Friday, August 31, 2012

"Showing off her bump" - the vanishing identity of a pregnant woman

It's a painful experience, but I do read the Daily Fail every day. I always feel that it's important to be aware of the misinformed bile it's giving out to people.

On right hand side of their web page there's a column called Femail which gives an index of articles about various celebrities going out wearing clothes and either putting on or losing weight. Each are bad, apparently. Because that's what women should be interested in. 

They often use a ridiculous phrase whenever a pregnant woman steps out in public. They say that she's "showing off her bump". Today it was Holly Madison. I'd wouldn't have heard of the former Playboy playmate and US reality star either if she hadn't been in Dancing with the Stars three years ago. What was Ms Madison doing? She was filling with car with petrol. I can't imagine for a moment that she was thinking "I must show my bump to the world". More likely it was something like "darn, the red light's flashing, I'd better get some gas."

She only announced she was pregnant the day before. It's quite common for a woman's identity to just disappear, even if the baby you're carrying is not much bigger than a grain of rice. Suddenly you become public property. People come up to you in the street and pat your bump and think they have the right to ask you all sorts of personal questions.

Pregnancy takes around 40 weeks. During that time, you pretty much carry on as normal. You go to work, you go shopping, you go to the gym, you go out to parties. Harriet Harman fought and won a parliamentary by-election in 1982 during her pregnancy. Angela Constance, now the Scottish Government's youth employment minister won her Livingston constituency from Labour while in the early stages of her pregnancy with son Cyrus. I'm sure that neither of them thought for a second that they were showing off their bump as they headed off to the next stop on their campaign trail. 

You can't exactly leave your bump at home when your pregnant, but it shouldn't define everything about you. Pregnant women don't stop being nurses, lawyers, government ministers or whatever. 

Further down, by the way, the Fail decided to have a pop at some other pregnant celebrity who was on her way to a yoga class. The paper expressed disbelief that anyone could bend with a bump, showing their usual ignorance on both pregnancy and yoga. 

It really annoys me that the aspirations of young girls appear to be directed into fashion, frivolity and  footballers by the likes of celebrity magazines and the Femail column on the Fail website.  I kid you not - Louis Walsh actually suggested in his book Fast Track to Fame that aspiring female singers should give their career a boost by dating a footballer. We need to provide alternative sources of inspiration for young girls. Let's hope that will be a big part of the Olympic legacy with so many positive role models - from the warmth and wide ranging wisdom of Clare Balding's broadcasting to Jessica Ennis and  Victoria Pendleton and now Sarah Storey's and many others' achievements in their sports. 

At some point in the next few years it is likelier than not that Kate and William will have one or more children. The media will go into overdrive and Kate will have even more ridiculous things written about her. The reporting on William will be very much business as usual, while the reports on his wife will be, pretty much, about a bump with a woman attached. It's a depressing thought.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Michael Moore: It's time to crack on and sort out the referendum details

Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Mike Moore has used a speech to a business conference in Edinburgh to talk about the next steps in the preparation for the referendum on independence to be held by the Scottish Government.

He's repeated the point he made so well in January that a referendum legislated for solely by the Scottish Parliament would be illegal and could be open to challenge in the courts. Apart from the uncertainty it would cause, potentially for years, I'm darned if I want the Government to be spending gazillions in legal fees.

As I wrote then, the SNP know full well that they need the power to be devolved to them by Westminster to make the referendum watertight. What they are saying is that they should just be given the power without any negotiation. Now, if the Westminster Government were being incredibly prescriptive, it could attach all sorts of very narrow conditions. But, no, Mike Moore is way too reasonable for that. All he's asked for really is that there's a single question on independence, which is what the SNP say they want, that the electorate should be the same as for a Scottish Parliament election (ie no 16 and 17 year olds getting the vote, which makes sense seeing as the SNP aren't canvaassing 15 and 16 year olds next year, so it would be a disaster anyway), and that there's proper scrutiny by the Electoral Commission, reporting to the Scottish Parliament. Apparently, he wants the referendum as soon as possible, but he's been pretty relaxed about that and has pretty much agreed the SNP's timetable.

So, I don't really see any huge barriers to getting the date named and the Section 30 Order sorted. Mike Moore has said that he wants all the detail agreed by the end of October to enable all the legislation to be done in time for the SNP's own timetable. Again, perfectly reasonable.

In a well crafted speech, he outlined the need for a Section 30 Order:

Even the Scottish Government acknowledge that the Scottish Parliament’s existing power to pass an independence referendum Bill is questionable.
And the Scottish Government itself has said that it is willing to work with us to put that referendum effectively beyond legal challenge. Any Government that introduces a Bill that it knows to be – or that it thinks might be – outwith the Parliament’s competence, must expect a legal challenge to come. “On an issue as crucial as our nation’s future within the United Kingdom, the Scottish Government would have to anticipate that someone would emerge to challenge an independence referendum run on current powers. And a successful challenge would prevent their ballot from taking place. That’s no way to settle this issue. Scotland’s future must be decided at the ballot box, not in the court room. I am confident that on this point of principle also, Scotland’s two governments agree. An attempt to hold a referendum outwith the law would look like an attempt to ensure that there is no referendum at all.
That last little bit, about the Government attempting to hold a referendum outwith the law looking like an attempt to ensure that there's no referendum at all is quite a hard hitting thing to say - but it certainly reflects the view of some people that if the SNP didn't think they could win, they'd just let Scotland's future be tied up in the courts for years until, so the theory goes, that we all got fed up of it and voted for independence.

I doubt that they would be so daft - they would lose every ounce of credibility if they pulled a stunt like that, especially when they are being offered darned close to everything they want. 

The next steps include a meeting with Alex Salmond in a few weeks' time to try and sort things out.

It’s time to crack on. Time is pressing. The sooner we can get the process issues out of the way and get on to the ‘Great Debate’ itself the better for everyone. And the less damaging the uncertainty will be for people and businesses alike. But importantly, if the Scottish Government wants to meet its own timetable for the referendum, the powers must be devolved by next spring. And that means both Governments reaching agreement on a Section 30 Order by late October.
 Crack on? I'm quite impressed at these little colloquialisms creeping into  Moore's vocabulary. 

But, seriously, I expect my Governments to work together to deliver a referendum that gives a clear result, is fair and isn't going to be in the courts forever and a day. My Westminster Government has done pretty well. I expect it would be too much to ask for the SNP to settle all of this without any toys being thrown out of the pram, but they may yet surprise me.

Let's just hope it's all dusted so that we have a deal in late October along with the witches, ghouls and pumpkins that appear at that time of year.

Why Farron rocks - Party President says he'll stop using "hard working families"

Well, who says politicians don't listen?

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat Party President, has said he will stop using the term "hard working families" after a few of us expressed our concerns about it. I had a bit of a rant earlier and Jennie Rigg also wrote about why she finds the term deeply offensive. She said:
The phrase Hard Working Families purposefully excludes and marginalises anyone who doesn't have a job, and anyone who doesn't have a traditional family. This goes across well with the general public because they are used to anyone who doesn't have a job and anyone who doesn't have a traditional family being demonised. It fits into their worldview. It's a dog whistle to the sort of person who says "I've worked hard all my life and paid taxes and why should my taxes go to pay for wheelchairs when I haven't got a new car this year?"
So, off I went for a day's campaigning in sunny (really) East Dunbartonshire and was thrilled to bits to see this in my Twitter mentions when I got home:

I'm well impressed that he's listened and responded so positively to us His ongoing mission, should he choose to accept it, is to try to persuade the others who use it that there are better, more inclusive, alternatives.

That awful "hard working families" phrase....

If there was one phrase used by politicians, including Liberal Democrats, I could choose to put in Room 101, it would be "hard working families."

This is partly because it doesn't reflect all those who have been helped by the Liberal Democrats' tax and pension measures. All basic rate taxpayers, whether they have children or not, have been helped by the raising of the tax threshold to the tune of around three or four months' council tax, or a month's rent.

The anxieties of living on a low wage in an insecure job are just as strong if you are single or part of a couple with no children. In fact, it's petrifying if you're single because there's only your income to fall back on. If you're on a low income, you don't have the chance to save much for a rainy day and if your car and washing machine break down at the same time, you're a bit stuffed. Having not enough money is a nightmare whatever your family situation. Life is a perpetual struggle.

The other reason I don't like the phrase is because it has more than a whiff of judgement about it. I don't go for the deserving and undeserving poor thing. It implies that if you're out of work for some reason you are somehow at fault. My husband, with an unblemished employment record, took almost a year to find a job when he was made redundant in 1994. It was horrendous and he had the best support imaginable in terms of getting job applications done - the services of British Coal Enterprise in Mansfield. He went there every day as though he was going to work and completed hundreds of job applications and went for many interviews and for a while ended up coming second all the time.

You can't talk with one hand with understanding at the horrors of long term unemployment and the effect it can have on someone and then rub salt in the wounds by making it sound like hard working families are the only people worth helping.

It was Party President Tim Farron who set me off on this train of thought late last night when I read the email he'd sent out highlighting Nick Clegg's call for an emergency tax for the very wealthy in which he used that phrase. I told him on Twitter that it made me feel like crying and, as he always does, he responded almost immediately and said he'd "try to make sure it doesn't happen again." He might have a hard job ahead of him given that it's one of the MP's bingo card things that they are supposed to say all the time, along with "as a Liberal Democrat", "coalition government", "cleaning up Labour's economic mess" and "doing the right thing."

I was talking to Mark Pack about this last week and, while he doesn't mind "hard working families", he told me that in Australia that the phrase used to describe those struggling with financial adversity is "the battlers." That's a bit more inclusive so maybe we need to find an equivalent - or just nick theirs. Certainly "hard working families" doesn't cover the woman caring for her husband, disabled after a Stroke, or the retired couple struggling to make ends meet, or the redundant factory worker desperate to find another job to keep the wolf from her door.

I am impressed, by the way, that Tim replied so quickly. It's been a feature of his presidency and not something he just turns on and off at election time. Even when the party is fed up with him for some reason, he listens to all the points made to him and replies courteously and promptly. He might not always say what I want to hear, but nobody ever will. He is up for election this year and I will definitely be supporting him for a second term.

Tim used the opportunity within his email, by the way, to invite everyone to Conference. He was a bit tame, though, saying people should go because: "we will now debate real ideas to fix our economy and to make sure we build one based on fairness". We will, but we'll also do shedloads of training, learn so much from the organisations who have fringes or stalls and just catch up with our Lib Dem family. As Party Conference is the most fun you can ever have, naked or clothed, I'd recommend that you take him up on that invitation to Conference if you possibly can. There are cheaper options available if money is an issue - going as a steward for example. Register here for Brighton in just 3 weeks' time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nick Clegg calls for emergency taxes on wealthy

Nick Clegg has told the Guardian that he wants to see a time limited extra tax for the wealthiest so that it can be seen that they are shouldering their share of the burden of the country's economic challenges. He warned that, with the "economic war" we're facing likely to be longer term than we thought, it wouldn't be either "socially or politically sustainable  or acceptable" if the richest weren't asked to pay more.

He said:
If we are going to ask people for more sacrifices over a longer period of time, a longer period of belt tightening as a country, then we just have to make sure that people see it is being done as fairly and as progressively as possible.
We already know that the Liberal Democrats have already made sure that the rich pay more tax on their Capital Gains while the lowest paid pay less tax. Nick Clegg also insisted that benefits should be uprated in line with inflation last year, against the wishes of the Conservatives and of course we have seen the biggest cash rise in the State Pension ever. None of these things would have happened without us being in Government.

Nick didn't give any specific details of how the "time limited contribution" would work. Our conference in three weeks' time will provide the prime opportunity to unveil the proposal.
Liberal Democrat Voice c0-editor Mark Pack, while welcoming the policy, expressed concerns at the clumsiness of the language Nick  used to describe it. Certainly
we need to really hard-wire fairness into what we do in the next phases of fiscal restraint
is not a phrase we want to see on too many leaflets.

While many Liberal Democrats will welcome such a bold statement from the leader, and will strongly support his proposals, they will also want to see more measures to actively relieve the pressure on the poorest, particularly those whose sickness benefits have been time limited and who are struggling as a consequence. The Conference will also be debating a wide-ranging motion on inequality which will tackle some of those issues.

Labour were typically quick to criticise Nick's proposal - but it's significantly more radical than anything they managed to do. A modest rise in income tax for the wealthiest a month before leaving office didn't really cut it, especially when it's wealth and unearned income which require greater attention from HMRC.

And, finally, it's good to see the Guardian publish a nice picture of Nick smiling for a change. They do exist and should be used more often.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Thick of It is back soon - here's the trailer

Very soon, we'll see for ourselves how Armando Ianucci and co have transformed The Thick of It to take account of coalition.

It has been away too long. I need to hear some good old fashioned Malcolm Tucker profanity again.

The writers have been teasing us. Last week they gave out some information about the plot and this week, to whet our appetites still further, they have released a trailer.


More misogyny - but this time it's all a joke

I've been highlighting some of the scary things Republicans have been saying as regards rape today and a friend of mine sent me something that shows that it's not just politicians from the US right who say stupid and dangerous things.

Step forward Senator Morgan Femai from Zimbabwe. Hot on the heels of the Iranian clerics who blamed women wearing a bit of make up and mini skirts for earthquakes, in May a Zinbabwean senator said that beautiful women were to blame for HIV and they should be made to shave their heads and take fewer baths. Really. 

Well, it took one of his mates two months to come up with an excuse. Apparently, he was just having a laugh. 

So that's fine then. 

Just because something is supposed to be a joke does not make it funny. Nor does it make you somehow wrong if you don't laugh at it because it's not funny. 

Given the importance of HIV infection in Africa, you would think that legislators would take training about it seriously and behave with some decorum, rather than using it as a sexist free-for-all. 

Not at all impressive. 

If, on the other hand, you want to see something that is funny, have a look at this concerning Todd Akin, he of the scary Republican "legitimate rape" quotes. There's a slight veneer of plausibility to get you interested and then it's laughter all the way, just like political satire should be.

Scary Republicans part 2 - Rape is a method of conception

I think I've got it now. If enough Republicans say enough ridiculous and offensive things about rape, then Mitt Romney's position, which would radically reduce the rights of women to seek termination of pregnancy, might just look mainstream and moderate.

Romney's position is anything but mainstream and it certainly isn't moderate. If he got his way, abortion would be illegal except in cases of rape, incest and where the life of the mother is in danger.

The latest Republican to say something outrageous is none other than Romney's own ultra conservative running mate, Paul Ryan, again pointed out by the Huffington Post, referred to rape as a method of conception.

He sucked up to his own constituency by saying:
I'm very proud of my pro life record and have always adopted the position that the method of conception doesn't change the definition of life. 
but then quickly added that Romney's position is a "vast improvement on where we are right now."

So that's all right then. Unless of course he finds himself in the Oval Office if Romney is somehow incapacitated as President.

I am about as pro choice as they come, but friends of mine who don't share that view and take a pro-life stance are equally shocked by such comments.

 Let's just hope that young girls growing up in the US don't have the rights fought for by previous generations eroded by people who think that it's fine to force a woman to carry her rapist's baby, to give her no choice in the matter at all.

By the way, Scary Republicans Part 1 is here.

Scary Republicans Part 1 - comparing pregnancy from rape to having a child out of wedlock

As the Republicans gather in Florida for their Convention, they are all madly trying to make it sound as though they really aren't as bad as Todd Akin, the Missouri senate candidate whose assertion that you can't get pregnant from "legitimate rape" hit the headlines last week.

Scarily, they don't seem to realise that they are just as bad, if not worse.

Here we have, from the Huffington Post, a video of Tom Smith, a Republican Senate candidate from Pennsylvania, who dug a huge hole for himself when he compared pregnancy resulting from rape to having a child out of wedlock. That's right. You shouldn't actually have to say that a horrible traumatic violation is not even in the same land mass as a consensual loving relationship, but these people make it really important that we do. I wrote the other day that there is insufficient protection for US mothers in this situation from further abuse as rapists seek access to the children conceived as a result of their crime.

What worries me is that the nasty, ill-informed language of US politics will become more entrenched over here. Maybe not by many mainstream politicians yet, but unless we stand up to against these kinds of comments every time they're made, then all sorts of other kinds of hatred spring up. We need our leaders to state the bleedin' obvious in a very calm and matter of fact way. It's strange in a way that it's taken until now for a US President to unequivocally support same sex marriage - and it's to Obama's credit that he was willing to take the political risk to do so. While it's very worrying that we have the sort of politics in the US that requires the President of the US to state unequivocally that rape is rape, it's vital that he does so. Nobody else will.

If Romney and Ryan win in November, hard won rights will be under severe threat. It certainly won't be very pleasant to be LGBT and/or female. This is a crucial time to stand up for liberal values.

Update - and there's more. Check here for Scary Republicans part 2.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Murdo Fraser's Mona Lisa retweet

I am severely unimpressed with Murdo Fraser, Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife. He's been pretty robust with someone who criticised him on Twitter today, saying:
What mindless pathetic individuals you are. Begone trolls.
Now, I know that politicians take some pretty heavy duty abuse online. I've had my fair share of it myself and I'm only a mere foot soldier. I've been called all sorts of names. The only time it upsets me is if it comes from somebody I have had some interaction with or have some respect for. Most of the time I completely ignore it. I take the view that my life is too short to waste on such people.

There are some occasions when I'll draw attention to some abuse I receive, or something that's been really horrendous about someone else. I did when I was called an f***ing disgusting racist nazi w***e by someone who didn't even try to hide their identity.

I try not to descend to the level of these people, though.

Now, I could forgive Murdo being a little grumpy with the people who had tweeted him. One of those accounts doesn't exist and the other is protected so I can't tell you what sparked it off.

However, I had been annoyed earlier in the day when Murdo had retweeted someone who had said something really insulting about Willie Rennie:

I'm well aware that retweeting a comment doesn't necessarily mean that you agree with it. Sometimes it does, though. I'd hope that people know me well enough to understand what I'd agree with and what not, but I can't be sure.

On this occasion, I think it would have been sensible for Murdo, if he really couldn't stop himself from retweeting,  to have added some caveat to it. He could have said something like "trolls are after everyone today", just putting a bit of distance between himself and the sentiments expressed.

Anyyone looking, like I did, could interpret it as agreement. It looked like he was endorsing an insulting comment about a fellow MSP, someone who represents the same region. I'd say that was a pretty poor show.

To be fair, I did take it up with him and he replied that:

"RTs not endorsements, Caron. If you follow me you'll know I'm forever retweeting abuse I receive."

I don't think it's right, though. It could easily be implied that he was having a personal pop at another MSP. If he'd said anything like that in the Holyrood Chamber, he'd have been pulled up for it.

I think that Murdo should apologise to Willie for retweeting a deeply insulting comment about him and think twice before doing so without caveat in the future. When an item like that appears on your Twitter feed, you really can't guess the motive. Like the look on the lady's face in the iconic painting, it literally could mean anything.

If Murdo takes exception, like anyone would, to being attacked by other people, then he should be careful not to give the appearance of doing it to others. I've asked him to state that he doesn't mean it because his first reply doesn't actually say that. He hasn't replied yet, but I'll keep you posted.

Donald Gorrie 1933-2012

This weekend Scotland lost one of its greatest liberal figures. Donald Gorrie, Mr Edinburgh, passed away on Friday.

Sadly, I never knew him that well, although, of course, I admired from afar his work on issues like sectarianism, alcohol, third party right of appeal in planning decisions and showing how STV would work in the Scottish Parliament.

He was a good role model of how to behave  when you're in a coalition you're not really happy with. He was never destructive, but he spoke up when he wasn't happy and spent his time developing ideas. He had that winning combination of the sharpest of minds, the most liberal of hearts and the most determined of mindsets.

Many tributes have been paid to him.

Paul Edie worked with Donald on the Council for many years. On polling day in May, he went to greet Donald when he went to vote. He compared Gorrie to another great liberal:
He was a man who had a strong sense of morality and  his politics were very much shaped by his sense of right and wrong. He had so much in common with  the great Liberal hero Gladstone in that regard and like the Grand Old Man he became more radical the older he got
Dan Falchikov remembered that Donald, like me, was relaxed on the idea of an independence referendum and thought we made the wrong decision in 2007.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who worked closely with Donald between 1997 and 1999 when Willie was the party's chief executive, and subsequently when he went to work as Chief of Staff for the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament, paid a warm tribute to him:

With a liberal backbone made of steel Donald Gorrie dedicated his life to challenging the establishment.
A highly effective councillor and parliamentarian he revelled in the battle for fairness, opportunity and justice.
Donald was never afraid to be a lone voice and his boundless energy was evident throughout his thirty six years of public service.
The Liberal Democrats will forever be grateful for the life of Donald Gorrie. We will miss him.
Our thoughts are with his wife Astrid and his family.
Secretary of State for Scotland Mike Moore said:
He was a great liberal and a fearless campaigner. Scottish politics is poorer without him.
Andrew Page admires Donald's principled and prescient approach.

Gorrie’s individuality and commitment to principle became quickly evident in his opposition to the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition at Holyrood.  While there were, at the time, strong working relationships between the two parties and the respective leaders (Donald Dewar and Jim Wallace) Gorrie was more suspicious of Labour authoritarianism and centralist tendencies. 
The obituary in today's Scotsman sums all the themes in the various tributes we've heard very well.

His approach to party politics, like his approach to his own politics, was governed by independence. He was independent of mind, he wanted his party to be independent (particularly of coalitions with Labour) and he wanted MSPs to be as independent as him.
As he left parliament, his colleagues acknowledged that the Scottish Parliament was lessened by his departure and that his rather old-fashioned values of service to ideas and people above party had brought a sense colour, depth and wisdom to the institution which only he could bring.
On Twitter, a search for his name brings up recurring mentions of words like gentleman, principle, independent and kind from all across the political spectrum. For posterity, I've collected them into a wee Storify thing.

He had been married to Astrid for 55 years and she, and the rest of Donald's family, are very much in my thoughts today.

Friday, August 24, 2012

We're going to Church - to support equal marriage

It's a wee while since I've been to Church. In my teens, I went a lot, as I'd become involved with a lovely group of evangelical Christians in Wick. I'd initially come to know them because they were about the only people in the whole school who didn't bully me but some have been lifelong friends.

Even at the beginning, though, I felt that my instinctive liberalism was in conflict with what was asked of me as part of that group. A casual comment about how I was going home to watch the Snooker after youth group on a Sunday night led to a conversation about how you should never ever watch the television on a Sunday which made me very uncomfortable. That sort of rigidity is never going to sit well with me. If someone doesn't want to watch tv on a Sunday, then that's fine, but leave others to make their own minds up.

That inflexibility had a more sinister side, though. When I went to university I was horrified by the way some of my gay friends were treated by the Christian Union as I wrote a few years ago.. I remember being at a prayer meeting when someone asked God to cure someone from being gay. I never went back after that. I could have stayed and fought as many people did - and it's great that they're there - but at the same time my belief in the very existence of any deity was crumbling. The way I lived my life didn't change that much apart from the absence of church. I was still the same person, with the same values, principles, ideals and morals, learning my way through life, mucking things up, trying to put them right again just like everyone else, trying to live the best life I could. That still holds true today. I just can't get my head round the idea that there's a divine presence overseeing our lives. If I'd come to that conclusion as a citizen of the United States of America, that would kill any hope I had of a political career stone dead, which I think is a great shame.

Diversity is one of our best assets as a species and is never something we should fear. As a liberal it's something I both crave for and celebrate. I want to see a society where people are free to practise their beliefs while extending that same courtesy to everyone else. I like discussing different ideas. We can all learn something from each other even if there are issues we will never agree on. I can't get my head round the idea that Scotland should leave the UK,  but I'll stand shoulder to shoulder with Nicola Sturgeon who as Deputy First Minister has pledged that the SNP Government will implement equal marriage

That's why it upsets me that the Scottish Roman Catholic Church, at the insistence of its leaders, has made this Sunday a day when they will assert that marriage is between one man and one woman and move their campaign against the Government's plans to allow same sex couples to marry up a gear. They want to raise £100,000 for an advertising campaign. Given that their press officer regularly goes on television and tells the world that gay people die sooner. The authors of the study he quotes object to their material being used in this way:

Overall, we do not condone the use of our research in a manner that restricts the political or human rights of gay and bisexual men or any other group 

 The soon to be Archbishop of Glasgow's comments about the tragic death of Inverclyde MP David Cairns, implying that the fact he was gay was a factor were deeply hurtful and, again, had no basis in fact. It was a horrible thing to say about anybody did his credibility immense harm.

The idea that the leaders of the Scottish Roman Catholic Church own the concept of marriage is ridiculous. They can have a commission to define what marriage means to them if they like, but that shouldn't be enforceable on the rest of us. Nobody is suggesting that they will or should be forced to carry out same-sex marriages, so why should their views constrain everyone else?

I felt I really wanted to do something to support equal marriage on Sunday. So, I'm going to  accept the invitation of Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost of St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow to go to one of their services. Everyone is welcome there, even the deeply heathen like me. It just feels like the right thing to do to counteract the very negative message coming from the Cardinal and the Archbishop which I don't believe is supported by the majority of the members of the Catholic Church. What could be more positive than being in a place where inclusiveness, acceptance and celebration of diversity is hardwired into everything they do? 

As Kelvin says: 

The people who have contacted me about this upcoming Sunday to ask if they can join us for a week are quite varied. Some are straight people and some are gay. Some are Roman Catholics who simply don’t want to be told what to think about this topic and who reject the current rhetoric coming from the Scottish Roman Catholic Church. Others have no connection with that church but simply want to turn up to a church on that Sunday where the message is of compassion and love. Indeed, I have been contacted by a couple of atheists who said that they would like to come to church on that day to mark a particular anniversary and wondered whether they too would be welcome. The answer, of course, was yes. All are welcome in this place. (And they won’t be the only atheists there either).
It is a worry to me that atheists might think themselves unwelcome in churches. What kind of messages are churches sending out to convey this? There’s not a congregation worth going to that wouldn’t welcome such a person.
I have spoken to my congregation about the invitation that I want to reinforce this weekend and I have asked them to put the word about amongst their friends. If they know anyone in this city who would like to worship with us this week rather than worship in their own church for one Sunday then the message is clear. Everyone is welcome at St Mary’s. We don’t preach hatred. We don’t preach or teach bigotry. We stand up for the simple love of God. If anyone wishes to join us for one week as respite from the message preached in other places then they would be welcome to join us either this week or indeed on any Sunday.

Bob and I will be celebrating 24 years of marriage on Sunday. In those 8,760 days, we've had fun, tears, happiness, despair, worry, uncertainty, contentment. Every emotion you could possibly imagine. We've had to get used to each other's annoying foibles and support each other with the hurdles life has put in our way. We've faced some really tough challenges and had some of the best experiences it's possible to have. Bringing up Anna together has been the most amazing, rewarding and wonderful experience imaginable.  

I get to thinking sometimes, what if there had been an arbitrary law saying that you couldn't marry someone more than 10 years older or younger than you. We'd have been stuffed as there's 16 years between us.  Sure, we could have lived together, but we wouldn't have been each other's next of kin and if one of us had died, the other's family could have excluded the other, thrown them out of the home we'd shared if they disapproved of our relationship. Then imagine if someone had recognised at some point that this wasn't really fair and said that we could have a partnership ceremony which would confer some legal rights on us. What, exactly, would merit such a distinction? How is our love and commitment any different to anyone else's? It's like being forced to spend your life driving on a provisional licence when you've passed your test. It's not right. There wasn't of course, any arbitrary law forbidding our marriage - but there is for many of our friends and we want them to have the same choices as we do.

So that's why we are going to Church this Sunday, to put love, compassion and respect centre stage where it should be. If you feel the same, why not join us.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

That Nick Clegg leadership poll: what the papers say

Strangely, that Liberal Democrat Voice poll which showed that members were split 47%-46% on whether Nick Clegg should still be Liberal Democrat leader at the next election has attracted a bit of coverage in the press.

The Guardian suggests that:

Clegg is vulnerable because he is seen as one of the few people at the top of the party who is ideologically sympathetic to the Conservatives.

Well, that's maybe because Polly Toynbee and the Guardian are always trying to paint him that way. David Cameron, on the other hand, who is probably in a better position to judge, is always whinging about how that pesky Nick Clegg is stopping him from doing the proper Tory stuff he really wants to do.

The Daily Mail says David Cameron is going around telling people Nick Clegg's position is precarious. That would be the same David Cameron who's having severe problems with about a third of his parliamentary party.

The Sun says Cameron is frightened Clegg will be toppled. He clearly hasn't either read the poll, which only has 14% of people wanting him to go this year or next, or the Liberal Democrat constitution. There are only two ways to trigger a hostile leadership election: A no confidence motion must be passed by a majority of MPs or 75 local parties, after quorate general meetings, can send a request to the party president.  I cannot see either of these things happening any time soon. They also, bizarrely, say that Vince Cable has put himself forward as leader. Let's look at what the Financial Times article actually said:

Should a vacancy arise for the leadership of his party, might he be a candidate? “I wouldn’t exclude it,” he replies in his flat, nasal tones.

It's not quite watch out, Cleggie, I'm coming to get you, is it?

The Mirror mentions it in passing in a story which says that plans to issue a revised Coalition Agreement have been delayed.

The Liberal Democrat blogosphere, on the other hand, has been largely silent which indicates that we really don't see this kind of stuff as a big deal. Whether we're fans of Nick or not, bloggers generally have a reasonable knowledge of the party and clearly nobody thinks there are  any imminent leadership shenanigans afoot. Frankly, our party is not known for deference to its leader. We are generally a bolshy and argumentative lot and the fact that only 14% want him to go this year is a pretty good show. I'm fairly certain Paddy, who is pretty much universally adored now, would have had higher anti ratings in his time.

I wrote my response in a comment to the original piece but other than that, the only person I can see who's written anything else is our Stephen Tall himself, who asks whether he was right to publish the poll. He said, in response to somebody who had complained to him:
For the record, I’m a fan of both the Coalition and Nick Clegg as anyone who’s read my stuff will know. But I think it’s important that members who disagree with me — and who feel at least as passionately about the party as you do — have the opportunity to express their views, even if they’re not very convenient. Indeed, even members of Nick’s team I’ve spoken to feel it was a reasonable question to ask. A good friend will always let you know the truth.

Rapists try to get access to the babies conceived by rape

Rape has been in the news a lot this week because of the disgraceful comments of Todd Akins and George Galloway.

These men have at least started a dialogue on the issue which has had some positive effects - read this excellent post by George Potter to see how the furore has made him stand up and be counted as a feminist.

Rape in itself is a horrible, traumatic crime which leaves those who suffer it with a life sentence in which they have to learn to deal with the effects of this violation. Some men, though, choose to torture the women they rape even further by trying to gain access to children born as a result of that rape. Apparently that is acceptable in 31 US states.

You can imagine that no woman would want to hand over a vulnerable child to someone capable of such violence and they may not have the resources to fight the claim in court. The men often don't even want access to the child - but they use it as a bargaining chip to avoid criminal proceedings for the rape.

Shauna Prewitt writes on CNN's website about how this happened to her and how it motivated her to become a lawyer and help other women in the same situation.She also talked about how comments like those made by Akin (and presumably Galloway, too) make her feel like she's back on trial.

You would hope that in this country a rapist wouldn't get contact with the child conceived as a result. Sadly,though, I can see situations where this might happen. We've seen that attitudes like those of Akin - let's just remind ourselves -
Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.
And here is Galloway talking about how the Swedish women's allegations do not constitute rape because "not everyone needs to be asked prior to each insertion" because "you're already in the sex game with them." "It might be bad sexual etiquette but it's not rape."

I suspect that there may be cases, particularly where the rapist knows his victim, where he can manipulate the legal system to his own advantage, who would happily trash the reputation of the woman to gain the sympathy of the court and who would be granted contact.Can you just imagine the trauma that would cause?

One of the things on my FFS list (that small but important list of things that the Government has done that I really can't live with) is the withdrawal of Legal Aid for family proceedings which disproportionately impacts on women who have been abused in some way by their partners. I shall be looking out for accounts of how this affects people, because I still think it needs to be reversed.

Going back to the original topic, though, I was glad to see Obama come out very quickly and denounce Todd Akin's comments, saying "rape is rape."

Obama has been great on things like birth control and women's rights in a domestic setting and he's chosen a Secretary of State who's committed to improving the quality of life for women and girls across the world. You don't often hear, though, any world leaders, including Clegg and Cameron, talking about women's rights across the world. I want to see that change.

Paddy Ashdown talks about his new book "A brilliant little operation"

I had to stifle a giggle as Paddy Ashdown strode on to the stage at the Edinburgh Book Festival and said:
What are you lot doing here at ten in the morning?
There was a certain irony at this coming from the man who notoriously held meetings at the crack of dawn when he was party leader.

The morning after his "why the world will never be the same again" talk, he was back to tell us about his new book, "A brilliant little operation", about the founding raid of the Special Boat Service, the special forces unit where he would later serve. He described his seventh book as a labour of love as he told us how research had taken him to France and Germany and how he'd uncovered a deeper, darker story beyond the raid itself.  He admitted to nerves at this, his first presentation and spoke of "the beautiful moment" when he'd finally finished writing and revision.

This December sees the 70th anniversary of the inaugural SBS raid, to blow up German boats in Bordeaux harbour, disrupting the supply chain. This was carried out by twelve men who undertook a gruelling journey by canoe. Sadly, only two of them survived until the end and their efforts may not have been necessary. At the same time, unbeknownst to the SBS, the secret services had their own unit, stationed in a cafe just 100 metres from the harbour, who were primed to do the same thing the next night. Some of those captured by the Germans had been close to safe houses that they didn't know about.

The book was partly motivated by atonement. In 1965 the young Ashdown was rude to a stranger on a train who had asked him if he was in the SBS. He later discovered that his travelling companion had been Blondie Hasler, one of his all time heroes and the commander of this operation.

Paddy described the context, the low point of the war, where Britain had only two advantages, its navy and the "rampant pugnacity" of Winston Churchill. Hasler's raid was planned to disrupt the German supply route from the far east to Bordeaux. Paddy read from the last letters written by the young men as their pictures appeared on the screen behind. As he described the tragedy of the events that unfolded and the bravery of the men and those they came across who'd helped them, his talent for storytelling was clear. You could imagine the sights and sounds and smells and dangers and emotions. He introduced us to the characters involved, from both SBS and the secret services and told of meeting some of them while researching the book.

Given that only two out of twelve survived, he was asked if the raid had not been a failure. He replied that it was a devastating blow to the Germans who had to then divert resources to protect harbours and who had been convinced of their own invincibility until then. It was also a huge stimulus to the Resistance. The special forces and secret service now co-operate as a matter of course now.

I really don't do books about war, but after briefly meeting the characters in such an absorbing presentation, I felt it would be rude not to buy this one and I can't wait for it to arrive.

A Brilliant Little Operation can be pre-ordered here on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paddy Ashdown: Why the world will never be the same again

Last week, Paddy Ashdown came to the Edinburgh Book Festival. He filled the main theatre twice over with two very different talks.
The first, Why the world will never be the same again, was chaired by the Today Programme's James Naughtie.

"I wouldn't trust the UN to run a Liberal Democrat jumble sale"

Speaking without notes and with compelling candour, Paddy told us that we were condemned to living in one of those turbulent times when the balance of power in the world shifts. He saw two such major shifts. The first was a vertical one. Individual nation states could not alone regulate global issues like the internet, satellite broadcasting and multinational corporations. He  warned that "destroyers occupy lawless space." Our survival, he argued, was dependent on the effectiveness of the global governance we build. He said that the UN would always be useful as a forum for debate and to legitimise international action, but governance should be done by treaty based organisations like NATO and the WTO or "regional coalitions of the willing". He wouldn't trust the UN to run a Liberal Democrat Jumble sale.

Ashdown's Third Law

The second power shift was a lateral one, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Europe can no longer count on the US to be the defender of last resort and will have to work together. He railed against the current lack of leadership on the EU, describing it as a conspiracy to be obsessed by the petty. He talked about how in the future we will need to work together with countries that don't share our values to deal with specific issues. We need to understand how we share our with others,  how we suffer if they do. In our interconnected world, Swine Flu in Mexico one day is a problem in Aberdeen the next. This was the basis of Ashdown's Third Law:

In the modern age, when everything is connected to everything, the most important thing about what you can do is what you can do with others.

Give women control over their own lives

He took questions on a wide variety of subjects. On overpopulation, he rejected draconian one child policies and said that giving women control over their own lives was the way to deal with it.

He decried the "sword waving" threats to Iran, saying that we need to accept that we can't use military power to prevent them having a nuclear weapon.

On the US election, he said that if the Tea Party got their hands on power, the US decline would be bloody, destabilising and unpleasant.

Liberal Democrats have shown fantastic courage and support

Asked by Naughtie where he was on the scale between euphoria and despair on the Coalition, he said "I'm a Liberal, I'm a permanent optimist." He went on to say that Nick Clegg had done the right thing in bringing the party into Government and the party had followed through with fantastic courage and support. He said we had to hold to the Coalition, making sure we drove through policy to get into a decent economic position and reminded the audience that while we have Greek debt levels, we enjoy German interest rates. He also went on to say that liberal values could be challenged by turbulent times, and things like increased web snooping power were completely wrong , but would be checked by the intervention of the Liberal Democrats.

"I had powers that ought to make any Liberal blush - I loved it!"

Looking back to his time in Bosnia as UN High Representative (a "ridiculous title"), the above observation made the audience laugh.

There were a few Liberal Democrats there, understandably, and when I spoke to them afterwards, they were all very impressed with the clarity in which he defined the challenges facing the world and proposed he solution. My predominant feeling was that I was scared stiff. He was right - but would the rest of the world listen?

Independent's spin on Nick Clegg and the Thick of It

LDV readers will no doubt be delighted that The Thick of It will be back on our screens this Autumn. The political satire has been greatly missed over the past two years and it will be interesting to see how they interpret the dynamics of Coalition Government.

If today's Independent is to be believed, the script writers had a bit of help. The headline suggests a co-ordinated strategy - "How Nick Clegg's aides tried to put him in the thick of it". Sadly, the actual story doesn't really stack up. "Nick Clegg may wish to interrogate his private office," says the first paragraph of the article. Except the basis for the story is one email from someone who no longer works there:
Armando got an email after a political awards. The person said ‘I’m working in Nick Clegg’s office until June. I’ll let you know what happened after that.
That's it. However, the article has lots of information about the new series and how it's all going to work. Nicola Murray, the former DoSAC Minister played so well by Rebecca Front, is now the Leader of the Opposition with Malcolm Tucker as her media adviser.

There is one loose end, though. Who could possibly be the writer of the email? Any guess I could make would be wildly speculative.  Obviously we don't know which June is being referred to. The highest profile departure this year was that of Richard Reeves to live in the States, and he didn't leave until 5th July, so clearly it couldn't be him, could it?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Yuck! Normal life resumes.....

That first day of normality after holidays is always awful. Last night when I set the weekday alarm on my phone for 6:25 am, my heart sank.

This Summer has been, despite the weather, one of the best ever. We've done loads. First of all we had the first week of July up on the Black Isle, which surely has to be one of the most gorgeous places on earth. I mean, look at this:

Bob also had the last two weeks of the holidays off work. While we didn't go away, we had some great fun at the Festival, seeing Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig, Toby Hadoke, the Comedy Club for Kids, a very amusing debut show by comedian Hayden Cohen called Age of the Geek and a fabulous production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Botanics. The three links are to reviews I've written for Festival Journal and to the booking page for the Geek show. I will review the others when I get round to it.

We also had days out at Dare Protoplay in Dundee. Again Anna was a junior judge in the video games competition and again the gender balance of the teams was a cause for concern. There were only two women out of fifteen members of the winning teams. This s a problem because you then get the industry developing games that girls aren't interested in, or which show rape as a way of building character, or other violence against women. I wrote last year about the need to address this. 

We had our night away in Bearsden where Anna took over my Twitter account and we went to Jupiter Artland in West Lothian and the Scottish Deer Centre in Fife. 

It was all pretty blissful, really. I even managed to read a few books - the Hunger Games Trilogy and Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy are both brilliant - and, of course, there was the small matter of Olympics addiction. London put on a spectacular show and gave a good account of the UK as a fabulous place to visit. And Team GB showed us the benefits of the UK working together to produce excellence and support our sportspeople properly.

One thing about not going away, though - people tend to think that they can still expect you to do stuff which means that you don't really get to properly switch off. And sometimes you end up doing it because it's quick and you might as well. 

Today came as a huge shock. That 6:25 alarm was most unwelcome, especially when it was accompanied by torrential rain. Mind you, it's really irritating going back to school in bright sunshine, so I guess we can't really complain about that. 

To add insult to injury, the first thing I saw in my inbox was an email from Amazon emblazoned with the words END OF SUMMER SALE. Just rub it in, why don't you? I know it was for a sale, but I don't really need any more encouragement to buy any more from them. 

I really missed Bob and Anna when they went out this morning. 

Now I have an eye-watering To Do list to get through and I don't think we'll stop again until Christmas. At least I'm sufficiently recharged to tackle it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pussy Riot Demo in Edinburgh tomorrow

Punk music is not my cup of tea, even when it's performed by feminists. Freedom of speech, however, is very much my thing. Three alleged members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot face jail for singing a protest song outside a Moscow cathedral in February. They have been detained since then.  It horrifies me that young women, some of whom have young children, might be jailed for several years tomorrow when the final verdict is given.

There is a demonstration outside the Russian Consulate in Melville Crescent, Edinburgh, tomorrow at noon, timed to coincide with the verdict. Sadly, we're on holiday and our day involved bambis and strawberries tomorrow so we can't go - but if you can, please do.

There is another way you can help, too, and that's by texting ACTION21 and your full name to 88080 to help Amnesty International's campaign to persuade the Russian authorities to free these brave young women.

SCVO's Alison Elliot proves Willie Rennie's point

Willie Rennie has been questioning the fact that Alex Salmond's Special Adviser seems to have an inappropriately familiar relationship with SCVO Chief Executive Martin Sime over the issue of a second question on Devo Max on the independence referendum ballot paper. 

It's already been stated by numerous constitutional experts that a second question could give an unclear outcome. Much as I and every other Liberal Democrat wants to see more powers for the Scottish Parliament, a second question in this referendum is not the way to deliver it.

The SNP themselves say they only want one question, "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?" Why then, is Alex Bell, Alex Salmond's Special Adviser, sending an email circulating a Unite poll supporting a second question? Out of the goodness of his heart? Or is it that the SNP know that they can't win on independence because most Scots do not want the UK to be split up and they're grappling around for some sort of face saving consolation prize? Even better if they can encourage supposedly independent organisations to do their legwork on this for them.

So, Willie Rennie wrote to Alison Elliot, the Convener of SCVO, asking her to consider the position of Martin Sime. His letter said:
I am sure your members will be dismayed to learn that Mr Sime is allowing the SNP to use the SCVO as a front organisation to make its case for a second question.  As you are more than aware the SVCO exist to represent the views and interests of Scotland’s third sector. Mr Sime has displayed poor judgement by involving himself in a highly polarised debate on matters of process regarding the constitutional referendum.
 SCVO exist to represent the views and interests of Scotland’s third sector.  It provides expert opinion to decision makers on a range of subjects including health, education, justice and regeneration. I value the critical role the organisation plays.  However, Martin Sime is undermining the impartiality of that opinion by backing the SNP in a highly polarised debate on constitutional process matters on which he has neither locus nor expertise. I believe that Mr Sime should consider his position as Chief Executive of SCVO.
Alison Elliot's reply, published by Holyrood magazine in full , is extraordinary in its hostile and unprofessional tone.

There is simply no excuse for the head of any organisation to write to anyone in these terms, no matter how much they have offended you:
 I consider your allegations preposterous, your interpretation of the incidents fanciful and your attempt to interfere in the business of an independent organisation unworthy of a public leader. I have no intention of asking Martin to resign.
Her comments will no doubt play well to the SNP gallery, but ordinary people and, indeed, people working in the voluntary sector, feel disquiet about the way a supposedly independent organisation seems to be working hand in glove with the establishment. I've had it said to me that Sime and Elliot have lost the plot on this, that they have no mandate for what they're saying and that they are making it difficult for SCVO to work with anyone other than the SNP in the future. And that's from people who have nothing to do with the Liberal Democrats.

Every organisation and individual has the right to take part in the debate on Scotland's future. In fact, when it comes to future devolution, I want to see something like another constitutional convention where civic society and people and politicians come together to develop a consensus as to where we should go next. What's wrong, though, is where they're doing so at the direct urging of the SNP Government and not telling us that. Debate on a second question is welcome but when it's being manipulated behind by scenes by SNP SpAds, we need to know.

I get Alison Elliot's desire to protect her member of staff but its angry tone does nothing to reassure those who will be alarmed by the emergence of such links. Had I been in her position, I'd have been opening the door to Willie Rennie, inviting him for a meeting to reassure him, not slamming it in his face. I'd have made it clear that I didn't think there was a case to answer, but I'd have wanted to show that I was engaging with everybody. All she's done with such an emotionally charged outburst is to add weight to Willie's argument.

In response to Alison Elliot's caustic reply, Willie said:

I've clearly touched a raw nerve. These are serious concerns about the impartiality of the Chief Executive of SCVO and clearly deserve a better response. I think people will be concerned that SCVO has taken one side of a highly polarised, political debate. First we had the attempt to undermine the launch of Better Together and now hard evidence of collusion with one of Alex Salmond's close advisers. SCVO are in serious danger of undermining their reputation.

Liberals exist to challenge excesses of the state - and in this case, by so brazenly attempting to manipulate the debate for its own ends and not being transparent about it, the SNP has been shown to be wanting. SCVO damages its position as an independent organisation by being seen to dance to the SNP's tune. Willie is right to ask questions.

Why shouldn't Assange be sent to Sweden?

They don't make them much more bleeding heart liberal than me. I've written many times on human rights issues. Why, then, do I struggle to find much sympathy for the predicament in which Wikileaks founder Julian Assange finds himself?

Assange is currently holed up in the Ecuador's London Embassy. He's been there for two months after he applied for political asylum in that country. Ecuador expects to make its mind up today as to what to do with it. He went there after spending nearly two years fighting a bid to extradite him to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault.

If Ecuador, as expected, grants Assange political asylum, I think this would be totally against the spirit of what asylum is for. It's not there to protect people from facing legitimate criminal charges. Those charges against him, of rape and molestation, are pretty serious and need to be answered.

It's not as if Ecuador has a perfect record on human rights. This year's Amnesty International report shows that its Government is not above locking its critics up.

The UK Government has said that it has the right to enter Ecuador's Embassy to arrest Assange under the terms of the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987. This gives the Secretary of State the power to withdraw consent for an area of land to be treated as diplomatic premises if they think that it's permissible under international law.

Entering the Embassy of another state is a very serious thing to do. There are good reasons, not least the protection of our own diplomats abroad, why premises are protected from the intervention of the host state. Stephen Glenn feels so strongly about this that he has suggested that he might leave the party if the Liberal Democrats in the Government allow Assange's arrest on diplomatic premises.

I'd say what about the rights of the two Swedish women. Do they not have the right to have their cases taken seriously, for the person they say assaulted them to be brought to justice? Why is Assange more important than them?  I find it extraordinary that Stephen can compare a few police nipping inside the Ecuador Embassy in London and picking up someone who is legitimately wanted for trial in Sweden and then leaving peacefully with 52 Americans being held hostage for 444 days in Iran between 1979 and 1981.

Entering a foreign embassy is a serious thing - but in this case, I think there's a legitimate reason. Sweden has a robust justice system and he'll receive a fair trial there.

There is an issue over his further extradition to the US over the Wikileaks issue. Certainly there are some people who want to see him put to death for that. The UK would insist, if he were extradited, that he would not face the death penalty. There is doubt on whether Sweden would make such a stipulation.    Again, we have to leave Sweden to make its own decision on that - but, again, it's Sweden, one of the most liberal places on the planet, and better than us on many counts. If we can't extradite him there, we'd never send anyone anywhere.

Theresa May has to be absolutely 100% sure of her legal grounds - and after the muck up earlier this year over the deadline for  Abu Qatada's appeal, I expect she will make sure that every i is dotted and t crossed - but I see no reason why the Government should permit a nation state to give asylum on a spurious pretext to someone who may be guilty of rape.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My daughter's Twitter "reign of terror"

Weeks ago, I got an email from Premier Inn advertising very, very cheap rooms. I decided to book one for a quick night away during our two week holiday. We're spending the time at home mainly because we wanted to do the Festival seriously.

I hadn't realised when booking that 12th August was the night of the Olympics closing ceremony, but you can't change the date with these cheap offers so, off we went. As it turned out, having some exploring to do the next day made the ending of the Olympics a little more bearable for us.

After a delicious dinner in the Burnbrae pub in Bearsden,we went back to our room and watched the ceremony. We were all laughing and joking about it. I can't quite remember how, but Anna started typing my tweets for me. I then told her she could be my official Twitter correspondent for the evening if she wanted, a challenge she embraced with relish and her customary quirkiness.

She loved it - and I was very grateful to those of my friends who chatted to her through the evening. At one point, I did actually utter the words "tweet what you want". So, for the avoidance of doubt, I want to make it absolutely clear that I can't stand Justin Bieber and I feel many emotions towards David Cameron, but love is most definitely not one of them. Oh, and I never said Twilight was better written than Doctor Who, but I am quite happy to admit to liking it. In fact, I even reviewed it here. It's a bit embarrassing that I said the books were essentially chaste before I'd read Breaking Dawn but never mind.

Oh, and, yes, I did blub my heart out when the Spice Girls came on. I love them and am not embarrassed to admit it. Those tears were nothing to what happened when Gary Barlow came on, though. How incredibly brave for him to tackle a pretty emotional song at the end of the ceremony, just before the flame went out, just 8 days after his little daughter Poppy was stillborn.

We'll never forget the 2012 Olympics, but Anna's tweets gave us an even more special reason to remember the closing ceremony. I had to save her self styled reign of terror for posterity, so here they are in a Storify thingy.


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