Saturday, 27 April 2013

Some times the unexpected happens

Last week I wrote about the proposals to remove section 3 of the Equality Act and amazingly enough following a defeat in the House of Lords, the minister in charge,  Jo Swinson announced that she was U-turning. Of course I told my children that this was as a direct result of my blog post ... but I really wonder why it was possible to get a change of heart on this from Minsters and not on other issues  like cuts in legal advice for discrimination complainants, the destruction of the National Health service or the Bedroom Tax to name but a few.
Did it make a difference that the proposals were being debated in the middle of a series of local authority elections? Did it make a difference that the removal of section 3 would have potentially had not only national but international implications. Whatever it is I really wish we could bottle it.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Spiking Section 3 of the Equality Act

The Government has had its eyes on the Equality Act for quite some time. Last year, I attended a consultation at the Government Equalities Office in Victoria about the future of discrimination advice. By the time I had left the building the Governments Red Tape Challenge had been launched with a plan to scrap the general duty. For the longest while they seemed to talk about launching a consultation without actually launching one when they did actually launch it is came with a raft of other proposals relating to the Equality Act. 
The consultation responses to keep the General Duty outnumbered those to scrap it by six to one.  However still like a thief in the night the proposal is not only here, but voted through parliament on a vote of 310 – 244 in that 66 vote difference 41 Liberal Democrat MP’s voted. In the 2010 election, the Guardian was urging many to vote Lib Dem to keep a Tory Government out to protect a core set of values about civil liberties. Here those same Lib Dems were vote en mass to remove the General Duty. Jo Swinson argued that it was unimportant. The governments briefing on the reasoning to remove it was it argued creating unrealistic expectations.
A significant proportion of Lib Dems at their own conference expressed concern over the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill and there seemed to be some concerted lobbying to try and get Lib Dem MP’s to at least abstain. It therefore comes as a surprise that the Conservative Peter Bottomley felt able to rebel on this issue whilst only David Ward was the only Lib Dem to do so. If you are still unconvinced about the need to oppose the changes watch the video. If you want to do something about it write to your MP using this site here. If Peter Bottomley can be on the forces protecting Equality perhaps there's still hope.
As local elections draw closer, the Lib Dems are trailing behind UKIP on many polls. In the Borough elections two years ago, they suffered heavy losses in Northampton. Some of the greatest of those were in student areas such as Trinity and St. Georges. With overwhelming more Conservative County Councils being defended in this election, and UKIP polling to get up to 20% of the Conservative vote, the May elections are expected to bring significant change.  It need not have been so for the Lib Dems. They sold their souls for a Proportional Representation referendum and still feel the need to pay for it.            

Saturday, 20 April 2013

It's about power

Over the last couple of weeks there has been so much it’s hard to make sense out of.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. Sometimes it’s not. One defining characteristic about 2013 is a level of brutality on a personal, organisation, governmental and international level.
Earlier this month we had the conviction and sentencing of Mick and Mairead Philpott for their part in the deaths of the six children. Then a subsequent news frenzy as rather than violence it was seen as the fault of a benefit culture by senior Conservative figures. Earlier this week it came out that Mick Philpott  was a Conservative voter an left bloggers alluded to the fact that it was his voting practices rather than his benefits that created the culture that resulted in the deaths of the children.
The inquest into Savita Halappanavar's death has unanimously delivered its verdict: her death was as a result of medical misadventure. A strong health young woman who was herself a medical professional died because the medical professionals around her would not give her an abortion whilst there was the presence of the foetal heartbeat despite and admission that the foetus had fatal abnormalities. Whilst senior clinicians protected themselves by citing the anomalies in the Irish law it was left to a midwife to tell the truth about why Savita was denied an abortion.  It was not because an abortion wouldn’t save her ... as it would have it was because of the country that Savita had the misfortune to be in when she had problems with the pregnancy. Savita’s death created outrage in India from feminists but supported by a wave of patriotic anti-West sentiment that turned a blind eye to the need for greater access to abortion for Indian women in India and more basic health care support for Indian woman and girls.
In the last twenty-four hours there is a new atrocity to focus on as a five year old girl is raped and physically abused in Delhi. The reports of the abuse, and the police investigations when she went missed is gut wrenchingly both horrific and tragic. As demonstrators demand that enough is enough, the police alienate themselves even more by reports of one of them slapping a protester.
The common thread is clearly the issue of power imbalances against women and children. Rather than issues about the state, this kind of inhumanity will continue as long as people think they can get away with playing life and death over others because no one will stand up and be counted in defence of others that are more vulnerable or simply do not have the power. In some ways you can argue that there are tough decisions to be made as no one wants to be accused with no comeback but unless more people stand up for what they believe in, then women and children will continue to die. Despite the fact that deeply violent and disgusting things have happened in India ... at least there is protest. All too often bad things happen in Britain and no one wants to know.