Thursday, October 23, 2008

Three stories of forced abortion in China

This is Mao Hengfeng. In 1988 Mao, a mother of twins, lost her job in a Shanghai soap factory when she became pregnant with her third child. She refused to have an abortion and was detained in a psychiatric hospital where she was forcibly injected with a variety of drugs. Nonetheless she managed to continue her pregnancy and gave birth prematurely to a daughter. Mao appealed her job dismissal under China's Labor Law, and was reinstated. However, the factory where she worked appealed the ruling. Mao was seven months pregnant with her fourth child at the time of the appeal hearing, when the judge reportedly told her that if she terminated this pregnancy, he would rule in her favor. Concerned for the welfare of her existing family, Mao terminated her pregnancy against her wishes, but still the court ruled against her.
Mao has repeatedly petitioned the authorities for being unfairly sacked, forced to have an abortion and denied the right to freedom of expression. During that time she has been repeatedly detained in prisons and psychiatric units. In 2004 she was sent to a Re-education Through Labour (RTL) camp, where she was reportedly tied up, suspended from the ceiling and severely beaten. She was released in September 2005 but since then has been beaten up by the police, detained and then released and this September once again placed under house arrest after she tried to get to a UN representative's office in Beijing to protest at her abuses.

In 2000 Yin Lani was nine months pregnant with her first child. Her waters had already broken. But she'd conceived five months before getting married and in China that's against the law. Family planning officials took her to a clinic where she was injected with a large syringe. Her husband arrived in time to see the dead foetus being removed from her with forceps two days later. Yin lost a lot of blood and was in hospital for 44 days. Her husband was later charged for the medicine she needed. He said his wife was rendered infertile by the abortion. Last year in a legal first, Yin sued the family planning agency. The case didn't get anywhere but last October the People's Regional Court did agree to hear the couple's appeal. It's scant comfort. "Our baby will never come back," Mrs Jin said.
Last April Wei Linrong was seven months pregnant with her second child, when 10 family planning officials paid her a visit. Her husband, Liang Yage takes up the story:

"You don't have any more room for manoeuvre," he says they told her. "If you don't go [to the hospital], we'll carry you."

Wei and Liang were then driven to Youjiang district maternity hospital in Baise city.

"I was scared," Wei said. "The hospital was full of women who'd been brought in forcibly. There wasn't a single spare bed. The family planning people said forced abortions and forced sterilizations were both being carried out. We saw women being pulled in one by one."

The couple were given a consent agreement to sign. When Liang refused, family planning officials signed it for him. He and his wife are devout Christians — he is a pastor — and they don't agree with abortion. The officials gave Wei three injections in the lower abdomen. Contractions started the next afternoon, and continued for almost 16 hours. Her child was stillborn.

"I asked the doctor if it was a boy or girl," Wei said. "The doctor said it was a boy. My friends who were beside me said the baby's body was completely black. I felt desolate, so I didn't look up to see the baby."
Medical sources say fetuses aborted in this manner would have been dead for some time, so the tissue is necrotic and thus dark in color.
"The nurses dealt with the body like it was rubbish," Wei said. "They wrapped it up in a black plastic bag and threw it in the trash."

There are numerous reports of forced abortion up to eight or nine months gestation in China, where the one-child policy continues and continues to be enforced with brutality.

Last summer, it sparked riots in South West China when thousands of villagers attacked family planning officials, overturned cars and set fire to government buildings in the wake of a crackdown by the Bombai county government against families who break birth control regulations.

Ordinary Chinese people are growing increasingly bold, risking fines, imprisonment and torture by their public resistance to this grotesque policy.

On Thursday some 20 British MEPs sold Mao, Yin, Wei, the rioting villagers and countless Chinese men and women down the river, when they voted against Amendment 134 which would have blocked the EU from funding population control programs which as in China involve forced abortion and sterilisation.

Shame on them.

One woman's tale of forced sterilisation

This is Helena Ferencikova. She is a Czech Roma and in 2001, aged just 19, she was sterilised without her knowledge or consent. The operation was performed just after she gave birth to her second son.

"I was in pain because it was a complicated birth," she told the Prague Post. "They just shoved some papers at me and told me to sign, so I did."
A day later she found out that she'd never be able to have children again.
In November 2005, Ferencikova, who was one of over 80 Czech women, mostly Roma, to file complaints about forced sterilisations with the Czech legal ombudsman, won a court case against the hospital which sterilised her.

European Parliament rejects Amendment 134

Amendment no 134 to the EU budget has failed by 335 votes to 222. It would have prevented the EU funding countries and programs which perpetrate such human rights abuses as forced abortions and coercive sterilisations as part of a population control policy. According to Kathy Sinnnott's office some 20 British MEPs voted against Amendment 134.

This is the roll of shame:
Elspeth Attwool (Lib Dem)
Sharon Bowles (Lib Dem)
Andrew Duff (Lib Dem)
Bill Newton Dunn (Lib Dem)
Graham Watson (Lib Dem)

Robert Kilroy Silk (Veritas)
Tom Wise (UKIP)
Jill Evans (Plaid Cymru)

Richard Corbett (Labour)
Mary Honeyball (Labour)
Richard Howitt (Labour)
Stephen Hughes (Labour)
Linda McAvan (Labour)
Brian Simpson (Labour)
Peter Skinner (Labour)
Catherine Stihler (Labour)
Gary Titley (Labour)
Glenis Willmott (Labour)
David Martin (Labour)
Claude Moraes (Labour)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

European Parliament to vote on funding forced abortion, coercive sterilisation and infanticide

Attention was focused on Westminster yesterday as the HFE Bill reached its third reading in the Commons and the government thwarted attempts to extend the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

However, virtually unnoticed, today MEPs will have the chance to vote for something which almost uniquely unites those in both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice camps: opposition to forced abortion and coercive sterilisation.

MEP Kathy Sinnott has tabled amendment no 134 to the EU budget which would stop the EU funding coercive abortions, forced sterilisations and infanticide:

Community assistance shall not be given to any government or organisation or programme which supports or participates in the managment of a programme which involves human rights abuses such as coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization or infanticide. This implements the specific Cairo ICPD prohibition on coercion or compulsion in sexual and reproductive health natters. The Commission shall present each year a report on the implementation of the EU´s external assistance covering this programme.

Any genuinely Pro-Choice politician will have no problem in voting for it at all.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dawn Purvis MLA - telling lies about the Roman Catholic Church and abortion

Most political parties in Northern Ireland oppose abortion, indeed opposition to abortion is something which garners cross communal support in a part of the world which has seen quite enough bloodshed in its time. The tiny Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) is one of the few political parties which backs extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, leader Dawn Purvis issuing a statement to that end a few days ago.
I don't know who wrote the statement for Purvis but a whole section of it, dealing with the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on abortion, is complete rubbish.

Professor David Albert Jones who is an authority on the subject has very kindly fisked it for Dolphinarium. His comments are in caps.

"The Catholic Church believes abortion to be morally wrong in every case [STRICTLY SPEAKING ONLY ‘DIRECT’ ABORTION] although this was not the view until the late 19th Century. [THIS IS FALSE] Before that, a female child could be aborted before the ‘quickening’ (i.e. feeling movement) but not a male child. The ‘quickening’ was regarded as the moment of ‘ensoulment’ and occurred on the 40th day for the male child and the 80th day for the female child. (C Coppens, Moral Principles and Medical Practice. The ‘quickening’ was regarded as the moment of ‘ensoulment’ and occurred on the 40th day for the male child and the 80th day for the female child. (C Coppens, Moral Principles and Medical Practice) [THE CLAIM IS FALSE. THE ENSOULMENT ISSUE WAS USED TO MEASURE PENALTIES – LATE ABORTION ATTRACTED HEAVIER PENANCE AND OTHER PARTICULAR PENALTIES ‘EXCOMMUNICATION’ BUT ABORTION AT ANY STAGE WAS A GRAVE SIN (MORTAL SIN) AND IT IS FALSE TO SAY THAT IT ‘COULD BE ABORTED’.THE IDEA OF LATE ENSOULMENT WAS PROMINENT IN THE MIDDLE AGES BUT NOT IN THE EARLY CHURCH]
This view changed when the church ruled that “the embryonic child has a human soul, and therefore is a man from the time of its conception”. (Tribunal of the Holy Office, 1889) [THERE WAS A RESPONSE TO THE HOLY OFFICE ON THE QUESTION OF CRANIOTOMY IN 1889 BUT IT WOULD SURPRISE ME IF THIS TEXT IS ACCURATE. IT IS STILL THE CASE THAT A THEOLOGIAN IS ALLOWED TO DOUBT THE TIME OF ENSOULMENT – SO LONG AS HE CONDEMNS ABORTION. CERTAINLY ABORTION WAS ALWAYS REGARDED AS A SIN] No exceptions exist in the Catholic Churches view that abortion is wrong even in cases where the mother’s life is at risk. [THIS IS MISLEADING IN THAT IT REFERS ONLY TO ‘DIRECT ABORTION’. THERE IS A SUBSTANTIAL LITERATURE FROM THE 14TH CENTURY TO THE RPESENT DAY ABOUT ACTIONS THAT ARE NEEDED TO SAVE A WOMAN THAT ALSO INDIRECTLY (BUT INEVITABLY) HARM THE CHILD. THE AREA IS TECHNICAL BUT CAUSING A FOETUS TO BE EXPELLED CAN SOMETIMES BE ACCEPTED WHEN SEEKING TO SAVE A MOTHER'S LIFE.] The Tribunal of the Holy Office indicated in March 1902 “that no action is lawful which directly destroys foetal life” [nb DIRECTLY] even if the mother is in “immediate danger of death".

Essentially, the passage uses two red herrings, common in pro-choice propaganda to make false or misleading claims about the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on abortion.

1. Direct abortion and maternal mortality.

The RC Church, it is claimed, believes abortion to be wrong in every case even where the mother's life is in danger. This fails to distinguish between direct abortion deliberately committed with the intention of destroying the embryo/foetus and indirect acts to save the mother's life which happen to result in an abortion. It's called the principle of double effect and the key is intention.

As an aside it also introduces a note of fear into the topic by connecting pregnancy with death. There is little reason for this. Maternal mortality is low in modern industrialised countries anyway and this seems to have sod all to do with whether abortion is legal or not. Ireland where unborn children are constitutionally guaranteed the right to life has a better maternal mortality rate than the UK, where abortion is legal. And the UK has a similar maternal mortality rate to both Poland and Malta which either heavily restrict or ban abortion totally.

2. Ensoulment. This is the mother of all bait and switch tactics and it comes up again and again in pro-choice propaganda.

It goes like this:

Important figures in Church history, such as St Thomas Aquinas, adhered to Aristotelian delayed ensoulment theory, which speculated that a male foetus acquired a soul at 40 days and a female at 90 days, hence abortion in the early stages of pregnancy was considered acceptable by the Church in earlier epochs.

Remember the claim in Purvis's statement: "Before that, a female child could be aborted before the ‘quickening’ (i.e. feeling movement) but not a male child. The ‘quickening’ was regarded as the moment of ‘ensoulment’ and occurred on the 40th day for the male child and the 80th day for the female child."

A similar claim appeared in an old Wikipedia entry:

"There is no mention in the Christian Bible about abortion, and at different times Christians have held different beliefs about abortion. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Innocent III, and Pope Gregory XIV believed that a fetus does not have a soul until “quickening,” or when a woman begins to feel her fetus kick and move. Abortion before quickening was, therefore, acceptable. However, Pope Stephen V and Pope Sixtus V opposed abortion at any stage of pregnancy."

which was so embarassingly idiotic that it has since been amended to:

"There is no mention in the Christian Bible about abortion, and at different times Christians have held different beliefs about abortion.[5] For example, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Innocent III, and Pope Gregory XIV believed that a fetus does not have a soul until "quickening," or when a woman begins to feel her fetus kick and move.[6] Therefore, abortion was not a serious sin. However, Pope Stephen V and Pope Sixtus V opposed abortion at any stage of pregnancy.[7]"

Either way it's still crap.

Because a) Aristotelian delayed ensoulment theory has never been accepted by the Roman Catholic Church as official teaching and b) the Church's constant condemnation of abortion has never relied upon theories such as ensoulment for its binding force.

The Roman Catholic Church has consistently condemned abortion as a grave sin from the first century to the 21st. The Didache, an important Church document from the First Century said:

"You shall not kill the foetus by abortion, or destroy the infant already born,"

Tertullian (c160-240) said:

"For us [Christians] we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter when you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one: you have the fruit already in the seed." Apology 9:6

St Jerome c 342-420 said

"They drink potions to ensure sterility and are guilty of murdering a human being not yet conceived. Some, when they learn that they are with child through sin, practice abortion by the use of drugs. Frequently they die themselves and are brought before the rulers of the lower world guilty of three crimes: suicide, adultery against Christ, and murder of an unborn child." -Letter 22:13

And there are multiple examples of abortion being condemned by the Church fathers, to name a few, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus and Cyprian as well as agreement among Jerome, Ambrose, Gregory and Augustine that abortion at any stage was a grave sin against emergent human life. Jerome and Aquinas speculated as to the moment of ensoulment but always denounced abortion.

The delayed ensoulment abortion canard was nailed back in the fourth century by St Basil the Great, who declared: "The hairsplitting difference between formed and unformed makes no difference to us. Whoever deliberately commits abortion is subject to the same penalty as homicide."

Or as Professor David Albert Jones wrote in The Soul of the Embryo: "The constant and consistent Christian tradition from the Early Church to the nineteenth century repudiated abortion at any stage of pregnancy while offering different penances as a means to reconciliation."

The notion that abortion, at any stage, has ever been acceptable in the Roman Catholic Church is a barefaced lie.

Nonetheless The Ensoulment-Abortion Lie is and will undoubtedly remain a staple of pro-choice propaganda. There is a notoriously anti-Catholic US-based group, funded by the porn industry and actively supported by bigoted MEP Mary Venomball which has as its mission pretending to be a Roman Catholic organisation the better to spread The Lie.

There is an important debate to be had about abortion and this blog sincerely respects those who hold pro-choice views but any rational debate has to be conducted honestly. Dawn Purvis has dishonoured the debate by telling lies about the Roman Catholic Church and abortion.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Tribune - Situation Critical

Paul Anderson reports that Tribune will close on October 31st unless a buyer is found. At a board meeting earlier this week, its trade union shareholders agreed to what editor Chris McLaughlin called "an amicable parting of the ways".
This isn't just awful news, it's tragic.

To say that Tribune has a long and venerable history is an understatement. It was founded in 1937 by Sir Stafford Cripps and Aneurin Bevan to fight fascism and in its seventy plus years of existence hosted a dazzling galaxy of editorial talent, including George Orwell, who was the paper's literary editor in the forties and editors of the calibre of Michael Foot and Chris Mullin.
Nowadays, it boasts such first class columnists as Kevin Maguire and Joan Smith as well as Anderson himself.
For the Labour movement to lose Tribune is unthinkable. It MUST be saved.

And in the meantime, a fighting fund for Tribune is surely in order.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fascist Watch - The Steadfast Trust Update

Back in March I blogged on something called The Steadfast Trust, a charity, apparently, with a very specific set of beneficiaries in mind: English whites only. But details about it remained sketchy. Could anyone tell me more? A few days ago, an anonymous contributor posted some interesting links about the Steadfast Trust in the comments box.

They directed me to comments on a British Expats forum thread about the outfit by someone calling themselves "Londweard", who started off by saying who he thought the English were, what a nation was and what the Steadfast Trust was and why he thought it necessary. He swiftly descended into the kind of illiterate cyber harangue so brilliantly captured in Private Eye's From the Message Boards spoof. He sounded like Bogbrush, raving away about the racism supposedly encountered by the English, a "liberal elite of traitors" the evils of mass immigration and peppering his sentences with multiple question and exclamation marks.

A thread on democracyforum yielded comments of a similar nature by a David H who declared that someone who objected to The Steadfast Trust's racist nature was akin to provoking anti-semitism and then went on to say to his interlocutor "I believe that ethnically you have some Jewish ancestory". Another illiterate Bogbrush. Maybe it was just a coincidence

Then in June last year the Charity Commission reviewed the applications for charitable status by The Ethnic English Trust (EET) and Ironside Community Trust (ICT) . They noted (para 4.4) that the EET and ICT applications formed

"part of a series of applications submitted by the same solicitor, sharing similar beneficial classes and a number of common directors and trustees which began with The Steadfast Trust [and] considered therefore that they could not be viewed in isolation."

Very reasonably the Commission felt it was not clear what the definitions of the beneficial class in the EET and ICT applications meant and went into the matter of what or who constituted the ethnic English or White British in painstaking detail.

To cut a long story short it came to the unsurprising conclusion that neither the EET nor ICT had demonstrated that its objects were for the public benefit; had serious reservations as to whether there was a non-charitable collateral purpose behind the applications and were concerned that the applications were being "used as tools to make a political point".

Buried in the footnotes were some fascinating - and hilarious - extracts from correspondence by Iverson Holmes, the EET and ICT's solicitor.

Evidently objecting to the Commission's prodding, Iverson Holmes wrote indignantly

"you cannot lawfully devise higher obstacles for members of one of the oldest indigenous populations of England to jump in order that they might enjoy these rights in relation to charities that you create for other ethnic populations"

Quite overcome with the grandiosity of the EET/ICT's vision he declared

"We have been preparing for not less than 20 years just for the litigation you have so kindly supplied us ... So as to be clear as to our intent, it is not lost on the self-aware sections of the English Ethnic communities that we are talking of litigation of historic and legal immortality. We have made clear the lengths to which we will to go to ensure equal treatment for our client's beneficial class."

And objecting to a Scottish Court's ruling that the English are not an ethnic group he wrote:

It was extremely disingenuous of the Scottish legal system to purport to take unto itself the determination of this question without seeking to refer the matter to England. A parallel of what actually took place in that case is that the case was conducted as if all the Jewish organisations and peoples of the UK were excluded from a discussion as to their legal status save for a single humble and illiterate and non-practising Jewish shoemaker who was then the only person permitted to explain why his community constituted an ethnic group".

Ah yes, that comparison with Jews again. Perhaps its just another coincidence.

Another Charity Commission document reveals that Iverson Holmes is a trustee of the Wycliffe Trust, the Shieldwall Trust, the English Community Advisory Trust and a former director of the Steadfast Trust.

Iverson Holmes, it appears, is a solicitor's firm, by which I mean there's only one of them, based in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Areas of practice include "business affairs", charity law, civil liberties and human rights, commercial property, employment law and wills and probate. It doesn't do legal aid work and doesn't have wheelchair access. Oh and its website can't be accessed without authorisation either. How very hopeless. No wonder that one contributor to a fascist blog moaned thus about Iverson Holmes: "interesting how Gri££in generally uses proper lawyers (with membership monies of course) for his own vendettas but uses that useless idiot pretend "lawyer" to "help" ordinary BNP members." Snigger, snigger.

Man in a Shed who has been wondering whether there is such a thing as English identity also pointed out in the comments box that The Steadfast Trust's wikipedia entry has disappeared. I didn't know it even had one but thanks for the information.

He continued: "There clearly is a need for organisations to promote and make representations for English culture and heritage. But equally its the perfect vehicle for those with nastier objectives", which is hard to disagree with.

There are many reasons to celebrate English culture, picking my own at random: parliamentary democracy, the Industrial Revolution, Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, the Book of Common Prayer, Chaucer 'n' the Bard, Wordsworth, Thomas Paine, dripping on toast and scurrilous journalism.

One of the notable features of fascist outfits like the Steadfast Trust is that for all that they assert their love of Englishness, there is precious little evidence of their interest in English history and culture. Search in vain for material, even of the most cursory sort, on say, Wycliffe whose name they hijack for one of their myriad front groups because you won't find it. It's yet another reason you can tell they're fakes.

Hat tip: Anonymous. If you've got any more on the Steadfast Trust or any of its satellite groups please bring it here.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Small earthquake on financial markets, not many dead ...

one would think, if one were going by Comment is Free's coverage of what many are worried may be the most significant crisis to hit the markets since 1929. There's been a massive decline in the value not only of equities but other asset classes as well, financial institutions now regard nationalisation with relief rather than horror, EU finance ministers are going to guarantee bank savings up to 50,000 Euros and on and on. Now is the time to wheel out big guns like Lord Desai but instead of authoritative voices we get the likes of Polly Toynbee, Anne Pettifor and God help us, Madeleine Bunting.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Venomballs (an occasional series devoted to the crackpot ravings of a Brussels-based bigot)

Ruth Kelly has confirmed that she's standing down as MP for Bolton. It's a shame. The increasingly gorgeous Kelly was widely acknowledged as being one of the nicest people in British politics. Her sweet nature, keen intellect and dazzling career were deeply resented by the more embittered type of codswallop hack.

Speaking of which, guess who's been kicking off about Ruth Kelly's departure?

Luke Akehurst is the latest to add his voice to the growing chorus objecting to her vituperative anti-Catholic rubbish.

As it happens, someone called "Thomas" posted a vigorous defence of La Venomball on this 'ere blog a couple of weeks ago. Who knows, maybe he's her new recruit. Seeing as the very few voices who stuck up for her previously were either nigh on illiterate, plain bonkers, or usually both, I thought it would be worth giving this one a wider airing.

"I think perhaps the reason why Honeyball doesn't reply to your numerous questions is that they betray a pretty fundamental and uncharitable misreading of what she says," he wrote.

Ok, so to kick off it's the first refuge of any politician caught out by their own words: claim they're quoted out of context, wilfully misrepresented, impute bad faith in those who challenge them, which is typical of Venomball's spiteful style. It's also ridiculous. Venomball's poisonous anti-Catholic sentiments were unambiguously expressed everytime she hauled herself on her soapbox. She spoke of the "vice like grip of Catholicism" and "interference by meddling cardinals" as well as attacking Catholic politicians in her own party and questioning their right to hold office. That isn't rendered any softer by context. It speaks for itself. It's vintage anti-Catholic bigotry. And anti-Catholic bigotry which is demonstrably stronger than any loyalty she has to her party comrades.

"First off, you keep asking what she means by 'bully-boy tactics', when it says what in the email you reproduce. "

Yes, I asked what Venomballs meant by bullyboy tactics. You know, I asked for a definition of the term. In the absence of such a thing I ask whether it is suggested that by resigning as vice chair of Young Labour, Conor McGinn and Catholics were using bullyboy tactics? Seriously?

I ask whether it is actually claimed that stories about Venomball's anti-Catholicism were placed in the Catholic press by Conor McGinn (with what proof?) rather than appearing as a result of traditional journalistic enterprise and if the workings of a free press constitute bullyboy tactics. Yes, I do ask whether such a bizarre claim is made.

"Notably she does not say that she considered McGinn's response itself to be bullying."

But she did: "[E]vidence the bully-boy tactics used by Catholics.Eg. resignation of vice chair young labour blaming Mary for his actions."

"Whether she is right or not about the bullying tactics, you have consistently misrepresented her point."


Venomballs made free use of the public soapbox to expound her toxic views about the Roman Catholic Church and its members. Her views were clearly expressed and well understood by many people, not just this blogger. She hasn't resiled from any of them. Frankly, its feeble and dishonourable of her and her lackeys to take refuge in claims of misrepresentation.

"More worryingly, you talk of Honeyball requiring that Catholics be 'discriminated against in public life', barred from public office and so on. She does not say this at any point in the article, or the email you reproduced."

Shameless crap. Venomballs clearly questioned the right of "devout Catholics" - her words - such as Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Paul Murphy to be "allowed" - her wording again - onto the front bench. That's questioning whether they should be discriminated against.

"In particular you say:'She didn't question the right of Catholics to hold public office, she says. But she did. She queried whether "devout Catholics such as Kelly, Browne and Murphy be allowed on the government front bench in the light of their predilection to favour the Pope's word above the government's?". What precisely is the difference?' The difference is that being on the front bench is not the only form of public office. "

Feeble, frankly. Calling for discrimination - and that is what she did, Venomballs called for Roman Catholics to be discriminated against - on the front bench is calling for them to be discriminated against in public life. Erecting a glass ceiling at any stage in public life for any minority group makes all discrimination against them respectable. Venomballs endorsed the principle of discrimination against Roman Catholics.

"Every MP not on the front bench will tell you that. "

Oh yeah? Let's ask a few of them, shall we?

What about Stephen Pound MP?

He said Venomballs' comments had a "whiff of the 17th century about them" adding that she was "alienating more people than she influences by the violence of her attack. She seems to find it impossible to accept that Roman Catholics can play a responsible part in democratic life - indeed that it is our duty - without raising absurd and outdated images of loyalty to Rome and perceived intolerance."

Clearly not every MP, then.

Look at what David Taylor MP says. David Taylor is not a Roman Catholic and is a member of the left wing Campaign Group. He said:

"I am mortified that one of my political colleagues has written an article in a national broadsheet which has caused such offence in Catholic circles that a promising young party activist [Conor McGinn] has found it necessary to resign. I understand that as a former chairman of Young Fabians, this prominent young socialist was offended particularly by Mary Honeyball's apparent questioning of the right of Catholics to take part in any public life in the UK. I have also had the issue raised with me by local Catholic constituents who are equally incensed by the article. Having now tracked down and perused the article in question I have to say that I profoundly disagree with it in almost all respects. The point I wish to underline is that it only represents her own personal views NOT those of the Labour Party."

Still less every MP.

"It is a pretty elementary distinction."

I love that "elementary" distinction between some discrimation and yet more discrimation. It's one which escaped Stephen Pound and David Taylor among others. Discrimation is like being pregnant. There either is discrimation or there is not. You're either pregnant or you are not. But do go on.

"Consider two positions:a) some people whose Catholic beliefs lead them into persistent, barely concealed conflict with the government should not be on the front bench (as with any form of rebel)"

Notice the implicit smearing of Cabinet Catholics. Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Paul Murphy as persistent rebels. Laughable. But of course what "Thomas" is referring to and what Venomballs has been constantly spitting bile about is their insistence on a conscience vote over the HFE Bill. In Venomballs' loonyverse that's them acting as a disloyal fifth column in the Labour Party's ranks.

Let's remind "Thomas" and Nutball of one salient point.

Matters concerning the beginning and end of human life are by parliamentary convention always subject to a free vote. Always. MPs are allowed a free vote on abortion and capital punishment. In 1990 the Tory government allowed its MPs a free vote on the then HFE Bill. All Kelly, Browne, Murphy and other Labour MPs, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, were asking for should have been theirs by right anyway - a free vote. That's not persistent rebellion by any objective definition of the term.

"b) ALL Catholics should be banned from ALL public officeIt should be clear is that (a) is what Honeyball actually said (you have provided the quotes), (b) is what you have represented her view as being. They are so incredibly different as positions that I find it difficult to believe you could ever get them confused."

This is either stupid or deliberately playing at it. Discrimination is discrimination. It's the principle which counts. Discrimination at any stage of public office makes discrimination respectable and gives a precedent for it at all stages of public office. It's so incredibly plain that I find it difficult to believe anyone can mount such a weak defence of it with a straight face.


If Venomballs has been encouraging her staff to go out and bat, poorly, in her defence it probably isn't the first time.

After Paul Donovan's report on the affair appeared in the Staggers, the following comment by "Statesperson" appeared in the online version.

statesperson 23 June 2008 at 21:18 Isn't Donovan a friend of McGinn's should this have been noted it is a biased piece you could even say bigoted but that is the kind of laxzy language that causes more problems than it solves.......

The semi-literate, unpunctuated English was strongly reminiscent of the pitch sent by Venomballs' researcher to Fabian Review and Progress magazine.

Just before the Glasgow East by-election Venomballs' researcher attended a Labour Party media training session in Westminster held by former BBC journalist Polly Billington and asked how her office could better deal with Conor McGinn. A rather startled Billington replied that she wasn't there to give advice on how to attack other Labour activists, adding pointedly that Venomballs' office must be very confident about the forthcoming Euro elections if they were spending all their time thinking about Conor McGinn.

That's one way of putting it.

Another is this:

Mary Honeyball MEP uses her public position to call for discrimination against Roman Catholics, to stir up anti-Catholic prejudice and conduct vicious smear campaigns against Labour Roman Catholics.

Mary Honeyball is unfit for office.

Combat fatigues at the ready

And it's a warm welcome to the indefatigable Paddy Garcia, who has, at long last, succumbed to the singular temptations of the blogosphere. He's now blogging at Latte Leninist. Expect hardcore anti-imperialist socialism and a very independently-minded take on things, all served up with a cup of something sternly non-alcoholic and a rogueish grin.

Memo to Paddy: Turn your bloody phone on. I've been trying to get hold of you for days.