Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Maybe there's justice sometimes?

I'm very pleased at the court judgement in favour of the Gurkhas who want a right to settle here, particularly for the robust arguments used by Mr Justice Blake in supporting them. Whether Jacqui Smith quite gets the message I'm not so sure.

It's difficult to believe that the Chagos Islanders will enjoy quite the same success when their demand for a right to return home reaches its conclusion with the Law Lords judgement due next month, but I hope they do.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Elegantly Dressed Wednesday

Classic Italian looks and style. This young lady has had one or two rather pertinent things to say about the Pope recently. Sadly it looks as though she might just be in a spot of bother.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Birmingham bash

It's hard to understand what rationale could conceivably have generated Gordon Brown's decision to hold yesterday's cabinet meeting in Birmingham.

Ed Miliband told the Today programme that it "would enable ministers to learn more about events affecting people's lives outside the capital. I do not see it as a cheap gimmick. If you are saying to me, is this going to win us any votes, I don't particularly think it will," he said. "I just think it is the right thing to do. I think it is important for government not simply to spend all its time in London."

Did I miss something? Was it a public meeting at some community centre, or a get-together in the saloon bar at the Kings Arms? Was policy made on-the-fly as they ambled round the Bullring, catching up on their shopping at the same time?

I'm afraid it says a lot for the intellectual powers of at least one cabinet minister that he can't even grasp that a cheap and utterly pointless gimmick was just that.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Charles Clarke: Labour is destined to disaster

Ever the optimist, my local MP. I'm afraid my own views on Mr Clarke are pretty similar to those of Rachel North and her father.

Charles Clarke's article in today's New Statesman isn't inhibited by the need to retain a seat in government like David Miliband's Guardian piece was, but there's scarcely any more substance.

"Everyone in Labour needs to stop obsessing about the past and to start obsessing about the future", he says at the end of the introduction, before talking at length about the past and coincidentally reminding us that he played a significant part in it. Beyond calling for a change of direction (and indirectly for a change of leader) he proposes no direction whatever. "Many of us who were proud to be members of Tony Blair's government had differing approaches even then, and certainly propose differing prescriptions now." That's as maybe, but there's none of them actually prepared to put their neck on the line (least of all Charles Clarke) and give us a prescription right now be it good bad or indifferent.

Labour doesn't need a change of direction in the slightest, it needs a direction, period. Right now it's not only directionless, it's rudderless. Charles Clarke could have taken this opportunity to tell us the direction he was advocating but he didn't, and it's easy to see why. He's as constrained as Miliband was, it's just that he's got his eye more on the future. Either he's planning to run himself, and doesn't want to give any potential rivals the edge by showing his hand too soon, or more likely he's simply hoping to be part of whichever campaign turns out to be the winning one and find himself suitably rewarded as a consequence. Proposals of his own might just queer his pitch on that one, better just to knife Gordon, then wait until the lie of the land becomes a bit clearer.

More on grave-robbing

Newman was, of course, unaware that he might one day achieve sainthood. But he was mindful that the church might, after his death, seek to intervene in determining the placement of his remains. Although a modest man, he was conscious of his international status as a cardinal and an esteemed Catholic theologian. He feared there might be attempts after he died to transfer his body to a mausoleum. That is why Newman three times added notes to his instructions to his executors which, according to the scholarship of the Christian historian Alan Bray, variously "confirm", "insist" and "command" that he be buried with St John.

Nothing could be clearer. Newman was absolutely insistent that he should be buried for ever alongside the man with whom he shared his life and home.

No Catholic tradition, dogma or ritual about cardinals and saints can justify the Vatican's heartless, self-serving decision to violate Newman's categorical, unambiguous instructions. No one gave the Pope permission to defy the cardinal's wishes. It is an act of shameless dishonesty and personal betrayal by the homophobic Catholic Church.

Peter Tatchell, writing on CIF today. I've made my own views clear already.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Anti-Semitism and the Green Party

Many people who are not members of the Green Party, and who would not at this time vote for it either, nonetheless feel sympathetic towards it and regard it as a valuable element on the political scene (I am myself such a person). They think its concerns are important ones, and they wish it well, in a general way. So it is an important matter if this Party, which aims to become part of the mainstream of political life in the UK, is unwilling to do what's needed to ensure that its commitment to anti-racism is a genuine one. If, instead, it turns into an institution that only rejects racism directed at the groups which it politically favours, and regards with complaisance discrimination and racist discourse targeting other groups, then that general well-wishing will (and should) evaporate.

I can add nothing whatever to what Eve Garrard says so eloquently over on normblog.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Down's syndrome, teenage pregnancy, Paul Flynn and the courtesies netiquette requires

Over on Read My Day, Paul Flynn offers his visitors 'solid blogging'. As MPs' blogs go it's not that bad (still quite stodgy though). Mixed in with the usual garden fêtes, community centre openings and astonishingly upbeat assessments of the Government's performance he does offer some off-message political opinions, and he's always ready to trade blows with his visitors through the comments.

Yesterday evening a Ms Rebecca Burt left a comment on the previous days post 'Obama's Palin Bonus' which struck such a chord with Paul that he quoted it in full in his subsequent post 'Some good news' (Rather than link here, I'll do so later, for reasons that should become apparent). Here, recovered from my internet cache, is what Paul actually posted:

Madam President Palin

This comment came into my blog this evening from Rebecca Burt. It’s, perfect, I would not want to change a word.

'Let's see...an ex-beauty pageant winner...with an undergraduate degree in Journalism...who does not believe in global warming...who does believe a woman should have no control over her own body and for 9 months should be viewed as nothing more than a baby container...who's main attributes seem to be stubbornness and vicious competiveness... who has had next to no experience in government...who has a currently very messy family situation given that she had recently given birth to a downs syndrome baby, has a 17 year old daughter who is unwed and pregnant

and is facing investigation for using her political office to smear her ex-brother-in-law and get him fired (he is in a custody battle with her sister)...who seems to be in bed with big oil...who is running for VP...whose running mate is 72 and is a cancer survivor...who has no foreign policy background and in fact has only been out of the country twice...who may become President of the country I love at a time when it faces the most complex foreign policy issues, economic issues and domestic issues it has in decades...Why does this sound like a totally unbelievably bad novel???? I for one am terrified and cannot understand what Mr. McCain was thinking!!!!'

Posted on September 01, 2008 at 08:34 PM Permalink
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Note that "It's, perfect, I would not want to change a word"; I think we can take that as a pretty ringing endorsement of everything Ms Burt's had to say for herself. I was somewhat surprised since she chucks in a lot of comments that have nothing whatever to do with Ms Palin's fitness for office; the reference to her older daughter is at best juvenile, that to her baby with Down's syndrome frankly offensive. Ms Burt clearly likes to think herself a feminist, but at the same time resents Ms Palin having a career outside the home let alone allowing a 17 year old daughter to get pregnant (you'd have thought she'd have approved of that) . It's certainly not the sort of view I'd expect to find a Labour MP agreeing with (or an MP from any party come to that). So I left the following comment:

I think that there are one or two issues Rebecca Burt raised that you should have wanted to change, Paul. Maybe you could elaborate on why you think that having a young child with Down's syndrome, or for that matter a 17 year old daughter who is 'unwed' and pregnant (shock, horror!) should in any way disqualify Ms Palin from running as the US Vice President? Why should the fact that she is an 'ex-beauty pageant winner' be of any account?

Ms Palin's political background & beliefs and her lack of experience are a different manner, but I am surprised to find you endorsing Ms Burt's astonishingly offensive critique of her 'very messy family situation'. Unless of course the two of you really think that a mother's place is in the home.

Presumably Paul agreed with me, and hopefully felt suitably ashamed, since he carefully went through and erased all references to Ms Palin's baby with Down's syndrome; from Ms Burt's original posting, from his repost, and (rather clumsily) from my own comment. However, he then posted a follow-up comment which pointedly avoided all reference to his having made these edits, instead responding to my own as if his edited version were what I had written.

Pleased as I was that Paul had taken on board my criticism, I was somewhat annoyed by his failure to acknowledge the means by which he had done so since it left my edited comment strangely blunted set against his subsequent response. "Perfect, I would not want to change a word" is still there, even though it's now patently untrue. I've left a follow up suggesting he may wish to edit that too but although he's seen it he's chosen not to so far.

I would have thought it a matter of the most basic politeness to at least acknowledge when you have chosen to alter a comment left on your blog, particularly since you may well have changed the intended meaning or emphasis. I certainly would, and I'm disappointed Paul didn't.

Here's the link to Paul's amended post. Sadly, Rebecca Burt left no link back of her own.

Update: I've now had an exchange of emails with Paul about this. He claims that he sent me an email at the time, although it certainly never arrived. However, this is what he now says:

The health of politicians' children is not a proper subject for political controversy and I have deleted all reference to it from the contributions I had. In your case the only point you made was about the disease, so it had to be deleted. All other postings had deletions.

None of this addresses why it was that Paul chose to repost Ms Burt's reference to Down's syndrome in the first place given that it was so self-evidently offensive. Nor why he presumably still regards the pregnancy of Ms Palin's daughter as a proper subject for political controversy. Or for that matter why his post is still (at this point in time) making that "perfect, I would not want to change a word" claim.

Further update: Another exchange of emails. This is what Paul now has to say:

When someone tried to make a political issue of that one factor, it was then I decided that this was not a fit subject for a political wrangle. It would have with hindsight been better to remove the reference to the original letter. The same policy apples to the families of other politicians. As ALL references had been removed, there was no point is stirring up controversy by publishing your contribution. You have mis-informed the readers of your blog. You were informed on the address you provided.

So what he seems to be saying if I read him right is that it was ok for him to mention the baby with Down's syndrome until someone called him to account over it. Which means it was all my fault. That's alright then, all as plain as day.

Not quite sure what Paul understands 'misinformed' to mean. I certainly didn't leave him the wrong email; here it is from a screenshot taken just after I left my last comment on Paul's blog (it enters automatically since I ticked the 'remember personal info' box on an earlier occasion).

Looks like the same email address that you'll find if you use the 'Email me' link in the sidebar to me.

Shameless. That's the word I'd use.

[this issue is also being discussed over on Fora; if the comment posted there has indeed been left by Paul Flynn, then shameless is a considerable unerstatement.

I'll summarise what I've said there. This is not a political row. It is a row over whether Paul Flynn displayed poor judgement in endorsing wholesale as he did the views of a very immature young girl, and whether he then attempted to conceal that poor judgement by editing not only his post but several comments. He is not even well informed about Down's syndrome, it is not a disease. Such, I fear, is ignorance.]