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

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Personal Finance Editor: Cutting out the middle man could spell disaster for employees and consumers alike

Simon Read
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch  

Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes tell you what to think. Don't let them

Memphis Barker
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week