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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine