Sunday, 31 January 2010

Does Labour "do God"?

The Parliamentary candidate for my constituency is Nancy Platt. The contact page on Nancy Platt's website states: "Nancy is keen to hear from you. Whether you need help with a campaign or a local problem, or want to know more about her views on policy or other issues, don't hesitate to get in touch. Nancy or one of the team will get back to you as quickly as possibly."

As I am something of a floating voter I was anxious to get her views on a subject I feel strongly about, namely, the intrusion of religious influences into Government policy-making and the  continuing presence of Bishops in the House of Lords. I therefore wrote to Nancy and to the other main parties in Brighton;  Greens,  Conservatives and Liberal Democrats,  asking for their comments.

My queries were first sent via the internet, in Nancy's case via her website.  I had prompt responses from the Greens, Lib Dems and Conservatives but nothing from Labour. Thinking there might be some fault with Nancy's website I wrote a letter and posted it on  14 January. Here it is:-

"As I haven’t received a response to my query through your website of several days ago I am repeating it here (as best I can remember).
As a member of the local Fabians and a supporter of the National Secular Society I was disappointed to read Gordon Brown’s recent remark on the subject of religion in politics. He said:-
“I don’t subscribe to the view that religion should somehow be tolerated but not encouraged in public life, that you can somehow ask people to leave their faith at the door when they enter a town hall or a Commons chamber.”
This is exactly the view I DO subscribe to, and that people entering public life should expect to declare the extent of their religious convictions as they do their financial interests.
I am also against the recent appointment by John Denham of 13 so-called "faith advisors". What are they qualified to advise on except their religious dogmas?
I am strongly of the opinion that Government policy should be based on rationality, logic and scientific advice, that the bishops should be removed from the Lords and religion restricted to the private sphere.
I should be interested to hear your views. Please feel free to email."
I am still awaiting a reply . . . . . .

Friday, 29 January 2010

"There's nothing in it" - Demonstration against Homeopathy


At 10:23am on January 30th, more than three hundred homeopathy sceptics nationwide,  including Brighton, will be taking part in a mass homeopathic 'overdose' in protest at Boots' continued endorsement and sale of homeopathic remedies, and to raise public awareness about the fact that homeopathic remedies have nothing in them.

Sceptics and consumer rights activists will publicly swallow an entire bottle of homeopathic 'pillules' to demonstrate that these 'remedies', prepared according to a long-discredited 18th century ritual, are nothing but sugar pills.

The protest aims to raise public awareness about the reality of homeopathy, and put further pressure on Boots to live up to its responsibilites as the 'scientist on the high street' and stop selling treatments which do not work.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Mirage

Not bad at all really and the detached house and garden it replaced had begun to look anachronistic for its busy seafront setting. Not sure about the name,"The Mirage", but the design harmonises without resorting to pastiche. Not too tall. Turns the corner of Kingsway & Vallence nicely and steps down to the height of the houses in Vallence. Traditional build wall along the pavement.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Run Brighton Marathon for the Samaritans

The local branch of the Samaritans still have 4 paid-up entry places left.

If you would like one of them please email; or phone 01273 738115. Runners need to be registered by 31st January.

Anyone who already has a place and would like to run and raise money for our branch, please get in contact any time before April and the Samaritans will support them in their training and fund-raising.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The Black Horse, Church Street . . . .

 . . . is now called "112 Church Street".

Call me a traditionalist, but I prefer "The Black Horse", as a name, so much more romantic; and I prefer the black paint and the solid-looking gold lettering.
I wonder if the changes made any difference to the takings?

Friday, 22 January 2010

Liberal Democrats & Lords

Being concerned with the Prime Minister's apparent welcoming of  religious influence in public life, (see earlier post "God & the Green Party") the appointment by John Denham of 13 "faith advisors" and the continuing presence of unelected bishops in the Lords, I wrote to each of my local parliamentary candidates to get their views on the subject.

Reproduced below is the thoughtful  response from the Chairman of B & H Liberal Democrats. (At present my constituency doesn't have a parliamentary candidate).

"Thank you for your question about Governmental faith advisors. Sorry for my late reply, but your question requires more than a simple answer.

The Liberal Democrats are commited to total freedom of religion and expression. We make judgements, including about religious tolerance, based on John Stewart Mill's 'Harm Principle', that everyone is free to do as they wish, so long as it does no harm to others. We do however appreciate the fact that, as a party commited to freedom, people, including decision makers, will often use religious grounds to justify decisions of conscience. It is up to other individuals and science to challenge those views. It would be illiberal to keep someone out of  a decision making position soley because of their religious beliefs.

That said, I wish to point out that we are the only party commited to a fully secularised/democratised legislature, and we are actively pushing for the Lords Spiritual to lose their right to sit in the House of Lords and legislate without being elected (although we would welcome them running in an election to a democratic House of Lords).

Whilst we support efforts to harmonise and not demonise different communities, Liberal Democrats did question the value of faith advisors in Government roles and on the Government paycheck. Although they will have influence, they do not have power, and the government has just as many if not more scientific advisers. We would also point out that many Liberal Democrats are members of the British Humanist Society, and said John Denham recently highlighted in a speech that it was no longer fair for religions to monopolise charitable works, or the idea that you have to be a religious person to qualify as a 'good human being'. We support that sentiment, and any idea otherwise is abhorrent to Liberal Democrats.

As for the influence Lords Spiritual have, there are only 26 Bishops in the House of Lords, as opposed to 150 Crossbenchers who are appointed based on merit in service to different sections of public life such as academia, science, charity etc. 2009's 'Peer of the Year' was Professor Robert Winston, which perhaps displays that Scientists are maybe more prominent than Bishops in the House of Lords. Once again reaffirm that we support a fully elected Upper Chamber, so that no one section of society can have a stranglehold on priveleged office."

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Changes to Stanmer Conservation Area

Brighton and Hove City Council is conducting a consultation on proposed changes to the Stanmer Conservation Area.

The Stanmer Conservation Area is made up of the house, the village and the parkland, and has what the council describes as a “quiet, secluded character, comprising all major elements of an 18th century estate”.

The changes to the designated area include:-

  • Removal of the area to the south of the A27.
  • Inclusion of woodland to the east and west which forms an integral part of the 18th century landscape.
  • Inclusion of the walled garden to the northeast of the area.
  • Extension to include a 19th century farm structure to the north of the village.
  • An Article 4(2) Direction under the General Permitted Development Order to ensure future planning control over minor alterations to unlisted dwellings.

Have your say on changes to Stanmer Conservation Area

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Have your say on 20mph limits for Brighton and Hove

The scrutiny panel reviewing 20mph speed limits held the first of its public meetings this morning between 10am and 12noon at Hove Town Hall.

Brighton and Hove City Council has set up the cross-party Scrutiny Panel to undertake a review to investigate the effects of reducing the speed limit in some residential and built-up areas of the city to 20 mph.

The other public meetings will be held between 10am and 12noon on 26 January, 11 February and 23 February. Brighton and Hove residents, community groups and local organisations are encouraged to give evidence to the panel, and the meeting on the 23 February will be designed primarily for local people to come along and give their views on speed reductions in their local area.

Have your say on 20mph limits for Brighton and Hove

Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, 16 January 2010

B&H City Council prayers.

As mentioned in my earlier post the City Council holds Christian prayers before every full Council Meeting. Too bad if you are of another denomination, atheist or simply don't believe in wasting time that local residents are paying for. (Residents incidentally, who, in Brighton are just as likely to be Jedi or Ninja turtles as Christian.) Non-participating councillors have to either withdraw temporarily from the chamber or twiddle their thumbs. This not to say there is a requirement to ban prayer altogether. It could be easily arranged that any Councillors who want can meet for prayers before the scheduled time in a separate room. The meeting proper can then get off to a flying start without what many will feel is an irritating distraction.

The admirable National Secular Society which has an eye for these anachronisms is running a campaign on this issue.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

#Brighton History Centre saved

Brighton History Centre has been saved. Also Booth Museum staffing restored. See full report in the Argus tomorrow.

God & the Green Party

In a video released earlier this week, the Prime Minister declared; “I don’t subscribe to the view that religion should somehow be tolerated but not encouraged in public life, that you can somehow ask people to leave their faith at the door when they enter a town hall or a Commons chamber.” In an interview to Premier Christian Radio he made similar points.

As this is exactly the view I DO subscribe to, I wrote to each of my local Parliamentary candidates to ask what they thought of it. I also took the opportunity of expressing my concern at John Denham's appointment of 13 "faith advisors" and the continuing presence of unelected bishops in the Lords.

The Green Party candidate for my constituency replied as follows:-
"It's really refreshing to read your e-mail: I subscribe to your views exactly.
For instance, I think a lot of people would be shocked if they knew that even the local B&H Council have Christian prayers before each Full Council meeting."
Caroline Lucas, Leader, the Green Party, Parliamentary Candidate - Brighton Pavilion

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Victoria Gardens update

Notwithstanding my last post on this subject, letters to the Argus and to the Cabinet Member for the Environment (from whom I have had no reply) the diggers have moved in on the northern Victoria Garden. Not that I really expected to halt the project which was obviously well advanced before I even got to hear of it. I admit therefore that this is just an ongoing grumble, with photos, to relieve my feelings.

So, where there was grass, which in the summer was frequently dotted with people sunbathing, resting, chatting or reading, there will now be four large rectangular beds with all the attendant extra maintenance costs, and the available grass will be reduced to narrow strips around the edges, much nearer to the traffic and more difficult to mow. . .  Meanwhile the desert of uneven shabby pavement around the edges of the garden, rarely walked on, will as far as I know remain untouched. Looking at the photo below one can see that at least 3 rows of paving slabs could be lost with no inconvenience to the occasional pedestrian and the extra land used for the permanent bedding, thus providing users of the grass with some sense of isolation from the road.

The lack of imagination displayed by this project in a City bursting with artistic and designing talent is quite staggering.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Lewes Crescent Tunnel Notice

This notice is situated high up on the wall of the tunnel that leads from the south end of the Lewes Crescent enclosure under Marine Parade, and exits onto the upper terrace of the Esplanade Slopes. The tunnel exits between two inconspicuous, one-up, one-down cottages built into the face of the cliff, one of which was occupied by the gardener and the other by the constable. The notice dates from 1895 when it was set up in the lobby of the constable's cottage. It has its origins in a long-running dispute between the Gardens Committee and the then Brighton Corporation over the rights of public access to the Slopes. The dispute started in 1865 and was not finally settled until 1902.

In the following photo the top of the tunnel exit (with glazing) can be seen on the upper terrace with the constable's cottage to the right. The lower colonnaded shelter was known as the Reading Room.