Policies not private lives

The news, yesterday that global warming is happening even faster than we thought is probably a much bigger news story than one would judge by the amount it was discussed. I believe that, as a party, we need to be taking a much bigger profile on environmental issues. Too often, it is too low down on our manifestos and leaflets. One of the reasons that I am supporting Chris Huhne is that I believe he has this issue sufficiently high on his agenda. I fear that too many politicians don’t see the environment as a vote winner. But to ignore it is like fiddling while Rome burns.

The Sun sinks to new low

I’ve never had a lot of time for The Sun. The tasteless ‘Gotcha’ headline during the Falklands Conflict burns long in the memory. The there was the inaccurate reporting of the Hillsborough tragedy. Why anyone would turn to the tawdry rag for political commentary is beyond me. But apparently they have a ‘Political Correspondent’ who goes by the name of Michael Lea. He has the singular honour of bringing us a most insightful piece that will really help the nation focus on the issues that face us today. Under the headline ‘Gay MP hangs around loos’ our attention is drawn to the fact that there is a plaque above some public loos attesting that they were opened in 1994 by one Simon Hughes MP. Biting, insightful political comment Michael – let me give you some advice:It is 2006. Anyone with more that two brain cells has by now accepted that not everyone is straight. Some people are gay, some are bisexual. Deal with it. Simon Hughes is not a ‘Limp-Dem’. MPs open public buildings – including public loos. All your article does is promote a view that anyone who is not straight is deviant, and not fit for public life. How many gay or bisexual people do you think work in your office, but are afraid to come out because of attitudes like yours? Is it any wonder that Simon tried to keep his private life private with people like you about? Perhaps you would like it if we poked around in your private life! Finally – if you want to call yourself a ‘Political Correspondent’, go and find out something about ‘politics’. Then write about that instead. Then maybe you could get a job with a proper newspaper, instead of a the disgusting, muck raking filthy little rag that you write for now.

End of rant.

Liberal England suffered a huge setback

Liberal England suffered a huge setback with several analysts urging their clients to ditch the stock as it suffered a public relations disaster. The exact nature of customer dissatisfaction was not known but Steve Guy was rumoured to have had a hand in it. Industry insiders suspect a Stud (artefact) was involved. Liberal England share price dropped from B$634.35 to B$272.77

Sex, Lies and Politicians

Certain sections of the press love a whiff of a sex scandal concerning a politician. It certainly goes with the territory in public life. We are all guilty of fuelling this: when the sex scandal breaks out in a rival party, we throw a party. We love to see the ritual humiliation when it happens to an Archer or a Blunkett. But when it’s our own party in the firing line, we see the cynicism of it all. The Mark Oaten affair didn’t take place recently, in fact it’s nearly a year since it ended (when the rent boy recognised Oaten from the TV). So was it the rent boy or the NOTW that decided that this would be a good time to blow the story? I’m not condoning what Oaten did – far from it – but I think readers should know that for every scandal that breaks out into the press, there are others bubbling under the surface on all sides of the house. Some will, perhaps, never come out – others are waiting for their day to come. Oaten has certainly paid the price for his foolishness – both in his marriage and in his career. Those in public life should remember that their personal standards are likely to be scrutinised at any time – and the higher they seek to climb the ladder – the greater the scrutiny.
Which brings me on to Simon Hughes. I wouldn’t normally lower myself to buying the Sun but I considered buying one yesterday. However, I didn’t because of the outrageously homophobic way in which the Sun presented the story. Using terms like ‘another Limp-Dem’ and ‘pillow biting’ serves only to fuel an attitude that gay and bi-sexual people are in some way inferior to the rest of us. The Simon Hughes confession is categorically not any kind of scandal. Simon has been guilty of no more than seeking to keep his private life private in a world that, as the Sun illustrates for us, is still prejudiced against anyone who isn’t straight – or for that matter, anyone who isn’t married with 2.4 children by the time they are thirty. Simon Hughes is a hard working, articulate and committed Liberal who has served this party and his constituents well. He was faced regular questions in high-profile media interviews about ‘why he isn’t married’. Why he isn’t married is none of anyone else’s business. His treatment by the Sun is despicable.

Moral Dilemna

I have been wrestling with my conscience trying to work out whether I should support the Reflecting Britain initiative. It’s not that I have any disagreement with the motive, rather that I don’t want to presuppose the solution. I recommend that every member should take a look and consider the issue. The Reflecting Britain support statement urges greater financial support to ethnic and gender balance task forces for candidates, along with setting specific targets. Apart from the fact that I am always instinctively suspicious of any measure approaching positive discrimination, I don’t want to stifle a wider examination of what the problem is and how it can be addressed.In my constituency, there is a sizeable, largely muslim Pakistani community. Last year our PPC, James Oates, had made great efforts to reach out to this community. Many of them either didn’t vote at all, or voted Labour. They were sympathetic to our approaches – and the Imams from the local mosques were happy to talk to us. But I am still at a loss to know what we can do to redress the near absence of Pakistanis on our members list – and their complete absence from our activists. This is just an example – but if we cannot sort out the ethnic mix of our supporters and activists, all the candidates task forces in the world won’t produce the MPs we seek.

I would like to see a serious investment in widening and broadening our appeal to all sections of our society. If our membership reflects todays Britain, the candidates – and MPs will come. I would like to see all three potential leadership candidates come up with proposals to widen the appeal of the Liberal Democrats to more fully reflect the society we seek to serve.