IDF attacked

No time to write a proper post at the moment, but here's some rather interesting footage that appears to show the IDF being attacked with metal bars as they board the "peace protestor's" ship...


David Laws - just another moneygrabber

If you've been reading this blog since day one - and, remarkably, have not yet become bored - you'll know that we originally put it together around the time that the Daily Telegraph broke the expenses scandal story, partly because we felt such outrage at what we still think of as the blatant, shameless money-grabbing behaviour of many MPs and partly because we felt that no mainstream newspaper was catching the gist of what the public were really feeling: the scandal did not create a belief that all politicians were in the job merely to line their own pockets - for many people, it finally confirmed that belief, one that has been held since at least the late 1970s. We took the decision then that we would endeavour not to allow our own voting preference to influence what we wrote here and although we have since allowed ourselves to display bias, for example during the General Election when we supported the Liberal Democrats and at other times when we have taken left-of-centre viewpoints, we still believe it is important not to show any favouritism towards any MP suspected of taking advantage of Parliamentary expenses for personal gain.

That said, we immediately felt that we should support Treasury Secretary David Laws now that he finds himself in expenses-related trouble. It's not that we particularly agree with his politics because for a LibDem, he's definitely a right-winger - however, for a right-winger he's also definitely a LibDem and a remarkably skilled politician too. Laws is, by all accounts, one of the sharpest and most quick-witted politicians around Westminster today. Nick Clegg is a clever politician - that much is obvious from the way that, although it ultimately counted for little and it was fate that handed him power, he achieved a remarkable victory in the Leaders' Debates; increasing public awareness of his party in a way that a month's worth of party election broadcasts could never do. Likewise Vince Cable, a man with a doctorate in economics and an almost clairvoyant ability to see what will happen with regard to future finance - he foresaw the current economic crisis as long ado as 2003 and is highly regarded as an expert in his field even by those who oppose his political beliefs. There are many others among the Liberal Democrat ranks - Sarah Teather, a Telegraph expenses saint and one of the most personable and popular politicians in recent years who is equipped with a formidable intelligence of her own, allowing her to take on political heavyweights without fear on Question Time where she is a regular and ever worthwhile guest; Chris Huhne - an Oxford-educated and highly successful politician who takes precisely the sort of stand on environmental matters that ensures continuing support from the beards, sandals and lentils brigade which, though a stereotype, the party nevertheless relies upon for a considerable percentage of its ballot box share.

However, fine politicians though all of these people are, they all suffer from the same problem the LibDems have had for decades now - they're just too damn nice. None of them have the aggression and thirst for blood that the party needs now it's swimming in a pool of Tory piranhas - David Laws, on the other hand, apparently has these qualities in spades. Now a very popular MP with a majority of over 13,000, Laws went into investment banking after leaving Cambridge with a double first in economics and by the age of just 27 was appointed the head of US Dollar and Sterling Treasuries at Barclays de Zoete Wedd. Aged 28, he earned his first million (what were you doing when you were 28? I was going to lots of gigs and earning £80 a week). LibDem MP, for the Scottish constituency of Gordon, Malcolm Bruce shared an office with Laws between 1992 and 1997. He told The Guardian: "I sat opposite him for five years but his desk never had any paper on it," he remembers, "I would say at the end of those five years the entire residual paperwork would amount to about three inches at most. He believed he could process all the important information and not need paper. Anything he needed again he could get another time."

There is something almost robotic about Laws, something almost cold and inhuman in his steely efficiency. His eyes glint like blades in a face that looks as though it doesn't smile much - all in all, he bears somewhat of a resemblance to Herr Otto Flick, the Gestapo officer in the long-running yet decidedly unfunny 1980s British sit-com 'Allo 'Allo (though it goes without saying that his politics, of course, are a million miles from those of the Nazis). I bet he's an absolute pain to work with, unwilling and unable to forgive the human failings of those around him - but, once again, this is what the LibDems need. Chancellor George Osborne is said to have rung reporters to boast of his own cleverness, saying that during the coalition discussions following the General Election, which he describes as being a high stakes game of paper, stone, scissors, he made sure Laws picked scissors. This may prove to be a bad choice of words - Laws, with his dislike for paper, has little need for scissors. What else might a man with his instincts do with a sharp, bladed instrument?

Laws goes for the throat and he's the most powerful tool his party has. At some point, perhaps soon and perhaps a long way off yet, the Conservatives are going to start wanting to stamp their authority over the funny little kids with whom they have formed not a friendship but a playground alliance which, as is always the case, will exist only so long as both parties have something to gain and when that happens Laws will be the only kid who can stand up to the bigger party and keep them from throwing their weight around. That's why, although we do not always support his policies, we know how valuable he is. Remember also that Laws has told his new Tory colleagues that were it not for Section 28, the notorious and controversial legislation that banned the "promotion of homosexuality" by local authorities and in the process effectively left teachers afraid to halt homophobic bullying and health centres afraid to provide sexual health advice to homosexuals, he would have been a member of their party rather than Clegg's. He knows how they work, because he shares 99% of their DNA.

As a result, when news broke that Laws was fighting for his political life after it emerged that he had claimed £40,000 over five years to cover the cost of renting a room in a property now known to belong to his partner James Lundie, we were inclined to look for a way in which his actions could be defended. After all, he immediately pledged to repay the amount in full and has referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, claiming that his intention has always been to "not maximise profit but to simply protect our privacy and my wish not to reval our sexuality." We felt a little sorry for him, because even politicians have the right to a private family life, and we felt angry at a world in which to this day homosexuals are made to feel uncomfortable about being who they are, as openly gay as heterosexuals are straight, for fear that it will tarnish their reputations and other people's opinions of them, damaging their career and, in the case of politicians, lessening their chances of re-election.

The MP claimed up to £950 a month between 2004 and 2007 to pay for the sub-let of a room in a flat in South London, where Mr. Lundie was registered as owner and co-occupant. This property was then sold, making Lundie a profit of £193,000, at which point he purchased a nearby house for £510,000 - Laws then registered a room at this new property as his second home, allowing him to claim expenses on it as he has a main residence in his Yeovil constituency in Somerset and received £920 per month up until September 2009, when he switched to a new flat which he designated as his official second home so that he could claim expenses for that one instead.

Parliamentary rules allow some degree of interpretation as to what defines an MP's partner, but according to Laws himself the official definition is "one of a couple...who although not married to each other or civil partners are living together and treat each other as spouses. Although we were living together, we did not treat each other as spouses. For example, we do not share bank accounts and indeed have separate social lives" (LibDemVoice) - and in the same article, he states that he and Lundie have been in a relationship since 2001. It doesn't matter how much of a degree of interpretation you allow, that sounds very much like the definition of a couple to us.

Since 2006, MPs have been banned from claiming expenses on property leased from a partner as the system was deemed too open to abuse even in the pre-scandal free-for-all (it's worth noting that unemployed people living in property belonging to their parents/siblings are not permitted to claim housing benefit to cover costs even if they are charged rent and have not been allowed to do so for many years - a friend at college who, in the early 1990s, was charged £30 per week rent by his mother from the £33 that the Government considered a sufficient amount for him to survive on, leaving him 42p a day to feed and clothe himself springs to mind).

Poor old David, eh? Forced to live a lie and risk his own honest reputation because of society's cruelty and still-present homophobia.

Hang on. Just a minute. Laws was a millionaire at 28, is now 44 and has been an MP earning a big, fat MP salary since 2001 - one would probably be quite correct in assuming he has a bank balance a fair bit greater than a million quid these days. Information on his personal wealth doesn't seem to be available (and quite rightly too, he has every bit as much right to keep that private as he does his personal life), but it's probably safe to say he'd doing alright for himself - not least of all as he is evidently perfectly capable of rustling up the £40k he's promised to pay back at a moment's notice. Mr. Lundie is employed by a public relations company and can probably be assumed to earn a pretty reasonable wage too.

"James and I are intensely private people," Laws says. "We made our decision to keep our relationship private and believed that was our right." It is indeed their right, but if they wanted it to be private would it not have been far more practical to pay their own way so that Laws' expenses were equally as private and not open to public scrutiny? Would it not have been better had Laws have gone straight to the Commissioner as soon as the scandal exploded into view last year?

We want to believe Laws because we've always liked him despite our disagreements with his right-wing politics, because we like knowing that a gay man (other than Lord of Darkness Mandelson) can hold a powerful government position in this day and age and most of all because the Liberal Democrat party needs him if it is not to be euthanised like an unwanted pet by the Conservatives once they tire of it.

Sadly, even though he stopped claiming expenses for the room in Lundie's house last year, we cannot believe him because it seems to us that he never needed this money and when he saw an opportunity to line his own pockets at our expense, he took it.


Take up the red flag before it's too late!

You know that bit at the end of the film Animal Farm (no, not THAT version, you sicko - we mean the animated one from 1954, based on Orwell's book) when the Pigs have adopted so many of Man's capitalist ways that they begin to take on the physical appearance of humans?

Don't you think
Ed Balls looks rather a lot like one of them when they're about halfway through the transformation? On the other hand, maybe the change is going in the other direction - Balls the human taking on porcine characteristics as a result of his expenses habits seems considerably more likely than his ever having been a socialist.

Tories to revitalise economy

David Cameron outlines Conservative proposals aimed at "revitalising" the British economy: "A little birdy tells me that Greece is on the rock'n'roll. So wot I'm suggestin' is me, Gorgeous George, Hatchet Hague, Boris the Blade and anovver few lads wait outside the IMF and when they come out, we duff 'em over their 'eads and scarper wiv the cash. Oh - and call me Dodgy Dave from now on, alright?"

The Axeman cometh...

"Tory proposals may result in delicate operations being performed by a crazed axeman rather than by a doctor," warn experts.


Osborne the Axeman

Torquemosborne! Chancellor announces £6.2 BILLION spending cuts. If you think THAT'S gonna hurt, just wait until he puts down his scalpel and starts with his axe


Leadership Contest and A New Poll

Labour's leadership contest is hotting up faster than the weather, though things may cool off with regard to both by the bank holiday weekend. The long range forecast indicates we're in for a long, hot summer of infighting followed by an announcement either very shortly before or during the party conference in September.

We're in for along, hot summer of Labour infighting - who'll be the first to feel the flames?

As a result, our latest poll - created just last week - was beginning to look distinctly elderly as various seemingly sure-fire contenders have backed away and other surprise candidates have stepped up to the mark so we've created a new, up to date version which can be seen on the left of the page. If you've already voted, you can now vote again and either stick with your previous choice or go with one of the new names - we'll keep tabs on total votes and see who looks favourite among readers in a few weeks, even if the list needs further updates.


Hro tngr txts plc drng rbbry

Teenagers, eh? Surly little herberts. They talk to adults so little you'd almost think they'd lost the ability to communicate - unless, that is, it's by mobile phone. They virtually always have a mobile clamped to their spotty ears, and when they haven't they'll texting. Or, as they would have it, thyd b txtg. Teachers are forever complaining about their pupils' mobiles in the classroom and many confiscate any they see, otherwise the little buggers'll be texting away and not listen to a word Teach says.

There's a family in London who are going to be glad their own teenage son in a text addict, though - because he managed to surreptitiously use his mobile to send a text message asking neighbours to phone the police while he, his siblings, parents and housekeeper lay tied up on the bathroom floor of their Hendon home during a £60,000 armed robbery.

His mother, who was punched in the face by the raiders when she refused to tell them where the safe was located, explains: "He goes to an Orthodox school and they teach themselves to text with their phones in their pockets. It came in very handy."

We imagine that when he finds out that the boy secretly texts in class, the rabbi won't be too angry with him. Good lad!


Eric Illsley MP to answer false accounting charges

Eric Illsley, who bagged himself £6000 by over-claiming for bills on his parliamentary expenses, is the latest MP to find himself in hot water as the expenses scandal rolls ever onward. The Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed that the Labour representative for Barnsley South, a seat he has held since 1987, has been summoned to appear in court where he'll be asked to answer three charges under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 of false accounting, says Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer. Illsley was one of the MPs identified by the Daily Telegraph in June last year for having made false council tax claims, having received over £10,000 for his second home, a South London property, in four years, despite the fact that council tax on the Band C house would have come to £3,996 over the same period. As he claimed regular payments of £200, he did not have to supply receipts in order to receive these amounts. He is alleged to have falsely claimed more than £20,000 in total between May 2006 and April 2008 and will appear at Westminster Magistrate's Court on June the 17th.

So far, three other MPs - all Labour - and one Conservative peer have been charged under the same act. All deny any wrongdoing. Evidence on a total of eight MPs has been handed to the CPS for a decision as to whether prosecution is in the public interest.

No futher details as of yet, but we shall - of course - be keeping a close eye on developments.

If we allow Manchester terrorists to be tortured, we are barbarians ourselves

Un-named British authorities and the right-wing press woke up and got themselves in a right old tizzy this morning over the news that two terrorism suspects, believed to have links to Al-Qaeda, will be allowed to remain - almost certainly under house arrest and subject to control orders - in the UK as they would face torture if deported to Pakistan.

23-year-olds Abid Naseer and Ahmed Faraz Khan are accused of plotting to cause a "mass casualty 7/7-style bomb attack" to have taken place in Manchester last year, probably at the Arndale Shopping Centre during Easter. Police carried out raids at short notice on the pair after the ironically-named Met Head of Terrorism Bob Quick accidentally blurted details of the operation to photographers for which he later lost his job - the haste with which they were carried out led to police failing to gather sufficient evidence and the men being released without charge two weeks later. To date, they have not been charged with any offence and no bomb-making equipment was discovered, but police obtained copies of e-mails believed to contain coded plans outlining the attack.

Part of Manchester's enormous Arndale Centre, the largest city centre shopping mall in Europe. A terrorist attack at Easter, when the centre would be crammed with shoppers, would be likely to cause an enormous number of injuries and deaths.
(Image from Wikipedia, CC2.5)

Speaking to the Daily Express, Taxpayers' Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliot said, “These men are a security risk to the UK that is ultimately going to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. British taxpayers cannot be expected to keep bankrolling restrictions on these men on the basis that they might be a threat. They should be charged and put on trial if they really were plotting a bomb attack." The newspaper also says that the cost of keeping each man subject to a controlling order will be "around £225,000 per subject."

New Home Secretary Theresa May told the paper "As the court agreed, they are a security risk. We are now taking all possible measures to ensure they do not engage in terrorist activity," adding that the Government is "disappointed."

Meanwhile, barrister Jeremy Donne QC said: "Control orders are costly and they have been criticised by the European Court of Human Rights." This is indeed the case - the use of control orders, which prevent a subject from associating with other people, using communications and effectively keep them under house arrest, are highly controversial, not least of all when applied to people who have not been convicted of any crime - though it should be understood that there is little doubt among authorities that the two men are guilty, although no bomb making equipment was found. However, the orders are a very great deal less controversial - and have received far less criticism by the Court of Human Rights - than torture, which has no place in a civilised nation. If Britain is a civilised nation, we have a duty to prevent anyone becoming a victim of torture - and preserving our right to refer to ourselves as civilised is worth a lot more than the £450,000 it'll cost to keep tabs on Naseer and Khan.

The European Convention on Human Rights, Article 3, states: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." That's an admirable and lofty ideal - let's stick to it, even if it may mean we need to protect those we wish to punish from people who do not share our enlightened ways.


Those evil Israelis - shocking what they put Gaza through

Israel's foreign policy - especially with reference to Gaza which is said to be a virtual prison state where the population lives in abject misery due to the evil Jewish state - is once again in the news following the latest Israel Defense Force actions in the Palestinian nation.

An IDF soldier directs one of the 637 truckloads into Gaza

As part of its ongoing COGAT operation, large numbers of IDF forces entered the region - and distributed 637 truckloads of humanitarian aid, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post. The aid, weighing some 14,069 tons, included four trucks loaded with medicine and medical equipment, 897 tons of cooking gas, hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel, 148 truckloads of food, 21 truckloads of formula milk and baby food, 38 truckloads of clothing and shoes, 117 truckloads of animal food and 37 truckloads of hygiene equipment. In addition to this, 781 people requiring medical treatment were allowed to enter Israel so that they can be treated in the country's modern and well-equipped hospitals.

30-40 Palestinians homes were bulldozed in Gaza. Guess who drove the bulldozers?

Meanwhile, over in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, Hamas police armed with clubs beat and evicted residents before bulldozers moved in to destroy their homes, says the Palestinian Telegraph. Hamas rulers claim the buildings, believed to number between 30 and 40 in total, had been illegally constructed on government land. 56-year-old Nazira Abu Jaba says that veiled police women beat her family with clubs until they had no option but to leave their home. "Neighbours help us get by with charity," she says, "we can't afford to build again."

Issa Nashar, mayor of Rafah, has promised those made homeless alternative housing; but Gaza's housing minister Yousef Al-Mansi says that he has no information on such housing. More demolitions are expected next week.

It would appear things are not quite as clear-cut as the British media would have us believe, wouldn't it?

Beauty queen does pole dance - not news. Daily Mail is prejudiced - also not news

According to the Daily Mail, the newly-crowned Miss USA Rima Fakih - a Muslim, which is apparently worthy of much discussion in the US of A - took part in a strip show back in 2007, albeit a strip show in which she seems not to have stripped. Just so readers can get really shocked, they have photos of Miss Fakih, now aged 24, dressed in a white vest and very short shorts as she dances next to a pole.

The admittedly-very-pleasing-on-the-eyes Rima Fakih

Miss Fakih won the Miss USA pageant, which still attracts a surprising amount of attention despite more than 40 years of feminism, on Sunday night at some hellish facility known as the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino which is co-owned by Donald Trump. And...er...well, that's it, really. Young woman does a very mildly naughty pole dance. Not much excitement in the news this fine morning, but this one's boring even by Daily Mail standards - surely they could have done better?

However, one small section of the story deserves further attention - this being the almost throwaway snippet that when asked whether she thought birth control should be paid for by medical insurance, Miss Fakih replied, "I believe that birth control is just like every other medication even though it's a controlled substance" and that it should be covered as it's expensive. Not quite sure what they're trying to suggest there, but it sounds rather as though they're trying to tell us that since Miss Fakih seems to have some knowledge of birth control, she must have used it - which means, horror of horrors, she has had sex and therefore is of questionable virtue in the morally-superior eyes of the Mail. The story goes on to tell us that the pageant has been mired in controversy in recent years, including last year when winner Carrie Prejean, was stripped of her title after she was found to have made a sex tape.

No mention of the controversy over beauty pageants upholding the sexist concept of a woman's worth being equal only to her aesthetic qualities, though. If we assume that the Daily Mail's omission of this demonstrates it has no ethical argument against such events (which is also suggested when it ensures it makes note of the supposedly high standards of the pageant by emphasising Ms. Prejean's expulsion), while it finds the idea of a young woman having sex and taking control of her own body shocking, the story can be viewed as much more than mere space-filler on a slow news day - it shows just how backward, sexist and ultimately horrible a "newspaper" it really is.

Pity Rima wasn't dancing next to a Pole - the Mail could have aired their anti-immigrant prejudices then as well.


Make the most of your poverty, folks

If any of you have been feeling the pinch in these difficult financial times, you'll no doubt be comforted by the words of Dominique Strauss-Kahn (right), the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, in his closing statements at a conference in Zurich last Tuesday. "Crisis is an opportunity," he said, explaining that the recent economic climate offers a chance to "strengthen the system and increase its resilience to recurrent crises."

Crisis in an opportunity? Well, it probably is for the likes of him and the IMF - and anyone else who does well out of capitalism. For the vast majority of the Earth's population, economic crisis is an opportunity to experience unemployment, crap food, marital break-up, explaining to children why it is they can't have a Nintendo Wii for their birthday even though Jamie next door has one and a Playstation 3, drive a wreck, massive and crippling overdraft charges, lost sleep over mortgage repayments, bailiffs, homelessness and, in some cases, suicide.

Oy vey - fat cats, eh? Really no idea about the lives of 99% of humanity whatsoever.


Acid Rabbi Poll Results - The ConLib Coalition

Politics fans might want to sit down before reading on, because hot on the heels of the General Election comes... drum roll... the results of the Acid Rabbi poll! And as if that wasn't enough excitement, it seems the whole nation has gone utterly election crazy because we had a record response to this one: an amazing nine - yes, nine - people took the time to let us know what they thought of the Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition.

As you can see, just 22% of those who took part believe the coalition to be a good thing with the same amount reckoning it to be bad. But 55% - a figure sufficient to dissolve Parliament even if Dave and Nick get their way - think it's terrible. Whether you agree with first-past-the-post or proportional representation, those numbers speak for themselves: most people, among those who voted and whatever their political allegiances, do not support the coalition.

Now, if we assume nine people is a sufficient number to be indicative of the nation as a whole we'll probably have to factor in some space for statistical error (space equal to the size of the Gulf of Mexico oil slick ought to do it); but we're probably at least relatively safe in assuming that if 55% of nine people do not support something, it's unlikely that 100% of 57 people will support it - thus, it seems a little odd that this is the level of support the coalition achieved among LibDem MPs. This suggests any of three factors: one, they're all too scared to stand up for themselves; two, they've ignored the thoughts and fears of party councillors, activists and voters; three, they know something we don't, which was kept from us by the secrecy surrounding the coalition negotiations.

Result of one is the Tories are going to eat them alive and the LibDems risk vanishing forever; result of two is the LibDem-voting electorate become angry and take their support elsewhere which, as Tory-hating supporters are already jumping ship and joining Labour may well result in the LibDems vanishing forever; result of three is the LibDem councillors, activists and voters become very angry and demand Nick Clegg's head, causing the party to lose the most charismatic leader it's had in decades, face further years in the wilderness and risk vanishing forever - though if three is the case, the party will probably get away with it just so long as the last week's success doesn't prove to be a honeymoon and married life continues to be bliss from a LibDem point of view.

Only time will tell.

Anyway, time for a new poll. Who do you think will be the next Labour leader?


Theresa May not believe in equality for gays

We were intrigued to discover on the invaluable TheyWorkForYou website that new Equality Minister Theresa May "voted moderately against equal gay rights." Equality regardless of gender, race, sexual preference/identity is, after all, generally considered to be a good thing these days by all but a limited number of morons, and so you'd probably be safe in assuming that the Government would as a result wish to promote such a worthy ideal. You might therefore also assume that anyone thought suitable to the post of Equality Minister would vote very strongly for equal gay rights, wouldn't you?

Theresa May MP, Equality Minister - seems to not like gay people very much.
(image from Wikipedia, used in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence)

Our interest was piqued, so we ran a quick Google search using the request "Theresa May gay lesbian equality" and very rapidly found a document published by Pink News which lists some revealing facts on May - like, for example, the time in 1998 when she voted against equalising the age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals. Then, in 2000, she voted against moves to repeal the notorious Section 28 (commonly known as Clause 28), a piece of legislation that banned local authorities from "promoting homosexuality" and effectively left health centres unable to provide sexual health advice to gays and made teachers afraid to prevent homophobic bullying of school children.

Mrs. May was voting in a way rather at odds with equality again in both 2001 and 2002, when she supported measures aimed at preventing same-sex couples from adopting children. There was a brief moment in 2004 when it looked like she might have given up her prejudice as - in common with the majority of the Conservative front bench - she voted in favour of civil partnerships, known to many as gay marriages; but it's worth noting that over the last few years the Tories have been attempting to attract the so-called pink vote and will say or do just about anything if they think someone will cross their box at the ballot, as has been the case with Prime Minister David Cameron when he apologised for Section 28 last year (this despite the fact that his record when it comes to gay rights isn't a great deal better than May's - he also voted against repealing Section 28). However, in the very same year, she didn't vote in any of the four votes that eventually led to the adoption of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which allows those who have undergone gender correction surgery to legally change the gender recorded on their birth certificate and other documents.

In 2008, she voted in favour of an ultimately defeated bill which would have required couples seeking IVF treatment to provide a male role model - in other words, preventing lesbian couples from having children by this method (Cameron voted in favour of that one too, by the way).

No mainstream political party would discriminate against Jewish, black or Asian MPs in this day and age, but one does have to wonder - in view of the dubious voting records of both their leader and Equality Minister, as well as the decision to join the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the EU, thus allying themselves with the openly homophobic Polish Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc party which we have written about on this blog at some length - if the Conservatives are not yet as comfortable with homosexuality. Last week's election saw ten new Conservative homosexuals take seats in the Commons, but they may find they are merely tolerated in order to provide the illusion of equality rather than welcomed with open arms.

If you think Theresa May is unsuited to her new post, have a look at Sack Theresa - Calling for the resignation of the Women and Equalities Minister.

Does the 55% Rule rule out democracy?

With everything that's been going on this week in the wake of the election and the Cameron/Clegg marriage, the proposed 55% rule hasn't had even half the impact it would at any other time. However, it's certainly sent waves through Parliament, with even veteran MP Richard Ottaway, a prospective chair of the powerful Tory 1922 Committee, entering the row by warning the move could end the "primacy of Parliament."

The happy couple...but for how long?

In short, the rule will mean that for Parliament to be dissolved prior to the end of the newly fixed five year terms, at least 55% of MPs must vote in favour, rather than 51% as has previously been the case. David Cameron agreed the rule with his new Liberal Democrat friends to reassure them that his party will not back out of the coalition deal should his party achieve opinion poll success and call a General Election safe in the knowledge that the Conservatives could gain sufficient MPs to form a majority.

You might be thinking that this seems unusually altruistic, and you'd be correct: from Cameron's point of view, it also has the valuable side-effect of meaning that, should the coalition fail - as many supporters and activists of both parties believe it ultimately will, with many MPs in all likelihood secretly thinking the same thing - it means that the opposition, be it Labour or a future Labour-LibDem coalition, would find it very difficult to garner enough support to call for Parliament to be dissolved prior to the end of the five year term. This means that, should the pact fail, the Conservatives would be able to continue as the ruling party even without a majority - almost a guarantee that they could stay in power despite their failure to win last week's election.

Christopher Chope, Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen between 1983 and 1992 and Christchurch since 1997, warns: "If the present government was to lose its majority in Parliament and wasn't able to operate as a minority government because it didn't enjoy the confidence of a sufficient number of MPs, then what is being suggested is that it would carry on."

"It is not the duty of Parliament to prop up this coalition," says Charles Walker, the Tory MP for Broxbourne in Hertfordshire (really nice Chinese restaurant called Sky City at the Tower Centre by the way, folks). He continues, "This is a matter of convenience, because clearly the leader of our party, David Cameron, wants a five year Parliament and the Liberal Democrats want fixed terms and they don't want there to be a General Election along the way. But if Parliament and the nation lose confidence in this coalition government, there should be a General Election, whether that is in two years or three years or four years."

Richard Ottaway, who like Mr. Chope has had a break from Parliament for just five years since 1983 after he lost his Nottingham North seat to Labour before winning Croydon South in 1992, calls the rule "constitutionally incoherent."

Cameron, naturally, defends the concept, claiming to be "the first Prime Minister in British history to give up the right unilaterally to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament. This is a big change on our system, it is a big giving-up of power."

Is Cameron one of the many who privately expects the coalition to fail? You can choose to believe he's doing this to give more power to MPs of all parties and to reassure the LibDems or you can choose to believe that he's seeking a way in which he can guarantee himself a full five year term even if the nation wants him and his party out of power, but you'd have to be a very committed DavCam fan indeed if you didn't think he had a bigger smile on his smug face when Nick Clegg put this one on the debating table than he does when his butler whips the cloche off a silver platter piled high with lobsters, white truffles and Beluga.


Stunning new astronomy images

NtASA have published stunning new photographs showing the moment that, using its enormous gravitational pull, the vast M27/NGC 6835 galaxy ("The Oak") strips countless stars from the M64/NGC 4826 dwarf galaxy ("The Yellowbird") that orbits it, incorporating them into its own mass. Astronomers believe that, in time, the larger body will completely absorb its tiny neighbour.


Ministers take 5% pay cut

According to the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg - who has now been on television 24 hours a day for more than a week, it seems, and must be direly in need of some sleep - "BBCLauraK-Ministers all taking an immediate five percent pay cut".

Justice Secretary Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke shows us the tiny, damp flat in which he has been forced to live since the swingeing 5% cut. "It's a shithole," he confirms for the benefit of the proles in case anyone thinks this sort of squalor is day-to-day reality.

Cabinet ministers receive an allowance of £79,754 in addition to a MP's salary of £64,766 - giving them a tasty total of £144,520 per annum (source of figures here). Take off 5% and the poor darlings will have to survive on £137,294 a year (2,640 quid and 27p a week). The poor things are going to have to live in grotty, moulding flats on sink estates and feed their families on Asda Smart Price crisps, like unemployed single mothers do.