Amnesty should support decriminalisation of sex work

This post was orig­i­nally writ­ten for Lib Dem Voice.

This month, Amnesty Inter­na­tional del­e­gates will vote on a pro­posal to make decrim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of sex work a cam­paign­ing mat­ter for the human rights organ­i­sa­tion. This, under­stand­ably, has raised ire from many peo­ple, but none so large as parts of the fem­i­nist movement.

Just last week, we saw sev­eral Hol­ly­wood actors – ordi­nar­ily staunch allies of Amnesty’s work – sign an open let­ter pro­mul­gated by the Coali­tion Against Traf­fick­ing in Women call­ing for Amnesty to reject the pol­icy. One notable sig­na­tory was Anne Hath­away, who received an Oscar two years ago for her por­trayal of Fan­tine in Les Mis­er­ables.

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Breaking the Establishment

This post orig­i­nally appeared on Lib Dem Voice.

We stand up for the out­sider instead of the estab­lish­ment.”, Tim Far­ron said dur­ing the lead­er­ship rally last week. For party mem­bers who were rather dis­cour­aged by our mis­steps in coali­tion, that line gives us hope.

Our fail­ings in the Coali­tion can be traced to one key fault: after speak­ing out against the estab­lish­ment, we were seen to be now a part of it. There are so many bills that we extracted key con­ces­sions on, but we were not able to com­mu­ni­cate that. How could we, after all? We were bound by Cab­i­net col­lec­tive respon­si­bil­ity. But it was never designed to oper­ate the way it did in coalition.

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Ending the Northern Powercut

This post orig­i­nally appeared on Lib Dem Voice.

On Thurs­day, Patrick McLough­lin announced what many of us had feared but were hop­ing would never hap­pen: elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the train line between Man­ches­ter and Leeds was to be post­poned, and pos­si­bly can­celled. The lynch­pin of the North­ern Pow­er­house was pulled out and the plan pre­dictably fell apart at the seams.

Three months ago, the Con­ser­v­a­tives promised that £38 bn would be invested in the national rail net­work, mostly into elec­tri­fy­ing the old diesel lines. This was so impor­tant to the Tories, we were told, that it was at the top of the man­i­festo. On page 11, the Tories out­lined their plans for £13 bn for the North alone, going towards new trains, new lines, and new wires. And in one speech today, McLough­lin snuffed out the flame of hope in such a way on the Tories can.

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A longer statement regarding the “kill all men” controversy

For the past few weeks, I and my party have been receiv­ing com­plaints regard­ing a com­ment I made at NUS Women’s Con­fer­ence: after vot­ing to remove the word “men” from a motion regard­ing VAT-free prod­ucts and the tam­pon tax – as all razors are VAT-free – I made a joke from the podium that we should remove men from society.

Unless you’ve been liv­ing under a rock, you’ll also know that del­e­gates to the Con­fer­ence were sub­ject to a mas­sive amount of harass­ment, pri­mar­ily from men. It is in this con­text that the joke was made.

Clearly, the reac­tion to the joke shows how the egre­gious dou­ble stan­dard that is often engaged in. Some peo­ple will spend ages engag­ing in misog­y­nist reac­tion when their patri­ar­chal sta­tus quo is being chal­lenged, yet these inse­cure sex­ists can­not take a joke that’s aimed at them.

Know­ing what women go through every day, espe­cially LBT and/or BAME women, it is frankly insult­ing that jokes about men are appar­ently as bad as the insti­tu­tion­alised rape, assault, and mur­der of our sis­ters, moth­ers, and daugh­ters across the world. Real fights against sex­ism should be focused on mak­ing a world worth liv­ing in for women, not chas­ing misog­y­nist flights of fancy.

Young activists are the lifeblood of any polit­i­cal moment and their rad­i­cal­ism should not be con­strained, but instead wel­comed. It is through rad­i­cal ideas that any mean­ing­ful change can be effected.

Of course, I under­stand that the com­ments, whilst under­stand­able given the weight of misog­yny that every woman must shoul­der, are pos­si­bly unwise to say on a pub­lic forum dom­i­nated by misog­yny. The harass­ment I have received over the past few weeks are proof of this.

Ulti­mately, I apol­o­gise if you were offended by those com­ments. How­ever, the harass­ment I have received can not pos­si­bly be con­doned, and I shall be exam­in­ing my options at a later point. I would like to give my thanks to those in the party who have con­ducted their inves­ti­ga­tion into this issue both fairly and promptly.

Grand Coalition”: A Liberal Glee Club song about the inevitable.

If you don’t already know, the “Glee Club” is a Lib­eral tra­di­tion where Party mem­bers, on the last night of Con­fer­ence, get wicked drunk and sing songs satiris­ing all aspects of pol­i­tics,  includ­ing yourself. 

The below is one such song, to the tune of “Waltz­ing Matilda”, by Andrew “Banjo” Pater­son, itself already repur­posed for the clas­sic Lib­eral song “Los­ing Deposits”:

Once a left-wing voter came across a polling booth.
Went inside to vote for Ed.
When the votes were in we got a hung par­lia­ment.
Who’ll join this grand coali­tion with me?

Grand Coali­tion!
Grand Coali­tion!
Who’ll join this grand coali­tion with me?
If you vote Labour you’ll get Mr Cameron.
Who’ll join this grand coali­tion with me?

Miliband said “we’ll keep all of our promises”,
And even carved them into stone.
On the fourth line it read “con­trols on immi­gra­tion”.
Who’ll join this grand coali­tion with me?


Nicola Stur­geon said “we’ll help Ed kick the Tories out”;
Ed replied; he said “No thanks!“
“We’d rather have Cameron than Salmond in the Cab­i­net.“
Who’ll join this grand coali­tion with me?


Miliband asked Dave if he’d help the coun­try out.
Save the union and our nukes.
Deport all the immi­grants, cut everyone’s ben­e­fits.
Who’ll join this grand coali­tion with me?


Clegg heard about it and wanted to be a part of it;
But his party said “No way!“
“This coali­tion has no place for lib­er­als!“
Who’ll join this grand coali­tion with me?


Now it’s 2020 and the gov­ern­ment is hated.
Labour and Tories ripped to shreds.
Now all we’ve got left is Greens, UKIP, and Lib­er­als.
Who’ll join this grand coali­tion with me?


A brief statement regarding the “kill all men” controversy.

For a sig­nif­i­cant period of time I have been the sub­ject of misog­y­nis­tic online trolling and harass­ment of the most per­sonal and unpleas­ant kind. In response to that I made a series of tweets that I realise now have caused offence. I have now deleted those tweets and apol­o­gise to those I have offended, whether in my own party or mem­bers of the pub­lic. I am also grate­ful to those in the party who have han­dled this fairly and promptly.

I will release a longer state­ment in the com­ing days.

What I said at the Lib Dem conference in Liverpool, Pt. 1: On Conversion Therapy

Dur­ing the Spring 2015 Lib­eral Demo­c­rat Con­fer­ence, the LGBT+ Lib­eral Democ­rats moved an amend­ment aimed towards extend­ing the Mem­o­ran­dum of Under­stand­ing on Con­ver­sion Ther­apy—which effec­tively pro­hibits the use of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion con­ver­sion ther­apy on the NHS—to trans­gen­der peo­ple. Orig­i­nally, the amend­ment was a much larger pol­icy motion, but after it fell at the Fed­eral Con­fer­ence Com­mit­tee due to time con­cerns, the motion was repur­posed into an amend­ment. The orig­i­nal mover of the amend­ment was LGBT+ Chair Dave Page, who switched with Sarah (Eliz­a­beth) Brown to allow her to move the amend­ment, with the sum­ma­tion waived by Dave to me. The amend­ment passed with­out oppo­si­tion, and my speech is, as always, below the cut.

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Deep Green Transphobia comes to the UK

Yes­ter­day came with some depress­ing news for trans vot­ers, as the Green can­di­date for Cam­bridge, Rupert Read, came out with some, at best, ill-advised state­ments about the word “cis”, dur­ing an argu­ment with a Cam­bridge res­i­dent who was chal­leng­ing him on the word “moron”. As a philoso­pher of lan­guage, Dr. Read should know bet­ter than this, and his attempt at cit­ing the dic­tio­nary to prove “moron” is not an ableist term may go down as one of the biggest ama­teur mis­takes of this elec­tion cam­paign. Other peo­ple have writ­ten about  Read’s state­ments, but I’d also like to go into the impli­ca­tions of this for the Green Party.

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How not to be a transgender Labour candidate

Last month, Emily Broth­ers broke news for being the first openly trans per­son to be selected by Labour to fight a par­lia­men­tary elec­tion, for the (rel­a­tively) safe seat of Sut­ton and Cheam. The cov­er­age has been mixed to say the least, either being pos­i­tive but fac­tu­ally dodgy, or being incred­i­bly neg­a­tive. But what may have dam­aged her own cam­paign more than any­thing was an inter­view she par­tic­i­pated in for Rus­sia Today, which was rid­dled with inac­cu­ra­cies that can only really be explained by par­ti­san­ship where it’s inappropriate.

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Il n’est pas Charlie

Liberté Guidant le Peuple

We stand squarely for free speech and democ­racy”, said David Cameron last Wednes­day at Prime Minister’s Ques­tions, not more than an hour after the attacks on the French mag­a­zine Char­lie Hebdo. This is a rather strange propo­si­tion for the leader of a party who pro­posed to rein­state the ban on “extrem­ists” from appear­ing on tele­vi­sion and have been try­ing for the past few years to rein­tro­duce the “snooper’s char­ter”. Indeed, the Tories have gone rather native in the Home Office, in con­trast to five years ago when we were all crit­i­cis­ing Labour for restrict­ing our civil liberties.

Sev­eral hours later, the House of Com­mons then debated a somewhat–but not sufficiently–diluted Counter Ter­ror­ism and Secu­rity Bill, in which Tory and Labour front­benchers alike praised the bill for being an impor­tant tool in the fight against pae­dophiles and ter­ror­ists: the two words that friends of this blog have pre­vi­ously high­lighted as result­ing in uni­ver­sally awful legislation.

After this brief sojourn into hypocrisy, Cameron took a flight to Paris where he stood side-by-side with the world’s auto­crats and despots in the name of free speech. Whilst there, he lent his name to an agree­ment for more sur­veil­lance pow­ers. One would think that Charb and his seven col­leagues would not want that in their name. But Cameron went one step fur­ther, and pro­posed the worst idea to reg­u­late a spe­cial­ist field since Labour tried to ban cof­fee eigh­teen months ago: a ban on encryp­tion.

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