Who Won The Week (5 January 2020)

I have Fandango to thank for this title – he has been posting regularly on this subject from his west-coast-USA view of the world. I am myself interested in current affairs, and normally have some nonsense or other to spout about one of the UK’s topical news stories. So, I like to join in. Maybe there’s something in your world that you’d like to post about?

I must admit that during the holiday season the news bulletins have been more sparse – not least, the politicians are away on holiday! I did, however, see a story this week which I thought worthy of comment. My first reaction was just as a feel good story, but it took about a millisecond to start wondering how its subjects ever got to a place where they needed to jump through so many hoops to get to where they want to go.

I had always looked forward to having children, eventually. But it is one thing having that vague notion that I wanted to spread my genes, quite another navigating the minefield of finding somebody to spread them with! In my twenties, I had several rocky relationships. Ultimately, all of them were doomed. When I finally met my wife, the one thing which sticks out was how smooth it all felt.

Neither of us were religious, so marriage was never really at the fore. There was one milestone decision, however – just very basically, whether we saw ourselves with each other, for the foreseeable future. That one decision made everyhing else straightforward, for me at least. It was like a set of dominos.

Once we decided that we thought of the relationship as something permanent, we bought a house togther and decided to try for a baby. I was obviously pretty potent in those days, because she became pregnant very quickly. But marriage was still only an afterthought.

In fact, it was only really because I knew the law a bit that I realised that there would be some legal advantages to us being married. Traditionally in the UK, tax has been one of them. More importantly, it gave us both certain rights when it came to custody, inheritance and property. But most of all, we figured that life would just be easier for my daughter if her mum was married to her dad. Just in terms of taking some potentially-awkward questions off the table. Okay, we’d like to think that, in this day and age, it wouldn’t come into the picture. But we’d also like to think that, in this day and age, a woman would be paid the same as a man.

It has been so, in the UK, for generations. Life is just easier if, as a couple, you happened to be married. But, of course, marriage only ever applied to mixed-sex couples (at that time). And so, very recently (2004), our liberal politicians introduced a form of marriage for same-sex couples, and called it a civil partnership. In legal terms, a civil partnership was very similar to a marriage. (Actual marriage for same-sex couples also came along later.)

Great. End of story, right? We all live in this wonderfully progressive society! Well, not quite. There is a small minority of mixed-sex couples who have decided, for one reason or another, that despite being committed to each other, marriage is not for them. They’ve often been together for as long as married couples, raised children together and so on, done everything together, except for tying the knot. And all of a sudden, these couples had been left behind.

But still, not a problem, surely? Our forward-thinking politicians just needed to tweak the law to include both same- and mixed-sex couples. Wrong. Those liberal-minded politicians refused to act.

Consequently, when, five years ago, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan applied for a Civil Partnership, they were refused. Rather than this just being a theoretical problem, it was now a real one. But even so, our government stood fast and would not change the law.

Now, it seems quite clear to me, when you allow a one set of people to do something, but prohibit another set of people from doing that exact same thing, that some discrimination is going on. This couple obviously felt the same, and started proceedings.

But despite their case being obvious to me, the government did not want to change the law. This couple had to fight their case all the way to our Supreme Court, facing opposition from the government at every step along the way. It took them four years, but in 2018 the court finally ruled in their favour. Unable to construct any further hurdles, the government finally began the process of changing the law. The new law came into force just last week, on New Year’s Eve.

So, my main winners of the week this week are Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who last Tuesday finally became civil partners at Chelsea Town Hall, among the first mixed-sex couples in the UK to do so. I wish them and their young family many more years of happiness together.

And, my second, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which made their legal challenge possible. In fact the court ruled that the civil partnership law was incompatible with the ECHR, and while we are just about still in the EU, the ECHR takes priority. I always wanted to leave the EU, but the UK should see this as an opportunity to keep the good bits, and improve the bad bits. And not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We should at least be grateful that their politicians have acted while our own have sat on their backsides hands.

Who Won The Week? (29 December 2019)

Okay, last week I posted what I consider to be a serious post under a flippant title, in response to Fandango’s Who Won The Week post. Today, Fandango is preparing himslf for surgery – I hope it goes well, buddy – but I wanted to write a post about something I observed this last week. I am, at least, publishing under the correct title this week. I wish I had a greater imagination, but this one is about the environment, again.

Those of you who read my posts will not be surprised to hear that I am a republican. Small R. I don’t have much time for anything hereditary, and certainly anybody who wants to represent us should be elected.

But our monarchy really lucked out when Elizabeth II arrived. Despite numerous scandals surrounding her family, she has remained stoic over the years. There was a wobble when Princess Di died, but she recovered nicely. Even recently, when her son has been dogged by allegations that he raped an under-age girl, she has an uncanny knack of doing the right thing. Or, at least, of not being seen, when she does the wrong thing.

The queen bases herself in any of four homes. I think. It may be more, it is not something I really follow. Most of the time, she could be in any of them, and her movements between them are not made public, for obvious reasons. She could be using any means of transport that she likes to travel between them, without the rest of us being any the wiser.

However, being British, being the monarchy, one or two of her trips are tradition, and widely publicised, for consumption by an insatiable media. One such example is her annual summer vacation to Balmoral in Scotland. Another is her Christmas getaway to Sandringham in Norfolk, where she went this week. Sandringham is on the east coast and up, maybe 100 miles (give or take) from her London pad.

Forever savvy, even at the age of 93, this week she rather publicly took the train. I don’t think it was a special royal train either – I don’t think there is a royal train any more. Although unlike many commuters, I doubt she had to stand for the journey. Short of climbing onto her pushbike, trains are one of the friendliest ways to travel, as they just might be powered by renewable electricity.

So while I’m not the biggest fan of our monarchy, I will quite happily give the monarch herself credit where it is due.

Contrast this with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. The Duke is slightly older, at 98, and actually lives in a retired state on the Sandringham Estate already.

By some unfortunate coincidence, the poor old Duke of Edinburgh was admitted to a hospital in London earlier this week. As far as the media were told, this was almost routine, which may or may not have been true. For that 100-mile trip, the Duke flew, in an RAF Westland Wessex helicopter. Some of us might have heard a whisper that flying is not a particularly friendly way of travelling around, especially one of those old gas-guzzling machines. The Wessex is itself approaching retirement.

I am glad that the Duke was obviously well enough to be discharged from hospital on Christmas Eve, and was able to join his wife in Norfolk for Christmas. I hope they had a wonderful time. For the journey from London back out to Sandringham, he again flew in a Wessex helicopter, courtesy of our armed forces.

Many of us might be charitable to the guy – he has unlimited resources, he has taken anything he has wanted his whole life, without any real regard for the consequences, and is perhaps too old to change now? I prefer to think that a guy of his age should know better, without some idiot like me highlighting his behaviour in a blog post. Even if he is satisfied that he will see out his own days withot being affected personally by climate changes, another of the Duke’s great-grandchildren was boorn to great fanfare in 2019. Will they be so lucky?

Sorry, did I say winner?

If you take this post as an anti-royal post, thank you for reading but that was not my intention. If you take this as an anti-flying-unless-absolutely-necessary post, I hit the spot.

Who Lost The Week?

Sunday evenings my time, Fandango posts a weekly choice for who won the week.

He’s a charitable guy, talking in terms of winners. I look around me and I am afraid I see more along the lines of losers. So I thought I would start presenting a Loser of the week award today. Whether this becomes a regular thing, I don’t know, but I’m certainly not going to be short of candidates.

My first Loser of the Week award goes to Australian PM Scott Morrison, who rather unfortunately this week found himself on a beach in Hawaii while Sydney is being razed to the ground and Australia is enjoying its highest temperatures ever. It is still only early summer there. In fact, wasn’t his exact word unfortunate? Somebody less kind might call it delinquent. I’m left wondering which to be more afraid of – Morrison himself, or those Australians who just re-elected him. After all, Morrison will at least be gone tomorrow.

This is the same Scott Morrison who denies that the fires are anything to do with climate change, while cheerfully opening mines to extract yet more fossil fuels in Queensland, and presiding over the death of the Great Barrier Reef.

Still, none of this will happen on his watch, will it?

God help us.