Life and Death

According to the Daily Telegraph, Prime Minsiter Gordon Brown has been warned by his whips that his opposition to reducing the abortion gestational time limit is likely to fail. The mood of the House is to bring the limit down. With nine time-limit amendments tabled, the most likely compromise appears to be a fortnightly reduction to 22 weeks. I think 20 weeks should be a reasonable adjustment to even the most die hard pro-death supporter, but it would seem that even that extra two weeks will be too much for some to stomach.

The son of a Church of Scotland minister, Brown will vote against the pro-life position on any attempts to change the law. Even though less than one percent of abortions happen between 22 and 24 weeks, and those are the most gruesome (except for the very later abortions, which it appears will continue to be legal), Gordon doesn’t want to keep them from happening.

What is interesting to me about battle lines on this “women’s rights” issue is that the chief pro-life leaders in the House of Commons are women. The pro-choice campaign is led by men. Abortion is a very cross-party issue here. The Labour Party has long had significant support amongst Catholics.

So next week as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is debated by a committee of the whole House, it will be a matter of life and death.  On Monday, the debates will cover human-animal embryos and saviour siblings. Tuesday will start with lesbians and fertility treatment, before moving on to abortion. The preservation of the unborn and the sanctity of the entire human species is up for grabs.

Backlash

When I wrote about the abolition of the 10% tax band, I thought there would be a bit of a kerfuffle and it would be another opportunity for those who are already opposed to the Labour Party, like me, to wag a finger at their dishonesty and destructive policies.

I figured some of the usual complainers on the Labour back benches would fuss and the Tories would try to make some hay. I didn’t realise that it would become a constant national news story, with a huge rebellion on the back benches and ministerial consternation. Some have suggested that this to Gordon Brown what the poll tax was to Margaret Thatcher. Some have even suggested that while Thatcher survived the poll tax, Brown might not survive killing off the 10% tax band.

Hopefully this will finally demonstrate that Labour has passed its sell-by date. After all, the Tories promised to be at least as liberal on social issues, so there’s no chance of a threat to ungodliness in the UK. The Revelation 21:8 crowd will make sure Britain is still comfortably post-Christian. Perhaps this will persuade Middle England to ditch Labour.

We are probably stuck with Gordon until at least 2009, since General Election usually happen about every four years (out of a possible five-year Parliament), but the local elections next Thursday will probably let the Government know just how unhappy the electorate is. That the way politics works. Local councillors, who have nothing whatsoever to do with central Government policy, will pay the price for Brown’s bad decisions.

Labour Attacks Jews

When Ed Balls isn’t having a punch up with Jack Straw in Cabinet meetings, he’s attacking Jewish schools.

He was admittedly on a witch hunt against all faith schools. He accused them of being covertly selective by charging admission fees. As it turns out the only schools he could find were five Jewish schools. They have a voluntary fee to cover religious education and security costs. Apparently in Londonstan it helps to have extra security if you are Jewish. More than half of the parents do not pay the fee.

Faith school are not in favour with Labour. LIke it or not, faith schools produce better results over all than their more secular counterparts. For a party that represents the increasing anti-religious bent of this island, this is not good news. They tend to have a more middle class demographic, perhaps because religion is a predominantly middle class phenomenon in this country. Chavs who don’t care about their children’s education don’t tend to care about God either, but they tend to vote Labour.

Of course the Labour elite who hate faith schools aren’t chavs. They come from the other end of things. They are too smart to believe in God.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews was demanding an apology from Ed Balls. I’m not saying he didn’t have the balls to show up, but he did send his deputy, schools minister Jim Knight to face the backlash, while he was away on holiday.

Press reports say Balls accepts Jewish schools have the right to charge voluntary contributions. He also admits that publishing details of spot checks by his department had been stressful for the schools involved. He claims it was in the public interest, but hasn’t explained how this could be the case.

Stealing From the Poor

You would think that a socialist Labour government would stick it to the rich and go easy on the poor. After all, that’s the point of socialism , isn’t it? Yeah, but Gordon Brown isn’t your dad’s socialist. This is New Labour, remember?

Gordon tried to impress everyone by lowering the main rate of income tax from 22% to 20%. Somebody has to pay for this, though. Gordon’s chosen the poor. The UK doesn’t have as many tax brackets as the US. In the US there are six brackets, ranging from 10% to 35%. Before April 1, the UK had three: 10%, 22%, and 40%. Now it has two. The 10% bracket has been taken away. Tax is payable at 20% from the first pound. At £36,000 ($72,000) it jumps to 40%. By contrast, an American at that income is still at 25%, $5,000 away from paying 28% on anything else he makes.

The 10% only covered the first £2,230 ($4,460). That is admittedly less than the $7,825 covered by the same bracket in the US, though as the Unnamed Women pointed out to me, it will still hit women working part time or students working their way through university the hardest. Obviously the lower the income, the greater the proportion of tax increase.

The Government are planning on a £6 to £8 billion increase in revenue from the change. To raise that money, it is estimated that 5 million households will be worse off. That would be the 5 million poorest households.

Just to re-emphasise the point I have made in the past about an elective dictatorship . . . After the Commons Treasury Committee condemns the changes tomorrow, they will be debated in the House of Commons in two weeks. It doesn’t really matter. They have already gone into effect. Despite the opposition from large numbers of his own party, the Prime Minister said there is no plan to change the policy. Not much point in having a Parliament, is there?

Free Vote?

When members of Parliament are given a free vote, they are allowed to vote their conscience on a particular bill. Free votes are not particularly common, especially on significant legislation.

For Americans, the severe whipping MPs sometimes get may seem strange. In Congress and state legislatures, there are party whips who use various methods to persuade members to vote a certain way. They may be able to dangle carrots of certain preferential treatment or future committee assignments. Party discipline here is a different. Because the executive and legislative functions are so intertwined, an indisciplined party can bring down a Government.

That is why a Government that chooses to introduce very morally questionable legislation has to force members of its party to choose between the Prime Minister and their conscience. If a Government allows a free vote, they are saying that it would be nice if the bill were inacted, but not key to their policies and agenda for the country.

Backbench member of the party of Government are held in line with a lot of carrot and stick. Fronbenchers – members of the Prime Minister’s ministerial team – are held in line with their jobs. If a minister cannot vote with the Government, they are expected to resign and return to the back benches. This means a loss of between one-third and more that half of their salary, depending on their ministerial rank. Except for particularly high-flyers, it also means their hope for advancement in their political career is effectively over.

It is easier to return to the frontbenches after a scandal of immorality than it is over disloyality to the party whip. In other word, it is better to lie, cheat, steal, improperly use ministerial influence for personal gain, or cheat on your spouse using public money to finance it and cover it up, than it is to vote your conscience.

If you are still with me, I said all that to say this. Gordon Brown has determined that Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill now has parts that can be allowed a free vote and parts that can’t. Human/animal hybrids are now optional, as are saviour sibilings. However, embyro screening and lesbian parents are not. And once all the amendments have been voted on, regardless of the outcome, all ministers must vote for the Bill or resign.

Prior to the PM’s partial back-down, there were a dozen members of the Government who were willing to rebel, including three Cabinet ministers. Reports are that two of the three Catholics, Paul Murphy and Des Browne, are satified. Ruth Kelly, a member of Opus Dei, was reported back in 2004 to be “straight down the line” on abortion and other life issues.

The embryo screen provisions of the Bill are plainly contrary to Catholic teaching. This would specifically authorise the killing of embryos that do not meet certain genetic criteria. I’m also not sure how the idea that lesbian parents would both be able to register as parents on a birth certificate is in line with Catholic teaching either. Under this provision, children of lesbian parents will be forbidden to from contacting their fathers (since due the nature of the species, every has a male parent, whether or not that fits into the lesbian lifestyle) until they are eighteen years old.

When the dust has cleared, it will be interesting to see who has voted their conscience, or even for which Catholics the teaching of the Church is their conscience.

Can’t Be Trusted

It has been announced by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith that I will be amongst the first to be required to have a national identity card and have all of my details – including fingerprints and other biometric data – held on a Government database.

While offering the comforting words that most ordinary Britons will not face compulsory registration until at least 2017, non-EU foreign nationals will be require to have the card from November of this year. This is because I am apparently more of a terrorist threat. You never know what we foreigners might do.  Especially if we are not from an EU member state.

But even if before November I am able to pass the Life in the UK test and fork out the £655 application fee and the Government decides I can be trusted to be a UK citizen, I get caught up in the next round. I’m in a “sensitive” job. That doesn’t mean they have recogised that I care deeply for those to whom I impart the knowledge religion and history, or that I cry easily when they can’t be arsed to learn. No, just being a teacher is sensitive. “Sensitive” is New Labour Newspeak for “can’t be trusted”.

But isn’t that the whole point of what will be a national database? Isn’t that why totalitarian regimes insist of identity papers? No one can be trusted. The problem is that in this society it is the Government which isn’t trusted enough by the people. The population has to be gently convinced that they themselves can’t be trusted.  With the deftness of a pickpocket, they will be divested of every shred of privacy.

Maoist in Parliament

Some Labour MPs are very definitely still Marxist Old Labour, or at least pine after the good ol’ days. A few moments ago on the BBC News commentary programme This Week, I listened to the following exchange between former Tory MP and cabinet minister Michael Portillo, current Labour MP Diane Abbott, and moderator Andrew Neil. There was a discussion about dictators.

Portillo: Mao Zedong killed 30 million, 60 million. People still wear Mao t-shirts; people still carry Mao Little Red Books and if you go to China there’s still a huge picture of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square. It’s absolutely bizarre. When a royal prince dressed in an SS uniform he was absolutely condemned. Had he worn a Mao outfit, nobody would have blinked.

Neil: Why is that? Why is it right to wear a Maoist t-shirt but obviously wrong, as it is, to wear a Hitler t-shirt?

Abbott: I suppose that some people would judge that on balance, Mao did more good than wrong. We can’t say that about the Nazis.

Portillo: What!?!?!

Neil: Remind me what the good was.

Abbott: Well, it’s funny I just had this debate with my son.

Neil: Mao killed tens of millions of people.

Portillo: Just tell me what was the good thing that he did that made up for the 60 million people he murdered?

Abbott: He led his country from feudalism, he helped to defeat the Japanese, and he left his country on the verge of the great economic success they are having now.

Portillo (to Neil): You call Stalin the greatest [in terms of despotism] ever dictator. In terms of mass murder he isn’t on the same page as Mao, that Dianne apparently supports.

Yes, isn’t it nice to know that we have Maoists sitting on the Government’s backbenches in the British Parliament?