Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ping pong in process

From what I can tell the Lords amendment to the incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation is being moved.

I say 'is being moved' because Hansard is 3 hours behind...

The results of the Lords vote should be up soon...

It will then have to go to the Commons


Lords insist on their original amendment 178 - 164

In response to this the Government (somewhat regrettably) accepted the Lords amendment so as to get Royal Assent ahead of tomorrow.

Notwithstanding this disappointment there is much that is positive. We now have, finally, the outlawing (albeit with a high hurdle of proof) of the incitement of hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

We also have, through this debate, reached some agreements about examples of overzealous policing (albeit no doubt well intentioned, but ended up making things a whole lot worse) and, hopefully achieved progress in this area while at the same time taking into some account the expressed fears of different sections of the community.

It's over for Hilary

Out of cash, out of delegates and out of time - I think that she's coming to the end of the road.

Looking at the two 'victory' speeches last night there was a huge difference between the two candidates.

Obama striking and confident, giving his first speech of the General Election.

Hilary with bits and bobs all over the place but with pointed references to working with the Party's nominee..... She was unsure and unsteady and toward the end looked like she was reading out the words without meaning them.

The look on Bill and Chelsea's faces was an even clearer indicator. The reaction of her crowd of supporters was also an indicator they knew the end was close at hand.

Hilary has proved herself an able and dogged fighter with far more political skills than most thought she had. It's just that Obama is as well and has the edge in the campaign in terms of popular vote and more importantly delegates.

Hilary pulling out or at the least avoiding the use of her 'kitchen sink' /scorched earth approach for the next win or two would be good for the party, allow Hilary her role as Party No2 (but not probably running mate to Obama) and maximise the chances of Obama winning now that the Party has given him the advantage.

This would also settle the problem of the seating of Florida and Michigan. If Obama is designated as the Democratic Candidate the two delegations can be seated and vote for Hilary in the proportions that voted for her in that contest (hence I think the emphasis in Hilary's speech on seating the two delegations at the Convention).

Good coverage from Andrew Sullivan in his blog "The Daily Dish"

"Hilary, the time has come" from Kevin Naff of Washington Blade, previously a Clinton supporter.

From the BBC 'Clinton heading for the exit' by John Zogby (independent pollster)


Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

The next piece of controversial legislation once the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill (incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation) has been resolved (Ping Pong taking place today) is the HFEB where the religious right get to have another outing (after the blasphemy debate when they could only muster 57 votes in a lost cause I think they are starting to enjoy this).

Debates here will include a number of free votes in the Commons on controversial issues in that Bill such as hybrid embryo's and the removal of the 'need for a father' with supportive parenthood in its place (which has already passed the Lords) as well as a big campaign to lower the abortion limit from 24 to 20 weeks - a move I oppose.

For the fullest reporting of the issues anywhere on the web I've seen go to Lou's blog where it is all covered in detail.

Ping Pong debates on the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

Very interesting debates in the House of Commons last night on Lords amendments to aforementioned Bill.

These concerned Lords amendment to the very important provision covering the incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The reference to Hansard is here.

The Government majority (to disagree with the Lords amendment) was 202. Reports on how individual MP's voted here (Public Whip).

The next big debate with a lot of interesting and quite illuminating interventions from Conservative benches (much more than I expected) was on the repeal of the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel (I blogged previously on the debate on this in the Lords).

Hansard here.

The Lords amendment was carried by 321.

In both cases the Government majorities were very large. The ping pong now goes to the Lords where they have a chance to reinstate their earlier amendment. If they do so it will return again to the Commons and so on.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Evangelicals - where do they fit in?

This post is prompted by moves afoot to protest the appointment of Joel Edwards to the post of Commissioner with the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

At the time of his appointment there was a big and predictable broohaha, especially from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement who produced this diatribe against his appointment. I say diatribe (defined as meaning "a bitter critical attack") as it goes on and on about the personal evils of afore mentioned Joel Edwards as if he has been personally directing the whole show. Of course, that is not likely to be the case. In many particulars the quotes are taken somewhat out of context and some things are attributed to Joel Edwards and the Evangelical Alliance when they oughtn't to be. This is unfair.

Again at the time there was a wait and see approach from Ekklesia who saw a significant potential for evangelicals to address equality, human rights and discrimination issues through bodies such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission stating

Evangelicals who recognise that equality ought to be a key part of the Christian
message have been slowly coming out of the closet, and even the Evangelical
Alliance's sceptical opinions on this issue have been expressed much more
temperately of late.

I must say I tend to agree.

My reading of Joel Edwards is of him being moderate whilst at the same time being true to his evangelical beliefs (which I personally have no objection to although I don't personally share them). I could of course be wrong on this but the politics of systematic suspicion leads to a bad place for all of us.

Of course, the Commission as a whole are open to public scrutiny as are its appointees as members of public bodies.

The Commission has broad duties laid upon it to promote equality and human rights (set out in the Equality Act) , including on the grounds of sexual orientation and has published an Equality Scheme laying out its approach to equality work in different areas as well as having as its role the support of different strands of equality legislation.

We all have a responsibility to hold the Commission to be effective in its role and also to make it clear that we oppose any hierarchy of discrimination. We also have a role to play in scrutinising the activities of Commission members and highlighting any thing that raises concerns.

One of the principal problems that we face now is the problem of alienationa and paranoia as a propaganda tool.

We definitely saw this is the debate over Goods and Services (and Joel Edwards was one of the very few evangelical voices to ward against this trend - especially in his 'Letter to leaders of Alliance member churches' on the subject).

Getting non-paranoid evangelical leaders onto the EHRC can be very valuable in ensuring that the more outlandish statements don't in the future get credance. We have also seen exaggeration and paranoia being out to good use in the debates over the Mental Health Bill - it's now a well recognised political tool.

In addition to this, religious communities do have (sometimes legitimate) concerns about human rights like freedom of religion and belief, freedom of expression and so on where there is a tension between equality provisions and human rights and it is probably better to have some faith representatives on the EHRC to be part of the solution as well as being part of a clear analysis that can address their concerns (which I acknowldege) in a realistic way and also calm down the more exaggerated claims of organisations in the 'Religious Right' such as Anglican Mainstream and so on that I have added to my blog lists as being 'ones to watch'.

Finally I believe in tolerance, pluralism and social dialogue in a way that not everyone does. This means accepting diversity of views and being political about them, not demonising your opponents.

For me this is part of our multicutluralism whilst balancing this with provision for human rights for all and making sure they are an indispensable part of our national culture.

Christian communities in the UK are not (in my view) under threat. The protection of gay people from discrimination is in my view a core right that crosses all communities and all communities have a role in ensuring that that happens.

On balance I think that we'll make further progress with the likes of Joel Edwards (who has expressed support for the principle of protecting gay people from discriminaiton through the law) on board.

I am sure that this is the right way to go but I welcome comments of dissent.