Friday, September 26, 2014

Thank you Alex Salmond

In my heart, I was glad Scotland voted to stick with us
For a long time I wasn’t sure how I felt. Tempted by change for its own sake.  Excited by the prospect of something new. Romantic about a resurgent England.
But Scotland has voted to stay. We owe it to Scotland to build a union worthy of their continued participation – and we owe it to ourselves too.
English votes for English MPs at Westminster does not represent real change. It is a subset of the Westminster elite (English MPs) holding its power to its chest in the closest solution to the status quo that remains tenable.
An English assembly answers a nationalistic calling, a desire for a romanticised England of Jerusalem etc. I love England and many of the ideas, romantic and practical, associated with it. But its status as a historic, constituent nation of the United Kingdom does not make it an appropriate political solution to the West Lothian Question.
Inasmuch as there is a satisfactory answer to the problem of our over-centralised, unbalanced state, it is regionalism. And if there is to be any English body – unlikely given the public disregard for politicians and their institutions – it should be based far from Westminster. Nottingham or York, perhaps.
We live in exciting times. There is now an opportunity to remake our union, to forge a new constitutional settlement. With imagination and resolve, this extends not only to political processes but the practical change on the ground they are designed to bring about. Not only a remaking of the British state, but a remodelling of society. Could this now be the time for rediscovering the spirit of 1945.
As Alex Salmond said, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Don’t let's squander it.
So thank you Alex.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A historic commitment by society

Brighton’s most historic of buildings was witness in the early hours of Saturday morning to a truly momentous event, which will be remembered not only for its significance for the gay community but for the whole of society.

The first same-sex weddings mean that, with a few exceptions such as direct family, the state no longer dictates who an individual can marry. It is now more of a witness to a declaration between individuals than a jealous authority conferring rights.

The relationship between church, state and society has been changed too, with the former’s right to claim tenure over marriage further reduced. While religious groups retain the right to their own ceremonies and traditions within the law, they do not have a veto over the rest of society. As the established church with a unique relationship to the state, the Church of England remains the only institution other than the state itself with the right to legally marry people. It is questionable how long that special status can last.

From now on, marriage is a public declaration of love by the parties concerned and of their intent for their chosen spouse to be recognised as next of kin.

We are still getting used to the idea of husband and husband or wife and wife, but people and their languages are remarkably adaptable. It may be that a unisex terminology evolves, as has been the trend for other roles in recent years. It is not so long ago that head teacher, actor (for a woman), chairperson or life partner sounded contrived. Perhaps spouse would fit the bill.

That is for the future to dictate, hopefully in a reasonably organic, evolutionary manner. This weekend however has been a revolutionary one in which the state and society have recognised the right of the individual to choose who to marry. The oft-conflicting values of liberty and equality go together here hand in hand.

For today, we should feel proud of the fact that we have collectively declared our intention to live in a more inclusive, tolerant and better society.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Rosey's been here for approaching two years and it's time to take the next step on our journey towards normalisation. Tomorrow we go to the UK Border Agency centre at East Croydon to apply for her Indefinite Leave to Remain - in other words, permanent residency. It's taken a lot of form filling, collecting documents such as bank statements and other official letters, not to mention a hefty fee. I'm only thankful that we got in before the rule changes that would have made it more expensive and the criteria more difficult to meet.

Other than having the right to be here indefinitely without worrying about whether the government thinks we are able to support ourselves "without recourse to public funds", this means that Rosey can now live off benefits provided by the taxes of "hard working families" as we all know immigrants are wont to do. She will also be able to bleed our education system dry by only paying home students' rates.

The process itself should be quite simple. We've opted to pay the extra £500 for the face to face interview and same day decision as things are wont to get lost in the post or stuck at the bottom of a bureaucrat's in tray. This means that we go to the UKBA office, no doubt go through everything in triplicate, answer some probing questions worthy of an outstanding investigative journalist and then leave with a yes or no answer.

By this time tomorrow we will know whether we can move on, or rapidly have to come up with a Plan B - which I have no conception of at this time.

Here goes.

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