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...why voting Conservative in the next General Election is the "worst idea evah!"(tm):

Diagam showing Conservative and Labour voting patterns on Gay Rights
(Click to see full size)

Thanks to @nicktelford @amykate @littlespy for bringing it to my attention between them (Twitter Identities all)
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So I have moved a little further South, and a tiny amount further West than the last time that I did this, but I'm still comfortable that the result is representative of my position, so that's good...

So I guess I need to think seriously about voting Green Party, seeing as my normal political party of choice, The Liberal Democrats, are clearly not reading from the same hymn sheet as I am anymore...
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A recent legislative change in the UK has made it essentially an offence to photograph an "on duty" Police Officer.

Yeah, read that again and marvel at the stupidity of the sentence, and then shake your head in despair when I tell you that it is in no way factually inaccurate.

The official explanation for this stunning piece of legislative nonsense is that Terrorists(tm) may gather information / intelligence by photographing members of the Police. Really, that is it, I shit you not.

Now, the current government, and specifically the Ministry of Justice (doesn't that sound as though there should be stylised eagles on the floors and fat-wheeled motorcycles and multi-ammunition sidearms and helmets... I digress) would probably want to stress that the change in the law (specifically the Counter Terrorism Act 2008) does not automatically make it illegal in all cases to point a camera at an "on-duty" Police Officer, but there is more than enough ambiguity in the legislation for either over-zealous or (God forbid) corrupt Police Officers to leverage their discretion into an arrest in the light of the change.

There is certainly enough threat in the legislative change for even the most begnin of Officers to be able to 'suggest' to a Press Photographer (just as an example) that they ought not take photographs as of course they could be arrested if they refuse to voluntarily desist, under the powers of this new Act. Go on, read those two sentences again... Yes, that's right, if a Police Officer is prepared to say that they are suspicious of your motives for taking photographs in a public place, or specifically of themselves or other Officers, then they can legally arrest you and demand that you turn over your gear and photographs.

Now, of course, this power would never be subverted or mis-used. That could never happen; not in England! you may perhaps agree that even the most law-abiding amongst us, even those of us who have a real respect both for the law and the Police on the whole, would have to concede that not all Police Officers are to be trusted, and certainly that there have been and will continue to be cause for concern with regard to legal provisions that erode our Civil Liberties and increase the arbitrary powers that the Police can wield.

Not only that, but let's be clear, Terrorists are not going to actually let this law stop them from gathering information, so all that this law is actually going to achieve is to offer the Police the power to move on, harrass or even arrest and interfere with entirely law abiding members of the Press and the Public who have cameras in their hands, by waving the law in their faces.

Now some people, have started to make rather exaggerated claims about the state of Britain in the light of this legislation (and other bits and pieces), and the words "Police State" have started to be chucked around. I would have to agree that this is perhaps excessive - we in Britain are not living in Pinochet's Chilé, or Ceauşescu's Romania.

Nonetheless the climate of political and civic apathy that seems to be strangling British Society at the present moment, leads me to feel that there is perhaps room for hyperbole, that there is a need to shock people out of their comfortable ignorance and confront them with the frightening precedent that this change represents.

Civil Liberties are a thousand times easier to give away than they are to win, and as a country that has not really experienced extreme social control for decades, the UK seems to be unaware of the fact that there are no guarantees of free speech or free association in our country. There is an un-written constitution based on precedent and tradition that allows for social freedom and generally it is a social freedom that is predicated on a simple social contract - if you're not hurting anyone, then on you go - but it allows for laws to be created that solidify the boundaries of our freedoms. Once codified, powers of social control are hard to remove from the organs of the State that wield them, and we should not be so trusting or so keen to hand our freedoms to anyone in return for some kind of illusory security.

In the end, one can reasonably hope that the vast majority of Police Officers will not abuse or over-use this power; that they will see the inherent danger in over-indulging their discretion no matter how tempting, and see that harassing or curtailing the activities of photographers for the sake of expediency is as damaging to their own liberties as British Subjects as it is for anyone and everyone else. What I hope for is that this issue can be talked about widely and loudly enough that more and more people will realise that we need to actively and jealously defend the scope of our personal freedom, rather than make the state our gaolers, even if we might be tempted by a gilded cage.


This post was essentially inspired by a 'good soldier' of the Labour Party calling into question the use of the term 'Police State' with regard to this issue. While I do respect his intellectual position vis à vis the label and his dis-taste for its mis-use, I do still feel that for all its downsides sometimes a little hyperbole is what is needed.

You can see the blog post in question here, and if you look further down the page you will see my comment on it (I hope).
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Yet again I am awake at a time when any sane person would be asleep... I'm not going to go into my theories as to why this may be, but instead I am going to encourage anyone who reads this to go and watch this video:

Barack Obama "A More Perfect Union"

and then go and read this blogpost:

He wrote that himself...

For all of my concerns that Obama would not, could not deliver real change either through his pursuit of the Nomination of the Democratic Party, or on achieving that the Pursuit of the Presidency as the Democratic Nominee, or even as America's next President, I am starting to see that there is little chance that he couldn't, as real change seems to be truly at the core of his politics, his motivations and his person. To make the speech that I hope you have watched or will watch, linked above, took political courage of which we have not seen the like in the USA for a long, long time and frankly we have not seen here in the UK or elsewhere for that matter in far too long. To trust in the people that his argument can stand on its own merits, no matter that it might be unpopular to speak of it out loud or to give credence to the very real concerns on both sides of the race issue in the US shows rare integrity and purpose in a Presidential Candidate.

I know that my interest in US politics leaves a lot of the non-Americans who see and occasionally read this blog cold, but I do not see how anyone can make the argument that the politics of the last remaining democratic super power are irrelevant to the rest of us. The election that is coming in the US in November will directly affect our lives outside of the US, perhaps not so immediately as it will affect the lives of the people living in America, but it will nonetheless.

There is little doubt now that climate change is a real phenomenon, and not only that but that we are indeed a part of the process that has brought this phenomenon to bear upon our planet. When presented with a choice between John McCain and Barack Obama (for I am now certain despite my earlier doubts that he will be the Democratic Party's Nominee), there is no doubt in my mind that as one of the largest contributors of Greenhouse Gases, America will better serve the needs of the rest of humanity if led by Obama.

When we think of the war in Iraq and of the war in Afghanistan, do we want America - the lynchpin in the forces and political coalitions perpetuating these two conflicts - to be led by a man who still espouses a belief that they should be continued and potentially escalated (McCain), or by a man who has stated time and again that they should be brought to a close with all due speed, taking care to do as little further damage to the civilians of these two blighted nations and taking care to make certain that non-military, nationally and politically neutral assistance is rendered to them to ensure that they can recover and pursue their own destinies as sovreign nations (Obama)?

When we think about the future, and we see the inevitable shadow that the US casts on our popular culture, economies, international realtionships and general freedoms, do we want an America led by a man who despite his centrist tendencies is still wedded to the special interests of corporate America, or do we want an America led by a man who has not wavered in his challenge to the American people that together they can stand up to the financial elite and build a fairer, more just society?

It's hard to say isn't it, because here in the UK at least we have been hood-winked in the recent past by a powerful and apparently principled master of rhetoric - "Where is our social revolution? Where is __our__ hundred days?" where indeed is the social justice, educational excellence and revitalised community that we were promised by Tony Blair, a man who gave all the appearance of integrity and idealistic yet achievable vision? Even despite this hard, bitter lesson of our experience, is it not better to hope and believe that this message of unity between races and creeds, between rich and poor, conservative and liberal may indeed be true? For as America casts her shadow over all of us in so many ways, is it not possible to find some blessed shade from these times of greed and self-aggrandisement at any cost if the shadow were cast by a country united in purpose, striving to make their country a better, fairer, cleaner and intellectually revitalised place?

I ask my friends and acquaintances in the US to heed this man's message, not just for your own sakes, but for all of our sakes. I ask all of my friends and acquaintances outside the States to make the same plea of your American friends and acquaintances.

I am not a Christian, but I can see the wisdom in many parts of the Bible, particularly the New Testament while still acknowledging a good deal of the Bible's teaching to be arcane, though no doubt having been the best wisdom of its time, now superceded by greater, broader wisdom. Still in the Bible we can find the core of Obama's message to America and by implication to the World:

"Be subject to one another" (Ephesians 5:21)

We are a race of one people, what hurts one of us in the long (and sometimes short) run hurts all of us, whether that is asserted through faith or just through an understanding that there is no other logical way to perceive our lives. Whether you or I or anyone acts on the above quotation on its own merits as a philosophical truism, or in the context of the phrase that follows it "in the fear of Christ" as a command from God, or acts on comparable wisdom from every great religion on the face of this planet either as an act and article of faith or because even in the absence of faith one can see this sentiment as ultimately righteous and beneficial, then he is my brother and she is my sister. I truly believe that humanity has at its core the potential for great good and though that potential co-exists with the potential for great evil our own intelligence can be the executioner of that evil because we can see that what helps others can in turn help our own and all we have to do is start to help.

"This guy's walking down a street, when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up "Hey you! Can you help me out?" The doctor writes him a prescription, throws it down the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up "Father, I'm down in this hole, can you help me out?" The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey Joe, it's me, can you help me out?" And the friend jumps in the hole! Our guy says "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here!" and the friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out." (stolen unashamedly from The West Wing - "Noël", Season 2, Episode 10)

For this one moment in time, let us be subject to one another; let us jump into the hole and show our friends that the way out of this hole is to choose to change, to pick a leader who really has a vision for how to make their part of the world a better place. And America, be subject to us in our need for the direction of your nation to be set by someone that in uniting your nation will make your influence over the world a kinder, fairer influence that will help us all to save our planet, to end some wars and to truly come together as one people for the good of all mankind - albeit by the tiny, tiny increments that we can only hope to see in my lifetime and the lifetime of the children I hope to have and the grandchildren I hope to see...


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July 2016

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