This evening has witnessed a rather bizarre string of events in Redbridge, involving the former Green parliamentary and local government candidate Wilson Chowdhry. At 18:16 on 3rd of March, he published a sensationalist blogpost on the Seven Kings and Chadwell Green Party blog he administers entitled ‘Gay message to be taught to 4 year olds!’.
Referring to a Daily Mail article complaining about a Government funded scheme designed to help tackle the scourge of homophobic bullying in schools and wider society, Mr Chowdhry went on to a wider diatribe claiming that the move will lead to ‘a lost generation of young people confused with their sexuality’; that homosexuality is caused by ‘nurture’ and not nature; and that homosexuality is ‘abhorrent’ in the eyes of God.
As a gay Christian, I suspect I have a little more understanding of the theological dilemmas and questions around human sexuality than many other gay people. Christianity is not the only religion that regards homosexuality as sinful. Islam and Judaism do too. As with all theological discussions, they are open to interpretation, debate and – ultimately – the question of faith. Mr Chowdhry takes a hardline view on sexuality in the Bible; I wonder if he will be so forthright in defending slavery - as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7? Perhaps he will head over to Goodmayes Tesco this Sunday and put the staff to death for working on the Sabbath as it says in Exodus 35:2?
My problem with Mr Chowdhry’s blog, which mysteriously disappeared after attention was drawn to it by Chadwell Lib Dem activist Jesse Boucher, are as follows:
1. His blog post refers to his views and the views of his church, but it is posted on the local Green Party’s blog. I know many Green Party members who will be appalled by the content of his article and I know the Green Party itself does not subscribe to the views set out in Mr Chowdhry’s blog post, having supported lots of Labour’s equalities legislation for LGBT people over the past 13 years and pressing for further action in other areas. He was their parliamentary candidate in Ilford South in 2010 and has been a council candidate twice in 2010. The Green Party should consider whether he is a suitable representative for their party at a local level and I hope Caroline Lucas will take note of this incident and consider what action can be taken since he risks bringing their party into disrepute.
2. His views present a real risk to the welfare of pupils. His assertion that homosexuality is caused by nurture is not supported by any scientific evidence and I think I have somewhat more experience in this area than he does. It is deeply offensive to suggest generations of young people risk being lost to confusion about their sexuality while thousands of children every year are harmed physically and psychologically by homophobic bullying and hatred. Research conducted by Stonewall found that 2 in 5 PRIMARY school teachers had encountered homophobia in their classrooms. Almost two thirds of young lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying and a staggering 97% hear homophobic remarks – 7 in 10 hear them on a frequent basis. Only be promoting understanding, respect and inclusion can we create an environment safe for all.
It is not for me to tell Mr Chowdhry what he can and can’t believe. But just as the state can’t tell people what to believe, it is not for the state to enforce the doctrinal basis of one denomination or religious viewpoint on anybody else. I will applaud this Government whenever they take action to tackle homophobia and promote respect and equality for all.
That Mr Chowdhry has now hidden the Green blog from public sight may suggest that he is rightly embarrassed by his post. I rather suspect that he’s simply trying to avoid personal public scrutiny. I have reproduced his blogpost below in full, which I managed to copy before he hid his blog.
This is not a party political attack on the Green Party, but it is an attack on an individual whose harmful policy agenda and apparent indifference to the suffering experienced by too many school pupils presents a real risk to LGBT young people. He is unfit for elected office; we should be grateful that he is a serial loser.
Gay message to be taught to 4 year olds!
We as a church are concerned about this as we feel that such messages will make an already difficult learning process over complicated and inapproriate. We feel that the messages will confuse young people at an age before puberty and will result in a lost generation of young people confused with their sexuality.
Science has been used to try and prove the existence of a Gay gene and yet despite significant attempts, there has been no hard evidence to support the naive assumption. Physically God has created different structures for males and females that compliment each other and this natural fact is evident throughout living species. The Question that remains is a Homosexual relationship a consequence of nurture or nature? God quite clearly informs us in the Bible that homosexuality is a sin and on that basis we hold to the truth that is it is a consequence of nurture (the way a child as been brought up).
We believe God created Adam and Eve to compliment one another and that marriage betwen a man and woman is a sanctified relationship that is blessed by God.
None of the above implies that we should hate homosexual people, moreover God preaches love for all humanity. Nor should the church doors be closed to people that have practised homosexuality. However we are called to preach truth and the reality is that being gay is abhorrent to the eyes of God. As such a repentent homosexual that no longer practices will be welcomed to the church.
That Children are being taught sexual education as young as six is already a baffling concern, that we feel, can only create an unnecessary sexual awareness in children whose focus should be on play, maths and English.
This proposal flies in the face of convention and is an attack on the sanctity of a Christian marital relationship.
We will be praying for a reverse of this diabolical scheme to safeguard our future generations.
Please share your thoughts….
The University and College Union (UCU) have weighed in against a graduate tax today, claiming it will hit low paid public sector workers. Their report cites the additional sums that would be paid by nurses, teachers and doctors if a graduate tax of 5% were applied to all earnings over £15,000 for a fixed period of 25 years. Their ham fisted intervention to the higher education funding debate misses the terms of the debate completely and their sums should make us worry about the quality of the critical thinking taking place within our academy.
That there is a row lively debate within the Coalition is one of the worst kept secrets of this government. Having announced that he had asked Lord Browne to look closely at a graduate tax, Business Secretary Vince Cable received an embarassing slap down from a ‘senior Conservative source’ that a graduate tax was off the table. Nonetheless, the debate within government continues to rage and today’s Financial Times reports that the Tories’ Universities Minister is coming around to the idea of a progressive graduate contribution. Since it is unlikely that Lord Browne’s review group, carefully stitched up selected by Lord Mandelson with the complicity of David Willetts, will endorse a graduate tax-style approach, genuine progressives should have their eyes of the prize of defeating attempts to further the marketisation of higher education through higher, variable fees.
Instead, UCU’s clumsy intervention will strengthen the arm of the right wing commentariat and Conservative policy wonks in Number 10 who are keen to kill of the momentum behind the concept of a progressive graduate contribution linked to earnings.
Not only are UCU’s tactics short sighted, their analysis is undermined by flaws so basic one might begin to wonder whether the accusations of dumbing down in Britain’s universities aren’t entirely without merit. Their figures for ‘full time average earnings’ are based on those of whole workforce (i.e. average salaries over 43 years) and therefore are pretty useless to UCU’s exercise. Generally, a graduate contribution of the type suggested by the National Union of Students (NUS) and modelled by UCU would typically be collected during the first 25 years of graduates’ careers and will therefore be less than the average modelled by UCU. Lower salaries = lower contributions. It’s hardly rocket science and it beggars belief that such a ropey analysis should have been given any serious attention by the Guardian and ITN. We can forgive Toby Young over on his Telegraph blog for doing the same; he is, after all, using UCU’s flawed research precisely in the way I anticipate most commentators on the right will: to undermine the case for a more progressive system.
If UCU are serious about halting the marketisation of higher education they should weigh in behind the genuinely progressive alternative set out by NUS, which is winning the backing of Labour leadership contenders, Liberal Democrats desperate for an alternative to unite around inside government and, if the FT is to be believed, David Willetts.
If they won’t, they ought to be placed under serious pressure to explain how they expect to be taken seriously when they continue to demand, simultaneously, universal tax payer subsidies for undergraduate education, an expansion of university places, inflation busting pay increases, continuation of a generous final salary pension scheme… Have I missed something? Oh yes, how they intend to achieve all this in the middle of a recession and one of the biggest assaults on public spending Britain has ever seen. Otherwise, it seems that students are more grown up than their lecturers.
The Coalition Government’s plans to reorganise the NHS is about to move centre stage in the political debate as the Labour Party launches a new campaign to ‘defend our NHS’. Here in Redbridge, the future of vital services at King George Hospital serves as a microcosm of what the Government’s plans will mean and a warning about how the ConDems’ approach to health threatens accountability to patients.
The sword of Damacles has been hanging over the A&E department and maternity unit at King George Hospital for some time. Following a strong fightback locally, led by my fellow Chadwell ward councillor Andy Walker and backed by Ilford’s Labour and Tory MPs, the future of KGH was offered a lifeline by an independent review ordered by Labour’ s then Health Secretary Andy Burnham, prior to the General Election. Before the election, the Tories’ Health spokesman, Andrew Lansley, went as far to promise that there would be no “forced closures” of A&E departments by government.
It has since transpired that Lansley’s guarantee of no “forced closures” is a false promise raising false hopes. When asked for their views in an official consultation on the future of services at KGH. 65% of respondents from Redbridge said they were opposed to the closures, but the Government and Health for North East London have yet to confirm whether the controversial plans will be shelved.
Labour MP Mike Gapes has raised the future of services at King George Hospital with Lansley on the floor of the House of Commons. Lansley’s reply is telling of this Government’s approach to decision making within the NHS. Referring to his plans to reorganise the NHS, Lansley said:
“… GPs, the local authority, local people and patients-could have an opportunity themselves to decide how services might best be designed for local people. That is the pledge that I have made. Those criteria will enable that process to be led locally, rather than imposed and forced on people.”
The reality is far from improving patient power. Although the system of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) is not perfect, under present arrangements Redbridge residents, councillors and Members of Parliament have at least known where decisions are made and how best to apply pressure to that process. Under the ConDem plans, PCTs would be abolished and the power to commission services would pass to GPs: shifting power from patients to providers at huge cost and bureaucratic upheaval that will turn GPs into managers focussed on paper work instead of patient care.
David Furness, author of the Social Market Foundation’s major report on the NHS has described the plans as “at best a waste of time, at worst a waste of money”. His comment is worth quoting in full:
“Giving control of NHS funds to GPs is like asking your waiter to manage a restaurant. They might know what you want to eat but they won’t necessarily be any good at ordering stock, designing a menu or controlling the chef. Commissioning healthcare is very difficult and needs a specialised organisation to do it. And the evidence suggests that small commissioners find it difficult to take on powerful providers and reform services. GP commissioning risks handing real control of the NHS to vested interests on the provider side as GPs simply won’t have the muscle to drive through change.”
You can bet that in the coming weeks and months, Lansley distance himself as much as possible from the threat to King George Hospital, blaming the Strategic Health Authority, PCT and any other arm of the NHS machinery from decisions opposed by the overwhelming majority of residents. This is just a symptom of the ConDem vision for the future of the NHS.
Locally, the Labour Party will fight alongside the Tories and the Lib Dems for the future of King George Hospital, but nationally we must fight to stop the Tories and the Lib Dems dismantling the NHS and consigning the future of patient care to a devastating postcode lottery. The future of our National Health Service depends on it.
The past few days in the Labour Leadership race have produced a number of spats on Twitter about supporting nominations. First a number of Ed Miliband supporters accused supporters in rival camps of sour grapes over the decision of Unite to nominate their man and today the decision by Labour Students‘ National Committee to give their supporting nomination to David Miliband has reignited tensions.
For the sake of transparency, I am a strong supporter of David Miliband and a member of his Youth Committee. I think the Labour Party led by a Miliband will be in a strong position, but (for a variety of reasons that I expect I’ll outline elsewhere before the ballot) I think the Labour Party led by D Miliband will be in a stronger position in terms of ideas and organisation to win the next election.
The criticism being levelled at Labour Students is futile and misdirected on a number of counts. First, Labour Students has followed the process undertaken by most affiliates in deciding whether to provide a supporting nomination and to whom. Each of the 19, elected voting members of Labour Students’ National Committee were given the option to vote for each of the leadership contenders – or to provide no supporting nomination at all. They chose to nominate David Miliband and their supporting nomination will appear on the Labour Party website and, I suspect, in the magazine that will be distributed to all Labour Party members with their ballot. As a recent ‘graduate’ of Labour Students I find it somewhat depressing to see otherwise reasonable and good minded people attacking their own organisation on process, simply because they disagree with the decision. I didn’t notice the same individuals attacking their trade unions or socialist societies who made supporting nominations through exactly the same method *cough* Unite *cough*. I disagree with the recommendation of my trade union, but I have no problem with the process they followed.
Secondly, supporting nominations actually don’t matter very much! In spite of what some anti-union newspapers would have their readers believe, the supporting nominations of trade unions, socialist societies or Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) do not result in a block vote for their chosen contender. There is also a debate to be had about how far supporting nominations influence their members. During the 1994 Labour Leadership election, Tony Blair gained hardly any supporting nominations from the unions but received a significant number of votes from ordinary members. In the 2007 Deputy Leadership election there is evidence to suggest that union nominations offered more sway (best set out by Patrick Wintour in the Guardian).
That’s not to say that supporting nominations are entirely useless. The process gave my CLP, Ilford South, a great excuse to have an all member meeting to discuss the leadership election, encouraging new members to attend for the first time and speak in open debate.
But supporting nominations really aren’t worth squabbling about. Rather than crying over supporting nominations, campaigners could best use their energies by taking a deep breath and moving on to trying to win the next supporting nomination or, more crucially, the votes of ordinary members.
This will be the third time I’ve written a blog post promising to blog more. This time I mean it.
Before I was too busy with NUS. I now have loads of time on my hand as a full time consultant and Labour councillor. Hmmmm…
When it comes to British politics, sorry really does seem to be the hardest word. I’m not talking about the yah-boo of Prime Minister’s Question Time, or the ludicrous #saysorry campaign being waged by childish Tories on Twitter. I’m talking about the really big questions where our country owes a very serious apology for past crimes and actions.
The latest issue to catch public eye concerns the treatment of children sent abroad to reside in distant parts of Britain’s Empire, brought back into the attention of the media following the decision of Australia’s Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to apologise to child migrants in Australia for the appalling psychological, physical and sexual abuse they suffered. News of their suffering is not new. Over on his blog, the BBC’s Nick Bryant points out that the abuse they suffered was revealed more than two decades ago by British social worker, Margaret Humphreys. He accuses the British government of now being ‘shamed into an apology’ by Australia’s Labor government.
Baroness Amos, Britain’s High Commissioner in Australia points out that Tony Blair’s government did express strong regret for the actions of past governments that led to the appalling abuse of Britain’s deported children. Nick Bryant points out that Tony Blair’s government also helped to fund family reunions for those who had been affected.
It is less likely that Gordon Brown’s government has been ‘shamed’ into an apology and more likely that the latest example of moral leadership shown by Kevin Rudd’s administration, in stark contrast to his Liberal predecessor, has given Britain the diplomatic green light to follow suit. That Gordon Brown’s government has moved so quickly to confirm that an apology will be made in the new year is welcome.
Nonetheless, this would not be the first occasion where an apology has been left wanting. In 2007, Tony Blair went further than any other British Prime Minister, and most other western leaders, in expressing “deep sorrow and regret” on behalf of the British government for the UK’s role in the slave trade, but stopped short of the full apology that many campaigners continue to demand. While the government’s reluctance to issue a full apology undoubtedly due to concern about claims for financial compensation, it is deeply unfortunate that the British government has yet to follow the General Synod of the Church of England in issuing a full apology.
Since members of the current government clearly had no role in the child migrant programme that saw British children subjected to horrific abuse in a foreign land, or a slave trade that has scarred human history and left a lasting legacy to the detriment of the majority of the world’s population, an apology is in many ways symbolic. But as Gordon Brown showed with his apology for the treatment of Alan Turing, the gay Second World War code breaker, sorry need not be the hardest word and can mean a great deal to those who want to hear it.
I have been a very, very bad blogger in recent months! It’s a challenge trying to keep this blog up to speed whilst being out and about getting the job done as NUS president. Will try to do better, especially as politics and the debate ahead of the General Election is becoming a bit more exciting.
Hopefully going to bring this blog back to life throughout conference season. I’m off to Trades Union Congress in Liverpool tomorrow morning, Labour in Brighton the week after next and Conservatives in Manchester the week after that. I’ll be doing some tweeting throughout (Tweeting Streeting is updated more regularly than my poor old blog!) and will blog some observations.
I’m also about to start blogging more regularly on the NUS website, which is having a little refresh tomorrow as well as keeping up my blog aimed at students’ union officers (more internally focused) up to date.
That’s the plan anyway. The best laid plans etc…