A Christian View of Equal Marriage

A friend of mine kindly gave me permission to post the letter she wrote to her mp here.

Dear MP,

I am writing to urge you to vote in favour of equal marriage laws.

I am Christian, a Methodist, a daughter of a Methodist Minister. I
have seen from news reports that you are worried that Christians will
be forced into performing marriage ceremonies that they do not want to
and you  asked that: “your community could let me know the strength of your
views on this matter prior to any legislation.”

In that community it is also true that there are Christian ministers who are eager to
give the blessing of God to the love and commitment of two people,
regardless of their gender.

The strength of my views as a Christian is an unswerving determination
to see human rights be taken up as the main cause of the church. Social
justice and equality are the kind of things Christians should be
standing up for.

Once I was at a service and the preaching minister talked about a time
when many years ago he had heard a minister say that AIDS was a
punishment for homosexuality and he walked out, “because it was the
right thing to do”. He said that sometimes the right thing to do is to
disagree with the church. To stay sitting, to stay in that place, would
have been wrong.

Right now the Conservatives have a chance to do just that, to stand up
for what is right and have an incredible legacy of bringing in equal
rights for people regardless of sexuality. Gay people also suffer a
huge stigma. Bullying and violence is frequent. Parents kicking their
children out. If the vote goes against equal marriage it will continue
to perpetuate this idea that we are different, we don’t deserve the
same rights or the same treatment. I believe that a vote for equal
marriage will stay on in history books far more than the double or
triple dip reception or any economic policy of David Cameron’s.

I myself am bisexual and currently engaged to marry a guy. I love him
very much and cannot wait to get married, but the knowledge that it
could so easily have been a very different situation is a great burden.
We do not love genders, we love people. I certainly do not think that
anyone else’s marriage affects the validity or strength of my own, as
some have suggested.

Currently there can be no religious wording at a civil ceremony, no
Bible readings or hymns or religious poems and no gay marriages in
The Government has promised protection for churches who do not want to
perform gay marriage. Please vote to allow churches and Christians who
DO want to have God and religious elements in their ceremony to do so.

If two people want to commit their lives together and do so as part of
the legal and religious traditions of our country then it is a
beautiful thing that they should not be excluded from because of

I look forward to hearing your response.

Yours sincerely,

Name redacted by request


Ain’t I a Woman and other Speeches

English: One of the symbols of German Women's ...

I was at a conference this weekend, all woman and all politically aware and active. But when it came to naming great speeches by women we had problems doing so.

So I would like to throw it open and see if we can compile a list of great speeches by women and why they are great. (preferably with links to video or transcripts)

I’m starting with Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain’t I A Woman?
Delivered 1851
Women’s Rights Convention, Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

I am also adding two more modern speeches which I found inspiring

Julia Gillard’s firey rebuttal to Tony Abbott and Hillary Clinton’s reply to the Bengazi Hearing

Edit: Thanks to the Magnificent Nan Sloane of the Centre for Women and Democracy


4 Stops Ago


There’s an advert on tv at the moment and the more I watch it the more it concerns me.

In it a girl gets on a cable car and sits next to a chap and after a while she asks where he’s getting off “four stops ago” is his answer. It seems like a perfectly romantic and nice scenario and to the general public it may well be. (the only version of it I can find is cropped so she has the agency)

But to me, it reminds me of things.

It reminds me of the chap who followed me almost to my front door, only to do a swift 180 and walk back to where he was originally, when I got a friend on the phone.

The chap who sat down next to me on the bus and continued trying to talk to me even though I was obviously not interested and indeed he had to pull my headphones out my ear.

The numerous chaps who will tell me “you’d look prettier if you smiled”, really? Who for?

The guy who refused to leave me alone unless I gave him a hug to prove I wasn’t mad.

The men I ran into when working in a bar who assumed that we were part of the service, there to be groped, propositioned and generally treated like pieces of meat.

The chap I thought was my friend until he revealed himself to feel entitled to my body.

And with these and other chaps comes a lot of baggage. Such as not feeling safe even within my own home if I am on my own at night, panicking if I have to walk anywhere in the dark, even to the Council Chamber for meetings. Trying to make sure that I have a friend who knows where I am going and when I should get there.

Some of these chaps may sound flattering, after all it’s nice to be told you’re pretty. But the way in which they do it and the attitude of possession creeps me out. Really it’s a form of street harassment and one which needs to stop. http://feministing.com/2013/01/18/it-takes-a-village-to-silence-street-harassment/


Let’s talk about AWS baby


Jennie Lee, MP, Baroness, Legend, Woman

All Women Shortlists, that bogeyman within the Labour Party. The sole thing that is stopping men from becoming MP’s.

Or so you would think if you listened to the conversation which proliferates around events. Apparently it is now harder for a white, middle-class, male to get into parliament then it is for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle. Women are being put into place purely because they are women, it’s sexist to have a Labour Women’s Network and not a Labour Men’s Network and look at all the advantages they get from the LWN training scheme. They even get their own conference for Bevan’s sake!

There seems to be this view that AWS are giving women an unfair advantage, it’s not about leveling the playing field so much as women taking over. Yet studies have shown that a woman won’t apply for a job unless she has over 85% of the qualities asked for whereas a man will apply if he has only 20%.

There’s an awful lot of privilege denying going on, women are automatically less likely to be selected on an open shortlist, not because of lack of ability, but because selection panels often reflect the makeup of the G.C. G.C’s often tend to be male dominated as they are more likely to put themselves forward or attend meetings. Interestingly this often doesn’t reflect the makeup of the CLP, women are more likely to be silent members, they would go to meetings but were scared off, have to look after the kids or a million and one other activities which are automatically designated “women’s work” even in the most egalitarian and feminist of couples.If CLP’s aren’t gender balanced then how can we expect selections to be genderblind? As Ann Black said in her response to the LWN “Around 75% of parliamentary candidates in non-target seats are also men, worrying because these can often be the first step towards a parliamentary career.”

Men are also more likely to take part in more high-profile campaigning than women, leaflet folding, photocopying and phone canvassing are just as vital to voter ID as doorknocking but have less kudos when selecting people for positions in branch, G.C or as candidates. This is something which needs to be looked into, doorknocking is intimidating enough as it is but as a woman you are constantly reminded that you are not safe. Be it through ad campaigns that blame victims for their own attack or other forms of media which use women as victims. Most men I know have never had to consider their safety in detail before leaving the house, grasping keys in their hand as a defence against attack or ringing a friend before walking home, getting in a taxi or leaving the house when it’s dark.Putting yourself in a situation where you are meeting strangers at their own house automatically rings alarm bells of “not safe, not safe” even if you are in a large group, it does for me even though I have been doorknocking for years. This is one of the reasons women tend to do the backroom work and leave the high-profile stuff to the men. However this counts against them when going for selection.

If you’re a youngish woman, that can count against you. Even though it is no longer asked assumptions are made about your reproductive capabilities and whether you would be able to commit to the role if you had a baby. This is despite some high-profile female MP’s managing to combine both childcare and politics well. I doubt that this is thought of when it comes to male candidates.

As a party we often have an aggression towards AWS based on what is seen as them being imposed by on high. The NEC sets a target and Regional Office tells CLP’s what to do.

  • What we need to start working on is a grassroots approach, we need to start valuing the input women make to campaign work and remove the hierarchy of contributions.
  • There needs to be work on gender balance at the branch and CLP level as well as on selection panels.
  • There has been some excellent work on reformulating the structure of branch and g.c meetings but more has to be done. Thought needs to be paid to the time most of these meetings are and pooling childcare.
  • Women need to be encouraged to stand, when I stood it was the result of a lot of arm twisting on behalf of my CLP chair and secretary who thought I was a good candidate. Without that support I doubt I would have stood or even be considering standing until I was past my 40’s.
  • We also need to start promoting the women within our party, those who have been elected need to start speaking at CLP’s and writing about their experiences, no one person’s experience is the same but we can all support and learn from each other.

Most importantly we need to stop talking about AWS as if they are some giant evil on the level of Beveridge’s Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. Do you think a woman is going to stand after years of being told that she isn’t as good as a man? Do you think that after 20 odd years that someone is going to say something so shocking and new that it will overthrow the entire system?

What we do need to talk about is what other ways we can get women into politics and make it so that AWS aren’t needed but can be considered a relic of the past.

Councillor Camp


Bleary eyed, freezing and tired I dragged myself out of bed on a Saturday morning. Having spent the night on a blow up mattress that deflated as I slept with a party going on above my head my patience was thin and my ability to comprehend very little.

Asking myself why I kept doing this I made my weary way to Facebook HQ, soothed by the thought of caffeine and cake. So why was I getting out of bed before 7 on a Saturday? The answer was a one day conference on Councillors and Social media. Being the twitter and Facebook addict that I was I had been asked by some people why I needed to go to a course on social media.

So what did I get out of it apart from unlimited access to the Facebook fridge (coders and redbull, go figure)

Firstly, I was able to connect with a number of Councillors I had known only on twitter or met in passing and swap best practice. You would be surprised at the lack of support and information for Councillors. I only know of two books about local government and one is Ken Livingstone’s autobiography. Most of us are muddling about and learning from each other so networking opportunities are vital.

Secondly, I went in with the mindset that I could always learn more, I may have my phone glued to my hand 24/7, tweeting come snow or shine but no one person can know everything especially in such a new form of media. Getting to learn in such a great environment was awe inspiring. Plus the range of people who were there, from me at 24 to a 70 year old Councillor, all willing to lean. Didn’t hurt that they had Settlers of Catan in a pile of games either.

I must admit I didn’t like the format of the Unconference. Because of the way the day was designed I often found myself in groups where everyone wanted to learn and noone had any expertise or where a small group (of normally the same people) dominated based on computer knowledge that even I knew was out of date or wrong. But if anyone suggested an alternative they were dismissed out of hand.

However I learnt a lot, talked to a lot of people and have some big ideas. I’m currently thinking about setting up a YouTube channel and getting other Councillors to do voxpops. I don’t think we are quite at the web-casting stage but the seminar on that was amazingly interesting with the head of the company who does it on hand to explain.

All in all, it was worth going although it would have been nice to go to somewhere more local!



On the Living Wage


I was recently fortunate enough to be able to second Gedling Borough Council’s motion on the living wage

English: View from Arnot Hill Park The main la...


Madam Mayor,

I’m delighted to

second this motion which demonstrates the Labour Group’s commitment to ensuring that the Council is a fair and enlightened employer.

I would like to start by congratulating the Cabinet in being in a position to be able to pay £250 to our lowest paid staff.  This payment recognises the hard work that our employees do, especially in this difficult period.

In his report to Cabinet the Corporate Director highlights the numerous savings made through staff co-operation such as the £90,000 annually saved on travel costs, £300,000 annually saved by freezing posts and the collaboration with the unions to reprioritise the activities of the council and streamline management which resulted in over £160,000 of annual savings.

Local Government pay has been frozen since March 2010.  In real terms we have seen a pay cut for every single employee.  Since March 2010 RPI has risen 11.3% and CPI by 8%.  Despite this I have yet to hear our employees complain.

Let’s look at the context.  The Chancellor recognised that the pay freeze for public sector was particularly harsh for staff paid less than £21,000 and offered the scope to increase pay for these staff by £250 per year.  65% of our staff fall into this group.  The Local Government Employers organisation was convinced that most councils could not make this payment and did not make a pay offer nationally.  It’s a sign of a well run council that we can afford the payment.

Having spent some time below the line on the Nottingham Post website I’m sure the argument will come up that this is a waste of council taxpayers’ money.  I would like to suggest that this is a fallacy.  A large number of the employees of Gedling Borough Council live in the Borough and we can assume that some of the money we are awarding will come back into the Borough by our employees taking advantage of the two hours free parking to do some last minute shopping on our high streets.

There are some 88,000 electors in Gedling.  If you divide the total amount of the payment by the number of electors it comes out as 90 pence each per year.  Under the previous administration I recall that it was 60p for an hour’s parking in the Borough and we were told this was cheap.

But those who still think this is too expensive might want to have to look at the priorities shown by local conservative run councils.  Rushcliffe Borough has just given £810,000 to Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, a privately owned business.  The Conservative Controlled County Council has also recently given Trent Bridge a grant of £900,000.  This works out at £1.7 million of taxpayer’s money given to a private business.

But this one-off bonus is only the start. I’m delighted that the Council is committed to introducing the living wage for our employees as soon as possible and aiming to ensure Gedling becomes a living wage borough.

The Living Wage Foundation calculates the income that is needed to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living.  For example, it calculates that a single person outside needs an income of £7.20 per hour (£16,800 per annum) and parents with two children £36.700 (£18,400 each) to have a minimum acceptable standard of living.  Nationally some 20% of workers are paid below the living wage but for Gedling Borough it around 28% of our workforce.  Paying such low wages is immoral and must be addressed.

I do not expect this to be a bone of contention, after all, all three of our political parties support raising the pay of low earners.  During the General Election campaign in May 2010 David Cameron referred to the Living Wage as ‘An idea whose time has come’.  Ed Miliband is committed to delivering a living wage as part of his programme to give everyone a stake in the economy and promoting growth.

Some of the biggest commercial firms such as KPMG, Barclays have already signed up to the living wage.  Even firms with large numbers of low paid employers like Intercontinental Hotels have signed up.  Firms like these wouldn’t do so if they thought it would damage their businesses.  Many public sector employers such as the Greater London Authority, where Boris Johnson has carried on the work of Ken Livingstone, the devolved administrations and many large local councils are signed up.  . The DWP has announced that it will actually introduce the living wage for its low paid cleaners and catering staff, while the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Justice have given indications that they might soon follow suit.

The Living Wage has benefits – employers who have implemented it believe that the Living Wage enhances the quality of the work of their staff, and reduces absenteeism.  Two thirds of employers reported a significant impact on recruitment and retention within their organisation, as well as saving money by reducing staff turnover and increasing loyalty.

We know that there is a growing gap between rich and poor and that the current Government’s austerity policies are making this worse.  Too many people are having to do more than one low paid job and are still dependent on in-work benefits if they and their families are to survive.  Even in areas as relatively wealthy as Gedling we are seeing the obscenity of people depending on food banks.

I don’t know about Councillor Barnfather but I don’t feel particularly merry knowing that some of our citizens are relying on charity in order to be able to eat. Or having to chose between food and fuel to heat their house.

If we are to make progress as a nation then a fair pay for a fair day’s work has to be part of the basic deal.

This is something we must lead on, if we as a council are not paying a decent, living wage to our employees then what right do we have to expect businesses in Gedling to do the same. And more shame on us if we don’t pass this motion and make sure we do end up as a living wage council as soon as possible for both our in-house and contracted-out staff.

Thank you