Ian Paisley

The Reverened Ian Paisley, MP for North Antrim, has tabled an EDM, number 317, the text of which reads

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 (S.R. (N.I.), 2006, No. 439), dated 8th November 2006, a copy of which was laid before this House on 24th November, be annulled.I'd like to know which parts of that piece of legislation The Reverend Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson, Mr Nigel Dodds, Mr Gregory Campbell, Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson, Mrs Iris Robinson, David Simpson and Sammy Wilson object to.

Is it
5. —(1) It is unlawful for any person concerned with the provision (for payment or not) of goods, facilities or services to the public or a section of the public to discriminate against a person who seeks to obtain or use those goods, facilities or services —

(a) by refusing or deliberately omitting to provide him with any of them; or

(b) by refusing or deliberately omitting to provide him with goods, facilities or services of the same quality, in the same manner and on the same terms as are normal in his case in relation to other members of the public or (where the person seeking belongs to a section of the public) to other members of that section.
6. —(1) It is unlawful for a person with power to dispose of any premises to discriminate against another —

(a) in the terms on which he offers him those premises; or

(b) by refusing his application for those premises; or

(c) in his treatment of him in relation to any list of persons in need of premises of that description.
9. —(1) It is unlawful, in relation to an educational establishment falling within column 1 of the following table, for a person indicated in relation to the establishment in column 2 (the "responsible body") to discriminate against a person —

(a) in the terms on which it offers to admit him to the establishment as a pupil; or

(b) by refusing or deliberately omitting to accept an application for his admission to the establishment as a pupil;
(c) where he is a pupil of the establishment —

(i) in the way that it affords him access to any benefits or by refusing or deliberately omitting to afford him access to them; or

(ii) by excluding him from the establishment or subjecting him to any other detriment.?
This from the man who wanted to 'Save Ulster From Sodomy' and who, on his website, and comes out with classic lines such as:
the act of homosexuality is simply wrong at all ages, in all places and at all time
Paisley et al. could have easily asked to remove simply the part or parts of the legislation they didn't like, but instead went for all of it. They want to discriminate against non-heterosexuals in providing services, selling buildings and giving education. Sound familiar?



I've been tagged

Tiberius Gracchus and Luke Akehurst have tagged me with the meme 'ten things I'd never do'.

1. Support capital or corporal punishment
2. Drink lager
3. Let the ends justify the means
4. Not vote Labour (unless the BNP were going to win and there was a single candidate)
5. Buy a copy of the Daily Mail
6. Make an ad hominem attack
7. Speak at the LSE SU UGM unless I study there again
8. Post anonymously on a blog
9. Stop learning
10. Refuse the offer of a curry


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The road to socialism

As I posted here, I believe it was Aneurin Bevan who said that he supported states' rights in the USA as the only way to reach socialism and a unitary state in the UK as the only way to reach socialism. I wonder if the same would now hold - three of the four devolved areas could reasonably be described as to the left of the Westminster government - Wales, Scotland and London. While London is to the left because of the popularity of Ken Livingstone and could conceivably return a non-Labour mayor (and even now the London Assembly sees the Conservatives as the largest party), it's harder to see Labour not being at least a coalition partner in Scotland and Wales.

What would Nye say now? Would further devolution also mean that some areas would be become rather more right wing? What areas would be devolved to? It appears that an independence referendum in Scotland could well result in independence from the rest of the UK.

While Scotland is probably more socialist than the remainder of the country, the loss of Scotland to Britain would result in a rightward shift. There are 39 Scottish Labour MPs while the Conservatives' lone representative is David Mundell. The Government's majority is 62, and would be reduced to 24. The desire of the left-leaning SNP, SSP, Solidarity and so on suddenly appear less useful. Scotland can and is benefitting from more left-wing positions already. For the rest of the UK - which would presumably retain the UN Security Council Seat etc. - to move to the right would not be desirable.

Maybe Nye was right?



Centre Ground, Common Ground

At the risk of being shot down by an uberblogger, I have to take issue with Iain Dale's argument that the centre ground is the common ground, mostly because I don't think either exist.

The centre ground is, presumably, the bit in the middle. The middle of what, I hear you cry. It could be between Labour and the Conservatives. Immediately we run into the problem of both parties having wings and factions.

A redraw might have extra axes closer to or further from the line between the two major parties for the LibDems, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens and the rest. Straightaway, we're seeing that there have to be multiple axes where you can talk about centre ground between two or three parties across the broad sweep of policies, but as you add others in

Moreover, the common ground and the centre ground is not the same thing. The centre position between a unitary state and Scotland and Wales becoming independent might be a federation composed of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, London, Yorkshire, the North West, Midlands, East, South and South West. That would probably not be acceptable to many people - the centre ground is not the common ground.

Talking of devolution, I believe I'm right in saying that Nye Bevan (and do please correct me) was in favour of states' rights in the USA because it was the only way to achieve socialism and a unitary state in the UK because it was the only way to achieve socialism. The more left-wing position is here the same as (if for different reasons) the right-wing party. Equally, Tam Dalyell, poser of the West Lothian Question, opposed devolution.

The common ground is what parties accept as the playing field. We should have, in some form, an NHS etc. The centre ground is an abstract that may not have any philosophical coherence and may be so unpalatable that it is emphatically not the common ground.




The vast majority of bloggers out there are responsible correspondents doing fine work in niche reporting fields like Gilmore Girl fan fiction, or cute things their cats do, or photoshopped images of the Gilmore Girls as cats. That's great. Where I draw the line is with these attack-bloggers. Just someone with a computer who gathers, collates and publishes accurate information that is then read by the general public. They have no credibility. All they have is facts. Spare me.
- Stephen Colbert

Hat tip to Ewan Watt.



More left or more right?

Well, for starters, I don't like those terms so I'm going to rephrase the question. I'd rather that this blog had more readers and, if this becomes a larger blog, I may ask the question again.

The question is:

Is Britain (i) more socially authoritarian or socially liberal and (ii) more or less economically liberal than in : 1997; 1983; 1979; 1964; 1951; 1945?




The theme of euthanasia being debated again, from Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill to various Christians saying that very ill babies could be denied treatment.

The question of resourcing has come up, usually with fierce protestations that this debate has nothing to do with resourcing and that we would, of course, use whatever measures in our power to protect frail newborns and the elderly who have given so much to our society. Sadly, this is self-evident rubbish. Rationing decisions - and they are rationing decisions - are made all the time. The debate about herceptin's approval or otherwise from NICE is a case in point; are the benefits from this drug cost-effective?

Nor is this limited to state healthcare. HMOs in the US fall into the same category and have been protected since the 80s by Federal law from malpractice litigation on the grounds that the decisions regarding patient care are administrative rather than medical in nature. Ultimately, any form of private medical insurance is a bet that rations how many people will have access to a treatment based on their ability to pay.

If the world's population continues to grow and the people in the developing world aspire to something approaching Western standards of living, more of the world's GDP is going to have to go on healthcare, particularly if Tony Blair's heir apparent, Gordon Brown, continues his commitment to helping the third world.

Even if not, the desire for getting every last moment of life, regardless of cost, will mean that more money, whether through the state or not, has to be spent on healthcare. Even so, we will have rationing - deciding whether it is cost-effective to treat a particular person.

The rationing we have is not 'every person can have £n spent on them' or, even worse, 'you are worth spending £m on', but that we cannot afford the liability for a particular treatment across the NHS.

I find it distasteful that decisions like that have to be made, and even more so when a particular person's ability to pay comes into the equation. It is largely for that reason that I am very nervy about euthanasia; if we combine the acceptance of rationing with decisions about whether someone's life is worthwhile, we start approaching a set of conclusions that I feel few people would be happy with.

It is, perhaps, different with adult euthanasia - people can make the choice and we can, probably, set up systems so that there is no pressure on them from families, but the fears of whether this debate may lead are real. There is a need for a real debate on this; just how much are we willing to pay for healthcare?



Who would put up with the Gracchii complaing about subversion?

...said Juvenal. An addition to the blogroll - Gracchi. The blog is about politics in its broadest sense - not just the activities of the Westminster village, but everything that affects the way society arranges itself.


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International Students' Day

I've just found out that today is International Students' Day, remembering
the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague after demonstrations against the killing of Jan Opletal and the occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the execution of nine student leaders, over 1200 students sent to concentration camps, and the closing of all Czechoslovakian universities and colleges.

Because they have time to think that is used for action and because they are in an environment where ideas are important, students are often at the forefront of political protests. Some, like Jan Opletal, give their lives for the right to be able to study.

Worth remembering.



LSE SU Comms Officer Blog

My friend Ali Dewji, Communication Sabbatical Officer at the LSE Students' Union, has launched a blog at sucomms.blogspot.com. This is an excellent idea. It allows more contact with him, lets him show his reasoning for things and, if and when the Beaver Online starts up properly and assuming they link to the blog, may increase student information and involvement.


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Labour leadership odds

William Hill are offering odds on the next leader and deputy leader of the Labour Party. At time of posting, Gordon Brown is the odds-on favourite (something like ten to one on) to win leader, but the next closest at six to one is John Reid. I am not enamoured by the latter possibility. The next person, David Miliband, is an outsider at 26.

More interesting is the deputy leadership race. At time of posting, the top two candidates are Benn and Cruddas, at 4.5 and 5.5 respectively. Hain and Johnson are at seven, Harman at eight and Blears and David Miliband at nine. There's then a jump to Jack Straw at fifteen.

Unsuprisingly, Brown is the odds-on favourite for leader. Odds aren't even offered for McDonnell (bit strange, as they're offering odds on people who have said they're not standing). The race for deputy, though, is rather more interesting. Aside from the jokes about Benn running for deputy leader, there's a genuine chance that Cruddas might win. I rather hope so; the ideas of not being the deputy prime minister and regenerating the party are attractive. The ideas for regeneration are strong and not the veneer that comes out of high command from time to time. Equally, Hain, Johnson, Blears and Miliband are contenders.

When I ran (unsuccessfully) for General Secretary of the LSE Students' Union, I published a manifesto. Unfortunately, as I was doubting it at the time, I published a rapidly revised version that was more 'user-friendly' and less of an argument for a case. I wish I'd gone for the unrevised version (amongst many other things, not least using the picture I used for my unsuccessful Education & Welfare race the following year instead of El Dave, the logo on this blog), particularly as I was never going to win. That is increasingly making me lean towards Cruddas; yes, the policies are important, but to develop policies that work we need to be properly plugged into our areas and they have to be policies that members want to promote, in part because they feel they've had a genuine contribution to their creation. The process matters as well as the outcome.

Not least amongst these are problems with the Labour Supporters' Network. This will aggravate the problem by making people feel even more of a disconnect - no voting powers, for instance - and is controlled from the centre. When one considers the idea of primaries that has been bandied around, it's hard not to see a desire for Labour to become a cadre party. Not only would this be bad for Labour, it'd be bad for democracy in Britain.

As to the others, I don't know what they stand for in terms of this election. I've heard Peter Hain (who I think has done a good job at Northern Ireland) called opportunist. Perhaps, but I think he might pick up on a similar feeling within the party. As has been reported, Hain is courting unions and the left; he does have a background as an anti-apartheid campaigner and so on.

We live, as they say, in interesting times.



White Poppies

Matt Sinclair refers to Ekklesia's pacificism as 'ugly'. His argument is that wearing a red poppy is not political. The red poppy is sold to raise funds for the Royal British Legion. Their 'what we do' page includes this:
The Legion is the major voice for ex-Service people, campaigning on issues such as Gulf War Related Illnesses, War Pensions and Noise Induced Hearing Loss. We will continue to press for change as long as the needs of veterans and their dependants remain unrecognised.
This is an explicitly political act.

Moreover, the act of remembering is political. An act, endorsed by the state by the presence of the PM and the Queen, that seels to bind people together in a sense of national feeling cannot be described as anything other than political. The RBL's slogan has been 'wear your poppy with pride'; be proud to support the cause. Subtext: be proud to be British and therefore support those who are (we say) the embodiment of 'Britishness'.

Matt says:
If you think we were not right to fight the Great War then surely that suffering could be just as worthy of remembrance and empathy?
The best way of remembering those who needlessly died in World War One would be to make sure it never happens; the best way to help the war widows, war orphans and war wounded is to stop fighting wars.

There's a great line from M*A*S*H, by Colonel Potter, when making a toast to the last (save him) of a squad that fought together in WW1 died. He remembers his friends who died in the war to end all wars, and then the war after that. They are in Korea - the next war.

I always wear a red poppy because I think people should remember the war and those who are in need because of their experiences in wars should be helped. The RBL does a huge amount of work in that respect. I think, though, that the best way of helping people is to stop wasting their lives in war. As Dwight Eisenhower put it,
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed"
The way to stop the tragedy of ex-service personnel, traumatised by their experiences, ending up on the streets, in prison, vulnerably housed, isolated and lonely is to stop training them to kill, putting them into hugely stressful positions where the normal morality of society is suspended and then throwing them back into society.

As mentioned above, Matt thinks that we should look after those who suffer because of war. That includes Iraq - we should have undertaken to rebuild everything that was and is being destroyed - ditto Afghanistan, the Balkans, Lebanon and so on. If nothing else it's good PR; it also improves people's lives and gives the impression that "we" (whoever we are) aren't all that evil.

Matt also implies that pacifism is sitting there and saying war is terrible. It is not; pacifism is not passive. Conscientious objectors had to make an active choice every day based on their beliefs. Moreover, pacifism should challenge the root causes of war; I'm sure you know the deal. I'm going to keep wearing a white poppy with a red one.



Rumsfeld Resigns

Well, good.

Perhaps not massively surprising as he twice offered to resign before the elections. It would appear that he was the fall guy. He does bear a lot of the blame, though; he said that 15,000 troops could take Iraq. There are currently 120,000 troops there. I won't go over the litany of what the left dislikes about Donald Rumsfeld except to post a certain picture.



Dems take Montana

Pending a recount, I should think. The Senate is now 49 GOP to 50 Dem (as Sanders and Lieberman are both caucusing with the Democrats). Depending on the result in Virginia, Cheney might be a busy man...



The obligatory post on the Mid-Terms...

...from a fairly uninformed observer.

Firstly, the myth that Nancy Pelosi is some sort of pinko; she voted for the Patriot Act, for instance, as well as privatising the San Fransisco Presidio Park, although she is strongly liberal on most other issues. Pelosi is apparently going to be the first female leader of either house in the US Congress.

The election is notable for some other firsts
  • the first US Senator to openly describe themselves as a 'democratic socialist' - Bernie Sanders from Vermont, who won by a whopping 33% from his Republican challenger
  • the first Muslim member of either house, Keith Ellison in Minnesota's 5th district
  • the first black nothern governor, Deval Patrick in Massachusetts
It is a testament to the racism in the US that despite something on the order of 13% according to the 2000 Census, it is deeply worrying that only now are these breakthroughs being made.

However, this shouldn't be seen as a massive victory for the Democrats; the GOP lost it over Iraq, corruption, vice and hypocrisy. If the Democrats are going to take the White House in 2008, they will have to present themselves as more than just a way of kicking out the current incumbent. Hilary Clinton will probably win her primary but will struggle at the national polls, while McCain has the opposite problem; however, the GOP may know it's on a sticky wicket and so go for someone with more mainstream appeal.

Some well-targeted inquries - did the US go to war on false premises? was there a plan? crucially, what should the plan be now? - could help the Dems build themselves. Vindictiveness is not the order of the day. Pelosi's First 100 hours could be interesting as a means of rallying the Democrats in the New Year.

One of the big winners, particularly if Virginia and Montana go democratic, will be Howard Dean; his fifty-state strategy has already paid out and may yet hit the jackpot. The Daily has a good look at the current state of play here.

In any case, we have at most six months of politics before the 2008 Presidential Race begins.



CV advice from Alexey Vayner

I'm sure a million and one people have posted this, but I've just seen it and I found it funny. I hope the poor guy doesn't have too much flak thrown at him.


It's worth watching all the way through.



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