Sunday, February 05, 2006
I’ll start with the news on Tuesday that Lib Dem leadership candidate Chris Huhne had reneged on a deal he made in private with fellow leadership candidate Menzies Campbell not to stand against him. Huhne’s fellow young Liberals – Clegg, Laws, Davey et al, are quietly seething with anger about Huhne going against his word. The group had planned to unite behind Sir Campbell and have their own battle for the leadership after the next election with Campbell steadying the ship in the meantime. This situation is all rather comical, Clegg, Laws and co. only have themselves to blame for not standing and thus letting Huhne steal a march. The subsequent withdrawal of Oaten and defaming of Simon Hughes has made it almost a two horse race; if Huhne can get enough of the second votes he may just be able to pull this off. There could be some very irate Orange Bookers come March the 2nd.
The major issue of the week has of course been Freedom of Speech. Firstly the government were twice defeated on their Religious Hatred Bill, the second by just one vote –who was strangely absent? No, not George Galloway, he was present and voted with the government. The notable absence was the Prime Minister himself! With a vote attendance record of only 6% since the election, it’s hardly surprising. Labour’s chief whip Hilary Armstrong clearly made a huge miscalculation, perhaps mislead by a cunning Tory ploy of announcing the vote as a two-line whip yet treating it as a three. Credit also to Mark Oaten who made his return to the House for the vote.
The big story has been the publication of defamatory cartoons in the Danish press back in September and their recent reprinting by European newspapers (none of them British) in an attempt to assert their right to freedom of speech. The Times has a three page article on the furore starting from the very beginning. My own (perhaps naive) feeling, is that whilst the cartoons may have been unfunny, hackneyed and foolish, the paper had every right to print them. As has been said many thousands of times before - I might not like what you say but I will defend your right to say it, or as Cheryl Gillan put it on Question Time – “I might not like what you say but I will die in a ditch to enable you to say it” (or words to that effect.) The issue has escalated and been blown out of all proportion by both sides, the press insist on continued reprinting of the pictures whilst a minority of Muslims are protesting. These protests range from boycotting Danish products (chiefly bacon and beer, that’ll hit ‘em hard) to burning down Embassies and proclaiming on marches that Europe will have it’s 9/11 and anyone mocking Islam will be beheaded. The Christian right argue that they are often subjected to similar derision and President Bush particularly so. Jews inform that Muslim papers routinely insult their religion. This issue only serves to highlight the frailty of the Muslim/West relationship and I fear it may go on for weeks and months rather than days.
On a brighter note: scientists may be close to creating a cure-all vaccine for bird flu. Hurrah!
I occasionally hear through the thin walls my neighbours watching some fairly shoddy - to me, tastefully offensive - ITV1 shows, but I'd never think to march next door to demand they switch it off forthwith. Let alone plot to firebomb their front garden.
Though the husband is a fairly big bloke...
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