9 Dec 2007

Some people are Gay - Get Over It!


Some people are gay. Get over it! Earlier this year Stonewall asked 150 secondary school students to help them come up with a simple and dynamic message to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying. The result was a powerful range of campaign materials: Some people are gay. Get over it! This message of zero-tolerance to homophobic behaviour has been produced as posters, postcards and stickers, and in November was sent to all 5000 secondary schools in England as part of national Anti-Bullying Week. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with hundreds of schools asking for more materials. Star of Doctor Who and Torchwood John Barrowman has lent his support to the campaign, urging people to give their support: "Join me in Stonewall's Education for All campaign and help exterminate homophobia. Be bold. Be brave. Be a buddy not a bully." In fact, requests have come in from across the world, with posters being sighted as far away as Austria, Canada, France, Hungary and the U.S.A!


Support Education for All by clicking here and ordering your campaign materials.

Sperm donor ordered to pay child maintenance

A man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple is being made to pay maintenance by the Child Support Agency (CSA). Andy Bathie, 37, from Enfield, north London, claims he was assured by the couple he would have no personal or financial involvement for the children. He donated his sperm as a friend rather than go through a fertility clinic. This is a common arrangement due to limted access to assisted reproduction in clinics for lesbians. The couple though claim differently and say that Bathie did have some involvement and in fact behaved as a full time father and therefore should take some financial responsibility.

The CSA said only anonymous donors at licensed centres are exempt from being treated as the legal father of a child born as a result of their donation. Bathie, a firefighter, said he cannot afford to have children with his own wife due to the financial implications. The lesbian couple, who approached the couple five years ago after they married in a civil ceremony, have a boy and a girl. They said that they were put under pressure from the CSA to reveal the identity of the Father otherwise their Income Support would be reduced.

Mr Bathie said he reacted with "shock, anger and despair", when he was contacted by the CSA in November. He said: "I don't have any particular ill will. It's the fact that I still even now don't see why I should have to pay for another couple's children."

A spokesman for Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said: "The law says that men donating sperm through licensed fertility clinics are not the legal father of any child born through that donation. "Men giving out their sperm in any other way - such as via internet arrangements - are legally the father of any children born with all the responsibilities that carries."

A spokeswoman for CSA said: "Unless the child is legally adopted, both biological parents are financially responsible for their child - the Child Support Agency legislation is not gender or partnership based." Ministers have drawn up fertility reforms giving equal parenting rights to same-sex couples who "marry" in a civil partnership. This means they will be recognised as the legal parents of children conceived through sperm donation.

However, this just shows how much pressure the CSA put on women to name the father of a child and the narrow exceptions when the Father cannot be named. This is truly discriminatory to lesbians and gay men who twenty years ago would not have any access to fertility clinics and even now still have limited access. The law still requires that access to assisted reproduction needs to take into account the child's need for a father which deters lesbians from accessing such services or even being refused services. However, it is likely that a same sex partner's resources would be taken into account if the other partner was being assessed to pay child support for chldren from a previous heterosexual relationship which is the irony of the situation.

The changes in the law if they do happen will come too late for Mr Bathie, although he is pushing for the law to be retrospective. However these changes are meeting with attacks from anti-gay peers and there have been amendments submitted to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to prevent the changes that Mr Bathie is calling for. The amendments are likely to be debated at the next reading of the bill in House of Lords Committee on the 10th December 2007. Following committee stage the bill will proceed to the Commons.

For more on the bill read previous
post. Also see analysis in Pink News.

2 Dec 2007

Hidden Hate

On the 29th November a committee of MPs approved amendments to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill that will make incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation an offence which is long overdue. None of the Conservative MPs on the committee voted against the proposals. The Bill will now proceed to a report stage and third reading in the Commons before being sent to the Lords. See further details from Pink News.

It was
originally thought that the provisions would be extended to cover incitement to hatred against trans people and disabled people but this does not now appear to be the case for definate and is only going to be considered. With the recent murder of Kellie Telesford and the countless murder, torture and brutality of trans people worldwide such as Gisberta, there is overwhelming evidence that the law needs to be extended to cover hatred against Trans people.

Incitement against hatred towards disabled people is also so much needed. Disability organisations and charities report that crimes against disabled people is worryingly common but there is massive under-reporting. The 2003 Criminal Justice Act made it the courts' duty to increase the sentence for "any offence aggravated by hostility based on the victim's disability". The law came into force in 2005, but the CPS only started recording cases as "disability aggravated" in April this year. Since then only 68 cases had been identified, but a BBC Radio 5 Live Report
Hidden Hate has new figures showing a third of these were incorrectly recorded.

The CPS says at least 30 cases have been successfully prosecuted and it is "firmly committed to bringing the perpetrators of crimes against disabled people to justice". It points to a new system of 42 area-based disability hate crime coordinators, the inclusion of a new "disability aggravated" category into its monitoring of cases, and a new campaign to raise awareness among staff. The police have also accepted there has been massive under-reporting of the issue. Real levels were estimated to represent a "many 100-fold increase of cases compared to what the police know about" according to Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris in recent evidence to a parliamentary group considering the issue.

Several recent high profile cases have helped bring the issue to prominence including
Kevin Davies, who had epilepsy and died after being locked up in a shed for five months and tortured by so-called friends. He was starved, beaten, burnt, branded, cut and neglected until he died. Murder could not be proved because Kevin had epilepsy and it was possible he died from a seizure. The defendants pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and assault but the case was not investigated as a disability hate crime.

See BBC Article
Fears of Disability Hate Crime, CPS Disability Hate Crime Policy, CPS Guidance on prosecuting homophobic hate crime

1 Dec 2007

Dont Dis-my-Ability - UN International Day of Disabled Persons - 3rd December 2007

The United Nations General Assembly announced that 3 December is to be observed every year as the International Day of Disabled Persons. The Day was initially proclaimed to commemorate the anniversary of the General Assembly's adoption of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled people to promote understanding about disability issues and to increase awareness. The UN Programme on Disability is the lead programme on disability within the United Nations System. It is housed in the Division for Social Policy and Development at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN Secretariat. The programme stems from the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons adopted by the United Nations in 1982 and the Standard Rules on Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities adopted in 1994.

The major objectives of the Programme are the following:

  • To support the full and effective participation of disabled people in social life and development
  • To advance the rights and protect the dignity of disabled people
  • To promote equal access to employment, education, information, goods and services

The International Year of Disabled Persons, 1981, was a milestone in the long history of the struggle of disabled people against discrimination and segregation, and for equal rights. The World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons recognised disabled persons first and foremost as citizens vested with all the rights and obligations that this implied. For the next 50 years, the United Nations’ commitment to ‘a society for all’ will continue to make a difference in the lives not only of disabled people, but among all people

This year's International Day of Disabled Persons focuses on how to ensure decent work for disabled people and on ways to tap into the abilities of this marginalized talent pool. The recently adopted Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes in Article 27 the rights of disabled people to work and employment on an equal basis with others. It stresses the right of disabled people to earn a living from freely chosen work, and to work in an environment that is both accessible and accepting. More details about the Convention and the International Day of Disabled Persons are available on the United Nations Enable website.

(Dont
DIS my ABILITY is the slogan of the New South Wales Government International Day of Disabled Persons)


26 Nov 2007

Oxford debacle delayed but goes ahead despite protests

Students say the views of the controversial speakers are not valid debate at the Oxford Union which got underway after being delayed when protesters forced their way into the building.
BNP leader Nick Griffin and controversial historian David Irving were invited to talk about free speech. Thirty protesters pushed their way into the hall to stage a sit-down protest at the debating table. Earlier, 500 people staged a sit-down demonstration outside the gates of the building, preventing about half the students due to attend from getting in. Anti-racism campaigners said the two men should not be given a platform to speak at the debate in St Michael's Street, Oxford. Protesters chanted anti-fascist slogans and jeered "shame on you".
Martin Mcluskey, from the Oxford University Students' Union, said: "What we are doing here tonight at the Oxford Union is putting them on a platform that will give them legitimacy and credibility. It is as if we are saying that we agree with what they are saying and that we think it is valid." Novelist Anne Atkins, who is participating in the debate, said controversial views should not be silenced but exposed. When you say that the majority view is always right I think that is a deeply dangerous and disturbing thing to say. I am not for a moment saying that I agree with David Irving or Nick Griffin but I am saying that once you start having truth by democracy you risk silencing some of the most important prophets we have ever had."

Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis has resigned his membership of the Oxford debating union in protest describing the two men as "a couple of scoundrels" in his resignation letter.

Griffin has repeatedly insisted the BNP is not a racist group. He was convicted in 1998 for incitement to racial hatred for material denying the Holocaust. Irving was imprisoned for three years after pleading guilty to Holocaust denial in Austria.

Freedom of speech should not be used as a platform to propogate the views of such men which are clearly fascist and racist and Oxford Student Union should be ashamed of itself.

Support UAF - Unite Against Fascism

Brown getting blurred!

It's been a rought two months for Gordon. What with the general election that never was. The tactics were there and they initially shook the Tories but there was no exit strategy and it backfired resulting in the reduction in the polls. And then the Northern Rock fiasco showing the financial institution was not that solid. Not very good considering his last job was Chancellor and now we hear that Richard Branson who has his finger in the majority of privatised public transport is likely to come to the rescue building his empire up even further. Then there was the slipped disk fiasco. Who in their right mind can believe that so much personal date can be downloaded onto disk and sent off on a van? And now an enquiry into donations resulting in the resignation of the Labour Party General Secretary. Come on Gordon, get your house in order.

LGBT Australians look forward to Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras has come early as confirmation that not only that Labor won the general election but Howard has lost his seat . Gay rights have been a theme in this race. The announcement of a general election prompted evangelical groups in the country to begin campaigning against gay equality. The Labour party took the line that marriage is for heterosexuals only, and would grant legal concessions to homosexuals, but not the legal status of marriage. "On the institution of marriage itself, our view is between a man and woman and it's just been our traditional, continuing view," Mr Rudd said in October. Labour said that they will support changes to the law to remove inequities in the tax and benefits system that discriminate against same-sex couples. A report in June by Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) recommended that 58 laws need to be changed to grant gay, bisexual and lesbian Australians equal rights.

Australia's new government will issue a formal apology to Aborigines for the abuses they suffered in the past, prime minister-elect Kevin Rudd has promised. Mr Rudd, whose Labor Party swept to power in an election on Saturday, said the apology would come early in his first parliamentary term. Indigenous Australians remain an impoverished minority, with a much lower life expectancy than the rest of the population. Thousands of Aboriginal children were handed over to white families under Australian government assimilation policies from 1915 to 1969.

Sydney Mardi Gras will take place Saturday 9 February - Saturday 1 March 2008

24 Nov 2007

The Sun is Shining Down Under


After 11 years of a conservative Government, australia can now look forward to a new Labor Govenment after Howard conceded to Kevin Rudd in the election and it also looks like Howard will also lose his own seat. The Australian Labor Party has spoken in favour of lgbt rights and faced attacks from conservatives and the church. I know speaking to many LGBT Labor colleagues in Australia, they were extremely cncerned about the coninued attacks on trade union, workers rights and equality that they had been forced to endure over the past decade. The electorate showed it's time for change and now it's time to celebrate.

Defending a woman's right to choose - Abortion Rights

Following the Queen’s speech on 6th November the government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (formerly the Human Tisue and Embryos Bill) has had its First and Second Readings in the House of Lords on 7th and 19th November respectively. Although the Bill itself does not address abortion, it is expected that anti-abortion Peers and/or MPs may table a number of damaging amendments to restrict women’s rights to abortion. In the Lords Second reading debate a stream of anti-abortion Peers took part in the debate and attacked current rights with pro-choice Peers speaking in defence of the 1967 Abortion Act. Pro-choice MPs are planning to table amendments to improve the law during the course of the Bill in the Commons. Amendments in the LordsAnti-abortion amendments that are anticipated are likely to include:
· Reducing the abortion time limit from 24 weeks to 22, 20 or even 13 weeks. Any such measures would have appalling consequences for the women who need later abortion.
Particularly over 20 weeks this is a small number of women but each faces difficult and individual circumstances. Women would be forced against their will to carry on with a pregnancy. Or, if they can afford to, women will travel abroad. Some may try more desperate measures.
· Imposing a ‘cooling off’ period and compulsory counselling for all women seeking abortion. Both measures assume women are not capable of making their own careful decision, creating further distressing delays and adding pressure at what can be a difficult time. We believe women should be trusted with this personal decision.

Amendments in the Lords can be tabled at the Committee stage, which can begin as soon as the second week in December, and also at the Report stage and Third Reading which is expected to take place in January 2008.

Pro-choice Amendments in the CommonsAfter the House of Lords, the Bill will go the House of Commons around February 2008 where amendments to restrict rights are expected again as well as a number of positive amendments to reform the law and improve abortion access for women

These are likely to include:
· Abortion to be available at the request of the pregnant woman within existing legal time limits by removing the need of two doctors’ signatures.
· Abortion services to be subject to the same statutory regulations as other medical services (i.e. ending the need for detailed notification to the Department of Health and certification by doctors of all abortions; and removing the need for premises to be specially licensed by the DOH to carry out abortions).
· Suitably trained nurse practitioners to be allowed to carry out early medical and surgical abortions, in both the NHS and non-NHS sector.
· Ensuring accurate information and non-directive support be available for all women facing an unintended pregnancy.
· The law in Northern Ireland to allow access to abortion commensurate with rights in the rest of the UK.
More detailed information on timetabling and amendments will be known as we go along.
Campaigning. The anti-choice lobby has called upon its supporters to lobby Peers and MPs. They are arranging for a briefing of Peers where Professor Stuart Campbell will show his emotive ‘4D’ scan images. Many Peers and MPs have not yet decided how to vote. They need to hear from pro-choice supporters URGENTLY.

Abortion Rights is lobbying Peers and MPs directly and in alliance with other pro-choice organisations. We will be organising a public initiative for pro-choice supporters to make their voices heard during the course of the Bill's passage in the Lords. Details to follow.
We are also planning a series of public initiatives during the Bill's passage in the Commons, including a lobby of Parliament and public meeting.
You can help by writing directly to your MP TODAY.

A model letter to help with this is below.

The Bill is expected to take only six months to pass through Parliament. This provides a relatively short window of opportunity to mobilise the pro-choice majority and ensure we are successful in opposing any restrictions to the 1967 Abortion Act and extending women’s reproductive rights.

Please speak to your trade union branch, student group, colleagues and friends to ask them to get involved, pass a resolution or organise a discussion or event. Everyone can sign up for updates and action alerts on the Abortion Rights website http://www.abortionrights.org.uk/ or by joining the Facebook group Abortion Rights UK.

Add your voice to the pro-choice majority: http://www.prochoicemajority.org.uk/
Louise Hutchins Campaigns Coordinator, Abortion Rights

WRITE TO YOUR MP!

The time has come for a concerted effort to lobby MPs throughout the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The anti-choice lobby is already very active - MPs are receiving dozens of letters, cards and e-mails. We cannot allow this vociferous minority to dominate the abortion debate.

The most effective and successful way to lobby MPs is to write them a personal letter, ideally in your own words. Handwritten letters have a strong impact on MPs – below is a model letter showing an example of what you could write and some of the points you should raise. Encourage your friends / family / colleagues to write too!

To find out who your MP is and their address go to www.upmystreet.com/commons or call the House of Commons on 020 7219 3000.
Write to them either at their constituency address, if you know it, or at: House of Commons London SW1A 0AA

You can also contact them directly at http://www.writetothem.com/ which is a really useful campaigning website.

To make a lasting impact, meet your MP face-to-face during their weekly surgery. Let them know your concerns about the anti-choice campaign and the importance to defend the time limit and existing law. We can provide evidence based briefings and advice to help prepare your visit.
For more information on the issues to send to your MP download our briefing paper or other resources from the website. You could also point them in the direction of the recent Science and Technology Committee report, or contact Abortion Rights for further information.
Please forward any replies you receive to Abortion Rights to help us build up a picture of parliamentary opinion. You can email us at choice@abortionrights.org.uk or post copies of replies to 18 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL.

MODEL LETTER:
To …………………….MPHouse of CommonsLondonSW1A 0AA
Date:
Dear . . . . . . . . . . . .MP,
I am writing to you about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which is expected to receive amendments on abortion.
Improving abortion law for womenForty years since abortion was legalised in Britain, the majority of public opinion supports the right to choose but women continue to face unnecessary and sometimes distressing barriers to access. These could be easily remedied by reforming the 1967 Abortion Act.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will provide a unique opportunity for MPs to support pro-choice amendments, which are in line with the recommendations of the Commons Science and Technology Committee report further to their enquiry into the scientific advances relating to the 1967 Abortion Act. These will include:
· Abortion to be available at the request of the pregnant woman within existing legal time limits by removing the need of two doctors’ signatures.
· Abortion services to be subject to the same statutory regulations as other medical services (i.e. ending the need for detailed notification to the Department of Health and certification by doctors of all abortions; and removing the need for premises to be specially licensed by the DOH to carry out abortions).
· Suitably trained nurse practitioners to be allowed to carry out early medical and surgical abortions, in both the NHS and non-NHS sector.
· Ensuring accurate information and non-directive support be available for all women facing an unintended pregnancy.
· The law in Northern Ireland to allow access to abortion commensurate with rights in the rest of the UK.
Defending current rightsI also wish to voice my concerns that anti-choice MPs will attempt to restrict women’s abortion rights, including reducing the legal time limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 22, 20 or even 13 weeks. Any such measures would have appalling consequences for the small number of women who need later abortion - each facing very difficult and individual circumstances. Women would be forced against their will to carry on the pregnancy. Or, if they can afford to, women will travel abroad. Some may try more desperate measures.
Other anti-abortion amendments expected would impose a ‘cooling off’ period and compulsory counselling for all women seeking abortion causing further delays and distress.
I urge you to vote against such damaging amendments for women.
As a constituent, I would be grateful if you could let me know your views on these matters. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require further information.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Yours sincerely,
(Sender’s signature)
Name Address Postcode

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (Former Human Tissue and Embryo Bill) - Update on Second Reading

Well we knew it was not going to be a smooth ride. First of all the Bill has now changed it's name to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. At its first reading , concerns were raised about the removal of the clause for a need for a father for women accessing assisted reproduction including remarks that children were not accessories and were gifts from God. Further comments included that the absence of Fathers had resuted in an increase in violence and disorder so the lgbt community must be bringing up some pretty well adjusted kids with our non-traditional families. Gay dads unite!

The second reading of the bill took place earlier last week and again there was heavy criticism and opposition to the removal of the reequirement for clinics to consider "the need of that child for a father" before offering assisted reproduction and access to IVF. In fact Lord Brennan who spoke in the debate collapsed moments after from a heart complaint!

The Catholic church has also condemned the Governments recommendation. In a letter to The Times, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said the plans were "profoundly wrong" and undermined "the place of the father in a child's life". Sir Stephen Wall wrote an interesting letter in response titled 'Love or Law?' which opens up the debate about faith and equality. Also see comment from Cath Elliot in the Guardian.

The bill can be read here. To follow the debate red here First reading 08/11/07, Second Reading 19/11/07 (1), (2) and 21/11/07

The debate continues.................

See BBC news articles, Peers attack fatherless bid and Church condemns Lesbian IVF Use

30 Oct 2007

What did Clumsy Cameron really say?


The BBC reported the headline today 'Lithuanians riled by Cameron quip'. The Tories responded saying that David Cameron meant no offence at an off-the-cuff remark at the Arts Council last week. The Tory leader's apparantly commented that he hoped no grants were given to "one-legged Lithuanian dance troupes". This hit the headlines in the Baltic state and
Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas wrote to Mr Cameron saying it had caused "great concern" in his homeland. The Tories said he had been referring to concerns that grants ended up with unusual causes and meant no offence. The remark was reported in the Mail On Sunday last week sating that Mr Cameron had been overheard referring to "one-legged Lithuanian lesbians". His office later said that was not correct and he had referred to "one-legged Lithuanian dance troupes", to make a serious point about Lottery grants.
The story was picked up by Lithuanian newspaper Lietuvos Rytas, and prompted a letter from the Lithuania's ambassador, Mr Usackas who wrote "It would be incredibly helpful to understand exactly what you [Cameron] meant when referring to 'Lithuanians' and how this relates, if at all, to the Arts Council. This will enable me to pass your [Cameron's] message to the many Lithuanians living in the UK and also to their homeland, where this report has caused a great deal of concern." A Tory party spokeswoman said that Mr Cameron had plucked the word "Lithuanian" from the air and had not intended to make a comment about the country or its people and that he was making a point about the perception that grants can end up going to unusual causes." She added that; "It's not in any way a slight to Lithuania, with which we have very friendly relations."

So it is fine for Mr Cameron who has disabled children to quip about disabled people. Also it would not surprise me if the Mail on Sunday has quoted him quite correctly and having just returned from a LGBT Conference in Lithuania, such comments would be insensitive and idiotic. The climate in the country against is LGBT people is particularly hostile. And then to even think that it is okay for the leader of a major political party who thinks that he could be Prime Minister to refer to any other country or nation in such a way, it makes you wonder what state our nation is in. As a disabled lgbt person, words fail me. Both the man and his party have no understanding of equality.

Also read article in Pink News for further details and lack of reaction from CEHR!

29 Oct 2007

30th October is Women's No Pay Day


The Fawcett Society and UNISON are calling on the Government to take clear steps to tackle the gender pay gap. They want greater transparency around pay, reforms to outdated pay laws and for women to be entitled to take group actions so the burden is not on individual women to speak out. Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said: “Two-thirds of UNISON members are women and we have campaigned long and hard to get equal pay. But, equal pay is not just a wish list of the trade unions; it is the law of the land. Thirty years on, the Equal Pay Act is still seen by many employers as a take-it-or-leave-it bit of legislation - this cannot go on. The law must be implemented robustly across the UK and the Government must do its bit to fund equal pay for the public services”.

Sign the on-line petition now to stop women being ripped off.

UNISON accepts Local Government Pay Deal

51.6% voted for strike action and 48.4% against with a 24.4% turnout. See here for UNISON's official reaction. Read Jon's union blog for his reaction in which despite his disappointment, he outlines the difficulties that we may well have had sustaining the strike.

UNISON is now going to focus on the 2008 settlement whih no doubt will be another battle.

28 Oct 2007

Gays told to Go Home


Just arrived back from Vilnius after attending the ILGA-Europe Conference 2007 which as always is enjoyable, thought provoking and rejuvenating as well as humbling. It was particularly humbling this year as we saw first hand, what it is like to have a gay rally banned by the mayor. Usually we are invited to a civic reception! We were also subjected to a counter demonstration outside the hotel where the conference was held and more frighteningly smoke bombs were let off in the clubs that we were socialising in and some delegates were threatened. At least some of us can go home to our relatively safe countries where we are accorded protection from discrimination. Not so our friends from Lithuania. Fortunately, there were high profile guests and politicians who witnessed these events and the media coverage was very wide - now at least the Lithuanian Government know we are watching.


See BBC News and ILGA-Europe for further details of media coverage of the incidents and the conference.

20 Oct 2007

Craigs Back to Blogging

He has posted two articles today:

"Craigs back" and "I support the Reform Treaty" - That's Him - not me! Not that I don't support it - I have not just come about it yet!

See Craig's LGBT Blog for more......

European Union Transgender and Transsexual Duiscrimination and Inequality Study

Press for Change are carrying out a major research project research project for ILGA and TGEU to document and compare the conditions for trans people across Europe. They need as many trans people as possible across Europe to complete an online survey about their own experiences. The survey is available in 13 different European languages.
PLEASE ask ALL of your TRANS friends, including part-time cross dressers (transvestites), full time cross-dressers, travestie, transgender, transsexual, bi or a-gendered and poly gendered people - and anyone in between to complete this questionnaire, no matter whether they are having medical treatment or not. BUT each person must only complete it ONCE.
People should feel free to use whichever translation of the survey they prefer.
Where some words or phrases may not be the usual ones preferred in a country, please try to tolerate this and still answer the survey questions.
The online survey is available at: http://www.pfc.org.uk/node/1524
Please fill it in as soon as possible.
Any questions email : survey@pfc.org.uk

LGBT Labour launch Dorothys List


At Labour party Conference, LGBT Labour launched Dorothy's List, a Campaign Fund established to support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans candidates standing to represent the Labour Party in Parliament. There are huge barriers for LGBT candidates, particularly women, and it is hopes that this will go some way to showing solidarity and support. LGBT Labour has set a fundraising target of £2,000 to support candidates at the bye-elections and the next General Election—and so it is asking for donations, whether one-off or by standing order.

You can download this leaflet for further details.

Pink Potter


Dumbledore is Gay announces Harry Potter author J.K Rowling. Albus Dumbledore is the headmaster of Hogwarts school in her famous series of books loved by children and adults alike which have also been encapsulated on film.

Rowling made her revelation to a packed house in New York's Carnegie Hall on Friday, as part of her US book tour. and during audience questions, was asked if Dumbledore found "true love". She responded by saying "Dumbledore is gay," adding he was smitten with rival Gellert Grindelwald, who he beat in a battle between good and bad wizards long ago. The audience gasped, then applauded. "I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy," she said. "Falling in love can blind us to an extent," she added, saying Dumbledore was "horribly, terribly let down" and his love for Grindelwald was his "great tragedy".

Fan sites have long speculated on Dumbledore's sexuality as he was known for having a mysterious, troubled past. Rowling told the audience that while working on the planned sixth Potter film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she saw the script carried a reference to a girl who was once of interest to Dumbledore. She said she ensured director David Yates was made aware of the truth about her character.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell welcomed the news about Dumbledore and said: "It's good that children's literature includes the reality of gay people, since we exist in every society.
"But I am disappointed that she did not make Dumbledore's sexuality explicit in the Harry Potter book. Making it obvious would have sent a much more powerful message of understanding and acceptance." And a spokesman for gay rights group Stonewall added: "It's great that JK has said this. It shows that there's no limit to what gay and lesbian people can do, even being a wizard headmaster."

She said she regarded her novels as a "prolonged argument for tolerance" and urged her fans to "question authority". But she added that not everyone likes her work. Christian groups have alleged the books promote witchcraft. The author said her revelation about Dumbledore's sexual orientation would give them one more reason.


16 Oct 2007

Ignorance against Trans Carer

Blackpool Care Worker faces prejudice and ignorance from service user's family just because she is Trans. See Blackpool Today for full story. Trans people have some protection in employment and are also covered under the Gender Equality Duty. But cases like this present a dilemna for service providers. It is not the receipient of the service who is discriminating against her carer but her family. Ideally Blackpool should refuse to provide an alternative carer but if the family refuse, it is the elderly woman who is suffering. However, the carer also has the right to dignity, to be treated fairly in her employment, not to be discriminated against and be recognised as a woman.

15 Oct 2007

Lib Dem Leader Steps Down

Menzies Campbell has resigned with immediate effect. See BBC News for more details.

12 Oct 2007

Police probe "homophobic" student


Fergus Bowman is now being investigated by police into comments made in a student newspaper after claims that he made anti-gay and racist comments on the Internet.
Officers at Preston Police's diversity unit are looking into the comments Fergus Bowman made on social networking site Facebook which could lead to a hate crime conviction. Bowman was a second year politics and religious student at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) and is from Catterall, near Garstang. He has quit his position of the Conservative Future Society at the University of Central Lancashire Student Union (UCLan) and been thrown out of the political party following the comments. Police have contacted the university and the company behind Facebook to gather further information about the incident before making a report to the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS). Sgt Phil Orm, of the diversity unit, said: "The police are aware of the situation and an investigation is being undertaken into it. "A report will be submitted to the CPS following the investigation and they will judge whether a prosecution should be made." In an interview with UCLan student newspaper, Pluto, the student said his comments were "a private joke" between friends.

By the way I searched lgbt, and lesbian and gay on the Conservative Future website and it did not come up with anything. I did find this quote from a member who was speaking about NUS Conference though "Going to the NUS conference has given me the opportunity to promote Conservative policies in student politics, however much of the week is dominated by irrelevant left-wing debates that do not reflect the genuine concerns of everyday students who we seek to represent".

On Facebook there is a group L.G.B.Tory which amongst it's aims include to support the Conservative party in decisions which directly help better the lives of members of the LGBT community and to dispel the stereotype that Conservatism means homophobia by increasing our profile by helping to support LGBT candidates in politics. Difficult tasks face the group I think. And by the way the group is open to anyone - you don't have to be Tory or LGBT.

I think I will stick with LGBT Labour because ONLY LABOUR CAN DELIVER EQUALITY AND HAS DONE SO FAR.........

11 Oct 2007

Human Tissue and Embryos Act - Update

The Government has published it's response to the Joint Committee's recommendations. It is welcoming that the Government appears to reject the need for the for a requirement for a second parent in lieu of a father. However, they have not totally rejected the idea of printing the fact that a child has been donor conceived on the birth certificate and stated that they will keep this under review (See previous blog Labelling Our Children;

69. The idea of including ‘by donation’ on donor-conceived children’s
birth certificates is a matter that has been raised in the past. The
Warnock Committee stated: ‘We are of the view that consideration should be
given as a matter of urgency to making it possible for the parents in
registering the birth to add “by donation” after the man’s name.’ The Government’s position to date is that it is preferable that parents are
educated about the benefits of telling children that they were donor-conceived rather than forcing the issue through the annotation of birth certificates.
70. However, this is a sensitive area and the Government
recognises the Committee’s concern, as well as the importance of allowing
donor-conceived people access to information about their genetic background.
We believe that the issues need to be considered carefully, including
constructive dialogue with stakeholders, and we will keep the matter under
review.

Lets hope that the right stakeholders are consulted - including the children!

Homophobic Tory Student Suspended

Fergus Bowman, a second year politics and religion student, showed how intelligent some young Tories really can be following his suspension from the the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) and the Conservative Party after being linked to homophobic and racist groups on Facebook. One of the groups called 'Homos burn in hell' had pictures of the 'Ku Klux Klan' posted and Bowman, chair of the UCLAN Student Union Conservative Futures Group, was supposedly the creater of the group. A number of homophobic and racist statements and comments have also been attributed to him. When confronted by the local paper the Lancashire Evening Post, he said that it was just a bit of fun and that he does not condone homophobia in anyway.

Another good reason to vote Labour!

9 Oct 2007

October is Black History Month

Black History Month is a remembrance of important Black people and events in African American and history. It is celebrated annually in the United States and Canada in the month of February, while in the UK it is held in the month of October. Black History Month was established in 1976 by The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History but the origins go back to 1926. The month-long celebration was an expansion of Negro History Week, which was established in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, director of what was then known as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson selected the week in February that embraced the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The celebration may have had its origins in the separate efforts of Mary Church Terrell and the African American collegiate fraternity Omega Phi Psi. The former had begun the practice of honoring Frederick Douglass on February 14, the date he used to mark his birth. The Omegas established a "Negro Achievement Week" in 1924. Woodson was friends with Mary Church Terrell and worked with her and the National Council of Colored Women to preserve Douglass' home and personal papers. Woodson was also a member of Omega Psi Phi. While Terrell's celebration of Douglass was a local event and the Omega Achievement Week was part of their community outreach, Woodson broadened the scope of the celebration in three significant ways. First, he conceived of the event as a national celebration, sending out a circular to groups across the United States. Secondly, he sought to appeal to both whites and blacks and to improve race relations. For this reason, he chose President Lincoln's birthday as well as Douglass'. Finally, Woodson viewed Negro History Week as an extension of ASNLH's effort to demonstrate to the world that Africans and peoples of African descent had contributed to the advance of history. Each year, ASNLH would select a national theme and provide scholarly and popular materials to focus the nation's "study" of Negro history. As such, Negro History Week was conceived as a means of undermining the foundation of the idea of black inferiority through popular information grounded in scholarship. The theme, chosen by the founders of Black History Month, for 2007 is "From Slavery to Freedom, Africans in the Americas."
The Negro History Week Movement took hold immediately. At first it was celebrated almost exclusively by African Americans, taking place outside of the view of the wider society. Increasingly, however, mayors and governors, especially in the North, began endorsing Negro History Week and promoting interracial harmony. By the time of Woodson's death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a well-established cultural institution. Indeed, it was so established that Woodson had begun to criticize groups for shallow and often inaccurate presentations that did not advance the public's knowledge of Negro life and history.
With the rise of the Black Power Movement in the 1960s, many in the African American community began to complain about the insufficiency of a week-long celebration. In 1976, the ASNLH, having changed its name to The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, responded to the popular call, citing the 50th annual celebration and America's bicentennial. For more on the association visit ASALH.org.

The purpose is that History books had barely begun covering black history when the tradition of Black History Month was started. At that point, most representation of blacks in history books was only in reference to the low social position they held, with the exception of George Washington Carver. Black History Month can also be referred to as African-American History Month, or African Heritage Month. One of the few U.S. history works at that time told from an African American perspective was W.E.B. DuBois' 1935 work "Black Reconstruction."
In the United Kingdom (UK), Black History Month is celebrated in the month of October. The official guide to Black History Month in the UK[] is published by Sugar Media, Ltd., who produce 100,000 copies nationwide.

Part of the aim of Black History Month is to expose the harms of racial prejudice and to cultivate black self-esteem following centuries of socio-economic oppression. It is also an opportunity to recognize significant contributions to society made by people with African heritage.

[Article courtesy of Wikipedia]

Also visit Infoplease website for more information on Black History and icons.

8 Oct 2007

At last incitement to gay hatred to be made a criminal offence


Nearly two years after the heinous murder of 24 year old Jodi Debrowski on 14th October 2005, there has never been a more salient time for Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary to announce that a new offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation will be introduced in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. He added that he would consider similar protections for trans and disabled people. UNISON, LGBT Labour and Disabled Groups have long campaigned for the recognition of incitement to hatred against LGBT and disabled people and this move is more than welcome and overdue.

Whilst many police forces recognise homophobic and transphobic hate crimes against lgbt people, there are have been no specific criminal offences based on hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation and therefore offences are dealt with under the ordinary criminal law.


Jodi Dobrowski was 24 when he was brutally beaten to death in a homophobic attack. His killers were sentenced to murder and ordered to serve not less than 28 years in prison. This was a landmark case in Britain, where Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was utilised in sentencing the killers. This Act empowers courts to impose tougher sentences for offenses motivated or aggravated by the victim's sexual orientation in England and Wales. But still other murders have taken place. On 30th January 2007, Malcom Benfold, a 57 year oold gay man was beaten to death in Blackpool after suffering severe head injuries. His 23 yeard old murderer, had gone out to gay bash homosexual man and received a life sentence and ordered that he must serve at least 18 years in prison.


On making today's announcement, Mr Straw said "It is a measure of how far we have come as a society in the last ten years that we are now appalled by hatred and invective directed at people on the basis of their sexuality," and "It is time for the law to recognise this."

Some religious groups claim their members could face seven years in jail for expressing their views about homosexuality under the proposed new legislation. The Christian Institute claim that the proposed incitement law restricts free speech, targets Christians and will stifle debate about homosexuality. It objects to the extension of incitement to racial hatred laws to sexual orientation as "homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle. " Christians are already protected from incitement to religious hatred by law. These are the religios groups that held placards up at Pride saying we will all burn in hell and took their children to vigils shouting abuse and showing hatred towards lgb people duting the debate on the goods facilities and services regulations debates.

With the increase in fascism and attacks from the far right all across Europe, there is no better time than now to send a message that incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation will not be tolerated.



For more details of the Governments announcement on the proposals to outlaw incitement of hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation see BBC News.



In memory of Jodi Dobrowski Born 1981 Died 14 October 2005.

27 Sep 2007

Labelling Our Children - Proposals from the Joint Committee on the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill

The Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill is intended to revise the law on assisted reproduction and embryology and to establish the Regulatory authority for Tissue and Embryos (RATE). The Joint Committee on the draft Bill published its report on 1 August 2007 and there is a further short period of consultation followed by the parliamentary stages of the Bill.

There are some welcoming proposals in the draft bill such as the right of same sex couples to use the fast track adoption like procedure in fertility law to become parents of a child born by surrogacy. There is also a proposal in the draft bill to remove the requirement from the law on fertility treatment that it is necessary to take into account ‘the child’s need for a father’. As we know many clinics already offer services to single women and same sex couples and this will clarify the law and will not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

However the joint committee is recommending that the clause be amended to introduce a requirement to consider the need of a child for a second parent. This blatantly does discriminate and stigmatise single parents, the majority of whom are of course women. The committee further recommends that this be put to a free vote in both Houses of Parliament.

The Joint Committee have further recommended that as a matter of urgency the Government should consider the fact of donor conception being registered on a person’s birth certificate. The committee stated that this would “create an incentive for the parent(s) to tell the child of the fact of his or her donor conception and would go some way to address the value of knowledge of genetic history for medical purposes”. The joint committee continued that unlike children “born through natural conception, assisted conception…. involves the authorities and we are deeply concerned about the idea that the authorities may be colluding in a deception.” Not only does this infer that the parent(s) of children born as a result of donor conception may deliberately deceive their children, such a move may deter people from accessing fertility services and could also stigmatise children and breach their privacy.

This issue will be debated at UNISON's LGBT Conference and is obviously of grave concern and if you read this I would ask that you raise it to anyone you know might be interested.

Labour Party Conference

Well I only managed to get there late Tuesday afternoon so watched the leaders speech at home on TV. It was unlike any parliamentary report, I had listened to for along time but then he has only been in office for the past three months. To me, it sounded like a party political broadcast and the launch of the general election campaign which was then echoed by Barbara Follett announcing at a fringe that it is 80% likely that there will be an Autumn election (either 25th Oct, 1st or 8th Nov). I think Gordon should announce the election right during David Cameron's speech to the Tories in Blackpool next week. As the week went on and seeing Gordon appear at Parliamentary Q and A and at fringes and social events, he was so relaxed and confident and in deed appeared to have taken ownership of the party. Perhaps taking away contemporary motions helped with trade unions being won over on this. At first I was quite concerned over this and whilst a little tipsy in Vienna said the same to our leaders. But reasons were given and the idea of issues being debated at the National Policy Forum is appearing a little more attractive - well they have to as contemporary motions are no more. But it depends of course also on who gets elected to the NPF. At least UNISON's contemporary motion got carried.
My capacity this year at Conference was as a socialist society stall holder and this is quite difficult because some how you feel out of it. Conference feels more like a convention but even a couple of delegates said that's how it felt to them this year even on the floor. It did seem quite a congratulatory pat on the back sort of atmosphere but then we are ahead in the polls and who would have thought that this time last year or in deed in May.
The LGBT Labour / Stonewall fringe had a good turnout and Ben Summerskill gave a cracking speech. Barbara Follett also was impressive and there are very positive murmurs about the discrimination law review. colleagues who were able to attend the equalities policy seminar said that the same messages were coming out from there and it might be that there has been that much criticism about the proposals that they will have to be re-written. Barbara actually commented that they are abandoning the Single Equality Act and going for equality for he 21st century! Even though I turned up so late into conference, I managed to get some networking in and attended the Absolutely Equal, UNISON and Co-operative Party socials. A few of us even defected to the UNITE social!! I know they said they would walk out on conference over the contemporary motions well they seemed to be celebrating in style. I suppose for Craig and I, the highlights of our conference was having our picture taken with Peter Hain but also chatting with Ian McCartney who has supported a lot of our LGBT International work with both UNISON and LGBT Labour.

PSI General Secretary Election Result

After much electioneering in a closely fought contest, Peter Waldorff was elected general secretary of PSI beating UNISON's Keith Sonnet by a mere 800, 000 votes.

With a background in local government, Waldorff has been President of HK-Stat, the Danish union for government and public employees, since 2001. He has been a member of PSI’s executive board since 1998 and also sits on the European Federation of Public Service Unions’ standing committee.

UNISON had received some criticism for our policies on Palestine which are believed to have had an effect on the way some affiliates voted.

Public Services International / Education International LGBT Summit

I had the opportunity to be part of the UNISON delegation to the EI / PSI LGBT Summit in Vienna from the 21st to the 22nd of September 2007 in Vienna which was an excellent and rare experience being able to network and listen to first hand experiences of people from other parts of the world who are persecuted because they are lgbt and because they are trade unionists. We heard that neo-liberal and conservative forces are increasingly exploiting anti-gay prejudice to undermine trade union and community campaigns. Juan Carlos Paniagua, of PSI’s Costa Rican affiliate ANEP told us that he was forced to move house after receiving death threats in a government-backed attempt to undermine the campaign against a proposed free trade agreement. He said said "As a union member and gay activist I have been subject to intimidation and discrimination at home and in the workplace, but I don’t feel afraid. I feel brave, which gives me the strength to keep on ghting for human rights, workers’ rights and LGBT rights," he said. Juan Carlos called on all trade unionists, especially those in EU countries, to insist that their governments ensure that trade agreements support human and workplace rights. Juan Carlos was one of the PSI guests to UNISON's LGBT Conference in 2005 which we held in Belfast.

PSI also launched a guide ‘Trade Unionists Together for LGBT Rights’ which is the first international guide to achieving equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered workers.
Penned by Martin Moriarty who has worked on many UNISON publications he reminded us that despite many legislative improvements around the world, institutional discrimination against gays on issues like pensions, taxation, leave and family-friendly policies remains common in most countries. The fear of harassment means LGBT workers in all countries are unlikely to be ‘out’ at work, even if their family and friends are aware of their sexuality.
The booklet describes how recent decisions in international institutions can be harnessed to protect LGBT workers, fight discrimination, and enhance gay rights. It also contains good practice examples of model agreements including UNISON's very own. To supplement the guide PSI and EI have also launched a LGBT website containing details of contacts and resources.

UNISON ran a workshop at the conference which was really well received focusing on changing the culture within your unions.

Back to Blogging............

Summer is usually the time when people have holidays and time to blog. This Summer, I have just been that busy and have also discovered facebook that I have been too busy to blog but have just got back from Bournemouth and feel the urge. But first I will tell you all about what has been happening over Summer.............

Well first of all there was Budapest Pride and I that was an experience and a half. I have provided a link to the media coverage but also wrote an article of my own experience for LGBT Labour which you can read elsewhere. The rest of Summer I spent attending and supporting events such as Nottingham Pride, UK Black Pride, Outburst Black LGBT Pride, Notting Hill Carnival which UNISON won best float in their section. I also attended two UNISON's Disabled LGBT network events and drafted motions, amendments and reports for UNISON's National LGBT Committee. Hence no time for blogging!! LGBT Labour has also taken up some considerable time with two committee meetings, organising events for Labour Party Conference, the new branding and the newsletter LeftOut. One of the main tasks was responding to discrimination law review.

More recently, I attended the PSI / EI LGBT Summit in Vienna and have written separately about this. And last but not least, I managed to get down to Bournemouth on Tuesday for the last two days of Labour Party Conference as a stall holder which has it's restrictions but still had an excellent time networking and attending the LGBT Labour fringe.

Budapest Pride


On Saturday 7th July 2007, I with members of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe) attended the Pride march in Hungary’s capital, Budapest, accompanied by skinheads and fascists who massed along the 7km (4.3 mile) route. The Hungarian National Front and the Movement for a Better Hungary had organised themselves well and even surprised the police. They threw eggs, smoke bombs, Molotov cocktails and bottles filled with sand at us. Some of them tried to infiltrate the march. "The counter-demonstrators continuously shouted: "faggots into the Danube, followed by the Jews," "soap factory" and "filthy faggots." Not understanding Hungarian, myself and my friends were oblivious to what they were saying and smiled sweetly back in defiance not trying to show how scared we really were.

Unfortunately, it appeared that the police had not estimated the number of counter demonstrators who were going to turn up and were unable to contain them but on a positive note were at least there to protect the lgbt participants. When the march finished we were hurdled into an enclosure where the freedom party was to be held. We had to leave to attend a meeting which was lucky as we hard that once the police left, some of the fascists returned which meant it was not safe for people to leave. We also heard that later that evening almost a dozen gay people were set upon and beaten.The Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky and his political party, The Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), totally condemned the violence, calling the homophobic attackers "intolerant, primitive and cowardly. On these occasions, I consider myself Jewish, Roma and gay," he said. Mr Demszky has been mayor of the city since 1990. ILGA also condemned the actions of the police"We consider the actions of the police extremely negligent as all these crimes could be foreseen, yet the police did not make preparations to prevent them. Violent attacks could be expected in a situation where a provocative extremist group organises a counter demonstration against the pride march.” Budapest Pride was an experience and I now know what it feels like to have to evade a missile because of my sexual orientation or gender identity. It was very frightening but I am glad that I was there in solidarity with my Hungarian lgbt brothers and sisters.

6 Jul 2007

Not had much time for blogging lately!

Hopefully will blog soon. Not had much time lately. What with UNISON's Local Government and National Delegate Conferences and then the week just gone was TUC LGBT Conference. UNISON / UCU joint emergency motion seeking withdrawal of the education guidance which says that it is okay for teachers to tell our children that homosexuality is a sin was chosen as the motion for the congress. The day after it was National Disabled LGBT Members Caucus and Pride. And today I am jetting off for Budapest to represent UNISON at a ILGA-Europe meeting to discuss their strategic plan. The meeting coincides with Budapest Pride so it should be a good weekend. Back on Monday and then to work and hopefully time to blog. Next weekend looks free unless I decide to go to London for the RISE festival and then the weekend after is the National LGBT Committee meeting. And the weekend after that is the LGBT Labour Committee Meeting and Nottingham Pride.

Good Job I am laid back but active!

27 Jun 2007

LGBT Labour members first preference was Cruddas for Deputy

LGBT Labour is an affiliated society of the Labour party, meaning its members can vote along with members of trade unions and other societies. Their votes count for a third of the total. MPs and MEPs and members of constituency Labour parties make up the other two thirds of the electoral college.

The turnout amongst LGBT Labour members was 59.6%.

The first preference votes cast were as follows:
Jon Cruddas 22.2% (came third)
Harriet Harman 18.8% (won)
Hazel Blears 17.9% (came sixth)
Alan Johnson 15.3% (came second)
Hilary Benn 14.5% (came fourth)
Peter Hain 11.1% (came fifth)

Full article in Pink News.

Full text of Davies resignation letter to Cameron

I have been a member of the Conservative Party for over 30 years, and have served for 20 years in the Parliamentary Party, in a variety of backbench and front bench roles.This has usually been a great pleasure, and always a great privilege. It is therefore with much sadness that I write you this letter. But you are entitled to know the truth.Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything.It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda.For the first 19 years of my time in the House, in common I imagine with the great majority of my colleagues, it never occurred to me to leave the party, whatever its current vicissitudes.Ties of familiarity, of friendship, and above all of commitment to constituency supporters are for all of us very strong and incredibly difficult to break.But they cannot be the basis for living a lie - for continuing in an organisation when one no longer has respect for its leadership or understanding of its aims.I have come to that appreciation slowly and painfully and as a result of many things, some of which are set out below.The first horrible realisation that I might not be able to continue came last year. My initial reaction was to suppress it.You had come to office as leader of the party committed to break a solemn agreement we had with the European People's Party to sit with them in the EPP-ED Group during the currency of this European Parliament.For seven months you vacillated, and during that time we had several conversations.It was quite clear to me that you had no qualms in principle about tearing up this agreement, and that it was only the balance of prevailing political pressures which led you ultimately to stop short of doing so (though since then you have hardly acted in good faith in continuing with the agreement, for example you never attend the EPP-ED Summits claiming that you are "too busy" - even though half a dozen or more Prime Ministers are always present.)Of course I knew that you had put yourself in a position such that if you did not leave the EPP-ED Group you would be breaking other promises you had given to colleagues, and on which many of them had counted in voting for you at the leadership election.But that I fear only made the position worse. The trouble with trying to face both ways is that you are likely to lose everybody's confidence.Aside from the rather significant issues of principle involved, you have of course paid a practical price for your easy promises.You are the first leader of the Conservative Party who (for different reasons) will not be received either by the President of the United States, or by the Chancellor of Germany (up to, and very much including, Iain Duncan Smith every one of your predecessors was most welcome both in the White House and in all the chancelleries of Europe).It is fair to say that you have so far made a shambles of your foreign policy, and that would be a great handicap to you - and, more seriously, to the country - if you ever came to power.I have never done business with people who deliberately break contracts, and I knew last year that if you left the EPP-ED Group I could no longer remain in a party under your leadership.In fact you held back and I tried to put this ugly incident out of my mind and carry on.But the last year has been a series of shocks and disappointments. You have displayed to the full both the vacuity and the cynicism of your favourite slogan 'change to win'.One day in January, I think a Wednesday or Thursday, you and George Osborne discovered that Gordon Brown was to make a speech on the environment the following Monday.You wished to pre-empt him. So without any consultation with anyone - experts, think tanks, the industry, even the Shadow Cabinet - you announced an airline or flight tax which as you have subsequently heard from me in a long paper (which has never been refuted) and I am sure from many others, is certainly defective and contradictory - and in my view complete nonsense.The PR pressures had overridden any considerations of economic rationality or national interest, or even what would have been to others normal businesslike prudence.Equally it seems that your hasty rejection of nuclear energy as a 'last resort' was also driven by your PR imperatives rather than by other considerations. Many colleagues hope that that will be the subject of your next u-turn.You regularly (I think on a pre-arranged PR grid or timetable) make apparent policy statements which are then revealed to have no intended content at all. They appear to be made merely to strike a pose, to contribute to an image.You thus sometimes treat important subjects with the utmost frivolity. Examples are 'inequality' (the 'Polly Toynbee' moment - again you had a paper from me!), marriage and the tax system (even your own Party Chairman was unable to explain on the BBC what you really meant) and, most recently, mass consultation of the public on policy decisions. (In view of your complete failure to consult with anyone, within the Party or outside it, on many of the matters I have touched on, or on many others, the latter was perhaps intended as a joke).Of course I could go on - up to three weeks ago when you were prepared to stoop to putting forward a resolution on Iraq (demanding an inquiry while our military involvement continues) which it was admitted at a Party meeting the following Monday (by George Osborne in your presence) was motivated by party political considerations. That was a particularly bad moment.Believe it or not I have no personal animus against you. You have always been perfectly courteous in our dealings. You are intelligent and charming.As you know, however, I never supported you for the leadership of the Party - even when, after my preferred candidate Ken Clarke had been defeated in the first round, it was blindingly obvious that you were going to win.Nor, for the same reasons, have I ever sought office in your shadow administration.
Although you have many positive qualities you have three, superficiality, unreliability and an apparent lack of any clear convictions, which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership to which you aspire and which it is the presumed purpose of the Conservative Party to achieve.Believing that as I do, I clearly cannot honestly remain in the Party. I do not intend to leave public life. On the contrary I am looking forward to joining another party with which I have found increasingly I am naturally in agreement and which has just acquired a leader I have always greatly admired, who I believe is entirely straightforward, and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which I fully share.Because my constituents, to whose interests of course I remain devoted, are entitled to know the full background, I am releasing this letter to the press."

Which party has he gone to and from and when? He seems to have got his timing wrong!

Changing sides? Quentin Davies, Conservative MP for Grantham and Stamford defects to Labour

Quentin Davies has defected from the Tories to join Labour. His letter of resignation is blogged elsewhere. In it he says that he is looking forward to joinging a party which has just acquired a leader which he has always greatly admired, whom he believes is entirely straightforward, and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which he fully shares. Whereas in a speech by Davies two years prior to his defection he described Gordon Brown as "extraordinarily incompetent", "imprudent", "extraordinarily naïve" and said in conclusion "I trust and believe that something nasty will happen to the Chancellor in electoral terms before too long. He will have no one but himself to blame."

Does Davies see something in the New Labour Leader Woodshed that has made him change his viewsand or our policies really becoming that alligned with the Tories to make someone with opinions and a voting record like Davies defect? He has stong anti-gay views and voted against the right of gay and unmarried couples to adopt. He also voted strongly in favour of the Iraq War but on a slightly positive note moderately against the introduction of foundation hospitals. That may have been just to oppose the Government and not due to any strongly held beliefs though.

Tory peer Tebbit said: "This defection will raise the average standard of members on the Conservative side and lower it on the Labour side." Shadow industry secretary Alan Duncan said Mr Davies was "not socially liberal" and against "a changed Conservative Party" and added: "basically he's quite grand and old fashioned, and I'm surprised that he finds that the Labour Party will offer him a happy home for those attitudes." But former Conservative MP Lord Temple Morris, who defected to Labour in 1998, said Mr Davies's decision showed "guts".

25 Jun 2007

A taste of what's in store?

Only just anointed and Gordon Brown has announced that he is to reduce the power of the unions on Labour Party Conference floor. See BBC News Report for more details. His new deputy Harriet Harman did not get any union nominations. And now she denies having said that the Government should apologise for Iraq during the Newsnight hustings.

This raises concerns already. Before the Deputy Leadership results were out, there was Gordon offering Peter Hain's job to a Liberal Democrat and then he has already given Hazel's job to Harriet.

So what does Mr Brown have up his sleeve? The next week should be very interesting as he appoints to the cabinet. Let's hope that he makes some sensible choices particularly where the runner ups are concerned.

See here for an interesting analysis of the deputy leadership election results which I found as a link from Jons Union Blog.

Pink News reported that LGBT Labour welcomed Brown and Harman however, a PinkNews.co.uk poll of gay Labour party members found that Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain was the first choice of 25% of gay party members. Party chair Hazel Blears took 19% of first preferences, followed by 16% for backbench candidate Jon Cruddas. Harriet Harman polled 15%, Alan Johnson 14% and Hilary Benn 11%. See here for full article.




13 Jun 2007

Breast is Best

The Single Equality Bill has quenched the thirst of the lactivist campaign for the right to breastfeed in public. The proposals have been the subject of many women's and health campaigns over recent years and is long overdue. It has been legal in Scotland since 2005 and there has not been uprising. Lets face it breast is best.


UNISON supports the right of women to breastfeed in public and the workplace and is part of the breastfeeding coalition. See their manifesto for details of their campaign.


I wonder if more people were aware that 4000 babies die each day from unsafe bottle feeding that we would have had to campaign so hard for the basic human right to breastfeed in public. And maybe more people would boycott Nestle products.


See BBC News Report for more details.

10 Jun 2007

Labour Contenders - policy by policy

See what their views are here on Iraq,Taxation,Labour's Future, Deputy Leader Role, Health and Education. UNISON's preferred candidate Alan Johnson when speaking about Deputy Leader role also wants to be Deputy Prime Minister whilst remaining Education Secretary. He does say that the party should listen to unions like UNISON more. Well after receiving a supporing nomination, he is not going to say differently. He didn't mention CWU though. Whereas Peter Hain, UNISON's second preference, has maintained throughout his campaign the importance of having links with the unions and he wants to concentrate on the job in hand that of Deputy Leader and being the 'umbilical cord between party members and the cabinet'. Thats why he has my first vote.

The contenders have also been quizzed on their LGBT policies by LGBT Labour (The Labour Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights). Poor Harriet does not appear to mention transgender rights at all but I think this is down to the fact that at the same time they were being quizzed by Stonewall specifically on LGB issues and she got confused. Hazel, Hilary and Peter come across as the more committed. Peter still gets my pink vote and you can read elsewhere on this blog to find out why.

9 Jun 2007

DUP 'are opposed to gay adoption'

The DUP will continue to oppose any proposal to change the law to allow unmarried and gay couples to adopt children, Jeffrey Donaldson has said despite earlier this week, Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr dismissing a bid to overturn the current law banning adoption by unmarried couples.

The Department of Health is considering proposals to change the law to enable unmarried and gay couples to adopt. Speaking on Inside Politics, Mr Donaldson said the DUP would oppose it. He said "It remains my view that a married relationship is the best relationship for adoption. The DUP will vigorously oppose any move in Northern Ireland to introduce gay adoption. We do not believe it is right that a child should be placed into a gay relationship."

Read more on the current position of adoption in Northern Ireland in this article from the Belfast Telegraph

7 Jun 2007

Why Trade Unionists should vote for Peter Hain as Deputy Leader

This is an extract from RECONNECT TO WIN produced by Peter Hain

Peter says;

“The Labour Party was born out of the trade union movement, and our link with the unions and our shared values provide a vital connection to millions of working people. For me, the union link is non-negotiable.”

Retaining the role of unions at the heart of the Labour Party. Keeping the 50 percent union share of votes on policy issues at annual conference, unlike other declared deputy leadership candidates who have publicly proposed reducing the union vote. Implementing the terms of the Warwick agreement, and building on it as a blueprint for future partnership, reaffirming our commitment to proper protection for pension funds and doing much more to protect the rights of temporary and agency workers. Building on the 2.5 million extra jobs created since Labour took office by prioritising economic stability, and protecting workers by working closely with unions. Continuing investment in public services and a programme of improvement underpinned by Labour values. Ensuring that the vital new employment rights we have enacted are a reality in every workplace in Britain – establishing a new Employment Rights’ Commission with tough new powers and proper resources to enforce the rights that workers already have and to investigate breaches e.g.. giving unions the legal power to bring collective action against a workplace where there is a failure to pay the minimum wage, rather than placing the responsibility on an individual. Ensuring new laws on corporate manslaughter are toughly enforced, and reviewing the role of private equity funds in company takeovers. Allowing unions to free up resources for campaigning by removing the costly, ritual and unnecessary mandatory ballots to renew union political funds, and replacing it with a trigger ballot of say 5 per cent of the membership if there was dissatisfaction with an established fund. Introducing the choice of individual secret ballots in either workplaces or homes in elections for union Executives and General Secretaries to encourage turnout. Reconnecting the leadership of the party in government with MPs, members, and trade unions. Ensuring we reach out to those people Labour has lost touch with, helping to rebuild that crucial progressive coalition, which won us two landslide victories, but which we lost last time. Real renewal, which builds upon the best of our achievements, but offers a radical vision for the future, which can bring voters back to Labour. Narrowing the inequality gap by meeting our commitments on child poverty, offering more help for low-paid workers, boosting skills levels, tackling the gender pay gap, and pushing for greater corporate social responsibility. Pushing more power down to individuals and local communities by strengthening local government and accountable neighbourhood democracy, and completing the process of democratic renewal. Placing a new ‘Redgreen’ politics at the heart of government, to both tackle climate change and ensure that the responsibility of meeting it is fairly shared. Pursing a progressive foreign policy with strengthened and reformed international institutions, further action to make poverty history, an enhanced role in Europe, and promoting democracy and human rights worldwide. Real partnership with trade unions based on proper dialogue and negotiation, not government by bouncing policies.

RECONNECT TO WIN

A unifier, who brings people together as he demonstrated in negotiating the dramatic breakthrough in Northern Ireland, and who can reconnect the government with Labour’s grassroots.

A principled campaigner with values and vision will help win back the 4 million voters lost by Labour since 1997.

Commitment to the party and trade unions which enables himto reach out to all parts of the party andmovement to bind them back together.

A straight talker with the skills to communicate tomembers and the country.

A teamplayer, but who is independently-minded and will stand up for socialist values.

A minister with ten years of extensive government and Cabinet experience.

A lifelong record of campaigning from his anti apartheid and anti-racist activism, to his tireless work for Labour candidates and trade unionists, there’s nobody better to inspire party members about the power of politics.

Why Peter is the best person for the job
“I want a strong partnership between our Labour government and the trade unions, with problems resolved by dialogue and respect. The role of the Deputy Leader is vital to achieving this.”

Taken from literature promoted by Phil Woolas MP, on behalf of Peter Hain MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

Why LGBT Labour supporters should vote Peter Hain for Deputy Leader

He imposed the Sexual Orientation Regulations on Northern Ireland despite strong opposition.

He is responsible for ensuring that the Civil Partnerships Bill made it onto the legislative agenda.

When he negotiated the European Constitution as the government representative he argued for much more extensive protections for people on grounds of sexuality.

He is keen to point out that when the issue of exemptions for Roman Catholic-run adoption agencies came before Cabinet, he was having none of it.

He supports specific legislation similar to incitement to racial hatred and against incitement to religious hatred to cover sexual orientation. He believes that that we have to make sure there are no hate crimes against any groups in Britain, whether that is on grounds of faith or sexuality, race or any other grounds.

In respect of homophobic bullying he believes that we have got to go beyond equality legislation – we have got to involve teachers and parents and school governors in a proper process of dialogue about this problem.

In Europe, he believes that countries, in joining the EU, have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans discrimination of any kind, including homophobia. It is important that the EU takes on the agenda in ensuring that homophobia is tackled just as it has been tackling racism or discrimination on the grounds of gender.

For the full interview with Peter Hain laying out his stall for LGBT rights in Pink News

6 Jun 2007

Beyond the Barriers

UNISON has taken part in a major new poster campaign called “Beyond the Barriers” to promote disabled people’s rights.

Along with the Disability Rights Commission and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, UNISON’s Policy Development and Campaigns Committee was the third partner in the series of 6 posters.

The posters portray some of the major social policy issues; employment, transport education, health, leisure and the important right to organise as disabled trade unionists.

Two of the posters include UNISON Disabled members talking about their past experiences of discrimination and their expectations for the future.

UNISON branches are being encouraged to get their employers to display sets of the posters as a statement of their commitment to promoting the Disability Equality Duty which came into force in 2006. The posters are also now being produced in postcard format.

Copies can be ordered and downloaded form the DRC

5 Jun 2007

Christian Groups legally challenge Sexual Orientation Regulations

Churches went to the High Court in Belfast on 4th June 2007 to argue that the Sexual Orientation Regulations restrict their human rights. If they are successful, the regulations that protect gay rights could be declared unlawful. The case, which has been brought by The Christian Institute along with other Christian groups, is scheduled to last three days. Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: "I believe these regulations discriminate against Christians on the basis of their religious beliefs on sexual ethics. "They were introduced under direct-rule powers by Peter Hain without proper consultation. "We have the support of both sides of the religious community in Northern Ireland. People are particularly concerned about the regulations' impact on schools." He added: "We hope our legal action will be successful and that these regulations will be declared unlawful."
The sexual orientation regulations (SORs) prevent the LGBT community from being discriminated against by people who provide goods and services. For example, it is now illegal in Northern Ireland for a doctor to turn away a gay patient, or for a hotel to refuse a bed to a same-sex couple. If the regulations in Northern Ireland are found to be unlawful, it could have consequences for the similar British regulations. However, a recent YouGov poll commissioned by Stonewall found that 85% of Britons support the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations.

Meanwhile the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has voted to adopt a new policy on homosexuals at its general assembly. Whilst it does not change the church's theological stance - that homosexuality is wrong - the recommednations of a report urges more understanding for gay parishioners in pastoral care. The church's congregations are encouraged to create an environment of love, acceptance, patience and forgiveness and develop a space where sexuality can be discussed.

Reverend Bobby Liddle, convenor of the group which drew up the guidelines, said that the church was a conservative one, but that it wanted to show its concern for people struggling with their sexuality. On Monday, the church's new moderator, Dr John Finlay, however, implied it would be difficult for sexually active gays to remain within the Presbyterian fold. Dr Finlay 61, minister of Harryville Presbyterian Church in Ballymena, took over the role for the next 12 months in succession to David Clarke. He is reported as saying "If someone was an overtly practising homosexual, and our church condemns that as contrary to scripture, that would be difficult as far as church discipline is concerned,". The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has about 300,000 members in over 560 congregations and is the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland.