Word from the local Lib Dem office

Picture of a Liberal Democrat poster featuring two characters from the Wizard of Oz, with the slogan "The Liberal Democrats will add a heart to a Conservative government and a brain to a Tory one. Stronger economy, fairer society, opportunity for everyone"

Earlier today I left a message on the local Lib Dem constituency office’s answerphone, as our MP, who is defending his seat, is the Lib Dem Energy secretary Edward Davey. I asked him what his positions were on the matter of the Human Rights Act and us staying in the EU, as without these two things there was little to make it worth voting for him just to keep the Tories out. I didn’t get the caller’s name (it wasn’t Davey), but he did tell me that he couldn’t say if the HRA was a red line for the party but it was for Ed Davey, and that the party would agree to a referendum on the EU but would campaign for the UK to stay in. He said Davey would be writing to me himself later; I told him I’d like him to get clarification on party policy first.

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Sometimes it’s the miles. Sometimes it’s the care. Sometimes it’s both.

The Blogging Against Disablism logo, showing stickmen of different colours on different coloured backgrounds, one of whom has a cane in his hand and another is a wheelchair symbol.This post is part of Blogging Against Disablism Day 2015.

Phill Wills, the father of Josh Wills, an autistic boy from Cornwall who has been in a hospital unit in Birmingham since 2012 and has been promised a return home for mid-June, once commented regarding the care his son is receiving that “it’s about the miles, not the care”. He or other members of his family have to make a 260-mile trek north every weekend to spend a couple of days with Josh — including during the time when the only rail link to Cornwall had been severed during the 2014 floods. However, for some families and some disabled people, the problem is both. In the last year, one of the cases I have been following has had a happy ending, while another has ended suddenly in tragedy; there have also been two inquests into deaths of people with learning disabilities in residential or NHS care, while another is to begin in the autumn, more than two years after the person concerned died.

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Lib Dems must understand why they are hated

Picture of Ed Davey, a middle-aged white man wearing a white-ish shirt, a patterned tie and a dark jacket.As I think I’ve said here in the past, I live in a Lib Dem constituency — specifically, Ed Davey’s constituency, Kingston and Surbiton, a constituency where the only main challenger is a Tory and Lib Dem publicity threatens us that Labour “cannot win here” (a tactic they have been using in their fiefdoms for decades — I recall seeing it while on holiday in Somerset in the mid-90s). I’ve seen quite a few of the standard Lib Dem yellow diamond signs with his name on it around, and nobody else’s that I’ve noticed. A couple of weeks ago Ed Davey (right) came to our house while I was at work and my mother spoke to him at length. He came on his own, without any minders or other help, which Mum said made her respect him a bit more, and she told him that she felt betrayed by his party’s coalition with the Tories (she and my Dad were Labour voters their whole adult lives until we moved to New Malden in 2001), and at the end of the conversation, she told him that she would consider voting for him again but could not guarantee it. Personally, I probably will vote for him as the Labour party have not put much effort in around here and so a vote for them probably is a vote for the Tories, but I can see a lot of his 2010 vote melting away, something the local party should have taken into account in good time for this election.

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Don’t go back

Picture of John Major, an elderly white man with white hair, wearing glasses with thin rims, a white shirt, blue tie and dark-coloured jacketLast week the former Prime Minister, John Major (right), popped up to have a go at the Scottish National Party, which opinion polls suggest is likely to get a majority of the seats in Scotland next month and which could all but wipe out the Scottish Labour party. He warned that a minority Labour government would be held to ransom or subjected to “a daily dose of blackmail” by the Nationalists who would nudge them further and further left, which would be “a recipe for mayhem”. Of course, this was aimed at English voters rather than Scottish ones; he knows that Tory voters north of the border are hard to come by nowadays. They have only one MP there, in Dumfries and Galloway in the far south-west.

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The Sun on migrants: vagrants, cockroaches, a disease

Picture of a sign at Heathrow airport, saying "welcome to Britain"Yesterday the Sun published an article by Katie Hopkins, former Apprentice contestant and professional loudmouth and bigot, suggesting that we “use gunships” to tackle the problem of migrants coming across the Mediterranean in unsafe boats, many of them drowning, rather than laying on a search and rescue mission at the taxpayers’ expense. She claims that the migrants trying to get across the Med are the same ones trying to get across the English Channel by stowing away on British trucks. She suggests that we “get Australian” by turning the boats back to “their shores” and destroying them. She also uses genocidal slurs on a number of occasions: “spreading like norovirus on a cruise ship”, “festering sores, plagued by swarms of migrants”, “like cockroaches”. And her assessment of the situation at Calais is just plain inaccurate.

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No, ‘patriarchy’ isn’t killing the planet: the modern lifestyle is

A picture of a large number of black African women in various colourful clothes and headwraps, in Abidjan, Côote D'Ivoire, for International Women's DayPatriarchy is killing our planet - women alone can save her - The Ecologist

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, an investigative journalist best known for work on Muslim civil rights and terrorism, wrote the above article for the Ecologist website last month and posted it on the Radical Middle Way Facebook group although it really has nothing to do with Islam other than having a Muslim author. (The Ecologist still has its own website, but merged with Satish Kumar’s Resurgence magazine in 2012.) He starts off with a familiar exposition of the present environmental crisis, about how “our global system is, increasingly, in breach of the natural limits of our environment”, but drops ‘patriarchy’ in at the last sentence before giving a series of examples of how the crisis disproportionately affects women, but at no point spells out how precisely patriarchy is at the root of the global environmental crisis. The truth is that it predates it by millenia; the modern lifestyle is the cause of it.

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Will the wheels fall of Maajid Nawaz’s bandwagon now?

Picture of Maajid Nawaz, a middle-aged South Asian man, standing outside a branch of Barclays Bank with a yellow circular badge on his black jacket and leaflets in his handIn today’s Daily Mail there is a report that Maajid Nawaz, the founder of the so-called counter-extremist Muslim organisation Quilliam and Liberal Democrat candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn in the forthcoming election, was filmed in a strip club in Whitechapel last year during Ramadan, where he ‘received’ two five-minute lap dances, got heavily drunk (staff threatened to remove him several times) and tried repeatedly to touch the woman who danced for him, which is against club policy. (The report includes photos and a video of the incident.) Nawaz’s spokesman said that the incident was his stag night which he held with the full knowledge of his now wife; Nawaz himself tweeted:

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A new speed limit at midnight

A red DAF XF articulated truck with red tractor and curtain trailer with the name "Dünya" and a globe with the land in light blue on it.Tonight at midnight, the speed limits for trucks on roads in England and Wales go up by 10mph: the maximum speed on single-carriageway roads to 50mph, and on dual carriageways to 60mph (in practice, vehicles will not be able to exceed 56mph as they are all fitted with speed restrictors). This is something the industry has been campaigning for for some time, but safety charities have criticised it as giving into law-breaking and some drivers complain that it will mean they are paid less as they can complete jobs more quickly. Personally, I welcome it, although I think it should be accompanied by speed limit adjustments for other vehicles as it still leaves trucks doing 10mph less than cars.

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Leaders’ debate: my impressions

Picture of Nigel Farage drinking a beer outside an English pub. The sign (altered from the original) reads "The Jolly Racist: Half-baked ideas sold daily; Wide selection of rampant intolerance; Homemade-up statistics; No dogs, no Romanians". A second sign standing on the floor reads "Tonight, Carnival night with the UKIP black and white minstrels. Scapegoat Competition. Dress code: Bongo-bongo Land, sluts half price".Last night there was a big debate featuring the leaders of the seven major political parties in next month’s elections (Labour, Tories, Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the SNP). I was driving, so listened to the debate on BBC Radio 5 Live rather than watching it on the TV. The debates all started with questions from the floor, and covered major areas such as welfare, the economy, immigration, the NHS and education. Perhaps I missed out on a lot by not seeing it on TV, but I didn’t believe any of the leaders were particularly impressive and this includes the women, contrary to some of the opinions I heard in the debates afterwards and the opinion polls on the front of some of the papers, especially the Tory papers. (I thought the Times’s poll was aimed at scaring the Tories into action on immigration rather than reflecting reality or promoting UKIP.) You can listen to 5 Live’s broadcast here and watch the ITV version on their website here in the UK.

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Stable-door logic

A front page of the Daily Mail from 27th March 2015, with the headline "Suicide pilot had a long history of depression: Why on earth was he allowed to fly?"Last week a GermanWings airliner was crashed into a moutainside in south-western France, killing everyone on board. The evidence seems to suggest that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, crashed it deliberately, and investigations have turned up evidence of fairly minor mental illness and deteriorating eyesight that could have been the motive for his apparent decision. The day after the flight data and voice recorders were investigated and prosecutors announced what they believed happened, newspapers demanded to know why he was allowed to fly, as if this sort of thing could have been predicted from the evidence that was available.

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Muslim women silenced on Muslim women’s dress

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, pictured in 2009Last Saturday, the Guardian published a long-winded screed by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (or Alibi-Brain as we call her) claiming that “the veil” as worn by Muslim women constitutes a “rejection of progressive values”. It’s basically the “single transferable Yasmin Alibhai-Brown article about Muslims”, variants of which have appeared in at least two other British newspapers, and consists of some familiar false historical claims (e.g. “the veil” originates in Persia or Byzantium and its revival is backed by Saudi petro-dollars) and spurious interpretations of scripture sourced from people without any grounding in Islamic scholarship, as well as outright baseless claims, such as this one:

Like a half-naked woman, a veiled female to me represents an affront to female dignity, autonomy and potential. Both are marionettes, and have internalised messages about femaleness. A woman in a full black cloak, her face and eyes masked walked near to where I was sitting in a park recently, but we could not speak. Behind fabric, she was more unapproachable than a fort.

Actually, you might have been able to speak to her. You just didn’t try, preferring to entertain yourself with a flight of self-righteous fancy.

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Race: Things we can’t say (except when we can)

A front page of the British newspaper, the Daily Mail, from 16th March 2015. It says "At last! A man who dares to tell the truth about race: Ex-race tsar says silencing of debate has done devastating harm to Britain".Last Thursday Channel 4 broadcast a 65-minute-long discourse by Trevor Phillips, former head of the Commission for Racial Equality and then (after its amalgamation with all the other equality bodies) the Equality and Human Rights Commission, on the premise that people are afraid to say certain things about race, particularly in terms of making generalisations, even though these things are true. (He could, however, say them in the Daily Mail, which ran a lengthy article by him last Monday). His other contentions were that whites are often afraid to criticise anyone that is not white, even when they are clearly doing wrong, that segregation is the cause of such events as the 2005 London bombings and the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and that the rise of movements like UKIP among whites are an understandable reaction to the “liberal metropolitan elite” ignoring their concerns about these things. (Watchable here in the UK until a month after broadcast.)

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Yet another thing to carry around: Apple, slimlining versus portability

Picture of a white man wearing a blue shirt, and behind him a picture of the side of a new MacBook with a gold finish, showing one port, with the letters 'USB-C' on the screen below it‘Power users’ need to shut up (from OSNews)

This article links to one at iMore, in which someone who calls himself a ‘power user’ but says he hates the term, tells ‘spec monkeys’ to shut up about the lack of external ports on the new MacBook (which only has a single USB-C port, which has to be used for charging and connecting every external device):

The thing that spec monkeys need to remember is that most people don’t care about what they care about. Most people buying new computers aren’t interest in how many cores a CPU has or how many GB of RAM or storage it has. Very few of the people I sell computers to have more than a passing interest. They want to know what the computer can do. What problems it solves for them.

From that perspective, the MacBook is already a success: It provides an up to date, modern OS X Yosemite user experience. It emphasizes wireless connectivity through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth — something many consumers already have ample experience with on their iPhones and iPads. It’s loaded with the software most users need to get started: Everything from a web browser to email, data management apps for contacts, calendars and so on. And it’s well-integrated into an ecosystem millions of iPhone and iPad users already depend on to store their data and make it available in the cloud. iCloud, more specifically.

The OSNews article goes on to compare this sentiment to those who criticise the latest Samsung Galaxy phones (the S6 and S6 Edge) for lacking a SD card slot, using the name logic that “less than 0.1% of people care”. Just because the majority don’t care, it doesn’t mean someone who cares is not right to do so.

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The lawyer who doesn’t know a man from a dog

Picture of Jyoti Singh-Pandey, a young South Asian woman with long black hair, wearing a blue dress with columns of white dots down the front, and a necklace.I don’t know what sort of dignity these people have, because a lot of them are just thugs who got where they are by killing people and kicking people’s heads in. It’s more apt to call a dog a dignitary than some of these people, and even a dog is just acting out its dogginess. You can’t blame a dog for being a dog, but you can blame a human being for acting like something less than an animal.

The above words come from Shaikh Hamza Yusuf, talking about some of the rulers of the Muslim countries in a lecture called Hajj: Journey to the House of God which is actually the first lecture tape I bought from an Islamic bookshop back in the late 90s. They were brought to mind watching last night’s Storyville on BBC Four about the brutal gang-rape and murder of a young female medical student in Delhi in 2012; two of the men’s lawyers were interviewed and they came out with the most outrageous drivel, one of them comparing women to a rose and to a jewel who, if you leave them out in the street, a dog will have them. One of the lawyers announced that if his own daughter was involved in “pre-marital activity”, he would burn her to death in front of their family, and emphasised the fact that the victim, named Jyoti Singh-Pandey, was out with her “boyfriend” after dark. Thankfully, this blockhead failed to persuade a court that Jyoti was some kind of harlot who deserved to be gang-raped and then disembowelled while alive; his client is on Death Row. (You can see the programme on BBC’s iPlayer here until next Monday, if you’re in the UK. It may be available through other channels overseas; it’s also on YouTube here for the time being.)

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Another reason to remain in the EU

Picture of Firas al-Rawi (centre) and his wife and childrenA Twitter friend just flagged up this story from a Canadian newspaper. It’s about a Muslim family who are Canadian citizens being barred from boarding a flight to Florida so they could go to Disneyland and be together while the father, a doctor of Iraqi origin, attended a professional conference in Orlando. Firas al-Rawi and his wife and three children were stopped by US customs at Pearson airport in Toronto, and during a “security inspection”, officials demanded they hand over passwords to their computers and tablets, which they refused to do as it contained personal files such as pictures of the women without hijab. They were then refused entry, and a stamp was put in their passports saying they had “withdrawn”, and their computers have yet to be returned.

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ISIS and the “three silly girls”

The front page of the Daily Mirror, showing CCTV images of the three girls caught on airport CCTV with the headline "'Model pupils' fleeing to be brides of ISIS". It also has a picture of Gillian Taylforth, the actress who plays Cathy Beale in EastEnders, with the headline "EastEnders' Gillian: Even my kids didn't know I was returning".Recently three young girls, British Bangladeshis from east London, left the UK for Turkey apparently intending to join ISIS in Syria, and the media have been up in arms about the fact that someone was able to ‘groom’ these girls to think life would be better over there and that they were allowed to freely leave the country. One Grace Dent wrote a piece in the Independent arguing that they were entirely responsible for their behaviour, that they were “not silly kids wagging off school, but calm, considered, A-grade students who have researched their trip, found hundreds of pounds in funds, booked flights and headed towards earth’s closest vision of actual hell”, and had managed to deceive their families about their intentions, something she would never have been able to do as a 15-year-old. The piece was widely criticised, notably for overlooking the fact that the 15-year-olds were “vulnerable children” according to Nousheen Iqbal in the Guardian, and that the childhood of children of colour is commonly denied them, according to Judith Wanga (@judeinlondon on Twitter).

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Thomas Rawnsley: funeral today

The funeral of Thomas Rawnsley, the young man with Down’s syndrome and autism who died at the Kingdom House unit in Sheffield earlier this month, where he had been held on a Court of Protection Deprivation of Liberty authorisation against his and his family’s wishes, is to be held in Wibsey, Bradford today. I’m not able to be there because of work, but if you’re in the area it’s at 1:30pm at St Paul’s church and the burial is at 2:30pm at North Bierley cemetery. The picture shows him standing with his sister, and his mother Paula published it on Facebook to ‘show how tiny he was’ — as you can see, he was only as tall as she was and she appears to be bending down, which casts doubt on any suggestion that he was big and unmanageable.

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Gender, ‘censorship’ and campus free speech

Black and white picture of Germaine Greer, an older white woman wearing a black top, holding a glass of some drink in her handLast Sunday there was a letter in the Observer, the Sunday sister paper to the Guardian, from a long list of people (the principal signatories being Beatrix Campbell and Deborah Cameron; the others appeared only on the website) protesting against the censorship of opinions at British universities, principally those “whose views are deemed ‘transphobic’ or ‘whorephobic’”:

Last month, there were calls for the Cambridge Union to withdraw a speaking invitation to Germaine Greer; then the Green party came under pressure to repudiate the philosophy lecturer Rupert Read after he questioned the arguments put forward by some trans-activists. The feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel has been “no-platformed” by the National Union of Students for several years.

“No platforming” used to be a tactic used against self-proclaimed fascists and Holocaust-deniers. But today it is being used to prevent the expression of feminist arguments critical of the sex industry and of some demands made by trans activists. The feminists who hold these views have never advocated or engaged in violence against any group of people. Yet it is argued that the mere presence of anyone said to hold those views is a threat to a protected minority group’s safety.

The overreach of “no platform” policies is something I have been periodically campaigning against on this blog for years, as such policies have been used to silence speakers hostile to Israel or who espouse other views which go against fashionable liberal opinion. “No platform” was previously reserved for racists and fascists; in this day and age, they are used against any group that allegedly makes another group feel threatened. Racists and fascists were violent, as are the EDL whose leader has also been the focus of “no platform” policies; the same cannot be said of most radical feminists. I opposed the “no platform” policy against Julie Bindel last October, and my position has not changed. (More: Louise Pennington, Stavvers, Victoria Brownworth. A letter in response was published in today’s edition.)

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Where were you?

Today the Guardian published a long article on the late Lucy Glennon, who wrote for the paper, most memorably about her condition (epidermolysis bullosa or EB), but also about food and about the effects of cuts to disability benefits on the people who relied on them. Some friends of mine who knew Lucy have noted that under the online copy of today’s feature there are a number of comments calling her ‘brave’, an ‘inspiration’ and similar things that are often said about disabled people, yet when Lucy was alive and was fighting to stay in London (as she needed to do), the comments were full of complaints that she was demanding special treatment at the taxpayer’s expense, and the people calling her an inspiration today did not stick up for her then.

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Review: 100 Days of UKIP

Picture of Deepa Kaur (Priyanga Burford), a young South Asian woman wearing a black suit and blue scarf round her neck, shaking hands with a white female constituentUKIP: The First 100 Days (Channel 4; viewable for next 29 days in UK only)

Last night, Channel 4 screened a programme which imagined what the first 100 days of a UKIP government would be like if it won the election outright this coming May. It follows a Sikh woman elected as a UKIP MP in Romford in Essex (on the eastern fringe of London); she is apparently the party’s first Asian MP and much is made of her background and the friction this causes with other members of her family. It uses a lot of archive footage showing real statements by various UKIP candidates and councillors, some of which in this programme had become MPs or even ministers, and ends with the MP losing out on political promotion after siding with her own community after they are disproportionately hit by a UKIP immigration clampdown. (More: TiiRoaC.)

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