of my favourite quotes about politics came from New York Governor Mario Cuomo –
‘we campaign in poetry but we govern in prose.’
Barack Obama fought one of the most wonderfully poetic campaigns and now has
to be in full-on prose mode as he struggles with war, economic meltdown and
Not to mention limitations to power as he urges progressive change across
America and the world. How does anyone think Obama would vote on the question
of civil partnerships?
He would have been there with
Tony Blair who, in a speech at the Stonewall dinner a couple of years ago,
described the introduction of civil partnerships for gay and lesbian
people as one of his proudest achievements.
TB said that day, “I
was so struck by it, it was so alive, I remember actually seeing the pictures on television. It is not often that you sort
of skip around in my job, I can assure you, But it was really the fact that
the people were so happy and the fact that you felt just one major, major
change had happened, of which everyone can feel really proud.”
It is something of which Britain should be proud and is certainly one of
many legacies of Labour in government which will be remembered for decades
Last night the pictures on television from California were not
those of joy. Not after the California Supreme Court, stocked largely by
Republican appointees, had as expected rejected the challenge to the ban on gay
marriage – Proposition 8 – voted on by the people in November. It left millions across the state and across America in despair wondering when they will get the opportunity to
be treated equally in the eyes of the law and of society.
decision cancelled out much of what San Francisco gay rights campaigner Harvey
Milk, the subject of a brilliant recent film – and many others – worked
for. It may be years until gay Californians again have the rights already enjoyed
by the people of Iowa, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont.
But as Britain has shown, as have many other countries including
Spain where religion still defines mainstream culture, and Iceland where new
prime minister Jóh
anna Sigurðardóttir is openly gay and in a civil union,
the ‘arc of history’ that Martin Luther King spoke of, and Obama used so often
in his speeches, is on the side of equality and justice. It may have become warped in California
but elsewhere the future is bending in the right direction.
In Britain we should use this as an opportunity to reflect on what
democracy is all about. Of course it is about the power of the people but
there must be safeguards for the rights of minorities. And there must be room for clear,
strong leadership that allows the poetry of campaigns to be turned into the
prose of law which lasts, wherever public opinion may be at a given time.
David Cameron has spoken of the need for more power being given to the people
(presumably the majority). There has recently been unprecedented bashing, rightly in many cases, of
Yet let’s remember that sometimes politicians, as they did
here with civil partnerships, get it right at a time the public might not necessarily be in
full agreement. The people of California, egged on by religious or right-wing bigots, have got it profoundly wrong.
Cameron is in full-on opportunist poet mode at the moment. How the
Guardian managed to fall for two pages and a front page lead worth yesterday
and call it the most dramatic redistribution of power in living memory is
something we will have to leave to future students of hype. But of course it
was enough for the BBC to follow in similar slavish style when the actual ideas
and proposals were thin when set alongside recent speeches by Labour ministers.
Power to people? Yeah, great Dave, cos like the people don’t much like all
this wisteria expenses fiddling that’s been going on. But how? Well, we welcome
the debate, we agree with Polly Toynbee (memo to DC from Andy Coulson – the
Guardian will run that as a pull out quote) – and we will ‘give serious
consideration’ to fixed-term Parliaments. Like we used to give serious
consideration to policy ideas on the environment until the media thought that
was a bit old hat, and expenses became the big banana.
Hilarious to read this morning, in this era when journalists are supposed to
be so spin-savvy, that Cameron ‘has been thinking for three years’ about
‘giving serious consideration’ to fixed term Parliaments. Nice one Andy.
Three years? Surely he’s decided by now. That’s almost a full fixed term, if
we had them.
The man is a top short-termist. Like he created an impression
he would be withdrawing the whip from Tories left, right and centre as moats,
horseshit and double claiming started to fall out of his closet. Impressions
that last long enough to tide him over to the next impression, when the media
bandwagon rolls on.
I have to hand it to him – he is a class spin doctor. Cameron I mean. But as a
leader on the great causes?
Where is his minimum wage equivalent, his Scottish Parliament, his help on aid
and development, his Sure Start, his Bank of England independence, his civil partnerships?
Oh, he gave them all ‘serious consideration’, once they’d been done. He’d been
giving them serious consideration for years. Apparently.
In 2000, when David Cameron was the Tory candidate for Witney he told
the local paper that “the Blair government continues to be obsessed with
their ‘fringe’ agenda, including deeply unpopular moves like repealing Section
and allowing the promotion of homosexuality in schools”, and that “Blair
has moved heaven and earth to allow the promotion of homosexuality in
When Labour abolished Section 28 in 2003, Cameron backed a Tory
amendment which Stonewall described as “section 28 by the back
door”. He also opposed adoption by gay couples.