In his moving article (3 May) Lord Alli refers to his struggle to persuade the bishops in the House of Lords not to present a united front against gay marriage.
Many of those who oppose the concept claim to be traditionalists, but even in the early days of the Church of England there were those who took an opposite view. Among them was the first King of Great Britain, James I (VI of Scotland), who has a good claim to be co-founder with Elizabeth I of the established church.
In 1624, writing to his favourite, George Villiers, whom he had recently created Duke of Buckingham, James told him how much he hoped “that we may make at this Christmas a new marriage, ever to be kept hereafter. For God so love me as I desire only to live in this world for your sake, and that I had rather live banished in any part of the earth with you than live a sorrowful widow’s life without you. And so God bless you, my sweet child and wife, and grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear dad and husband.”
James never attempted to conceal the depth of his love for Villiers. He informed his privy council that he loved Buckingham more than any other man and that they should not regard this as a defect, since “Jesus Christ had done the same as he was doing, and that there was nothing reprehensible about it, for Christ had his John and he had his George”.
James was a biblical scholar of distinction and a devout Anglican. He commissioned the translation of the scriptures which in England is referred to as the Authorised Version and in America as the King James Bible. As supreme governor of the Church of England James clearly saw no incompatibility between belief and gay marriage.
Roger Lockyer, London NW1
Should the House of Lords vote against giving a second reading to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, any resulting “constitutional crisis,” as warned by Lord Alli, will be solely the responsibility of the Government for pushing ahead with a proposal for which there is no electoral mandate and which was the subject of a flawed consultation process that sought views only on how, not whether, such a fundamental change in the understanding of marriage should be enacted.
Most of the bishops have made clear their opposition to any redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. To be true to their conscience, all those who are members of the House of Lords should attend and vote against the Bill, regardless of the claimed constitutional consequences.
David Lamming, Boxford, Suffolk
Politicians and lobbyists – real and fake
Recent stories of parliamentarians apparently agreeing to be paid by journalists posing as lobbyists raise difficult questions about our political system.
They follow a depressingly familiar pattern of people at the end of their political careers appearing to tout themselves as “cabs for hire”. But in framing its response, the Government needs to remember that the only “lobbyists” involved in these scandals are fake ones. Genuine lobbyists do not pay politicians – they are not allowed to under our code of conduct.
So when the Deputy Prime Minister now decides that he needs urgently to introduce a register of lobbyists, he should remember that the stories of the past few days involve his current parliamentary colleagues, and not the colleagues he used to have when he worked as a lobbyist himself. If the Government is serious about “reform”, it should not hide behind the smokescreen of blaming the public affairs industry. It should look also at the rules that govern parliamentarians and all-party parliamentary groups.
We do not oppose a statutory register of lobbyists, provided the Government is equally serious about reforming the institutions that we seek to influence.
Francis Ingham, Director-General, The Public Relations Consultants Association, London SW1
The latest lobbying scandals again show that a free press is vital in order to expose corruption in Westminster, as you say (leading article, 3 June).
But it’s a shame that the public doesn’t know which, if any, politician targets are found to give a rebuff to undercover journalists trying to set up deals. Newspapers only publish the identities of those who take the bait – the “positive” results.
Interpretation of “negative” results is not straightforward: a rebuff may only reflect the incompetence of those making the approach, not the upstanding behaviour of the target. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge the publication bias here: the public only learn about “positive” results; yet there must be “negative” results, too.
Dr Alex May, Manchester
The revelations about peers and lobbying are worrying, but this was entrapment by the media. It is comparable to the practice of American divorce lawyers who employ women to pursue possibly errant husbands to see if they can be “persuaded” to commit adultery. We all like to think that we will resist such temptation, until it happens to us.
What I would like to know is what the real lobbying companies are up to, not the fake ones.
Nigel Scott, London N22
Presumably contracts entered into in bad faith by false entities are illegal and unenforceable, so Mr Mercer and the peers involved are fully entitled to keep the money without providing any services whatsoever. They should be reinstated forthwith.
Frank Donald, Edinburgh
Constitutional crisis? Bring it on!
If unelected peers do block same-sex marriage and cause a constitutional crisis maybe it would not be a bad thing. Look at the state our parliamentary system is now in: unelected peers, and MPs, still getting caught selling influence; ministers rebuked for misusing statistics; politicians sucking up to newspapers, unions, big business and rich individuals. Can anyone deny that politics in this country is seriously broken?
Maybe it is time for a constitutional crisis so we can begin to talk seriously about reform of parliament. Here’s a quick list of suggestions to get us started.
An end to the House of Lords being used as a dumping ground by the establishment. A proportionally elected upper chamber of review. State funding of political parties and a ban on all other forms of funding. MPs to be given a substantial pay rise but with an end to expenses and earnings from any other source. A ban on high-ranking civil servants working in the private sector in areas related to their public service work for five years after leaving their post.
Of course for any of this to happen, the people would have to take on the most powerful vested interest in this country – our elected politicians.
Adam Salt, Cheadle, Staffordshire
The present proposals for reform of the House of Lords (leading article, 3 June) are proposals to hand it over completely to the party machines. They envisage proportional representation or something approaching it, with “elected” members taken from party lists in numbers proportional to their party’s performance in the poll.
It would be better to stick with an appointments system, but going from the present situation of agreement between the Government and Opposition to an independent appointments committee which would appoint new members of the Upper House for a fixed, but relatively long, tenure.
Roger Schafir, London N21
It’s not Israel blocking talks
Michael W Cook (letter, 30 May) ignores the fact that the Palestinian leadership has not only rejected the Israeli peace offers of 2000 and 2008, but has refused to come to the negotiating table for the past four years.
Prime Minister Netanyahu accepted the principle of the two-state solution, unprecedented for a Likud party leader, and froze all building in the West Bank for 10 months, and still the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, refused to resume negotiations.
Netanyahu has repeatedly offered to resume the direct talks at any time but to no avail. Abbas continues to impose preconditions, asking Israel to accept positions which should be decided only at the negotiating table.
Dr Jacob Amir, Jerusalem
English valued only overseas
I have lived and worked in several countries where English is not the mother tongue, but is taught, revered and practised. It would be a pity if the “guardians” of our linguistic heritage told the rest of the world that it no longer matters if it can’t spell correctly, wrongly punctuates and doesn’t pronounce English in the way it is rigorously taught overseas.
If Simon Horobin and others continue to dumb-down our language, future visitors may be unable to understand the semi-literate natives who greet them on arrival here.
Robert Bridges, Belmont, Blackburn
Sent home with a drain
As a surgeon in a NHS hospital, I would like to reassure Jennifer Phipps (letter, 1 June) that it is not uncommon to be discharged from hospital with a drain left in. Whilst within the medical literature there is debate about the value of such drains, they purportedly reduce the incidence of wound complications.
It would seem to be more of a national outrage to utilise public funds to keep an otherwise well patient in hospital, ensuring disrupted sleep, and an increased exposure to multi-resistant bacterial infections. The issue here is patient and public education.
Declan Dunne, Liverpool
Wrong, but not surprising
Sue Thomas (letter, 3 June) is right: rape is rape, there is no excuse on the part of men. Perhaps what perplexes some of us is the surprise on the part of women.
If a car were to be left with the doors open and the key in the ignition in some dubious area of one of our inner cities it would almost certainly be stolen, and that would be wrong. Theft is theft, no excuse – but surprise?
Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Gwent
There was once an obscure English word for Schadenfreude (Philip Hensher, 1 June). “Epicaricacy” is basically Greek for “joy around the bad”. It never caught on, and my guess at the reason for this is that it simply wasn’t a respectable emotion. For centuries, people had to listen to 1 Cor. 13 v6 quite a lot. If you go to church weddings, you’ll still hear it quite often.
Ruth Grimsley, SheffieldReuse content