Sunday, 30 June 2013

How Wendy Davis stands up for us all. And Nigel Farage demeans us.

Every now and then, in the midst of all the ghastly and demoralising examples we see of morally rotten if not actually corrupt behaviour by politicians, we come across an instance of real courage and decency.

When it comes to rottenness, we have for some time been exposed to an instructive example in England, for instance. Here we
ve been enjoying the antics of UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party, ostensibly campaigning for British ‘independence’ from ‘Europe’. This is an extraordinary position to take, particularly at a time when:
  • we have just seen the sentencing a teacher who absconded with a fifteen-year old pupil and was only brought to justice thanks to a European Arrest Warrant 
  • it has become apparent that the only thing standing between us and continued intrusive snooping into our daily lives by the security services is the European Convention on Human Rights 
  • there is a chance of signing the biggest trade deal in history, one between the US and the EU

The reality is that UKIP is in fact anti-immigration, which means that it’s based on a lie. ‘Anti-immigration’ sounds superficially reasonable when it argues that we need to protect domestic resources for our own people, but it is in fact just a cover for racism: none of the anti-immigrant ranters ever denounces immigration by white English-speakers, from the Commonwealth, say, or the United States.

But it isn’t surprising that UKIP has a lie at its core. Its leader is Nigel Farage, who likes to present himself with a pint in one hand and a cigarette in the other, as a shining example of the ordinary Brit you could meet in a pub anywhere.

Actually, that may be true: I’ve met some pretty toxic individuals in pubs.

Above all he puts a lot of effort into cultivating an image of honesty. ‘You can trust me, guv’, that kind of thing. Sadly, the last politician who tried that was Tony Blair and look where that led. And it’s no different with Farage. He’s spoken forcefully against tax havens in the European Parliament (yes, not the least paradox of the man is that the only body to which he’s managed to get elected is the European parliament, from which he wants us to withdraw). Yet it
 recently emerged that he set himself up a special account in the tax haven of the Isle of Man. ‘A mistake,’ he’s assured us since, but isn’t that the plea of every politician caught with his hand in the till?

Wendy Davis: inspirational,
as she talks out a bad bill limiting freedom of choice
With the atmosphere being poisoned by men like Farage over here, it was a delight to read about Wendy Davis in Texas. She’s the State Senator who talked out a bill restricting access to abortion, by speaking for ten and a half hours, without taking a break, eating or drinking or even leaning on any furniture. It was an act of great courage and tenacity in defence of an important principle.

A key part of Wendy Davis's armoury in defence of principle:
comfortable shoes to support ten and half hours on her feet
Sadly, Davis has only won a stay of execution. The bill will return and this time Texas Republicans will ensure it has the time to survive any filibuster and become law. The effect, according to today’s Observer, will be to reduce the number of clinics offering abortions in Texas from 42 to five.

Now I fully understand the objections many have to abortion. To be honest, I’ve never met anyone who’s in any sense pro-abortion, least of all the women I know who’ve had one. It’s always seen as a at best a least-bad option. And no-one’s suggesting they should be made obligatory, under any conditions. The other side of the debate is called pro-choice for a reason: it believes women should have that choice, and whichever option they choose, it should be respected.

What is it with people who feel that they have the right to restrict, on the basis of their own convictions, the rights of other people to exercise a choice? Certainly, they have every right to follow their convictions themselves (though I notice that they often don’t, as Farage showed). But those convictions are their own. Others don’t share them. What gives those who uphold certain values the right to impose them on others?

It’s time to proclaim that the equality of rights, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence of the United States and shared – in principle at least – by other democracies, specifically means not limiting other people’s choices to suit the views of others, however sincerely held.

That’s why we need more courageous and decent politicians like Wendy Davis.

And fewer Farages. Thank you very much.


MalcDow said...

Rick Perry is spending another million dollars of Texas taxpayers money to call a special session just on this one vote.

A comment:

The protesters erupted because the Republican leadership was breaking the rules of the Senate. The bill failed in regular session because a bill requires 2/3 majority; in the special session, the Republican leadership did away with the 2/3 majority rule and stated a simple majority would pass the bill. A filibuster cannot be broken unless there are 3 violations that involve straying off-topic; the second voilation Sen Davis was handed was for receiving aid in adjusting a back brace. The Senate leadership stated, in the event of a 3rd violation, a vote would be called to determine if the violation would stand, then a vote to end the filibuster, then finally, a motion to vote on the bill. There was no vote on the 3rd violation, no vote to end the filibuster just a "okay, we're done". Other Democratic senators raised points of order to get everything back on track and the leadership did not follow the rules, ignored them and tried to hold a roll call vote on the bill.
The way the Texas Republican Senators broke the rule (going so far as to try to change the time stamp of the vote -- a FELONY offense) -- is not the business of government, it is an arrogant abuse of power.

David Beeson said...

Abuses of power are very much the hallmark of Republican rule. It makes it all the more admirable to see someone who stands up to it...