On Monday, in a clear attempt to distance the party from its paramilitary links and detoxify it in case a deal is reached, a DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) spokesman told the BBC’s Stephen Nolan that paramilitary flags and emblems have no place in Northern Ireland communities and that
Paramilitaries are a plague on society. The DUP condemns all who cling to criminality and violence.
Within hours, however, DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly had shot down the attempt by claiming that Northern Ireland communities are not that bothered about the issue, stating,
There were some people who were very supportive of the flags, people who felt very much it was part of the tradition of the local area and the wider area.
The majority of people said to me: ‘We understand that the flags have gone up, but we also understand that they will come back down again’. Really they didn’t want a public fuss around this matter…
There were some concerns raised, I reassured those individuals that I would be here to support them as well, I would represent their views to the housing association.
Ms Little-Pengelly is solidly in the mainstream of the DUP, having been a Special Advisor to party leader Arlene Foster before becoming an MP this month, one with strong connections to loyalist paramilitary groups.
Her father Noel was one of the ‘Paris Three’ convicted in the early 1990s on gun-running charges and the three main paramilitary groups – the UVF, UFF and UDA – sent letters to protestant constituents during the General Election campaign telling them to vote for her.
Ms Little-Pengelly’s attempts to gloss over the issue of the flags may not have been welcomed by her party leader and others who have reacted with alarm and surprise at the outcry in Britain against any Tory co-operation with the DUP, but they are entirely in line with the mainstream worldview of her party.
They will also meet with the dismay of her nationalist constituents, many of whom are Catholics and consider the fixing of flags and placards in their neighbourhood and sometimes even on their private property as intimidatory, frightening and a provocation.
Playing with fire
Meanwhile, Loyalists in Belfast – apparently emboldened by the prospect of their party co-operating with the Tories, even though a deal seems as far away as ever in spite of noises to the contrary from Theresa May and her representatives – are preparing for one of the potential flashpoints of the Northern Irish calendar.
Huge bonfires are traditionally built in readiness for the 12 July anniversary of the ‘Battle of the Boyne’, when Orangemen and others will march through towns and cities before lighting them. This year, accusations have been made by nationalist councillors against Belfast City Council, alleging that the council has even been storing materials on behalf of the builders of these huge illegal bonfires – fires often festooned with images of Sinn Fein MPs, councillors and historical figures:
Regardless of attempts to minimise the situation, both by DUP officials who want to publicly distance themselves from paramilitary groups and by those who want to normalise the promotion of such groups, the tensions in Northern Ireland are not far from the surface and are rising.
Like those bonfire stacks, they may be just waiting for the match to set them alight.
The British public needs to understand this – that in her desperation to legitimise and stabilise her chaotic government in the narrow interests of the Tory party, Theresa May is, almost literally, playing with fire and risking the restarting of the Troubles that cost so many lives and blighted decades of Northern Irish life.
And like a toddler with matches, she seems not to understand just what she might be setting off. Either that, or she just doesn’t care.
The new DEFRA Secretary Michael Gove MP will be staring at a blank page when it comes to replacing the old European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with a new system of support for UK farmers. The Treasury will be gazing hungrily at the fat budget (over £3 billion) that farming currently accounts for. Which way will Gove swing?
As one of the most complex, costly, and widely disliked common EU policies, Brexit presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to end some of the absurdities and harm of the CAP – a system which has failed to support farms effectively, failed to stem the huge loss of farm diversity and failed to protect wildlife and services such as flood mitigation.
But what will Gove replace it with? I explored some of the key issues in an earlier blog. Maintaining and improving standards in areas such as environment and animal welfare will matter massively. The National Farmers Union (NFU) “believes it would be wrong for imported food to be produced to different standards than those adhered to by British.” They have also recently surveyed their members and it appears their confidence has taken a severe knock.
Improving our food security so our farmers can feed us healthily, affordably and sustainably really matters. The lamentable level of domestic fruit production – just 1 in 10 pieces of fruit eaten here is grown here – is just one example. But this should change.
Governments across the globe have adopted widely different systems to subsidise and promote farmers, from New Zealand’s complete removal of all financial support for farming in 1984, to the Swiss model that is one of the costliest in the world. Gove should understand that neither extreme looks suitable for a future UK system. We need a clever, affordable, workable system that is suitable for a wide range of farms and landscapes, but which also looks after the health of the four nations. Each nation needs to design its own scheme, suitable for its industry, environment and population.
Sustain – an alliance of 94 organisations with a combined public membership of several million – believes that a focus on high volume, low standard production is not the answer. Leaving farmers with no public support (which currently represents a significant part of many farmers’ income) could create a highly polarised system with a small number of huge, intensive specialised farms and some high nature farmland protected by charitable grants. One can imagine the death of small and family farms.
Farming is undoubtedly a business, but it is also so much more. Sustain’s new proposals, consulted on with our alliance and others, recognise that farming can also provide much wider public outcomes and benefits including thriving rural communities, valued farm workers, safe food, good nutrition, a protected and nurtured environment and high animal welfare. Any new deal should help farms achieve this.
The Sustain alliance, which contains a broad range of organisations concerned with food and farming, has proposed a practical way forward and a basis for debate once the election dust has settled. The Government will need to find common ground between the industry, the Treasury, our future relationship with the EU, and those groups championing the rural economy, conservation, public health and development.
The alliance recommend that the next Government should retain taxpayer support for farmers after Brexit, but replace the old two pillar EU system with a new four-part deal for farming based on:
- Payments for public goods – shifting payments from large landowners and biofuel production to supporting resilient farming, nature and animals, creating more rural jobs and growing our own healthy 5-a-day fruit and vegetables, in a new Land Management Scheme;
- Support for demonstrably sustainable business needs such as marketing hubs or micro-processing units, farmer innovation, facilitation funds for setting up cooperatives via capital grants, loans, and business advice;
- A new publicly funded programme of low cost advice and support for a farmer-to-farmer advisory network; and
- Wider policy measures to ensure farmers can thrive such as extending the Grocery Code Adjudicator’s powers to ensure fair trading practices from supermarkets and their suppliers, keeping high standards including worker standards and organic legal rules, and requiring an increase in the purchase of local and sustainable food for public-sector organisations such as schools and hospitals.
A key but potentially contentious proposal is that payments to farmers and land managers should be front loaded, with Government tapering or capping payments to use taxpayers’ support wisely and ensure the diverse mix of farm businesses can thrive, not just the largest.
The alliance also suggests we need special support for fruit and vegetable production as there is a real chance for import substitution and getting more of our ‘five-a-day’ grown sustainably in the UK. Supporting new entrants into farming and encouraging agroforestry – a great carbon fix and wildlife haven – should also get special attention in any new allocation of funds.
Underpinning this policy structure should be a core set of principles within a clear strategy, which is something that we are severely lacking right now. Key to this will be effective targeting of financial and other support and basing allocation on the principle of public benefits (widely defined) for public investment. The Sustain alliance emphasises that all policy must be underpinned by effective regulatory and enforcement systems based on the precautionary principle in order to protect people, the rural economy, environment and livestock.
The final principles refer to trade deals, the responsibility of Gove’s colleague Liam Fox MP, which must not undermine the delivery of this vision in each of the UK’s devolved administrations and should enable other countries to deliver their own food sovereignty.
Future farm policy is going to be a long and detailed discussion. Sustain’s proposed four part deal is a good starting point, and many more ideas will no doubt be put forward. Public involvement in this debate is notoriously difficult but essential – not only as citizens affected by the farmed environment, but also as consumers eating the food and taxpayers who are providing the financial support. Getting the policies right matters not only for the farming sector, but for health and wellbeing across the UK.
By Claire Lobenfeld
The Absolute Boy introduced Run the Jewels.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn gave a rousing speech before introducing Run the Jewel’s set earlier today at Glastonbury. “Creativity together can be a tool for getting our message across,” he told the crowd. “We’re at Glastonbury and doing things differently, doing things better.”
Corbyn also sent a message to US President Donald Trump: “Build bridges, not walls.”
Watch the 15-minute speech below.
The Conservative Party contracted a secretive call centre during the election campaign which may have broken data protection and election laws, a Channel 4 News investigation has found.
The Conservative Party contracted a secretive call centre during the election campaign which may have broken data protection and election laws, a Channel 4 News investigation has found.
An undercover reporter working for Channel 4 News secured work at Blue Telecoms, a firm in Neath, South Wales.
In an area plagued by unemployment and low wages, the call centre hired up to a hundred people on zero-hours contracts. For weeks, they contacted thousands of potential voters in marginal seats across the UK.
The investigation has uncovered what appear to be underhand and potentially unlawful practices at the centre, in calls made on behalf of the Conservative Party. These allegations include:
● Paid canvassing on behalf of Conservative election candidates – banned under election law.
● Political cold calling to prohibited numbers
● Misleading calls claiming to be from an ‘independent market research company’ which does not apparently exist
Tonight the Conservative Party admitted it had commissioned Blue Telecoms to carry out ‘market research and direct marketing calls’ during the campaign, and insisted the calls were legal.
A Conservative spokesman said: ‘Political parties of all colours pay for market research and direct marketing calls. All the scripts supplied by the party for these calls are compliant with data protection and information law.’
But a whistleblower at the call centre told Channel 4 News they had been making potentially unlawful phone calls to voters.
Fake ‘market research company’?
Voters contacted by the firm were asked who they intended to vote for and how they had voted in previous elections by callers claiming to be from ‘Axe Research – an independent market research company’.
However, no such company is registered in England and Wales. ’Axe Research’ does not have a live website, address or phone number and is not listed on the data protection register.
Workers were repeatedly told not to disclose that they were working for Blue Telecoms.
Asked what Axe Research was, one supervisor told Channel 4 News: ‘It’s just the name we do these surveys under, basically. I did a Google search, nothing comes up. But as far as anyone’s concerned, yeah, we’re a legit independent market research company.’
The practice appears to be in breach of data protection rules on transparency and privacy. Guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) states that market research companies must disclose ‘who you are; what you are going to do with their information and who it will be shared with.’
A spokesperson for the ICO said they intend to ask the Conservative Party ‘about the marketing campaigns conducted from this call centre’ and told Channel 4 News:
‘The Information Commissioner reminded campaigners from political parties of their obligations around direct marketing at the beginning of the election campaign. Where we find they haven’t followed the law we will act.’
Anya Proops QC, a leading barrister in the field of data protection said:
‘If you’ve got a situation where the company that’s calling you is concealing their true identity or is misleading the person who is receiving the call, then that is obviously a problem under the privacy legislation.’
The head of Blue Telecoms, Sascha Lopez, said that any questions about Axe Research should be put to the Conservative Party.
However, the Party refused to comment directly on the calls being made by Axe Research but said: ‘No data from the market research calls were recorded against individual records.’
Unlawful marketing calls?
During the investigation, callers were also tasked with making direct calls ‘on behalf of Theresa May and the Conservative Party’.
Voters who identified themselves as ‘undecided’ were then fed key Conservative Party messages. These included references to the Brexit negotiations, the danger of a hung Parliament and immigration. One survey stated:
‘… It was reported in the Daily Mirror in September last year that Jeremy Corbyn is not concerned about the numbers of people coming to live in the UK and it was reported on Sky News this year that Theresa May has restated her pledge to reduce net Migration.
‘Just thinking about these reports in the media and the reports that you live in a marginal constituency that may determine who is prime minister… Does that make you more likely to back Theresa May or more likely to vote for Jeremy Corbyn?’
A Channel 4 News analysis also reveals that the vast majority of calls sampled were to numbers registered on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
While genuine market research is permitted, marketing calls to TPS numbers on behalf of political parties are prohibited by EU regulations and the Data Protection Act, unless the person called has specifically given the organisation their consent.
Channel 4 News showed the content of these calls to Dr Darren Lilleker, Associate Professor of Political Communication at Bournemouth University.
‘This is canvassing,’ he said. ‘It can’t be research. All the questions are loaded, a lot of them are quite rhetorical in that sense of guiding you towards one answer. It’s canvassing. It replicates the sorts of scripts I’ve seen used on doorsteps by parties for many years.’
The head of Blue Telecoms, Sascha Lopez, said: ‘All scripts supplied made it clear during the call, either at the beginning or the end, that the calls were being made on behalf of the Conservative Party. Respondents have the right for their responses to be deleted if they so wished. No data from the market research calls to TPS numbers (which regulations allow) were recorded against individual records.
‘We followed the regulations given by the TPS, ICO and Ofcom in regards to indentifying who was calling, the reason for calling, as well as operating an opt-out list.’
Paid canvassing for candidates?
During election day, on the 8th of June, callers at Blue Telecoms were told that they would spend the day making calls on behalf of named Conservative parliamentary candidates in Wales.
Guidance from the Electoral Commission for candidates and agents says: ‘During the campaign, you must not…pay canvassers. Canvassing means trying to persuade an elector to vote for or against a particular candidate or party’
The candidates were named during the calls and, again, floating voters were subjected to key Conservative messages.
The script for undecided voters stated:
‘Does knowing that you live in a marginal constituency that will determine who is Prime Minister for the Brexit negotiations, does that make you a lot more likely to vote for Theresa May’s Conservative candidate or a little more likely to vote for Theresa May’s Conservative candidate, or are you still unsure, or does it not make a difference.’
Meanwhile, voters who had decided to vote Conservative, but had not yet cast their ballots were warned that every vote counts and time is running out’ and encouraged to head for polling stations.
The calls appeared to be a breach of Section 111 of the Representation of the People Act which prohibits ‘payment as a canvasser for the purpose of promoting or procuring a candidate’s election’.
Barrister Anya Proops QC said paid canvassing ‘can have very, very serious consequences, even if the candidate in question doesn’t know it’s happening’.
Channel 4 News obtained evidence that at least ten key marginal seats were targeted by the call centre on election day. Calls were placed to voters in Caerphilly, Camarthen East, Ceredigion, Pontypridd, Torfaen, Newport West, Bridgend, Gower, Clywd South and Wrexham.
Again, an analysis of the calls by Channel 4 News also revealed that the vast majority – more than 80% of those sampled – were to numbers that had registered on the Telephone Preference Service.
On election day, callers were again instructed not to mention Blue Telecoms on the phone. Instead, they were told: ‘Just say you are in the Conservative Office, Cardiff, and don’t mention Blue Telecoms.’
The Neath call centre was visited by a senior Conservative Party official – both on election day itself and the day before. Channel 4 News has identified the individual as Richard Minshull, the Director of the Welsh Conservatives.
Sascha Lopez and Blue Telecoms
Sascha Lopez is a failed Tory council candidate and CEO of Blue Telecoms, which receives lucrative contracts from the Conservative Party.
The Conservative Party has worked with Blue Telecoms before. In the 2015 campaign, it declared £265,205 with the firm and spent a further £83,500 in 2016 during the Welsh Assembly elections.
This programme is also aware that Blue Telecoms carried out further calling for the Conservative Party at the 2017 local elections.
Lopez told Channel 4 News: ‘The scripts and lists of who to call and when to call were given to us by CCHQ [Conservative Campaign Headquarters] in London and were not influenced by my team. However I can advise we were engaged to conduct market research and polling for the Conservative party, and at no time were we engaged to conduct any form of marketing or canvassing by the party or its candidates.’
Similar plastic to cladding used on Grenfell Tower banned in mines 40 years ago, writes Peter Lazenby and Lamiat Sabin
SIMILAR plastic used for insulating Grenfell Tower was banned from Britain’s deep coalmines around 40 years ago because it was found to emit poisonous cyanide gas when alight, former miners told the Star yesterday.
Underground roadways in coalmines were sprayed with polyurethane to form a seal that prevented seepage of methane gas into the mines.
When it was discovered that the material could emit cyanide gas, its use was banned by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Mines and it was subsequently removed.
But the same material, or similar, is still being used in the building of blocks of flats.
Peter Davies was a miner at Brodsworth colliery, in South Yorkshire, in the 1970s.
He told the Star: “The roadway to the Barnsley seam was sprayed with this polyurethane.
“The mines research centre in Derbyshire, which is now closed down, found that if it caught fire it emitted cyanide gas so it was banned from the coalmining industry.”
Mick Appleyard, a former miner from Sharlston colliery, in West Yorkshire, said: “The first time I knew about this stuff was when there was a mining disaster in South Africa.
“More than 40 black South African miners were killed in a fire underground, but they were killed by cyanide poisoning. If the stuff didn’t catch fire it stayed dormant. But if it caught fire the cyanide was released.”
The use of the flammable insulation sandwiched between aluminium panels and an air gap has been blamed for the rapid rate in which the flames engulfed Grenfell Tower — spreading across 24 floors in just 15 minutes.
Hundreds of people have died, been declared “missing,” or been displaced after the devastating blaze broke out last week Wednesday.
The insulation was made of polyisocyanurate which is chemically almost identical to polyurethane.
Both chemicals are widely used in cladding, which was installed on the former concrete exterior of Grenfell Tower to “improve” the block’s image for the eyes of wealthy locals.
King’s College Hospital in south-west London confirmed that three survivors have been treated with the hydrogen cyanide antidote Cyanokit.
It is suspected that the 79 Grenfell residents confirmed dead so far were killed by toxic gas.
Cladding manufacturer Celotex has confirmed that the insulation would release toxic gases if on fire.
The combustible cladding has been found on at least three tower blocks across Britain, it was also revealed yesterday, with samples expected to be checked from many more buildings.
Camden Council leader Georgia Gould has announced that several tower blocks in the north London borough, including on its Chalcots Estate, will have its cladding removed.
She said: “The new results from the laboratory show that the outer cladding panels themselves are made up of aluminium panels with a polyethylene core.”
Councils in England estimate that around 600 high-rise buildings have some form of cladding.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced in the Commons yesterday that urgent tests are being carried out on all 600 blocks to determine whether they have flammable cladding similar to that found on Grenfell.
The Department for Communities and Local Government claimed that the figure referred to high buildings with any form of cladding.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on the government to ensure funds were available to make the high-rise structures safe by carrying out fire safety checks and installing sprinklers.
“Resources must be made available immediately,” he said.
THERESA May has explained that she could not speak to residents of Grenfell Tower because she is feeling insecure and vulnerable right now.
The prime minister visited the site but did not speak to locals because she could not trust herself not to get upset after the week she has had.
She continued: “It’s been just so terrible. I could have lost my house, my job…
“Even before the election I wasn’t sleeping, and even when I do close my eyes I just see Corbyn’s face.
“Everyone loves bloody Corbyn don’t they? Just because he does eye contact and that thing of putting his arm around them.
“I don’t mind talking to people, it’s just when they talk back, and then you can’t control it.
“Apparently they call it ‘interaction’ and frankly I can’t handle it.”
Kensington resident Tom Booker said: “Sorry, we didn’t realise this was a bad time.”
BBC interviewer Emily Maitlis on the Newsnight program has confront UK Tory Party leader Theresa May over her pathetic response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy and her refusal to accept responsibility for the disaster.
Following the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, Kirsty Wark talks to Nicholas Paget-Brown, leader of the Kensington and Chelsea Council.
As the SKWAWKBOX showed yesterday, Kensington and Chelsea council sent a threatening legal letter to the author of a blog who had highlighted the dangers facing residents at the ill-fated Grenfell Tower, demanding that he stop ‘harrassing’ the council.
The BBC’s Emily Maitlis faced a clearly uncomfortable time as she interviewed two residents involved with the blog, trying to interrupt before the discussion could turn to the council’s alleged failings, its threatened legal action against residents and the shoddy standard of works in the Grenfell building – but the resident was not in a mood to be interrupted and lays out a catalogue of issues.
For legal reasons, the name of a company that she mentions has been removed, but the hard-hitting video from a brave, articulate lady needs to be seen so the tragedy at Grenfell Tower is understood in its proper context:
There are already signs that the Establishment may be starting to ‘circle the wagons’ to defend itself against the consequences of its actions and arrogance and the backlash resulting from the tragic loss of life, the injuries and the loss of homes that the Grenfell Action Group warned about for years – and was warned to stop ‘harassing’ the council about.
That must not be allowed to succeed.
By Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow
Let us return once again to the Tim Farron Question.
Oh, I know, I really do know that you’d much prefer it if we could just move on. However, the Tim Farron Question is actually rather important. And trust me anyway, this isn’t [mostly] a post about Tim Farron, who might be expected to have other things on his mind at the moment.
For the sake of those watching from furth of these shores who might be confused by all this, Tim Farron is the leader of the Liberal Democrats – a political party in the UK which bears upon its weary shoulders the hopes and dreams of many who believe that liberalism is the answer the problems of this wonderful world. Now, a certain journalist, Cathy Newman managed to discern that it might be interesting to ask Mr Farron who is an evangelical Christian whether or not he believed gay sex to be a sin. Over many occasions that the question was put by Ms Newman, Mr Farron refused to answer. The presumption amongst many being that he did indeed believe that gay sex is sinful but couldn’t say so in his position as a liberal leader. His defence seemed to fit with this – he and many others claimed that it was not proper for a politician to determine what was and was not a sin, that whatever he might believe in private he had acted in favour of gay rights (a claim which has been disputed by some looking at his record in parliament), and that yes, it so happens that His Best Friend Is Gay. His defenders than asked why people were not making a fuss about other politicians’ views on whether gay sex is a sin. This led to the Prime Minister being asked directly whether she did or did not believe such a thing and she came out with a commendably clear answer. She did not.
Subsequently, Tim Farron has done an interview in which he said that he did not (or maybe did no longer, it wasn’t clear) believe that gay sex is a sin. This led many to say that this was the end of the matter, the show was over and that we must all move on.
I now don’t know whether Tim Farron ever did or did not believe gay sex to be a sin, I am agnostic about whether he has ever changed his mind about it and it must be fairly obvious that I don’t think he dealt with this matter very well. However, there are perhaps limits as to how much wisdom there is in pursuing the matter with Mr Farron any more. Chris Creegan in particular has written eloquently to suggest that it is time to let go of the matter and move along. And I find myself agreeing in part with Chris in that I think that just pursuing Tim Farron is now rather pointless. However, I am of the view that the Tim Farron Question illuminates other matters that I’m not at all ready to move on from. And that takes me away from Tim Farron and on to the church and in particularly the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Before I get to the point that I now want to make about the Tim Farron Question, which is not in fact about Tim Farron, let me just say that I think that those defending him tended to think that they were defending a Christian from the aggressive bullying of secularists when in fact those most concerned with Tim Farron’s position were actually other liberally minded Christians appalled at what he appeared to be saying. After all, it didn’t seem to show Christianity or LibDemery in a particularly good light. And who on earth ever thought that it was good for LGBT people for commentators to defend the right of prominent people to seem to defend (or be seen to defend) gay rights in public but actually to think them sinners in private?
But anyway, the fact of the matter is that having had a while to reflect on the Tim Farron Question, I think I want to say something about the Tim Farron Answer – or at least one of the answers that he gave whilst being relentlessly asked time and again the same question. He said, rather witheringly that it was not his place to answer such a question because, he was not the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Now then. Now then.
What are we to say in response to this? It would appear that we have someone saying that the church and indeed the Archbishop of Canterbury might be better placed to rule on the Tim Farron Question than Tim Farron. I know that the poor, beleaguered Christian soul was at the end of his tether when he said this but it is worth asking ourselves whether he was in fact right and that Cathy Newman was directing the Tim Farron Question at altogether the wrong person all along. Whilst I happen to think that Cathy Newman’s questioning was legitimate at the time, I do find that I’m considerably more interested in whether the Archbishop of Canterbury believes gay sex to be a sin than Tim Farron.
Now, into the middle of this, steps the Archbishop of York who rather bizarrely, when interviewed at the weekend seemed to suggest that Tim Farron was never qualified to answer the Tim Farron Question in the first place.
So, there we have it. I’m not that interested any more in Tim Farron’s view. John Sentamu doesn’t think Tim Farron has enough theological training to have a view. To whom shall we turn to find the answer to the Tim Farron Question? John Sentamu batted anyone getting close to asking him the question with a strong denunciation of the criminalization of homosexuality. We must be thankful at times for small mercies and I am indeed glad to hear this from the Archbishop’s lips.
But is gay sex a sin?
It seems to me that the Tim Farron Answer to the Tim Farron Question leads us inevitably to the gateway of Lambeth Palace itself.
“I’m not the Archbishop of Canterbury”, Tim Farron wailed piteously.
But someone is.
And that someone ought to be being asked the Tim Farron Question every time he encounters the press.
The question matters because the truth is, Justin Welby probably does have a view and probably does have enough theological training in the matter to satisfy even the Archbishop of York.
And it matters mostly because it is a life and death matter. There are those who would tell us that if the Archbishop of Canterbury expressed the view that gay sex is not a sin then vulnerable Anglicans would be slaughtered by Muslims in Africa and elsewhere. Personally I don’t believe this and think it has more to do with Islamophobia than anything else. Indeed, I’ve strongly condemned the Archbishop of Canterbury when he has said such things in the past. (See – You Condemn it, Archbishop if you want a catch up).
But it is very much a life or death question if the Archbishop remains silent or, even worse, express the view that gay sex is in fact a sin. Silence equals death, for some of us, as the long-standing slogan used amongst HIV activists suggests. Silence in the face of the homophobia that is prevalent in society leads to suicide for some and damaged lives for others. The cost is high.
So here’s the thing. I do still think that the Tim Farron Question was legitimate. However, I have moved on. I now think that the Tim Farron Answer matters too.
Does the Archbishop of Canterbury think gay sex is a sin?
Oh, Cathy Newman – I do hope you get your chance.
The fact that the question has been put at the forefront of public life in the UK at the moment makes it inevitable that it will be asked of other people. Cathy Newman deserves the chance to ask the Tim Farron question of the person Tim Farron thought should answer it. And if she doesn’t get the chance to ask it, I suspect others will.
More than that, I think others should.
“Now, Archbishop Justin Welby, you’ve heard all the debate about Tim Farron – but what do you think? Do you think gay sex is a sin?”
Over 850 new homes were built in Barnsley in 2016-17. 18 percent of these new homes are affordable housing, helping local people into home occupancy and ownership.
These figures come from Barnsley Council’s 2016-17 end of year performance report. The report, published today, shows the progress the council made towards their three priorities. It also identifies areas for improvement.
Cllr Alan Gardiner, Cabinet spokesperson for Corporate Services, said: “This report highlights some outstanding areas of performance. We said we’d achieve more and better housing, and these figures show we’re delivering on that promise.
“There’s more work to do, and we have challenges ahead, but this report shows how hard we’re working to make Barnsley a better place to work and live.”
The council is creating a vibrant and thriving economy with 43 businesses relocating to Barnsley since April 2016. Business investment into Barnsley in the last financial year was over £28 million. The council also supported 196 businesses to expand.
The council is working with local partners to improve the quality of early years and childcare settings, which helps children to achieve their full potential in life. This has contributed to Ofsted rating 95 per cent of pre-school settings either good or outstanding – above the national and regional averages. The council will continue to work with the Barnsley Alliance to improve our primary and secondary schools.
The council’s Cabinet will review the end of year performance report on Wednesday 14 June 2017. People can view the full report online at www.barnsley.gov.uk/performance.
A little over a week before the DUP began negotiations over a possible deal to support a minority Conservative government, its leader Arlene Foster was enjoying a cup of tea with the leader of a Loyalist paramilitary group.
Theresa May’s deal with the DUP has been delayed as the government deals with the Grenfell Tower blaze. Even without the tragic events of last night, there’s reason to suggest that May’s deal with the DUP would not have been signed this week.
Although the two parties are said to be finalising the ‘terms and conditions’ of an agreement, behind the scenes the DUP are driving a hard bargain as they attempt to squeeze more and more out of a beleaguered Prime Minister.
There is growing anger among Tory MPs that May has misplayed her hand in these negotiations. By announcing that the Conservatives would govern in conjunction with the DUP, she made it so that any failure to do so would look like weakness. MPs believe that entering into a formal agreement with the DUP is not in the party’s interest as (a) given the DUP’s record on LGBT rights, it risks toxifying the Tory brand by association, and (b) it means the power is with the DUP. They reckon May ought to have called their bluff. After all, the alternative for the unionists to voting with the Conservatives is a Corbyn-led government and given the low regard Foster’s party hold the Labour leader in, they’re unlikely to do that anytime soon.
For their part, the DUP are making the most of the power balance. As one insider puts it, the DUP are ‘hard as nails’ and the ‘best negotiators’ in politics. This is shown by the fact there is a written agreement to begin with. When concerned MPs questioned whether it was such a good idea to have an agreement in writing, it was relayed that the DUP had requested this – and that was that.
That document is expected to include a list of bullet points – stating what the DUP will vote with the government on and what it will not. On the ‘yes’ list is Brexit and anti-terrorism measures, and on the ‘no’ list are any austerity measures.
However, the DUP are not done yet. Just as Tories thought they were coming to a final agreement this week, more issues arose. While money is a constant factor, one source says the DUP suddenly brought up the issue of parades. Given that this relates to the Orange Order, any concession from the Conservatives could be in breach of the Good Friday agreement.
The general consensus is that an agreement will be reached but it could come at a price not worth paying.
A popular joke in California is that while they may not have voted for Donald Trump, they can at least spend the four years of his presidency stoned out of their minds.
On the same day the U.S. delivered the White House to Trump, voters in California legalised marijuana for recreational use. Three other states did the same, bringing the total to eight.
That political meddler Nick Clegg is leading the charge to force the legalisation of cannabis on Britain, too.
His cross-party cabal of MPs have cited what they say is the success of the law change in parts of the U.S., along with a claim that legal marijuana in Britain could be worth £1 billion to HM Treasury every year in tax revenue and savings in the criminal justice system because cannabis users no longer count as criminals and drug-dealing gangs are put out of business.
On the same day the U.S. delivered the White House to Trump, voters in California legalised marijuana for recreational use
Police forces in some areas of Britain have admitted they have virtually given up on enforcing the laws against cannabis use.
Yet before Clegg and friends become too light-headed about a pot-puffing nirvana, they might like to read the bleak warning from Mitchell Morrissey, the District Attorney of Denver, Colorado, to anti-legislation campaigners in California two months ago about the dangers of legalised cannabis.
In what was a dispatch from the marijuana front line — Denver is the biggest city in the first state to legalise it — Morrissey warned that Californian voters were being seriously misled by claims that legalisation would see a drop in the crime rate.
He produced an array of statistics that should give anyone who thinks legal cannabis is a good idea serious pause for thought.
Since marijuana became readily available in Colorado — which largely legalised pot in January 2014 — crime had gone up, not down.
Traffic-related deaths have increased 48 per cent; marijuana-linked emergency visits to hospitals by 49 per cent; and marijuana-related calls to the state’s ‘poison centre’ by 100 per cent.
The state-wide murder rate in 2015 rose nearly 15 per cent on the previous year. In some towns it more than doubled in a year. Robberies, thefts (especially from cars) and even sexual assaults had risen. In Denver, the number of crimes has grown by 44 per cent since legalisation.
Police forces in some areas of Britain have admitted they have virtually given up on enforcing the laws against cannabis use
Morrissey stressed he was not saying these shocking statistical spikes are all down to marijuana, he was simply anxious to highlight the ‘disturbing’ figures that ran contrary to the impression that legalisation has been a glittering success in Colorado.
(In August, the respected research group factcheck.org confirmed the tenor of Morrissey’s message, saying pot-related traffic deaths, hospital visits and school suspensions in Colorado had increased ‘substantially’ since legalisation).
California voters, Morrissey added, were also being told a lie about how legalising cannabis would free up police to go after other criminals.
Marijuana can only be taxed and policed if it is regulated with licensed producers and retailers. However, determining what is legally produced marijuana and what isn’t has proved a nightmare for Colorado police.
While Clegg airily claims the legalisation of marijuana will ‘finally take back control from the criminal gangs’, the reality in Denver is that the criminals are profiting more than ever.
Police in the city have had to deal with a huge increase in their marijuana-related workload, including coping with a 99 per cent increase in illegal distribution, Morrissey revealed.
The quantity of illegal pot seized by police has risen on average by 3,424 per cent per criminal case, the total no longer measured in pounds but in tons.
Denver police, said Morrissey, ‘are busier enforcing marijuana laws and investigating crimes directly related to marijuana, including murders, robberies and home invasions, than at any time in the city’s history’.
That political meddler Nick Clegg is leading the charge to force the legalisation of cannabis on Britain, too
Morrissey’s devastating letter predictably caused a storm in Colorado. Financially at least, the state has been doing very nicely out of becoming America’s pot capital — so much so that few in authority want anyone to rock the boat.
With drug tourists flocking in from across the world to get stoned, the state’s marijuana industry is worth $1 billion annually. Last year it produced $163 million in taxes from marijuana sales, though critics note it imposes so much tax on legal pot that it has encouraged a soaring black market in untaxed marijuana.
But that’s a problem for the long-suffering local police to sort out. That and various other issues that Morrissey didn’t specifically mention in his letter.
Drug-driving in Colorado is proving a nightmare to deal with because there is no quick, reliable check to see if drivers are too stoned to drive safely, as there is for blood alcohol levels.
As for Mr Clegg’s demand it is time in Britain ‘for ministers to start writing the rules for this legal market, including age limits and health warnings’, he might like to see how little these supposed restraints matter in Colorado, where the biggest market is in cannabis-laced sweets that look and taste just like the traditional variety.
Coloradans should be 21 to buy marijuana, but doctors have seen a significant rise in admissions from children who have fallen ill after eating marijuana-infused food, including chocolate, cakes or sweets laced with THC, the psycho-active ingredient of cannabis.
Just last week, the American Surgeon General issued a report on drugs that highlighted how marijuana use can lead to mental health problems
Even if children don’t get their hands on the drug, state officials admit they are worried about how cannabis is being ‘normalised’ for youngsters.
‘What happens to people over the long term, especially kids, as they see marijuana normalised, as they see people advertising for marijuana, and as accessibility becomes greater and greater?’ asks Andrew Freedman, director of the state governor’s Office of Marijuana Co-ordination.
‘Kids who are right now saying, “No thanks” — will that change over time?’
Misty-eyed nostalgics in Britain — some of whom may be in the House of Commons — who remember getting gently stoned in their youth will get a sharp reality check if they were to visit a Colorado pot dispensary.
There they will be pressed to try scientifically engineered marijuana that is many times more powerful than the weed of the Sixties and Seventies.
Indeed, everything has changed. As an opponent of legalisation ruefully observes, there is a consumer market worth tens of billions that could be tapped by ruthless firms waiting to exploit the legalisation of cannabis in America.
As soon as the federal government declares recreational marijuana legal nationwide, it’s said that tobacco giants such as Philip Morris could flood the market, employing the same cynical marketing tactics, slick advertising and dodging of regulations that they managed for years with cigarettes.
It would be impossible to stop them employing the same tactics in the UK if marijuana were made legal.
The scientifically engineered marijuana is many times more powerful than the weed of the Sixties and Seventies
For all the claims of Mr Clegg and his allies, the U.S. is not nearly so smitten by legal pot as he likes to make out.
Just last week, the American Surgeon General issued a report on drugs that highlighted how marijuana use can lead to mental health problems, permanent loss of IQ, stunted intelligence in younger users, increased risk of traffic accidents and schizophrenia, as well as increased addiction in states that are legally selling the stronger strains of the drug.
Even Vermont, clogged with hippies and one of America’s most liberal states, rejected legalising pot after its health department released a damning report about its health dangers.
More than half of U.S. states allow marijuana for medical purposes, encouraging a popular perception that it is actually good for you.
But while its medical benefits are largely unproven, there is growing concern about marijuana’s long-term effects, especially on the developing brains of young people.
If you want to know the sort of person who is investing in legalised cannabis, it’s not some harmless flower child, but Roger Jenkins, the man once described as Britain’s richest banker.
He is backing a fund that has bought huge swathes of California land to set up a marijuana-growing empire, which means the decision this month to legalise it must have been music to his ears.
Nick Clegg may think he’s on the right side of this argument. But if he wants to know the truth about legal cannabis, he should get on a plane to Denver and see for himself the reality of what a marijuana free-for-all in Britain might look like.
Theresa May’s general election gamble has seen a little-thought-of and highly controversial party thrust into the spotlight: Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Having failed to gain enough seats to form a majority the Conservative Party has turned to the DUP, which won 10 seats, to create an alliance and give the Tories the ability to govern as a minority.
While the two parties are said to still be “in discussions” over a possible agreement, the decision to try and strike a deal has seen hundreds of protesters descend on Westminster due to the DUP’s stance on abortion, gay rights and climate change. Already more than 500,000 people have signed a petition condemning the Tory-DUP alliance.
The DUP until now hasn’t garnered much attention in the British press but the party has a long history of science denial.
It is a most unusual party for a number of reasons, including its well-documented links to Protestant paramilitary groups and dark money links to the Saudi Arabian intelligence service.
Socially regressive, it has blocked the legalisation of abortion and gay marriage in Northern Ireland and is seen as openly hostile to the LGBT community, as well as being the only political party in Ireland to support Brexit.
On science issues, its nearest political equivalent would be the Trump administration in the US. A survey among DUP members found that 40 per cent believed creationism should be taught in science classrooms.
Mervyn Storey, chair of the DUP’s education committee, is also a member of the Caleb Foundation, a Christian fundamentalist creationist pressure group. Its lobbying led the National Trust to controversially include a ‘younger Earth’ version of the origins of the Giant’s Causeway at its visitor centre. The Caleb Foundation has also formally objected to museums depicting evolution as an accepted fact.
Largely thanks to DUP lobbying, Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK with no legally binding climate change targets in place.
Last December, then environment minister, the DUP’s Michelle McIlveen, quashed efforts to introduce a Northern Ireland Climate Change Act. The Social Democratic and Labour Party’s Mark Durkan described Northern Ireland’s failure to enact climate change laws – due to a lack of political consensus and obstruction by the DUP – as an “embarrassment”.
The DUP’s 2017 election manifesto contained not a single mention of the terms “climate change”, “global warming” or “environment”. The manifesto talks in general terms about the need for a “secure and sustainable energy supply for Northern Ireland”, with the focus on interconnection and development of new generation capacity, but with no indication given of the source of this new energy, other than a welcome for “recent planning applications for new power stations” – a clear signal that it remains firmly wedded to fossil fuels.
Despite its generally hostile approach to its immediate neighbour, the Republic of Ireland, the DUP’s election manifesto suggests that, at least regarding electricity, it is not entirely isolationist. Instead it favours the development of an all-island integrated single electricity market as well as the North-South Interconnector.
Perhaps the DUP’s most controversial figure on climate change is former environment minister, Sammy Wilson.
Among his more bizarre actions was to place a ban on UK government TV and radio adverts that were encouraging people to cut their carbon emissions. Wilson described the ads as insidious green propaganda.
Wilson believes the ideas of man-made climate change is a “gigantic con” and an “hysterical semi-religion” and denies that there is a scientific consensus on the causes of climate change.
In 2014, Wilson organised a meeting in the House of Commons in central London on behalf of “Repeal the Act”, a group that argues the “climate is always changing” and seeks to repeal the UK’s Climate Change Act. In attendance were known climate science deniers Peter Lilley, David Davies and Richard Tol.
And back in 2010 Wilson hosted a group of climate science deniers at the Palace of Westminster for “Climate Fools Day”. The event was supported by Labour MP and now Global Warming Policy Foundation member Graham Stringer. One of the event invites read: “The danger is not Climate Change but Climate Change Policy – for which there is no evidence in justification.”
More recently, Wilson, the newly returned MP for East Antrim, welcomed Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate change as “very wise”.
He described the climate deal as “totally flawed and pointless”, going on to argue that “pulling out of the (Paris) agreement, which was only a piece of window dressing for climate chancers who wished to pretend that they were doing something about an issue which they can’t affect anyhow, is not the disaster which the green lefties are getting hysterical about”.
Wilson brings similar levels of enlightenment to his views on LGBT people. “They are poofs. I don’t care if they are ratepayers. As far as I’m concerned, they are perverts”, he said in response to a request by gay rights activists to hold an event in Belfast’s City Hall in 1992.
For a region of the United Kingdom seen as indifferent, even hostile, to climate or environmental regulations, it is hugely ironic that the political crisis that led to the collapse earlier this year of Northern Ireland’s devolved government should have been triggered by a “green energy” scheme overseen by the Democratic Unionist Party.
The devolved government involved an uneasy partnership between nationalist and unionist parties, including the DUP and its bitter rival, Sinn Féin. It collapsed last March when Sinn Féin leader, the late Martin McGuinness, called for DUP leader, Arlene Foster, to resign over her role in the cash-for-ash affair.
The so-called cash-for-ash controversy involved a botched government renewable heat incentive scheme, introduced in November 2012, and run by the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment .
DUP leader Arlene Foster was the responsible minister at the time. The non-domestic element of the scheme was designed to encourage firms, businesses and farmers to switch from fossil fuel heating to biomass systems such as wood-burning boilers.
However, its ham-fisted implementation and complete absence of cost controls created perverse incentives whereby for every £1 a business spent on fuel, it received a government subsidy of £1.60. This quickly escalated into a massive scam, where furnaces were burning fuel around the clock in sheds with the windows and doors wide open.
The final cost to the taxpayer for this fiasco is expected to be upwards of £400 million.
DUP leader Arlene Foster’s reported behaviour towards her party colleague, Jonathan Bell, when he tried to shut the scheme down may be instructive on how she approaches talks with Theresa May. “She was hostile and abusive…she walked in and shouted at me that I would keep this scheme open,” claimed Bell. Foster subsequently survived a no-confidence vote.
As the shockingly old-fashioned stances of Theresa May’s new partners in government on a range of scientific, social and political issues illustrate, there is more than a grain of truth in the old joke about the captain on a flight about to land in Northern Ireland announcing to passengers: “Ladies and gentlemen, we will shortly be touching down in Belfast. Please put your watches back 300 years”.