Chris Bryant: Bishops – stick a mitre on them and strange things begin to happen

A Political Life

Share

Some of my best friends are bishops. OK, I'm exaggerating, but I do know a few and they are as warm, compassionate, profligate and naughty as the next man. Indeed, I recall one supposedly celibate but notoriously lascivious bishop chasing me round a piano in my younger days.

I don't know what it is about donning a mitre, but it seems to addle the brain. Just take their stance on women. Forty-two dioceses have now voted for a simple measure to allow women bishops. Just two said no. Yet the bishops, in a bizarre attempt to appease those who want to seal themselves off from anyone who has ever even laid eyes on a woman priest, have come up with a ludicrous last-minute amendment which will lead to a permanent apartheid in the church. It's meant to be debated in Synod over the next two days, but depressingly leaves those campaigning for women bishops with the unenviable choice of voting for delay or for apartheid.

It's precisely the kind of episcopal jiggery-pokery that makes me want to release the bishops from the Lords, so the moment the Lords Reform Bill gets its second reading in the Commons on Tuesday (as I am sure it will) I shall table an amendment to remove them.

The shambles of World Pride

What is it about the gays that we can't organise a decent march and carnival? This year's World Pride, supposedly being celebrated in London today with a mass march and party throughout Soho, should have been a triumphant occasion, bringing in millions of pounds of business to a battered economy on the eve of the Olympics.

It could have been the launch pad for a mass campaign for marriage equality. After all, in a meeting of liberal clergy hosted by Yvette Cooper in the Shadow Cabinet room on Wednesday, it became abundantly clear that the Government's proposals, should they ever be put to Parliament, don't go far enough as they would ban religious same-sex marriage. Yet there are plenty of people of faith who want to do so in the eyes of God. (Interestingly, the Anglicans were by far the most critical of the CofE on its supposed opposition to same-sex marriage, citing a recent survey for The Church Times that found that the bishops are way out of step with their own congregations. As one put it, "It's not that they don't practise what they preach. The problem is they don't preach what they practise.")

Or Pride could have forced into the cold light of day the sheer brutality of homophobic bullying and highlighted the work of the charity Diversity Role Models, which goes into schools to break down the prejudices that lead to bullying.

Instead, we have the embarrassing scene of an organisation in crisis that has failed to pay last year's bills, and a consequently massively curtailed event. Of course, Boris Johnson could and should have helped out. But, to be honest, there are plenty of LGBT businesses, and for that matter men and women, who have done extremely well out of the pink pound, and could have dipped a hand in their pockets, even at the last minute. And surely to God there must be someone who is prepared to organise next year's event properly.

Justice at last for Argentina's dead

It's taken time, but it's good news that at long last Jorge Videla, one of the military junta that ran Argentina between 1976 and 1983, is to go to prison for organising a mass programme of seizing the babies of known radicals (many of them murdered by his underlings) and handing them out for adoption, like so many undeserved Christmas presents, to supposedly right-thinking military families.

I spent six months in Buenos Aires in 1986, helping in a human rights organisation and studying liberation theology at the Protestant theological college ISEDET. One thing struck me on my daily bus journey: at one point everyone would studiously look out the left-hand window and on the return look to the right. One day I asked a colleague what it was all about. He told me to look the other way next time. Sure enough there was a vast derelict building with the chilling words "aquí se fusiló" painted in letters six foot high, "here people were shot". My colleague explained. "We thought it was a hospital, but it was a death camp. Behind every one of those windows was a metal bed on which people were tied and doused with filthy water before having electrodes applied to every part of their body. I'm told your teeth were even more painful than your genitals."

Happy memories of Robin Cook

I think of next week's business in the Commons as the Robin Cook memorial week. It was he who mounted the first modern attempt at Lords Reform as Leader of the House, only for it to plough into the thick clay of conservatism (on both sides of the house). But he also tried to get the sitting hours changed to something rather more like the working life of an ordinary human being. So when we vote on bringing Monday sittings forward from 2.30 to 1.00 and Tuesdays from 2.30 to 11.30, I shall be thinking of Robin. Mind you, this time I reckon the changes will go through as there is now a swathe of Tory seats near London where the MP has to travel home every night rather than stay in London – and I know how they're going to vote.

Robin knew the political condition so well that when he published a book of memoirs, Point of Departure, he pointed out to colleagues that there was no index. So if we wanted to know if we got a mention we would have to buy it rather than just look ourselves up in the bookshop.

Twitter: @ChrisBryantMP

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Embedded Linux Engineer - C / C++

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A well funded smart home compan...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Engineer - Python / Node / C / Go

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: *Flexible working in a relaxed ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Bookkeeper

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This accountancy firm have an e...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Developer / Mobile Apps / Java / C# / HTML 5 / JS

£17000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Junior Mobile Application Devel...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress – arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?