Saturday, 25 September 2010

Why I Can't Wait for the Labour Leadership Result

This afternoon we will have new leader of the opposition and frankly I can't wait. The party will most likely remain fractioned whoever wins and with both the Conservatives and Lib Dems in power, Labour will struggle to present any viable alternative. Ok, Tory economic policy is hardly the height of popularity but it sure beats the recklessness of previous administration. No one wants to go back to that.

The main reason I'm looking forward to the result though is that on twitter so many Labour supporters have really pushed the boat out in support of their favoured candidate. When some influential tweeters tried to make Oona King the Labour candidate to stand against Boris Johnson in the forthcoming London Mayoral election we recently witnessed a dramatic climb down when left-wing stalwart Ken Livingstone was (obviously) elected instead (will they ever learn?).

I look forward to later retweeting some of the propaganda that supporters of the losing candidates have put up in the past week or so. The authoritarian left tend to like a battle, even with each other, and some quotes could soon come back to really bite supporters and candidates alike hard on the arse.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

What does Solidarity mean 30 years on?

Thirty years ago in a shipyard on the North coast of Poland, Communism began to fall. Today, Gdańsk shipyard is more likely to host a rock concert than a political meeting and the locals are more concerned about whether the new football stadium will be ready in time for Euro 2012, but the city will forever be associated with the Solidarity movement. As Poland celebrates this anniversary and remembers the impact Solidarity had (and continues to have) in transforming the country from a Soviet satellite state into a fully-functioning EU democracy it is worth asking if similar movements could be as effective across the former U.S.S.R and even further afield.

For those who don’t know, Solidarity was founded in 1980 as a response to the political and social difficulties faced by the Polish government and which plagued the everyday life of Poles across the country. It became the first trade union in the Eastern Bloc that was not controlled by the Communist Party and despite continued attempts to repress and even destroy the group throughout the 1980s; Solidarity grew as a political force and earned the right to contest the 1989 semi-free elections through the Polish Round Table Agreement. As a new and legitimate political party, the group won 160 of the 161 seats available and Solidarity co-founder Lech Wałęsa became the President who presided over the collapse of Communism in Poland. Since the early 90s though, Solidarity has become more of a trade union in the more traditional sense of the word and has little political influence as a party.

Wałęsa unfortunately did not attend the celebrations for reasons that varied from ill-health to making a point against the current political affiliations of the union. However, U.S. President Barack Obama did send a message of support that was read out by the American ambassador to Poland, Lee Feinstein: "Through the Solidarity movement, the people of Poland reminded us of the power each of us has to write our own destiny. In the face of tyranny and oppression, they chose freedom and democracy and, in doing so, changed their country and the course of history." This raises an important point; Solidarity was always more than just a political party or even a trade union but was a social movement that brought the people of the country together against the U.S.S.R.

Solidarity was strongly influenced by Catholic Social Teaching which is unsurprising given that even today more than 88% of people belong to the Catholic Church. Furthermore, the Pope at the time, John Paul II, was Polish and in a major document called ‘Sollicitudo Rei Socialis’ supported the concept of solidarity. More importantly though, the movement was underpinned by the philosophical teaching of Leszek Kołakowski who concluded in his Theses on Hope and Hopelessness that “the best way to counteract prosecutions is massive committal....thus in the countries of socialist despotism, those who inspire hope are also the inspirers of a movement which could make this hope real”. Or, as it was put in Kołakowski’s obituary: “self-organised social groups could gradually expand the spheres of civil society in a totalitarian state”.

A big idea and one that retains its importance even today for many countries where groups seek social change; especially when we look at the types of state described. Kołakowski speaks of states which have destroyed historical memory, manipulated all information and where memory has been nationalised so that citizens have been robbed of their identity. This could be used to describe a worryingly large number of countries in 2010, including many post-Soviet Republics. In fact of the 15 post-Soviet states, the organisation Freedom House has declared eight not to be free, three to be partially free and only four are considered to be free states.

Some offenders are worse than others though and ought to be highlighted as such. Turkmenistan continued to be controlled by the Communist Party after 1991 and the country soon became isolated and the media strictly controlled. The President died in 2006 and whilst his successor, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, promised reforms including a new constitution, in reality there has been little political reform and most political dissidents are locked up. Meanwhile in neighbouring Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov has been President since 1991 and since then he has stripped all other institutions of any meaningful power and there is no effective opposition. Finally we have Belarus whose President, Aleksandr Lukashenko, has been described as ‘Europe’s last dictator’ as opposition is crushed with violence, harassment and intimidation.

The people of these countries, and others like them could learn a lot from the teachings of Kołakowski and the way they were put into practice by Wałęsa. The path to freedom is often long and arduous but the story of a fired electrician in a Polish port becoming President ought to be one that inspires people all these years later and there are indeed modern day examples. The Dalai Lama in Tibet, Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe and Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma are all people who deserve our support in the way that Solidarity received widespread support in the 1980s. Wałęsa may not have attended the celebrations at the weekend but that doesn’t mean we have nothing to thank him for and can’t still learn from him today.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Hague, his SpAd and Guido

If this story had turned out differently, Guido Fawkes would have been considered a pioneer of the new age of journalism this evening. However, the statement by Hague and the resignation of Myers has made Paul Staines look very much like the bad guy. The foreign ministers marriage and sexuality have been called into question and a man has resigned for no reason but should we really be blaming Guido?

One of the 'problems' with freedom of the press is that people spout lies, talk rubbish or, as in this case, cast aspersions. Guido's reputation could maybe be damaged if this was a stupid aspersion that has been cast but was it really that big a jump? If you think so then fine, but you're probably not the sort of person who has much respect for the type of reporting that comes out of anyway and Hague himself has admitted that "in hindsight I should have given greater consideration to what might have been made of [sharing a hotel room with my driver]".

Before people once again start condemning Guido Fawkes they need to consider the wider principle. Would you rather live in a society where people were too scared to post this sort of thing? If Guido has truly misjudged this piece then he will suffer in terms of reputation; I doubt that this is the case though.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Andy Burnham comes to Rugby

I am pleased to say that Andy Burnham came to visit Rugby this evening to open a new Fabian Society for Warwickshire. He came across very well and it was intersting to hear him speak on a range of issues. In fact, he was only supposed to stay until nine but continued to take questions from the floor for an extra half an hour.

Of course in a room full of Labour supporters the man from Aintree was hardly challenged and without wanting to flatter myself too much; I think I posed the biggest threat. Nevertheless Burnham covered a range of topics and whilst his approach to healthcare is sorely misguided (a 10% care levy will not provide peace of mind for those who struggle to pay it), his dedication to the issue is admirable. He will be hoping to make the most of Andrew Lansley's decision to scrap NHS Direct after this evening, already saying the health secretary is "is on a vindictive mission to break up the NHS."

Arguably this makes him something of a one issue candidate and his leaflets were plastered with the phrase 'Defending the NHS' which also appears on the side of the 'Burnham Battle Bus'. This is not to say that the former health secretary is actually a one trick pony and he has some nice ideas on other issues such as housing but he needs to show this if he is to become more than 'the other guy'.

I, for example, was more interested in the Land Valuation Tax (LVT) which he set out in an article in the Guardian the other day. My question was that: "Surely such a tax, particularly if it is too onerous, would discourage people from moving up the property ladder and act as a hindrance to first time buyers?"

Andy pointed out in response that the tax would help first-time buyers who would be beneficiaries of the system by virtue of the fact that it removes stamp duty. He then conceded that the tax would act as a disincentive to move up the property ladder but encourages "efficiency in land use" so that big companies cannot just sit on an important piece of land and not use it for anything (a 'land bank'). I'm not quite convinced and the fact that he admits to this disincentive also means less fluidity in the property market therefore higher prices. Then higher prices means higher LVT and people begin to feel the pinch year after year possibly having to then downsize into a house which is too small. There are also other concerns regarding registered land and how the valuation can be done cost-effectively and fairly but I saved those points.

Burnham will struggle to defend his quite radical policies in the face of opposition and whilst he is a nice guy, I feel that a vote for him would signal a return for the Labour Party to the wilderness of the 1980s. Not that Labour should worry as he is the rank outsider and after the leadership contest will most likely make an ignominious return to the back benches.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Peace Talks Resume

It's good to see that peace talks between Israel and Palestine will begin again at the start of September after a two year absence. This won't be easy and will lead to a lot of friction within the traditional debate but hopefully some real progress can be made.

Of course there are many issues that will be almost impossible to resolve and it will be up to Obama, Western representatives and the Arab representation in the form of the Egyptian and Jordanian presidents to ease the process as much as possible.

I don't think it is very fruitful to set a time limit on discussions as this has proved counter-productive in the past but if successful this could lead to greater justice in Palestine and, of course, increased esteem for Obama. On the other hand if the talks prove to be a complete failure this could jeopardise stability in the region and Obama's Presidency....

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Another attack on a prisoner: this cannot go on

Grendon Prison: where the attack happened

First Ian Huntley was attacked when in prison and is consequently suing the prison service and now another, different prisoner, is dead. There are those who say that the people who choose to break the law have no rights but these individuals are not much better than accessories to murder.

Of course one does not wish to jump on the bandwagon of simply blaming the police and there has to be a thorough investigation where the facts are discovered. Once this has been completed though HM Prison Service should not be automatically allowed to avoid any responsibility on the basis that these people are apparently 'scum' or whatever other word the Daily Mail wishes to use.

As soon as a person is arrested he becomes under the effective care of the state; whether we like it or not. After this there is a duty of care which must be exercised proportionately. It is unfair to make this duty too arduous considering limited resources and the traditional legal 'public service' excuse but prisoners do have rights. For a man under the care of the state to be killed in apparently one of the UK's 'safest jail's' is simply not good enough.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Unite Against Fascism: Help or Hindrance to the BNP?

Anti-fascist campaign group ‘Unite Against Fascism’ (UAF) have once again been in the news successfully opposing “Nick Griffin appearing anywhere in public” after the British National Party (BNP) leader was refused admittance to the Royal garden party. This outright ban on a democratically elected politician shows unwarranted paternalism, gives the fascist party unmerited publicity and most worryingly of all bring us a step closer to the sort of society the BNP would like to implement and UAF are supposedly against.

Readers may recall that Griffin was set to attend the same garden party last year as a guest of BNP member of the London assembly, Richard Barnbrook. The outcry stimulated by UAF eventually led to Griffin pulling out claiming he had “no wish to embarrass the Queen.” Though Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, saw through this “political stunt”, the whole affair allowed the fascist leader to come out the other end as the bigger man. It is a sick twist of irony that it is only because of UAF that this was allowed to happen and they have now done the same thing this year.

Mr. Griffin did though get closer to the palace this time round being eventually denied entrance for apparently using “his personal invitation for party political purpose through the media.” A rather weak argument when you consider that there was absolutely no rule against appearing on GMTV etc. Once more Griffin is left to traipse around the news circuits playing the victim card describing the decision as “an absolute scandal.” The saddest truth of all though must be that he is probably right. If anyone were invited to a party with 8,000 guests and were the only one turned away at the door on the basis of some flimsy rule it is hard not to feel a bit of sympathy.

This is not to be confused though with sympathy for the BNP as a whole. It is true that Griffin has greater legitimacy this year as an MEP for the North-West but his is still a party infested with convicted criminals and people who cast judgments on other human beings based on the colour of their skin. It is a shame that such a vile organisation has taken root in the UK but it is a credit to our society that we tolerate views from all sides of the political spectrum.

It is this level of tolerance which the BNP, at heart, detests. Intolerance is imprinted on the ideological DNA of the entire movement. Make no mistake, if they were ever to attain power there would be no more tolerance, no more elections and no more political parties. Why then have we begun building such an awful society now by placing a ban on what is ultimately a legitimate political movement?

When I describe the BNP as legitimate that is not to say that they are right. As an ideology fascism consists of little more than irrational and opportunistic politics and the violence advocated is nihilistic. Hardly a strong position to adopt and one that is easily dismantled. UAF though seem to believe that the public are not capable of such basic critique. Before Griffin’s appearance on BBC Question Time last October a UAF leaflet claimed that “more airtime for the BNP will lead to more racist attacks on the street.”

Frankly I am insulted that UAF think so little of the general public that even the mere sight of a fascist turns us into a racist mob. Those who actually watched the appearance will know that Griffin did not perform well, was exposed as the vile individual that he is and was ridiculed for days and weeks after. The appearance also confirmed the over-inflated awe within which UAF hold Griffin, and the BNP, to be unjustified. It is this lack of faith both in the public and the group’s own ability to convince which culminates in the political cowardice demonstrated by the UAF.

Instead, why not give the BNP absolutely free rein to spout their bile and allow the public to make up their own mind. Of course this could backfire and the BNP could enjoy a surge in support but wouldn’t this be a more damning indictment of the state of politics in our own country more than anything else?

If the public are allowed to make up their own minds it also means that the BNP will become accountable to real political criticism rather than the continual, unintelligent tirade of calls for the organisation to simply be banned altogether. This is the more effective tactic to deal with the BNP as shown by Question Time and also by Peter Tatchell who confronted Nick Griffin yesterday, outside the BBC studios. The scuffle concluded with Tatchell summarising as follows: “You saw Nick Griffin. I asked him a question. He ran away. He’s a gutless coward.” It’s hard to disagree and it is also probably true to say that Tatchell did more to embarrass and delegitimize the BNP in those 44 seconds than UAF have done in all their years of campaigning.

Demanding that fascists do not deserve a platform is a poor excuse for shying away from debate. Experience shows that the best way to deal with those who attack the vulnerable is to confront them in the open. UAF may not like this but the only real way to beat the BNP is through unfettered freedom of speech.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Cooking Their Way to Recognition

This particularly heart-warming story caught my attention this afternoon. It is the story of one Palestinian man's outrage at Israel calling mosakhen an Israeli dish when it's origins are Palestinian.

In order to reclaim the dish though this restaurant owner went the extra mile and cooked the biggest ever mosakhen seen to get into the Guinness World Records.

The thing which I find particularly inspiring is that Nasser Abdulhadi (the chef in question) spent a year demanding that the people at Guinness list his achievement as one from Palestine rather than the Occupied Territories. He goes on to say: "We need recognition as a regular people, for what we can achieve in the normal run of life. We're not just a resistance movement fighting the Occupation."

When discussing this conflict it is so easy to remember that there are people living in the area just getting on with their lives. Nevertheless, until the international community can realistically point to a free Palestinian state not subjected to Israeli de facto control the fight must continue.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Chuka Umunna passive-aggressive note to George Osborne

Steatham has got a new Labour MP and don't we know it. Taking over from the spineless Keith Hill who voted in the way his taskmaster told him, Chuka Umunna seems an apt replacement. Loved by the Guardian and the New Statesman (who describe him as the British Barak Obama), his latest piece is little more than a regurgitation of the same Labour policies that the electorate rejected. A sure way to gain publicity but the argument remains stale.

The passive-aggressive tone overrides the piece like someone scraping their nails down a blackboard and everyone who reads it knows Osborne will most likely never have to set his eyes upon it.

The actual content is also weak. Umunna accuses the budget of not being progressive before going on to list policies which he knows damn well will slow the UK's recovery from recession by hampering the financial service industry (one of the best in the world) by taxing it and thereby making it less competitive. If we were to have a progressive budget which will once again stimulate growth in the economy then surely this key aspect of the UK's GDP must be preserved?

A nice career move by Umunna then which will win him many more friends on the left but this poorly dressed-up sabotage attempt on the recovery and George Osborne hardly stimulates debate and ought to be ridiculed.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Camp David: 10 Years On

Hey all, just a quick note to say that I have a new piece on 'The Vibe' site taking a look back at the Arab-Israeli conflict in the past 10 years. Please have a look and comment, react etc. Many thanks.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

A Fresh Start for Kyrgyzstan

Ok so the piece is up. Basically I insist that you all click the 'like' button and comment etc. I could really do with the publicity as it's only my second article on the site. Just click here!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Price You Pay Discussion

For those of you interested in a political theory discussion on the role government has in the murder of its citizens via welfare cuts, then check this out.

I have a piece going up on the same site tomorrow on Russian influence on Kyrgyzstan. Yup, the fun times just keep on rolling....

Friday, 11 June 2010

South Africa 2010: Great goal or Horrible Miss?

Who should play in goal? Will Rooney's groin strain recur? And just how can England be so bad at penalties?

Yes it's that time again. All other news will hardly get a look in during the following month as the country goes mad for the World Cup. If you think it's bad here though imagine what the atmosphere is like in South Africa; the host nation.

This will be the first time the competition will be held in Africa, a continent which has given so much to the game. It is though also a continent which is ravished by war, famine and poverty and often engenders a feeling of pity more than anything else. The World Cup is a chance to begin to move away from this and earn a new-found respect from the rest of the world.

South Africa undoubtedly has a lot to be proud of considering that only 16 years ago the African National Congress (ANC) inherited a formerly apartheid state with no money and a bubbling racial hostility that was ready to explode at the drop of a hat. Now the country is host to a wide variety of private companies, banks and financial markets making it Africa's largest economy and the world's 24th largest. It has even rode the recent global financial crisis with some ease thanks to fantastic mineral wealth.

Some are more critical of hosting the World Cup in South Africa, including some of the most venerable writers of the game such as Brian Glanville. He sees this as an attempt by the feckless Sepp Blatter to foist the competition upon a continent which isn't ready.

Outside of the world of football politics, this argument retains its validity. GDP per person stands at a lowly $10,000, less than a quarter of the American figure, and this is distributed in a less than even fashion. Most blacks are reliant on the pitiful government support meaning they live in shacks located in crime-ridden townships outside the main cities; a murder is committed once every half hour. With poor sanitation and 43% of the population living on $2 a day it is unsurprising that the country ranks a measly 129th on the UN Human Development Index, 12th in Africa.

Unemployment is also a huge challenge with the official rate at 25%; the highest in the world. There is also a clear dividing line on race (30% of blacks are unemployed compared 6% of whites) which only serves to highlight the elephant in the room. After 350 years of white supremacy it would have been foolish to think that the issue would disappear overnight. One only has to think back to the murder of Eugène Terre'Blanche in April and the tension this caused.

Compared with 20 years ago though this is nothing ad people often forget this. South Africa is very much on the up even if it has to make a few mistakes along the way. Many see the dominance of the corrupt ANC as a threat to this but under constant scrutiny from opposition parties, the press, the courts, unions and NGOs it seems unlikely South Africa will go the same way as neighbouring Zimbabwe. This years World Cup should be seen as an opportunity to not only celebrate how far South Africa has come but to encourage it to go further and act as a talisman for her continent. As football correspondent Mark Gleeson puts it: "it is a rare opportunity that would be criminal to miss."

Monday, 7 June 2010

A New Start

Exams are over and school (well uni) is out for summer. I'm hoping to do quite a bit of writing over the summer. This is not only on here though dear reader! I have become once again involved in quite a nice little website called 'The Vibe' and have had an interesting discussion with an ardent Zionist over 'flotilla-gate' which you can see here. I'm also hoping to start work on a couple of my own books including one on the first crusade and a short novel. Exciting times.

Anyway we all know that we've now got a coalition government so it's not worth banging on about all that old news. It's great to have David Cameron as our PM and the coalition represents an exciting change in British politics. Although I felt that the agreement was drawn up rather hastily and Nick Clegg in the end was forced into acceptance by a resigning Gordon Brown I believe that it will last the whole five years.

On the other hand I hope that FPTP remains as our voting system by 2015 and I think this is just one area where the coalition partners will have to agree to disagree!

Hope you are all well and a lot of people who read this are also probably doing exams at the moment so good luck to you. For more regular updates follow me on twitter!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Porn Director?! Rapist would have been a better metaphor for the Lib Dems

It became apparent in the last week, to much controversy, that Anna Arrowsmith (Lib Dem PPC for Gravesham) used to direct porn films. At last, the nation thought, the Lib Dems may actually be interesting! But no, the story soon died down as the Lib Dems held their own Spring Conference in Brum.

By sharp contrast this was a damp squib. Nothing much happened and the party got almost no media attention as you might expect. The party slogan has actually become something of a joke. It seems that Britain's third party has simply stuck together the other two party's slogans!

Perhaps party supporters should wonder if it's the electoral system that's preventing them getting into power or their own lack of creativity. Have they given up?

Friday, 12 March 2010

The BBC News School Report

Just wanted to take the opportunity on here to say what a great success the BBC News Report Day was. I have only seen and heard a few parts of it so far but a particular highlight was school children from Bristol holding an interview/conversation with children of the same age in Kabul, Afghanistan.

I hope that such nationwide events encourage young people to engage more with the world around them.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Kelvin MacKenzie worse than Richard Littlejohn?!

Yes you heard it here first, unless you were listening to the 'World Tonight' last night.

In the discussion with MacKenzie he clearly gave his support to vigilantism with regard to the James Bulger case to which his 'opponent's' fantastic retort alerted the former Sun editor to a piece Littlejohn had written in the Sun at the time of the killing. In it Littlejohn (uncharacteristically) criticised the calls for 'stringing up the pair from the lamposts' but nevertheless this very much belittled any type of argument Liverpool's no. 1 enemy could muster in his whole 10 minutes!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Labour Pull Two Electioneering Stunts in the Same Week

Labour have quite clearly begun gearing up for the forthcoming election as has been seen by two stunts in the last few days which do little more than get a little media attention at the expense of innocents.

Firstly, Gordon Brown went over to see the troops in Afghanistan to say 'thanks'. I'm not sure about you but this sounds more than a little like a goodbye, perhaps GB knows he won't be coming back to the warzone he leaves behind. Anyway you look at it, a vist to see 'our boys' is even for the least cynical voter nothing more than an appeal for votes. This is not what the army is for.

Meanwhile Jack Straw has agrred to meet the mother of James Bulger, Denise Fergus, but I fail to see what this will achieve. The Justice Secretary cannot reveal what Venables has done and to do so would be a breach of law. The release of such information would only lead to the lynch mobs of the red-top newspapers dragging the ocuntry into disrepute and there would undoubtedly be another case before the European Court of Human Rights. The locus of Denise Fergus with regard to the case has ended and Jack Straw knows this. The minister is tapping into the public fury and the vulnerability of Fergus for votes.

There you have it then, the lengths this untenable government will go to stay in power. How anyone can help them do so is beyong belief.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

University of Westminster Protest - A Response

Firstly, major apologies for the lack of blogging activity. Nearly a month since my last blog ffs! I can only put this down to my own laziness to research issues when I finally get a break from my dull law degree.

Anyway, mentioning uni, there's some absolutely insane protest going on against the wholly necessary cuts which we have to make. Of course at the sign of anyone's job getting "slashed" it seems inevitable that the stereotypically student-left jump on the bandwagon. How a campaign can claim to have legitimacy when it has fewer supporters than jobs actually being axed is beyond me but that obviously doesn't concern them.

The reason I've decided to blog on this petty attempt at student activism is because now events have gone a step too far. On the 1st March the protesters stormed the board of governors meeting and have since been in occupation of the vice-chancellors office. Resorting to violence and causing fear and panic across the rest of the university is not something that should be tolerated and it is of little surprise that the campaign has recently added to its demands that "no student or member of staff involved in actions against job cuts faces any repercussions or reprisals"; me thinks our rebels are feeling post-revolution guilt.

The accusation thrown against the university is that the governors are trying to make it run more like a business; well heaven forbid! The campus is based at the top of Regent Street, one of the foremost business areas in London and the world. They continue that because of this and the ensuing cuts that education will suffer. I doubt this somehow. Clearly if there is some sort of thinning down in areas it will be done in an appropriate way so as to not lose business. If the governors were to go too far then no one would go to the university at all and there would be no 'business' left to run. The governors are the best people to know the best ways to save money and indeed the university has in the past had financial trouble and needs to cut back.

Furthermore the government has in the past year or so shown more reluctance towards funding universities across England and with tuition fees set to rise surely the best way to prevent this is to cut back in non-essential areas. Personally I hope that more universities take note of the good work done by the governors and deal with any wannabe revolutions appropriately.

Picture courtesy of Sky Yarlett

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Pope's Position Represents True Liberty

An issue has arisen regarding a confliction of liberties but on what side can we truly say that autonomy of the individual rests? I speak of course, of the Equality Bill which would have allowed homosexuals to apply and, more importantly, be considered for positions in Catholic faith schools.

Both Catholics and homosexuals are minority groups within their own rights and each has an undeniable right to practice their lifestyle choice. We therefore have to consider which lifestyle is truly being impinged upon here.

True liberty encompasses a right to choose. To choose what you think, to choose what you do and to choose how to live your life. A free-market capitalist society is the best example of this right to choose as it is often forgotten that taxes are an affront to liberty and laissez-faire capitalism almost entirely removes this burden. In fact the only taxes which would be paid would go towards the police/ defend liberty.

In such a society the right to choose extends to businesses and thus it becomes clear on which side of the fence I fall. If I run a business, be it a school or a multi-national firm, I retain the right to choose who I employ and as it is my business it is my prerogative. Similarly the man on the street has a right to choose to apply for a job, or not as the case may be.

However I cannot force him to work for me in the same way that he cannot force me to employ him (or in this case force me to consider his application). Why should the gay community, or anyone for that matter, be allowed to enforce themselves upon the job market?

I'm not quite sure why the mainstream media has come out (excuse the pun) against the CAtholic community so much. As far as I can see it is because the gay rights movement has come so far so fast in the last 40 years and this is seen as a natural continuation. Frankly they are wrong and I am glad that Harman has backtracked.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

REVIEW: What Difference does Political Blogging make?

I got to the Monk's Exchange last night at around 7.15 but there was already a decent crowd ready for the Westminster Skeptics panel discussion. At the bar I got talking to Amanjit Jhund (Labour PPC for Windsor) who introduced me to some of his friends on the left including Shamik Das, assistant editor of 'Left Foot Forward'. I also met Karen Lee, editor of BBC 2's Culture Show.

The Panel Discussion began with Nick Cohen (Observer journalist and author of 'What's Left?') stating the case for journalism. I wanted to try and see his point of view so as to get a balance and not be so automatically predisposed towards blogging but I found his argument somewhat disjointed and non-effective. Of all the panel responses it was Slugger O'Toole (Mick Fealty) who gave the best account for the bloggers with a sensible speech about the important role played by such blogs as his own in opening discussion of stories up.

The Q&A session was slightly more disappointing with both questions and answers being rather prolonged. Nevertheless some important points were raised about the hostile nature of a lot of blogs and also about the possible future of journaslism. Particular insight was from Jonathan Isaby who famously moved from working at the Daily Telegraph to become editor of Conservative Home.

The evening came to a close with conversations with both @WhosLobbying and the legendary Thomas Byrne who will be relieved to hear I won't be revealing details from our slightly drunken conversation!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Are You 'AV-ing a Laugh?

In what can only be described as a pathetic election ploy and nothing more, Gordon Brown has announced his desire for a national referendum on replacing the British first past the post (FPTP) electoral system with the alternative vote (AV) system used in places such as Australia.

It seems to be a continual tactic of the Labour party to try and back the Tories into a corner by trying to announce another fix-all policy and when the opposition sensibly point out the pitfalls of such crackpot ideas they are accused of regaling on their promise to be the 'party of change'. This time Brown has gone too far and his attempt at electioneering is plain for all to see. Labour have had nearly 13 years to instigate such radical change with more commanding majorities (thanks to FPTP) so why wait till now? Well as I was taught in A-Level politics, this is the classic sign of a dying government.

I mean, just think what AV would mean electorally for Labour. They would undoubtedly pick up a lot of '2nd' votes from Lib Dem supporters as well as from the Greens and other parties on the left. Meanwhile the Tories would most likely only pick up such 'sloppy seconds' from parties on the right such as UKIP.

I'm not here to necessarily defend FPTP and I'll admit it has disadvantages but, then again, so does AV and all electoral systems. If there was a 'perfect formula' then all democracies would be using it by now.

I do believe though that the advantages of FPTP will become prevalent in 2010. If David Cameron achieves a healthy majority come May then the Conservatives will be able to lead Britain back to growth unencumbered by the desperate politics of New Labour.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Cricket in the Empire

It's no secret that the reason cricket is so popular in places such as Australia, India and South Africa is because of the influence of the British Empire. In fact it's hard to think of a nation with test match status that hasn't had a British influence.

This looks set to continue into the modern day with Afghanistan becoming a real force on the cricket pitch. Only nine years ago the team consisted almost entirely of refugees and were struggling in the second tier of Pakistan's domestic league but now have full one-day international status and only missed out on a place in the 2011 World Cup by a narrow margin.

Arguably their biggest success to date came last Sunday when they beat the Irish (who are no pushovers themselves) by 7 wickets in a multi-day game. This will undoubtedly set them up nicely for next week's ICC World Twenty20 game qualifiers in the UAE.

I'm not sure if there is any political metaphor to make here but good luck to the Afghans. I believe it was Julius Nicholson in a Thick of It Special who said that 'cricket makes the troubles of the world seem so far away'.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

My Day Alongside Alastair Campbell

At 7.20am Tuesday morning most of you were probably still in bed but I became the 8th person to be queueing outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, waiting to register to attend the Iraq Inquiry. Before long your standard media outfits began to arrive and made reports to their respective channels.

Once in and registered we eagerly anticipated Campbell's arrival and I have to admit to being surprised at just how tired and older he looked. I know it was 6 and a half years since Campbell was last part of government but the large sigh at the first interlude was telling.

The former director of Communications and Strategy started off a bit shaky and when questioned about the nature of his role tried to fob off the question by saying that if Tony Blair asked him to jump off a building then he wouldn't have. Hmm, Sir Roderic Lyne soon told him to "be serious".

Once into the questions about Iraq, Alastair Campbell soon became more comfortable and answered questions more freely; providing clear and detailed responses to the panel's robust questioning. Campbell often got into a good tussle with Sir Lawrence Freedman that was only stopped because the stenographer couldn't keep up!

In my opinion, the biggest thing to come out of the day was heading into the very final session when Campbell implied that Clare Short was both incompetent and difficult to work with. The reason this came up was because Lyne pointed out that Short's ministerial department (International Development) was often excluded from key meetings about Iraq. With Campbell making such a strong case for the moral argument for war just before this break, surely he must have realised the importance of the department in the aftermath of any invasion?

All in all a good day to experience politics first hand and I certainly think the panel's line of questioning already lends it more legitimacy than the Hutton Report. Role on Tony Blair!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Labour attacks UK Charities

You know that a government is desperate once it starts to attack the most vulnerable in society and this is exactly what Labour seems to be doing as they seek to remove the exemption that charities currently enjoy from music royalties. Despite being in force since 1988, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act will be amended so that all charities must, from April 2010, obtain a license from Phonographic Performance Ltd if they wish to play copyrighted music to the public. Clearly this covers nearly every charity that seeks to advertise on either the radio or on television and some smaller charities may fail to notice that the law has even changed. Will we therefore possibly see a legal case where a music producer takes a charity to court?! Simon Cowell v. NSPCC could create a few headlines in itself!

The amendment to the law will simplify the framework within which charges are applied and the payment is only £81 annually, but this is £81 that could otherwise be better spent, particularly in the case of non-profit organisations and such an amount could be a significant dent in the finances of some smaller charities. The government’s apparent justification for the amendment is that it is necessary remove the exemption to achieve a proper balance between owners of the rights to the music and the users in accordance with EC and international law. Such a claim seems, in reality, hard to substantiate. For example, use of music for weddings, hospital wards and medical therapy are still exempt; is there no balance to be redressed here?

Overall the advantages of the amendment are hard to find with regard to charities. The overall system may be simplified but it was probably a whole lot simpler when they paid nothing at all.