A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ruth Kelly

I've only met Ruth Kelly once and it seems like a very long time ago. We had dinner together with my friend Matthew Laza at Matthew's mum's house in Chester in September 1995. I was touring the country as Labour Students National Secretary running freshers' fayre recruitment stalls, and Ruth was staying in Chester whilst seeking the parliamentary selection there. She didn't get selected in Chester but went on to win her seat in Bolton. My memory of meeting her then was of a very bright and serious individual so I am not surprised that in the meantime she has gone on to hold three different cabinet jobs.

She has also managed to bring up a family of four with her husband Derek Gadd, who as Lambeth & Southwark Labour Organiser in the '90s went out of his way to befriend and mentor me and other newly appointed younger full-time Labour agents.

They are a fundamentally decent couple and so I was shocked by the churlish reaction to Ruth's announcement she will be quitting as Transport Secretary from Mary Honeyball MEP on her blog here.

Mary Honeyball seems determined to conduct the debate about the fertilisation and embryology bill in a vituperative, personalised and aggressive way. This is the latest in a series of offensive blog posts and articles she has written attacking Catholic Labour MPs and Ministers for their deeply held beliefs on this subject - beliefs that are central to their faith.

I'm an atheist and I am pro-choice on abortion and would support the current bill, but it ought to be an absolute given that we respect the religious beliefs of others on moral issues before Parliament and reject the sort of anti-Catholic prejudice Mary Honeyball has been expressing towards Ruth Kelly.

41 Comments:

Anonymous Maria said...

Thank you, Luke. I too am a London Labour party member who is sick to death of Mary Honeyball waging a 17th century witch hunt against catholic Labour members. Just what is her problem? I don't to play the woman and not the ball but I have hardly been impressed with Ms Honeyball's performance as a London MEP. I am female but I am completely gutted that Robert Evans (no3 on the London List) was relegated to being placed behind her because she "is a woman". Robert and Claude Moraes work their socks off as London MEPs and all Mary Honeyball does is make offensive comments about other party members. We really missed the boat on getting some new blood to stand for Labour in the EP elections next year. Let's hope we don't make the mistake for the 2014 selection. Hairy Moneyball should be the first person London party members give the boot.

12:57 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue isn't your idiotic blinder play.

It's about Ruth Kelly having complete contempt for the government she was part of. She didn't quite have the guts to stick the knife in, but it can be read as more or less the case when her "towering" comment - of the Moron - is put into the equation.

Even a silly second-assistant promo man with an improbable haircut such as yourself knows that if an announcement breaks at 3am in the morning something is going on.

Moron is just a fucking disaster, to quote a phrase.

2:27 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Anonymous robert reed said...

Obviously she resigned to take the gloss off Browns fightback, a cowardly and provocative action, which must have made Charles Clarke smile as much has he did when he found a buy one get one free pizza coupon in the house magazine for Pizza Express.

If Kelly had some decency she should have resigned on an anti Science reason during the reading of bill as an active member of the cultish "The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei" she would be totally opposed to any such advancement in medicine.
Still I can't see much of a negative about this, as she has so little voter appeal. She was at Cambridge with Milliand and very close to the reformed bennite, so like Guy Fawkes she have been caught plotting her own coup..

3:31 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Anonymous Oxbridge Prat said...

She was at Cambridge with Milliand

As they both studied at Oxford this seems a little unlikely.

4:57 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Anonymous tim f said...

It annoys me that Catholic MPs get free licence to go against the government line because issues about abortion and gay rights are considered "moral issues" whereas on other issues which also have a moral dimension people aren't allowed to publicly disagree.

Having said that I don't think there is any point speculating about her reasons for going and it would be better to take her stated reason at face value.

Also - and yes this is a bit pedantic but I'm running with it anyway - the issues around the fertilisation and embyrology bill are not "central" to the faith of any Christian, Catholic or otherwise. I accept that most Catholics are anti-abortion, and even that life is a more important concept in Catholicism than in other brands of Christianity, but central? The resurrection is central. The incarnation is central. If it was central it would probably, you know, be actually mentioned in the bible somewhere.

5:12 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Anonymous Mary Honeyball said...

I am not anti Ruth Kelly as a person or indeed in her former role as Transport Secretary. I think she has done good work and has in general been a good Minister.

I do, however, believe that anyone who is a member of a government should support the policy of that government. If they are unable to do this, they should resign. Ruth Kelly was obviously unable to support the Government on the Embryology Bill - an extremely important piece of legislation. I therefore think she should have resigned before the vote on the second reading rather than attempting to force the Government to fit its policy to her religious beliefs.

I am certainly not anti-Catholic, and would apply the same line of argument to all religious belief and, indeed, non-religious belief should that arise. I have always been completely against anyone forcing their beliefs on others, a position I will continue to defend.

5:14 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Blogger Rage against the Machine said...

Luke

I do not in any way condone anti-catholicism. I am a social liberal.

However, although she is probably a very nice person, what are Ruth Kelly's attitudes toward the gay community?...mmmm...

5:28 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on Mary Honeyball. The Labour Party should not be in hock to any religion; it is a secular rationalist party founded on common humanity, and that does not mean holding up research sick people desperately need because some old book and a spaghetti monster in the sky don't like it.

5:30 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

I strongly support Mary Honeyball, and think that anyone with Ruth Kelly's views and affiliations should not have even made the candidates list, yet alone the cabinet.

Mary Honeyball reflects progressive opinion, Kelly and her Church are reactionaries whose baleful ane inappropriate attempts at influencing secular policy areas should be firmly opposed. I am delighted that Mary Honeyball is brave enough to do so, rather than cow-towing to an institutionally homophobic organisation. Catholicism and its prejudiced teaching on gay issues and women's rights has no place in left of centre politics. I don;lt think that prejudice should be respected just because it is attached to 'religionism'

6:18 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

PS. To respond to RATM, Ruth Kelly's record on gay rights issues is atrocious. She has either absented herself from, or voted against, all the re4cent changes.

Not what I expect from a Labour cabinet minister.

6:20 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Anonymous The Voice of Reason said...

Luke I was a bit worried by this post. You state that you are pro-choice on abortion which seems worryingly close to being a hard left position.

I hope this is an isolated incident on your behalf

7:26 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Luke it is a piece of unctuous and impractical sermonising to assert “it ought to be an absolute given that we respect the religious beliefs of others on moral issues before Parliament”.

That would require that we respect the views ‘before Parliament’ of an MP who is also a preacher or religious zealot who sincerely believes that women should be covered up and chastised or stoned if they are not.

Ruth Kelly was an intolerant and very limited politician with distinctly weird religious connections that cannot sit well with a modern, inclusive political party. She was a lousy presenter and manager of policy.

She was either somewhat disingenuous or lacking in moral consistency when she failed to resign over the embryology bill, only to later discovered at a very awkward time for her Leader and the Government that she ‘needed more time with her family’ (What- her time with her family was not so important when the children were infants and toddlers?)

9:20 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Blogger Rage against the Machine said...

Thanks merseymike, you gave the precise answer I knew. Ruth Kelly's polical stance on moral issues would sit better on the Right Wing Conservative benches.

Her record on Gay rights is an appalling embarassment to the Labour movement.

9:58 pm, September 24, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

With all due respect why give her The Secretary of State for Transport. Why didn't this post go to somebody who worked on the railways and really knew the Transport business. This cabinet re-shuffling is all about getting their right wing Toffee nosed cronies in.

All MP's should be paid the average workers wage, we need people who want to do the best for their country and people not some careerist just doing another profession.

12:09 am, September 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone advise me what the fuck is going on?
It seems to have been pretty much common knowledge in the press for weeks that Kelly was gonna have to quit over the embriology bill. Why is she now being accused of disloyalty?
If it is an issue over who broke the news of her departure, didn't Paxman tell us last night that is was number 10?

12:57 am, September 25, 2008

 
Anonymous broncodelsey said...

Does anyone care or even is interested in the excrement that comes out of Mary Honeyball's mouth?

12:59 am, September 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some days I wonder why I bother!

1:11 am, September 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a source very close to Ruth was denying all knowledge of her resignation - until the reshuffle - at 2.00am in the bar. She was shafted by No.10. The people in Downing street decided to do leak her name because, yet again, they misjudged the situation and wrongly thought that she was going to precipitate the PMs reshuffle.

8:00 am, September 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonder what Honeyball think of this?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/25/anglicanism.catholicism1

Probably time to leave the country, love!

11:30 am, September 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Albert Shanker said...

Mary Honeyball says she's not anti-Catholic, but is in print saying that she disagrees with their right to hold high office in our party and country.

She must be pretty pissed off with Gordon's proposals about Catholic monarchs - onwards with her weird and misplaced crusade...

5:10 pm, September 25, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

No, no, anyone can hold high office, but they need to remember that they were elected to represent their party, not their religion.
And so they should not try to impose the teachings of their religion upon those of us who do not follow them. No-one is suggesting compulsory abortion or participation in stem cell research or anything else. But the behaviour of Kelly et al is one which aims to restrict others who do not share their view.

Thats the difference.

As for the monarch, who wants one of them irrespective of religion?

5:52 pm, September 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Shagger Norris said...

Did you shag her?

8:38 pm, September 25, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

The last comment was a bit out of order, questioning some ones sex life, any was it a good one?

12:15 am, September 26, 2008

 
Anonymous observer said...

Ms Kelly and her homophobic cult Opus Dei? Good riddance to bad rubbish!

Thanks Merseymike and Mary Honeyball. Shame on you, Luke Akehurst!

3:53 am, September 26, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for that thoughful posting... as ever... I admire your tolerance towards Kelly's beliefs on certain issues, even if they are not in harmony with your own. Alas the mainstream media and parliament is full of those less tolerant... DG London

5:22 pm, September 26, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

I suspect that if Labour lose the next election there is going to be a concerted attempt to turn it into the "anti-religion" party, simply because the Dawkins-ite tendency is the most vocally expressed ideology you encounter in the media these days.

The push will be in favour of turning issues of conscience into issues of policy in order to drive Catholics, Evangelicals and Muslims out of the party and to change education policy so as to target faith schools and academies.

There are a good number of people in the party who already advocate this sort of thing, but it will only became a central issue after an election loss because in the aftermath of an election defeat people look for easy answers and "Blair and Brown were too religious" is one that's already being lined up.

5:24 pm, September 27, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

I would certainly favour a clearly secular approach to policy and the removal of religionist organisations from the public sphere, including education.

7:55 pm, September 27, 2008

 
Blogger Red Maria said...

Mary Honeyball claims that she is not anti-Catholic. This is such fatuous rubbish, which flies in the face of her many words, that it's difficult to comprehend how she can so with a straight face.

She penned a vitriolic piece for CiF in which she mined deeply at the seam of vintage anti-Catholic bigotry. Her theme: The Roman Catholic Church is a sinister institution which meddles in politics and Roman Catholics are a disloyal fifth column in Labour ranks.

She openly suggested that Roman Catholics - she specifically mentioned Ruth Kelly, Paul Murphy and Des Browne - should be discriminated against in public life.

She has said that the Roman Catholic Church "has a grip on parliament, the media and the public sphere" and that it "manipulates members'interests".

She has said that it has a "vice like grip" across large parts of the European continent and that it "always actively interferes with democratic politics".

Honeyball actively supports - her words - "Catholics" for Choice, a group funded by the porn industry, which deliberately and consistently misrepresents Roman Catholic teaching, conducts witchhunts against Catholics in public life and has been described by Professor Philip Jenkins, a non Catholic and author of The new anti-Catholicism: the last acceptable prejudice as "a public voice for opinions that can only be described as anti-Catholic".

She has said that the Roman Catholic Church has a "massive army of dedicated volunteers" who "amend top google searches for abortion to only pro-life sites"

She has said Catholics use "bully-boy tactics" in politics and that the Church tries to "bully the opposition into silence".

Honeyball's anti-Catholic bigotry is a matter of public record.

Then there's the campaign of personal vilification she has waged against Conor McGinn, the Labour activist who resigned as vice chair of Young Labour partly in protest at her anti-Catholicism.

Honeyball pitched an anti-Catholic article to Fabian Review and Prospect magazine. Unsurprisingly, both turned it down. In the pitch, Honeyball said that McGinn had used "bully-boy tactics" against her. These "bully-boy tactics" included his resigning as vice chair of Young Labour and she claimed, him using his contacts in the press to "generate one-sided stories in the New Statesman" and "vitriolic blog postings".

In a letter to Tribune, she wrote that McGinn had “waged a sustained and personal media attack on me for opening up a debate on the political methods used by the Roman Catholic Church to influence the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in May,” and described his methods as
“Manufacturing controversy, trying to intimidate the ‘enemy’ and complaining early and often” adding that these were typical of the US-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which she called “a dangerous organisation”.

Her recent unpleasant personal attack on Ruth Kelly is of a piece with all this.

Honeyball’s own methods are clear. She issues a string of bizarre, paranoid assertions about The Roman Catholic Church, individual Catholics and Catholic organisations and calls this “scrutiny” and “opening up issues for debate”.

But if Roman Catholics do debate her bigoted trash she smears them as “bullies” and says she is being “intimidated”.

She attacks her fellow Labour Party members who are Catholics but accuses Catholics of disloyalty to the party.

She suggests Catholics should be barred from the Cabinet. But if Catholics call this what it is – a suggestion that they should be discriminated against in public life - she says she has been “misquoted” and “misrepresented” and denies that she has called for their discrimination in public life, only the Cabinet.. It makes all the difference, apparently.

She hauls herself onto her soapbox to broadcast her anti-Catholic views at every available opportunity but if critical responses by Catholics are published in the press she says that Catholics are using “inflammatory media grabbing methods and wildly inflated rhetoric” and hints darkly at links with “dangerous” “right wing conservative” American organisations.

If Catholics say they will exercise their democratic right not to vote Labour while she continues her anti-Catholic campaign, she accuses them of being “manipulative”.

I’m grateful to Luke Akehurst for condemning Honeyball’s anti-Catholicism and offensive personal attacks on Catholic Labour politicians. People at all levels and from all wings of the party, Catholics, non Catholics, pro-choice and secularist have expressed their disgust at her bigotry, including MPs Stephen Pound, Jim Dobbin and Peter Kilfoyle. Campaign Group member David Taylor MP wrote to The Universe repudiating her views and Jeremy Corbyn MP criticised her treatment of Conor McGinn.

Nonetheless Honeyball remains brazenly unrepentant and continues to use her public position to whip up anti-Catholic sentiment. Given the virulence of her views, it’s difficult to see how she can represent her Catholic constituents. Her hatred of Catholicism is so irrational, so all consuming that it takes precedence over party loyalty and basic professionalism. She is, I submit, unfit for office.

2:52 am, September 28, 2008

 
Anonymous Haggerston Harry said...

Red Maria please note: Roman Catholic leaders condemn the use of condoms and are responsible for the spread of AIDS and the unnecessary suffering and death of millions. Not exactly a force for the good of mankind, are they?

More power to your elbow, Mary Honeyball!

7:33 am, September 28, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

What was that? Did you say Jews spread the plague?

Oh no, it was Catholics spreading AIDS.

Of course, a Church that suggests its followers refrain from sex outside of marriage, promiscuity, intravenous drug use and anal sex and is one of the major providers of medical care and health education in the developing world is obviously chief suspect in spreading AIDS. No doubt that's an easy claim to accept once you convince yourself that religion or Catholicism is to blame for everything wrong in the world.

Why let details such as the complete lack of any statistical correlation between the spread of AIDS and the prevalence of Catholicism get in the way of such a belief?

8:18 am, September 28, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Catholicism is a right-wing philosophy which cannot be reconciled with progressive politics. It is culturally conservative. It may have some economic beliefs which are not right wing, but this is why the Christian Democratic tradition has been culturally conservative but economically fairly collectivist. Christian Democracy is not Social Democracy.

Catholicism is inherently reactionary and contains elements of belief which need to be opposed and we need people like Mary Honeyball with the courage to remind us.

As for AIDS, anyone stupid enough to believe that Catholic discouragement of the use of condoms has had no effect on the spread of HIV in the developing world is simply ignoring what is blatantly obvious.

Incidentally, Mary wasn't elected as a Catholic, but as Labour - something these Vaticanist 'Labour' MP's appear to forget. If catholic voters wish to be represented by people who will promote their religionism, then let them form their own Vaticanist party. Otherwise, they should follow Labour policy, and I do not think that anti-abortionist, anti-gay positions should be acceptable in a progressive party.

4:53 pm, September 28, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

I don't particularly care what anti-Catholic myths you believe. I do care that you think that the Labour Party is an appropriate vehicle to promote that agenda.

I have never heard a Catholic say that atheists have no place in the party, but I am now hearing atheists who are saying that Catholics have no place in the party.

When people start associating Labour with their own personal crusades, at the expense of the party's own tradition, then Labour becomes unelectable. Labour, as a militant atheist party, will be the best recruiting sergeant the Tories ever had.

5:14 pm, September 28, 2008

 
Anonymous Haggerston Harry said...

oldandrew said... "When people start associating Labour with their own personal crusades, at the expense of the party's own tradition, then Labour becomes unelectable."

I agree 100%. That's precisely why the Vaticanists should shut up or piss off!

9:43 am, September 29, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

Sigh.

Do you actually have any examples of Catholics saying anyone who disagrees with them shouldn't be in the Labour Party?

Or did you not understand the point I was making? Strangely enough "associating Labour with their own personal crusades, at the expense of the party's own tradition" didn't refer to expressing an opinion, it referred to those arguing for an anti-Catholic takeover (and purge) of the party.

8:36 pm, September 29, 2008

 
Anonymous Haggerston Harry said...

Bollocks! I'm Catholic ... but would argue for a purge of any Vaticanist takeover of the party.

1:16 am, October 01, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

The condemnation on the thread had been referring to Catholicism generally, not some "Vaticanist takeover" whatever that might be.

8:24 pm, October 01, 2008

 
Blogger Red Maria said...

No you're not a Catholic, Haggerston Harry. Stop fantasising.

1:03 am, October 03, 2008

 
Anonymous Haggerston Harry said...

No you're not a Socialist, Red Maria. Stop fantasising. Yada yada yada!

But maybe you are right red maria ... when I said I "am" Catholic, I just meant culturally. Thank goodness I saw the light, rejected servitude to the Vatican and Pontiff and now consider myself a recovering catholic or, in your eyes maybe, a schismatic. It is now a great source of joy for me.

Yet I fail to see how any sane person can identify with the socialist or social democratic cause AND give credence to the Pontiff or support for the Vaticanists (such as you, perhaps?). If they think they can, it is them that are fantasising!

1:18 pm, October 03, 2008

 
Blogger Red Maria said...

Haggerston Harry, you're not a cultural Catholic - you have scant knowledge and even less understanding of Roman Catholicism - or a recovering anything. You're just a silly boy.

Your political views are equally unformed, owing more to backward 19th century bourgeois anti-clerical obsessions than modern democratic socialism.

You're entitled to your quaint prejudices and to wallow in wilful ignorance but you're not entitled to spread deliberate lies about the Roman Catholic Church being responsible for deaths of millions of people from AIDS.

And you and people like Mary Honeyball are certainly not entitled to interfere with other people's democratic rights and call for Roman Catholics - or members of any other minority group - to be discriminated against in public life.

You're just a twit. She's unfit for office.

1:51 am, October 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Haggerston Pádraig Harry said...

"I don't to play the woman and not the ball" and "I am female but I am completely gutted".

Both quotes by "Maria" whom we can now rightly suspect is "playing the woman" and is not female at all.

You are being silly Maria. No one is entitled to interfere with other people's democratic rights and call for Roman Catholics - or members of any other minority group - to be discriminated against in public life. And - thankfully - no one is calling for that. Anyway, as churchgoers, Catholics are no long a "minority" in this country. But the church calls for others e.g. homosexuals, to be discriminated against in their public and private lives and as a socialist I must object to that. (If you were REALLY a London Labour party member and a socialist you would too!)

You say "You're not entitled to spread deliberate lies about the Roman Catholic Church being responsible for deaths of millions of people from AIDS."

It is not a deliberate lie - it is true. Pope Benedict is the author of a conservative contraception edict that condemns millions of people to death through AIDS. In Africa, where the Catholic Church has a massive influence over people’s sexual practices, HIV AIDS is a pandemic.

As justification, the unholy father quotes the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which describes contraception as evil. The Vatican has also published a document claiming that condoms have holes and do not protect against AIDS!

It is a crime against humanity that Catholic church leaders persist in medieval, obscurantist and false advice about human sexual practices. Indeed, it’s a massive and damaging "sin", while pre-marital and homosexual sex, using condoms and the pill, and having an abortion are not.

(Ex?) Nazi party member Pope Benedict has said that homosexuals are “objectively disordered” and same-sex marriage is “a threat to world peace”. Prior to becoming pope, Cardinal Ratzinger told voters it would be a sin to vote for pro-choice candidates. He has campaigned against governments implementing marriage, or civil union rights, for same-sex couples.

You give him uncritical support yet claim allegiance to the Labour Party? You are in denial.

You appear to deny everything that doesn't fit in with your narrow dogmatic mindset, such as the evil being done by the Catholic Church. You are not just a twit. You are a dangerous twit. Open your eyes and your mind, or piss off and set up your own Vaticanist Party.

Reading your rants reminds me of those wasted hours in my childhood, listening to Christian Brothers (who were neither Christian nor brotherly) regurgitating a gospel of hate. I pity you. Now I have joy in my life!

This correspondence is now closed.

10:36 am, October 04, 2008

 
Blogger oldandrew said...

This correspondence is now closed.

Does this mean you won't actually try to defend the lies you are telling about the Catholic Church?

Or that you will simply ignore any facts that don't fit your prejudices? (You really should look where Catholicism is strongest in Africa and where AIDS is widespread, there is relatively little overlap.)

10:47 am, October 04, 2008

 

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