In yet another example of my inability to comprehend the concept of a week I have this week decided to discuss two incredibly different stories from the last seven days – The Liberal Democrat vote swing in Witney and the Ashers bakery case.
As someone who has been accused of bias on my blog, I will proudly continue in that tradition by talking about the liberal democrats in Witney on Thursday.
Following a campaign in which everyone who is anyone in the liberal democrats (including the top lad Tim Farron and of course myself) chipped in to support Liz Leffman the liberal democrats achieved a pretty remarkable vote swing, the biggest lib dem vote swing in 26 years. In all that can be said the swing was pretty amazing, and nerve wracking to sit up and watch for at 3am on Friday morning.
What it means however is what I want to talk about, because the narrative around it is a wild and confusing world. Tim Farron thinks it’s a sign that we’re back in the Westminster business, while others suggest that it doesn’t mean anything at all. I myself would stand somewhere in the middle, it’s certainly a sign that we as a party can do well in conservative seats with a bit of hard work and elbow grease which isn’t in short supply in the party, but it wasn’t a win and we do still only have 8 MPs (which is however 8 times the number of UKIP MPs so there’s something to smile about).
In what at first seems like an unrelated issue of consideration, I myself am watching the government’s airport development plans very carefully. With a seat in Richmond park potentially up for grabs if Zac Goldsmith steps down in his seat, which he has said he will if the expansions occur in Heathrow there could be some more exciting news in the future for the liberal democrats, as that is a more marginal seat which we could really swing for a win potentially.
Are we back in the big time? I wouldn’t say we can know for sure just yet, though I’m not one to try and put Tim Farrons infectious optimism down. (Also if you didn’t see Tim on have I got news for you last week, then you should, it’s still on BBC I player and I died laughing it’s brilliant)
Following that feel good story we come to the next big story of the week – The Ashers bakery case, otherwise known as the gay cake case.
A good summary of background which is better than any I could write for which can be found here: https://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2015/05/21/conscience-and-cake/
As anyone who follows my blog knows these sorts of things infuriate me, they are my absolute pet hate up there with anti science movements on the list of things that get on my last nerve. Luckily, this case has had some good news! The appeal failed and the bakery was found to have acted in a discriminatory fashion.
A word of advice for any of my fellow secularists – don’t go on the Twitter hashtag for this! You’ll break out in hives
Reading the glad tidings this morning I was quite delighted to go onto the Twitter hashtag, expecting messages of solidarity and positivity over the news. However that wasn’t what I found. Don’t get me wrong here, as I have discussed at great length on this blog, I do believe the way we treat cases like this needs to be addressed differently, especially as there are so many of them, but people crying for the death of freedom of expression and religion just isn’t called for in this case.
I took great issue in this case with the way that the event was framed. For those who don’t live for cases like this like I do a basic run through of this case is that a gay rights activist went to this bakery asking for a cake with a pro gay marriage slogan on it, only to be turned down by the owners citing their Christian beliefs and an unwillingness to support the message on the cake or make it. Which seems like a case of a Christian baker objecting to something that they disagree with on the grounds of faith right?
However the case has been framed, as religious objections are all rather unfashionable nowadays, as a case of political messages and expression. At multiple points in the case the pro gay marriage slogan was compared to swearing, pornography, racism and homophobia.
All irony over the last example ignored for the moment I have to take objection to this portrayal. Equal marriage rights in my opinion shouldn’t be viewed as a political issue in the way that something like tax or immigration policy can be, nor should it be compared to issues such as racism or pornography. It is a social issue certainly, but one I think we should address in a way which is sympathetic and open not as something which could be seen as a toxic political stance.
I won’t go for miles into my stance on religion and the law, I’ve done so many times in the past, so won’t bore you again with it, but that is what this case is. This isn’t a case of political statements and free speech this is a case of a clever lawyer twisting a case for sympathy that is nothing more than someone trying to use religion to excuse themselves from following the law. It also has nothing to do with Muslims, though Twitter has tried its best to swing the narrative that way.
Will I ever get to see a week without this sort of nonsense occurring? Probably not! But I continue naïvely to hope.
Cover picture by Gandy Dancer from wikimedia.com, available in the public domain