Tony Bliar's ridiculous apparatchiks have really put their foot in it this time.
Their brand-new shiny policy to outlaw discrimination against gay people has led them into outright confrontation with the Roman Catholic Church, and the Archbishops of both Canterbury and York have thrown the weight of the Church of England behind the Italian God-botherers.
The churches point out that to prevent their adoption agencies from discriminating against gay couples who want to adopt a child, is itself to discriminate against members of religions who believe that homosexuality is a sin and that homosexual homes are not the best place for vulnerable children.
The government have retaliated by claiming that the Catholic claim that they will have to close their adoption agencies is just a threat designed to force the government to do what they want - in other words, they're accusing the church of being a bully. Takes one to know one, I suppose.
While the government has been resolute in its determination to criminalise discrimination or criticism on grounds of race, faith or sexuality, it has so far been tacitly understood that this really only applies to ethnic minorities, immigrant faiths like Islam, and the … shall we say, less mainstream sexual orientations? White heterosexual people and their religion have remained fair game, but the stalwart opposition of leading churchmen combined with the devout christianity of Tony Bliar, Cherry Bliar and the very fragrant Equality Minister Ruth O'Kelly are going to make this a particularly knotty problem for the government.
The first irony in this case is that the Moslems, far more anti-gay than the Catholics, are keeping very quiet about it. Perhaps they don't have any adoption agencies of their own?
The second, and most delicious, irony is that the government's calamitous belief that they should legislate on every single facet of our lives - the way we live, eat, smoke, drive, speak and think - has now led them into discriminating against the sincerely-held religious beliefs of thousands of British people, not to mention the only established (i.e. formally recognised) religion in this country. And in case anyone starts bleating about protecting minorities, let's just remember that members of the Christian churches are very much in a minority these days, and have just as much right to protection as anyone else.
See, Tony? If you'd just let well alone, you wouldn't be in this mess.
Beleaguered Home Secretary John Reid is currently considering the "executive release" of hundreds of prisoners from prison. Our prisons are so overcrowded that criminals convicted of what Reid is pleased to call "non-dangerous" crimes can expect to go scot-free so Reid can make room for all those desperate pensioners who refuse to pay their council tax.
He has also suggested to judges that they should impose fewer prison sentences, saying "We should not be squandering tax-payers' money …" - a pretty brazen misuse of English, in our view: most of us wouldn't consider our money had been "squandered" if it meant we were less likely to held up at knife-point in the street or have our car stolen.
Of course, the prisons wouldn't be so overcrowded if the government would only stop making stupid new laws and inventing ridiculous and unnecessary offences carrying custodial sentences. Once the ID card system is up and running (actually, limping would be a better word, one suspects) there will be even more ordinary people turned into criminals because they forgot to tell the government they'd got a new library ticket or something.
Here's an example: it was reported in the papers today that, according to a Department of Health spokeswoman, when the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act comes into force next year, public sector workers who fail to check the safety records of their staff and colleagues could face prison.
That makes a lot of sense, I don't think. If failure to check your colleagues' safety records is such a major crime, why not just sack you? The GOS has worked in the public sector and, take it from him, there will be no limit to the thousands of man-hours that are going to be wasted by nasty little jobsworths in county halls up and down the country, not actually doing these supposedly essential checks, but just inventing new systems and forms to fill in to ensure that somebody else does them. That's the way public service works - it's not about doing your job, it's all about doing the least possible useful work while rendering yourself immune from criticism.
Government ministers are proposing, despite the opposition of judges, to amend the law about consent in serious sexual assault cases so that consent given while the woman is drunk cannot be recognised by the courts.
This comes about because in a trial last year a woman said that she was too drunk to remember whether she consented or not, but said because she was so drunk any consent she gave would have been meaningless. The government want to be able to secure a conviction in a case like this, despite the obvious lunacy of such an argument.
Any sensible and fair-minded person will recognise that (a) rape is an unpleasant crime, being a particularly humiliating form of serious physical assault, and (b) there are amazingly few convictions for rape, presumably because in so many cases it becomes simply a matter of his word against hers, with little possibility of actual proof.
Nevertheless, to change the law in the manner proposed is lunatic and sets a very dangerous precedent. If a woman cannot be held to have given a meaningful consent because she was drunk, what other things can drunk people not do? How long before someone pleads "I know I got behind the wheel of my car and ploughed into a bus queue, m'lud, but I was too drunk to be responsible for my actions"?
And in those all-too-common cases where a girl does the dreaded deed and then realises she shouldn't have because (a) her dad will kill her, (b) her friends will laugh because she's done it with a total nerdy loser, (c) the bastard had his way and then dumped her, or (d) she didn't enjoy it as much as she expected - what then? Does she simply cry rape, saying that she was drunk so she couldn't have given consent? Just how can the man prove, months or even years later, whether or not she was drunk?
For that matter, what will either the woman or the court do when the man claims that he can't have raped her because he was drunk and therefore incapable of exercising any control over his actions?
The GOS and Mrs.GOS have to go to France later this year. Problem is, Mrs.GOS is going out first, the GOS is going later to join her, and then they're coming back together.
The GOS was a bit worried about this. Two single ferry crossings are far more expensive than a return ticket, but you can't book a return trip with one passenger on the way out and two on the way back. But never mind, it's simple enough to book for two passengers both ways.
Trouble is, won't the ferry company think it's a bit odd when the GOS turns up at Dover with a twin ticket, but only one person? Will they not wonder whether he's actually done away with Mrs.GOS in a fit of pique and stuffed her in the boot?
And what about Immigration? Won't they want to ask some awkward questions when the GOS arrives back at Dover with a woman he didn't take out? - questions probably involving East European countries and immoral earnings?
So, ever-resourceful, the GOS sent an email to the ferry company and asked. With commendable swiftness they replied. No, they said, they weren't the slightest bit bothered if the GOS rolled up at the check-in with one passenger too few. So long as they'd got his money, that was all they cared about.
And Immigration on the way back? No, he was told, they wouldn't be bothered because they had no idea how many passengers were on his ticket, or how many people were in the car when he left.
Now that's a concept that's pretty hard to get your head around. In the present political climate … illegal immigrants … asylum seekers … terrorists … Russian poisoners with suitcases full of fissionable material … animal rights activists with backpacks full of bits of old ladies they've dug up … 12-year-old girls being spirited away from their mothers back to their estranged dads in Pakistan … 17-year-old girls with bags of heroin stuffed up their bottoms … shouldn't immigration officials have a slightly firmer grip on just who's going out and who's coming in? Or do bad people only travel by air, because only sad people use the ferry?
And just what IS the point, then, of biometric passports and digital ID cards, when immigration officers at Britain's busiest ferry terminal can't be arsed to count up to two?
A flamingo called Florence has been missing for a week from a zoo in Sussex. Apparently staff "watched helplessly" as Florence was blown away by a gust of wind.
Sad as we feel for poor Florence, we can't help but wonder if there isn't a crumb of comfort here for John Reid. Next time there's a bit of a wind, couldn't he just open the prison doors and let the men get blown away?
He could always claim he was drunk at the time, so he couldn't be responsible.
Finally, here's our nomination for "Dreadful Joke of the Week". Simon Sellick, writing to the Times on Wednesday, asked:
"While clearing my garden shed at the weekend I came across a disc of black plastic, about a foot across and with a paper label bearing, inter alia, the words 'On hearing the first cuckoo in Spring'.
Is this a record?"
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