Homophobia kills

On Sunday night – less than 24 hours after Omar Mateen killed 49 people in Orlando, Florida for being gay – Owen Jones, the gay journalist, took part in a review of the papers on Sky News. He ended up walking off the show, in disbelief and disgust at the utter denial he encountered from the segment’s presenter (and, to a lesser extent, his fellow panellist) that homophobia had any significant part to play in that morning’s events.

He was informed that those who died were killed because they were at a nightclub enjoying themselves, not because they were gay. (This despite the fact that the murderer’s father had already gone on record to state that his son had been angered by seeing two men kissing.) He was instructed that he had to make a distinction between an act of terror and a homophobic hate crime: that a single event could be either the former or the latter, but not both. (This despite the fact that the utter extremity of homophobia is a key component of the ISIS ideology of hate that Mateen claimed to have been inspired by.)

This treatment of Mr Jones was personally insensitive, but it was also revealing of something rotten in our society. The unpalatable truth is that LGBT people – and our many straight, cisgendered allies – have been engaged in a struggle against homophobia on two fronts: against active homophobes themselves; but also against those who insist that homophobia does not exist, or is wholly trivial, or is the fault of gay people ourselves, for ‘flaunting’ our difference.

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Aethelread the Unwritten

This blog always has been unread. After today, it will also be unwritten…

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Nicky Morgan: the Minister for Equalities who doesn’t believe in LGBT equality

You might currently be experiencing an odd sense of deja vu. That’s because I wrote a post with a very similar title to this – Nicky Morgan: the Minister for Women who doesn’t believe in equality for all women – just about three months ago.

Back then, David Cameron had been forced into a mini-reshuffle of his cabinet by the resignation of Maria Miller because of …er, what was it now? being insufficiently apologetic in a public apology, was that it? Miller’s resignation had created a bit of a headache for the prime minister, not so much in the awarding of her main Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport portfolio (that was handed readily enough to Sajid Javid) as in the handling of her secondary role as Minister for Women and Equalities.

The problem Cameron faced was that the Women and Equalities portfolio had to be given to someone of cabinet level, because any suggestion he was downgrading the importance of the role would have been politically toxic. The Minister for Women had – for pretty obvious reasons – to be a woman, and the Minister for Equalities had – for very similar reasons – to be someone who was in favour of equality. (In practical terms ‘in favour of equality’ meant someone who was in favour of LGBT equality, since the legislation for equal marriage in England and Wales had been the only major equalities Bill put through the current UK parliament.) So, to recap, Mr Cameron was looking for a woman who was in, or could be promoted to, the cabinet and had voted for marriage equality.

This proved to be an insoluble conundrum for a prime minister who headed a parliamentary party that was 84% male, and in which only about two out of every five MPs had voted for marriage equality, so he took the decision to split the portfolio. The incoming Culture Secretary – who had voted in favour of equal marriage, but was a man – was made Minister for Equalities, while Nicky Morgan – who was a woman, but had voted against equality – was made Minister for Women, and granted permission to attend cabinet in that capacity.

All in all this was a pretty unsatisfactory fudge. It blurred the government’s approach to equality (who should lesbians subjected to misogyny and homophobia turn to for help – the Minister for Women, or the Minister for Equalities?), and it meant that the official government champion of female equality didn’t support equality for all women. But it was this unsatisfactory fudge that persisted from early April until mid July.

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Glastonbury 2014

I know, Glastonbury is so long ago you can’t even remember it happened. I’ve been planning for over a week to write my traditional Glastonbury-as-experienced-on-the-BBC post, but I found I was just feeling too uninspired. Partly that was down to factors outside the festival itself – I’ve been living in a kind of blue fog the past little while (by which I mean, more prosaically, that I’ve been experiencing a mild bout of depression that has left me fully functional as to the basics, but too lacking in energy for anything above and beyond). But I also think it perhaps wasn’t the greatest Glastonbury there’s ever been, even after making allowances for the impact of my mood on my capacity to appreciate what was there.

Either way round, I was only inspired to produce this – a belatedly appearing collection of vaguely linked paragraphs. With that kind of enticement to read, I bet you can’t wait to get to it, right?

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Scottish independence, Ed Miliband & progressive politics

On the 4th June the Scottish government’s Expert Working Group on Welfare issued its report on the possible shape of the social security system in an independent Scotland. They recommended that:

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The BMA’s permanent smoking ban

The British Medical Association have voted ‘overwhelmingly’ for a permanent ban on anyone born after the year 2000 buying cigarettes. I have some things I want to say about this.

First, it is probably illegal. Second, it would in practice prove to be wholly unenforceable. Third, it is dangerously authoritarian, in that it runs counter to the principle on which our entire modern civilisation rests: that adults are autonomous individuals, possessed of the right to act in accordance with their own free will, where such actions do not impinge on the autonomous freedoms of others.

The ban would probably be illegal

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The kids are alright, but not all right

The BBC news website had an article about the political affiliations of Generation Y (which is the name unimaginative pop demographers have given to people currently aged 18–30, on the basis that they are the generation after Generation X). The article seems to me rather silly.

Let’s start with the basic idea on which the entire thing is predicated: that it’s possible to speak meaningfully about young people’s attitudes while assuming they all think exactly the same, irrespective of their personal circumstances and experiences. Applied to older people, this idea would instantly be seen as preposterous to the point of outright absurdity. No-one would imagine that it is possible to speak about people aged 38–50 as an undifferentiated mass. Everyone would recognise that a beneficiary of a family trust fund in Kensington would have different opinions to a social worker in Easterhouse, and logically the same idea must be equally absurd when it is applied to young people. Unfortunately, this point is never even mentioned, let alone discussed, in the article.

The journalist who commits this oversight is Vicky Spratt, and she’s keen to talk up her personal involvement as a Generation Y-er in the thing she discusses, in what is I guess a kind of ultra-low-octane version of Gonzo. (Nice little Baby Boomer reference for you there. But wait – how can that be? I’m Generation X, so I can’t possibly have any knowledge of anything beyond the slacker comedies, grunge music and unthinking gratification of animalistic urges that the pop demographers of my youth insisted would define me. It couldn’t possibly be that this whole approach of defining people by their birth date is … whisper it … utter nonsense, could it?)

Spratt peppers her article with assertions that do not seem to me entirely convincing. Here she is, for example, discussing what she takes to be a distinctive difference in the way Generation Y copes with financial hardship.

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An unfortunate juxtaposition

The Observer had an interview with Robert Silvers, the veteran editor of the New York Review of Books (he was present at the 1963 dinner party where it was conceived, and has been its editor ever since).

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The Euro election results build the case for Scottish independence

I have seen it suggested over the last few days that the results of the European elections in Scotland demonstrate that the division between Scottish and English politics is less stark than commonly thought, and that this has undermined the case for independence. I don’t think this is true. In fact, I think it can only be argued by someone who hasn’t really paid attention to the details of the result.

The fact David Coburn can now add the letters ‘MEP’ after his name means that Scotland can no longer be described as a UKIP-free zone, as it formerly could. It means that Scotland is less emphatically anti-UKIP than it used to be – but only in the same way that the existence of a single Scottish Conservative MP means that Scotland is less emphatically anti-Tory now than it was from 1997 to 2001. No-one could plausibly argue that the existence of a solitary Conservative MP means Scotland is as pro-Tory as England, and equally no-one can plausibly argue that one UKIP MEP means Scotland is as pro-UKIP as its southern neighbour. This is easily demonstrated by looking at the figures.

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Political predictions: first update

Eighteen months ago I pretended, preposterously, to be some kind of all-seeing political oracle

Eighteen months ago I idiotically created a whole series of hostages to fortune

Eighteen months ago I used this blog to make a number of political predictions. The first of those predictions related to the European elections just gone.

To be honest, I probably could have pretended I had never done anything so foolish – ignored the whole thing, maybe even quietly “disappeared” the original post – since I would estimate the number of people besides me who remember what I blogged here that long ago to be approximately zero. But I ended that post by saying that I would report back on how my predictions panned out, and – in my blogging life, as in my real life – I try to be a man of my word. So this is what, back in November 2012, I had to say about the European elections of May 2014:

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