9/11 Ten Years On, Coalition Politics and Blood Donation

9/11 – A Warning from Recent History

For someone of the age of the current crop of Labour Students, it is particularly difficult to believe that it is ten years tomorrow since the lives of millions were changed forever on September 11th, 2001. Most of us were still in primary school at the time, and it is perhaps apt that our generation – one that was constantly told we were growing up too fast – had our innocence of the world around us robbed so suddenly on that bright Tuesday morning. Hearing and seeing the images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center still transfixes all of us, and as much as we might want to look away having seen enough, we can’t quite bring ourselves to stop watching.

However it is our generation – the 9/11 generation – who will be the politicians and headline-makers of the coming years, and if anything good can come of the last decade, it is surely the lesson  that those in power have a responsibility not to overreact when faced with such onslaughts. Our party’s most successful leader (in electoral terms) no doubt had good intentions, but made the grave error of marching the troops gung-ho into an unplanned and illegal war, probably creating a whole new generation of terrorists in the process, while at home him and those around him were complicit in eroding many of the freedoms we were meant to be protecting, including detention without charge and freedom from torture. If the horror of terrorism reaches us again, we must pause and assess the causes before acting. The same rule should apply for other crises, like the riots this summer.

Backbench Tories Have Nothing To Worry About

Today is the final day of the Plaid Cymru autumn conference in Llandudno, north Wales. The outgoing leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, made his final conference speech yesterday after an electoral drubbing for the nationalist party in the Welsh Assembly elections in May. Unlike in Scotland, where the SNP have been successful, he argued that coalition government in Cardiff Bay (of which Plaid was the junior party) meant Plaid’s achievements in government were smothered by Labour, and that the party was punished by voters for not claiming credit for them.

Aside from the fact that Plaid achieved very little in government in a time of economic turmoil other than a referendum with poor turnout which managed to bore even political anoraks, their experience in coalition should serve as a lesson to Westminster politics. This week Tory backbenchers, angry over law and order, Europe and abortion, moaned that the Lib Dem ‘tail’ was wagging the Tory ‘dog’ and that Nick Clegg was being given too many concessions by the Prime Minister. However come the election in 2015, the Tories will have nothing to worry about, as the voters are likely to give them sole credit for any successes – particularly if the economy picks up (not a given considering Osborne’s slash-and-burn approach) – and they will certainly not be looking to make some sort of permanent alliance with the Lib Dems, contrary to what some commentators are predicting. The coalition dog will probably have his tail docked when the voters are next given a choice.

About Bloody Time

This week the ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood for life in Britain was finally overturned (although you’d be forgiven for not noticing the leap forward because the BBC thought Strictly Come Dancing was more important on the news bulletins that night). This is a triumph that equality campaigners have been working tirelessly for for years, and at last gay men will be able to save lives and help tackle the urgent need for more donors. No more will the official policy imply that gay men cannot be trusted to practice safe sex and ‘probably have HIV’.

Although the ban was only replaced with a one-year time lag since a donor’s last encounter, it is still progress, and puts us more in line with the situation in similar countries.


2 comments on “9/11 Ten Years On, Coalition Politics and Blood Donation

  1. oliverjackson says:

    Even taking the highest polling data, from the papers, in favour of voting Liberal Democrat (17-18%) they still apparently lose about half their seats in parliament. The likeliest outcome therefore is the Lib Dems being out of government (since the twenty eight or so seats have to go somewhere, of course then there’s the cutting of fifty seats, but never mind about that now). I doubt Nick Clegg’ll last too long as leader after that and even if he does he’ll never be in power again (and I think it knows it). This’ll be especially true if they receive the more common (at this point) 9-12% of the vote, which would make it the worst defeat in the history of the party.

    As to the one year ban on men who have sex with men (msm), apparently it’s currently the same amount of time a woman is banned for who has unprotected sex with a HIV positive man, so I would say that official policy still implies “that gay men cannot be trusted to practice safe sex and ‘probably have HIV’”. I would also say a year ban for msm (and apparently assuming that every one of them contracts HIV or some similar disease or infection) is still excessive considering the maximum (in rare cases) that HIV remains undetectable (based upon the amount of time it takes for the body to begin to produce antibodies to attempt to combat it) is six months and in something like 96%, 98% of cases HIV is detectable after three months. Heterosexual people engaging in “high risk” activities are already banned from giving blood, so perhaps the people behind the blood giving services should assess everyone in that way – based on behaviour and, in relevant cases, symptoms, so gay or bisexual men in monogamous relationships who use protection aren’t excluded for no good reason, as they will continue to be under the new guidelines. In any case, the lifetime ban or even the ten year ban that they talked about a while back was ridiculous, discriminatory and, at best, based on highly outdated scientific evidence, or some kind of misguided sense of “image protection”. It was almost as if the people in charge confused the amount of time it takes before HIV is detectable with the amount of time HIV takes to become AIDS, though I know such a basic error couldn’t possibly have been committed. Nonetheless I’m very surprised the ban lasted as long as it did, all things but public opinion considered.

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