Thursday, June 26, 2008


On learning that McGinn had written the article in the previous post, Venomball's office swung into action, emailing editors of prominent political publications with proposals for yet another anti-Catholic screed.

Dolphinarium can exclusively bring you one of them. It reveals her intense hatred of the Roman Catholic Church and the extent of her obsession with Conor McGinn. It's also quite unintentionally hilarious. Read it and see just what anti-Catholicism leads to: conspiracy-theorising fruitcakery on a grand scale.

* She accuses Conor McGinn of using "bully boy tactics" against her because he publically condemned her anti-Catholicism

* Claims the Catholic Church "has a grip" on parliament, the media and the public sphere

* Claims the Church has a "massive army of dedicated volunteers" who "amend top google searches for abortion to only pro-life sites"

* Says there must be "stricter rules on keeping Parliament secular" for it to be "more diverse and democratic"

From: XXXX []
Sent: 16 June 2008 13:09
Subject: Mary Honeyball opinion on Catholic Church's response to her Guardian comment piece on HFEA Bill and what it means for democracy and representation

Dear X

Labour MEP Mary Honeyball would like to write a opinion piece or maybe an essay for Prospect on the increasing politicisation of the Catholic Church', its outraged response to her comment piece in the Guardian ahead of the HFEA Bill and what this all means for democracy and increasing representation of women and people from all faiths and cultures in Parliament, both at home and the EU.

Included in this email are links to the NewStatesman piece, written by a Catholic journalist attacking Mary for voicing her opinions in what he called Guy Fawkes style language; Mary's comment piece in the Guardian; various articles from Catholic magazines; and details of former vice-chair of Young Labour Conor McGinn's resignation at Labour's refusal to disown Mary.

I have also written out in detail what the structure of Mary's opinion piece would be.

I would be very grateful if you could get back to me as soon as possible to let me know whether you would like to commission this piece. My contact details are listed at the end of this email.

Structure of Feature/Comment

The piece would present evidence and discuss the Catholic Churches increasing involvement with Parliament over the past few years.
Put forward the case that such increased involvement in democracy comes with a responsibility to be open to scrutiny.
Demonstrate that this is certainly not happening and evidence the bully-boy tactics used by Catholics.
Eg. resignation of vice chair young labour blaming Mary for his actions, using contacts to generate one-sided stories in NewStatesman, calls for resignation, vitriolic blog postings.
Analyse this grip that the Catholic Church has on Parliament, media and public sphere and blocks to mounting a counter offense
Eg. Church has massive army dedicated volunteers who will blog, amend top google searches for abortion to only pro-life sites by their nature hummanists/non-religious people not as co-ordinated or spurred on to act.
Look at what all this means in terms of democratic accountability and representation.
Eg. people responding positively to Mary's comment piece online said they would start to check the religion of MPs and take that into account when voting; such bully-boy tactics used by religious pressure groups.
Examine what this means in terms of making Parliament more representative multi-culturally and more gender diverse.
Eg. If politicians judged by electorate to vote along religious lines, more so than party, limits opportunities for people from less popular religions to be elected. Women possibly put off by aggressive tactics.
Put forward the case that stricter rules on keeping Parliament secular need to be made to make Parliament more diverse and democratic.

Further Info

Mary's comment piece in the Guardian:

Cardinal's Sins
Embryo bill: Gordon Brown has allowed his authority to be undermined by the three Catholics in his cabinet
the Labour spokesperson for women's issues in Europe, Mary Honeyball MEP would like to offer a comment piece on what she sees as Gordon Brown's weakness in bowing to the pressure of religious fanaticism in the party and allowing a free vote on the human embryo bill at commitee and report stage.

NewStatesman piece last week:

Whiff of anti-popery
New Statesman - London,England,UK
This was most stridently articulated by the Labour MEP Mary Honeyball, who asked: "Should devout Catholics such as Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Paul Murphy be ...
See all stories on this topic
Conor McGinn was a previous MP candidate for Islington and former chair of Young Labour. For further info:

Please see catholic Herald's coverage of this story:

Labour activist quits post over anti-Catholicism
Catholic Herald
Mary Honeyball's comments in the Guardian that "democracy and religion do not mix" have prompted the resignation of Conor McGinn from his post as vice-chair of Young Labour.

Labour's 'anti-Catholicism' raised with PM

Mary is an honorary associate of the National Secular Society and a leading member of the all party parliamentary group on the separation of religion and politics.


- -to Mary Honeyball MEP
Labour Spokesperson in the European Parliament Women's Rights Committee

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Left and Left Footers: Conor McGinn on anti-Catholicism in the Labour Party

From this week's Tribune

Religious Persecution may drive us out of the Labour Party

Conor McGinn warns that Labour's Roman Catholics will not turn the other cheek to the bigotry they feel has been aimed in their direction by supposed comrades

The growing isolation felt by Roman Catholics in the Labour Party is reaching a critical point. Recent outpourings of anti-Catholic sentiment, under the guise of debate around the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, have been reminiscent of language used during the era of Guy Fawkes - and about him and his co-conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot.
As an Irish Catholic, the natural political home for me on moving to Britain was the Labour Party. As Catholics from across Europe settled in Britain , their children and grandchildren maintained strong and proud Labour traditions and provided the backbone fro the party in its heartlands in England 's great cities, the mining valleys of Wales and Scotland 's industrial belt. We backed Labour because we believed in the values of the party and the trade union movement. Our values of social justice, equality and community were born as much from our Catholic tradition as they were from our Labour tradition.
In recent times, these values have been translated into support for progressive campaigns to alleviate debt and child poverty in the developing world. In some respects, these campaigns were instigated by the Catholic Church and other religious groups. A high profile campaign to support migrant workers - among the most exploited and vulnerable groups in our society - was led by senior figures in the Catholic Church, including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who called for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Catholic priests, nuns and laity work in some of the most deprived communities in Britain , with churches and community centres providing a range of support and services for families who have been neglected by the state and society. It is unsurprising that this aspect of Catholicism and the work of the Catholic Church are rarely acknowledged by detractors, who choose to ignore the selfless public service given by Catholics throughout the world.
Obviously, the attitudes of many Catholics towards issues such as immigration and child poverty are shaped, in part, by the teaching and message of the Catholic Church. By the same token, many Catholics will have had their views on other, more controversial matters, such as abortion, informed by that same Catholic faith. Unfortunately, the former is ignored and the latter contested by those whose antipathy towards Catholicism has been barely concealed in the debates around the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
Among the most vicious of the recent attacks on Catholics in the Labour Party was an article in The Guardian by London MEP Mary Honeyball. This venomous piece included the implication that Catholics were not fit to hold ministerial office because they were subservient to the Vatican . Honeyball also referred to Catholicism having a "vice like grip across Europe " and accused the church of "interference in democracy".
Before anyone seeks to accuse me - or other Catholic members of the Labour Party who were deeply offended by her comments - of overreaction, they should read her article and substitute the words "Jew" or "Moslem" for "Catholic". Can you imagine the outcry? And in this regard, the anger felt by Catholics has only been exacerbated by the failure of any senior Labour figure to admonish Honeyball.
She peddles the myth that politically-active Catholics serve in obedience to the Vatican and are directed on how to vote by Rasputin-like clerics - almost as if they constituted a fifth-column in the Labour Party. If this were not so offensive, it would be laughable. Catholics are certainly not a homogenous group. In fact, we are one of the most diverse faith communities in Britain . And we are not dictated to by priests or even popes. Our Catholic faith shapes many of our views and opinions, in the same way that background, family, education and a whole host of other experiences do. We shouldn't have to make any apologies for that. And if the low-level war on politically-active Catholics continues, the only apology many of us will be making is to say how sorry we are to have to leave the Labour Party.

The man who wants the whole world to know how generous he is

The competitive philanthropy stakes have been raised even higher by hedge fund manager, Chris Hohn. Hohn has given away £466 million to The Children's Investment Fund, a fact which managed to find its way onto the front page of The Daily Telegraph a few days ago. I bet that made Hohn, who "has a reputation for being aggressive and ruthless with the management of the companies he invests in" feel good.

Oh, the charity is run by his wife, Jamie Cooper-Hohn by the way. The story notes:

"The couple are considered pioneers among the 'new philanthropists', the super-rich who are not only giving away a large proportion of their wealth but increasingly controlling the charities too."

Yeah well, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Forest Gate raid - compensation to be paid but no apology for smears

I should have blogged on this days ago - Scotland Yard is to pay compensation to the two brothers caught up in the Forest Gate anti-terror raid compensation - since it was the subject of one of this blog's very first entries, The drip drip drip of curious police leaks two years ago.

The police have reportedly agreed to pay Mohamed Abdul Kahar and Abul Koyair £60,000 as "gesture of goodwill". They were arrested when armed police, acting on a tip off that they were hiding a chemical bomb, burst into their East London home. The pair were then held in custody for a week.

Jolly decent of the Met to cough up for all this of course but no one is going to pay for the other nasty little trick played on the brothers who had the temerity to complain about their treatment; smearing them as users of kiddie porn on the front page of the News of the Screws. Quite obviously this charge turned out to be completely baseless despite the story (since pulled from the Screws website) quoting a source, unnamed as usual, confidently declaring 'there is strong evidence to support charges'.

As this blog noted at the time there seems to be something of a pattern of high profile victims of police malpractice being smeared in one way or another, frequently as sex offenders. It was put about that the dead Jean Charles de Menezes had been a rape suspect (DNA evidence later cleared him) and that Stephen Lawrence's friend Dwayne Brooks was a rapist (cleared again).

There's no way of telling just how damaging these smears can have been but they always go unpunished, not least because the "sources" on which they are based operate in the shadows. So this nasty weapon in the police's armoury will undoubtedly be used for many years to come.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On the absolutely vital essential necessity of it all

Holding terrorist suspects for 42 days without charge is not only "necessary" but "vital" and "essential to tackling growing extremism" and on and on, though such is its importance that it "may never actually be used", you understand.
We've heard the same kind of urgent rhetoric before, of course most notably over the creation of human animal hybrid embryos.
Contemporary life must be really bad if we have to be on a constant state of alert against depredation, disease and terrorism and if ever crazier measures are deemed necessary, vital and essential in tackling them.