Posts Tagged ‘British Politics’
Political Compass is an attempt, based on how strongly you feel about a series of questions, to see where you are on the left/right and authoritarian/libertarian spectrum (not sure of margin of error). Here are my results from this week:
This does seem to politically put me in a rather isolated position, with Nelson Mandela almost removing me from solitary confinement:
Still that is what you get for being a social liberal antiauthoritarian, concerned about big government, using normative economics so that Rawlsian social justice is effectively delivered by social institutions. My answers make me the mirror opposite of the pope – the pope’s contrarian.
What really interested was the analysis on the British Political Parties featured on the graph below over time.
I was a member of the Liberal Democrats since 2003 – almost perfect alignment with my views. However, since then to now the outlook of the political party has been moving away as it went more for the centre ground where most of the electorate is to be found in the top right hand corner.
Since the coalition took office 2010 you could argue that the Liberal Democrats are even closer to the Conservative position. The result should therefore not be surprising that, for people like me, there was no reason to renew my membership – quite simply the party was no longer what it once was and had overtime moved away from where we once thought the same.
Some may suggest that the reality of government led to people that wanted the cosiness of opposition to leave, because the idea of compromise and consensus did not fit the rebellious mentality. The analysis of the graphs here suggests what I would argue – the Liberal Democrats no longer represents the views of people like myself who believe in social justice without an authoritative state. So last year I did not bother to renew my membership.
Have a hunch not alone. It was not the deal to power, but the ideological moving away that happened over a ten year period. As such, it is not just a matter of people coming round to the idea that coalition was a necessary thing. Rather, it was being left out in the cold so when goodwill was necessary for a deal with the Conservatives it was no longer there.
As such I am a political animal in the wilderness. However, I am determined to roar.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
The first police and crime commissioners [PCC] have been elected, as concerns are raised about low turnout in parts of England and Wales.
Numerous areas have confirmed turnouts ranging from 13-20%.
The chairwoman of the Electoral Commission said the turnout was “a concern for everyone who cares about democracy”.
Indeed accept there are many reasons why the majority did not vote, apart from being treated with contempt by advertising such as in the above photo:
We did not ask for the positions to be created
Majority of us not asked by candidates to vote for them
Another tax payer funded position for career party hacks and bureaucrats
Independents stood no fair chance against party machine (11 out of 39 are independents)
Cost over a hundred million pounds to stage this election.
There was an existing mechanism for scrutinising the police
I write this as someone that represented young people (too long ago) on a board with other community members that talked to the police and in effect held them to account by the questions we could ask and reports they prepared. It would be wrong to say there was no public accounting previously.
So what if someone says if you did not vote you cannot talk about crime? Well as someone that has helped in a citizen’s arrest, had bicycles stolen, had people try to break into my property with me in it and been subjected to an attempted mugging I can not only talk about crime but tell you to stop talking nonsense.
Related blog: Citizen Arrest
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
If liquidity is a problem in the economy, then a cut in interest rates is a good idea. A coordinated move by six central banks made a cut of 0.5% today – a surprise in the UK where the decision was thought to be made on Thursday when the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee was due to meet. The question though is why did this take so long in coming – this was an obvious first step to take, which could be done quicker than injecting money back into the system. It would have been a signal to the market that central bankers were taking concerns over an economic downturn seriously.
However stock markets are still falling – the FTSE falling by 5% today, the Dax by nearly 6% and Dow Jones at the moment a modest 0.16% gain. Bankers are looking for governments to step in to buy shares, to help market capitalisation – effectively so that they have the funds for the financial system. The domino effect on business and consumers is very real, but the government’s must not write a blank cheque on this. While depositors need to know their funds are secure (to prevent runs on banks), those banking models that put a bank effectively out of business need to be allowed to go under, managed only so that they do not impact on banks which are struggling because of the financial crisis – not due to bad loans. Toxic debt should not be taken completely at face value.
In other major developments:[source BBC News]
- The UK government unveiled a package of measures aimed at rescuing the banking system which could add up to £400bn ($692bn)
- European and US stock markets fell as investors remained unconvinced that the co-ordinated rate cuts and bank rescues would solve the financial crisis.
- All UK savers with accounts in the closed Icelandic internet bank Icesave were told they would get all their money back.
- The Treasury arranged for more than £3bn of UK savers’ money held with Icelandic banks Kaupthing Edge and Heritable Bank to be transferred to ING Direct UK.
- Iceland’s prime minister said he hoped to find a “mutually satisfactory solution” to the loss of UK Icesave deposits after Prime Minister Gordon Brown threatened to sue Iceland to recover the money.
The big interest cuts cuts should have been made sooner. One factor that helps is that it will make the cost of borrowing cheaper. Something which governments with budget deficits need. The only other problem is that with little money going around government borrowing so much will crowd out private sector investment. That however is less of a concern then a banking system that is seized up.
It may seem like socialism to some. Yet there is no need to reward failure or to encourage risky loans. The problem is that the market is usually better at picking winners than governments are. Decisions by central governments have to be done on the basis of what is best for their economy – bringing stability and confidence back into the system. Raising the amount of deposits secured by the state was a positive step.
The question is why it took so long for national governments to act on the levers that they readily had at their disposal. That lack of confidence in handling the credit system crisis is one reason why stock markets are not rallying quickly. The confidence in the world economy is bleak, not helped by a wait and see attitude that for example the UK government has shown on a “case by case” mentality. The government finally announcing measures that make available £400 billion ($692bn) to allow the credit system to flow again as the banks have stopped lending to each other is welcome.
The key points of the plan are:[source BBC News]
- Banks will have to increase their capital by at least £25bn and can borrow from the government to do so.
- An additional £25bn in extra capital will be available in exchange for preference shares.
- £100bn will be available in short-term loans from the Bank of England, on top of an existing loan facility worth £100bn.
- Up to £250bn in loan guarantees will be available at commercial rates to encourage banks to lend to each other.
- To participate in the scheme banks will have to sign up to an FSA agreement on executive pay and dividends.
The failure of macro economic policy lies squarely with elected governments – that enjoyed the good times but did not heed the warning signs till a crisis hit the system. Voters being kicked out of their jobs will have their revenge when election time comes. Much of the pain could have been softened if governments had taken action sooner.
In a blog, with reference to Rowan Williams’ lecture, I analyzed the significance of what the Archbishop said about Islam and British Law. I mention that he wanted an accommodation of religious law with British law, and if not joint jurisprudence, at least the law to support religious sensibility in a way it may not apply equally to someone that did not profess that faith.
His predecessor Lord Carey summed it up rather well:
The archbishop is said to be shocked by the reaction to his comments and said on his website he “certainly did not call for its introduction as some kind of parallel jurisdiction to the civil law”.
But the criticism mounted as Lord Carey warned in an article for the News of the World: “He has in my opinion overstated the case for accommodating Islamic legal codes.
Lord Carey says there should be “no exceptions” to British law.
“His conclusion that Britain will eventually have to concede some place in law for aspects of Sharia is a view I cannot share.
“There can be no exceptions to the laws of our land which have been so painfully honed by the struggle for democracy and human rights. (From BBC News site)
There have been some calls for him to resign as Archbishop. To be honest my concerns have been met that he has been roundly criticised the length and breadth of the country and if he wishes to clarify that he did not mean what his words seem to impart than I would be even more happy.
There is something familiar about the Archbishop talking about another faith. Prince Charles, one day to be anointed due to conception to the throne of these Isles, once said he wanted to be “Defender of Faith”. Which misses the historical the which placed emphasis on there being really only one particular one to subscribe too. In past history subscription was a matter of life and death in the temporal world. British Law thankfully threw out that religious sensibility.
Yet when examining the religious claims that are made by various faiths the application of logic dictates that they cannot all be right. Their lack of anything substantive to make good why they know who God is, let alone that there is a God, suggests that all religious claims towards the supernatural have to be taken with so much salt that the diet would be hazardous to one’s health in this lifetime. It is healthier for the mind not to practise gullibility in swallowing codswallop.
Now as to whether we are better off living by some of the tenets of faith, that is a different question. Though I reject that I need to believe in the supernatural to make these things good. They are either good for me to live by or at least the common good by which it benefits me. The morality of such tenets will be the ethical consideration they give in causing suffering, or joy to others and the equal consideration of others it gives when assessing this.
The Golden Rule seems brilliant, and one worth keeping. Show pity to orphans and widows, yes it sounds fine to me. Disown my mother and father if they do not share my faith, no that sounds heartless and cruel. To kill someone that rejects my faith, an anathema to any free thinker. Yet I do not need religion in order to apply the Golden Rule or to derive it. I cannot think of a good deed that only a religious believer would do that a non believer could not do. But I can imagine plenty of things a religious believer would do that a non believer would not.
My concern with religion is that it seems to allow people to legitimise actions which no decent empathetic creature with an ounce of compassion would do or even dream of considering. The idea that on seeing a new born baby that genital mutilation is what is called for could only happen because religion made it so. That a child needs life saving treatment but is denied because either it shows a lack of faith or an ancient text somehow implies that a modern treatment should not be used.
Not everyone uses religion thus. Thank goodness, because faith seems to have the scope to support the unequal treatment of believers, the subordination of human rights on the basis of religious conviction, and even murder of apostates.
I would happily make this deal with those that follow a religion – by all means follow it and be happy, aim to do no harm. Please do not try to make me happy by inviting me to your faith. It does not appeal to me. Further, do not on the basis of your sensibilities try to take away my rights, my partners rights, my children’s rights, my parents rights, because you claim to know the mind of god and that what this being you know so well wants must ipso facto be good for us.
You cannot get away with that argument anymore. It has no part in a rational discourse about morality or any conception of the common good. More then ever it looks like the Archbishop may be feeling the fight back on this, because we can see that in the name of religious sensibility and conscience will much harm be done.
Enough has been done in the name of religion for the supposed common good. We need more than the interpretation of ancient texts for that. We need to embrace the common humanity that inspires the best out of us, the empathy that allows us to consider one another, the rational discourse to frame laws that lead to the common good. What the Archbishop proposed went against this, perhaps in ways he can not understand – I hope with the criticism he may begin to appreciate how come.
I know that for some people being of a religion is less significant than their star sign. But all I am asking is that people really question the super naturalism under pinning their faith, the ancient superstition that strikes fear to obedience, and the apparent absurdity that because I reject the blood of Christ I must by definition be a bad person, rightly destined to an after life of misery and hell. Thankfully I know that is not true, but those wishing it to be true and wanting it to be so – if only you showed such conviction for this in the here and now that the blackness of your heart may be shown. Yet has not history already shown that blackness, and has religion been the fierce horse it has ridden on more often in use then the bolt on the stable door to such feeling?
The only thing that seems to guard against such feelings causing harm is the secular state in a liberal democracy that values universal human rights. If you disagree Archbishop, then be prepared for much more criticism to come.
It seems that not content with trying to deal with a fractious Anglican world community that Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, has given a lecture talking about religious rights within a secular state. The title of the first lecture given on the 7 February was “Islam in English Law: Civil and Religious Law in England” which can be read here. What follows is my response which is important to those that think the Church of England is a benign organisation – because in the lecture Williams challenges and threatens the secular state, enlightenment values, and the separation of public and private spheres of religion. This lecture has thankfully been condemned by all parties in the UK Parliament.
In the lecture Williams is keen to suggest that there needs to be an accommodation between State law and religious law:
Even when some of the more dramatic fears are set aside, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about what degree of accommodation the law of the land can and should give to minority communities with their own strongly entrenched legal and moral codes. (Page 1)
Yet Sharia law is about applying the will of Allah as it applies to human affairs. How should the state examine what claims divine providence in rulings regarding marriage and financial arrangements? There can be in the dealings between citizens and state only one law of the land on such matters.
Williams tries to allow for a distinction between being a member of the umma and being a citizen:
There has therefore to be some concept of common good that is not prescribed solely in terms of revealed Law, however provisional or imperfect such a situation is thought to be. And this implies in turn that the Muslim, even in a predominantly Muslim state, has something of a dual identity, as citizen and as believer within the community of the faithful. (Page 2)
Yet the point is that the law, as it stands with regards to marriage and financial arrangements, is codified and enforceable irrespective of the religion or none of the parties concerned. The secular government does not see religious courts as a threat to its monopoly. Rather there can be no different laws in operation for different citizens based on what particular super natural deity they believe or do not believe in. It is the opportunity for unfairness and unequal treatment.Without apparent irony Williams tries to use that argument about how one law of the land makes it unfair to people of religious belief:
In general, when there is a robust affirmation that the law of the land should protect individuals on the grounds of their corporate religious identity and secure their freedom to fulfil religious duties, a number of queries are regularly raised. (Page 3)
When there are marriage difficulties, and a matter needs resolving, why does Sharia Law need to be enacted between the two parties? The law is clear about the legal rights and obligations. That there may be an Islamic way does not need to have the force of law – the secular state is only concerned that the law is not broken with regard to the rights of both parties. These rights are given to all citizens and the law enforced on all – there is no special disposition necessary, and Williams fails to show why there needs to be, let alone that British Law should recognise religious law as on a par with it or to run alongside it.The issue becomes whose religious law and interpretation counts, and why the law of the land on an issue should take a back seat because the clergy of a religion wish it to in such matters. What is it that Williams wants – there is no injustice being done here, though it seems that the Catholic adoption agencies not having an opt out on giving children to gay couples is a sensibility and conscience that he wants taken into account (page 1).
It therefore looks like Williams is after allies in a stand off between the secular state and religious faith. They make strange bed fellows, as the actress said to the bishop. Why does the secular lawyer need to be sensitive with the interpretation of the law to a religious group? Why would he have to look to the authority of a religious body when also looking at the authority of the law?
The secular lawyer needs to know where the potential conflict is real, legally and religiously serious, and where it is grounded in either nuisance or ignorance. (Page 4)
It only amounts to whether religious views of human affairs need to be taken into account on a par, above or below the rule of law. The archbishop makes no way of knowing how this could be enacted. He does note the problem:
The problem here is that recognising the authority of a communal religious court to decide finally and authoritatively about such a question would in effect not merely allow an additional layer of legal routes for resolving conflicts and ordering behaviour but would actually deprive members of the minority community of rights and liberties that they were entitled to enjoy as citizens; and while a legal system might properly admit structures or protocols that embody the diversity of moral reasoning in a plural society by allowing scope for a minority group to administer its affairs according to its own convictions, it can hardly admit or ‘license’ protocols that effectively take away the rights it acknowledges as generally valid. (Page 4)
The answer is simple my Lord Bishop – do not give religious law legal force. There is a reason why the law book of England is not the Bible. The law has developed based on tradition, culture, legal practise and Parliamentary Democracy within a liberal pluralist political system. Because a sub group feel passionate in their way of living does not make them a special case when it comes to temporal matters.His answer however is that the believer would have the right of appeal based on secular rights – that the jurisdiction of British law would trump Sharia law. The question then becomes why give legal weight to Sharia Law which under certain circumstances could be superseded? It becomes not only a recipe for conflict and legal wrangling but is ceding the rule of law to a religious body. It is a step back to the dark ages.
Rather than helping believers and none to live together in harmony this is something that would if enacted like Williams suggests tear the nation apart. The rule of law would not apply equally. Under what circumstances would someone accept less than their full rights that secular law gives them? Do we imagine such circumstances are done out of respect for the law of Allah, or fear of the community that they live in? What Williams promotes for harden the lines that already separate towns and cities across this nation. Many Muslims are in this country because their descendants were secularists fleeing the cruel imposition of religious law. He may not be advocating it, but the principle is the same – the law of the land applies to one and all, and is not based on supposed divine text and bodies with authority to interpret the mind of God.
It is ludicrous to even suppose that anyone even knows the mind of God. Frankly no one can know the mind of God and anyone that does or claims such authority should be outside any rational discussion of how we as human beings need to coordinate and live our lives together. Next Williams will be attacking the enlightenment. Thus did the servant of God (which one I am unsure of now):
So much of our thinking in the modern world, dominated by European assumptions about universal rights, rests, surely, on the basis that the law is the law; that everyone stands before the public tribunal on exactly equal terms, so that recognition of corporate identities or, more seriously, of supplementary jurisdictions is simply incoherent if we want to preserve the great political and social advances of Western legality.There is a bit of a risk here in the way we sometimes talk about the universal vision of post-Enlightenment politics. (Page 5)
Apparently the law recognising us all as equal cannot cope with complex social realities. But then Williams makes it clear that the real battle is between the public and private sphere:
But if the reality of society is plural – as many political theorists have pointed out – this is a damagingly inadequate account of common life, in which certain kinds of affiliation are marginalised or privatised to the extent that what is produced is a ghettoised pattern of social life, in which particular sorts of interest and of reasoning are tolerated as private matters but never granted legitimacy in public as part of a continuing debate about shared goods and priorities.
But this means that we have to think a little harder about the role and rule of law in a plural society of overlapping identities. Perhaps it helps to see the universalist vision of law as guaranteeing equal accountability and access primarily in a negative rather than a positive sense – that is, to see it as a mechanism whereby any human participant in a society is protected against the loss of certain elementary liberties of self-determination and guaranteed the freedom to demand reasons for any actions on the part of others for actions and policies that infringe self-determination. (Page 6)
Williams misunderstands the political concept of pluralism. It denotes that because of overlapping membership of interest groups it should be possible for a liberal democracy to come to equilibrium in policy out comes. The private life of citizens, for example their religious belief and practises are theirs alone. They cannot be binding on other parties whether believers or not with anything like the force of law – for that is to enter into the public sphere and to have a hold on another citizen which denies them their right to liberty and to pursue their own belief system. It is the principle of the freedom of religious belief and none.The public sphere is concerned with the interaction of citizens. As such the rule of law is how people shall conduct themselves, and addresses their grievances about each other and the rights that they want enforced. As such these rights have negative and positive aspects of liberty. The Archbishop should be more careful when trying to talk about post enlightenment politics. Perhaps he should stick to faith, and even then may be the Christian one which is in his job description.
Here too is cause for concern:
I’d add in passing that this is arguably a place where more reflection is needed about the theology of law; if my analysis is right, the sort of foundation I have sketched for a universal principle of legal right requires both a certain valuation of the human as such and a conviction that the human subject is always endowed with some degree of freedom over against any and every actual system of human social life; both of these things are historically rooted in Christian theology, even when they have acquired a life of their own in isolation from that theology. (Page 7)
What we have here is effectively Williams suggesting that freedom means that people can appeal beyond the law of the land to a higher power – namely God. Sharia Law represents the mind of Allah Williams tells us early in his lecture. The consequences is that if you believe that God calls for you to do something then you may have a freedom given by God that no human society can take away from you. This is probably how the Taliban feel in Afghanistan.The Archbishop is talking about multiculturalism, all be it is a very narrow spectrum of things:
it might be possible to think in terms of what she calls ‘transformative accommodation’: a scheme in which individuals retain the liberty to choose the jurisdiction under which they will seek to resolve certain carefully specified matters, so that ‘power-holders are forced to compete for the loyalty of their shared constituents’ (122). This may include aspects of marital law, the regulation of financial transactions and authorised structures of mediation and conflict resolution – the main areas that have been in question where supplementary jurisdictions have been tried, with native American communities in Canada as well as with religious groups like Islamic minority communities in certain contexts. In such schemes, both jurisdictional stakeholders may need to examine the way they operate; a communal/religious nomos, to borrow Shachar’s vocabulary, has to think through the risks of alienating its people by inflexible or over-restrictive applications of traditional law, and a universalist Enlightenment system has to weigh the possible consequences of ghettoising and effectively disenfranchising a minority, at real cost to overall social cohesion and creativity. Hence ‘transformative accommodation’: both jurisdictional parties may be changed by their encounter over time, and we avoid the sterility of mutually exclusive monopolies. (Page 7-8)
The question though is why another law on issues covered by existing law should be given precedence? One must remember that this is not a tribe or nation that we have invaded and we are putting illegitimately our laws over them as conquerors. Some would uncharitably claim quite the reverse – people from another culture and tradition have come to our shores and demand that our rules should not take precedence over what they believe is better. Williams would like them to appeal to our laws should they wish. A sort of pick and mix of laws to go with the modern religious menu a la carte of what part of the faith you believe or do not believe.
I can think of no better reason than this lecture to show why theologians should be kept out of the legislative chamber. For the sake of the law of the land giving justice as fairness to all let the unelected Bishops go from the Upper Chamber of Parliament if this is the way they think!
Here on my blog I pledge my support for the amendment, and include the British Humanist Association e mail regarding the bill working its way through the House of Commons which follows below:
On Wednesday 9th January, an amendment to the Criminal Justice and
Immigration Bill will be made by [Dr Evan Harris MP] to abolish the
offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel are abolished.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) has long campaigned for the
blasphemy laws to be abolished, and we have been briefing MPs about the
present amendment, as well as representing the case for abolition to
Government – we are strongly supporting it, and you can help to support
We need to demonstrate to MPs that their constituents support this move
and we have set up a facility whereby you can email your MP directly by
going to http://tinyurl.com/2gkm7w
Please click the link today and help to abolish this antiquated law!
Reasons to abolish the blasphemy laws
There are a number of compelling reasons to abolish the blasphemy laws,
which are listed below.
· The blasphemy law is contrary to the principle of free speech
and is probably contrary to human rights laws adopted by the UK, which
protect freedom of expression. The law fundamentally protects certain,
Christian, beliefs and makes it illegal to question them or deny them.
· There is considerable evidence that the blasphemy law restricts
free speech even in the absence of recent prosecutions. It undoubtedly
influences the behaviour not only of individuals and the media, but also
of bodies exercising official functions.
· The blasphemy law protects beliefs, not people. It is right,
subject to safeguards, for society through its laws to protect
individuals and groups within it from hatred and attack. It is quite
wrong to extend the protection of the law to propositions, creeds and
· In a free society we must be allowed to criticise religious
doctrines and practices, even if that offends some people. While it may
be offensive to some Christian believers to hear their beliefs mocked or
denied that is equally true of people of other faiths, and of
unbelievers, who repeatedly hear atheism equated with a lack of values
or immorality. In an open and pluralist society there should be no
inhibition to free speech without the very strongest justification, and
robust debate should be expected and accepted in religious as in
political and other spheres.
· The blasphemy law is uncertain. As common law, with a very
limited number of cases, it is impossible to predict how the courts
might interpret the law in any putative case. This is contrary to the
principles of good law, and unacceptable in practice.
· The blasphemy law lacks credibility. Although no one has been
imprisoned for blasphemy since 1921, and private prosecutions are no
longer possible, the possibility of a prison sentence remains, and a law
that is only enforced at intervals of many years is an indefensible
· The blasphemy law allows no defence of merit or lack of
intent, which is contrary to the principles adopted in other areas, for
· The blasphemy law defends only Christianity (and principally
the doctrines of the Church of England), which is unacceptable in a
society characterised by its diversity of beliefs. Such unequal
treatment naturally arouses resentment and demands for the privilege to
be extended to other groups.
· Rather than extend the blasphemy laws to other religious
beliefs, which in practice would constitutes the severest restriction on
discussion of fundamental matters of profound significance and interest,
the most fair and most equal and equal solution would be to abolish the
The British Humanist Association
1 Gower Street
London WC1E 6HD
Tel: 020 7079 3580
ADDITIONAL: From National Secular Society:
“In the light of the widespread outrage at the conviction of the British teacher for blasphemy in Sudan over the name of a teddy bear we believe it is now time to repeal our own blasphemy law.“The ancient common law of blasphemous libel purports to protect beliefs rather than people or communities. Most religious commentators are of the view that the Almighty does not need the “protection” of such a law. We are representatives of religious, secular, legal and artistic opinion in this country and share the view that the blasphemy offence serves no useful purpose. Yet it allows small partisan organisations or well-funded individuals to try to censor broadcasters like the BBC and to intimidate small theatres, the printed media and book publishers.“Far from protecting public order for which other laws are more suited it actually damages social cohesion. It is discriminatory in that it only covers attacks on Christianity and Church of England tenets and thus engenders an expectation among other religions that their sensibilities should be also protected by the criminal law (as with the attempt to charge Salman Rushdie) and a sense of grievance among minority religions that they do not benefit from their own version of such a law.“As the Law Commission acknowledged as far back as 1985, when they recommended repeal, it is uncertain in scope, lack of intention is no defence and yet it is unlimited in penalty. This, together with its chilling effect on free expression and its discriminatory impact, leaves it in clear breach of human rights law and in the end no one is ever likely to be convicted under it.“The Church of England no longer opposes its abolition and the Government has given no principled reason to defend its retention. We call upon MPs to support the amendment proposed by Dr Evan Harris, Frank Dobson and John Gummer tomorrow during the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill Report stage proceedings and for the Governmentt which rightly criticises countries like Sudan for their blasphemy laws to give it a fair wind.”
The new Liberal Democrat leader in the UK on radio saying he did not believe in god is not really news – he gave the main speech at the Lib Dem Humanist and Secular dinner a while back. However, even the BBC has given a tabloid like treatment to the news.
I wrote about the reason for a new leader here. Clegg is on the classical liberal side while the challenger he narrowly saw off (though Clegg had more MP support, in the leadership rules my vote is equal to an MPs) Chris Huhne is more of the social democratic type. The Lib Dems formed by a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party (the SDP in turn being formed by the gang of four MPs that previously had been Labour Cabinet Ministers).
Most of the reaction has been that it is not really an issue. The Archbishop of Canterbury weighed in saying honesty and responsibility were far more important than the religious or otherwise opinions of politicians. A documentary of Tony Blair recently covered his religious belief and his term in office - though the interview was so tame that when he refused to answer a question it just stopped (thank goodness it was David Frost and not this team that interviewed Nixon!).
Having said that Nixon was a Quaker. The actions and character of a person are much more important things to judge someone by. Having said that I remember in my younger days when I was a Labour activist (just before leaving the party in disgust because they did a U turn in office and introduced tuition fess for university causing a housing crisis for students that did not take their gap year, that took months to sort out) trying to get the vote out for Ben Bradshaw in Exeter while I studied there.
On the door, some people refused to support him, even though they were Labour, because he was gay. Even the Conservatives locally made it an issue – stating do not let the pink flag fly above the town hall. When Labour won in 1997 and Bradshaw won I was elated. Only to become bitterly disappointed, not just with the party but also when Bradshaw attacked John Simpson for reporting that NATO bombing had brought the people of Serbia together with the campaign that they were all targets – Ben was wheeled out because he was a journalist himself and his character assassination attempt on Newsnight backfired.
Gordon Brown has his moral compass from his lay preaching father, David Cameron has opportunity and social mobility, and it would seem that Nick Clegg’s is about personal individual freedom and Brian Eno (to get in touch with younger voters).
Well we will see how it all pans out.