There’s an old saying: “the left want all the power but none of the responsibility”. And its very true, most of the time. Now, I’ve always supported Barack Obama but I have never been the Obama is the messiah kind, contrary to popular belief. Hence, unlike most of the American left, I’m not squealing about his recent decisions because they were more centrist than usual. And hell, I wouldn’t rule out the death penalty for child rapists either.
He is simply adhering to the ancient political axiom that Democratic presidential candidates run to the Left and Republicans to the right in the embryonic stages of the campaign. Then when the chips are down they move quickly to the center, the conservative center that is.
The Left can moan over Obama’s political role reversals all it wants. But the hard reality is that presidential wannabes routinely do policy back flips to win. It’s simply part of the American political game.
That, and the fact that he is particularly vulnerable to certain accusations (black men will let off black kiddie rapists!) that could have surfaced during the election. As Michael Tomasky said, “It’s acceptable – and necessary – for Barack Obama to compromise his liberal principles in order to get elected.” Amen to that.
I love this story in the New York Times. Some kids in the states have started adopting (albeit on Facebook) “Hussein” as their middle name to show solidarity for a name that the right-wingers are trying their best to to use perniciously. Heh.
I’ve been following it all the last few days with real interest and mulling it’s implications (more on that another time). One thing that’s really jumped out as a good starting point for discussion about female/feminist bloggers and the way they’re treated is this by Penny Red:
Set down this: the way that men, and male bloggers in particular, feel when trying to participate in the feminist movement is not dissimilar to the way that women feel when trying to participate in life. That cold tug on the solar plexus when you realise you’re in a world that wasn’t arranged for your benefit, where you didn’t make the rules and where your voice might be less important purely because of your genital arrangement? Remember that feeling. Remember that feeling and imagine it applied to the rest of your life. Imagine not being able to shut down the computer and walk away.
So, let’s lay a gauntlet down: what can us male bloggers do to engage with the feminist blogosphere? Should we consciously link to them to achieve balance in coverage? Why don’t more feminist bloggers get the coverage that other political blogs get?
Update: Unity thinks the answer is to keep it real, couldn’t agree more.
An article today in the Sunday Telegraph highlights how some state officials, including doctors, are putting women in danger from ‘honour’-based violence (HBV) by giving their families confidential information about them:
“Young women fleeing forced marriages are being betrayed by GPs and benefits staff who “collude” with families to return them against their will, a senior police officer police has revealed. Doctors and Job Centre workers are breaching confidentiality rules and passing on vital information to families, allowing them to trace and punish Asian women who are attempting to escape coerced marriages and “honour”-based domestic violence.
This article by Andrew Gilligan yesterday was hilarious. Gilligan says: “Perhaps inevitably at this stage, Boris is still groping to formulate his narrative. That leaves a gap that the anti-Boris forces are energetically trying to fill.”
Yup, that we are and will do. The thing is, this was preceeded by: “One of the most important things we learned from Ken was how desperately an effective opposition to the Mayor is needed. We’re not getting it at the moment.”
Errm… so are there any effective anti-Boris forces or not? Gilligan is talkingabout blogs who are watching him but he doesn’t want to mention them lest he acknowledge that in four years time his paper, which he admits isn’t providing any opposition to the Mayor, won’t hope to have the same impact on the election. The poor guy is flailing around because Boris Johnson is already flailing around and is now reduced to warning about “anti-Boris forces”. It’s a great spectacle to watch.
I don’t normally disagree with political allies on issues but if you ever find yourself agreeing with the Daily Mail – my advice is do some more research. This is why I disagree strongly with Rumbold and Jennie’s reactionary response to Harriet Harman’s Equalities Bill. And its worth pointing out why.
There are various aspects to Harman’s Bill. One of this concerns employing people and this is the bit the Daily Whinge and others have leapt on. As Lynne Featherstone MP (Libdem MP for Equality) explains on Liberal Conspiracy:
The actual measures that got the DM so steamed up are very small steps to allow employers to right imbalances in their workforce – if they wish – without falling foul of current employment and equality law. The proposal is that when all else is equal between applicants for a job – the employer can now choose the one they feel will balance some sort of imbalance in their workforce. For example – we often hear that the fact that most primary school teachers are female and that young children would benefit from a male role model (absent fathers etc) All this proposal does is allow the Head to employ a man applicant rather than a woman applicant if they are broadly equal in all other respects – without being sued. The point up to now is that it was illegal for an employer to have done this.
But this is not going to stop the whingers from Daily Mail, nor the racists from Daily Express to spin this their own way. Last night I was invited on Radio 5 Live to debate this under the banner of “is Britain becoming too politically correct?”
After Labour’s disastrous showing in Henley, William Hill have re-calibrated their odds for when Brown will leave office and for who will succeed him. Miliband’s favourite to be the next party leader (at 3/1), but Tony Blair’s odds have suddenly been cut from 100/1 to 33/1, after a flurry of punter interest. Maybe it’s just one for the silly season, but I’m sure quite a few Labour MPs would be more than happy to have Brown’s predecessor back in No.10.
What a lovely 1st year anniversary present that is for Gordon Brown! (picture via John Menick)
At yesterday’s Liberal Conspiracy Blog Nation event there was a lot of disagreement on a whole range of issues. One relatively uncontroversial topic was the need for greater activism at a grassroots and local government level.
My proposal – primary elections to help choose Prospective Parliamentary Candidates.
Currently PPC’s are mainly selected by members of the local chapter of the political party. Occasionally the party leadership will decide to ‘parachute in’ a candidate they like to get them into parliament, but lets ignore that for the time being.
I could see the sense of local selection at a time when communities were more stable and rooted. However in modern Britain where the workforce is incredibly mobile and people don’t stay in one city let alone one borough for all their lives, it is anachronistic and more importantly undemocratic, that a small band of essentially unaccountable people wield so much power.
Britain’s most senior Muslim police officer is preparing to sue his own force for racial discrimination. Assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur is expected to issue formal proceedings, taking Scotland Yard to an employment tribunal, imminently.
He is known to have been opposed to the proposal to extend detention of terrorism suspects without charge to 42 days, an idea championed by the Met commissioner, Sir Ian Blair.
Its big news because Tarique Ghaffur, and I’ve talked to him plenty of times, was always incredibly loyal the force. Even at the height of the Forest Gate raid and the subsequent rubbish peddled in the media, he would not criticise the force. He genuinely felt that most Muslims had to engage further with the police and the guy was basically everywhere trying to do good publicity for the Met. And for that reason, this is a bombshell. The article adds:
If as expected Ghaffur sues his force it will send shockwaves among ethnic minority officers across the entire police service. He has mentored many, and the prospect of the country’s most senior Muslim officers claiming the police are prejudiced at a time when counter-terrorism officers are trying to increase the trust British Muslim communities have in officers, will be nothing less than damaging.
Shockwaves indeed. Ian Blair is a foolish man for losing such an important person.
“Harriet Harman has defended plans to make it legal for firms to discriminate in favour of female and ethnic minorities job candidates. The equalities minister said firms should be able to choose a woman over a man of equal ability if they wanted to.”
Yesterday, a Labour assembly member observed to me that Johnson is discovering that being London mayor isn’t as easy as Ken Livingstone often made it appear. This was a reference to Johnson’s developing track record of being caught in less than full possession of important facts. It could, though, also apply to his encounters with his predecessor’s cultural legacy in all its forms.
Pandering to prejudices about multiculturalism isn’t difficult until you find yourself in charge of the most multicultural city on earth and maybe discover that this isn’t an aberration forced on Londoners by Trotskyites but is, in fact, its authentic character. Deleting the GLA post of women’s adviser is one thing, deleting the principal of equal opportunities another. Feeding off resentments of funding for causes like anti-racism can work for you in opposition, but in power you may discover that these might not have been mere ruses for squandering taxpayers’ money on your allies after all: especially when you have a BNP man at your elbow at mayor’s question time.
This is spot on. What makes me laugh more is that when people now criticise Boris Johnson, the only response many of his supporters can muster up goes along the lines of: look, your side lost yeah, can you please stop being so bitter and just accept reality?
Essentially they’re saying that criticisism of Boris Johnson for his long litany of mistakes in a manner of weeks shouldn’t be allowed. And you know who said this the most explicitly? Andrew Gilligan. That’s good journalism for you isn’t it?
Green Party Principal Speaker Derek Wall has backed local education and environment activist Shan Oakes to contest the election. Shan has lived in East Riding since 1975, where she was an English teacher for many years and is one of the founders of Voice International, an organisation working to promote sustainability through education and is Chair of the Trustees of the Development Education Centre.
Leading Greens will be joining the Shan on the campaign trial in the next few weeks, including Dr. Wall, human rights spokesperson Peter Tatchell, target Parliamentary candidates Darren Johnson AM and Cllr. Adrian Ramsay, and prospective MEP candidates Peter Cranie and Cllr. Rupert Read.
Derek Hall has come up with a fairly campaign friendly line of attack too:
“This by-election was supposed to be about civil liberties. But it’s been called by a man – David Davis – who thinks it’s okay for the government to lock you up for four weeks without even telling you what you’re supposed to have done.
“David Davis also believes that you should have no right to criticise the government within a mile of Parliament. He believes that if a child is being bullied for being gay, his school should not have a policy to protect him. And he believes that a judge should be allowed to kill you if he thinks you’ve committed a serious crime.
“So the Green Party had to stand. Someone had to stand up for civil liberties.”
Shan’s campaign blog is here, there’s also a Facebook group here.
It will be interesting to see what support she gets outside the party. Will those Left/Liberals who don’t see the wisdom in supporting David Davis support her candidacy? And will the New Statesman throw it’s weight behind her?
Dorries in blogosphere battle
Having recently faced defeat over her controversial abortion bill, Nadine Dorries is embroiled in another row â€“ over her website.
The Tory member’s blog â€“ which, of course, Pandora reads regularly â€“ has attracted criticism for its personal attacks on opponents. One recent post included a picture of comely housing minister Caroline Flint alongside drawings of the considerably-less-comely Pinocchio. “Don’t call me a liar, minister,” reads the entry. “It will come back to bite you.”
Sunny Hundal, editor of the Liberal Conspiracy blog, complained to the Parliamentary Standards Commission, voicing concerns that Dorries may fund the site with taxpayers’ money. “We noticed it a few weeks ago,” Hundal tells me. “We’ve got a letter saying the complaint is to be taken seriously.” Dorries denies using public money. The Commissioner has written urging Dorries to make her funding arrangements known.
Unity notices that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has said that homesexuals aren’t persecuted in Iran, providing they are discreet about their behaviour:
“Gay and lesbian asylum-seekers can be safely deported to Iran as long as they live their lives “discreetly”, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has claimed. In a letter to a Liberal Democrat peer, seen by The Independent, Ms Smith said there was no “real risk” of gay men and lesbians being discovered by the Iranian authorities or “adverse action” being taken against those who were “discreet” about their behaviour.”
The crassness of this is staggering. All I can do is to quote Unity:
“Itâ€™s difficult to know quite which element in all this is the more despicable; the â€œSir Humpreyâ€™sâ€ at the Home Office who seem to think that UNHCRâ€™s recommendations are some sort of finger buffet from which they can pick and choose the elements that suit their desire to hit targets for deportations, or Smithâ€™s unthinking parroting of the official line, which puts political expediency ahead of not only of Labourâ€™s longstanding commitments to equality and human rights but ahead, even, of basic human compassion.”
Noted British novelist Ian McEwan has attacked those who criticised Martin Amis for his remarks on Islam:
“”A dear friend had been called a racist,” he said. “As soon as a writer expresses an opinion against Islamism, immediately someone on the left leaps to his feet and claims that because the majority of Muslims are dark-skinned, he who criticises it is racist.
“This is logically absurd and morally unacceptable. Martin is not a racist. And I myself despise Islamism, because it wants to create a society that I detest, based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance towards homosexuality and so on â€“ we know it well.”
Irony of ironies: the Government Equalities Office in charge of outlawing discrimination against women, black and ethnic minority and disabled people does not know whether it complies with Whitehall diversity targets more than eight months after they were set up by Gordon Brown. The story was in last Friday’s Guardian.
The Government Equalities Office, headed by Harriet Harman, says it has not yet set up a database of its staff so it cannot tell whether it fulfills targets it should have met three months ago.
8 other departments refused or failed to give information on the diversity of their employees. The Foreign Office, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the GEA did not reply to the request made by Theresa May. While other departments expressly refused to give information, ignoring the request is not much better.
23 years ago to this day – on June 23rd 1985 – Air India flight 182 blew up enroute from India to Canada to India killing all 329 passengers. All were Canadian citizens. To this date only one person, bombmaker Inderjit Singh Reyat, has been convicted. Conspiracy theories are rife.
Yesterday, this controversial looking film was broadcast on the Canadian channel CBC. I’ve heard that the producers are planning to bring it to the UK too. I’d love to see it.
There was an interesting article in the Canadian Globe and Mail about this tragedy last week. And here’s an article on this film itself.
An adviser to London Mayor Boris Johnson has resigned after making an apparently racist remark to a reporter. Responding to a claim that some black people might leave the UK if Mr Johnson became mayor, James McGrath said: “Let them go if they don’t like it here.”
Mr McGrath said his remark to an undercover reporter from the-latest.com website had been taken out of context. Mr Johnson said he knew Mr McGrath was “not a racist”, but the remarks made it “impossible” for him to keep his job.
Dave Hill has some good coverage of the story and reactions. Is it me or is Team Bojo already fraying at the edges a mere eight weeks into the job?
According to a new study by the charity ActionAid, the female-male ratio is worsening in North-West India, with one area in the Punjab only having 300 girls for every 1000 males amongst higher cast families:
“More than 6,000 households in sites across five states in north-western India were interviewed and statistical comparisons were made with national census date. Under “normal” circumstances, there should be about 950 girls for every 1,000 boys, the charity said. But it said that in three of the five sites, that number was below 800. In four of the five sites surveyed, the proportion of girls to boys had declined since a 2001 census, the report said.”
Full report here. It is said that already China is facing an aging population as a result of its one-child policy. Will the same thing happen in India? That the two countries with the largest populations should get old before they get rich is a frightening prospect in economic terms, apart from anything else.
A few weeks ago we submitted a complaint to the Parliamentary Standards Commission about the Tory MP Nadine Dorries and her using her blog to attack MPs of other parties. Its against the rules dontcha know? Local newspapers have started to pick up the story…