dangerous views about climate change. Either this government’s reputation goes or Patterson goes, Cameron can’t keep them both!


Filed under Climate Change, Politics

In defence of Cameron taking a holiday

Labour MPs and the tabloid’s show themselves to be interested only in cheap political point scoring by attacking Cameron for taking a holiday. 

A number of Labour MPs have today attacked David Cameron for “swanning off” on holiday when “the country struggles to come to terms with the vile crime in Woolwich”.

This move smacks of cheap political point scoring. Cameron, like the rest of us, needs an occasional holiday. To expect otherwise is to expect the impossible from our politicians – a problem at the heart of our political system.

But hey, what do our tabloids like more than cheap point scoring politics?

The Mirror states:

The Sun goes with:

The Mail, not to be outdone, asks if the PM is ‘chillaxed enough’:

One word that keeps coming up in this fawned outrage is – ‘terrorism’, or ‘terror crisis’. The tabloids in their never ending thirst for outrage asks, how can Cameron swan off ‘at a time like this – a terror crisis’?

I would love to hear from their editorial teams about how they define the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘crisis’ and then whether they can substantiate their claim that Britain is “gripped by a terror crisis”.

At this point, if you have not already, I strongly recommend you read Glenn Greenwald’s article in the Guardian where he asks, “Was the London killing of a British soldier ‘terrorism’?

In this article he makes the point:

“there are few terms – if there are any – that pack the political, cultural and emotional punch that “terrorism” provides” and that we should treat the term with a little bit of respect.

When it suits him, Cameron, like the rest of our political elite and the tabloids, is happy to use and abuse the term all too aware of its emotional punch.

It suits him for example to not completely disown the Blair year’s war on terror rhetoric. Just as the term ‘terrorism’ has been systematically abused and made devoid of all meaning to justify everything from illegal wars to abolishing due process, so Cameron is now learning it can be used by tabloids and opposition MPs to make cheap political gains.

Although the Labour and the tabloid’s attack on Cameron for ‘swanning off’ is – and I am with Nadine Dorries on this – pathetic, Cameron has enabled them to use this term ‘terrorism’ by purposefully not defining what he or anyone else means by the term.

In short, Cameron should be allowed to get on with his holiday and enjoy spending some time with his family.When he gets back though, lets ask him what definition of terrorism he uses that manages to include the Woolwich attacks but excludes the UK’s illegal war in Iraq.

Until then though, as far as I am concerned, let the man enjoy his espresso in peace.

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The girl effect and the silent struggle

This is a guest article by Angelique Mulholland. A friend, women’s rights activist and contributor to the pixel project.

What do Jimmy Savile’s victims, Female Genital Mutilation sufferers and Malala Yousasfazai all have in common?

All were forced into silence.

Told like a joke, but not very funny right? All week on the Twittersphere people have been posting jokes about Jimmy Savile being an alleged pedophile.

Black humour which pushes the boundaries can be intelligent and funny. But really, so many of these jokes lack any cleverness or ingenuity – they are often banal and push the boundaries of insensitivity  more than anything else.

But black humour is not what this blog post is about. This blog post is about a week which has shown girls in this country and around the world have a long way to go to get the basic human rights and protection they need and deserve.

Let’s start with Saville and his alleged career of rape and child abuse. Let’s start with the protection the young vulnerable victims deserved, but never received. The question on most people’s lips: How did the bastard get away with it? The Independent’s headline on Friday seemed to sum it up – “Why did nobody stop Jimmy Savile?” How did so many apparently “decent folk” turn a blind eye to four decades of child abuse? Why weren’t these young girls believed and protected?

One ex-patient of the psychiatric hospital at Broadmoor recounted her experience of Savile and the conspiracy to the Channel 4 news. “We were the perfect victims. Nobody would have believed us…. People knew what he was doing. He was enabled. 9 times out of 10- people know what is going on.” The alleged victims were enmeshed in a wall of silence forced upon them by adults who were supposed to protect them. We will never have this proven in a court of law of course, but it seems Jimmy Savile got away with a sustained campaign of rape and child abuse because he was protected by a society that looked the other way and was too afraid to speak out. The kind of silence that protected Jimmy Savile is heavy, thick and all consuming.  It is powerful. And it makes otherwise decent folk, cowardly.

FGM and the Silent Scream

Onto another form of abuse against girls where inaction and fear of speaking out contributes to creating countless victims.

On Tuesday 9th October, I met with a group of schoolgirls in Bristol who have been campaigning to put an end to Female Genital Mutilation. They are supported by a project called Integrate Bristol and have won an award for creating their own film about FGM, Silent Scream.

I was interviewing them on behalf of The Pixel Project – a women’s human rights charity that I write for.

The Home Office estimates 24,000 girls are at risk of FGM here in the UK.

FGM has been illegal in the UK for 30 years, yet there has never been a single prosecution and it is largely ignored by both schools and the medical profession. Girls who are subjected to FGM are usually between the ages of 3-14 years old. This harmful practice involves young girls having the partial or total removal of their clitoris and labia often without anesthetic. The physical and psychological effects are devastating.

Despite the taboo, the girls have broken the silence and spoken out. Their message? They want people to break the silence, they want girls to have rights over their own bodies and they want the British government to act. The UK is far behind the rest of Europe in tackling FGM. In France – girls are protected. In Sweden- girls are protected. The FGM issue is mainstream. People talk about it. Perpetrators are held to account. All young children are examined by trusted healthcare professionals to make sure they are safe. Alternative rite ceremonies into womanhood are encouraged and supported. Kids learn about FGM in schools. In the UK? Inaction. The frustrating term “cultural sensitivities” is thrown around again and again and again – and hidden behind.

A comment by one of the girls, “David Cameron- grow a pair and do something.”

Malala Yousafi

On the day I met with the girls in Bristol, 4,000 miles away in Pakistan, a young girl named Malaya Yousafzai was shot in the head at point blank range, on a bus, on her way home from school.

Her killers have said that if she recovers – they will hunt her down and attempt to kill her again. What crime has this 14 year old girl committed? It appears she had the audacity to demand another basic human right – the right to an education.

Her killers, the Pakistani Taliban, branded “pathological haters of women”  are renowned for their violence against women. Yet it seems the attempted murder has had the opposite effect to what they were anticipating. They wanted to silence Malala; but the outrage against the Taliban is palpable and the speaking out is loud and clear.

Galvanize: ‘The Girl Effect’

Girls in every country suffer from abuse and discrimination. And time and time again – their abusers are protected. Protected by taboo, silence and the fear of speaking out.

The first official “International Day of the Girl”  was held this Thursday 11th October. It is time we speak out for the girls who are subjected to FGM; we must speak out for the victims of Jimmy Saville and all victims of abuse. We need to speak out for Malala and girls around the world who are denied education and basic human rights – simply because they are girls. It’s time to galvanise and stand up for the rights of girls everywhere.

If each and every girl had control over her own body and access to education – her potential would be limitless.  I will leave you with this powerful video created by “The Girl Effect” which beautifully portrays just that – a world where every girl is protected and can therefore, thrive.

Any comments? Tweet me @leakym

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Filed under Celebrity, Health, Human rights, Politics, Social comment

Tory MEPs run riot in Brussels and put us all at risk

The greenest government yet? Maybe. This will mean nothing though unless Cameron regains control of his rogue MEPs in Brussels who are threatening to scupper any chance of an ambitious climate change agreement.

The coalition agreement states “We will push for the EU to demonstrate leadership in tackling international climate change, including by supporting an increase in the EU emission reduction target to 30% by 2020“. Equally, David Cameron has repeatedly used climate change as a tool for his PR machine to soften the Tories image.

He is facing embarrassment tonight then when a number of his MEPs are vowing to vote against any move to increase the EU emissions reduction target.

Once again, Tory MEPs like climate change sceptic Roger Helmer are running riot and putting us all at risk. As it stands, these few rogue ECR MEPs have the potential to make or break an EU deal which will affect us all. You might recognise Helmer’s face from a previous blog.

It is irresponsible for Cameron to let his MEPs run riot. He must, without delay, implement a bit of party discipline and accountability. If he doesn’t it is not only the Tories that will suffer, but all of us who need a binding EU deal to help reduce our chances of facing the worst consequences of climate change.


Filed under Climate Change, EU politics, Politics

Tackling the “sexualisation of children” has to be balanced with not crushing natural sexual curiosity

Found on coffee tables up and down the country

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has published guidelines for tackling the “sexualisation of children” as the Government releases a review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of children. David Cameron ordered a review by Reg Bailey, the chief executive of the Mothers’ Union, following a series of examples of leading retailers using “sexual or inappropriate” branding on children’s products. The report was entitled “Let children be Children” and can be found here.

Whilst I am sympathetic to the report’s findings, and join the flock of moralists who squawk at the idea of Tesco’s selling padded bras and thongs to under 12’s, I also find the underlying moralistic nature of the argument worrying.

It strikes me that we have a responsibility to protect not just children, but also adults from a soft sexualisation and the objectifying of individuals. As such, I strongly welcome some of the recommendations such as:

  • Make public space more family-friendly by “reducing the amount of on-street advertising containing sexualised imagery in locations where children are likely to see it.”
  • Stop the process where companies pay children to publicise and promote products in schools or on social networking sites by banning “the employment of children as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing.”

Yet, I do not feel that simply trying to hide away the sexual nature of adult life until a child turns of age (12,14,16,18?) is an effective strategy.  For example, one of the recommendations was, “Ensure children are protected when they watch television, are on the internet or use their mobile phones by “making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material” across all media”. The problem in my mind is not children seeking out sexual (and/or political) material. This is a natural process of growing up. The problem rests in the soft, day in day out, objectifying of bodies and relationships.

As cultural dictator of the UK government I would slap restrictions on crass soap opera story lines, ban Rihanna and have a ceremonial burning of all our tabloids. These do great damage to our children’s understanding of identity and relationships.

There is a serious point here, and I do not think the recommendations pick up on it. There is a difference between the slow soft sexualisation of children that leave them with bizarre, unattainable understandings of sex, relationships and (as the review blurred sex and politics so can I) politics and the naturally inquisitive nature of children who are on a path towards adulthood. However you define adulthood, I hope you would agree that it is a process, one that children will start on at a variety of stages.

As such, I am would welcome more liberal access to pornography, but would condemn the “soft core” magazines such as FHM. I know parents who wouldn’t even hesitate at leaving a FHM magazine lying around, but would be horrified at the idea of their child watching porn. As perverse as it seems, I honestly believe the everyday battering of images, sounds and experiences children receive is far more damaging than the over 18 only stuff children purposely seek out.

This report is a big step forward for protecting childhood from the fierce marketing world but it borders dangerously close to ineffective moralistic impositions.


Filed under Celebrity, Politics, sexuality

David Cameron has to move beyond words when calling for Christians to be “welcoming” and “accepting” of homosexuals

This article was originally published in OUT Bristol magazine.

Cameron has to move beyond words

David Cameron has moved his party on leaps and bounds from its deeply homophobic past.  Yet, when he calls for Christians to be “tolerant” and “welcoming” in light of a recent adoption ruling, we all know that he is referring to some within his own party.  For Cameron, Christianity will be one of the major battle grounds where his vision of an inclusive form of Conservatism is contested. He has to prove that he has at least thought about how the two can be reconciled otherwise his words are just that – words!

British politics has a very recent and very bleak history in relation to homophobia which still frames the current debate. Throughout the 1987 election campaign, the Conservative party campaigned on a heavily homophobic stance with election posters having slogans such as ‘Young, Gay and Proud…Labour’s idea for good education for your children’.  Outrageous in our eyes – a good election strategy for the late 1980’s Tories! I won’t mention the scandal that broke just before the May 2010 election in relation to Mr Grayling (current Minister for Work and Pensions)!

It was only in 1994 that our enlightened leaders chose to legalize “sodomy”.  The very word “sodomy” holds long rooted biblical significance coming from the wildly misquoted story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Too often, the LGB community roles over and accepts that Christianity and Homosexuality are incompatible. I believe it essential to tackle such ideas.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah was a story that aimed to highlight the morality around hospitality; the sexual undertones are minor, if there at all. The argument goes that Lot was giving hospitality to an unknown stranger, and the men of the city gathered to ‘know’ who this stranger was. The argument that this can be understood in term of homosexual relations is weak; to imply that God destroyed Sodom for this reason is weaker still. This story is also later referred to by Jesus (Matthew 10:14 15) where he implies the story has more to do with hospitality that homosexuality. He said “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town”.  

The status of hospitality over sexual morality is highlighted by the fact that when Jericho was destroyed by the Lord, the one person spared was a prostitute, despite prostitution being prohibited (Leviticus 19:29), because she offered hospitality. It would suggest therefore that the “homosexual” understanding of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah has more to do with modern and post-modernist understandings of sexual morality than it does with the story itself, which is based predominantly around hospitality. If we did choose to understand it in relation to sexual morality we have trouble explaining the climax of the story with Lot being seduced by his two daughters.

This does not stop homophobic politicians using Christianity to hide behind to avoid facing up to their own prejudices.

If Cameron really wants to win over the LGB community, I would like to see him engage the Christian community on these difficult issues rather than lazily accepting the out-dated discourse that Christians can be homophobes because the bible tells them so.  At the very least we have to understand these attitudes as a subjective understanding of Christianity.

Should the state be there to lazily force Christians to be “tolerant”? I suggest only as a last resort. Before that it should be the politician’s responsibility to argue and persuade people of these views.  Maybe this is why we have experienced such a harsh backlash from many within the Christian community.

Therefore this piece finishes with a fun challenge.  Write to Mr Cameron asking him how he thinks his “deep rooted Christian beliefs” fit with his open belief in sexual equality. Does he think they are compatible?

I think they are, but it would be good to hear the leader of our country say so.

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Filed under History, Politics, Religion, sexuality

The Government’s decision to implement a breathtaking 7.2% increase in beer duty is outrageous

Community pubs like the royal oak in bath may be a thing of the past if the beer tax continues to rise

The Government’s decision to implement a breathtaking 7.2% increase in beer duty is outrageous. This takes the average duty and VAT on a pint in a local pub to over £1. We now have the second highest rate of beer tax in Europe! It is simply not acceptable. The “beer escalator” commits the Government to increasing beer tax above inflation and to the wrong policy path.

Take Bath as a case in point, nearly 2,000 people depend on Beer and pubs for work and the industry contributes over £22.7 million to the local economy every year. If it continues to shrink in the manner it currently is, local economies such as Bath’s will be severely hit. At a time of recession, this tax seems to be the opposite of what the struggling industry needs.

Equally, this extra tax will do nothing to stop the irresponsible drinker but do everything to hit the responsible pub goer. It will add on 10p to every pint in the pub, while the Government’s much talked about minimum pricing of alcohol will cap supermarket booze at a price that wouldn’t deter the stingiest of consumers. It is ludicrous to allow cheap supermarket booze, whilst taxing pub goers “for health reasons” at the same time. These measures penalise the majority of responsible pub goers whilst failing to tackle the heart of the problem which remains the question of why people consume such vast amounts of alcohol (often at home not in pubs).

At a time when 37 pubs are closing down every week in the UK, we need to be supporting these centres of our community, not putting them out of business. Where do Cameron and Osborne expect the big society to meet…the local Scout hut?

SIBA chairman Keith Bott said, “This is a real kick in the teeth to the local brewing sector, one of the few British success stories of recent years. Local brewers are just the kind of business this government says it wants to see prosper: they create jobs for local people and contribute to the local and wider British economy by using home-grown ingredients. Yet the current beer taxation regime is killing off our main route to market – the British pub.”

He continued, “The Treasury claimed before the Budget that their beer duty escalator is ‘baked in’. We say it is half baked! Continuing to increase taxes on draught beer, drunk in the socially responsible environment of the pub, will serve only to increase purchases of cheap vodka for unsupervised home consumption. We fail to see how this policy can help tackle binge drinking.”

The Government’s claim to being a “pub friendly government” seems to be slipping further and further out of sight.

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The removal of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance is an ill-judged decision that needs to be reversed

The mobility component of the DLA allows people to live fulfilling and independent lives

The Government announced in its Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) that it would be ditching the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).  This is a terrible idea.  This blog will outline why the Government has come to the conclusions it has and why it is wrong on three levels.

What is the DLA?

The DLA is a tax free benefit for disabled people worth an average of £33.40 per person per week.  It is given to people who have severe physical disabilities or learning disabilities, and as such either needs someone to help look after them or have trouble walking.  There are two elements of the DLA, the mobility component (which is to be cut) and the care component.  If the cuts go ahead the government will save about £140 million each year (which although significant is small change compared to the £81 billion to be cut between now and 2014/2015).

The mobility component helps people to pay for things like mobility aids such as electronic wheelchairs, accessible transport to the cinema or simply pooling the money of other care home residents to hire a car to visit family.

Why has the Government come to the conclusions it has?

The Government believes there is currently a “double spending” on mobility.  This is based on an assumption that all the needs of an individual are met by their local authority funded support package.  The logic then follows that they are being paid twice, once by central Government and second by the local authority.  This simply is not the case and leads me onto why the Government has misunderstood this issue on three levels.

Why the Government has got this wrong!

1) The government has based its funding decisions on a false assumption of “double spending”.

An individual has to follow three basic steps to claim DLA. 1) Undertake a community care assessment (which identifies his or her needs) 2) Have these needs matched to against different eligibility bands (critical to low) 3) Based on the specific local authority’s policy see whether this “band” which you have been assigned is regarded as eligible for services.  This then determines what services will be provided for you by your local authority.

In reality, this of course does not happen.  Firstly, the majority of councils will only fund substantial and critical needs.  Therefore, someone might be eligible for DLA care, but not eligible for support according to the local authority criteria. Mobility, when considered, tends to be considered in the crudest most crass form (trips to day care centres, hospital trips etc).  The idea of paying for “personal mobility” (in other words fulfilling a normal level of activity that most people take for granted) is out of the question.  The government seems to think that these activities either should not be paid for, or are already covered by the local authority.  This is flagrantly not the case.

2) The government seems to be clueless to how people spend the mobility component of the DLA.

By removing the benefit, most people living in care will be left with just £22.30 a week for a personal allowance.  By removing this benefit, I would suggest, we remove some disabled individuals ability to live a fulfilling and independent life.  For many, this small amount (£18.95 for lower rates and £49.85 for higher) can be the difference between meeting with their friends that week or not! The government seems to be oblivious to these kinds of considerations!

3) The government continues to state that “the notion behind the changes to DLA mobility is to ensure that those in residential care receive the same standard of care as those in hospitals”

A residential home is their HOME, they are not patients! They are not “ill”, they are disabled.  If David Cameron honestly, believes this to be true, then I would seriously question his ability to comment on any future policy.  If you are in hospital for a short period you do not need the same level of mobility paid for as if you are living in a care home for 20 years. This is such a fundamental misunderstanding of disability living that it makes you truly shudder.

The Government needs to reverse its decision in light of these points. If they do not, we risk returning to the dark ages where disabled people were out of sight, out of mind.  We cannot let this happen



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The greenest government yet? Sadly yes!

The greenest government yet?

This coalition government set out to be “the greenest government yet“.  Sadly, it appears to be achieving this.  Not because of any amazing policy initiative but more out of an utter failure of New Labour to act on climate change.  The over-riding message coming out of this government is we are acting “Green”.  The over-riding message coming out of NGO’s is “good, but you desperately need to go further”.

So what have the coalition achieved so far?

1 The Green Deal: 100,000 jobs to insulate and upgrade homes, reducing carbon emissions and saving money
2 £1bn for a Green Investment Bank
3 Replacing Air Passenger Duty with a per-plane duty
4 Scrapping Heathrow’s third runway
5 £200m for low-carbon technologies, including £60m for infrastructure to help create an offshore wind manufacturing industry
6 £1bn for a commercial scale Carbon Capture and Storage
7 £860m will fund a Renewable Heat Incentive
8 Lobbying the EU to increase our emissions cut target from 20 per cent to 30 per cent and provided effective leadership at Cancun.

This government has done more in 6 months than Labour achieved in 13 years to tackle climate change. Yet, anyone who is aware of the severity of the problems facing the UK through climate change can see that these measures simply do not go far enough.  The Green Investment Bank for example is a good idea, but it needs investment 4 – 6 times the amount currently being proposed to be truly effective.

This is the greenest government yet, that I have little doubt.  To be able to mutter this statement though is a cause for Labour to hide in shame, not for the coalition to hold its head up high.  We need to congratulate the coalition on the steps they have taken and push them further – much further.


Filed under Climate Change, Politics

Age is not the problem for our political elite

It's not their age thats letting them down

Recently a lot has been said about the age of the leaders of the three main political parties.  Clegg and Cameron were born just a few months apart in the mid-60’s.  With the election of the younger of the Milliband brothers as leader of Labour it appears we are looking at a new generation of politics.  Long gone are the days of Churchill still serving in his 80’s.  Churchill however, also highlights another key difference between himself and the other top dogs.

Churchill was elected into the house 32 years before he became PM.  This is in considerable contrast to the three current party leaders who have all had relatively short (or non-existent) ministerial lives.  There is a two-fold argument to why this might be problematic.

Firstly, with politicians leaving front bench politics at such an early age we are loosing political talent for the future.  Our embattled (and let’s be honest quite old-looking) ex-PM Tony Blair left his post at the tender age of 53 (12 years before Churchill took office). Like him or loathe him, don’t you think his talents are being wasted at the moment?

Secondly, it is questioned how much experience, both politically and professionally someone can bring to office in their 40’s.  Can someone run a country if they have not had experience of how it works?

I would suggest that neither of these arguments hold up to scrutiny.  The Conservative Party conference looked like a come back kid special with Hague (who resigned his party’s leadership in his early 40’s), Duncan-Smith and Michael Howard all playing central roles throughout the conference. The idea that when you step down as party leader, your political career is inherently finished has been proven to be nonsense.

The Second point around experience highlights a much more serious problem that is unconnected with age.  Career politicians!  The very concept is worrying.  Can someone living off a trust fund (I’m thinking about you Mr Osborne) with no real life experience really run an economy?  Age might start to play a part in this issue if we were talking about leaders in their 20’s, but I do not see it as a problem for someone in their 40’s to be running the country.  The idea that someone in their 40’s might not have had enough time to collect adequate experience is laughable.  I would suggest it is more important to look at what they have done in those 40 years (ever had a real job for example?)

There is need for a diversity of ages in modern politics.  Clearly old battle axes like Ken Clarke have their role to play (he’s been in the Commons for over 40 years and is still going strong well into his 70’s).  Equally however, there is a need to engage the next generation.  There are few MP’s like Pamela Nash who was elected at 25 to become the UK’s youngest MP.  I would like to see this change.  Equally, I would like to see parties recruit their candidates from a richer variety of professions.  We have to make it that studying PPE at Oxbridge is not a prerequisite to becoming an MP.  The doors to Westminster to need to be open to all, and to a limited extent, age should not be a concern.

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Conservativism and change? A contradiction in terms?

Watch this video and try to work out what Cameron’s conservatives stand for!

Everybody loves the word “change”.  Apparently some chap over the pond used it for a bit and it worked rather well.  I must insist however, that the two main parties qualify why they are using it.  Labour, must do this because they have been in power for 13 years and so by suggesting we need change, they are slightly knocking their own record; and the Conservatives because “conservativism” and “change”  is an oxymoron.

Andrew Heywood comments that conservativism can be defined as “a fear of change”.  He goes onto say “The desire to resist change may be the recurrent theme within conservativism, but what distinguishes conservatives from other supporters of rival political creeds is the distinctive way they up-hold this position” (“Political Ideologies” pp 71-72).

It struck me as strange that the Tory HQ thought it was a good idea to go full speed ahead with an advertising slogan that is essentially oxymoronic.  Why would they suggest that a Conservative vote, was a vote for change?

There has been a widely quoted race for the middle ground by the Tories, Lib-dems and Labour that has made a mockery of the term change.  It is ironic then, that it is at this election, where the parties are so closely aligned on so many issues that the term “change” has become such a buzz word!

On the doorsteps I have come across Ex-Labour voters who no longer feel as though Labour has any ideology.  Robert Cook in his memoirs (The point of departure) commented that politics without ideology is always going to be short-term.  With New Labours second stint in power, no one apart from Giddens is still talking about the “Third way” any more.  New Labour has no ideology.  Equally, what does the re-branded Cameron Conservatives stand for (Are they one-nation conservatives, neo-liberal or what)?

Ironically the neo-liberal wing of conservativsm changed the face of world in the 80’s and 90’s with a drive towards mass globalisation.  Yet, as New Labour increasingly adopted this neo-liberal economic approach, few could see the ideological direction the Conservatives could head in.  They advocate change, but to what? The electorate, at least in part, is beginning to see through these grey parties similarities.  Equally ideologically speaking, we can see the Liberals swaying to the limits of different understandings of liberalism (from the neo to the classical).

The three main political parties are in a blur.  I do not believe that ideology is dead; I think politicians are ignoring it.  It is about time that we as the electorate, state that ideologies should play the central role in politics it deserves. I am fed up with air brushed politics, fake smiles and popularity chasing!

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Young, Gay and Conservative?

Boris at last years Gay Pride March.

A recent survey has found that young gay voters are most likely to vote Conservative in the coming General Election. 45% of those under the age of 23 (first time voters) said that they would vote Conservative.  The Greens came 4th picking up just 19% of the surveyed vote.  Does anyone else find this a little surprising?

This is a like a Muslim saying that they would vote BNP, or (perhaps less sensationalist) a Trade Unionist voting Tory. 

The Conservative Party overwhelmingly voted against lowering the age of consent to bring it in-line with heterosexuals. The Conservative Party overwhelmingly voted against sexuality being included in the Equalities Act.  This is before we even get started on all their tripe about the nuclear family and marriage being the cornerstone of life.

Why then would this be the case.  Specifically why would first time voters, be wooed by the Cameron Conservative Crew (CCC)? Firstly, they are not old enough to remember the joys of living under a Conservative government, which forced section 28 on the UK (The piece of legislation that effectively banned the promotion of homosexuality).  Secondly, they are faced with a constant Conservative PR stream painting the Tories as the Cameron cuddles. The Tories (quite successfully in the short term) have succeeded in painting themselves as the gay friendly vote.  Just look at Boris’ big gay face. This is quite a remarkable achievement considering the reality of this situation.

The Conservatives have become cuddlier.  Cuddly with people that MacMillan Scott (Former Tory, MEP) described as “homophobic and racist”.  The extreme right that they sit with in the European Parliament oppose all concepts of “gay rights”.  As one of the ECR groups political advisors said to me recently, working on LGBT rights was “out of the question”. This is without the harder to prove grumblings within their own party.  At best, I could find no mention of LGBT issues on the Conservative Party web site.  A cynic might say that’s because they have nothing positive to say.

Lets not just pick on the Tories though. My own Labour MP David Drew has consistently voted against lowering the age of consent to 16 and against the rights of same sex partners to adopt.  Entrenched homophobia (whether it be from a “Christian Democrat” position (Drew) or a Tory one) is still rife within politics.  Even our beacons of change the Lib Dems make no mention of LGBT issues in their pocket policy guide.

The concepts of ‘fairness’ and ‘equality’ are central to me. I have a progressive minded MP who I believe is trying to work towards equality.  David Drew’s understanding of equality however, appears to be one that excludes members of the LGBT community.  For me, this is unacceptable.  Equally, the Conservatives not only ignore many LGBT issues, but also actively work to further ignorant bigots by forming political alliances with them.  For me this is unacceptable. 

The only party that I can find that will stand up and support these basic concepts of fairness and equality that are so central to me are The Green Party. The Greens would:

1) Open up civil marriages and civil partnerships, without discrimination, to both same-sex and opposite sex couples.

(2) Require all police forces to have LGBT Liaison Officers with paid time allocated within their work schedules to tackle homophobic and transphobic hate crime.

(3) End the blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual blood donors.

(4) Amend the Equality Bill/Act to provide explicit protection against harassment to LGBT people.

(5) Refuse visas and work permits to “murder music” singers and others who incite homophobic and transphobic violence.

(6) Ensure safe haven and refugee status for LGBT people fleeing persecution in violently homophobic and transphobic countries.

 Only the Greens hold an all-encompassing understanding of equality.  For an equal and fair society, you need to look after all your citizens.  I do not believe that any of the three major political parties are in the position to be able to stand up for the rights of the LGBT community here or abroad! That’s why I would urge anyone concerned with LGBT issues to vote Green!


Filed under Human rights, Politics, sexuality

Why painting conservatives as racists is not fair

William Hague, accused of "Naked Racism" by Tony Benn. Photo thanks to BBC.

It is very easy to paint the UK Conservatives as racists.  Indeed, it has to be noted that they do rather lend themselves to it.  A Guardian comments article today has a look back at Tory racism over the last year, highlighting case after case of Conservatives making terrible racist comments.  I have blogged before about how the Tories sit with racist and homophobic partners in the European Parliament.  Yet all of this needs some clarification.  There is nothing inherently racist about voting (or at a push) being a member of the Conservative Party.

The Tories, top brass present themselves to be as clean as a whistle, commenting that racism is a thing of the past for the Tories. Sadly, as the above mentioned article suggests, this is not the case.  There appears to be a correlation between those active in the party and a certain level or racism.  This is obviously not absolute (I know some very open and accepting Tory officials) but it does appear to set a rule of thumb. Elected Tories often have an entrenched form of racism at the basis of their politics. 

This has to be separated from the mass of Tory voters.  I honestly believe that there are many Conservative voters who share similar feelings to me.  I come from a long background of “blue”.  Growing up in rural Gloucestershire in a middle-class family I have been exposed to all the highlights (and many lowlights) of a true blue up-bringing.  I feel in many ways that I am a conservative at heart – I do not like things to change.  I like drinking tea and going for walks.  I find protests uncomfortable and noisy.  When people advocate change you never know what’s going to happen. I like many traditional aspects of life and I want to irrationally hold on to them.  Just because I like tea when served in fine china, it does not mean I am a racist.  There is nothing inherent about liking the traditional aspects of life and being a racist.  It follows however, that if you share these sentiments then you to have to consider whether a Tory vote really represents your values.  Just because you like a quiet life, does that mean you can back a party dripping in racism?

Despite Cameron’s PR game trying to paint them as the cuddly party, there is still a nasty side to them that personally means I could never support them.  Despite what Cameron peddles about racism, it has been shown his party is endemically racist.  Despite what Cameron would say about opposing the death penalty, many of his MEP’s voted against the EU position on the death penalty at the latest Strasbourg session.  Despite what Cameron would say about equality we can see that his party is dominated by the Eton élite who get upset if asked to sit in standard class on the train!

These guys do not represent the “levels of common decency” that are key to my moral make-up.  These guys represent something that is alien to me, xenophobia, racism and a massive sense of homophobia.  I am going to vote Green at the next election because they are there to preserve, to look after and care for many of the things that I care about (the countryside, my old age, the disadvantaged in society, the NHS, schooling etc).  I cannot support the conservatives; yet let’s not start accusing every other conservative voter of being a racist; this simply is not the case.


Filed under Far-right politics, Politics