Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mary Queen of Scots had her head chopped off....

I'm intrigued by Christine Grahame's call for the remains of Mary, Queen of Scots to be repatriated to Scotland from their current resting place of Westminster Abbey.

I can understand this opinion - after all Mary was Queen of Scots, she was murdered in England and it seems tactless to keep her remains in England. However Mary requested in her will that she be buried in France and her son asked for her to be buried at Westminster Abbey. So who gets to decide her fate now?

I would always say that a person's last wishes should be respected so really if she is to be moved it should be to France, however family wishes are also important. So if we take her son's wishes into account then she should stay where she is.

I can see the flip side though - after all these years and with a figure of national and religious importance there are more important considerations than personal wishes.

I'm not convinced. Someone's resting place is quite a sacred consideration - I'm not sure that it should be changed for political purposes. But I am open to be persuaded otherwise.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why does Brown's disability matter?

I'm not a fan of Gordon Brown. While I think he is generally a good man with good intentions I don't think he has the ability to run the country well. Having said that there's few if any on the Labour benches who do have that ability. There are also rumours about his mental suitability for the job and if the rumours are based on fact rather than vitriol then that would be of real concern.

I found this article in today's Telegraph distasteful in the extreme - snarkily pointing out that his physical disability is getting worse and that assistance such as large fonts in printed and email texts is now needed. The implication - though never said - is that if he is becoming increasingly blind he can't do the job. Nonsense. He can't do the job because he's a leftie who doesn't have the right policies. Frankly whether he receives emails in size 12 or size 36 font is completely irrelevant to his ability to do the job.

If he is becoming more blind as the years go on then it's only right that changes are made to assist him with his work - I would expect it in mine. A blind Prime Minister doesn't bother me in the slightest. A media which heaps scorn on someone because of their disability does.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stop pandering to the lowest common denominator

The news today that nine universities in England are looking at offering interviews to "disadvantaged" youngsters even if their grades don't merit it annoys me immensely. Why should people who don't achieve the necessary results be offered interviews? It patronises them and it insults the students who have achieved the grades needed.

It also, much more damagingly, helps to perpetuate the system we have at the moment where failing schools (and for that read bad teachers) are allowed to thrive happy in the knowledge that somewhere further up the system someone will bail them out. I went to school in a deprived area and as far as I know only two students in my year went to university. That's not to say that everyone at my school was stupid but we had no encouragement and no support from 90% of the teaching staff. It was a fairly common thing to be told "No-one from this area will amount to anything" or "You'll never achieve anything". When we had our discussion - with the school librarian - about university she gave the same answer to everyone. Do an English degree. So when I asked about medicine her answer was "Do an English degree."

Pupils from disadvantaged areas don't need patronising, they don't need false methods of entry into university. They need good schools and strong teachers. They need teachers who tell them they won't amount to anything to be sacked. They need the first step to be the right one, not the final step to be a muddle.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Musings from the journey from hell

Have just endured a rubbish hour on a South West Trains journey from Waterloo home and as I was standing and couldn't nod off so I had to think.   Always a dangerous thing to do.

Why does a fatality at Surbiton so badly affect trains which go nowhere near Surbiton?

Why, on a busy train, is it always the men sitting and the women standing?  I don't expect men to give up their seats for me, but nor do I expect to be sent spinning as men rush past me for the free seats.  

Do people understand the concept of the Olympics? A couple were speaking about the opening ceremony (which I've still to see) and complained that each Olympic host city was trying to outdo the previous city?  Apparently the Olympics isn't about competition.

In the event of everything going so wrong on the trains (ie train leaving an hour late with 100 people standing per carriage) does the guard really have to keep to his idiotic script?  "On behalf of South West Trains I would like to wish you a pleasant journey".  Oh piss off.

Rant over - I feel much better now.  But if anyone has the answers to the above questions please let me know.

Foolish and Inappropriate? Only the Decision!

So Councillor Jahangir Hanif has been suspended from the SNP for firing a gun two and half years ago in Pakistan. According to some nameless, presumably unelected, spokesman his behaviour was "foolish and inappropriate".

Oh do bugger off with your puritanical, holier than thou stupidity. As far as you know the man broke no laws, has been charged with no offence, presents no danger to the public and has never fired a gun in Scotland. So why has he been suspended? Because you're spineless cowards afraid of the bad publicity of an ethnic minority councillor being seen with a gun. Grow up.

And as for foolish and inappropriate? Getting drunk and being thrown into a police cell to cool off for a few hours is a pretty bloody stupid thing to do. But was Kenny MacAskill suspended from the SNP? Hell no - he's now telling us how much we're allowed to drink, when we're allowed to drink it and how much we have to pay for our booze.

This whole incident is nothing more than a gutless show of spin being more important than any sort of reasoned consideration.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hooray for the Olympics

I love the Olympics. I'm not a huge sports fan - I like to watch Wimbledon, but don't watch other tennis tournaments very often. I like cricket but again don't watch it too often. I love Celtic and want them to win every match they play but don't care if I never see them. I really love the Olympics. I watch the Olympics religiously, sports I would normally mock I get caught up in drama of - synchronised swimming, speed walking, beach volleyball, you name it I love watching them.

I also love the idea of the Olympics. The training for so long to have the honour of competing for your nation, the glory of standing on the top step and being awarded the gold medal. As for "athletes of the world unite" - I cry. I believe in the Olympic ideal, I believe that if you strip away the craziness and the drugs cheats and the over-commercialisation there is still a very pure message about hard work, dedication and honest competition. Maybe I'm just a schmuck but for me the next few weeks will be pure bliss and probably lots of tears too.

There is a lot to say about the wisdom of awarding the Olympics to a nation with such a poor human rights record as China, one which is complicit in an on-going genocide and which doesn't allow its own citizens freedom of religion, thought or speech. I'm not sure this is the weekend to do it.

Good luck to all the competitors, especially Team GB (and for their cracking stand on Darfur Team USA). I'll be watching and loving every minute of it.

Go Team USA

While I will of course be supporting Team GB in the Olympics my respect for Team USA has just gone up 100-fold. Despite athletes being begged not to make political statements, Team USA have made a powerful, meaningful and best of all peaceful statement about China's support for the Sudanese government by appointing a former Darfuri refugee, Lopez Lomong as their flag-bearer tomorrow.

Well done Team USA for highlighting China's appalling position on the genocide in Darfur. I hope that if Britain doesn't come top of the medal table you do.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Why No Front Page For Michael Causer?

It seems like every day there's another murdered teenager on the front page of the newspapers. Young boys stabbed to death by other young boys have dominated the news for weeks now. We're told that "something must be done!" about it.

On Saturday an 18 year old boy, Michael Causer, died in hospital a week after receiving serious head injuries in what police are describing as a homophobic attack, yet a glance through the newspapers this morning has no sign of it. Is it because he wasn't stabbed to death, therefore it isn't a fashionable crime or is it because Michael came from Liverpool and well, we expect that kind of behaviour up there?

Or maybe it's because Michael was a young gay man and homophobic crimes are really quite acceptable. If a young black man had been beaten to death it would have been front page news, and rightly so. But not for Michael. All crime is an act of hatred but we also have crimes motivated by nothing but hatred of the victim because of their race, religion, sexuality or disability. It isn't enough just to fight crime, we have to recognise where hate crime is taking place and face it head on. Admit that it is going on and work on ways to educate people about our differences and challenge them to accept the differences as a good thing rather than as an excuse to attack others.

Please don't let Michael Causer's death go unreported and unknown. He and every other victim of homophobic hate crime (and every other victim of hate crime) deserve better than to be ignored in favour of more "newsworthy" crimes.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Tory MPs Reading List

I'm slightly bemused by the story in today's Sunday Telegraph about Tory MPs being given a reading list designed to make them better MPs.  A more pretentious bunch of claptrap I've never come across.  First of all, who has the right to tell their sub-ordinates what they have to do on holiday?  If my boss gave me a list of 38 work-related books to read on my fortnight on the beach I think I'd tell her to get stuffed.  

And the books on the list aren't exactly fun frolics.  Muqtada al-Sadr and the fall of Iraq, or 1948: The First Arab Israeli War don't quite lend themselves to a poolside and a pina colada.  Why do we insist that MPs must always be serious?  Why can't they get away from work for a couple of weeks when they are on holiday?  Would my MP be less good at his job if he read the latest John Grisham or Jilly Cooper or Alexander McCall Smith on holiday rather than the historical reading list they've been given?  Of course not.  Nor will he become a better constituency MP by reading about Lloyd George's women.  Of course, if these are the books that individuals want to read then by all means of course they should.

And we're always told that the long recesses aren't all holiday, that MPs work just as hard in their constituencies during recess as they do in Parliament during session.  So are they expected to read these 38 books in their two/three week holiday?  I'm a pretty voracious reader but even on the laziest of holidays I only average one book a day.  So what will they be losing to read this list?  Precious and deserved time with their families or time with their constituents?  I'd rather they had both.

I also want a governing party that respects the rights of individuals to choose their own leisure activities and how to lead their own lives.  If David Cameron makes it clear he can't trust his own MPs then what hope have the rest of us got?